Featured this month: Not your basic condoWhen...


Featured this month: Not your basic condo

When Toby Greenberg moved from a big stone colonial in the country to a seven-room high-rise condominium on North Charles Street, she asked interior designer Bill McGee of Alexander Baer Associates to create a feminine and comfortable home -- as unlike the condominium stereotype as possible.

The results were so successful they've been featured in the current issue of Southern Accents.

"We do so many big, opulent homes," says the magazine's managing editor Lynn Carter, "every once in a while we like to give readers some good ideas for dealing with smaller spaces."

The text, by Susan Stiles Dowell, reveals how Ms. Greenberg and Mr. McGee, her longtime friend and designer, worked together to make the condominium a home. Five pages of photographs show these floral, feminine rooms in beautiful color.

"The beauty of the project for me," says Mr. McGee, "was taking it up to a certain point and then having Toby personalize it for herself."

"It's an unusual mixture, but people seem to like it," says Uschi Ostertag of Down to Earth, her new shop in Mount Washington. As you might expect from the name, it specializes in items with a nature motif. Ms. Ostertag enjoys working with fresh flowers and plants, as well as dried arrangements, and that love is reflected in what she sells. "I also do custom floral design in the old European tradition," she says. (Her designs have been featured in Southern Living magazine.)

But Down to Earth isn't a floral design shop. Ms. Ostertag sells furniture and accessories painted with animals and animal patterns -- trunks in leopard skin or zebra stripes, for instance. Vintage pieces and items handcrafted by Amish carpenters are decorated by Ms. Ostertag herself and by other local artists.

Besides the nature motifs, there's another reason for the shop's name. "Most of all," Ms. Ostertag says, "I try to reflect my price policy with the name of the store. I believe that beauty should be affordable for everyone."

Down to Earth is located at 1617 Sulgrave Ave. The phone number is (410) 664-5921.

If you have a water garden, and more people than ever do, now's the time to start putting your pond to bed. Wicklein's Water Gardens in Towson has some helpful suggestions for fall preparation and winter maintenance.

* Remove the pump and filter from your pond. Clean and store indoors.

* Cut back all the plants, including the water lilies, when they start to turn brown. Move all plants from ledges to the bottom -- the lowest part of the pond.

* Put netting over your pond. Leaves rotting in the water give off a gas that can kill your fish.

* Fish will survive outdoors if the water is 18 inches or deeper.

* Cut back on feeding fish now, and don't feed them at all during the winter.

* A de-icer can be bought to prevent solid freezing. If there isn't some open space in the ice, fish and plants won't survive the winter.

For more information, call Wicklein's at (410) 823-1335. The store is located at 1820 Cromwell Bridge Road.

Gardeners and anyone who loves flowers will appreciate the new 29-cent African violet stamp, issued this month by the Post Office. It's one of several floral designs, all of which are extremely popular. This year there were five spring flowers issued: iris, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and lilacs; next year the Post Office plans to concentrate on summer florals.

You can get a rose stamp this year, in a much-underpublicized format. The new self-adhesive stamps are an invention right up there with the wheel, in my book. They don't stick to each other, you don't have to lick them, and the glue seems stronger than the regular stamp's. "Until people use them they don't know how wonderful they are," says Post Office spokeswoman Valerie Vargo. "Then they won't use anything else."

Unfortunately, the self-adhesives are available only at post offices and at some ATMs. But do look for them when you buy your holiday stamps. You'll be able to get all four designs as self-adhesives.

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