Experiencing My First North Fork Designer Show House

Allegra Dioguardi's room in the North Fork Designer Show House, with artworks by Charles Wildbank.
Allegra Dioguardi's room in the North Fork Designer Show House, with artworks by Charles Wildbank. Photo credit: Mary Thames Louis Photography

“It takes a village to raise a child.” Participating in a designer show house is comparable. It took a whole “village” of friends for my room in the North Fork Designer Show House to be accomplished. As the designer, I may have been the mayor of this village but I can’t imagine doing it without the support of so many people.

Every year I contemplate participating in a designer show house, yet summer comes and goes in a flurry and I’ve never done one—until now. This year, I was invited to undertake a room in the North Fork Designer Show House in Cutchogue.

“Sure, why not?” I reasoned. “It’s only one room. How hard can it be?” The timing was good, as I’d just launched my new interior design website The Allegra Collection. I had a concept of what I wanted to do in my room but I wasn’t sure how to get started.

The show house takes place in an historic 12-room mansion (built in 1835) belonging to Cutchogue Presbyterian Church. The interior designed spaces spill over into the landscaped gardens and outdoor areas replete with beautifully designed vignettes that meander onto an adjacent property with a 19th century barn and out buildings, each space imaginatively crafted by a different designer. The designers who participate are assigned a room or area. They’re responsible for everything that goes into their spaces, including paint, wallpaper, built-ins, window treatments, furniture, accessories, artwork and lighting, as well as installation.

Once assigned my room, I moseyed around my own house with an eye for items I could “borrow.” It became obvious to me that I could possibly furnish a small phone booth to my satisfaction with what I own. I needed help!

The before photo. Photo credit: Mary  Thames Louis Photography
The before photo.
Photo credit: Mary Thames Louis Photography

The first person I thought of was the fabulously talented Charles Wildbank, an artist and friend of mine. We had collaborated in the past and his art makes anything I do look better. Charles graciously agreed to loan me art for my room. I would design my room as an artist’s studio/home office and I had just scored some great art.

Next, I needed furniture. I don’t own a furniture showroom like some designers, but fortunately I know someone who does. A few years ago, my company Styled and Sold staged a property for sale using merchandise from Renee’s in Mattituck. Debra Gildersleeve and her manager Dana Demchuck were so helpful. Renee’s has an extensive showroom that’s chock-full of fantastic furniture. Renee’s was already designing a space in the show house, and they were happy to accommodate me as well. I was on a roll!

My entire experience doing the show house has epitomized the spirit of camaraderie and cooperation. One of the other show house designers recommended her painter to me, another one her electrician. Revco, one of the show house sponsors, offered to loan us fixtures from their showroom floors. I called on a friend who owns a drapery workroom and she had drapery hardware overnighted to me; another friend installed my window treatments. Two talented girlfriends critiqued, collaborated and gave advice. My son was there to carry heavy items to my second-floor room. When my space was completed, my dear friend Mary Thames Louis photographed it. The completed rooms look flawless and effortless (a hallmark of good design), yet I know first hand just how much love, sweat and thought went into them.

The show house opens on August 14 with a gala reception featuring food, wine and live music donated by local sponsors. Tickets are available to tour the house through September 6 and all proceeds go to charity. It’s a wonderful event and I am over-the-top proud and happy to be part of it. I’m grateful to the entire show house committee, sponsors and other designers for such a wonderful experience. I don’t regret one minute of time I spent networking or cultivating good friends.

For more information about the North Fork Designer Show House visit northforkdesignershowhouse.com.

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