What is a design show house?

Yesterday, Zoe B. asked what a design house is when I posted the first teaser picture from the house. Zoe lives in the UK and she said that she hasn't seen a design house before, which made me realize that there may be others who are familiar with these houses.

Design houses are, first and foremost, fundraisers for charity. I'll write about the Shelter for Help in Emergency, the charity that benefits from the Cville Design House tomorrow. An empty home is found, sometimes through real estate agents, sometimes through word of mouth, and sometimes through developers (I believe a few magazine show houses have been done in the model units in new developments). Designers from the area then sign on to tackle one room or section of the home. In some places, the designers bid for the rooms they want, which raises additional money for the charity. If there's a particular grand master bedroom, there could be a bidding war of sorts for the opportunity to transform it.

Designers have a set period of time to make over their rooms. The contents of the rooms are often donated by/borrowed from stores or "to the trade" design centers. Sometimes, the rooms in design houses are completely unrelated, so you could go from a modern space to a traditional one in just a few steps.

I think designers enjoy the opportunity to let their creativity and resourcefulness come out in a big way and visitors enjoy the variety of styles juxtaposed. What's more, there are always great ideas that can be taken away and adapted in scaled down ways in our own homes. Case in point: I fell in love with John Matthew Moore's Olivia at the 2009 DC Show House and was able to work with Moore to make her mine in a more affordable way.

One of the neat things about these houses is that they often contain spaces by big name, established designers and a few relatively new ones. I remember reading an interview with Doug Wilson (from Trading Spaces and Moving Up) that he got into the Kipps Bay Show House (a BIG deal show house in Manhattan that attracts famous designers each year) on his own after years of doing decorative painting for big name designers. His space was just a little hallway, but he poured himself into it. The space wound up wowing a lot of the visitors and got mentioned in the New York Times and Elle Decor.

Now for your teaser picture of the day. Keep in mind I got special permission to take a few pictures with my iPhone. These pictures don't do the rooms justice...it's best to see the spaces in person!

The front parlor was designed by Kathy Davies of Kathy Davies Interiors. I had thought the paint was black, but in my photo, it seems like an a very dark, inky, navy blue. Regardless, the room feels fresh and current and there are little details all around that catch your eye each time you turn around. I spent eight hours in the design house this weekend and I still feel as though I could hang out in this room just a little while longer.

So...are you coming? See the design house schedule below if you're intrigued.

May 8th - 16th, 2010

Saturday and Sunday 10am - 4pm
Monday – Wednesday 10am - 2pm
Thursday & Friday 10am - 2pm , 4pm -7pm

Ticket information is on the Cville Design House website.
The proceeds will benefit Charlottesville's Shelter for Help in Emergency.


  1. The wall color is actually black. And it is gorgeous! A must see for a good cause. Your camera translated it to inky blue.

  2. Yep, it definitely looked black in person. The iPhone is no SLR. :)

  3. Hi Jeannine,
    I just want to thank you, thank you, thank you, for the write up on your blog!!!! I had such a good time doing this project, and look forward to more design showhouses in C-ville in the years to come!! We just met yesterday about the showhouse for next year...more details later!
    Thanks for the mention...great photo!!!
    Kathy Davies


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