Back to dining rooms
Are dining rooms making a comeback? Local architect Steven Hoffman Shapiro has found a resurgence of interest in them among his clients. He points out that it's counter to the notion of the "great room" that was so popular in the '80s -- a room that allowed homeowners to entertain large numbers of guests at once. Mr. Shapiro isn't sure why people want dining rooms again. "Maybe because they're entertaining in smaller groups," he suggests.
In any case, the kind of furniture people are buying for their dining rooms is also different, according to Linda Jones, consultant to Masco, a giant home furnishings corporation that includes Drexel and Henredon. Homeowners want dining rooms that are less formal and more convivial, so there's great interest in round and oval tables. Woods and finishes are lighter. The formal 18th-century table -- rectangular, made of mahogany, and with a high-gloss finish -- no longer sets the standard. "In all price points, people are looking for furniture that makes the dining room a gathering place," she says, "a place to invite people to linger."
McLain Wiesand on Howard Street's antiques row is an extraordinary shop. The owner, David Wiesand, started off as an antiques dealer; he specializes in 19th-century continental and classical furniture, statuary and decorative accessories. But in the last couple of years the graduate of the Maryland Institute, College of Art, has turned his hand to designing furniture, and has been so successful his custom-made furniture has eclipsed his antiques.
Clearly the roots of Mr. Wiesand's designs are in classical forms, but his creations are not derivative. "I draw from the look of antique things," he says, "with a twist of the new from me." He might literally combine the old and new by, say, making a dining room table out of an antique bronze chandelier. Or he might create something like an art nouveau-looking bed that's completely his own. His studio of six crafts people turns out about 12 pieces a month.
McLain Wiesand is located at 891 N. Howard St. The phone number is (410) 728-2441.
An up-to-date home inventory is useful for insurance purposes, for estate planning and for times when you want to document the condition of your belongings (if, for instance, you were renting your apartment furnished to someone else). But if you've ever undertaken even a partial inventory, you know what a tedious process it can be.
Now a new company, Home Inventory Management, will do it all for you: videotape your belongings, provide you with close-up color prints or slides, and collect information to create a database with pertinent facts about each item. The company provides you with copies and keeps the originals, which means they can be reproduced when you need them or easily updated.
The inventory is expensive, around $600, but new items can be added for very little more. After an initial consultation in your home, the actual recording takes four to six hours.
For more information, call Keith Tuttle at (410) 761-7513.
This month's Architectural Digest details the fascinating story of how a Rhode Island landmark, the 1792 Nightingale-Brown House, was restored and opened as the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization. Before the seven-year restoration, the house had been described by a team of structural engineers as being "in a condition of imminent collapse."
What gives the story a Baltimore connection is a rare desk and bookcase (circa 1760-1770) made by John Goddard. The desk had been inherited by Nicholas Brown, director of the National Aquarium in Baltimore and head of the family that decided to save the house they grew up in. Mr. Brown donated the desk to fund the project. It was sold at Christie's for $12.1 million -- a record price for any piece of American furniture, according to Christie's public relations department.