Marianne Fishman's three-story townhouse in Butchers Hill is a reflection of her life's work as an interior designer while also giving credence to Row House Interiors, the design company she owns.
"When we bought the house, it was a total disaster," she recalled. "But we got it well under the market price."
She and her husband, Larry Fishman, 55, president of All-State Career School in South Baltimore, settled on their East Baltimore home in April 2006. By October of that year, they were able to move in, thanks to the work of the many contractors she uses in her business.
Renovated to its former glory as a single-family home with a wealth of modern updates, Marianne Fishman began decorating in European and Mediterranean style.
In an interior space with more than 3,500 square feet to fill, her idea was that parts of the home would be used to entertain clients, as well as for the Fishmans' personal enjoyment. To that end, she set about making the first floor what she calls "one of the most sumptuous and beautiful of all rooms in the house."
For a more elegant and spacious look, the couple took down the living room wall that separated it from an entrance hall, adding 7 feet to the front room. The room has an eclectic blend of furniture: a sofa upholstered in wool and silk mohair, a pair of Chippendale chairs in the front window, and a large ottoman covered in velvet fabric imported from Italy. The light yellow walls along with open shutters at the window allow for great natural lighting in the room.
Beyond the living room is the home's first guest room, Victorian in style, with a large four-poster bed made of burl wood and covered with linens in gold, ginger and blue fabric. A large gilt-framed mirror hangs over a faux marble fireplace.
Beyond the bedroom to the end of the house is what Marianne calls her "safari" room. Here, an iron day bed and canopy is covered in a sheer linen fabric with zebra-print trim. An adjacent bathroom features a large walk-in shower and a mahogany and mirrored cabinet holding a sink.
The Fishmans' private living space is on the second and third floors. A large, bright kitchen is filled with baskets and copper molds and bowls. A center island made of old wooden planks stands out, resting on the home's original heart pine flooring. A dining area showcases a white Carrera marble-topped table and woven chairs.
The most spectacular room in the home is in the front of the second level, beyond the living and dining area. In this very large space, Marianne has created a library perfectly suited for an English country home.
"I love designing masculine rooms, and this room is the one where Larry had total veto power over how [it] was decorated," she said.
A wall of cherry bookcases is filled with books that reflect her husband's interests, including world travel, history and music. The furniture is made up of antique-style reproduction pieces: a large desk, a neutral-colored leather sofa, a red leather wing chair and an Oriental-style carpet. The cozy scene is enhanced by the windows, with ivory, khaki and red drapes and deep window seats covered in a chenille diamond pattern. The 19th-century look is capped off by a tray ceiling with molding.
The couple's master bedroom is on the third floor. Off of their suite is a sitting room — one of Marianne's favorite spots. It's decorated in casual furniture from Su Casa, and she added embellishments such as an antique tiger oak chest and fish sculptures. The room opens onto a 15-by-12-foot deck where she enjoys warm afternoons.
"This room has always felt to me like stepping into a happy summer house," she said.
The home's lowest level, which is aboveground, serves as the presentation room for Marianne's business. Furnished with an 84-inch work table and an antique pharmacy cabinet filled with accessories for purchase, the room is lined with books of wallpaper and fabric samples. Beyond this showroom is her private office and guest bathroom.
Since October 2006, the Fishmans have come a long way in making their Butchers Hill home their own.
"I am so glad that we started with a home that needed a lot of work, because we got to revive a beautiful piece of history and put our own stamp on it," Marianne Fishman said.
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Making the dream
Dream realized: "Our dream house is about charm, the details like the hefty moldings, ceiling medallions, heart pine floors, the large winding staircase, the view of the harbor from every floor," Marianne Fishman said. "Patterson Park is just down the block, and [this] is a very friendly residential neighborhood. We are so pleased to be here."
Dream design concept: "I often begin the design process from a pattern that will set the stage for everything that goes around it," Marianne said. "It could be an area rug, a wallpaper pattern or a piece of art, but in our home the majority of our rooms begin with a fabric. I love fabrics, and I enjoy looking through them, hundreds of them, because when I see fabrics that appeal to me I can see what the entire room would look like in my head. It is not just about what you see, but more often what you feel when you enter a room."
Dream furnishings: "My husband, Larry, is involved with everything that is done in our home — well, most everything," Marianne said. "There are things I find in my travels that I must bring home for us, but we have a rule, and it especially applies to art: Both of us must like it or it does not come into the house."