ANNAPOLIS -- After nearly 20 years of wear and tear, the office of the Maryland Senate president in the State House recently got an $86,000 face lift, which transformed its crumbling ceilings and worn floors into a historically accurate turn-of-the century showplace.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), a self-described fiscal conservative, said he initially felt "terribly awkward" about the project. "I've accused the governor of spending like a drunken sailor, so I was very concerned that someone would call it a pleasure palace," he said. "But when they told me they could restore it to the way it was in 1904 and keep the cost down, I agreed to have it done."

He did, however, excuse himself from the decision-making process that led to the new office, with the understanding that the renovations would provide appropriate decor for future Senate presidents.

The office is decorated with new burgundy drapes, wallpaper in rose, cream and light green with ornate designs and wood trim, an oriental rug, wood window blinds, antique furniture, paintings from the state archives and historical etchings from Harper's Weekly. Miller said it looks like "something for a showhorse, and I'm a workhorse. If the Senate doesn't object, I'm going to try to use it for ceremonial purposes and have a working office in the Senate Office Building."

The office, used by Miller and his administrative assistant Janet Davidson, has two rooms and an adjoining bathroom. It hadn't been renovated for 20 to 25 years, according to state Sen. Catherine I. Riley, chairwoman of the Senate Facilities Committee.

This committee, which was responsible for planning the restoration, had two options: to renovate the office with modern carpeting, ceilings and furnishings or restore the office to its original turn-of-the-century appearance.

Riley said that a 1977 renovation of the Senate lounge influenced the committee's decision to restore the president's office to what it is believed to have looked like in 1904-05 when it was added as part of an annex. "The lounge was a rather dull beige color, but someone took a pen knife and exposed the gorgeous mahogany underneath the paint. Having the lounge as it was influenced our decision to go with the restoration."

At that point, Baltimore design specialist Henry Johnson, who had worked for Gov. William Donald Schaefer on the design for the renovation of Baltimore's Government House, was enlisted to do historical research and come up with an interior design for the rooms.

He consulted Miller and Davidson, state archivist Edward C. Papenfuse, historical photographs and records, then made recommendations based on the spirit of the original state capitol interiors.

The project was then approved late last summer by the State House Trust and the Board of Public Works.

The bulk of the structural work began in late September and was finished in November.

All the building was done by competitive bid, according to Riley.

"I'll bet you we could not have saved much more {than we did}," she said.

When the project began, General Services' estimate for all the structural work was $75,000.

When the actual work on the ceiling, floors and woodwork was finished, they came well under budget at $44,000.

Riley said there were a number of tricky problems to surmount.

One was a crumbling ceiling that revealed a labyrinth of pipes. Rather than rework the plumbing, which would have been quite expensive, steel reinforcements were used to drop the ceiling.

Another problem involved an old safe installed in an odd place on a wall of the president's room. "We debated whether or not to keep the safe . . . . It hadn't been used by the past few presidents and looked terrible. But we checked with the State House Trust and a number of others" to see if anyone had strong feelings about its removal. Riley said no one expressed any reason for it to be kept, so it was finally removed, making the wallpapering much easier.

There were also spirited discussions about the color of the assistant's room, how the wallpaper was going to come together and what type of chandelier to install, according to Riley.

Contractors were asked to lay a new wooden floor (when it was discovered that the old one had large holes in it) and redo the huge ornamental doors as well. Once the contractors left and the sawdust settled, the committee went to work. It bought several pieces of furniture, reupholstered five worn chairs and sofas, requested paintings from the state archives, got old lamps cleaned, and agonized over whether the president would really like the finished product. The cost of the furnishings came to just under $42,000.

Several of Miller's personal photos of historic homes in his district were relegated to the bathroom.

And to the committee's relief, the president was pleased with the office's new look.

Visiting constituents are now regularly invited to tour the elegant office.

"I think we made the right decision," Riley said. "Had we put beige walls and wall-to-wall carpeting in, we would have lost a great historical room."