In many cities around the country, design or show houses are used to raise money for charity. Designers sign on to decorate one room in a large home and the public buys tickets to see the results. Without clients to please, the designers are often free to take risks and let their creativity come out and play a little bit. The designers don't have to work together at all, so a show house can be a lot of fun to visit. You may walk from an ultra modern room into one that's very traditional and see a huge variety of color palettes used.
The first design house I saw was a massive home in Mahwah, New Jersey (near where I grew up, just outside of NYC). I was a little young and didn't really understand it. A few years later, I was starting to get into design a little bit and went to the Kips Bay Show House, the granddaddy of all show houses in New York City. The Washington Post did a narrated slide show of last year's Kips Bay House...check it out.
When I lived in Boston, the Junior League's show house was an annual favorite. In Virginia, I've enjoyed the DC Design House (where I first saw the art of John Matthew Moore, whose print hangs in my living room), the Charity Works Greenhouse, and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra League's show house. If you love being inspired by creativity, you'd love a designer show house.
The Charlottesville Design House benefits SHE, the Shelter for Help in Emergency. SHE offers emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence who need a safe place to stay. The shelter also offers services for children and pets, a telephone hotline, legal assistance, and counseling. It's a pretty amazing organization.
If you'd like to see what happened to last year's design house, check out the before slide show below and the fantastic gallery of after photos on the Cville Design House website.
Remember, these are before pictures of last year's house.
If you're reading this in Google Reader, you might have to click through to see the photos.