Open House

Open House

The weekend before the Designer Showhouse was scheduled to open, Debbie Schaffer and her team of designers were busy sewing. They were trying to get everything ready for the parlor of Leesburg's Rust Manor House.

"We all just really pulled together," Schaffer said. "But we knew we would."

None of the last-minute preparations were apparent Tuesday, Sept. 26, at the 2006 Designer Showhouse opening gala, however. Designers, members of the Loudoun Arts Council and the Audubon Naturalist Society wandered through the manor house, admiring the rooms created by 15 local interior designers.

Each design group created decor for an individual room in the Rust Manor House based around the history of the home, which was built in 1910.

The Rust Manor House is part of the Rust Nature Sanctuary in Leesburg and is run by the Audubon Naturalist Society. By partnering with the Designer Showhouse, the organization hopes to also highlight the conservation work that it does at the sanctuary.

In addition to bringing life back into the rooms, the showhouse gave the Audubon Naturalist Society the chance to do much-needed repair to the house and 68-acre property.

Throughout the summer the designers worked on their rooms with subcontractors while reparations went on in the home.

THE DESIGNERS chosen to be a part of this year's showhouse were excited for the opportunity to help restore a historic building.

"It is really amazing to be able to see the before and after," Debbie Hobar, who's company Precious Places designed the children's bedroom suite, said. "It was fun to take it from a dark space to this."

Hobar's group included her two interns, Kelsey Hobar and Kristin Brocke, as well as muralists Tabitha Carsten-Dees and Greta Carsten. In order to break up the flow of the suite, they added in a second column between the sleeping area and the play area. Carsten-Dees created murals over much of the walls and painted a stone walkway over an exposed piece of concrete on the floor.

"We tried to work with what was here," she said.

One of the most extensive renovations was in one of the home's smallest spaces. Peggy Levay took a cramped linen closet and turned it into a small sanctuary for the woman of the house.

Levay and her team of six people took out a row of cabinets from one wall and made the cabinets on the other side narrower. They added a mirror adorned with 4,000 beads and ornate decorations on the door of each cabinet.

"We basically doubled the space in here," Levay said.

With designing in a historic house, however, came some problems.

Levay's group had to drywall the entire room and found that their stain for the floor would not soak in and dry properly. They ended up having to sandpaper it off before the opening.

"It is worth it though," Levay said, "because it has characteristics you just can't build."

FOR MANY OF the designers the best part was designing around a historic period.

Ashburn-based designer Kristin Drohan, who created horseback-riding themed decor for the young man's room, said the most difficult thing about her design was coming up with the idea.

"I had to think about what a boy in that time would enjoy," she said. "It was fun to work in that time period."

Drohan created a room complete with a barn-door closet, stirrup-inspired window dressings and a horse racing mural created by muralist Christine Stern.

"Seabiscuit was the first thing that came to mind," Drohan said. "And I think it turned out wonderful. This has been such an amazing experience."

Schaffer and her company, The Feathered Nest, created the design of the parlor around vibrant colors they found in pillow fabric.

"I love raspberry, greens and yellows and we found them all in the bird fabric," Schaffer said. "We built out from there."

Pam Ray, one of Schaffer's co-designers, said it was important for them to make their room cohesive with the rest of the house.

"We wanted to make sure it would all flow," she said. "Since all of the doorways are open, we really wanted that flow from room to room."

Equally important to many of the designers was keeping their designs affordable, as all the pieces in the rooms are available for purchase.

"We wanted to show we could have that elegance, but leave it within a realistic budget," Schaffer said.

THOSE AT THE helm of the Designer Showhouse are looking forward to the ongoing impact this year's show will have on the manor house.

"You are creating a legacy," Jeff Stern, president of the Loudoun Arts Council, told the designers. "As we begin these three weeks, I hope you'll know what you have built will live on."

In the first few days of the showhouse, Gale Waldron, co-chair of the showhouse committee, said more than 200 people have already visited the home.

"It is looking like we're doing more than double what we did at this time last year," she said. "This has been an amazing venture. We have really created a little community over there."