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SF Showcase Entry, Staircase, and Rotunda

   Location: 3701 Washington at Spruce Streets
   San Francisco, California


SF Showhouse



Walt Disney would have loved the concept of a designer show house. Akin to a theme park experience for the design enthusiast, a show house tour is like a magical transportation through time and space into a fantasy world of scenic landscapes and lavish set designs. In Disney's world, pathways led into “Tomorrowland” where appliances of the future were displayed in a staged kitchen; out through sculpted gardens adorned with fountains, pools and mazes; then through castle doors up to the courts of the king and the princesses' rooms. And the same description can be applied to the way-out world of the home and garden designer events.

Looking down to entry Show houses are events that every design enthusiast should experience. We promote where and when these events happen with the truest hope that more people can tour these sublime living exhibits. We have been invited to cover 2006 Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts event from beginning to end. The actual transformations you will see in this issue are astounding. Follow along as we meet the designers, watch their visions come to life, and are awed by the final results. Also, really do visit the Showcase House of Design, in Pasadena, California, to enjoy a fine example of extraordinary artistic creations. And while you're there, immerse yourself in the legacy of an area that received theattention of the
 Entry Room by Reed Johnson Interiors architectural legends of the 20th century.

We thank all those involved in this project and are so pleased to share the event with all our DesignIntuit readers!


House Exterior Master Bath flowers Chandelier
Wine cellar Exterior Statues Golden Gate Bridge Steven Miller


What is a Show House?

In a show house (showcase, decorator show house—all mean the samething), transformed interiors and exteriors are housed imaginatively in grand estates all across the country. Most of these show houses are philanthropic endeavors that raise considerable sums of money for charity. They are profitable because designers, decorators, landscape architects, manufacturers, and other partners donate their time and materials. These in kind gifts provide grand exposure for the participants, opening doors to new clients and the media, so many of the top-tier designers vie for parts in these staged venues.


Top floor room

Rotunda and Hall, at the top of the spiral staircase
by K. Klimpton Contemporary Art

A show house is an artful way to experience design from inside out in th third dimension and beyond. Enjoy up close the overlapping textures, broad combinations of color palettes, form and function feng shui, artisan applications, and creative detail treatments. This is a rare opportunity to interview a prospective designer and really see their work, sample trends, and be inspired.


Start with an Elegant Home

Planter vase

Good interior design is best reflected through great architecture. Most show houses are extraordinary examples of architecture and have “good bones”. By highlighting these “good bones” or architectural features, designers transform out-of-date, tired homes into contemporary show places. The architecture is the context for the design story.

Entry The curb appeal or first impression of a house sets the tone for the overall design experience. Designers consider all aspects of a show house property, including the exterior. In most cases, a show house is repainted and resurfaced, including all shutters, doors and trim. The difference a coat of paint makes is remarkable and flattering. The exterior considerations include landscaping, walkways, gardens, outdoor rooms, recreation areas, kitchens, entrances, fencing, mailboxes, water features, and furniture. This is a big category and some show houses have as many as 10 different designers working on these outdoor spaces.

By observing how these spaces are treated and how they effect the overall appearance of the house is helpful is also evaluating your own home. A show house experience can be taken with you to help look more closely at your home.

As you start your show house tour open up your mind and senses, examine the sights, smells, sounds of the outside environment.
  Entry by Reed Johnson.




The Layout



What You're Looking At: Room by Room

Once a property is selected as a show house, designers are invited in by the organizing committee to select which rooms they would like to design. The committees usually provide designers with some criteria such as color palettes, themes, or other considerations as design guidelines for the final selection process. Designers present their final ideas through the use of design boards consisting of room schematics, swatches of material choices, furniture pictures, and inspiration details. The committee awards the rooms to the designers. Then the designers and their teams get started.

kitchen under construction

Designers often completely “gut” a space to its studs and create a state-of-their-art spaces in little as one month. This process can include everything from custom cabinetry, built-in furniture, new fireplaces; replumbing, laying tile on floors and ceilings, installing leather on walls, stenciling ceiling, rewiring electrical and more. Some designers don’t like to expose this side of their wizardry, but I think this perspective really unveils the mastery of their genius.


A show house tour has a specific route, designed mostly to accommodate the crowds passing though. Therefore, the spaces are not to be looked at congruously. One space does not blend to the next and the usage is not rational. That is not the point of the show house tour. The point is to look at each room from top to bottom.


Kitchen candles

The finished products are the kind of spaces that you want to really see, observing every detail from the harmony of color, the ceiling treatments, the floor cover, lavish textiles, furniture positions and shapes, lighting effects, the intriguing mix of media. The artistry of each space often dazzles. In each space, try to isolate each part of the design-structure, texture, size, color, proportion, materials. It is best to simple look at one room at a time and bask in that design.


light fixtureA show house is design as theater. The rooms in the show house have the typical spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, dining rooms and such. There are also the whimsical rooms themed by designers o delight and amuse show house visitors. With names like “Gentlemen’s Retreat”, “Children’s theater”, “Bed and Breakfast”, these rooms provide a more imaginative treatment of design than traditional living areas. Keep in mind too that most show houses are enormous and do have 10 plus bedrooms to present, so this approach allows visitors to experience how unused space might be converted into a delightful usable retreat. The rooms are often the most fun and imaginative.



Master Bedroom



Design Solutions

Bath with flowers


Before and After

There are always intriguing behind-the-scenes stories about what goes on way before the public enters the show house. Challenges designers encounter once the actual design application stage begins in their spaces is often staggering. That ‘before and after” transformation process highlights the mastery of skills a designer most process-drafting, engineering, carpentry too.

Bathroom basins
Bath Tub
Master Bath by Grant Gibson. Materials: Carerra marble
Vanity slab and tub deck: Honeyed onyx

Just imagine the kind of surprises they face when, for example, they open up the walls for an inspection of the existing electrical conditions and find the wires not sufficient for 2006 codes or no electricity at all. What are their choices? Run new wiring throughout the entire house, (at whose cost?), have a fit, or just figure out a workable solution. The brave teams pull it off and present their design with no hint to the public the real complications they faced while creating these exhibits. Not only is it important to be imaginative, talented and a problem solver; but this elite group is deadline precise too.


Empire chair




The Finer Points in Life



A show house is an artful way to experience design from inside out in the third dimension and beyond. Enjoy up close the overlapping textures, broad combinations of color palettes, form and function feng shui, artisan applications, and creative detail treatments. This is a rare opportunity to interview a prospective designer and really see their work, sample trends, and be inspired.



Family Room 2

Family Room by David B. Kensington


Kitchen long Rooster & Vegs

Kitchen by
David B. Kensington &
Dan Phipps

The details in a show house are mind numbing.  This is also a great place to observe how to put themes together, to work with texture and light, to arrange furniture for optimum traffic flow and even make new flower arrangements.  Designers provide fresh ideas for accessories.  Notice the artful combinations or repetitions. The presentations of collection are intriguing.

Traveler's RetreatNotice too how the most important pieces in the house are highlighted.  Notice how your focus is drawn to objects in the rooms too.

The layering that designers use, brilliantly finish the spaces. By adding crown molding, hand antiquing the ceilings, applying wainscoting and baseboards, laying windows with several weights of fabrics, using several shades of color, designers impact the overall feel of a space.  It feels just right.

Traveler's Retreat by Cecilie Starin Design





A Playful Approach to Design



Every living environment should include indoor and outdoor spaces designed as a backdrops for letting go of the ordinary. Designers can inspire and help us in our exploration of incorporating creative alternatives in ordinary spaces. This begs the question of why not clean out the basement closet and put in a wine cellar. Why not build a small stage for the children to really inspire their imagination.

wine cellarRooms in show houses show us potential design opportunities. By being open minded, and a little courageous, wonderful uses of space can be converted in our own homes. The show house experience should be a catalyst for imaginative ideas and a guide to home improvement.



Wine Cellar by BayStone/Western Wall Systems






Nature Has a Way

Garden Mirror


The outdoor grounds play a vital role in the design considerations. In creating a total environment that complements the exterior and interior, the landscaping can add the brush stroke that brings the whole experience to life incorporating nature and habitat.

At a show house, the outdoor areas are a garden enthusiast’s fantasy. By treating the outdoor rooms as intricately as the indoor rooms, landscape architects and exterior designers apply their talents to walkways, pools, decorative ponds, water features, romantic gardens, and terraces. From every angle foliage and flowers enhance the entire home.


Gardens by Suzman & Cole Design Associates

Exterior Statues





Beyond the Grounds

Golden Gate Bridge

viewThe neighborhoods that are the setting for the show houses are often as spectacular as the fabulous show houses and present opportunities to view real life examples of a variety of architectural types. As most show houses are also top tier properties, most of them are located in neighborhoods that have interesting histories and represent famous and regional architects of note. A drive, or walk, through these neighborhoods often provides a show of artful living and an education about architectural types. (I like to look for Historic Register plaques.) If you are planning to attend a show house event, do a little homework before you go which will help you cull the most out of your show house experience.

When I visited the 2006 Pasadena Showcase, I took a drive to explore the neighborhoods and found many excellent examples of Beaux Arts, Italian Renaissance, Prairie, Shingle style; and Tudor, Cotswold, Swiss Chalet, and Asian wood structure vernaculars.

San Francisco has a rich heritage of architectural building vernaculars including, but not limited to, Spanish Colonial, Greek Revival, Carpenter's Gothic, Beaux Arts, Art Deco, Modern, and Post Modern. Some of the architects that have designed homes and other building structures which still grace the city streets of the Bay Area are Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck, Willis Polk, and Charles Moore.







Featured Decorators

Steve Miller


The designers and decorators who are selected to participate in the show houses are the main ingredient in the finished show house event. Their style and personalities, together with the criteria set forth by the organizing committees and the opportunities or limitations presented by the house and property, combine to make these events an exciting and memorable experience.

At the event you will have a chance to meet the designers and discuss the details of their selections, as well as the special challenges they faced in the areas of the home they designed for. This is also a great opportunity to find a decorator if you are considering some re-decorating or renovating in your own home. You will see many examples of furnishings, lighting, appliances, art objects, plant life, fabrics, and creative flooring, wall, ceiling and window treatments.

We present a just a handful of the great designers who have contributed to the San Francisco Showcase 2006 in the following examples to give you an idea of what rich treasures and ideas that can be found there. We hope that you will have the opportunity to witness the event in person to really experience the magic yourself.

Guest Room Chair & Window

Guest Bedroom by Steven Miller Design Studio (see our photo of Steven above)


Italian Glass lamp
"Her Office"

"Her Office" by Caitlin Moran Interiors




Garden Mirror








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