You wouldn't think that a group of interior designers and fine artists would get starry-eyed over a 1950s-style ranch house with three bedrooms and three baths. But then, this is no ordinary ranch house. For starters, the sprawling residence has 6,500 square feet of space. It sits on three landscaped acres, complete with a carp-populated pond and a swimming pool. Inside, the furnished rooms burst with color and original art pieces. The dining room boasts a custom-made stainless steel and marble dining table with a sunken well in the middle for flower arrangements.
For the next three weeks, this Belleair home, decorated by a team of designers and filled with art on loan from the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, will be open to the public. The Tampa Bay Interior Design Association chose the house as the site of its spring showhouse, a charity event for which designers donate their time. The house is at 101 Bayview Drive. It opened to the public Saturday and will continue daily, except Mondays, until June 23.
At least half the proceeds will benefit the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, a 42-year-old non-profit art school and exhibit space that offers rotating shows, workshops and classes in various art media. It formerly was the Clearwater Art Museum and is the oldest art center in the bay area. The center is across the street from the showhouse, on land donated by a Clearwater artist and philanthropist.
"We try and do at least one, possibly two, showhouses each year," said Richard Carle, design association president. "Usually we try to find a charitable organization to work with us."
He said the art center was an easy choice this year. "We felt it was a natural combination, with the house's close proximity to the art center. They were very anxious to work with us."
The association's last showhouse, a Christmas event in Snell Isle, raised money for scholarships for interior design students at several local technical schools.
While some showhouses are six months or longer in the making, this one came together quickly, Carle said. "It was a very, very tight schedule. We started looking for a house at the end of March, and when we found this one in late April, the owners wanted us to do the showhouse quickly because they hope to have a buyer soon." (The property is for sale, with an asking price of $1.3-million.)
The house was built in 1954 by Clearwater philanthropists Donald and Joy Roebling. The grandson of the builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, Roebling is best-known as the inventor of the "Alligator" amphibian tractor used in World War II campaigns. He and his wife first built a five-story Tudor mansion in the Harbor Oaks section of Clearwater, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
When the time came to scale down for retirement, the Roeblings commissioned a Chicago architectural firm to design the ranch house. Two years after they moved in, Donald Roebling died. His widow lived there until her death in 1977. It has had three owners since; the house was entirely renovated in 1980.
"It's the "Rambling Roebling,' that's what we call it," said Greg Lewis, a designer for Burdines Interiors. Lewis and 17 other designers, all members of the association, divided the rooms among themselves and worked for a month to turn the empty house into a showpiece. Lewis was in charge of coordinating the designers' efforts so that the house would have a unified look.
"The style is California contemporary, so I told them no cutesy, no ruffles," Lewis said. Highlights are the Oriental-themed dining room (Lewis' creation) with its black fabric tent around the skylight, the Southwestern style living room, the foyer with its deep purple walls, the white on white master suite and the jungle-hued media room.
"I think we achieved a really nice color flow from room to room," Lewis said. "We have lots of greens, violets, reds and a lot of black-and-white."
Highlighting the decor are 26 pieces of art _ paintings, sculpture and ceramics _ by instructors at the art center. The works are not for sale, but the furnishings are; an inventory page in each room lists prices.
Participating designers are Rani Davidson of Rani Davidson Interiors, Mary Page Deulin and Jeannie Nash of Design Gallery, Jenny Lindenberg and Brenda Dazio of Flowers for Keeps, Judy Miller of Limited Edition Interiors, Richard Carle and Steve Anderson of Chateau Designs, Michelle Miller of Michelle Miller Design Studio, Jana Roberts of Roberts Interior Design, Dawn Pasqualone of Dawn Pasqualone Interiors, Gayl S. Scruton of Gayl S. Scruton Interiors, Nancy deLaval of deLaval Interiors, Cindi Williams and Marly Kuss of Robb & Stucky, and Rosie Hodson and Susan Serota of Serota and Hodson Design Associates.
The showhouse is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the door or at Design Gallery, 625 S Missouri Ave., Clearwater. Parking is available at the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, 222 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
For information, call 441-3943 or 584-8634.