Decorators’ Show House: Home & Willow Designer Julie Curry Takes on an Indianapolis Tradition

Indianapolis is gearing up for one of the year’s most anticipated fundraising events: St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild’s Decorators’ Show House & Gardens. In its 63rd year, the Indy institution brings together the area’s top interior designers and landscape architects, including Home & Willow Senior Designer Julie Curry, as they transform the stately “Sylvan House at Northern Estates.” Julie brings extensive industry experience, as well as her passion for creating cozy, comfortable, and functional spaces, to this unique challenge.

The Decorators’ Show House: An Indianapolis Tradition

The St. Margaret’s Decorators’ Show House is the longest run show house in the country, and to date, it has raised over $14 million for Eskenazi Health. The goal for 2024 is to raise $1 million for the John & Kathy Ackerman Mental Health Professional Development Center at Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center. Over 20 designers and trade professionals are putting their ingenuity to work to make that goal a reality.

Nanette Wiseman, St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild President, says, “We would be nothing without their guidance, their creativity, and their support. I love the fact that [they take] this blank slate and [make] it into something incredible.”

The Home & Willow Touch

Seeing the possibilities and potential of a space is a skill that designer Julie Curry has honed over 20+ years in the business. “While this is not our company’s first time participating [in the Decorators’ Show House],” Julie says, “It’s my first time taking the lead in decorating one of the rooms.” It is far from her first time working in the pressurized world of designer home shows, however. She has lent her creativity to multiple designer show homes, including Home-A-Rama, Extreme Home Makeover, the Indianapolis Show Home, and Indianapolis Monthly Dream Home.

Representing Home & Willow, Julie had the opportunity to tour the Sylvan House in March 2024 and see it as it was when the homeowners and their possessions filled the space. And then it truly became a “blank slate.” Everything that wasn’t nailed down (and a few things that were) was removed from the home in preparation for a complete transformation.

Julie was assigned “Back Hall Bedroom II,” formerly utilized as a teenage boy’s room. “I have two teenage boys myself, so that appealed to me.” Informed that the space might also be used for exchange students, Julie wanted to create a fun, funky vibe – and choose the universal language of music to speak to young inhabitants. With a Rock & Roll theme, she was ready to get to work.

Preparing for the Big Reveal

Designers involved with the Decorators’ Show House submit their proposals to the St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild prior to starting work. From there, these professionals have a largely free hand in transforming their given spaces. In a marked divergence from the usual Home & Willow process, which involves building a relationship with clients, Julie and the other designers have never spoken with or met the Sylvan owners. This, she says, was certainly a challenge. But “there was something freeing about doing what I thought the space called for.”

Like typical assignments, there are some innate challenges in designing for the Decorators’ Show House. Nothing may be changed structurally, for example. Back Hall Bedroom II features stucco walls as the home was built nearly a century ago. Julie says, “I did have to come up with creative wall treatment to overcome bumpy walls but also add a cool element.” She also had to think critically when it came to the scale of the furnishings she chose. Trying to lug outsized pieces up a narrow set of stairs, with a twist and a turn, is a rookie move. “I’ve been in the business – you learn very quickly not to make that mistake again!”

Perhaps most challenging was scheduling. “The [Guild] gives you a month to set everything up, so you have to make sure your contractors are available during that time. Preparation is key in getting the right people there at the right time.” Again, with her background and track record in the field, this is a challenge Julie knows how to navigate with agility.

Unlike typical assignments, designers dissemble their spaces at the end of the show “unless the homeowner falls in love with it and decides to purchase the items we’ve placed in the room.” Though Julie might just have her eye on them. “I have a teenage boy, so I might decide I want to purchase the [items]!” In any case, the design will surely strike the right chord with show attendees – and a lucky teen.

It’s (Almost) Show Time

Julie and the other designers will be ready for photographs in March, and the public will have a chance to tour the Sylvan House from Saturday, April 27- Sunday, May 12. This is an opportunity to experience design at its best and help support the mission of St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild. For tickets, visit https://showhouseindy.org/ – and be sure to take that narrow staircase to Back Hall Bedroom II!

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