Dream home

Towson split-level houses owners' artistic passion

For The Baltimore Sun
This dream home is also a "museum of memories"

Fe T. Reyes-Dollete is a pediatrician with more than medicine on her mind and in her life.

She is an ardent collector of decorative arts, a traveler and a member of a ballroom dancing group. The Towson home she shares with her husband, Rudy Dollete, is the ideal venue for all three pursuits.

"My husband and I are both physicians, and to break the stress of our profession, we indulge in other passions, namely traveling, gardening, art collecting and ballroom dancing," she said. "Our home is now a repository of [travel] memories represented by prints, paintings, vases, figurines, pottery, rugs and textiles made or crafted in all the places we have been to."

This has been going on for years — 40 in this home. In 1974, the couple happened upon a new housing development called Hunt Crest Estates. They chose a lot for construction of their new home amid rolling hills and old oak trees, calling it "an idyllic location."

They chose a simple model from several offered — a 21/2-level, contemporary-style home, often referred to as split-level. It was built on 1 acre at the top of a crest.

The home's three-bedroom layout and lower-level recreation room had the potential for remodeling down the line. The purchase price was $79,000.

Over the years, the Dolletes did, in fact, remodel by putting in a kitchen addition, enlarging the living room and foyer, and adding a dining room. Smaller interior projects included installing variegated white oak floors, as well as adding floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedrooms for additional light and a view of the landscape.

The marble-floor foyer sets the tone for the home's eclectic decor. Here, where steps lead to the lower and upper levels, a bronze sculpture greets guests. Reyes-Dollete calls it her prized possession.

"It is 'Carmenza' … a Mexican lady," she said. "In rich copper green and earth-tone patina, it is by Victor Gutierrez, a Mexican sculptor considered a master of Latin figurative sculpture."

Antiques from Asia and the couple's homeland, the Philippines, sit among transitional pieces of furniture. Artwork reigns throughout the interior, which also features 9-foot ceilings.

An arched entry off the foyer leads to the spacious living room with a cathedral ceiling, one of the larger repositories for the couple's art collection. The top of a black lacquered grand piano displays a variety of ceramic figurines, including ones by Lladro and Royal Copenhagen.

A wall of windows is at the back of the living room, with tall exotic plants in ceramic pots where draperies would be expected. A U-shaped, burnt-orange sectional sits in front of the windows.

A glass-topped coffee table is piled with vases, cachepots, plates and art books. Framed Asian art and textiles from all over the world grace the walls opposite the windows.

Adjacent to the living room, the dining room addition has a bright and contemporary decor. A wood-and-chrome Parsons table sits on an Oriental rug that is predominantly deep shades of red, yellow and orange; six chairs in orange microfiber and chrome are placed around it. There are large potted palm trees on either side of the room's far wall.

Antiques here include a Korean chest, a Chinese buffet and an elaborately carved Japanese table on which sit the delicate pieces of a ceramic tea service and a painted ceramic ginger jar vase. A large piece of African art, framed and hanging on the wall between the palm trees, is titled "Three Sisters."

The large kitchen is adjacent to the dining room and can also be accessed from the foyer, forming a circular flow on the main level. The room is a study in cozy country decor, with white Shaker-style cabinetry, ceramic block countertops and hand-painted dishes on the walls.

A center island between two large bay windows has the same treatments as the cabinets and the block countertop. A table-and-chairs set on either side of the island gives the impression of two kitchens. A large shelving unit and combined buffet holds the couple's myriad cookbooks, along with more figurines. The bay windows look out to their front lawn and the valley beyond it.

A collection of scrapbooks, upward of 25 and begun in 1970, is piled in one corner of the kitchen by a second built-in buffet.

"Each time we travel, I chronicle our trip in an album-scrapbook complete with captions," Reyes-Dollete said. "So far, we have traveled to 48 countries on six continents. Going over my albums is like traveling back to these various places. In essence, it is two trips for the price of one."

"We're frequent visitors to [the card and stationery store] Greetings & Readings," Rudy Dollete said.

The master bedroom suite, a guest room and an office-library are on the upper level.

The decor takes a whimsical shift in the home's lower level, where mirrors and an Art Deco bar provide a party atmosphere. Armless lounge chairs and a sofa line the periphery of the room. Most important is the wood floor that is danced on every Friday night.

"It is our clubhouse for the Gourmet Dance Group, composed of physicians and their spouses who love both ballroom dancing and gourmet dining," Reyes-Dollete said. "We meet every Friday evening at our place, eat dinner together then practice our dance steps."

Clubhouse, dance hall and art gallery are just a few possible descriptions of the Dolletes' home.

"A friend once said to me, 'Your house is like a museum,'" Reyes-Dollete said with a grin. "I answered, 'A museum of memories.' "

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