Under a clamshell moon, the dark Tudor mansion in south Tampa mirrors an age of medieval castles and kings.
Built in 1923, the 4,000-square-foot home is constructed of bay-colored bricks, fused together from the kiln to create a stonelike appearance. Outside, Spanish moss hangs from crooked oak limbs, casting ghostly shadows across the home’s towering walls.
Over many years, the home fell into disrepair. But in recent weeks, more than 20 of the area’s top interior designers have donated their time and talent to restore the building’s majesty. And beginning today, the mansion will be open to the public as the 1993 Designer Showhouse, presented by the Tampa chapter of the Florida Orchestra Guild.
“There’s a kind of mystique” to the house, said Juli Milas, the guild’s vice president of public relations. “People are fascinated by the look of it.”
The home was in abysmal condition when designers first tackled the cleanup project, she said. There were holes in the walls, termite damage to the hardwood floors, and “the kitchen was the foulest-looking thing you’ve ever seen,” she said.
But in just four weeks, designers have transformed the home into a royal palace.
The living room, for example, presents a neo-gothic appearance, with its eggplant-colored walls, gold-leaf molding, faux-marbled panels, and capelike, cream-colored drapes.
“We knew this was going to be a very eclectic room, and being a show house, it has to play to an eclectic style of tastes,” said designer Thomas Everett Lamb, who teamed with designer Kenneth LaBarre to fashion the room’s purple pageantry.
A gray-blue mural on the room’s ceiling, painted by Tampa artist Sean Rush, depicts an angel operating the celestial machinery that moves the moon and the sun.
“Besides achieving a look, it’s a presentation of ideas,” said Lamb. “The idea was to make the ceiling look as though it had been here for a number of centuries – something from the Renaissance.”
Lamb and LaBarre adorned the room with more than $27,000 in artwork, including an original painting by famed Spanish artist Joan Miro.
In the dining room, designers Michael Meloy and David Sibbitt shattered tradition with an unconventional approach, which resulted in an artistic masterpiece.
Behind the room’s faded vinyl wallpaper, Melow said, the walls revealed multiple layers of colorful paint. By peeling off the wallpaper, they found the chalky paint crumbled into variegated splotches. Instead of repainting, the men touched up the ugliest spots, then glossed the walls repeatedly to achieve an unusual red-sienna glaze.
“We wanted to go with an Old World look, a European, understated elegance,” Meloy said. “People would walk in and say, ‘When are you going to paint the walls?’ But a lot of the doubting Thomases have come back and said, ‘Now I understand.'”
During the restoration, the designers often watched one another’s work to avoid turning the house into a multicolored monster, Meloy said.
“We tried to develop a look that would have some kind of cohesive basis to keep in context with what the other designers are doing,” he said. “But a show house should stretch. You should make people think beyond the norm.”
The Designer Showhouse is held annually to raise money for the Florida Orchestra, which is celebrating its silver anniversary. Some 7,000 people visited last year’s show house, raising more than $37,000 for the orchestra, said event chairwoman Pat Cuervo.
This year’s show house is co-sponsored by Reeves Import Motorcars, PNC Trust Co. of Florida and The Tampa Tribune.
In addition to tours of the home, the Designer Showhouse will present a tearoom, boutique, entertainment and seminars, Milas said.
Boxed lunches (catered by Carlino’s for $7 each) will be served daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., she said. Lunches include sandwiches, brownies or cookies, fruit and tea.