Does your house have what it takes to be a showcase home?

  • Article by: KIM PALMER
  • Updated: November 5, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Designers are looking for next spring’s showcase home. Do you – and your house – have what it takes?

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Last year’s Showcase home was a 10,000-square-foot Victorian in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood.

Photo: JOEL KOYAMA •jkoyama@startribune.com,

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The clock is ticking. With only about six months until showtime, local designers are still seeking the right candidate for their annual showcase home fundraiser.

Every year, the local chapter of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) chooses one home and unleashes a team of professionals, most of whom volunteer their time to transform every room. The event has been a rite of spring since 1997, with one exception. That was 2011, when there was no showcase because designers were unable to find a suitable home in time to pull off a major makeover. Now they’re getting down to the wire again.

“We’re looking for interested parties,” said Keri Olson, co-chairwoman of this year’s event. There have been “a couple inquiries,” she noted, but so far, nothing that’s been a perfect fit.

So what would that perfect candidate look like?

Size matters. Most showcase homes are big — 6,000 square feet and up — with enough space to accommodate two or three dozen designers. Last year’s showcase, a 10,000-square-foot Victorian in St. Paul, was typical of the grand old mansions that many people associate with showcase homes. But there have been exceptions. The 2009 house, a 1950s rambler in Edina, was a “mere” 4,800 square feet, but its midcentury style helped attract a new generation of visitors. “We got a very different demographic — a lot of young people,” Olson said.

‘Wow’ factor. A showcase home must offer something that incites the public to shell out $20 to come have a look. “The home must have some architectural significance, something that draws people in,” Olson said. “Typically, it’s an older home with some history.” But a distinctive contemporary home could also be a candidate. If the house isn’t a magnet on its own architectural or historical merits, a well-known owner, past or present, also can help drum up interest. “We’re looking for a great story, a little pedigree, even if it was a long time ago,” Olson said.

Location, location, location. It helps if the home is centrally located, accessible to a large swath of the Twin Cities, with easy access and plenty of street parking. Most showcase homes are in Minneapolis or St. Paul or a first-ring suburb, although a few have been located on Lake Minnetonka, with shuttle access provided as part of the tour.

Money for a makeover. Owners of the home should be prepared to invest some of their own funds to make their house showcase-ready. Yes, they’ll receive free, professional design consultation, but they’ll also pay for their own remodeling, which usually includes a pricey kitchen update. “Almost every year, the kitchen has been involved, and the homeowner has to pay for the makeover,” Olson said. Owners will have access to the best discounts designers can obtain — “discounts we can get at no other time,” Olson said — but they won’t get a free kitchen.

Time and availability. Owners of a showcase home should enjoy design and have an interest in collaborating with designers on the process, Olson said. “They have to be available when we’re doing the planning, from December through mid-January. It’s really intensive for a couple of weeks.” After that, the homeowners must be prepared to vacate their home during the renovation process and throughout the public tour, for a total of several months.

Yes, it’s a hassle. But it’s also an opportunity for someone who wants to undertake a major home improvement project and would appreciate access to expert help and a wide array of resources, plus an expedited project schedule. “The owners get great products at fabulous prices,” Olson said.

Still interested? Call the ASID office at 612-339-6003. (To see slide shows and videos of recent showcase homes, visit http://bit.ly/1aDbWvl .)

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784

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  • The 2012 Showcase house was this 19th-century home on Minneapolis’ Lake of the Isles.

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