A touch of orchidIf, like me, you're...


A touch of orchid

If, like me, you're hopelessly hooked on those glossy "shelter" publications -- from Architectural Digest to House & Garden to Country Living to Better Homes and Gardens -- you have surely noticed the presence of orchids as design elements. According to "100 Orchids for the American Gardener," by Elvin McDonald (Smith & Hawken in conjunction with Workman, 1998, $17.95), orchids first became familiar in the Western Hemisphere around 1850, when advances in packaging made it possible to ship them long distances from the tropics. At first they were expensive, so only the rich could afford them. By the first decades of the 20th century, however, orchids had become popular among middle-class gardeners.

Today they're sold everywhere. Designers use them to bring a touch of color, and a touch of elegance, to a room -- any room, from living rooms to bathrooms.

The idea that orchids are difficult is mostly myth; in fact, says McDonald, "they are disarmingly easy once a commitment is made to finding an appropriate place to grow each plant." In any case, "100 Orchids" tells you everything you need to know to grow orchids. And, if you log on to www.smithandhawken.com, you'll find a section devoted to orchids. You can even sign up to win three potted orchids. -- K. M.


* Home Depot is offering a series of free four-week instructional classes in such do-it-yourself projects as room enhancements, kitchens, bathrooms and decks. Classes at the Home Depot University are limited to 20, so students get hands-on experience. For more information, call the Home Depot location nearest you, or go to the Web site at www.homedepot.com.

* Roland Park Country School Evening School will once again present the popular "At Home With Interior Design" series with designers Tom Williams and Robert Hale. The series runs five Mondays beginning Sept. 27, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The cost is $65. To register, or for more information, call Temma Schaller at the school, 410-323-5500, Ext. 3045. --K.M.


Formica has just introduced a new variety of its Surell solid surfacing material, which resembles concrete but doesn't have the problems of chipping and cracking associated with real concrete. It comes in four finishes -- bleached, natural, green tea and chambray -- and is suitable for kitchens and bathroom. It's so attractive it could even make a stunning tabletop. The Concrete Collection is available from kitchen and bath suppliers and designers. For more information, call Formica at 800-FORMICA, or check the Web site at www.formica.com. -- K. M.

Scooping up antiques

There are still a lot of flavors at 4800 Roland Ave., but instead of being sweet and calorie-laden, these are old and history-laden. Charlene O'Malley, who spent 10 years at the Otterbein antiques and design emporium of Gaines-McHale, has branched out with a shop of her own in the Roland Park Shopping Center, in the space vacated by an ice cream shop.

O'Malley specializes in antique American, French and Continental furniture and decorative accessories, plus silver, Chinese export porcelain, glass and artwork. She also likes to stock pieces originating in the area. One of her prizes is a circa 1795 14-foot mahogany banquet table made in Baltimore. O'Malley has items in a wide range of prices -- from a couple of hundred dollars to $38,500 (for the banquet table). Hours at the shop, C.H. O'Malley Antiques, are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. For more information, call 410-235-4488.

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