Looking a Show House in the mouth 

In the average show h

In the average show home, a single designer is given the chance to shine, especially when creating for some mythical beings. Even when creating for an actual family, it"s a somewhat imaginary life that"s put on public display. But, when it comes to the St. Margaret"s Guild Decorators" Show House, there"s a twist: In Indianapolis, this event is IT, the Mother of all Show Houses.
Decorators" Show House: A bottomless pool of inspiration
Incorporating the talents of a legion of decorators into every available crevice, every square inch of space receives star treatment. This year, the tour features two Meridian Street homes and carriage houses, so visitors get to take a gander at a total of four living spaces. With every penny of the proceeds benefiting Wishard Health Services, the cause is as important as the event is fun. I visited the sites as finishing touches were made, and found the homes abuzz with activity, from designers giving matalaise coverlets a final smoothing tug, to the guy from Kitchenwright installing brand new cabinets, electricians perched precariously on extremely high ladders installing fixtures and painters creating visual effects. But, most visible were the volunteers from St. Margaret"s Guild. Surrounded by these ladies, I experienced an uncontrollable urge to grow my hair into a pageboy, purchase some Lilly Pulitzer separates and maybe acquire a silver-handled toile umbrella. In short, I wanted to grow up to be pretty, organized, sweet-smelling and suntanned, just like them. But, the ladies-who-lunch look can be deceiving. Stepping into a living room hung with paintings by Douglas David, I discovered Command Central. Half a dozen or so hard-working volunteers buzzed around a metal folding table stacked high with papers: lists, brochures, mailings and other important promotional documents. They could be found elsewhere, too, working with designers, taking inventory of what still needed to be done. And, every one of them was well-dressed, makeup just right, extremely dedicated to her cause. Equally dedicated is the group of decorators, artists and craftspeople who work the dream interiors. Clutter is replaced with carefully selected symbols of abundance: silk draperies, Celedon vases and murals. Try as I might, I found no hint of actual habitation in these fantasy habitats: no piles of dirty laundry or unwashed dishes. Stacks of unpaid bills and overflowing trashcans were nowhere to be found. Everything had its place - the sinks were clean, accessorized with embroidered hand towels and sweet-smelling potions; rolls of toilet paper were neatly secured with grosgrain ribbon fashioned into coy little bows. Nothing lurked beneath beds; no toddler fingerprints smeared French doors. But, rather than shaming me into a life of self-imposed obsessive-compulsive cleanliness and order, a show house visit plunges me into a bottomless pool of inspiration. More than a magazine spread or tastefully selected suites of furniture on a showroom floor, the interiors seem tangible, somehow like the real thing. For a few days, my house will be a little tidier, throw pillows a little fluffier, area rugs perfectly straight. I will rearrange furniture and artwork and spend my spare time finding new ways to hang my Aunt Rachel"s china on the dining room walls. It"s always a trip worth taking. The St. Margaret"s Guild Decorators" Show House runs April 27-May 11, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday at 4127 and 4130 Meridian St. Tickets are $15 at the door; $12 for ages 65 and over. Call 767-0390. The opening night party is April 27, 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $100; call 842-2858. Designer tours (coffee and pastries followed by a tour with a participating designer and lunch at Maggie"s Cafe) are held at 9:30 a.m. daily. Tickets are $30; call 255-8458 for reservations. For more information, log on to http://www.indymall.com/showhouse/.
Keen observations
1. After seeing so many types of decorative painting, from lacquered walls, faux bamboo and trompe l"oeil pets and pottery to whimsical ribbons bedecking bathroom walls, you may feel inspired to dash home and try your hand at a bit of decorative painting yourself. But take heed: Even if you are an artistic sort, it"s usually best to leave this stuff up to the professionals. Nothing blights an otherwise lovely interior more than badly executed stenciling. If you insist on recreating an abandoned Tucson Villa in your mudroom, do yourself a favor and practice on a piece of masonnite before laying brush to wall. 2. Eclecticism is good. You"ll glimpse plenty of country French pieces and toile covered objects, as well as a bit of Asian-influenced touches. In fact, styles run the gamut from traditional to formal. It"s even OK, in fact preferable, to have different patterns and textures on vertical surfaces, too, as long as they smoothly transition from room to room. The best-decorated rooms aren"t filled with furniture purchased as a grouping or matching set. Upholstery needn"t match, either, so long as colors and patterns are complementary. While you"re at it, artwork plays an important role in creating a cohesive feel as well. Whether it"s a painting hung on the wall, or a rare oriental rug, a homeowner"s personal taste can set the tone for color scheme, accessories, even major furnishings. 3. While sage is all the rage, taking precedence even over traditional white and cream walls, other colors are warmly embraced as well. Buttery yellows provide excellent backdrops for punches of boldly colored accessories, from vibrant red to tried and true Delft blue. -MJ

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