• Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

Yes, You Can Make a Beautiful Home on a Budget; This Designer Showhouse Shows You How



You know how designers on HGTV typically work with giant budgets to make over aspirational, multi-million dollar properties? It’s fun to watch, right? 

Featuring work by a crop of Pittsburgh’s talented interior designers, The Friendship Design Showhouse is the opposite of that, but it’s still fun to watch — and way more applicable for real-life living. 

“One of the important things that we really want people to walk away with from this is we want the idea that beautiful homes and beautiful design is something that you can achieve — and here’s how,” says Realtor Emily Askin, who, along with business partner Abby Wilson at the Askin + Wilson Group at Compass RE, came up with the idea for the showhouse. “One of the great things about our various vendor partners is that they’re all local.” 


Taking place Friday, March 1 through Sunday, March 3 (with an opening reception party on Thursday, Feb. 29), the fund-raising event features six interior design teams, four home decor vendors and a host of other partners who reimagined the house at 244 Gross St. in Friendship. 

Among the designers are Cara George, founder and creative director of textile and wallpaper studio Otea; Danny Mankin, a designer, stylist and creative director; landscape designer Pye Brown, founder of Pye Loves Plants; Kacie Cope, owner of Kacie Cope Interiors and The Bold;  florist and decorator Mary McKittrick Campbell; interior designer Amanda Bock, founder of Amanda Bock Design; Jane Meacci, an artist and interior designer, and Henry Dragenflo, a teaching artist and librarian. 

The vendors include Pittsburgh furniture stores Perlora, Bass and Bennett and Loft Home; The Color Palette Paint Store in the East End also provided Benjamin Moore paint for the project. 

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The design teams each spent one week in the house (which is currently empty) bringing their areas to life. Their process and progress also are being documented along the way on social media.

“It’s this beautiful convergence of talent in Pittsburgh,” says Askin, noting most of the designers recently relocated to the area, including designers who moved to Pittsburgh from Austin, Texas; Los Angeles; and South Carolina. 

Askin and Wilson say they came up with the idea for the showhouse after the owners of the Gross Street house asked them to sell it; the owners have since moved around the corner to a home in Highland Park.  

Faced with an empty home, the realtors brainstormed creative ways to showcase the five-bedroom Friendship property’s ample architectural details before landing on the idea of a designer showhouse. They also were determined to fill the Victorian — which they describe as lovely yet modest — with accessible, budget-friendly designs. 

“It’s become this fun angle of getting it ready for market and making it really special and also using it as a place to educate home buyers and people about design,” says Wilson. “Like, here’s how to do this, here’s how to do some pretty basic things and turn it into something really special.” 


While the designers will be putting their stamp on the home’s first and second levels, Dragenflo is transforming the third floor into a family-friendly, interactive space filled with art, photography and legos. Attendees also will be able to buy most of the furniture, art and decorative pieces on display at the showhouse.

“Everybody has pretty much creative license for their rooms, though we did create a very neutral color palette for the walls that has some level of continuity throughout the space,” adds designer Cara George, who is partnering with Danny Mankin to take on the home’s second level.  

Tickets for the event are $15, with all proceeds benefiting the Pittsburgh Zoo’s International Conservation Center in Somerset. For more information, including tickets, visit here.   


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