Letting the house dictate decor

The Baltimore Sun

In her sunlit kitchen, where hickory cabinets frame the back-lit glow of red-checked cafe curtains, Lynda DeFord has hung a plaque with just one word: "Simplify." The message reflects DeFord's approach to decorating her dream home and serves as a yardstick by which to measure future projects.

"I decorate to the type of the house," said the 53-year-old Social Security retiree. "When I lived in Federal Hill, I furnished that [house] in Queen Anne style."

Eight years ago, DeFord sold her downtown rehab and moved to the West Baltimore neighborhood of Ten Hills, near the Baltimore County line, an area she had always hoped to call home.

With an interior dimension of 35 feet by 35 feet, Ford's house is one of the smallest in a neighborhood of Colonial-style mansions, Arts and Crafts houses and large bungalows. The diminutive cottage, built in 1915 of cedar shake and stone, has a sloped roof and looks tailor-made for Hansel and Gretel.

"Loving the house instantly," DeFord purchased it for $118,000. Believing that all old houses have a unique personality, she set about decorating hers in a comfortably minimalist way with an enchanted-cottage theme in mind.

Though the house was in fine condition, she spent $40,000 over the years on projects and furniture. Half of that amount was dedicated to a remodeled kitchen. Additionally, DeFord had her rich oak flooring re-sanded and treated, and gave the downstairs rooms fresh coats of pastel paints in green, beige and cream.

In upstairs bedrooms, she used light periwinkle blue and a color she calls "chocolate milk." For crisp contrast against the walls, she treated the ceiling molding and window trim to a bright white. Curtains throughout the house are sheer, flowing in soft pleats to the window sills.

Her love of muted colors carries over to furniture of blond wood and light oak. Upholstered pieces, such as a generously stuffed love seat in pastel stripes with flower-print pillows, evoke a casual, country feel.

DeFord has found that a few prominently placed splashes of color provide drama and interest. For example, she displays a large wreath of eucalyptus on the white wainscoting behind her fireplace. The wreath, seasonally decorated in organic materials, includes vivid shades of red in the form of dried berries, flowers and textured bows. A red wicker love seat, coupled with a sofa upholstered in a Jacobean print of greens, blues and reds, pops against the mustard-colored shingles of her sun porch's walls.

On the second-floor, one bedroom includes a cast-iron bed placed against a painted gray wall that has been glazed for a faux-marble look. That bedroom and another have a vintage bureau lavishly painted with tropical landscapes.

"This place wasn't a big decorating challenge after the Federal Hill house," DeFord said. Perhaps that is because her resolve to "simplify" is the mainstay of every project she undertakes.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Write to Dream Home, Home & Garden Editor, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or e-mail us at dreamhomes@baltsun.com.

making the house her own

* Decorate to the dictates of the home's design. The exterior cottage design of Lynda DeFord's house, coupled with a cozy, 35-foot-by-35-foot interior, spoke to a decor of clean, simple lines, light furniture and walls of muted colors accented with bursts of color.

* Simplify, organize and store out of sight with the clever use of built-ins. Given the close interior dimensions of her house's first level, DeFord makes the most of built-in pieces such as bookcases, a corner cabinet in the dining room and fancy covers over her exposed radiators, which she uses as table space.

* Let there be light. When the interior is snug, open the space with as much natural light as possible. DeFord's carefully chosen window dressings were designed to give a breezy feel and an open view to the outdoors.

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