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Design Ideas Abound At NSO Showhouse

Decorators take on rooms in DC home.

When Cora Rupp saw the back hall at Houghton Mansion, she knew that it would be a great place to hang her work, and those of other six award-winning printmakers from Printmakers, Inc. from Alexandria.

"All seven of us are represented here," said Carolyn Witschonke, who was showing the space during last week’s press preview party. "We have collographs, etchings, woodcuts, monotypes and more. They are all original."

The prints line the back stairs and a narrow, third-floor hallway connecting the upstairs foyer and guest bedrooms. Thus, an otherwise drab hallway and stairway became transformed with colorful and eye-catching pieces.

This is just one small example of the transformations undertaken at the 30th Anniversary National Symphony Orchestra Decorators’ Showhouse 2002, now underway at Houghton Mansion, located at 3003 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Twenty of the region's most well known designers have redecorated the 46-room house, which includes a ballroom, terraced gardens and a swimming pool. Owned by the State Department, Houghton Mansion is located on Embassy Row. Once the residence of the Iranian Ambassador, it has been vacant for more than a year.

Walls have been stripped and painted with magnetic paint; doorways have become stately backdrops for window treatments; imaginative floor coverings appear in every room; and everywhere one goes, they see things that they might not have seen before. Everybody should leave the house with a least half a dozen ideas they can try on their home.

The showhouse got its start in 192, when Blanch Bedwell, a member of the National Symphony Orchestra's Women's Committee, brought the concept to the Washington area after seeing a designer showhouse on a trip abroad.

<b>ALEXANDRIA DESIGNER RON BECKER</b> used his talent to design a tea room in a small room on the southeast side of the first floor, space heretofore used as an office. Becker used floral prints and warm, bright colors to lend a garden theme to the tea room.

"Most people would expect it to be an office, but I wanted to do something different," said Becker. "The chandelier in the room had a rose color, so that’s where I started from. I wanted it to be a place where people could sit and relax – have a cup of tea or a cocktail."

Becker said that all the furniture was custom designed by Carlyle Interiors, Inc. Chairs are covered in an embroidered floral fabric, while the custom bench is covered in silk with dragonflies. This pattern is carried through to the window treatments, which covered an oversize window, drawn back to let some light in and show off the fabric.

This will not be the first time Houghton Mansion will have undergone such an expansive change; it was an NSO Show House in 1984. Since then, however, the house has rarely been updated and most of the interior is in pale neutral tones. The State Department is hoping that the new interior along with the publicity will entice a new tenant who will be willing to pay the $15,000 a month rent.