In the foyer of Amanda Austin’s rowhouse in Federal Hill hangs an unusual bell jar chandelier depicting a nature scene— a bird perched on a branch— on a reverse mirror background. It’s the perfect introduction to this home created by a woman who has great reverence for the natural world and a keen interest in Eastern spirituality.
“This is city living, yes, but I brought in a lot of organic, natural elements,” says Austin, the owner of her own design company located just a few blocks away. In the kitchen and family rooms, the walls are covered with grass cloth and the ceiling is dusted with a light blue suggesting the sky. Capiz shell chandeliers hang over the kitchen island and rustic dining room table, an antique from the late 1800s. Birds and feathers appear throughout the rooms. “I’m enthralled with anything that takes flight,” says Austin.
Yet, for Austin, organic living doesn’t mean a subdued palette— not hardly. The living room sofa is fuchsia. The basement powder room is jet black. The bureaus in the master bedroom are covered in pressed tin. The ceiling in the second-floor sitting room is painted metallic gold. And a vivid shade of kelly green makes several appearances— “Green is the heart chakra. I drench myself in it,” says Austin. Throughout the rooms, art and objects inject shots of color, drama and personality. And the mix of eras— from antique to contemporary— and high and low— a Niermann Weeks bench sits in the same room as an IKEA TV stand—makes the design lively and personal.
Austin and her husband, Brett Austin, moved into the 3,400-square-foot home in 2006 after buying the vacant lot at the corner of Warren and Williams streets and negotiating a lengthy approval process before starting construction on what is the only new home in the Federal Hill historic district. The previous home on the site had been condemned after an ill-fated basement dig-out, and the lot sat empty for years. That gave Austin, who lived just a few blocks away, time to conceive of a design that would invert the typical rowhouse layout even as it occupies the same footprint. Instead of entering on Williams Street and walking through each room to get to the back, the entrance is on Warren Street, allowing for a central foyer, with its dramatic curved staircase, and the choice to go right or left.
When the couple did finally move into the home, they couldn’t afford to furnish all the rooms at once. “My living room sat empty for four years except for the paint and the chandelier,” she says. “People should know that is OK.” Austin designed the room as a whole and enacted it in phases with a mix of secondhand treasures and custom pieces.
Austin’s biggest wish for her clients is that they “thrive in a home, rather than just live in a house.” For her, that means creating a place that delights all five senses, a place both calm and exciting— a place, she says, “that’s wrapped in possibility.”
Cabinetry M S Moeller Cabinetry, http://www.msmoeller.com, 410-875-6455.
Interior Design Amanda Austin Interiors, http://www.amandaaustininteriors.com, 443.759.6177.
Architect Ann Hagerty Architect and Associates, http://www.annhagertyarchitect.com, 443-463-3687.
General Contractor Mark Austin Building and Remodeling, Inc., http://www.markaustinbuilding.com, 410-365-6202.
Tile Chesapeake Tile and Marble http://www.ctmarble.net, 410-244-7237.
Flooring Greenspring Carpet Source, http://www.greenspringcarpetsource.com, 410-561-9200.
Antiques Sturgis Antiques and Collectables, http://www.sturgisantiques.com, 410-262-5383.