This blog post takes a look at the 2014 Baltimore Symphony Decorator Show House. The 2015 edition is nearly ready to open. Opening day is April 26 and it runs through May 17. You can find out all about Oak Acre in Guilford, in northern Baltimore City here. I’ll be there as usual. Hope to see you, too.
Castles aren’t for everybody — but it sure is fun to visit one. I go expecting to be dazzled by the sheer size of the place, the fantastic furnishings, the lavish design, the go-for-broke decoration.
I think that’s why I like the Baltimore Symphony’s annual Decorators’ Show House. I’ve been to plenty of them. Only a very few would have qualified as a small castle. Most have been mansions set on the Baltimore city streets of Homeland or Guilford, or in northern Baltimore County’s valleys. Occasionally, one is just a really nice house. I could walk to one of the show houses (and did three times). Last year the really cool selling point of the show house was its previous owner, Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas.
This year’s house is a little different. It takes place in a 23rd-floor penthouse at Silo Point on Baltimore’s harbor. This Locust Point complex is housed in an old grain elevator. When it was built in 1923 by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad it was the largest and fastest grain elevator in the world. The concrete floors inside and the railroad tracks outside will remind you of its former glory days. So will the units, which are called “bins.” And don’t get me started on those harbor views.
Each room has been decorated by a different interior designer. I’m convinced each designer creates a room to dazzle visitors so they forget the room they just walked out of. Even the window treatments are designed to make you notice them — and who notices curtains?! Here, of course, very few curtains obscure the incredible views.
With all the concrete, exposed ductwork and floor to ceiling windows, this wasn’t the time for traditional styling. But there was plenty of room for whimsy, fantasy, color and sophistication. No, I’m not giving away the whole story. You’ve got to see these 20 spaces in the two-level penthouse for yourself.
Never been to a decorator show house? Here are a few tips.
It’s OK to shop as you tour. If you see something you wish you could have in your home, ask the room docent for the price list. Just about everything is for sale in every room. I usually want something that has already been sold. But one year I got lucky — I bought the antique mirror that hung in General MacArthur’s bedroom. (OK so it was hung there for the show house long after he was gone; it’s still fun to say.) You can’t take it with you. After the show house closes, there’s a day to pick these things up.
Skip the stilettos: They are murder on rugs and floors and no fun on steps which this year’s house has.
Get your tickets early. You’ll save $5 by buying your ticket in advance. So go use your savings in the boutique at the end of the house tour. Area merchants bring all kinds of stuff: knickknacks, jewelry, wall art, food. Tickets are good any day. (The website does say May 17–go ahead and buy them and use them any day the house is open.) You can get them at the show house, too.
Don’t come on a Monday. It’s closed. But the show house is open every other day of the week through May 18. Tuesdays are a good day to come. They’re usually quieter; I know because I volunteer there on Tuesdays.
Leave the kids home. Too many breakables and besides, this will probably bore them silly.
Stay for lunch. Or dinner. Your program booklet will get you 10 percent off a meal at Hull Street Blues, Sweet Caroline’s, Barracuda’s Locust Point Tavern, The Wine Market Bistro, or Our House Cafe. (Personally, I’m a big fan of the Wine Market.) There are also a number of other good restaurants within a few blocks, including the restaurants of McHenry Row.
Or stop by Fort McHenry. You are only a few blocks from the home of the Star Spangled Banner and this is the bicentennial year of the Battle of Baltimore which inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem.
Parking isn’t hard though it looks like it is at first glance. There are little directional signs leading visitors to Andre Street and a big open lot. Here’s a map to help you find your way from Silo Point to the end of Andre Street.
Help the BSO. The funds raised by this annual event support the Baltimore Symphony’s educational programs, including the mid-week concerts for schoolchildren, OrchKids and the youth orchestra.
© Text and Photos
Mary K. Tilghman
Thanks to the BSO Decorators Show House
organizers and the designers
for allowing me to use photos from the house.