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Avenue attraction A renovated mansion on Delaware opens its doors as the 2007 Decorators' Show House

In the days leading up to the opening of Decorators' Show House, it is difficult to spot a designer, installer and most anyone else standing on two feet. People are crawling around on floors. Climbing up step stools. Stationing themselves belly-up or sometimes shimmying along sideways getting the work done.

Now the painting, drilling, nailing, stapling, refinishing, grouting, hanging, scrubbing and polishing have come to an end.

Decorators' Show House 2007 -- the Silverthorne Mansion along Millionaires' Row on Delaware Avenue -- opens to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday for its 23-day run.

This historic mansion at 877 Delaware Ave. is the 14th Decorators' Show House co-sponsored by the Junior League of Buffalo and The Buffalo News. The event has raised more than $2.6 million for local charitable projects since the first show house opened in 1981.

Early spring has been busy for decorators, designers, artists, landscapers, craftsmen and others. The transformation now complete, it's time for the mansion to open its doors to the public.

And with three floors and 8,600 square feet to check out, there is plenty to see.

A few highlights:

* The dining room by Ethan Allen features not one but two dining tables -- both of them round. A color scheme of lavender and pewter -- with peacock green and blue accents -- enhances the wood paneling and lead glass windows.

Doubling as an art gallery, the dining room also features a large display of oil paintings and other artwork. Don't forget to look up and notice the sheer fabric on the ceiling.

* The first-floor kitchen -- always a crowd favorite -- this year features reddish-brown walnut cabinetry.

"We wanted to keep the look of the wood from the dining room," said designer Eric Naish of Ridgewood Custom Cabinetry, who collaborated with decorator Michael Poczkalski.

Found here, too, are concrete countertops, a glass tile backsplash and a slate floor.

The room actually has two parts partially divided by a wall with cabinets. The main section is for cooking, food prep and dining casually at the multifunctional kitchen island. The other part -- called the "scullery" -- fulfills its old-fashioned role as kitchen cleanup area but also works as a welcoming spot for serving food and drinks during parties.

To complement the cabinetry, the walls are painted Morgan Hill Gold, by Benjamin Moore. The caramel color -- as well as other warm shades of copper, red and orange, are found in the glass tile backsplash and light fixtures.

* Just as the dining room celebrates art, the living room embraces architecture. Decorators Poczkalski and David Brugh, who own "room" -- a home store on Elmwood Avenue -- say the idea was inspired by the living room itself -- beginning with the wainscoting.

"When David and I walked into the room for the first time, I was blown away by the details -- by how well they used to build these houses," said Poczkalski, who has a master's degree in architecture.

"So we decided to celebrate it rather than hide it and asked ourselves what we could do with furniture to complement the room," he said.

The answer: Stylish, unobtrusive furniture from the Mitchell Gold Bob Williams line, as well as architecture-influenced elements throughout. The decorators added a fireplace screen crafted from planks of wood inspired by, as Poczkalski described it, "the bones of a building before the skin is put on."

A similar framework-type structure is used at the windows.

And the color scheme -- soft blues and browns -- plus the ultra-soft nylon furry area rug -- reflect the tranquility people today crave.

"The world is so chaotic right now. You want your rooms to be peaceful. We tried to capture the essence of the '30s and '40s but in a different way -- almost Hollywood glamour but scaled down," Poczkalski said.

There is plenty to see on the other floors as well.

For one thing, this could be the Year of the Glamorous Bed.

In the guest suite, for example, decorator Mark Taylor and his team went for a "corona" -- a crownlike structure on the ceiling with yards and yards of fabrics cascading down to form a headboard.

"Open up any magazine -- from Traditional Home to Elle Decor -- and you'll see that everyone is doing some version of these full-blown headboards. It's a little softer looking than a four-poster bed," Taylor said.

The five-star bed treatment looks particularly at home in a mansion originally built with lux in mind.

A bit of history: The mansion was built by the architectural firm of Esenwein and Johnson with eight bedrooms and eight baths for Asa Silverthorne, an Iowa-born lumber company owner.

Construction began in 1906. Silverthorne died in 1921 at age 53 -- after making and losing two fortunes. The Wickwire family -- pioneers in steel and wire cloth -- owned it after that.

In later years the home fell into disrepair and became a rooming house before being converted into offices and apartments. The house now is privately owned and being restored to a residential property.

Last October, mansion co-owner Rock Doyle told The Buffalo News that the renovation is part of "the city's revitalization movement."

It's off to a good start.

A few other things visitors will see:

* The must-see master bedroom, decorated by Debbie Hill, features a wallcovering with larger-than-life pineapples. Similarly, don't miss the enormous tassels on the window treatment and chair in the third-floor gathering room by Pamela Witte, from Quaker Country Home.

* The laundry room has custom cabinets and a dark blue washer and dryer placed in front of a red brick wall. The room, decorated by Julie Dana of the Home Stylist, also features a dictionary definition of the word "laundry" on one wall.

* Local history and a passion for trains come together in Central Express, a train-theme bedroom designed by Jayne Barone and Jeffrey Cerra, of the Cobblestone Design Group.

Besides a newly created "double-step" ceiling and a real working train, other highlights include a painting by Barone of the Central Terminal; Buffalo Bills memorabilia; built-in benches; old posters from the Central Terminal; study nooks; a mannequin dressed in a late 1920s conductor's uniform, and much more.

* The richly hued Gentleman's Game Room -- designed by Maryan Celani of Smith & Schulte Furniture along with contractor Dominic Cortese -- is inspired by old-world European clubs.

Furnished with a leather sofa, game table, granite-top bar console and more, the room promises that poker night will never end.



>Show House details

Here's what you need to know about Decorators' Show House 2007:

Place: The Silverthorne Mansion, 877 Delaware Ave., between Bryant and Barker streets.

Dates: Saturday through May 20.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Mondays are for previously arranged private tours and reserved-time tickets only.

Admission: $15 at the door.

Restrictions: Last admittance is 30 minutes before closing. No infants or children under age 10. No cameras or video equipment. The house is not wheelchair-accessible.

Parking: Parking is available on nearby Bryant Street, Barker Street and Linwood Avenue. No parking on Delaware Avenue. A parking lot is located next to the mansion; fee is $5. Additional lots in the area may also open on a day-to-day basis depending on availability; signs will be posted.

Tip: Come the first week to avoid long lines and crowds.

What else to do? Catch a bite at the Show House Cafe located at the back of the Show House (soups, sandwiches, pastries, coffee, etc.) Shop for unique gift items at the Avenue Boutique. Check out the grounds and landscaping.

For more information: Call the information line Junior League headquarters at 884-8865. Or visit the Web site at

-- Susan Martin


>Trends at a glance

* Dark woods

* Glass and mirror

* Browns and blues

* Full-blown headboards

* Fabrics on walls and ceilings

* Large-scale artwork

* Concrete countertops and sink

* Eye-catching area rugs

-- Susan Martin

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