"What do you think of my place?"
The situation clearly called for tact. It was 1985 and Carol Brody had just laid eyes on the '50s-era Mt. Washington stone ranch home owned by her then-date, Ken Luchs. Brody, a lifelong artist, wasn't going to say what she really thought—that the kitchen was woefully out of date; that the verdant views were obscured by shapeless, heavy drapes; and that the living room was covered in unfortunate wallpaper with a faux leather book design.
"I could see the potential of the house," admits Brody. "But at the time, I was the date of the week, so I wasn't going to touch it with a ten-foot pole. I wasn't going to say much of anything."
What a difference a year makes. By 1986, Brody had gone from "date of the week" to blushing bride. And Luchs happily turned the decorating duties over to his new wife. "He said, 'Here, have a ball,'" she recalls. "So we proceeded to tear apart the house and put it back together again. He let me do what I love to do. I'm a visual person, and I relate to the world visually."
Eventually the couple gutted the three-bedroom house and created a master suite with "his" and "her" bathrooms and offices. ("Virginia Woolf was right," says Brody, laughing. "You do need a room of your own.") The living room and dining room areas became showcases for Brody's artwork as well as carefully picked pieces of furniture and antiques collected from travels around the world, including a Korean wedding chest, brightly hued pillows from India, a set of wooden combs from Tanzania, and hand-embroidered saddlebags from roadside stands in the Middle East.
"Everything in this house is something I have chosen either for its visual presence, its color emphasis, or its texture," says Brody, who founded the pottery department of Goucher College and now makes and sells intricate beaded jewelry to such outlets as the Baltimore Museum of Art and Lutherville's Bijoux. (She wears an armful of her own bracelets.) Much of what she collects has an Asian influence. "When I was an art history student at Goucher, I only learned about Western art," she says. "I've spent the rest of my life learning about non-European art."
The pottery Brody has lovingly collected—prominently displayed on a specially lit wall of the living room—includes an apple green vase by Arizona artist Rose Cabat, an English tea bowl by venerated ceramicist Tom Coleman, and delicate black and white miniature pots from the San Ildefonso and Acoma Native American pueblos in New Mexico.
Though Brody says she has long since run out of room, she can always squeeze in one more piece that truly calls out to her. "I don't consider myself a collector, but if I find something wonderful, and I can think of a home for it in my house, I am going to buy it," she says. "My house has a lot of my soul in it."
As for her awkward first introduction to the home? But a distant memory.