Story By Donna Cornelius • Photos By Lee Walls Jr.
For more than 40 years, the Decorators’ ShowHouse has been a spring highlight in Birmingham.
Those who rarely miss the Alabama Symphony Orchestra’s event are accustomed to seeing a showstopper of a house with creatively designed rooms and expansive grounds. This year’s ShowHouse, the Johnston-Clark Estate, is no exception.
Participating designers found no shortage of inspiration in the plantation-style house on East Briarcliff Road, said Nan Teninbaum, publicity chairwoman for the Symphony Volunteer Council’s annual fundraiser.
“I think the decorators think the house is grand,” Teninbaum said. “There’s so much openness and spaciousness. In the living room, you’ve got a wall of windows looking out on the gardens. When you go upstairs, there’s another grand view. This is a very family-oriented house. It’s livable.”
The festivities started March 16 with an Empty House Party, but the 2017 Decorators’ ShowHouse officially throws its doors open April 29. An opening day celebration with an ASO French horn fanfare and a ribbon-cutting ceremony begins at 10 a.m. The house will be open through May 14.
ShowHouse hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
The Johnston-Clark Estate is the second owned by Laura Clark to host a ShowHouse. The first was Villa Wofford Clark, a house on Salisbury Road that Clark bought from Dr. and Mrs. James Andrews.
Clark purchased this year’s ShowHouse for her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Furnie Johnston. The Johnstons moved to Birmingham from Dothan, where Johnston was that city’s first orthopedic surgeon. They’ve since moved to a retirement community on Lake Heather.
This year’s ShowHouse chairwomen are Char Bonsack, who’s also the Symphony Volunteer Council president, and Molly Bee Bloetscher.
“I love the house’s windows and the lighting – there’s so much natural light,” Bloetscher said.
The 10,000-square-foot house, which was built in 1996, has had lots of work. Teninbaum said each bathroom has been gutted, and other rooms have been updated and renovated. Issis & Sons refinished original hardwood floors throughout the house.
French doors open across the front of the house onto the gracious porch. Dormer windows, twin chimneys and two staircases lend Southern charm to the exterior.
A winding driveway leads up to the house through a sprawling front yard. The backyard is centered by a large patio. On one side of the patio is a hot tub; on the other side is a swimming pool, which has had extensive work.
Laura Clark and her two daughters, Madison and Abigail, will move into the house once the ShowHouse ends.
This year’s designers and their spaces include Blackjack Gardens, front porch; Summer Classics, pool, terrace and fountain; Urban Home Market, foyer and gallery; Interiors by Kathy Harris, dining room; Issis & Sons, library and two upstairs bedrooms with a Jack-and-Jill bathroom; Umphrey Interiors, living room and bar; At Home Furnishings, kitchen and breakfast room; Atmosphere Home Essentials, powder room; Habitation, master bedroom and bathroom; Four Corners Gallery, upper gallery; Chickadee, upstairs bedroom and bathroom; Scandinavian Design, martini lounge; and Lynne Coker Interiors: upstairs bedroom and bathroom.
A few years ago, the ShowHouse added an extra attraction: decorator seminars. Those sessions continue this year. Speakers and their topics are: Bill Aroosian of Habitation, “How to Design Your Bedroom Like a First-Class Hotel Room,” on May 3, and “Designing Your Outdoor Room,” on May 10; James Pace of Rainbow Paint and Decorating, “Window Treatments,” on May 4; Perry Umphrey of Umphrey Interiors, “But It Matches the Sofa,” on May 5; and Lynne Coker of Lynne Coker Interiors, “Design: Step One, Finding Your Inspiration,” on May 12.
All seminars start at 1:30 p.m.
Other special events are planned for this year, too. There’s a fashion show from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 10. The show coordinator is Darlene Higginbotham from Chico’s.
ShowHouse-goers are invited to wear hats for Derby Day on May 6, with prizes awarded. On Mother’s Day, May 14, moms, grandmothers and mothers-to-be will get flowers, and the Alabama Youth Symphony will provide music.
The all-new Margaret Alford Tea Room is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunches are $15. Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more; call 991-2712.
Another ShowHouse staple, the Symphony Shop, will sell handmade items from Birmingham-area artisans as well as antiques and gifts. The Decorator Sales office will be open daily in the house’s garage area. Price lists for items featured in the ShowHouse are available from room hostesses.
ShowHouse tickets are $15 until April 28. Visit the council’s website at svcalabama.com to buy tickets online and for a list of places where you can buy them throughout the Birmingham area.
After April 28, tickets are $20 and are available at the house. Tickets for groups of 20 or more are $15.
As always, there’s no parking at the ShowHouse. Parking is at Mountain Brook Presbyterian Church, 3405 Brookwood Road. Shuttles run continuously during regular ShowHouse hours. The last shuttle leaves for the ShowHouse one hour before closing time.
No children under age 8 are allowed, and those who attend shouldn’t bring umbrellas, cameras, large purses, large tote bags or backpacks.
The Decorators’ ShowHouse benefits the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and is sponsored by the Symphony Volunteer Council.
For more information, visit svcalabama.com or call 914-9084. You also can follow the ShowHouse on Facebook and Instagram.