A sterling example of the 19th Century American Federal-style exists at White Hall, Historic Ellicott City’s (HEC) 2018 Decorator Show House. This Howard County mansion resides on the National Register of Historic Places.
The current owners are using the original dining room in this circa 1812 residence as the living room. However, for this year’s decorator show house, HEC design committee renamed it the “Drawing Room.” There was no need to tour the entire house during the designer’s call and walk-through because I already knew this property. It was featured on a Howard County Pilgrimage tour some years before. My heart raced as I proceeded up the long driveway and approached the columned front porch. I immediately “took up residence” in the Living (Drawing Room). After submitting my design boards, and being selected to decorate the room, I began working.
Create a modern version of a period drawing-room where occupants may receive guests, and entertain:
- Plan comfortable circulation for pass-through
- Comfortable seating
- Supporting essentials for drinks
- Durable fabrics
- Take advantage of available daylight
- Restore intact fireplace
- Replace and or repair damaged or missing hearth tiles
- Remove and restore decorative door hardware (hinges)
My creative vision for this room was to update a space where historically people received guests and gathered for drinks, coffee or dessert, and conversation after a meal. Hence, there is no television. I wanted to embrace the concept of family and friends being together where the focus was on each other. The room has abundant daylight from two large windows and a beautiful fireplace that had fallen into ruin. On closer examination and dismay I discovered that the previously applied finish was no longer easily removable. After spending nearly 50 hours (personally) removing the decayed superficial finish, applying leveling putty, sanding, repeating, repeating, and painting, I finally arrived at a pristine finish with seasoned imperfections. A completely new fireplace would be out of character in a house of this age.
I then collaborated with local artist and highly talented decorative painter Lisa Malveaux-Brown to paint the two rectangular and center oval insets. Look closely and you can see that the center inset reflects the house, complete with a few (40+) of the deer who also call White Hall home. I kept the room background light to best show the complementary color scheme of orange and blue. A soft shade of blue color from Sherwin Williams in the ceiling mimics the sky and reflects some of the light lost by the long porch overhang. The textiles, furnishings, and accessories are a mix of traditional and modern, with a few antiques, including one that just about everyone loves to see. Can you guess what it is?
The wool Bakshaish rug from Main Street Oriental Rugs sets the stage with its geometric shapes and inspires the fabrics and art throughout the room. To the left of the fireplace, a large antique Louis Vuitton steamer trunk on a custom stand serves as a bar, and minimal window treatments allow maximum light and fresh air. The draperies are fashioned from the same fabric, in a different color.
Wool Bakshaish Oriental Rug: Main Street Oriental Rugs; Skirted Two-cushion Linen Sofa, Acrylic Side Chair, Pair of Brass and Marble-Topped Gueridon Tables, Antique Chinese Garden Seats, Brass Pharmacy Lamps, Art Deco Rosewood Drinks Tables, 19th-Century Oil Lamp (wired for electricity), Buffet Lamps on Fireplace Mantelshelf, Art Deco-Style Coffee Tables, Vintage Louis Vuitton Steamer Trunk on Stand, Pair of Oil Paintings in Giltwood Frames, Ceramic Lamp, Barware, Andirons, Calligraphy Brush, Footed Glass Bowl with Greek Key Band Decoration, Tall Wood Pedestal and Blue Ribbed Glass Vase: Knightsbridge Charleston, SC; Pair of Giltwood Early Georgian-style Armless Side Chairs: Rhonald Angelo Interiors; Sofa Pillows: American Eye, DCDC; Window Treatment: Davic Drapery; Painted 121″ Drapery Rod; Rhonald Angelo Interiors; African JuJu Hat Over Fireplace, Two Watercolor Drawings Under Glass: Kravet; “Agate” Fine Art Over Sofa; Lisa Brown-Malveaux
Photography © Todd A. Smith Architectural Photo & Video