Showing Off at the Show House

Showing Off at the Show House

Local designers are participating in the National Symphony Orchestra Decorators Show House 2003 fund-raiser.

Potomac resident Justine Sancho has been a part of the National Symphony Orchestra Decorators Show House for more than 10 years. “I’m an old hand,” Sancho said.

The Women’s Committee for the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) held “Bare Bones Days” on Aug. 2 and 3, the first event of the annual NSO Decorators Show House fund-raiser.

The Show House is the principal fund-raiser of the Women's Committee and has raised more than $7 million for the NSO since the group’s inception in 1973.

“We sent invitations out to designers around the D.C. area,” said Teresa Paul, media consultant for the Women’s Committee. “They then come and take a walk-through and bid on the rooms they would like to renovate.”

Sancho enjoys working in the showhouse because it gives her the opportunity to work without the requirements of a client.

“It’s the one time a year I set a problem for myself,” Sancho said.

During Bare Bones Days, the public had the opportunity to tour the house and property and see design plans of the interior and landscape before the renovation phase begins.

With the Bare Bones Days over, the designers now have six weeks to transform their respective rooms.

Sancho chose a guest bedroom because it best suited her “problem,” to incorporate a treadmill invisibly into a room. “The point was to put an exercise area into a room,” she said.

She believes that her design has succeeded, by hiding the treadmill in a curtained area. “I divided the room in such a way that allows the room to be elegant and sophisticated,” she said.

Sancho’s business, Justine Sancho Interior Design, is based in Bethesda, and is one of several Montgomery County participants.

Karen Snyder of Interiors of Washington, another Bethesda designer, finds other challenges in show houses. When working for a private client, it is possible to explain that a piece might not be ready for immediate delivery, but in this case there is a definite deadline. “The last pieces need to be ready right now,” she said.

Snyder also finds that the challenges of the house can play a part in the design. She had initially wanted to design a library, but the furniture she had in mind would not be able to make it up the stairs to the third floor, where her room is located. “That changed the whole feeling of the room,” Snyder said.

Instead, she is planning an artist’s retreat which can be used as a painting studio.

Although there are 26 designers working in the house’s 29 rooms, Sancho says she is not too worried that her designs will mesh with the others.

In her case the doors to the room could be closed to allow her room to stand on its own. “You have to be a lot more careful in a living room,” Sancho said.

In her past experience, however, she has found that those working on design houses have generally worked well together. “Somehow, we’ve always managed to make it work,” Sancho said.

While she has had experiences in show houses where adjoining rooms might not work well together, Snyder agrees that in this case, the designs seem to work.

“I was pleasantly surprised that it seems, somehow to flow,” she said, after having viewed the other designers plans for their rooms.

During the Show House Days, the participating designers are also required to have items for sale to the public.

Snyder plans to offer a pair of Charles X period chairs. The chairs are nearly 200 years old and are currently being refinished for the first time the show. “They are going to be gorgeous,” Snyder said.

The house itself will also be on sale during the Show House Days for $8 million.

According to Paul, everyone benefits from participating in the Show House. “We have national design magazines that come cover the event,” she said. “Designers will really get their names out there.”