Home & Garden

Decorators' Showcase: an 1855 home full of 2012 ideas

L.V. Harkness & Co. furnished this porch and a second-floor verandah at Highland Hall, a Greek Revival home built in 1855 for Isaac Shelby.
L.V. Harkness & Co. furnished this porch and a second-floor verandah at Highland Hall, a Greek Revival home built in 1855 for Isaac Shelby. Herald-Leader

It's like a personal invitation to those of us who admire fabulous homes and historic mansions from afar.

Decorators' Showcase is an opportunity to spend hours admiring artwork, examining designer-made window treatments or pondering how an artist painted a window casing to match a kitchen's tiled backsplash.

This year's Decorators' Showcase is at Highland Hall on Old Richmond Road. It opens for tours on Saturday.

The Greek Revival home is owned by Bill and Sophia Hurt, who bought the house 10 years ago. It was built in 1855 for Isaac Shelby, grandson and namesake of the first and fifth governor of Kentucky.

The Hurts have gradually renovated parts of the home. When asked by the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass Inc., which organizes and benefits from the showcase, if they would donate the use of their house and allow teams of decorators to paint, paper, and move around furnishings, the couple agreed to show off their historic home.

Unlike some of the past showcase houses, Highland Hall already had undergone major work, much of it by Bill Hurt. He designed the new kitchen, including creating the island countertop and cabinets using a slab of walnut he had owned for 10 years.

Hurt had the two-story brick columns restored. Previous owners had replaced the original columns with plywood, after they were destroyed by a tornado in the late '50s or early '60s. Hurt said he used salvaged bricks from an old house on Jacks Creek Pike that was built about the same time.

The Hurts bought Highland Hall because he was "looking for a place with a creek running through the back, rolling hills, a bunch of trees, and this is all I could find that was close to Lexington and had a little land with it," he said.

Once the Central Kentucky designers were lined up to decorate the foyer; the dining room; a traveler's suite; a gathering room; and bedrooms, baths and porches, the experts chose areas that would best show off their talents. The Hurts moved out of the house while it was being decorated, and they won't move back in until after the showcase ends June 10.

Greentree Antiques designer Gay Reading furnished the dining room with a table that "we believe was made by Henry Connelly of Philadelphia about 1810. The table, which seats 10, is set with vintage Herend pattern Fortuna china from Hungary. "The design was first produced in Herend in 1851. I liked the color, and it was right for the period of the house," Reading said.

The veranda and porches offered designers a chance to show off their casual sides. Sheila Evans of the Keeneland Gift Shop and Bill Hellard of Carriage Trade created two seating areas on the spacious front porch that offered a "warm, inviting look," Hellard said, "and it's large enough for a small dinner party."

L.V. Harkness designers outfitted the second-floor veranda with burlap draperies and pillows, and accessories are from House by JSD Designs.

Many of the home décor items in the house are for sale through the designers.

Bill Hurt chose to buy Highland Hall because "I like old houses," he says. But even visitors who don't treasure historic architecture can come away with plenty of ideas for decorating their own modern homes.

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