I’m a sucker for Show Houses. Why? They give us a peek into the lives of the rich and famous while highlighting the talent of area designers. It gives designers a chance to strut their stuff, hopefully at their most creative. Especially compelling are the extravaganzas in big cities like the Kips Bay Show House in NYC.
Right now, however, there’s a Show House in my hometown that is worth a look. Let’s open this bright red door and head inside.
Instead of being installed in your typical grand old home or row house or newly minted McMansion, this one highlights the space of what was once a recreation center for a compound of five homes built in the 1920s for the widow of wealthy businessman and her family. Originally housing nine cars, chauffeur’s quarters, gardener’s apartment, a pool, a squash court, billiards room and conservatory, it is now a substantial home for a local attorney and his children.
Decorated by a team of Grand Rapids based designers it is an opportunity to look back in time at a grand old life style and to view some flat out fabulousness first hand.
The décor ideas could be lumped into one of three themes: traditional with a twist, recycled and reclaimed, and cutting edge contemporary.
The traditional with a twist encompassed stuff like faux painted surfaces—a bit dated in my book but effective here to cover up old plaster, construction and other issues that the designers didn’t want to take on. It was also fun to see unexpected color used like orange on the upstairs screen porch where a more traditional approach would have been to use Chinese Red.
The recycle theme was most evident in the guesthouse, one of my favorite spaces in the house. The entire guesthouse (once called The Gardeners Lodge by the family), is designed by Jeffrey Roberts who took collecting and recycling for his theme. Most interesting to me is the massive grouping of black and white rectangular photos hung edge-to-edge, covering the entire wall behind the bed in the tiny and cozy bedroom.
I liked the way they camouflaged the very old white rectangular air conditioner, a clever and attractive way to deal with an eyesore.
The other space I hope folks will take time to savor and appreciate is the squash court transformed by Tylor Deveraux to reflect what is going on in his brain. Inspired by Art Prize and believing design is all about life experiences, dreams, family, friends, travel, entertainment and the arts, he incorporated all these elements in this dramatic space.
As a design writer for the Grand Rapids Press, I’ve loved following Tylor’s work for years. He is always innovative and creative, hip and cool. He doesn’t let us down with this space that includes a video shown on the ceiling, a strikingly contemporary portable gas fireplace set on Astro turf and a wall of art that includes a painting of Madonna, a deer head and eye popping prints. It’s a knockout.
Rooms like this are what show houses at their best do: draw attention to the amazing creativity in our own backyards and inspire our inner designer to skedaddle on home to spiff up what is tired and dreary. Or at least think about it.
For more information check out the Symphony’s web site: www.grsymphonyshowhouse.org