Show House Held at Potomac Mansion

Show House Held at Potomac Mansion

The annual event benefits the National Symphony Orchestra as well as the designers and homeowners involved.

Curious residents from across the DC area are free to explore the stately rooms of Ayrlawn, a Potomac mansion that is the site of the 34th annual Show House sponsored by the Women’s Committee of the National Symphony Orchestra.

For $25 a person, visitors can take in the artistry and elegance created by representatives from 24 design firms in 25 areas of the two-acre estate. Proceeds from ticket and décor sales will benefit music education, art and outreach programs at the National Symphony Orchestra.

Designing for the Show House is an honor. Designers visited Ayrlawn and selected rooms they wanted to decorate, then submitted proposals.

Camille Saum, a Bethesda designer and founder of Camille Saum Interiors, said that being featured in show houses like that sponsored by the National Symphony Orchestra opens doors in the interior decorating field. 18,000 visitors are expected at the Show House this year.

“It gives you good publicity,” she said. “I usually get published in books after the show, you get work from it, and it’s keeping your name out there.”

Saum, who has decorated rooms for at least five Decorators’ Show Houses sponsored by the National Symphony Orchestra, said that vendors assist selected designers by donating and pro-rating services and home décor.

“Everybody gives you big breaks,” she said.

The artwork and design items featured in the Show House are being sold at retail value, with all proceeds benefiting the National Symphony Orchestra. Price sheets for all of the items are available in each section of the Show House.

AYRLAWN, WHICH is located in the Kentsdale Estates neighborhood of Potomac, was built by Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, an ambassador to the United States from 1943-1979 whose wife, Lillian Somoza de Sevilla-Sacasa, was a daughter in the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua.

The Georgian-style home, which was built in 1991, is four stories and 16,700 square feet, and it is inspired by the Governor’s mansion in New Hampshire and the residences of Colonial Williamsburg, Va.

"Ayrlawn was selected because of the opportunities it provided for us, and the opportunity to go back to Potomac, Maryland — we've had a lot of Show Houses in Potomac, and they're always very successful for us," said said Clint Nesmith, assistant manager of development for the National Symphony Orchestra.

"The house itself is very grand but very inviting," he continued. "Though it is considered a mansion, when you walk in, the rooms are not so big.... So our patrons and guests can walk into the design space and picture that in their own home, and can take different aspects from different rooms they like and put them together for their own room."

The property is now owned by the Sevilla-Sacasa children, and it is on the market for $3.6 million. The decorative work that the designers have put into the mansion increased the value of the home.

“The property is being upgraded with these beautiful materials, wall designs and floor coverings … that the designers bring in to decorate their spaces,” said Judith Turner-Yamamoto, a publicist working with the National Symphony Orchestra’s Women’s Committee on the Show House project. “It really updates the property – it’s like a face lift.”

FOUR DESIGN FIRMS from Potomac and Bethesda are featured in the Decorator’s Show House: Good Earth Landscaping, Camille Saum Interiors, Kelley Interior Design and Urban Country Designs.

Amy Gudelsky of Urban Country Designs in Bethesda decorated the “bedroom retreat” upstairs. The room, which is decorated in teal green down to the shoes in the French shoe cabinet, exudes an aura of serenity and calm.

The inspiration for the room’s color scheme is taken from a South American cotton hooked rug on the floor. A customized day bed is angled away from the entrance to face the window, emphasizing the feeling of solitude.

“This room is meant to be a refuge for the lady of the house,” said Trudie Williams, a volunteer docent from Alexandria who was leading visitors through the room. “She would come in here and relax on her beautiful, oversized day bed, have a cup of tea, and look out at the beautiful view.

For more information about Gudelsky’s designs, call 301-654-0500, or visit

Kelley Proxmire of Kelley Interior Design in Bethesda decorated the solarium, or sunroom. This the Bethesda resident's fifth time being featured in the National Symphony Orchestra Show House.

Cotton drapery panels frame the room, which is decorated in playful aqua and lime colors. White grass cloth adds texture to the walls, and the sofa and armchairs are upholstered in aquamarine and bold floral prints, respectively. Oversized floral prints on the wall provide the finishing touches.

"The inspiration for the room was the big bold print fabric," she said. "I thought it was very fun, bright and cheery, so I selected that and planned the room around it, though I used it somewhat sparingly, just on two chairs and two pillows."

Since the sofa and drapery treatments were all cotton, Proxmire added more varied texture to the room by including a silk pillow, two velvet pillows and green chenille on one of the chairs.

"The whites and blues are pretty cool, so in order to anchor the room, I introduced warm light woods, a wood table between two chairs, and woven blinds in a wheat color," she said.

For more information, contact 301-320-2109 or visit

Michael Lavin, Jenine Thomas and Kelly Kenealy of Good Earth Landscaping in Potomac designed the front garden and entrance landscaping. In a framework of Southern Magnolias, Laceleaf Maples and Weeping Cedar, and with a backdrop of evergreen Laurels broken by monochromatic Chrysanthemums, the team of designers created a welcoming entrance accented with pumpkins and autumn-colored plants.

“We are most pleased with the vibrant container plantings, the abundance of color given by the Chrysanthemums, and the crisp, clean stepping stone pathway leading into the backyard,” wrote Kenealy in prepared remarks placed at one of the garden seating areas at the Show House.

All of the potted plants and plant material featured in the landscape is available at the store’s Potomac location at 11650 Falls Road. For more information, call 301-765-0224 or e-mail

Camille Saum of Camille Saum Interiors designed the foyer and gallery spaces. Horizontal stripes in the foyer just inside entrance catch the visitor’s attention. A floral chintz fabric decorates the doorways, and a simple pendant fixture hangs in place of a chandelier.

“I wanted to make an immediate statement, and the horizontal stripes made a dramatic backdrop for the elegant Swedish antiques,” said Saum. “I wanted it to be dramatic and eloquent and whimsical all in one space.”

She praised the work of Ali Nassiri in faux finishing the wall in that space, and she noted that the Swedish antiques were acquired at Tone on Tone, a store in Bethesda.

Saum sought to connect the foyer with the nearby gallery with common colors.

“We took the color of the stripe [in the foyer] and put it on the stencil on the gallery ceiling,” she said. “We took the ceiling from the foyer and put it on the walls…. We wanted something understated for the artwork on the wall… which is by Elizabeth Dax, from London, England.”

Antique Swedish chairs, also from Tone on Tone, are suspended above concrete demilune tables designed by Saum and hand-made by Concrete Jungle.

For more information, contact 301-657-9817 or visit