Victorian look for a traditional house

The Baltimore Sun

Barbara Johnson is sure she was born in the wrong century. Once inside her grand, 5,500-square-foot home decorated almost entirely in the Victorian style, one can understand why.

She and her husband, Craig Johnson, a doctor of audiology, purchased the five-bedroom newly built, traditional-style home in the Worthington section of northern Baltimore County in 1991. Barbara Johnson, with the help of a trusted builder and interior decorator, has been reinventing the house ever since.

An English grandfather clock in the center hallway offers a taste of 19th-century refinement. Antiques and collectibles - including toys, photographs, china and furniture - fill the home.

"I wanted my home to evoke another period in time," Johnson said. "When I closed the [front] door, I wanted a certain feeling of serenity."

The first floor consists of the original rooms in the front, or northern end, and a large addition on the back of the home that was completed two years ago.

Just off the hallway, in what was the original dining room, sits the "train room." Here, Johnson keeps a raised Christmas garden that has become so involved that she keeps it up year-round. Her "Department 56 Snow Village" collection numbers more than 30 buildings, and includes trees, carousels and even a snow-covered mountain complete with sledding children. Original needlepoint hangs on walls covered with striped wallpaper, and a curio cabinet holds bisque Santa Clauses and human figurines.

On the opposite side of the hallway, the home's original living room is now referred to as the "parlor," and it exudes rich Victorian elegance. White lace curtains contrast with walls papered in cranberry silk fabric. A camelback sofa and love seat upholstered in floral print dominate the center of the room, while mahogany cabinets display an extensive collection of antique porcelain.

The key to decorating, Johnson said, is to "create a presence; to go inside yourself for some kind of feeling."

While her train room is meant to transport people to a happy place in their childhood, the addition at the back of the house, which features a dining and living area, has a very adult, graceful and elegant feel. Easily 30 feet square, the space is breathtaking, both in its lavish design and decor.

Multipaned bay windows are swathed in heavy velvet draperies, soft lighting glows from the recesses of a tray ceiling and a 13-foot mahogany dining table seats 18 under two crystal chandeliers. Festively decorated for the celebration of Hanukkah and Christmas, the table is meticulously set with Mikasa china and crystal ware.

The home's second and third floors showcase a Victorian theme of ruffles, old photographs, lacy bed linens and old toys, including antique dolls, a dollhouse and teddy bears.

Johnson's home is her delightful escape and a joyful retreat for her children and grandchildren. Good thing, she says, because she "can't imagine packing up and moving."

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making the house her own

* To evoke the opulence of the Victorian period throughout the house, Barbara Johnson used deep colors of paint, including mustard and cranberry. The wallpaper in several rooms is rich and detailed.

* For carpets that were to be laid on wood flooring, Johnson chose floral designs, either light against a dark background or dark against a pale background.

* Johnson's keen eye for design is seen in the pleasing mixture of antiques and newer accessories. For example, there are antique pieces of needlepoint hung alongside her own work.

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