Young Huh's artist studio from the 2019 Kips Bay Decorator Show House. Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo. (Image credit: architecturaldigest.com)
In the first of a three-part series, we break down everything you need to know about interior design show houses.
One of the frustrating aspects of being a residential interior designer is that only a small handful of people ever get to enjoy the spaces you create. While photographs of your finished work can hint at the essence of your creation, no image can truly capture the physical experience of being enclosed within your interior masterpiece. This is why Interior Design Show Houses, otherwise referred to as Decorator Show Houses, are so important to the interior design industry.
What is a Show House?
A show house is a residential space that becomes the site of a weeks-long public event, typically hosted by an industry association or publication, in which designers are either invited or apply to decorate one specified room in the house. Each chosen designer then stages his/her designated room, and together these installations comprise the show house.
Once the show house event officially begins, anyone may purchase a ticket to attend. In most cases, the proceeds go to a named charity. The media are also invited, and the more prestige attached to a show house, the more mainstream press coverage it attracts.
Who Participates in a Show House?
Interior designers are the main players in a show house event. Designers want to be included to show off their work in a very public setting, get wide exposure through media coverage, and also to meet other designers and industry influencers.
The attendees are composed of a wider set of interested parties. For one, there are amateur design enthusiasts who attend for the purpose of entertainment. But most attendees have a focused, professional purpose. A strong contingency of these are people who have interior design needs and are seeking to find new talent. Some will be potential clients searching for a designer to work on their personal spaces. Others will have a professional need, like a film producer in search of a set designer. Another contingency, the press, will be looking for breakout stars, participants with compelling backstories, and other interesting angles to cover for their publications. Other attendees may simply come to support the charity attached to the event.
The Major Show Houses
- Kips Bay Decorator Show House: This is one of the most prestigious and well-known show houses, and takes place each year in New York City. The event benefits the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Clubs. Typically held in May, the details for the 48th Annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House will be announced in early 2020.
- Hamptons Designer Showcase House: The site of this show house is in the Hamptons, located in Long Island, New York. It is presented by Traditional Home magazine and in 2019 benefitted the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. While the 2020 details have yet to be released, the event typically takes place in July and August.
- Pasadena Showcase House of Design: Located in Pasadena, California, this event is among the largest and most well-attended show houses, with approximately 40,000 visitors per year. Proceeds from the event support several local charities, including music and cultural programs for children. The 2020 Pasadena Showcase House will take place from April 26 – May 17, 2020.
- Lake Forest Showcase House and Gardens: Located in Chicago’s affluent Lake Forest suburb, this event is sponsored by Chicago's Infant Welfare Society. The site chosen for the 2020 Show House, which will take place from April 25 – May 17, 2020, is a 23-room, 11,000 square-foot house that dates to 1908 and sits on three acres of landscaped property.
- San Francisco Decorator Showcase: This event benefits the San Francisco University High School financial aid program. Since its inception in 1977, the event has raised over $17 million for its cause. Along with the Pasadena Showcase House of Design, it is considered the premier West Coast show house. The 2020 event will take place from April 25 – May 25, 2020 at a home near San Francisco’s Presidio park.
- Southeastern Designers Showhouse and Gardens: Located in Atlanta, this show house is presented by Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles magazine and typically attracts top designer talent from the Southeast. The dates for the 2020 Show House are April 16 – May 10, 2020, details haven’t been announced, but for reference, last year’s event was held at a 13,000-square-foot mansion in Buckhead with a luscious 5.3 acre property.
While these are six of the more well-known and well-attended Interior Design Show Houses, there are several more annual show house events that take place across the country, attracting a wide range of industry movers and shakers.
The next installment of this three-part series on Interior Design Show Houses will detail some of the smaller events that may provide a point of entry for less-established designers seeking a show house platform. Plus, we’ll break down the costs and benefits for designers interested in participating in a show house.
Stay tuned to the Design Manager blog for Parts 2 and 3 of our series covering everything you need to know about Interior Design Show Houses.