Friday, March 28, 2008

House Voyeur: A Fresh Start in Baltimore

Some of you may know the woman behind today's House Voyeur tour, Meg Fairfax Fielding, via the blog Pigtown Design, which takes its name from the historic Baltimore, Maryland neighborhood where Meg resides.

Meg's approach to her home has been all about making a fresh start -- she recently returned to Baltimore after living abroad -- while also sticking to a tight budget and keeping her small house very personal. Meg has decorated almost entirely from scratch, but with items that have meaning to her, that invoke special memories, and that come from the people and places she loves most.

Here, Meg gives us a virtual tour of the home she shares with her yellow lab, Connor:

"I'm a Baltimore native, and my mother's family has been here for at least 12 generations. But a few years ago, I needed a big change in my life and decided to pitch everything and move to the UK, where my father was from. I ended up in Wales, working at an international boarding school housed in a 12th century castle.

Before I left Baltimore, I sold everything I owned -- my house, my car, and 95 percent of my possessions. I kept a few boxes of important books, my collection of copper cookware from France (not very helpful, since I don't actually cook much), and one completely impractical piece of furniture -- a large commercial kitchen counter.

While I was living in Wales, my father became ill and I needed to move back to the States. So then I sold everything I’d acquired in the UK and came home -- with no job, no house, no car, and very few possessions. I was living in my parents' empty house and because I wasn’t working, I had a very small budget. But I did have plenty of time to search craigslist and to scour flea markets and discount stores like Target for furnishings for the house where I’d eventually move. From sheets to towels and chairs to china, I knew I'd need everything. I also had to decide what I needed immediately and what I could wait to buy.

I've now been in my home, a 120-year-old Baltimore rowhouse, for a little less than two years. The house is in an area called Pigtown that was built for the workers at the old B&O railroad. It's a neighborhood in transition that's being gentrified by professionals from the nearby University of Maryland Law, Medical and Dental, and Social Work schools, and that's just blocks from the Orioles baseball and Ravens football stadiums. But there's still a gritty underside here. 
 


The house is only 11-and-a-half feet wide by 35 feet deep, and is less than 700 square feet in all. But it's the perfect size for me. When I look at bigger houses, I think that I wouldn’t know what to do with all that space. When I look at smaller ones -- the few that there are -- I think I have just enough room!

I love the light here -- especially in my bedroom (top). The house is south-facing, and in the winter the light brightens everything. In the summer, the tree out front filters the light and cools the house. It’s a flowering tree, so in the spring it’s a cloud of blossoms.

My main goals were to make the house warm and welcoming and to have it reflect who I am. This bookshelf is a good example of that: You can see some of my favorite books here, including I Married Adventure. The shelves also hold some of my late father's Baedeker Guides to London. And you can see both sides of my heritage in the Maryland crab and the American and British flags. That's my grandmother in the photograph on the top shelf.

The west-facing wall of my house runs about 35 feet from front to back. I printed black-and-white photos of special places I visited during my time abroad, bought matching double-matted frames from the dollar store, and hung them along the long wall. I just got a laser level and, miraculously, all the pictures are lined up perfectly!

I love this vignette because it combines some of my family's old silver, my mother's wedding photo, gifts from friends, and even my family's coat of arms.

I like poking around thrift stores, auctions, and junk shops to find things that other people overlook. I found two of these dining chairs at a huge antique/junque warehouse, for instance. Their bones were good -- sort of Chinese Chippendale -- but they were painted brown with hideous brown-and-green fabric seats. I sanded them, painted them gloss white, and re-covered the seats in this pink-and-white Waverly fabric.

This yellow Ethan Allan sofa that I found on craigslist is the piece that started the yellow theme in my home. It was too wide to fit into someone’s house, so it came right from their moving van to my house. Before buying the sofa, I'd never had any yellow at all.

Then my mother gave me a yellow Chinese silk painting that didn't fit her new house, and I found two yellow ottomans with white piping at Target. Finally, I painted a little footstool that had been in our library growing up yellow and re-covered it in a pale yellow and blue stripe.
 It all really pulled the room together.

And of course, my best find of all was a 'used' yellow Labrador retriever that I got from the City Animal Shelter for just $50!

After being in Paris every three weeks for a project I was working on, I decided to do a French-inspired loo. I found this poster at the dollar store, and the frame is from IKEA. You can't see it in the photo, but I also have a blue-and-white toile shower curtain.

This is the guest room. My brother-in-law gave me the duvet cover, made from my favorite toile. The fabric on the back of the bookshelf is by Manuel Canovas, which I found at the Load of Fun Flea Market for $1 a yard.

I turned part of the guest room into a home office. More dollar-a-yard Manuel Canovas fabric is stretched around a large frame, creating a piece of inexpensive but cheerful and colorful art. The barrister's bookcase, which I found for just $25, houses my collection of cashmere sweaters. Because the house is so old, there's very little closet space and I have to be creative when it comes to storage -- hence the boxes and bookcase.

One critical thing I've learned is to live in a house for a little while and let it speak to you. You'll figure out how you use the space, what the light is like, what the traffic patterns are, and other critical elements. And decorate for yourself and your family. After all, you’ve got to live with it. If you’re not comfortable using a room or a piece of furniture, then what’s the point? The people who love you don’t care if they’re propped on kitchen stools or lounging on a down-filled sofa. It’s you they care about."

Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful home with us, Meg!

(P.S. Want to see more? Click here for a peek inside other readers' homes.)

11 comments:

Pigtown-Design said...

WOW! You made my house (and me!) look great! Thanks so much for letting me be a part of this fun project!

beachgrl said...

Fun interview! It's really neat where all the different roads we follow make up the person/house that we are today.
To Meg...I love your statement on your best find...haha

Jen Rotert said...

Thanks for the fun post! It was great to hear how Meg found some of the treasures in her home and how she used some inexpensive materials to make it cozy and inviting!

a. said...

Fabulous profile :-)

kapcity said...

What a great house tour. I love your space. I'm in the process of packing up and getting ready to move into a new place myself and your post has been very inspirational. I plan on documenting every moment in my blog. Cross my fingers it goes well!

vix said...

my favourite film of all time is "youve got mail" I have watched it so many times, and I dont know if you noticed but her home (Meg Ryans character) is also full of yellow and white. Its such a fresh colour scheme. Your home reminds me of the set in the movie. Its lovely!
I also love the toile, I dont really know how to use it in a room design, your way is simple and subtle, its a great inspiration!

katiedid said...

It is so great to get to know Meg a little better through her house pictures. What an adventurous life! My daughter would swoon at the thought of attending that school in Wales. Thanks for the wonderful profile Leah!

Cote de Texas said...

Hi - What fun to see where Meg lives! My favorite part is the hallway with the pictures - it really stretches the eye downward and makes the house seem longer - great idea! Also - the funniest line - the beautiful yellow sofa that was too big to fit in the original owner's house - but it fits in the house that is 11' wide! Rich! I love that!!!! the yellow room is so cute with the sofa and the Target footstools (I have a Target footstool in slipcover white! - Target must excel at footstools!). Also, I love the chest with the pictures and the silver - so beautiful. It's hard to tell that the house is only 11' wide = I would love to have seen the perspective - so interesting. In Houston, we don't have homes that are older than 50 years = the history up east is so much more architecturally rich. the exterior is so romantic looking and that horse!! But I especially love the yellow dog that is color coordinated with the yellow living room. He is the cutest = especially that picture with his head on the blue and white footstool! Great pictures Meg!

The Peak of Chic said...

Fantastic look at Meg's home. She really makes some excellent points, esp. about living in a house for a while b/f embarking on a major re-do.

Style Court said...

Meg, I like your use of prints and color! it really does speak "you," and it is inviting, soulful.

Thanks so much for sharing. I'm always intrigued by small spaces. (Love your book shelves too :)

Lisa said...

I went to that school! It was an incredible experience... I wonder if we were there at the same time?

What a strange thing to stumble across your former home on a design blog :)

 

©Copyright 2007-2014 More Ways To Waste Time and Leah Hennen. All Rights Reserved.