Peace Begins At Home: Design House 2016 And SHE Create Community


The Design House, an event the community has come to love since its inception in 2009, is the signature fundraiser for the Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE). Once a year, a Charlottesville-area homeowner generously extends the use of their home for the Design House event, in which designers come together to customize the house from top to bottom, showcasing ideas and innovations in every room. The idea for the Design House began shortly after SHE, which provides services for survivors of domestic violence, had completed the fundraising, designing and building of their new residential facility in 2008. One of the shelter’s volunteers, who had seen a similar design house fundraising project in California, submitted a proposal to the shelter to do a design house in Charlottesville. Even though the staff and the shelter’s executive board loved the idea of the fundraiser, they were at that time still handling the monumental changes that had been involved in building and moving into the new confidential residential facility. 

DesignHouseSHE2016_4Eighteen months later, in 2009, staff revisited the idea, discussed the possibilities, and with the help of many volunteers and designers lending their knowledge and experience, the tradition of Charlottesville’s Design House began. And each year, the event gets bigger and better. Last year, over 1,300 visitors toured the Design House on Frays Ridge Road in Earlysville; the house showcased the exquisite work of 17 local designers. The event’s Preview Party, featuring a silent auction, was attended by a record number of supporters, and visitors enjoyed the event cafe and shopped in the Design House Boutique.

Design House Represents Shelter and Its Mission

The Shelter for Help in Emergency has provided services and safe shelter to survivors of domestic violence in the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson for over 37 years. For the safety of women that the shelter serves, the location of the residential facility has always been kept confidential. As a result, the community at large is unable to see exactly how the shelter provides a beautiful place of refuge so that its clients can rebuild their lives and self worth. So the Design House serves a unique purpose: “The Design House is a tangible reminder to the community about what the shelter does and how it provides a warm and supportive atmosphere for people who have been victimized,” says SHE’s Executive Director Cartie Lominack. “It represents what every home, in essence, should be—a welcoming, safe and peaceful place.”

DesignHouseSHE2016_01While the grand scale of the Design House may not mirror the comfortable, homey atmosphere of the Shelter for Help in Emergency, the shelter’s impact on its clients is as awe-inspiring. The organization’s mission statement says: “The Shelter for Help in Emergency is committed to providing a safe, supportive, confidential and respectful environment in which survivors of domestic violence are empowered with the knowledge of personal and community resources as well as the skills needed to make informed decisions for themselves and their families.” Each year, SHE responds to nearly 1,000 hotline calls, provides close to 4,000 nights of safe shelter to more than 200 women and children, and assists many other victims of domestic violence through their outreach services. Thousands of members of the community receive information about domestic violence and how to help.

Design House and SHE Foster Community

The shelter provides community for its residents in a couple of ways. The most basic and obvious way is through the staff who work and volunteer at the shelter’s residential facility. When clients arrive, they are provided with information, support and counseling. Immediately, they learn that they are valuable and that things will get better. The residents also become part of a community of survivors, women who have escaped from abusive homes where they have been isolated and scared, silenced and disempowered. In the company of others, seeing they are no longer alone, their shame begins to fade and they can start to recover their strength.


In much the same way, the Design House creates several communities. First, the event creates a community of designers who volunteer to participate at their own expense. Many designers apply to participate, and a design committee that includes members of SHE’s volunteers, staff and a designer, select the designers and assign them rooms. Coming together to create the look and feel of the myriad designs in the house leads to the emergence of new ideas that inform each of their businesses and aesthetics. Visitors, too, become part of this local Charlottesville design community. Lominack says, “It’s like HGTV in your own back yard. Each room is full of ideas and inspirations. It’s an opportunity to see what others are doing in a space like yours, or to learn how different colors and patterns work together. Visitors become familiar with local designers, and fabulous working relationships develop.”

DesignHouseSHE2016_1Design House Benefits Shelter in Many Ways

According to Lominack, the Design House benefits the Shelter in two main ways. The Design House raises awareness for the Shelter as part of what Lominack calls “friend-raising.” The exposure created by the event enables the community to engage with the Shelter. Knowing that the Shelter exists in turn creates awareness of the issue of domestic violence, which is challenging to address because of its secrecy and severity. Lominack points out that domestic violence is an issue that is “not out in the open.” It is not only difficult to see, as it is something that happens behind closed doors in a house, but it is also tough to address, because often it is either hidden or misunderstood. 

The second way the Design House benefits the Shelter is through financial support. The event provides about $75,000 annually to support the mission and the programs of the Shelter. As Lominack says, the funds “ensure that there will be someone on the other end of the phone to walk through the process when someone calls the hotline, that the doors of the shelter can be opened in the middle of the night to someone who has had to escape, and that someone will be able to help the children involved understand that what is happening is not their fault and that they can be safe and secure while with us.”

DesignHouseSHE2016_7The Design House is not only a fun and creative way for the public to engage with the Charlottesville design community, but it also creates a strong presence for SHE. “Every year,” Lominack says, “at least one person passes through the house who thanks us for having an impact on their life, either just by being here or actually having helped someone they love.” 

This year’s Design House is located at Keswick Estate, with parking at the nearby Church of the Nazarene, 3056 Louisa Road, Keswick. The Design House will be open every day from May 7 to May 22 with extended hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays. For information about how to purchase tickets and more, see

Photos are from previous Design House tours.


Moyanne Harding, Interiors by Moyanne
First Floor Master Bedroom

Nicole Fagerli, ASID & Kori Messinger, ASID, Stedman House

Andrea Gibson, ASID, Gibson Design Group
Living Room

Heidi Brooks & Penny Crandall, Heidi Brooks Interior Design & Steele, Sterling & Crandall Interiors LLC

Victoria Pouncey & Beth Ann Kallen, Folly
Breakfast Room & Kitchen

Sheilah Michaels, Sheilah Michaels Design Studio
Dining Room

Michelle Willis Adams LLC
Second Floor Master Bedroom

Jennifer Greenhalgh, Jackson + Park Design
Second Floor Child’s Bedroom

Tatiana Yavorska-Antrobius, Fine Art & Design
Second Floor Guest Bedroom

Leslie Gregg, The Market at Grelen
Screened Porch & Patio

Peggy Woodall, The Closet Factory

Cheryl Jarvis Southworth, Designs by Cheryl
Lower Level Vestibule

Nina Crawford, MSS Designs
Powder Room & Laundry Room

Connie Norwood, Ethan Allen
Lower Level Office

Heather P. Williams
Front Landscape

Dan Gregg, Grelen Nurseries
Rear Landscape