The Creative Route

How Does The Annual Bso Show House Get Into Gear? We Follow One Designer's Road-trip Themed Room From Start To Finish

April 26, 2009|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,

With a road-trip motif, this boy's bedroom in a big Catonsville house has color coordination, unique, creative furniture, sparks of fun and functional, though quirky, accessories.

"This theme is one I wanted to do for a long time," said designer-artist Kathy Ward of Kathy Ward Designs in Ellicott City.

In her mind, she'd blended elements - map-covered walls, furniture on wheels, bright license plates.

"All the colors come from the maps," she said.

"Travelin' Dreams" is one of 21 professionally decorated spaces in Arden House, a 1929 Tudor revival that is the 33rd annual Baltimore Symphony Associates' Decorators' Show House, which opens Sunday and benefits the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's education programs.

The boy's bedroom showcases Ward's handcrafted furnishings, economical purchases and repurposed items, things consumers can try at home.

"I make it. I sew it. I design it. I paint it. I install it. I'll be making a lot of pieces," Ward said while measuring the second-floor room in late February.

Two months and a lot of multitasking later, Ward applied finishing touches to the boy's room. After she screwed bulbs into shop lamps by the bed, she hung a black-frame mirror to which she'd glued toy cars. She tossed muscle-car-design pillows on the furniture before surveying the room.

The room, with her signature whimsy, features an old MG trunk lid that she repainted for use as a headboard; valances and a bed skirt she made by copying old license plates onto felt strips; and suitcase-top nightstands.

"It's exactly what I envisioned," Ward said.

But it took two months of painting, pasting, shopping and shaping to get there.

Ward, a veteran show house designer, endured several bumps in the road to Sunday's show house debut. Decorating, like life, she said, is like that.

At the start

A loose but hectic agenda took shape in late February as she began mapping out the boy's bedroom, as well as one for a girl. Both bedrooms adjoin a shared bath, which Ward also decorated.

For the boy's room, one of the first things she focused on was a color plan. Ward knew she wanted maps to cover two walls and paint to match their ocean-blue and park-green shades for the other two.

She also wanted to build on pieces she owned, among them a gaggle of license plates and stacks of old suitcases. Ward even had an idea for using an old bench seat she'd pulled from her van months ago and forgot to take to the dump.

She planned to incorporate durable and washable goods, as well as affordable ones, into the bedroom.

Ward, with 17 years in the business, aims for livability: "Comfort is a big part. It's your house, it's not a museum."

In early March, the painting - thick horizontal stripes - went smoothly. But Ward had to change gears to deal with the maps.

In paint-speckled clothes on a March morning, she leaned against a wall and tapped it.

"It's not drywall like I had thought. It's plaster. You can't staple into plaster," she said.

Instead, she used clear removable mounting squares, sticky on both sides. Pushpins further secure the maps, pinpoint cities and add color.

"It's good in a kid's room - you can change it," she said, putting up the maps she had bought and ironed at home the previous night.

Furnish and finish

With the background of the room pretty much set - walls painted, maps hung - Ward turned to the furnishings.

She planned the room to put a grin on a child's face, be functional and flexible and have open space to move around and play.

"It's meant to be that way. It's a fun room," she said.

In keeping with the theme, furniture went on wheels; it can be rolled for play, cleaning and redecorating.

"A kid would move that stuff around constantly," she said.

"In thinking about a boy's room, you think about things that are sturdy, that he can play with, and he can move around and it's not going to break."

She advises families to consider nontraditional furnishings - sturdy shop lights for reading lamps, a toolbox to hold bedside accessories - that are strong, don't shatter when dropped and are easy to care for.

With the help of a fellow show house designer, Reggie Sajauskas, Ward found just the right dresser.

Sajauskas, owner of Objects Found, a vintage shop in Catonsville, located a dresser for Ward to distress, paint and fasten license plates to the drawer fronts. Marks and nicks don't show on a distressed bureau.

For nightstands, she used two old suitcases, building and painting a base for each, and putting them on wheels. A shower curtain on a tension rod became fast, easy-care drapery.

But one of her biggest tasks was creating a valance and bed skirt with a license plate motif. Ward scanned colorful license plates and calendar photos of muscle cars, then turned them into iron-on transfers. She ironed images of license plates onto 55 felt rectangles and a few cars onto ticking for pillows she stitched.

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