Monday, May 21, 2012

Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Show House

Saturday fulfilled a wish I’ve had for a long time: to see a decorator show-house. You know, a stately old home that some wealthy benefactor has decreed to a worthy cause, which then spends the next six months having every room under its noble roof gussied up by local designers, only to be put on display before an adoring public who pays the price of a ticket to see the over-the-top transformation. I had never been to a decorator show-house and was anxious to see what one looked like, imagining outrageously outfitted rooms adjoining others with no binding chemistry between them – each designed to the unique taste and interpretation of the person charged with its gussying.

And, in a way, that’s exactly what I got when I purchased two tickets to the 36th annual Baltimore Symphony Decorators’ Show House, the Eck home at Cromwell Valley Park in Towson, Maryland. As luck would have it, Saturday was the only day I could attend the event, so I invited my good friend Paula, a Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service biologist with the state’s Natural Heritage Program, to accompany me. Paula, too, had never been to a designer show-house and was eager to check out the scene, especially the landscaping, since native plants are her professional forte.

For this auspicious occasion, I chose an "artsy" outfit: a simple lace-bordered tank top by Eyeshadow over a pair of vintage brown leggings by Jacques Moret that I purchased in the 1980s when I lived in California and leggings were still referred to as tights. I dressed up the simple brown camisole with a brown asymmetrical coverlet in a loosely-woven knit adorned with soft pink fabric roses which I found at the American Crafts Council art show in Baltimore several years ago. On my feet I wore scrunchy brown suede boots with fold-over cuffs by Wendi which I purchased on clearance at Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) last weekend. In honor of the Preakness race, set for later that evening, I added a hand-painted horse pendant with topaz and citrine gemstones and matching earrings from Fire & Ice Jewelers ( which were a birthday gift to me from my friends, Jan and Robert, a few years back.

The show-house was fascinating, and although the rooms were, indeed, decorated to the individual designer’s tastes, there was an unexpected cohesiveness from room to room – perhaps in part because each was so "over-the-top". The master bedroom, done in blue and white (my own bedroom colors) with a seashore theme, was a favorite, so I was surprised when I saw that it was decorated by a friend of mine, Carol Grillo (Carol Grillo Designs -- Carol put her own stamp on the room, right down to the stunning ocean painting over the fireplace mantel, a Carol Grillo original. I was impressed.

After browsing a "gift shop" set up on the premises beneath a huge white tent, where I was pleased to find not one, but two early Christmas gifts for friends, and after narrowly missing an exploding lightbulb in the catered luncheon area which caused its own white tent to erupt in flames, Paula and I decided we’d had enough excitement for one day and boarded the shuttle bus back to the car.

What a day!

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