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Local Designers Transform Ordinary to Extraordinary

National Symphony Decorators' Show House now on view through November 2.

When interior designer Hector Gonzalez first saw the space he was given to decorate for this year's National Symphony Decorators' (NSO) Show House 2003, he knew that he needed help. Not only did he have the spacious master bedroom, master entryway and master closet to decorate, but he was given the master bathroom as well. The show house committee told him he had the right to select somebody to work with, so, he turned to his friend and colleague, interior designer Victoria Sanchez.

"I knew of her and was comfortable with her work," said Gonzalez. "It just so happened that she stopped in my store on the way to dinner one night and after talking to her for two seconds, I asked if she'd be willing to help."

Sanchez willingly agreed to take on the task of decorating the master bath. Their combined efforts have made for adjoining areas that have their own flair, but also complement each other.

While Gonzalez has worked on prior NSO Show Houses, Sanchez has not. They have both, however, worked on The Campagna Center Show Houses in the past. This year there were more challenges than usual, making this show house a labor of love.

Gonzalez said that unlike other years, when the house was turned over to the designers after the contractors completed their work, this year the house, located at 2126 Wyoming Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., was never officially turned over to them.

"We had to work around the contractors and wait with paintbrush in hand," said Gonzalez.

His room also had some major work done on it that he hadn't anticipated. When the contractors removed a supporting wall on the first floor to expand the kitchen below, they had to make up for the support somehow. They told Gonzalez that they would bury the beam in his ceiling and that he would lose only three inches. When the work was completed, however, he realized that he had actually lost 15 inches; his nine-foot ceiling became 7-feet, 9 inches. This meant that the canopy bed and armoire that he planned to use no longer fit. It also meant that the valance being made for the windows would now be hidden.

GONZALEZ REGROUPED and arranged for different furniture to be brought in. He also had four separate trays cut out in the ceiling, which made it a coffer ceiling; this gave the ceiling symmetry and balance and gave a more spacious feel to the room itself.

Once the mechanical details were worked out, Gonzalez was able to do what he does best — create.

For the entryway, he used a hand-painted mural of scenes from the banks of the Potomac. They were done on linen with gesso; the crackled appearance gives it an antique look. The walls were upholstered with a Brunschwig & Fils striped fabric; the padding gives the room a softer look.

Gonzalez used the same fabric for the window treatments, done in simple columns to minimize the low ceiling. A hand-woven wool carpet in linen and celery with a hint of salmon partially covers the floor, while artwork from Century Gallery is tastefully placed around the room.

SANCHEZ FACED challenges as well. The same I-beam that troubled Gonzalez gave her other headaches.

"The hardest part was that they didn't have the exact location of the I-beam for a long time," said Sanchez. "I wasn't sure if the vanity would fit, or if sconces could be hung."

When they finally installed the I-beam, she ended up with two different ceiling heights. She also had to figure out how to get a cast iron tub into her space. It weighs 542 pounds and had to be lifted by crane through one of the bedroom windows. The tub was then turned sideways and slid through the 30-inch opening.

"When I first saw the space, I knew that I wanted to create a focal point," said Sanchez. "With a free-standing tub and chandelier, I figured you can't go wrong."

To enhance the look of the tub, she gathered fading hydrangea blooms and added spiders and lady bugs, filling the tub.

"The hydrangeas turned out to be a big hit. The people from the Kennedy Center were wild about them," she said.

For the window treatments, Sanchez used embroidered, silk organza fabric. She said that she found it in the Design Center when she was looking for inspiration. The fabric was enough to inspire her and allowed her to carry the theme throughout the room.

To enhance the threads in the window treatments, Sanchez had the walls and ceilings glazed in a metallic finish. Decorative Specialists, a company specializing in faux finishing, traced the floral vine from the fabric to create a stencil for the walls; they also finished the vanity by using several layers of paint and metallic glaze to create a creamy crackle glaze.

Floors were covered with 18-inch limestone tiles; the same limestone was also used in the shower with the same accent pieces being used throughout.

DESIGNERS COME from all over the Washington D.C., metropolitan area, as well as from Richmond, Waldorf, Md, and even one from California. Other local designers include Caldwell-Beebe Ltd. Inc. and Hedgerows from McLean; Portfolio Kitchens and Sage Shop from Vienna and Milestone by design from Arlington.

Caldwell-Beebe designed the music room, while Portfolio Kitchens worked with Sage Shop to create the Mediterranean designed kitchen.

The stores providing merchandise for the boutiques are also from surrounding areas. Carol Supplee, owner of Imagine Artwear in Old Town and Pat Taylor, will be selling some of their artwear, as well as a nice selection of gift items. Reunions from Alexandria will occupy an adjacent space to Imagine and with a selection of holiday and gift items. Priscilla Sabatelli, who was setting up the space, said, "We have some new and some old gift items."