Mention Atlanta and among the first words associated with the grand Southern city are Coca-Cola®, CNN, and Gone With the Wind — or, if you’re part of the interior design community, the ASA Decorators’ Show House & Gardens. By Marilyn Nason
If you live in the Atlanta area, one of the most eagerly anticipated spring events is the annual Atlanta Symphony Associates (ASA) Decorators’ Show House & Gardens in the city’s tony Buckhead district. For the past 45 years, this nationally renowned fundraiser – benefiting the Atlanta Symphony Associates – is the largest event of its kind in the Southeast and one of the longest, consecutively running Show House events in the USA. Table lamps, lighting fixtures, plus rugs, window treatments, wall art, furniture, and home décor are displayed in designer-created settings within a massive French-style estate.
One of the nation’s leading orchestral volunteer organizations, the 250 volunteer ASA members have raised more than $6 million that not only supports the orchestra itself but, of equal importance, its education and community involvement as well as the quality and creative diversity of Atlanta-area interior designers.
The inaugural ASA show house in 1970 earned an impressive (for its time) $33,000 after expenses. Attesting to the importance of the ASA and the major public support stretching further beyond Atlanta itself was the fact that last year’s show house netted nearly $145,000.
This year the 2015 ASA Decorators’ Show House is at Château Soleil, located a short distance from the heart of downtown Atlanta and named for its sunny, golden façade. It was open to the public from April 17 to May 10.
Designed by renowned architect William T. Baker (and featured in his book, New Classicists: American Architecture), it was built in 1998 spanning 14,000 square feet on two lush landscaped acres. It is considered to be one of the best examples of European-style craftsmanship in Atlanta, a city famous for its considerable number of one-of-a-kind estates.
Château Soleil offers six bedrooms, seven full baths, and four half-baths, plus a 26′-high domed marble entrance. One of its often-remarked-upon highlights is the Versailles-inspired grand living room with a marble fireplace and a formal dining room with 16′-high ceilings. In all, there are three intimate family rooms plus a separate library and study.
The extensive grounds feature dramatic formal terraces, augmented with inviting walkways that surround the saline swimming pool and large recessed motor court, which serves as an inviting entrance.
Through the years, the ASA Show House committee members have augmented the architectural and landscaped beauty of the property with activities that include a formal evening gala with ribbon-cutting ceremony, a special house tour, and a dinner with silent auction.
During the 22 days that the Show House is open, a variety of events for ticket-holders include an on-site performance by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as well as yoga on the lawn, cooking demonstrations, interior decorating lectures, book signings, and a Mothers’ Day Tea social.
Long before the first ticket-holders arrived to tour the house last month, the previous nearly half-century of ASA Show Houses has helped develop and implement an efficient system for designer selections that assure the process runs smoothly within the limited timeframe that the ASA committee is allowed access to the estate.
The 2015 Show House project began with a Designer Open House in early October 2014, when hundreds of area interior designers were invited to tour the house, vying for the coveted honor of being selected to decorate the house’s rooms.
After filing applications in October to express their interest in becoming one of the Show House designers, the list was whittled down to 30 in January 2015. The participating designers then presented their ideas for specific spaces, with the approved ideas finalized in early April.
Part of the designers’ commitment at that point was to work with the various vendors and showrooms for the individual lamps and lighting fixtures, furniture, and home décor items they selected for each room.
As with many long-time successful show houses in cities across the country, the designers involved with the 2015 show house preferred to keep private whether they bought or borrowed the items for their spaces.
One week after the 2015 Show House closed on May 10, the designers return to the Château to remove everything they brought for their chosen space. Since the corporate-owned Château Soleil is currently unoccupied, the estate was advertised as being for sale in tandem with the Show House open days to encourage potential buyers to view the estate at its home décor best.
The Show House 2015 event was chaired by ASA president Camille Kesler, with noted TV designer show host and long-time Atlanta resident Vern Yip serving as Honorary Chair.