Home & Garden

Decorators’ showcase hasn’t been held in four years, and it seeks a house to show off

The 2003 Decorator’s Showcase was at the former home of the late George Headley on Old Frankfort Pike. This was the dining room.
The 2003 Decorator’s Showcase was at the former home of the late George Headley on Old Frankfort Pike. This was the dining room. Staff file photo

Decorators’ Showcase was last held in 2012, and organizers are working to bring the popular event back in spring or fall of next year.

But finding a suitable house is the challenge, said Paula DeBoor, a volunteer who has worked on almost all 23 showcases. “We just haven’t found the right house. I’ve looked at a number of them, but a lot of detail goes into finding the right place.”

Decorators’ Showcase benefits the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass, an advocacy program for the 5,300 nursing home residents in 17 Central Kentucky counties.

The ombudsman program will celebrate its 35th anniversary later this month.

For Decorators’ Showcase, interior and landscape designers are selected to revamp rooms and enhance the exterior of a property. Their talents combine glamour with practical ideas, so that that even an insignificant hallway or outdoor shed can be converted from dreary to dazzling.

Showcases are open to the public for three weeks, and they raise as much as $60,000.

Since the first one in 1976 at Birch Nest on Old Frankfort Pike, there has been a showcase about every 18 to 24 months. The recent four-year absence has been the longest.

Because of cuts in federal grants and other funding sources, “Our budget needs to have a major fundraiser,” said ombudsman agency president Sherry Culp, who also is the state’s long-term care ombudsman.

“We would love to do a Decorators’ Showcase as often as we can, but locating house is what limits us,” said Laurie Clewett, director of fundraising and administration.

To make a good showcase, a house needs architectural interest.

“It doesn’t have to be old. It could be contemporary, but with architectural interest,” said DeBoor, the longtime volunteer.

Historical houses with name recognition have the strongest appeal. Horse farm mansions have been among the 23 houses used, including those on Mount Brilliant Farm, Normandy Farm, Spendthrift Farm and Glenlary Farm. Three properties were publicly owned: Bell House, Loudoun House and Waveland.

One year, several units of the Centre City Condominiums on South Broadway were used.

DeBoor looks for a house with a sturdy staircase and parking for at least 100 cars that’s within a 20-mile radius of Lexington. From preparation to dismantling, the showcase team needs access for six to eight weeks.

An owner is asked to donate $5,000 in start-up costs if substantial work has to be done to get the house ready before the designers come in.

Decorators’ Showcase began in the mid-1960s as a project of the Women’s Neighborly Organization, a group of local women who worked to address some of the problems of poverty and racial inequality in inner-city Lexington. Their initiatives included a preschool program and nursing home visitations.

Out of that organization’s concern for nursing home residents, the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass was founded in 1981.

“Nursing homes are institutional settings, and lots of times things are scheduled for the ease of the institution. But they should have a home-like environment,” Culp said.

She told of one resident’s complaint that she was awakened at 5:30 a.m. for a shower. The resident wanted her shower to be later in the morning, and she asked for an aide of the same sex to assist her.

“It’s difficult to be sick, 100 percent dependent on others and speak up about care,” Culp said. That is where the agency’s staff, its 28 certified volunteers and 50 non-certified volunteers step in to help.

If you want to suggest a house for Decorators’ Showcase, contact Laurie Clewett at the ombudsman agency, 859-277-9215.

Reach Beverly Fortune, former Herald-Leader reporter, at beverlyfortune123@gmail.com or 859-948-7846.

If you go

What: Una Buona Sera (A Good Evening), to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass

When: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30

Where: The Signature Club, 3256 Lansdowne Drive

Cost: Tickets are $75; call 859-277-9215 or email lclwett@ombuddy.org