This year, the designers of the Baltimore Symphony Associates Decorators' Show House had an unusual problem: getting visitors to take their eyes off the views outside the $3.5 million penthouse on the 23rd floor of Silo Point long enough to look at the rooms inside.
Their solutions included adding pops of bright orange, teal and green, and turning old industrial and nautical items into innovative design elements in 20 designed spaces.
"The view will always trump, no matter what," says Laura Kimball, a show house veteran who returns this year leading a group of design students from the Community College of Baltimore County.
Her students designed a guest bedroom, which looks out on twin Navy ships moored in the port of Baltimore and the marinas of Canton in the distance. To draw the visitor's eye back to the room, they adorned the bed with bright teal pillows and hung a large abstract painting that bursts with yellow.
Washington-based designer Ricardo Ramos employed the same technique of using vibrant colors in the family room where red midcentury-inspired chairs and a red cabinet add contrast to gray walls.
"My inspiration was industrial, with some traditional and modern and a very urban and sophisticated look," Ramos says.
His work to transform the stark industrial space began with the chairs and a golden chandelier that looks like a large coil of wire. From there, he added a hand-crafted mirror that resembles bubbles, as well as wall stenciling and decorative hand-blown glass.
In the kitchen, Dennese Guadeloupe-Rojas set out to create a space that was both elegant and modern. She drew inspiration from a chandelier that features crystal surrounded by metal rings. She brightened the backs of the kitchen cabinets with orange paint and chose stuffed lime-green chairs for the dining area. Fern stenciling on the walls and silver leaf over orange paint in the ceiling bring texture to the room.
While most of the designers drew inspiration from the industrial history of the property, which once housed a grain elevator, Brad Weesner says he tried to block out that influence when he created the master bedroom.
"I wanted the room to fit the premier penthouse in Baltimore," he says. Weesner worked around the exposed duct tubing and enveloped the room in soft textures, adding a fabric-draped dresser and sofa, feather mattresses and comforters on the bed, and a pebbled wall covering of granite, mica and minerals. The wall, as well as the silk and woolen rugs, glistens in the evening sun.
Unlike the other designers who brightened rooms with pops of color, Weesner kept the room subdued, using cream and gold to elicit a feel of tranquillity.
Reflecting the larger theme of an industrial building turned into luxurious condominiums, many of the show house designers chose accessories and wall treatments that repurposed industrial or nautical items.
Annapolis designer Gina Fitzsimmons decorated the soaring atrium of the living room with the white sails of sunfish sailboats. Nautical elements are featured throughout the room and the adjacent wet bar. Antique oars hang from a wall, and one oar is set into to the backsplash of the bar sink.
Old boat cleats and rope adorn the coffee table, and the rope design is repeated on rugs and lamps. Ship pendants and canvas have been fashioned into sofa pillows.
Fitzsimmons says the room's tall ceiling and wall of windows initially flummoxed her. "I didn't get it right away," she says. But as she stood in the loft looking down at the room, the idea of the sails skirting through the top of the room came to her.
"I brought a little of Annapolis to Baltimore," she says jokingly.
Jeanine Turner and Jeffrey Kent turned the penthouse foyer into a small art gallery, with many of the works made from old industrial pieces.
Turner, who with her husband, Patrick Turner, owns Silo Point, was familiar with the property and had decorated a number of the complex's model units. When she had the chance to bid for a space in the show house, she knew right away what she wanted to do with the foyer.
"I always thought this should be an art gallery," says Turner, who with Kent owns Unexpected Art Space, a pop-up gallery project.
While decorating for clients requires a designer to follow someone else's vision, the show house allows complete artistic freedom, Turner says. She and Kent selected some pieces from their gallery and commissioned other work just for the show house, including a large painting by local artist Paul Taylor that uses metal chain to mimic the railroad tracks beside Silo Point.
Turner says the foyer design began with an orange rug as she and Kent tried to capture the colors of the Baltimore harbor. The blue-gray walls are reminiscent of the water, while oranges and yellows remind visitors of sunrise and sunset.
Among the repurposed items that decorate the room are a ceiling light made from feathers and a mirror covered by an old window grate. The dominant piece of art adorning a walk-in closet is a former kitchen cabinet door that has been covered by layers of concrete and acrylic paint.
In the loft above, Sheryl McLean drew inspiration for her design from the harbor and Chesapeake Bay. "I imagine these waterways connecting to all these places," she says.
She incorporates a traveling theme in the loft by featuring photographs of people from Peru, Vietnam, and Ethiopia. Behind a desk is a chair made of leather and snakeskin, and the floor is covered by a fluffy angora rug.
Her space also features a number of reclaimed items, including a torso sculpture made of red nails by Israeli artist Niso Maman, a desk lamp made of twigs and a tall sculpture made of old bicycle wheels.
"I tried to capture the culture of a world traveler," McClean says. "You are at the top of the world up here."
Down the hall, a group of students from Harford Community College drew on a more down-to-earth inspiration for their design. They decided to create a room for a grown-up child who has returned to her parents' home after graduating from college and being unable to find work.
The room is titled "Back Home Again on a Budget" and features a table that functions as a desk, dining table and storage trunk. In the closet, shoes are tucked into a rack made of PVC pipe and the bed is made of repurposed wooden pallets.
"The inspiration came from the economic situation, with people looking for a job and not being able to find a job," says Haleh Farahmehr, one of the student designers, although she notes that finding such a room in a luxury penthouse is a little unlikely.
In the dining room, designers Victor Liberatore and Gail Lieberman played with the natural tensions of hard and soft, male and female, and industrial and elegant. A steel beam in one corner acknowledges the industrial history of the property, while bright blue crabs painted on newspaper pages remind visitors of Baltimore's heritage. Overhead, a chandelier of bottles recalls the urban landscape.
Liberatore says he and his partner decided against any window treatments that might impair the view. "We didn't try to compete with it," he says, confidently adding, "We'll have them look back in our direction."
If you go
The 38th Annual Symphony Decorators' Show House will be open to the public beginning Sunday, April 27, and running through May 18.
Hours: Sunday, April 27: noon to 4 p.m. Thereafter, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays.
Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the door
Info: For more information on the show house, including where to buy tickets, visit bsomusic.org and click on Baltimore Symphony Associates under the "Giving" tab.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun