Designer Show Houses: What Are They?

Designer Show Houses: What Are They?

Posted By: Susan S. Published: 08/31/2017 Times Read: 654 Comments: 0

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Hundreds of distinguished interior designers across the United States receive letters such as this. Each as an invitation to participate in the transformation of a luxury home into an elegant exhibition of fine furnishings, art, technology, and the newest trends. However, receiving an invitation is never a guarantee of selection to participate in one of these Designer show houses. A committee reviews each submission. Through a private, but often very political, process the designers are selected, and rooms are assigned. But that is just the beginning.

The hustle and bustle begins. Measurements are taken and checked and double checked. Fabrics, paint colors, window treatments, furnishings, and art are coordinated, selected, and ordered. With often only 6 short weeks from selection to the public opening of a Designer show house, designers enlist the help of their top resources. With expenses borne by the designers and their team, it can be a costly but exciting venture for all involved.

Why do participants participate in Designer Show Houses?

Interior designers are typically the primary participants in Designer show houses. They spend a tremendous amount of their own money and time to create a finished space that exudes their talent and capabilities. Occasionally a residential or landscape architect may be invited to participate as well, also gratis. Depending on the prestige and geography of the show house, the list of design participants can read like a Who's Who of the industry. With such compressed time schedules and great expense, it is really an undertaking for any designer to pull off such remarkable results. Oh, but they certainly do!


Over an approximately 4-week period hundreds, if not thousands, of potential clients walk through the doors of these over-the-top Designer show houses to get an idea of which of the designers best fits their needs and an inside look into the latest in home furnishing trends. It’s like snagging the front row seat at a fashion show. The place for their design talents to be seen and to tout their best vendors, craftsmen, and resources -- who all participate at a reduced or nominal cost, or sometimes, no charge. The exposure is enormous for the designers and often can be their only form of marketing for an entire year. With the high press coverage, program takeaways, and on-the-spot booked appointments and sales, the event, the incoming trends, and the design participants are the center of attention for months to come.

Who Benefits From Designer Show Houses?

Other than the immediate benefits of on-the-spot product sales and booked appointments, these designer show houses are both a prestigious way for the local and often national design community to come together to show off their personal best and trends in interior design as well as being major fundraising events. Whether raising funds to keep a local theater, museum facility or historical site in tip top shape. Or to fund local music or art programs and after school and enrichment programs for children. Most Designer show houses have sprung out of community need and are funded by donations of time, money, and deep discounts.

Typically, the house has been donated or rented for a small fee for use during a specific period. The home may undergo remodeling (physical structure changed), but in every instance, is always redecorated and open to the public for viewing. The designers may be required to conform to a predetermined set of guidelines or are given carte blanche on the design, but always required to respect the time allotted. Tickets are sold and the house is then opened for public tours. A must-see event for design enthusiasts and renowned for catapulting interior design trends as well as a flurry of freshly designed homes.

Additional events may also be held to help raise the fundraising coffers such as auctions of the contents of some rooms, preview galas, raffles, and networking events with business cards exchanging hands in appreciation for the donated time. The proceeds go to the charity of choice, usually garnering great results.

Designer-Show-HousesMake the Most of the Show House Tour Season:

Much like a museum, the many details and potential ideas found in Designer show houses can be overwhelming and can easily put you in design overload. Follow these tips to better appreciate and enjoy your visits:

  • You are not allowed to take pictures in these homes. Know what to look for, you can really get inspired and get a true understanding of what is possible for your own interior design.
  • Manage your objective to maximize your experience. If multiple tours are available on a weekend, plan your schedule ahead of time.
  • Check out tour house websites and preview publications to read up on the participating designers, the house itself, floor plans, and other useful information ahead of time.
  • The best way to take in all of what these show houses offer is to visit more than once while the show is public. It’s like watching a movie twice. The second time thru you always see things you missed the first time. On your first tour through the house move from room to room and look at what appeals to you. Multiple visits allow you to focus more on the details like color schemes, features, materials, and dimensions, helping you get an appreciation of the design techniques used to create the remarkable designs.

Designer show houses are held around the country and are worth hunting down and marking on your calendar as must-see events.