Center for Enrichment aims to boost funds through designer showcase home

Center for Enrichment aims to boost funds through design showcase

To replenish dwindling funds, the Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment (CHCE) revived an old tradition — showcasing elaborate, mostly-local interior design inside a historic Chestnut Hill home.

Tours of the designer showcase home continue through October 16. The home is located at 8305 Seminole St.

Although the CHCE charges each member $30 annually, that’s not enough to keep the club running smoothly, said president Marilyn Paucker.

“We need money for general functions to keep [the organization] alive,” Paucker said. “Everybody’s been having trouble with the downturn of the economy. And it’s finally hit us.”

Paucker said CHCE was on the verge of closing last November, but “three angles gave us the money to stay open.”

To ensure the group can still provide its services to community members, Paucker rounded up about 22 designers — over half of which live or work locally — to put together the first design show house Chestnut Hill has seen since 1998.

Due to the event’s popularity in years past, Paucker hoped $25 tickets would be more than enough to solve the CHCE’s money problems.

The house was first shown Sept. 16 in a preview party that had about 220 people in attendance, Paucker said.

“We had thought we’d get 150,” she said. “But the community rallied behind us.”

The house was open to the public the following day after five months of preparation.

“[Preparation] was labor intensive,” Paucker said. “People who’ve done it before said it usually takes a year to put together, and we did it in five months.”

Paucker said about 25 volunteers were needed each day to ensure the house was set up in time.

The actual materials for the then-empty house were free for the CHCE because paint, wallpaper, furniture, knick-knacks, draperies and such were provided by the designers.

The designers hope to attract new clients and sell many of the items on display in the home.

In addition to the 220 in attendance at the preview party, Paucker estimates over 200 people have gone through the house in the first two weeks.

But it’s not just about money. Chestnut Hill designer Patricia Cove said the show house is also meant to promote local designers, as well as give design enthusiasts ideas and knowledge on trending styles.

Cove has lived in Chestnut Hill for 30 years and has participated in at least 20 design show houses on the East Coast. But this is her first design show house in almost 13 years.

“It’s a great venue for designers and architects to actually show their work,” said Cove, who is also the event’s design chair. “And it gives a lot of people an opportunity to see different works, styles and designs.”

Architects Mark and Susan Asher live and run an architectural practice in Jenkintown. They said one of the reasons they came to see the house was to check out the architecture.

“We’re always looking for ideas to get inspired,” Susan said. “We build new homes, but they [usually] look like old homes.”

The Ashers said another reason they went was to support a colleague involved in the project.

“We wanted to come to see his work and patronize the cause,” Mark said. “It’s a beautiful old house in a beautiful old neighborhood.”

The stone Queen Anne style house was built in 1890 by famed architects G.W. and W.D. Hewitt. The brothers also designed several churches, hotels and homes in Chestnut Hill, as well as Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Center City.

“They were included in some of the designers that Henry Hughston used very heavily,” said Chestnut Hill Historical Society board member Meredith Sonderskov.

Not only does the house itself have famous roots, but so does the garden. It was originally designed by Frederick G. Peck.

“Peck is arguably the most prominent mid-20th century landscape architect in the area,” said Sonderskov.

The Design Show House is open Wednesdays through Sundays until October 16. Times differ, so be sure to check chdesignhouse.org. Tickets are $25.

On October 6, visitors can meet all of the home designers at the house from 7-9 p.m.

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