The rustic log mantelpiece in the family room spoke to interior designer Jim Ryan. “It told me what I wanted to do with the rest of the room,” says the senior designer of Simply Grande Interiors. As one of 20 designers chosen to work on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Decorators’ Show House, Ryan put together a lodge-style plan for the room, with a subdued color palette of earth tones and pops of color, punctuated by a new line of country French fabrics and grass-textured wallpaper.
The sunroom will be a hybrid style that designer Victor Liberatore—working with fellow designer Gail Lieberman—describes as “Art Deco meets rustic,” with taupe walls, a black curvilinear sofa, and a red enamel cocktail table in the shape of a vertical Z.
Liz Dickson, of Millbrook Circle Interior Design, has planned the small library in serene shades of blue and green, with four upholstered chairs surrounding a large ottoman covered in a medallion fabric. Dickson’s winning sketch of the room includes a tribute to a former resident. “I thought I’d include a nod to the golden arm,” she confesses.
Indeed, part of the appeal of this year’s show house is that it was once owned by a certain Colts quarterback, a fact that Marge Penhallegon, Baltimore Symphony Associates president, describes as “a happy accident.” Johnny Unitas and his second wife, Sandy, and their children lived in the Timonium house in the 1970s.
The committee doesn’t necessarily seek out homes with celebrity pedigrees, says Penhallegon. Rather, organizers look for willing owners. Most of the homes that have made the cut in the event’s 37 years are in transition—many about to be listed for sale—and so can accommodate an extreme makeover. Two years ago, the committee took over two condominiums in the downtown Ritz-Carlton Residences, and another year, the BSO decorated a home that symphony benefactors had willed to the organization.
The decorator house event, chaired by Winnie Flattery, is expected to have about 8,000 visitors, who pay $30 ($25 in advance) to wander through the showpiece rooms, shop at the pop-up boutique, and have a snack at the catered cafe. The event raises about $100,000 for the symphony each year, says Penhallegon.
The designers who have signed on for the five-bedroom Show House donate their time and all materials (“down to the gallon of paint we might use on the wall,” says Liz Dickson), and, during the event, are able to sell the furniture, art work, and accessories that appear in their respective rooms as a way to recoup the out-of-pocket costs.
But there are plenty of other returns. “It’s a way to showcase your style,” says Dickson. “I’m doing a room that isn’t constrained by a client’s taste or budget.”
This year’s project will be Jim Ryan’s ninth show house with the BSO. “They can be very costly to do, but we’ve had great success in attracting clients,” he says. “They haven’t worn me out yet.”
The Baltimore Symphony Decorators’ Show House will be open to the public Sunday, April 28 to Sunday, May 19. For information, go to bsomusic.org and look for decorator show house or call 410-783-8023.