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Scenes of a project unfolding

My name is Joanne McPhail and I am a lawyer here in Barrie, but in my "other life" I am chair of the Board of United Way of Greater Simcoe County.  It's our 50th anniversary this year and we were looking for an original way to celebrate.  We wanted to do something that was a bit out of the ordinary and so I came up with idea of a "design showhome".  These events are actually very popular in the United States, and there are web sites devoted to tracking them, with events taking place across the country almost all spring and then again in the fall.  There have been a few in Canada.  Halifax has had one for years, and every five years, the Junior League hosts one in Toronto.  But to my knowledge, we have never had anything like this locally.

J.T. McVeigh Photo
Joanne McPhail chair of the United Way of Greater Simcoe County, left and Marlene Mitchelmore, professor of Interior Design at Georgian College stand in one of the many rooms at the former home of Arch and Helen Brown that will be transformed by area designers duirng the kick off of the Estate on the Bay Design Professionals Home tour to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Way in Simcoe County.

So, what is a design showhome?  Well, usually someone donates the use of their home for a complete design transformation by area design professionals.  The homeowner moves out during the process, which takes several months to complete, and then they move back in after the re-design is complete, and the public has had an opportunity to view the finished product.

When I tossed the idea out to my colleagues at the United Way, everyone was very excited.  Of course, then we realized we had to find a house.
It just so happened that Arch and Helen Brown had a wonderful estate on Kempenfelt Bay up for sale.  They were not residing in it anymore, and it seemed to us to be the perfect spot!  The only problem was, we didn't know Arch and Helen!  So, we called upon our friend, Earl Paquette, to make the introductions, and before we knew it, we were meeting with this very gracious and lovely couple, at their new home, pitching the idea. True to form, if you know the Browns, they immediately agreed to get involved and we soon had ourselves a "rental agreement" where the Browns agreed to rent their home on Barrie Terrace to United Way for the whopping sum of $1.

We next assembled a team of very dedicated and professional volunteers, to get this thing off the ground.  We assembled a steering committee to get things up and running, and then subsequently have formed a design subcommittee to handle the design aspects of the event, a gala sub-committee, to plan the "sneak preview" gala that will take place in the home, a sponsorship committee for fundraising and publicity, and a volunteer sub-committee to handle the co-ordination of the multitude of volunteers who will be required for the public tours of the home.  What an amazing group of people!

We were also fortunate to have a few key players come to the table to really help this project take off.  Mary Dobson, from CityLine, a "friend of a friend", agreed to have lunch with me and signed on immediately, which was an incredible boost to our profile.  Marlene Mitchelmore, a professor of design from Georgian College, graciously agreed to put together the overall design plan, and work with the Browns during the approval process for the transformation.  Sue Kay, from Sue Kay & Company, has agreed to supply all of the paint for the project, through Benjamin Moore, and is co-ordinating the volunteer painters for the project!  The level of interest and support has been overwhelming.  And I can tell you that this is going to be one amazing event!

In the upcoming months, I have been asked to keep readers up-to-date with how the project is progressing, so I will be back to you in a few weeks with the inside scoop on what's happening at the "Estate on the Bay" Design Showhome.  Stay tuned, it's just starting to get really interesting!

For details on the project go to: estateonthebay.com

Check out the video In the beginning...