With its circular drive and manicured lawn, the stately French provincial home opening Sept. 21 as the 33rd annual decorator show house for Historic Ellicott City Inc. seems to have a split personality.
Belle Vue is located in The Chase, a neighborhood of sizable estates off Homewood Road. Built in 1991 on 2.7 acres, the gray brick house clearly isn’t a historic building.
Yet, Belle Vue manages to exude Old World grandeur on the outside and “a homey, relatable” feel on the inside, checking off all the right boxes for the design committee, said Kim Zorn, show house co-chairperson.
While a departure from the norm, the home’s relatively recent construction was a selling point in its selection, she said.
The show house committee’s aim this year is to entice a younger crowd to join the nonprofit’s loyal following by offering up a more contemporary house with an interior layout and features they can imagine working for a modern family — although, at 8,400 square feet, on a much larger scale.
“We realized we needed to move in another direction, and we convinced the board to try something new,” Zorn said, noting this year’s honorary show house chairs are Creig and Carla Northrop.
Zorn persuaded homeowners Jason and Monica Fiegel to open to the public the house they had only just purchased in November for their family of six. They plan to move in after the show house closes Oct. 20.
Historic Ellicott City Inc. is also running out of historic properties in Howard County to feature, HEC president and show house co-chairperson Peggy Maxson said.
“Our mission is to save, preserve and restore historic structures, primarily in Ellicott City, but also in [other parts of] Howard County,” Maxson said of HEC. “We have been focusing on raising as much money as we can since the floods hit, while still appealing to people interested in home design.”
In July 2016 and May 2018, flash floods on historic Main Street killed three people and damaged businesses. The county has announced plans to mitigate the flooding.
HEC has awarded more than $100,000 in grant money to historic Ellicott City properties over the past three years and also makes other grants, Maxson said.
Net proceeds from show houses typically range from $40,000 to $70,000, she said. This year, show house committee members are hoping that tweaking their approach might help boost that figure.
To that end, organizers have also created a new after-hours event called Design at Dusk, which includes a private tour for 20 ticketholders and offering light refreshments and designer presentations.
Because Belle Vue is only 28 years old and the homeowners have completed some major renovations, HEC didn’t have to invest time and money to get the show house ready as it has with historic properties — a huge plus, Maxson said.
In years past, the nonprofit arranged for new driveways, flooring and roofs to be installed, to name a few of the costly projects required to get historic show houses in suitable shape.
“This house was basically a blank canvas,” she said.
Carroll Frey, show house design chairman, praised HEC’s choice, saying, “Belle Vue has the perfect layout for a show house.”
The front entrance opens onto a foyer with a polished marble floor and a grand curved staircase. Transverse hallways running across the house to the left and right of the foyer facilitate traffic flow, he said.
“I would describe the flavor of the house as ‘transitional’ and ‘au courant,’ ” Frey said. “It’s not pretentious and it’s not trying to show off. It’s casual living at its best.”
There are 21 designers working in 24 spaces, he said.
Frey singled out Quintece Hill-Mattauszek for her mid-century modern design of a former au pair suite on the first floor of the home, which she calls The Boys Club.
The owner of Alexandria-based Studio Q Designs, Hill-Mattauszek custom-built an accent wall for the cozy room from walnut-stained pine plywood, chosen because it’s lightweight. Strips are set at angles and mounted on four panels that can be rearranged to provide new patterns. Channel lights line some of the panels’ grooves.
A custom three-piece sectional in a textured beige fabric mimics the angles of a bay window and can be rearranged as a loveseat and two hexagonal chairs.
A Sputnik-inspired chandelier, a nod to the late 1950s, is centered in the room, providing light for the sleek game table with inset cup holders. Album covers from such iconic artists as Jimi Hendrix, Elton John and Elvis Presley sit atop white coat hooks on one wall, and a portable record player sits in a corner.
“The room is designed to be an adult place to play,” she said. “It’s where you’d hold an Oscar party or a poker night.”
The kitchen, situated at the rear of the home, was designed by Ashleigh Haker of A.S.H. Designs in Ellicott City. Terracotta ceramic floor tiles with insets complement the ceiling-high white Shaker cabinets and upscale stainless appliances.
“I describe this room as European, organic and Zen,” Haker said.
The designer likes to work with neutral colors and natural materials, such as wood, stone and metal. She chose quartzite — made from pressure-heated quartz sandstone — that mimics marble for the counter and island and custom painted the walls a base coat of gray layered with three other colors.
Travertine, similar to marble, was used for the kitchen table, where a large painting of a Great Dane by Ellicott City artist Lisa Brown Malveaux hangs. A bench of English walnut with a waterfall edge comes from Shoemaker Country, a Main Street business.
Up the foyer’s sweeping staircase to the second floor is a master bedroom large enough to accommodate a sectional sofa that faces a stacked stone fireplace with a painting of an ocean vista over its mantel.
Wendy Appleby, owner of Columbia-based Your Home by Wendy, worked to create “a calming sanctuary” for the homeowners, who are raising two boys and two girls.
To give the kids a presence in their parents’ hideaway, Appleby hung their portraits over a hickory-slab writing desk. The recessed area and is set apart with geometric wallpaper accented with crystals.
One of the homeowners’ favorite touches in the master bedroom is a coffee and wine bar with a mini-fridge hidden behind a door resembling a bank of drawers, she said.
“The look is dressy, yet relaxed,” Appleby said. “I believe a bedroom should be a refuge.”
Down the hall, where two walls of paintings are displayed by Artist’s Gallery of Ellicott City, Sheryl McLean of Bethesda-based McLean & Tircuit Designs, created a sitting room she describes as “a smooth blend of cultures.”
The focus of the room is an oversized painting of an African American woman signed by artist Ronald Jackson. Behind it and on an adjacent wall are panels of Asian-inspired wallpaper depicting cranes, the designer said.
Walls are painted black, but the room isn’t dark because the white lacquer ceiling disperses the window’s natural light, she said. A green velvet sofa is contrasted with a brass birdcage chair.
“I look at this room as a contemplative space,” she said.
Maxson noted that all furnishings and accessories are for sale, though the homeowners get first choice. The nonprofit receives a percentage of sales and retains net proceeds from ticket prices.
The event comes to life each year with the help of about 300 volunteers.
“It takes an absolute village,” Maxson said. “Planning for the next show house begins as soon as this one ends.”
If you go
Belle Vue at The Chase is open Sept. 21 through Oct. 20. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $30 at participating retailers or $35 at the door, with last admission one hour before closing. Tickets for Design at Dusk tours, set for Oct. 2, 9 and 16, are $55.
No on-site parking is permitted. Visitors must take an off-site shuttle; parking lot location varies by the day of the week. No children ages 10 and younger, pets or high heels allowed.
For more information, visit historicec.com.