Two for the Show House

Palm Beach Daily News Friday, January 13, 2012

Christine Davis
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For decorators William R. Eubanks and D. Mitchell Brown, participating in this year’s 36th American Red Cross Designer’s Show House – opening next week in a historic house in the Old Northwood neighborhood in West Palm Beach – has been an especially pleasurable assignment.

It’s not just that they’re supporting a charity they consider important, they explained, but they also have a strong connection with U.S. Ambassador Mary Martin Ourisman, whose appointment includes Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. A longtime Red Cross supporter, Ourisman will serve as chairwoman of the 55th annual International Red Cross Ball on Jan. 28 at The Mar-a-Lago Club.

“That makes this year special for us. She’s our friend, and we’ve done homes for her in Palm Beach, as well as other residences for her,” said Eubanks, whose eponymous showrooms are headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., with locations in New York City and Palm Beach. The latter is a studio and retail shop on Worth Avenue, where Eubanks relocated last season after leasing a smaller space on a nearby street.

Between them, Eubanks and Brown calculated, they have more than 30 years of experience designing show-house rooms for a variety of causes. Their latest assignment is a plum one – the living of the 36th edition of the show house, which will occupy a vintage home named “The Mansion” at 3001 Spruce Ave.

It also marks the decorators’ first appearance in five years at the local fundraiser, although they had been frequent participants in previous years.

“Our last Red Cross show house was at the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden, where we did the dining room,” Eubanks said.

Benefiting the Red Cross’ Palm Beach-Treasure Coast Region, the show house will open Thursday for a four-week run. Eubanks said it is an asset to the community. “So many people view the show house from here and abroad. We want to put our best foot forward, showcase our work and be a friendly neighbor,” he said.

The house was built in 1923 by Orrin Randolph and is today owned by Monique and John Book. It’s the largest original home in its neighborhood, presiding over three city lots and originally developed on land occupied by a pineapple plantation. It’s also a regular fixture on the annual holiday home tour sponsored by the Northwood homeowners’ association.

In addition to Eubanks firm, 17 area design studios are participating in the show house, inside and out. Bill Kopp will again serve as general chairman, with decorator and Shiny Sheet interior-design columnist Carlton Varney, president of Dorothy Draper & Co., as honorary chairman. David C. and Polly Ober are the chairman and chairwoman of the specially ticketed Preview Party on Wednesday; Wally and Betsy Turner are honorary chairman and chairwoman. Stephen Mooney is the design chairman and Frank J. Maguire is the boutique chairman.

Because the architecture of the house is reminiscent of the Georgian style, Eubanks and Brown were a good choice for its living room, Brown explained.

“Classical style is a look we are most known for,” he said. “The living room has lots of classical moldings, and we really paid attention to the classical detailing, but in a more modern way.”

Some observers of Eubanks’ work, in fact, may be surprised at the room’s tailored feel. The designer has long been associated with sumptuous interiors in a traditional vein – rooms with a rich mix of exotic antiques and over-the-top design elements, including elaborate drapery treatments with detailed trimmings.

But what they created for this show house is a living room with a modern sensibility, graced by clean lines, a contemporary sectional sofa and tailored drapery panels at the windows.

Even so, the room reveals elements that have become Eubanks’ hallmarks – luxe finishes, eye-catching artwork and a carefully edited mix of upscale and exotic upscale accessories.

“We paid homage to the room itself, but we wanted a modern twist,” Eubanks explained. “We wanted the room to be quiet and subtle.”