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Dramatic Showhouse Rooms

Drama, fantasy, matinee idol looks, and design solutions dazzle at the country’s leading showhouses

Written by Krissa Rossbund
  • Emily Followill

    In design, the grass is always greener. Diminutive rooms leave designers wishing for larger proportions to let them spread their creative wings. And when a room clocks in at a whopping 17x30 feet—like the dining room that Melanie Turner designed for the Atlanta Symphony Showhouse—it can lack the intimacy that is ideal for social gatherings.

    “The space was too large for one table and one chandelier,” explains Turner. “It needed heft that would offset the spacious dimensions.”

    To create that “heft,” she placed two square Regency-style tables at one end of
    the room and a sitting area at the opposite end. The twin tables can be pushed together or pulled apart, making room for four additional guests. Around the white-topped tables Turner mixed two seating styles: contemporary white frames covered in leather and settees with slim, modern profiles that are softened by theatrical mauve-colored velvet. Matching crystal chandeliers from France hang above the tables.

    See more of this room on the following slides.

    Interior design: Melanie Turner, Turner Davis Interiors, 130 W. Wieuca Road, Suite 209, Atlanta, GA 30342; 404/250-0134,

    Photography: Emily Followill

    Produced by Lisa Mowry

    Tables (“Regis”); skirted settees (“Ana Marie”): Bradley, 404/814-9595,
    Settee fabric (“Aurora”/Aubergine #3406-12): Jim Thompson Fabrics, 800/262-0336,
    Side chairs (“Cyril Side Chair”/Enamel); chair fabric (white cobblestone leather): Oly, 775/336-2111,
    Chandelier (“Granada”): Currey & Co., 877/768-6428,
    Dinnerware (“Mosaique au 24”): Hermès,
    Console; chairs flanking console: designer’s collection.
    Sculpture on console: designer’s collection.
    Sea urchin on console: Oly, 775/336-2111,
    Draperies (“Appollon”/Beige #3408/01): Jim Thompson Fabrics, 800/262-0336,
    Gold pedestals by window: antique.
    Urns: designer’s collection.
    Area rug (Turkish Oushak): Keivan Woven Arts, 404/266-3336,
    Wall paint (“North Hampton Beige” #AC-38): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,
    Large wall art of birds (Migration, by Thomas Swanston): Bill Lowe Gallery, 404/352-8114,

  • Emily Followill

    Glittering Glassware

    Gold details on the plates and glassware carry the dining room’s glamorous gilt theme.

    Glassware: designer’s collection.

  • Emily Followill

    Tabletop Opulence

    Golden vases and crystal obelisks from Smith Grubbs add shine and dimension to the dining table.

    Obelisks: Smith Grubbs, 404/239-9206.
    Gold pieces: Jonathan Adler, 800/963-0891,

  • Emily Followill

    Dining Room Sitting Area

    A French chair folds emerald green into the scheme in the room’s sitting area, where a sectional sofa dominates. The jewel tone, Turner explains, keeps the space from feeling too orchestrated.

    Sectional sofa (“Clint”): Bradley, 404/814-9595,
    Sectional fabric (“Aurora”/Aubergine #3406-12): Jim Thompson Fabrics, 800/262-0336,
    Coffee table (“Three-Legged Coffee Table” #407): John Saladino, 212/684-6805,
    Gold candlesticks on coffee table (“Klemm Candlesticks”): Oly, 775/336-2111,
    Gold side chair (“French Louis XV Side Chair”): Ann Getty House Collection, 866/343-3890,
    Side-chair fabric: through J. Nelson, 404/477-2225,
    Gold wall pods (reminiscent of sea urchins by C. Jere): designer’s collection.
    Painting (Night Boat, by Kathleen Morris): Bill Lowe Gallery, 404/352-8114,

  • Emily Followill


    Dining room designer Melanie Turner.

  • Tria Giovan

    Dining Room by Matthew Patrick Smyth

    Following service at the American embassy in China, the owner of this showhouse venue was presented with a hand-painted mural—and its installation—by the Chinese government. (With such provenance, chances are the mural isn’t going anywhere.)

    When Matthew Patrick Smyth agreed to re-envision the grand dining room for
    Kips Bay, the painting was part of the package. “The mural wrapped the entire room and couldn’t be touched,” says Smyth. “The purpose of a showhouse is to show all that you can do, so this mural really made the design a challenge.”

    See more of this room on the following slides.

    Interior design: Matthew Patrick Smyth, Matthew Patrick Smyth Interior Design, 136 E. 57th St., Suite 901, New York, NY 10022; 212/333-5353,
    Photography: Tria Giovan 
    Produced by Bonnie Maharam

    Table: custom.
    Table skirt (“Anniston Silk Taffeta”/Mineral #3462000): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Tape trim (#T20453.35, discontinued): Kravet, 888/457-2838,
    Table skirt overlay fabric (“Chambertin Damask”/Greige #21981); trim for table skirt overlay (“Rene Gimp”/Silver #G510-8): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Flowers: Lexington Gardens, 212/861-4390,
    Candlesticks; silver tea service: Simon Pearce, 212/421-8801,
    Chandelier (“Fiori,” by Jacques Jarrige): Valerie Goodman Gallery, 917/208-0302,
    Dining chairs (Louis XVI style, by Jansen, c. 1950): Malmaison Antiques, 212/288-7569,
    Dining-chair fabric (“Simply Suede”/Cocoa #50524): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Area rug (custom, “Carrowmore”/Slate): Patterson, Flynn & Martin, 212/688-7700,
    Silk wall panels (by artist Kensuke Wakeshima): existing.

  • Tria Giovan

    Chinese-Influenced Credenza

    But Smyth made magic. His theater background directed him to frame the mural, which depicts a Chinese valley, with pleated panels of ivory and gray cotton.

  • Tria Giovan

    Delicate Detailing

    Gray fabric-covered buttons accent the panels with elegant dressmaker detail.

    Wall draperies (“Arosa”/Ivory): Arabel Fabrics, 305/947-9808,
    Wall drapery trim (“Prestwick Wool Satin”/Dove #51526): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Ceiling paint (“Blue Veil” #875); trim paint (“Canvas” #267): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • Tria Giovan

    Dining Room Chest

    “A dining room is my favorite space to design,” says Smyth. “It’s a fantasy room, primarily used at night, when people want to be entertained visually. With all the beautiful elements, from china to crystal and silver, a dining room offers something for guests to remember.”

    Chest (#8508, antique): H.M. Luther Antiques, 212/505-1485,
    Lamp on chest (antique): Tom Thomas Gallery, 212/688-6100,

  • Tria Giovan

    Mantel with Classic Details

    French chairs from the 1950s circle the round table draped with a silk celadon skirt and an embroidered linen topper. He updated the chairs with brown suede, providing happy contrast to the original white frames.

    Silver gilt mirror (antique, hand-carved, Italian): Sutter Antiques, 518/822-0729,
    Round sculpture on mantel (by Robert Courtright): Pavel Zoubok Gallery, 212/675-7490,

  • Tria Giovan


    Dining room designer Matthew Patrick Smyth.

  • Eric Roth

    Dining Room by Kay McKallagat

    Kay McKallagat doesn’t regard a dining room as a pretty showplace visited only when a holiday or family gathering occurs. She’s convinced that contemporary homeowners want to use the room for a variety of purposes, so she decided to test her theory on the showhouse room she designed.

    The space already boasted beautiful woodwork, including ceiling beams. But because the beams had been stained dark brown before McKallagat took the reins, the wood made the space look like what she describes as a brown cave.

    White paint between the beams now tempers the darkness, introducing a chic attitude with a light-refracting, high-gloss finish. The ivory-colored walls, gracefully stenciled with an airy vine pattern in shiny gray, also send light bouncing around the room.  

    The lesson in contrasts continues on the furniture, where a mahogany table is
    a foil for French chairs covered in white linen fabric. A light-colored rug cushions the floor. Secured to the woodwork above the mantel, an existing mirror twinkles with a fresh gold-leaf finish.

    See more of this room on the following slides.

    Interior design: Kay McKallagat, Kay Bailey McKallagat Interior Design, 261 Main St., Newbury, MA 01985; 978/363-5766.
    Photography: Eric Roth
    Produced by Estelle Bond Guralnick

    Table (“Dandy Dining Table”/Mahogany #7245, by Holland & Co.): Lee Jofa, 800/453-3563,
    Wing chair (“Bergère Maintenon,” reproduction); Swedish armchair (antique); fabric (off-white cotton); antique ironstone tureens on table: Charles Spada Antiques, 617/951-0008,
    Chandelier (“Italian”/Chalk, Rust #10-01590-3212): Niermann Weeks, 212/319-7979,
    New Tabriz rug (#J29895, new Pakistani vegetable-dyed fine Tabriz): Landry & Arcari Oriental Rugs & Carpeting, 978/744-5909,
    Floor lamp (antique): Charles Spada Antiques, 617/951-0008,
    Wall stencil: by John S. Coles, 781/859-8697,
    Mirror over mantel; sconces: existing. 

  • Eric Roth

    Sitting Area with Exotic Embellishments

    “People feel overwhelmed by dining rooms, as they see them suited for formal occasions only,” says McKallagat. “I want them to see that dining rooms can serve multiple functions.”

    Sofa (#2070-72): O Henry House Ltd., 336/431-5350,
    Sofa fabric (“Artist Linen”/Pearl River #3000-20): Elizabeth Dow, 631/267-3401,
    Fur throw: Restoration Hardware, 800/910-9836,
    Ceramic elephant side table; folding screen (antique); cut-glass decanter and brandy snifters: designer’s collection.

  • Eric Roth

    Ready for Entertaining

    “I could have set the table with china and crystal,” the designer explains, “but when not set for a meal and with the comfortable armchairs, you can imagine it as a game room and sitting room, too.”

  • Eric Roth


    Dining room designer Kay McKallagat.

  • Eric Roth

    Living Room by Michael Carter

    In design, good bones are half the battle. So when Michael Carter was presented with this sitting room, he jumped at the chance to work with an architecturally first-rate space with beautiful millwork that included deep crown moldings and a striking broken-pediment fireplace overmantel.

    Seating spans a breadth of styles. The sofa is sumptuous in mouse gray velvet and faces a pair of antique shield-back armchairs covered in a slate-and-white damask pattern. Nailheads emphasize the lines of an armchair wearing a silvery cotton velvet.

    See more of this room on the following slides.

    Interior design: Michael Carter, Carter & Co. Interior Design, 36 Newbury St., Fourth Floor, Boston, MA 02116; 617/227-5343,
    Photography: Eric Roth
    Produced by Estelle Bond Guralnick

    Wall paint; molding paint; gold paint: custom glaze.
    Draperies (“Maxime Linen Paisley”/Natural #65230): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Fabrication: Eliot Wright Workroom, 617/542-3605.
    Sofa (custom, “March Sofa” #7625-76, by Mariette Himes Gomez); sofa fabric: Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579,
    Pillows on sofa (“Cordwain Damask”/Amethyst #65871; “Gainsborough Velvet”/Smoke #42733): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Lounge chair (“Eton Swivel Chair” #320-27); chair fabric (linen velvet): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579,
    Table beside swivel chair (gold martini table, custom); sea urchins (antique gold) on cocktail table: Global Views, 888/956-0030,
    Cocktail table (custom design by Michael Carter): Art Applications Inc., 617/269-1432,
    Floor lamp (“Quatrefoil Floor Lamp”/Gilded Iron, with off-white linen shade #SK1500, by Suzanne Kasler): Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323,
    Large plaster urn (antique): Charles Spada Antiques, 617/951-0008,
    Chandelier (“Dupont” #DL-CD19): Dennis & Leen, 310/652-0855,
    Area rug (Mongolian Afghan #7762): Jamal’s Rug Co., 310/289-9777.
    Pair of upholstered armchairs (antique): Carl Todisco Antiques, 617/357-5050.
    Barometer: antique.
    Fireplace screen (custom): Eliot Wright Workroom, 617/542-3605.

  • Eric Roth

    Living Room Window

    “I knew I wanted to implement some changes that would highlight the millwork details instead of letting them recede into all-white walls of paint,” says Carter.

    To begin the color scheme, Carter chose two grays for the paneled walls. They are soft colors, he explains, like pencil lead. One shade apart, the darker color adds depth to the moldings.  A band of gold further accentuates the crown molding and echoes other gilded elements like the cocktail table, a floor lamp, and a clock that hangs over the mantel.

  • Eric Roth

    Gilt Mantel Details

    Designer Michael Carter’s use of gold highlights the living room’s elegant gray walls and classic molding.

  • Eric Roth

    Quatrefoil Chair

    In the corner, a witty side chair repeats the quatrefoil shape found in the white-shaded floor lamp.

    Lemon tree floor lamp (vintage): Andrew Spindler Antiques & Design, 978/768-6045,
    Quatrefoil chair by window (“Alexandra Side Chair” #1516-23, by Suzanne Kasler): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579,
    Chair fabric: Fortuny Fabrics, 212/753-7153.

  • Eric Roth


    Living room designer Michael Carter.

  • Tria Giovan

    Library by Celerie Kemble

    It would be easy for a library paneled entirely in antique Norfolk pine to speak in a schoolmarmish tone. But designer Celerie Kemble coaxed it into unwinding. Hot colors and glamorous surfaces prompted the room to undo the top button of its blouse—and even flirt a little.

    “This was meant to be a woman’s library,” says Kemble. “The idea was to create a space that was sophisticated but fun.”

    See more of this room on the following slides.

    Interior design: Celerie Kemble, Kemble Interiors, 224 W. 30th St., 13th Floor, New York, NY 10001; 212/675-9576,
    Photography: Tria Giovan
    Produced by Bonnie Maharam

  • Tria Giovan

    Library Window

    The room’s focal point is the big window framing an elongated tête-à-tête covered in tone-on-tone pink stripes. With the garden view, the tête-à-tête and a marble garden stool foster serenity and good conversation. Grand drapery panels fall from a shapely cornice with cutout details that span the width of the tall, statement-making window.

    Tête-a-tête (“You and Me Settee,” custom, by Celerie Kemble and Jeffrey Edlin): J. Edlin Interiors, 212/243-2111.
    Settee fabric (discontinued); settee trim (“Gerard Gimp”/Eggshell #G514-1): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Reading lamp (English, shepherd style): Nicholas Antiques, 212/688-3312,
    Marble garden seat: Florian Papp Inc., 212/288-6770,
    Drapery and valance fabric (“Prestwick Wool Satin”/Cream #51522; “Vionnet Satin”/Ivory #50883); sheers (“Chevron Linen Sheer,” discontinued); valance trim (“Rosina Silk Gimp”/Seafoam #G513-8): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Cocktail table (Lucite-and-brass interior-lit cocktail table by Gabriella Crespi): John Salibello Antiques, 212/838-5767,
    Area rug (sisal): Patterson, Flynn & Martin, 212/688-7700,
    Faux finishing for rug: Cheron Tomkins, Decorative Arts NY, 917/349-4150.
    Club chair (custom, by Celerie Kemble and Jeffrey Edlin): J. Edlin Interiors, 212/243-2111.
    Club-chair fabric (“Prestwick Wool Satin”/Cream #51522): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,

  • Tria Giovan

    Settee Details

    The custom settee is covered in a cheerful striped fabric from Schumacher, which brings a punch of color to window area.

  • Tria Giovan

    Reading Corner

    Positioned in front of bookshelves filled with fashion, poetry, and contemporary literature titles, a tufted ivory sofa repeats the tone of leather insets that back each shelf. The sofa’s sexy, feminine shape is enhanced with fringe applied along the base for an interesting textural detail.

    Occasional tables display individual personalities. A faux-malachite table is illuminated by a vintage Murano glass lamp. A Lucite-and-brass cocktail table from the 1970s adds pizzazz.

    Sofa (custom, by Celerie Kemble and Jeffrey Edlin): J. Edlin Interiors, 212/243-2111.
    Sofa fabric; fringe: Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Side table: designer’s collection.
    Faux malachite for side table: The Alpha Workshops, 212/594-7320,
    Murano glass table lamp; brass statue (by Jere): John Salibello Antiques, 212/838-5767,
    Lampshade (custom): Shades from the Midnight Sun, 914/779-7237.
    Art behind sofa (Untitled (Yellow), by Marc van Cauwenbergh): through Elizabeth Sadoff Art Advisory, 646/823-4454,
    Faux leather for bookcases: Valtekz through Zoffany, 212/593-9787,
    Books: Assouline Publishing, 212/989-6769,

  • Tria Giovan


    Library designer Celerie Kemble.

  • Ron Blunt

    Living Room by Mary Douglas Drysdale

    The living room that Mary Douglas Drysdale transformed at the Richmond Showhouse was classic in style and gracious in its dimensions. But what it provided in area, it neglected in light. Despite three sets of French doors leading to a porch, natural light was limited and thus a challenge.

    “From the get-go, I imagined this space to be light with everything in white and off-white tones,” says Drysdale. “I accented the space by picking up the wood tones set by the floor.”

    See more of this room on the following slides.

    Interior design: Mary Douglas Drysdale, Drysdale Inc., 2026 R St., N.W., Washington, DC 20009; 202/588-0700,
    Photography: Ron Blunt
    Produced by Eileen A. Deymier

    Sofa: Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Chairs (“Monaco Side Chair” #H3810-D): Kravet, 888/457-2838,
    Sofa, chair, and drapery fabric (“Prima Alpaca”/French Vanilla): Sandra Jordan Collection, 707/836-9240,
    Red pillows on sofa: Duralee Fabrics, 800/275-3872,
    Throw on chair (“Millionaire Throw” #EMB799; base fabric “Wool Flannel”/Off White #752309/ID; appliqué/trim “Camel Hair” #DE10315): Holland & Sherry, 212/355-6241,
    Coffee table (“Estoril Cocktail Table” #506.131.02): Ebanista,
    Area rug (sisal): J. Brooks Designer Floors, 703/698-0790.
    Stenciled border on area rug: decorative painter Sunny Goode, 804/399-1192,
    Wooden chest between windows (“Taraceado II Chest with 2 Doors” #511.080.03): Ebanista,
    Art over chest (by Max Hirshfeld): Hemphill Fine Arts, 202/234-5601,
    Stenciled floor: Thomas Hickey, Rising Tide Inc., 443/204-4177,
    Paint (custom color): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • Ron Blunt

    Drapery Detailing

    The drapery panels are made from alpaca cloth that is embroidered in a geometric pattern, repeating the room’s signature motif. The pattern, designed by Drysdale, most notably appears on the room’s stenciled floor but also on smaller accessories like the throw and the shimmery toss pillows.

    Embroidery on draperies: Michael Savoia, Villa Savoia, 401/277-9900,

  • Ron Blunt

    Living Room Mantel

    Arranged around the fireplace and anchored by a sisal rug with a stenciled border, the principal furniture grouping features two sofas placed at right angles and three side chairs that float around a cocktail table with turned legs.

    Settee (custom): Andersen & Stauffer, 717/626-6776,
    Settee fabric (“Prima Alpaca”/French Vanilla): Sandra Jordan Collection, 707/836-9240,
    Pillow on settee (“Bukhara Pillow” #EMB561A; base and back fabric “Wool Flannel”/Off White #752309/ID; appliqué “Cashmere Silk Velvet”/White #DE11519): Holland & Sherry, 212/355-6241,

  • Ron Blunt

    Dog Carving

    Above the focal-point mantel, a Great Dane carved by American folk artist Mark Perry commands attention.

    Great Dane sculpture over fireplace (by Mark Perry): Mark Perry, 508/325-1997,

  • Ron Blunt


    Living room designer Mary Douglas Drysdale.

  • The Sidecar, price available upon request from Moore & Giles [1-800-737-0169]

    This beautifully crafted bar cart, The Sidecar by Moore and Giles, is a great way to store liquor, glassware, bar tools, and anything else needed to complete your own miniature bar. The cart, made of Virginia black walnut, birch, leather, aluminum, and brass, is wheeled to make sure the party can travel with you. Perfect for drink-lovers without the space for a full bar.