Open house: The whys and wherefores of this year’s SHE Design House

This year's SHE Design House is on Garth Road in Farmington. Photo: Robert Radifera This year’s SHE Design House is on Garth Road in Farmington. Photo: Robert Radifera

The Design House, a fundraising event for the Shelter for Help in Emergency, celebrates it’s fifth anniversary this year. Accordingly, the organization has added a few new components to this year’s function. Here’s a primer on what you can expect when you take a tour. —Stephanie DeVaux


Homeowners Chris and Christine Pittinger “took a leap,” as they describe it, and offered up their five-bedroom Farmington home for this year’s Design House. After seeing the 2013 Design House, they were amazed at everything that went into the event. So before the Pittingers completed their relocation to Charlottesville, they seized the opportunity to extend their new home. “I saw the Design House last year and it was beautiful. It got me thinking, they can use our house to get things rolling, and it will be good for everyone,” Christine said. The couple authorized a full kitchen renovation as part of the process.

The husband-wife pair shares a general excitement about the event, and has been enjoying the (sometimes stressful) process of getting ready for Design House. As an architect, Christine especially has enjoyed meeting some of the designers taking on rooms. And both have high expectations for the event, not only as a means to showcase local talent and raise money for SHE, but also as a way to raise awareness. “We are hoping for the best Design House ever, and for a great turnout for the benefit of the shelter,” Chris said.


The basic premise of the Design House brings designers—both interior and exterior—in to a local home to transform every room into a designer showcase. This year’s will feature 25 designers. Some are returning from past years, but there are also a couple of new faces, like Diane Wilson, Revibe, and The Market at Grelen.

One new design team, Brooks, Johnston & Sole Design, will tackle the Pittingers’ full kitchen renovation. Working with Christine Pittinger, who did the original drawings for the kitchen, they are revamping the kitchen just in time for the event, a new element from past years. 

This year’s Design House will also introduce a Design and Gift Boutique, giving visitors the chance to purchase some of the items on display. While you can always pick up designer-specific items that will benefit individual designers, you’ll also be able to browse through donated items and pieces from local artists and retailers whose proceeds will help to benefit the shelter. Organizer Ann Horner sees the new boutique as a great opportunity to expand the impact of Design House. “It’s a great way for us to say thank you, and for the house visitors to purchase the perfect decorating accessory for the home,” she said.

The event will continue to offer different seminars, incorporating a greater range of programs this year than ever. Visitors will have a chance to attend seminars like “Let’s Talk Chalk,” which explores ways to update furniture using chalk paint, and “Creative Photography in Interior Design,” which teaches the use of photography as a design resource. A “Meet the Designer Night” on May 8 will give visitors the chance to chat with featured designers about the inspirations for their respective rooms.


This year’s Design House is located in Farmington, at 555 Old Garth Rd. Directions can be found at


The Design House will be open for $20 tours from May 3 through May 18. You can also snag a ticket to the Gala Preview Party on May 1. For $45, tour the house, speak with the designers, and enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres.


The Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE), which has provided a safe haven for victims of domestic violence since 1979, dreamt up Design House as a way to fund the services it provides women and children in need: a 24-hour crisis hotline, supportive counseling, case management services, and more. The first Design House in 2009 was born from the need to offer victims of domestic violence an inspiring, welcoming environment that they can call home. As local homeowners open their own homes for the Design House event, they come together with the rest of the Charlottesville community to further SHE’s mission of bringing domestic violence to an end. For more information, visit