It's people who make the place, not the other way around With a style that borders on the fanciful madness of an Irish Georgian country house and the charm of a French chateau, this exquisitely decorated Scarlett Place penthouse is brimming with treasures. Each detail, from the 300-year-old Chinese silk drapery panels to the dozen or so Rembrandt etchings, is representative of an ever-growing collection of art, textile and antiques belonging to that consummate collector Jimmy Judd and his wife Barbara. Owner of Amos Judd & Son Inc., a well-known Howard Street antique shop, Mr. Judd has been collecting for more than 40 years. His collecting style is a blend of passion tempered by intelligence, of delight abetted by instinct.

Any 7,000-square-foot penthouse filled with art fit for the Louvre would seem intimidating, yet this one is warm and welcoming. The Judds' close friend and interior designer, Henry Johnson of Johnson/Berman, expresses it this way: "These are happy, appreciative people. You sense it the moment you come in. They love what they have, but they aren't righteous about it, they just ++ enjoy it."

At first, a matter of some concern for Mr. Judd was the scope of his collection, which he worried would not fit into his two-bedroom penthouse.

"When it seemed there was not an inch to spare, he'd buy a painting," laughs Mr. Johnson. "Then he'd worry, and ask me what he should get rid of. But knowing his talent and recognizing this is his passion, why would I deny someone their passion? I've walked out of meetings to see what he's bought, because I'm never disappointed. Never. Somehow we always find a place for it. At this point, I always say, Jimmy, buy more."

The two-bedroom penthouse is surrounded by landscaped terraces with incomparable views in three directions. It was originally purchased as two separate units, then completely redesigned, gutted and rebuilt in a three-year collaborative effort between the Judds, Henry Johnson and his partner, architect Robert Berman.

"To incorporate the burgeoning collection, we did very simple things, no gimmicks, no tricks," says Mr. Johnson. "I asked Jimmy and Barbara to give me a list headed by the most important pieces of art. Not the most valuable, but the ones dearest to their hearts. Then I built the entire apartment around their favorite pieces."

Because of the scope of the project, the process of making design decisions was a highly organized one, first completed on paper. After arranging placement of rooms with emphasis on room access and views, then deciding on architectural appointments such as columns, cornices and moldings, finishing materials such as marble, plaster and various tints and decorative finishes were selected. Then a color palette was made for each room. These color palettes were placed next to the art and accessories, including examples of finishing materials. When all selections were completed, special lighting effects were programmed into a computerized lighting system by internationally known lighting designer and consultant Luke Tygue. This was done room by room so the entire project could be viewed and approved at once, minimizing surprises and accidents later.

All exotic finishes throughout the penthouse were accomplished local artisans. "I think we probably employed every artisan in town," says Henry Johnson. "We didn't import anyone, and everyone did a spectacular job."

For example, the foyer ceiling is faux-finished by local artisan Robert Cox in verdi green to recall the iridescent blue-green quality of water in the harbor. Except for the ceiling, the entire foyer is covered with French antique beveled mirrors and floored with black-and-white marble.

In the hall, a darker verdi green ceiling by Mr. Cox sets off the black faux marbleized pilasters with gold-leaf capitals by Janet Pope. Art displayed here is a collection of original etchings, with impressionist etchings by Whistler, Degas, Monet and Cezanne at one end. At the other end, around a tall 16th century Dutch marquetry, hang the Rembrandt etchings.

The Edwardian-style library is an ornate, nighttime room that Mr. Johnson describes as "sizzling like a charcoal fire." A large-scale Italian painting covers one entire wall, on the other is a Joshua Reynolds portrait. Furniture is upholstered with French antique tapestries depicting the four seasons.

In the living room, a barrel vault ceiling creates a soft rise typical of the Irish Georgian country house. Over the fireplace hangs the Judds' wedding gift to one another, a magnificent Segnec painting. The mantel is a French antique restored to its original gold-leaf and mahogany condition by Janet Pope.

The dining room, with its 18th century English mahogany tables, Louis XVI chairs covered in striped silk, and Italian painted console with its gilt and marble top, is arranged for intimate conversation rather than banquet-style dinners. In consideration of the views, numerous small tables for no more than six people are scattered through the dining room,into the living room and, in fine weather, onto the terrace.

The master bedroom is finished in fleshy blush peaches and celadon greens. A coffered ceiling and French crystal chandelier sets off the draperies and bed silks. Layers of antique rugs are set atop a custom wool carpet. A collection of painted English Adam side chairs provides seating along with more sumptuous, upholstered pieces.

"It's an emotional apartment," says Mr. Johnson, "because it's merely a background for a real family. You can go to museums to see beautiful things, but the impact is intense when people have built a home in order to enjoy their collection, and they want to share this pleasure with you. It's then unique. It's vital and joyful. It's not ordinary. It's extraordinary."

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad