Joann Levy sits at her Colonial-style oak dining room table. Six high-backed Windsor chairs surround it. These pieces, along with an oak breakfront displaying crystal stemware and china, are the only traditional furnishings left over from a past life.

"My decor now is like my personality," she says. "It's asymmetrical, it's colorful [and] it's risky.


As if to illustrate that statement, she points to the ceiling above the table. There, a five-candle chandelier bursts out from an elongated red glass base. Each of the five candelabra lights are in a different-colored holder, while colored beads run back and forth from them like a spider's web. The impression is one of Mardi Gras necklaces on steroids.

Levy's spontaneous and edgy style is a big shift from that of her former house, which she refers to as "conservative, filled with antiques; pretty, but boring."

Levy, 58, is the director of neighborhood development for Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc., an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Twelve years ago, after divorcing, the mother of two grown daughters moved into her two-story Pikesville townhouse, bringing along all her furniture.

Over the years, however, she discarded most of it. And with the help of designer Karen Henry, owner of Karen Henry Interiors, and Steve Appel, co-owner of Nouveau Contemporary Goods, Levy transformed her living space to reflect her personality.

Nowhere is this transition more apparent than on the first floor of her open, 30-by-50-foot interior. Facing out from her dining area into the living room, one feels the energy emanating from a contemporary furniture suite in vibrant shades. The sofa is upholstered in bright orange faux suede, with coordinating easy chairs in orange and lipstick pink. Together with a leopard-print hassock and a glass coffee table on a black, white and pink patterned rug, the suite faces a wood-burning brick fireplace.

Oversized framed prints are hung on either side of the fireplace. One is a picture of a stylized 1920 woman, a flapper named Doriane. The other is of a more cartoonish woman, who happens to look like a caricature of Doriane. Both pieces, along with the bright furniture, were purchased from Nouveau on the advice of Appel.

"If this furniture was blown up, it would look like Pee-wee's Playhouse," Levy says, laughing.

Levy relies on Appel and Henry, one complementing the other, to work around a particular color scheme and contemporary ambience. For example, Henry designed window dressings for two sliders that open to the garden. Flanking the traditional breakfront are cornices upholstered in a print of hot pink, orange, rust and cream rectangles. Polyester shears form five 24-inch flat panels that are weighted at the bottom for easy opening and closing. The effect is a clever take on Roman shades, done in vertical fashion.

Keenly familiar with Levy's personality and tastes, Henry also hung wallpaper in the powder room with a design of juicy red lips on a white background.

"Joann's house is as unique as she is," Henry says. "All the rooms are done with class and flair."

The master bedroom on the second level reflects Levy's love of pink and green, colors she hasn't tired of after 12 years. Here, soft lime green wallpaper sets the stage for a large wrought-iron bed with spread and sheets in green and pink prints. A settee in pink faux suede sits adjacent to the bed. Above it, a large Renoir-like print of women at a fancy ball continues the color scheme with its black and pink tones.

Even the rooms in the house that Levy hasn't completely redesigned contain enough contemporary and retro pieces to fill in the blanks. For example, the kitchen has a circa 1950 chrome table with matching faux-leather-covered chairs in pink and navy. A large Expressionist-style print on the wall over the table depicts a vase of flowers in bright primary colors.

Levy says she has more projects on the back burner — she's a regular visitor to Nouveau Contemporary Goods — and she maintains a special affinity for the house that she says "waited for her until she was ready" to purchase it.

"Even if I had a bad day, I walk in here and I start laughing," she says.


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