Set on four wooded acres bordering parkland, a 1927 stone house charmed Baltimore resident Lloyd Burdette, in the market for a new family home. As she recalls, she and husband Tim Burdette, a real estate investor, “were living in a house where everything belonged to our grandparents and didn’t reflect our style.” They decided this gem would give them a chance for dramatic change.
The couple called on designer Katherine Crosby to help them update their new home while respecting its classic roots. Though the footprint remained the same, Crosby orchestrated a total cosmetic overhaul, introducing a neutral palette and a furniture plan that mingled new finds with an edited selection of family antiques.
The owners and their two teenage kids are delighted with the results. Says Lloyd, a former marketing professional,“It brings us joy that we use every inch of this house.”
How did you respect the original architecture?
My goal was not to take anything away that was special to the age of the home, but to remove elements that had been layered on top to suit a prior owner’s needs. We did a lot of stripping down as opposed to adding. In the living room niche, there was a wraparound shelf that went over a radiator and popped up as a weird desk. We took all that out.
What’s your wallpaper strategy?
As you’re developing a collection, wallpaper is a great way to create interest in a room without a lot of art; it is art in itself. The Romo pattern we chose in the dining room is light enough so my clients can layer art on top of it and it won’t diminish the art or the wallpaper.
How did you add drama with your lighting plan?
We changed all the lighting in the house and it made a big difference. I think it’s about mixing classic with more modern fixtures. The dining room chandelier is a classic form, very French in style, yet it’s encrusted with gold beads which keeps it fresh.
How did you develop the living-room furniture plan?
The room is long and narrow, featuring French doors that open onto a koi pond; there’s an original stone fireplace at the far end of the space. After reviewing a number of layouts, we settled on a pair of sofas facing one another, perpendicular to the fireplace, with two comfortable lounge chairs on the far end. In this way, one sofa overlooks the outdoors and the lounge chairs provide comfortable seating for viewing the fireplace and TV.
How did you balance the traditional with the new?
By selecting classic forms. For example, the living-room coffee table has a soft, Asian profile, which is classic, yet it’s covered in shagreen so it has a modern feel. The sofas have square, modern frames and high arms, but they’re tufted so they still feel old. We used the arrangements to focus on architectural elements, such as the stone fireplace. And every room has a vintage or antique piece that’s meaningful to the family.
How do you make neutrals play well together?
It’s all about using different tones. I took a lot of art classes and recall a project where we had to draw a ball all in whites. You realize that white isn’t just white—it has peach and blue and all these different nuances. To make neutrals work, I look at what’s not neutral about a neutral color. The living room is full of taupey neutrals because of the fireplace, which is brown and deep gray. We chose warm neutrals—the deep ochres and copper tones in the stones—and complemented them with the cool blue of the sofas.
How did you revive the outdated kitchen?
The owners didn’t want to do a whole kitchen renovation, so the changes we made were mostly cosmetic. We kept the cabinetry, but painted it in Benjamin Moore’s Whale Gray in a satin finish. We also installed new cabinet hardware and hinges and new wood-grain tile flooring that feels warm and is really durable. It’s a nice complement to the exposed stone.
The den started as a white box; how did you give it personality?
One ceiling beam was structural so we added a grid to make it more interesting. We wanted to use the peacock color somewhere without it being overwhelming, so we kept the room’s built-ins and painted them in Benjamin Moore’s Dark Harbor. And we applied khaki Thibaut grass-cloth wall covering, which has a lot of visual texture. The windows are all different heights; by hanging Roman shades above the casings, we were able to establish consistency.
Why do you think grass cloth is having a moment?
People want natural products and grass cloth is just that. It is interesting even though it’s basically a color.
Do you advise clients to hide or expose their TVs?
We all watch television and it plays a role whether we want it to or not. In this project, we went back and forth discussing whether to disguise the TV in the living room. At the end of the day, we agreed if you want to use your house, be who you are. So there’s a TV above the fireplace, but it’s not the focus of the room.
Interior Design: Katherine Crosby; Kristina Kral, project manager, Jenkins Baer Associates, Baltimore,
Maryland. Renovation Contractor: Larry Paglia, Paglia Contracting Company, Forest Hill, Maryland. Millwork: John Freeman, Stafford WoodWorks, Bel Air, Maryland. Lighting: Jones Lighting, Baltimore, Maryland. Styling: Charlotte Safavi.