“The house has great bones,” says Louise Wright of her family’s 1933 stone farmhouse in Baltimore’s Pinehurst neighborhood. Alas, to access those bones, the Wrights had to undo the “improvements” that had been made in the house before 1999, when they moved in.
They “undid” the wallpaper, peeling away the loud, outdated designs and painting the walls in classic neutrals. They pulled up the wall-to-wall carpeting, exposing the rich hardwood flooring beneath, which they sanded and refinished to a warm natural glow.
Once the layers of accumulated years were stripped away, the Wrights were left with a clean canvas— or, rather, a bare canvas. Most of the pieces from their previous, smaller house wouldn’t work in the new home. “My style had changed,” Wright says. So she asked a good friend, decorator Leslie Tunney, for help. “We have similar styles,” says Wright. “We make a great team.”
Working together closely, Tunney and Wright furnished the home with a personalized collection of antiques, family heirlooms, new pieces and even a few flea-market finds. “I don’t think you have to spend a lot on everything,” says Wright. Instead, she invested in a few pricey items for each room, and she and Tunney combed the East Coast for the finishing details— antique leather-bound books, vintage magazine advertisements, distinctive fabric patterns, footstools and pillows. Despite their varied origins, the individual pieces coalesce into an understated and elegant look.
In the living room, two large antique mirrors purchased from E.J. Grant at Savage Mill (the store has since moved to Bethesda), reflect the soft light filtering through the north-facing, taupe linen-draped windows. A gorgeous old blanket chest, passed down through many generations of Louise’s family, serves as a coffee table for the tan velvet sofa and two distressed leather armchairs. The throw pillows are custom-made, covered in silk playfully embroidered with tiny monkeys. Logs blaze in the gray marble fireplace— installed by an earlier owner, who owned a quarry, and one of the few elements to remain after the redecoration. Over the mantel hangs an old English hunting print, which reminds Wright, born in Great Britain, of her homeland. “I don’t want to be the kind of decorator that just walks into someone’s house and decides for them what they want,” says Tunney. “The look of a house evolves from working closely with the client.”
Here and there, a bright splash of color energizes the subdued color scheme: underfoot, a wool Agra rug, patterned in yellow, red and blue; a pale purple orchid in the corner; a vintage, orange Hermès serving tray on a side table, complemented by a matching orange blanket thrown over the couch.
Across the hall, the dining room features a similarly refined atmosphere, with a dark wood table custom-made to fit the room. The six chairs are local antiques from Baltimore, hand-crafted by the Potthast family shop in the early 20th century, their seats upholstered in white linen and edged in crimson. An iron chandelier hangs overhead, wired and designed by a good friend of Wright and Tunney, the late Tommy Travers of Wilson’s Heritage Lighting Co.
The pale beige walls provide a neutral background for the splashy gold and red English toile curtains, which dress the three windows. “That is my absolute favorite fabric,” says Wright. “I just had to have it.” Two more old hunting prints adorn the walls, the faded red of the hunt staff’s jackets picking up the accents on the chairs and the drapes.
In the sunroom just off the living room, French doors and three large windows take advantage of natural light, and earthy colors and materials ease the transition from interior to exterior. A seagrass rug bound in black covers the black and white marble tiling, and wooden matchstick blinds hang above the windows. The sofa is covered in a natural white twill with red and gold pillows, made from an elephant-patterned knit fabric. The crisp white of the window frames contrasts with the walls, which are painted a rich taupe-olive shade from Ralph Lauren. “I believe there should either be lots of color on the floor or on the walls,” says Tunney. “Not both.”
What is now the kitchen was once two cramped, separate rooms— the old kitchen and a tiny study. “From the moment I saw the house, I knew I wanted to tear that wall down,” says Wright. After the rest of the house was finished, the Wrights hired an architect friend, Chris Pfaffle of Parameter Inc., to open up the space. Now, a breakfast table from Gaines McHale is conveniently tucked out of the way, with bench seating built into the wall on two sides and minimalist black and chrome chairs on the other sides. Even better, there is room for a large painting by local artist Eric Abrecht on the back wall. Wright and Tunney were at Vespa one evening when Abrecht’s paintings were on display; they noticed the atmospheric African landscape and quickly concluded that it would be perfect for the space.
Upstairs are four bedrooms— two nautical-themed rooms for the two boys, a master bedroom and a guest room. The guest room is painted a pale sand color with white trim, its neat white bedding accented with two pillows covered in black and white French toile. The carved pine bed matches the side tables, and two botanical prints above the headboard echo the stark lines of the toile fabric. The master bedroom is papered in a muted beige and white fern pattern, and the bedding is white embroidered with bright flowers.
The Wrights’ home sits directly on the city- county line— the county starts in the middle of their back yard. Wright and Tunney’s collaboration likewise had a foot planted in both country and city, creating a home that is as cozy and comfortable as it is sophisticated.
Anne Howard is a Style intern.
Art: Eric Abrecht, 410-337-2092, http://www.ericabrecht.com
Architect: Chris Pfaffle, Parameter Inc., 410-539-5800, http://www.parameterinc.com
Decorator: Leslie Tunney, Baltimore, 410-828-7041
Antiques: E. J. Grant, Bethesda, 301-215- 9292, http://www.grantantiques.com; Dixon’s Furniture Auction, Crumpton, 410-928-3006; Gaines McHale, Baltimore, 410-625-1900, http://www.gainesmchale.com