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The Little Big Cottage in Homeland
Designer Dan Proctor takes on an important home renovation project: his own.

By Sarah Gilbert Fox
Photographed By Ken Wyner

In the space of 13 years, Dan Proctor, principal/owner of Kirk Designs, and his life partner, Jeffrey Hess, have designed the interior of the three homes they have owned. Their first house was in Guilford, their second house in Roland Park, and now they’ve landed in a 1927 white stucco and stone house in Homeland. From the outside, the home appears small next to some of the larger homes in the neighborhood. “It might look like a miniature cottage, but as soon as you open the door, it looks like Mame built it— like something from Paris in the ’20s or ’30s exploded inside,” says Proctor.

The 12-by-24-foot foyer, with its black slate and white ceramic diamond-pattern tiles, sets the mood for a “little bit of Paris in Homeland,” says Proctor. A long, mirror-topped table by David Weisand stands between two doors that were added after Proctor and Hess bought the house. “There used to be one door where the table was, but we wanted to use the space better and we wanted balance,” says Hess, who also works in the design world. To the right of the entry table is a Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann-inspired Art Deco burgundy velvet boudoir chair set next to a sweeping staircase, surrounded by walls painted “Jackie O blue,” says Proctor, before adding that it’s officially Benjamin Moore No. 703.

The hallway features two closets, one used for coats, as might be expected, and the other to house the stereo system and mammoth collection of CDs. Where are the speakers? Nowhere in sight, given Proctor’s pet peeve about visible speakers and wires. “We have a cool stereo system that has allowed us to bury the speakers in the ceilings under the plaster throughout the house,” he says. “Essentially, you have no idea where the sound comes from, and it keeps the ceiling clean.”

Between the window seat and the table is what was originally a breakfast room, then a laundry room, and now a powder room reminiscent of something aboard a vintage luxury liner. Paneled mahogany walls provide a handsome backdrop for two wall-sized antiqued mirrors that complement a vintage Venetian octagonal mirror. “That mirror inspired the way we did this room,” says Hess, pointing to the legs of the sink and other octagonal-shaped touches. The black marble sink complements the St. Laurent black marble and herringbone tiles, with ivory-accented trim on the floor.

Across the hall, the dining room is painted a very dark, steel-charcoal and features step-up moulding designed by Hess. “Imagine a very dark Chanel suit with white cuffs. That’s what we wanted to achieve,” says Proctor. Framing the windows are ivory and black double-weave, striped floral draperies, that look, says Proctor, “like a divine hostess gown, perhaps like something Gloria Vanderbilt might wear at the Biltmore.”

While moving the door to the other side of the room to accommodate the view of the stairs and to keep the balance, Proctor and Hess also decided to lay down new floors of herringbone oak. In the middle of the room is a round, burled walnut table by Mitchell Yanosky, a mimic of an Albert Hadley design that Proctor had seen in an old black-and-white photo. The table is surrounded by ivory and charcoal shantung silk-fabric chairs. Along the walls, in keeping with the Chanel/Parisian feel, are Roman leaf and feather-motif crystal sconces. The large abstract prints are by Robert Motherwell.

Across the hall, on the other side of the staircase, is the living room, brilliant with ivories, touches of golds and an abundance of sunlight. Says Hess: “One of the main reasons we purchased this house was because of all the natural light that comes in.” The light plays off the Italian silk drapes, and striped French silk Louis Seize chairs, and brings out the texture of the sisal rug. To impart a sense of the exotic to the room, Proctor and Hess added a zebra rug under a copy of a red-topped antique English club table.

“I love a little bit of red in any room— red is one of those ‘everything’ colors,” says Proctor. “There are a lot of different reds. They’re welcoming. They make people smile a little bit. They make me happy.” What didn’t make Proctor happy, but what Hess loves (and Proctor has come to like), is the antique chest of drawers with the marquetry inlaid Asian scene.

At the top of the curved banister— which has been tongue-oiled, because, says Hess, “We wanted to keep the feeling of years of people having touched this”— is the first piece of art that Proctor and Hess bought together. It was purchased in New Orleans some 13 years ago when “we didn’t have two nickels to rub together,” says Hess. It’s by an unknown Welsh painter, and its title is “A Rather ’20s Woman Dancing.”

“We couldn’t afford it,” says Proctor, “so when I got home, I called the gallery and asked them if I could buy it in payments.”  Now it resides above their favorite piece of furniture in the entire house, a French chest of drawers. “It’s nothing important, but to us it means a lot.” And that’s a theme Proctor communicates to his clients all the time. “Expensive things might be important, but self-expression and your personality and what you like are more important than anything when it comes to designing your home.”

Off to one side of the stairs is the master bedroom, where the palette is quieter. After designing all day, says Proctor, “we wanted a respite from color. In my work, a lot of clients ask for that respite.” The room is painted “Millet”— a warm off-white— and it blends into a ceiling that was raised by a foot.  Says Hess: “The builder said they could move it a foot only, and the old wood, the old collar ties, had to be used to suspend it, because new wood wouldn’t hold.”  Once the new ceiling was finished, Proctor and Hess had custom tongue-and-groove paneling installed.

A wing-back, textured-weave headboard frames the king-sized bed. There was no bed wall, so the couple created one by putting a solid-panel wool gabardine drapery by Bergamo over the window. The vintage bedside tables from Ezra Black are mid-century modern and fairly scream “Mad Men,” which is appropriate, as that’s the DVD that resides on the chest of drawers in front of the bed.  The English-made, striated wool wall-to-wall carpet is thick and lush, and leads into what used to be a master bath, but which Proctor and Hess turned into an alcove.

The master bath now occupies what used to be another bedroom. The same charcoal paint (called “Dragon’s Breath”) used in the dining room is used here, contrasting with the striking marble tiled floor by New Ravenna. The tiles are a combination of a Napoleon dark tile, a beige Crema Marfil tile and a white Calcutta gold tile, all put together in ovals and mosaics to look as if a rug were spread out. The two went so far as to make sure the tiles didn’t border the vanity, but instead, the marble vanity rests on top of where a rug might be.  “We wanted the oval borders to impose a rug on the viewer,” says Hess.

When asked how long it took to design the house, Hess says, “After we put a contract on the house, we were immediately flying to California. We sat on the plane, and on a cocktail napkin, we sketched up exactly how we wanted to do it and it hasn’t varied at all.” Says Proctor: “We took a house we found and… came in and dressed it up, so you would not know it had been manipulated with a new design. You’d think it had always looked this way.”

RESOURCES
Woodwork TCS Woodworking, 2730 Loch Raven Road, 410-662-5959, http://www.tcswoodworking.com

Ornamental plasterwork Hayles & Howe, 2700 Sisson St., 410-462-0986, http://www.haylesandhowe.com

Framing The Beveled Edge, 2010 Clipper Park Road, 410-366-6711, http://www.bevelededge.net

Floors Master Care Flooring, 4000 Coolidge Ave., 410-242-6401, http://www.mastercarefloors.com

Art Renaissance Fine Arts, 1848 Reisterstown Road, 410-484-8900, http://www.renaissancefinearts.com

MARCH/APRIL 2010

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