Collector's setting


Victorian era re-created inside two-story in Westgate

July 18, 2008|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to the Sun

Holly Greve has proven that it's never too late to start over. In her case, it was acquiring the right setting for a precious collection of furnishings from another place in time.

"I found my dream house at the age of 58," said Greve, director of social catering for Loews Annapolis Hotel. "My son said to me, 'Mom, everyone goes forward, but you want to go backward,' and he's right!"

In March 2007, Greve sold her condo in Columbia and purchased a two-story, vinyl-sided four-square in the Southwest Baltimore neighborhood of Westgate. Built in 1927, the house sits on a quiet street of old trees amid a variety of housing styles from Colonial to classic bungalow.

Feeling there was "just something about this house," she was confident of her purchase. And at long last she had a home for her extensive period pieces from the Victorian era through the 1920s and 1930s.

Greve paid $259,000 for the 2,500-square-foot house with a basement on a quarter-acre landscaped lot. Since it was "totally livable," she didn't need to spend all of the $20,000 she had budgeted for necessary improvements. Her immediate renovations included painting the interior, whose plaster walls and ceilings were perfectly intact; refinishing wood floors in the living room and dining room; and purchasing second-hand, wood-plank flooring for the kitchen, and installing wainscoting there, along with a new refrigerator and stove.

A covered porch spans the home's entire 35-foot front. A hanging porch swing and matching white chairs and tables evoke a feeling of lazy summer afternoons reading or chatting with passing neighbors. Greve often relaxes here after a hectic day at the hotel, content in the company of her two boxers, Belle and Savannah, along with her cats, Angel and Hope, all rescue animals.

Beyond the front door, the home appears larger than its 35-foot square dimensions, in part because of 10-foot ceilings, but also because of Greve's keen sense of furniture scale and placement. The living room is distinctly Victorian with a matching pair of oak-framed, blue velvet occasional chairs sitting on either side of a fireplace of intricately carved plaster over brick. Its art nouveau design, painted white to match the walls, is crowned with a thick-planked mantle English ceramic dogs - mostly collies and shepherds - dating from the 1800s. Above is a gilt-framed, antique print of two English hunting dogs.

Gilt-framed photos and prints of dogs, cats and children playing with animals are found all over the house. These homey themes were particularly favored by the Victorians.

Greve's dining room, with its multi-framed windows set high off the floor, is a worthy setting for a carved walnut table and buffet dating from the mid-1800s. A corner oak cabinet belonging to Greve's grandmother showcases dentil molding along the top and glass doors displaying a collection of Edwardian crystal.

The kitchen embodies the simplicity of 1920s cottage d?cor. Wainscoting painted white reaches halfway from floor to ceiling with the remainder of the wall painted a soft butternut yellow. White appliances and the home's original white cabinets with glass pulls are offset with kitchen collectibles such as antique colored glassware and pottery. A stained glass transom over the door catches the eastern sunlight peeping through the backyard trees.

The criterion for Greve's purchase of antiques is simple, she says. They must have had "another life." This rule is in eerie evidence in her upstairs hall, where a vintage day frock from the 1920s is placed on a dress form, a blue velvet flapper costume hangs from a closet door and an organdy party frock graces another door. Past lives also speak from a brass bed in her guest room and a clunky black telephone, decades old and in perfect working order.

"When I walked in here, I thought I'd be the luckiest girl in the world if I could sell my condo and get this [home]," Greve said. "It took awhile, but it worked and it's truly where I belong."

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