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History with a Twist

Roberta Jeffries remembers sitting on the stairs of the Rust Manor House when she was 4 years old. She remembers visiting her parents at the house when she was older. The former teacher remembers bringing her students to the property to learn about nature.

Jeffries' father was William Fitzhugh Rust Jr. who was deeded the house by his mother, Mary, in 1946 and later sold it to widow Ida K. Polen. When Polen died in 1970, the Rust Manor House was put up for auction and Jeffries' father repurchased it.

Jeffries' parents lived in the house until 1991 when her father died. It was his wife, Margaret, who made the decision to leave the house to a conservation group when she died, Jeffries said.

"She was very much interested in leaving it to be preserved," Jeffries said.

In 2000, the property was donated to the Audubon Naturalist Society, which has managed the property since then.

Jeffries was present at her family's former home Wednesday, April 26, to witness the unveiling of the plans for the Loudoun Arts Council's 2006 Designer Showhouse.

"It is so nice to have this as a place to remember my family," she said. "I cannot wait to see what it will look like soon. It will be wild."

THE DESIGNER Showhouse, where local interior designers each design an individual room in a house, will open Sept. 26 to the public. This is the third year the event has been held, but it is the first time the event has been held in an established building. In previous years, the showhouse has been centered around a newly built house.

"We are thrilled to have it at a historic location like Rust," Jeff Stern, president of the Loudoun Arts Council, said. "We are bringing modern designs to something with all the history and making all the sides work together."

Gale Waldron, co-chair of the showhouse committee, decided at the end of last year's event that it would be nice to use a historical structure for the showhouse, something Stern says was a natural fit.

"We are really going to highlight two things, both art and the Rust house," Stern said. "They are both treasures of Loudoun County that have always been here that people may not know about."

Frank O'Donnell, president of the Audubon Naturalist Society, said that the organization is thrilled to be host to the showcase.

"This will really help put the Rust Sanctuary on the map and let people know that it is a fantastic facility," he said.

The Audubon Naturalist Society hopes that the collaboration will draw people to the site for special events while still fulfilling its original purpose as an educational facility.

"We want this to be a fully usable sanctuary and education center that will also be a good place to hold weddings and other functions," O'Donnell said.

IN ADDITION to changing the look of each room in the house, the showhouse is giving the Audubon Naturalist Society the ability to do some much-needed repair of the house.

Laura Longley, who acts as co-chair of the showhouse committee with Waldron, was hired by Audubon to help figure out how to bring a stronger revenue stream. She heard that Waldron was working on finding a historical site for the showhouse and jumped at the chance to collaborate.

"What the showhouse is giving us a chance to do is look at the improvements that may need to be done," Longley said. "We want to make a canvas for the designers' work to go on."

The 68-acre property needs tree and lawn work in addition to the work needed within the house itself, Longley said. O'Donnell estimated the needed repairs to be almost $100,000.

The 14 designers selected for this year's showhouse will spend most of the summer working with subcontractors and the Arts Council's designer coordinator before ever setting foot into the Rust Manor House.

"We will eventually become a nuisance, but we don't want to be that until absolutely necessary," Stern said.

The process of selecting the designers lasted almost three months. The Loudoun Arts Council first announced a general call for submissions and sent out more than 100 letters to local designers letting them know about the competition. Interested designers were given the opportunity to tour the Rust Manor House and select the room they wished to design. Almost 30 design boards were submitted for consideration.

"Not only were we looking for interesting concepts, but we were looking for the flow from room to room," Waldron said. "Especially on the first floor where many of the rooms don't have doors in between them. We wanted them to work together."

EACH DESIGNER selected for this year's showhouse was inspired by something different. For Peggy Levay of Leesburg, who was chosen to design the linen room, it was the cabinets. Although working with the smallest space in the house, Levay and her design team have big ideas. They plan to restructure part of the linen room to give it more depth.

Debbie Hobar of Haymarket was inspired by what she believed the family that lived in the house would have been like.

"I took a look at the space and knew there had to be children living in the house," Hobar, who specializes in designing children's rooms, said.

Hobar's design was partially created by two Battlefield High School students, Kelsey Hobar and Kristin Brocke, who are interning with her this summer. The three brainstormed about how to create a children's room that was traditional, but would apply to modern children as well.

"We decided on the Peter Pan theme because it's a story that is both then and now," Hobar said.

Incorporating elements that were both modern and in step with the historical nature of the house was important to many of the designers.

Carla Davis of Ashburn plans on using Chippendale-style and authentic antique pieces when designing the dining room.

"I wanted to include vintage pieces that the Rust family would have used," she said. "My goal was staying true to the house, but bringing it up to 2006."

Many of the designers were inspired by the natural beauty that surrounds the house and brought aspects of nature, from murals to color schemes, into their chosen rooms.

"I want to bring the beautiful nature outside in," Michelle Pilon of Herndon said of her design for the front foyer. "I wanted to make a connection between the house and the world around it. I really want the heart of the house to sing again."