Sho' Nuff

As a teenager I spent endless hours lying on my bed staring at the ceiling. I don't remember what was on my mind but I do remember what was on the ceiling.

My bedroom had rather low ceilings and dormers. White wood beams outlined the flat portion of the ceiling, which like the walls, was painted a nice soft yellow. On the beams someone had painted royal blue daisies with yellow centers on wavy green lines occasionally punctuated by short strokes meant to be leaves. I followed those badly-painted flowers on their vines around the four sides of that ceiling for hours. Like a penitent with his rosary beads I followed the flowers until I became lost in a trance, certainly meditating on something profound, as most of my teen meditation was spent on profound, albeit trite topics.

How much I have changed since then; today I try not to contemplate anything tritely profound, I don't have time to stare at the ceiling and it would only take me two hours to find out who painted those awful flowers, drive to the paint store, buy paint and paint the hell over them.

I eventually learned that a decorator painted the flowers for a Decorators' Showcase that was held at our house a few years before my parents bought it. Having seen the 2002 version of the Decorators' Showcase today I suspect it has changed a lot since then as well.

I have attended the Decorators' Showcase, which benefits the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass, for the last six or seven versions and it seems to improve in quality with each house. This year's Showcase is the best yet.

There is something for every taste in this house; from the black back hall with its mirrored consoles and brilliant sconces and chinoiserie chest of drawers to the pinks and greens of the Lilly Pulitzer bathroom, many styles are represented. And there is plenty of decorative painting, all of it infinitely better than that which grace my ceiling.

Upon entering one notices that the rooms to the left-the dining room, and right-the living room, have been decorated in classic Lexington style. Ed Gage, whose work has appeared in all 17 Showcase houses, designed the elegant dining room in pinks and gold.

Joe Richards, Gage's fellow patriarch of Bluegrass decorating, with the help of Matthew Carter and Carolyn Threlkeld, designed the living room with an impeccable eye for detail. Upon first glance the room looks to be a fairly classic, straightforward living room, however, this room requires attention to realize how wonderful it is. Details such as the stunning window treatments (pale striped silk curtains on a painstakingly painted rod framing bamboo shades) make it a room in which one wishes to stay and stare. This is what Richardson and crew do best.

Upstairs, in the master bedroom, one sees what Jimmy Brashear of Medusa and Richard Kimbrel and Thomas Birkman of Interior Artistry do best. Using elements from every era of the 20th century they have taken a huge white room, and with a few well-placed pieces of furniture, the perfect colors, and a huge Abusson rug, designed a room that looks like a museum and feels like a take-off-your-shoes-and-read-the-paper fantasy. This room was created for a young shoe designer in Paris with furniture her grandmother allowed her to take from the attic of her chateaux and leftovers from her mother's love affair with Lucite and abstraction in the 60s (anyway, that's how it looked to me). It is such a departure from anything seen in past Showcases, yet succeeds wildly.

Providence Place, which everyone agrees had fallen into a rather sad state of repair, gave the decorators a powerful jumping off place with its beautiful bones, lovely fixtures, and thoughtful layout.

In 1931 Senator Thomas Combs built the house on the foundation of an antebellum home that had burned to the ground the year before. According to Showcase co-chair Alice Dehner, the builder who built Spindletop built Providence Place.

J. Lindsay Nunn purchased the house from the Combs' and lived in it from 1936 until 1985. The property changed hands a few more times after that and is now owned by Dennis Anderson who says he would very much like to lease or sell the 8000 square foot house. Anderson said he and his partners, "think it would make a first-class restaurant with an art gallery or antique store."

When that happens a lot will have changed at Providence Place too.

Decorator Showcase now through May 12, 2002. 2150 Newtown Pike. Closed Mondays and Derby Day. 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays 12:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission $10 per person; Lunch $10 per person; reservations requested 269-0250. Other information 223-9117 For more information regarding the sale or lease of Providence Place contact Dennis Anderson 263-5086

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.