In 1985, attorney David Snyder purchased one side of a duplex in Baltimore between the upscale neighborhoods of Roland Park and Guilford. The 1929 brick Georgian-style home had a stately exterior but would need an interior makeover.
Nevertheless, Snyder said, the house was "very livable for a bachelor like me."
Unfortunately, it was a bachelor pad in the not-so-flattering sense of the term: He initially didn't improve the interior, which consists of two stories and an attic. The house, by Snyder's admission, fell into a state of disrepair, and he worked halfheartedly at fixing it up.
But after the double snowstorms of February 2010 brought down his gutters and battered his slate roof, causing numerous leaks, Snyder seriously considered renovation. However, when it came to his interior decoration skills, his friends were more than a little skeptical.
"They laughed at the idea of me decorating [the house] without any assistance from an interior decorator," he recalled. "Who could blame them? The vision in my right eye is poor as a result of diabetes, and I had never taken any design courses, informal or otherwise."
And there was one more impediment: Snyder is colorblind. Still, he wanted all the rooms to work together, to be colorful and dramatic. He had been collecting furniture, antiques and art for over 25 years. That, and a copious use of plants — "It's a relatively inexpensive way to decorate, but people don't do it." — would be key to the interior renovation. He became a regular at Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses and Valley View Farms, and his friends noted that the decor was beginning to take shape.
With no particular style or period in mind, his objective was to create a beautifully decorated home. He frequented craft fairs and consignment shops, and he found many furnishings at Second Chance in the city.
The design as a whole can be taken in from the wallpapered front hall.
The living room and sunroom are striking, with a foreground of color against a backdrop of walls painted an eggshell color, exotic plants and large stained-glass panels at the windows. A deep red microfiber sofa sits against custom-made white silk draperies at the front window, while a round, glass-topped coffee table holds a large tropical plant and several art glass bowls. Artwork here includes two pieces by abstract artist Victor Vasarely.
The long and narrow sunroom beyond the living room showcases a magnificent stained-glass panel of a tropical bird in a rain forest. The plants in the room mirror the panel's glowing greenery.
"I am not modest about this house," Snyder said, seated in his dining room, where a stunning crystal chandelier sets a formal tone for a room painted eggshell white with a black-accent wall. A glass-topped table rests on an Oriental carpet purchased at Alex Cooper, and three framed Erte lithographs lend a polished Art Deco flair.
The wall along the staircase to the second level features five small Erte prints. At the landing, an Art Deco mirror in five geometric, fanlike frames reflects the crystal lamp affixed to the hall ceiling. A double-pedestal table sits directly under the mirror and displays a multicolored glass vase.
Three bedrooms and a full bathroom make up the second floor. Originally four bedrooms, the master suite was created by combining two of the smaller rooms.
"My bedroom was the most difficult [to decorate] because, unlike the others which I had begun 20 years earlier and for which I had a respectable amount of furniture and art, I started from scratch with the bedroom except for the bed," Snyder said. "It took me months to decide on the look I wanted. It was the riskiest because of the long black-accent wall, and I had to find and negotiate the purchase of each piece of art that I wanted over the Internet — mainly from eBay.
"It was also the largest room and I had to temper my instincts to fill it up by realizing that sometimes less is more."
With that thought in mind, Snyder again chose the paintings of Vasarely — three on the black-accent wall, one on a perpendicular wall and another on the wall opposite the black one. All are lit by recessed spotlighting.
"To me, the flow of the room is just right — each of the five prints can stand alone and create their own space, yet are sufficiently synchronized to create one well-coordinated room," he said.
The sleekness of the white resin bed frame and table contrasts not only with the black wall but also with the burgundy carpeting. Resting on a lacquered chest under one of the paintings is an original Dale Chihuly glass bowl with wildly colorful ribbons of color running through it.
"A house is where your mind resides," Snyder said. "At last I have created something that enhances the products of the artists and craftsmen that I always admired."
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Making the dream
Dream realized: "[This home] fulfills a dream of mine which is to be part of the creative process," said David Snyder. "Having no art or craft skills, I was always reduced to the role of the spectator [in] enjoying the work of artists and craftsmen. In designing and decorating the house, I was able to combine the painting of the artists with the crafts of the rug weavers, glass blowers, stained-glass artisans and other craftsmen into a cohesive whole that was greater than the sum of the parts."
Personal touches: "Wait until you go outside," Snyder said. Beyond an enclosed porch with yet another stained-glass panel in one of the windows, an enormous deck in the back of the house drops to a walkway that leads into the trees. Plants and flowers are lined up on the deck's many rails, in corner pots and flower boxes. "It's a show-stopper," he said.