GREENSBORO – It’s difficult to believe that it’s the same room. But its ornate plaster ceiling and arched bookcase give it away.
Picture it back in 2016, when piles of boxes, baskets, books and other items accumulated by its former owner filled this living room in the historic Julian Price house.
Now the piles are long gone, thanks to new owners Michael and Eric Fuko-Rizzo.
Fresh paint, a minor ceiling repair and Audrey Margarite of Bunny Williams Home, the prestigious New York interior design firm, have converted the living room into a comfortably attractive gathering spot.
The Fuko-Rizzos purchased the 89-year-old mansion in September 2016 after the bank foreclosed on its former owner, Sandra Cowart. The A&E television reality series “Hoarders,” filmed an episode as its crews cleaned up the property.
Last week, the brick and half-timbered mansion at 301 Fisher Park Circle opened as a showhouse, transformed by more than 25 interior designers from New York to Texas, Florida and the Carolinas. Local artists created artwork for its walls.
“These designers have done an incredible job,” Michael Fuko-Rizzo said.
This marks the second time that Leigh Jones has displayed her talents there.
Back in 1979, Jones was fresh out of college when the mansion hosted another designer showhouse. Jones helped another designer with a first-floor breakfast room.
Now Jones owns The Very Thing Ltd. in Burlington. She decorated the home’s master bedroom for the current showhouse, using antique textiles, which are her specialty.
“We tried to respect the house as a 1920s house but introduce some things with some new elements,” Jones said, reflecting an approach that many designers took.
The showhouse will be open for public tours through April 29. Ticket proceeds will benefit Preservation Greensboro, the nonprofit organization that preserves historic sites and neighborhoods.
Let’s take a look at the before-and-after of a few of the home’s 31 rooms.
The Fuko-Rizzos discovered that the home’s first-floor billiard room actually held its original kitchen.
The prior owner likely had used the nearby butler’s pantry as the kitchen. But the new owners decided to return it to its original location.
Crews gutted the billiard room’s interior to prepare.
Carol Van Zile of High Point’s Marsh Kitchen & Bath and Maria Adams Designs of Greensboro mixed modern conveniences with the past.
Marsh sponsored the kitchen project. Van Zile worked with the homeowners to create the cabinet plan. Quartz countertops came from Silestone by Consentino.
The homeowners chose high-end appliances from Fulgor Milano, including two refrigerators.
Currey & Company provided light fixtures.
Instead of a billiard table, the room now displays an island, with a removable butcher block table that homeowners found in the breakfast room.
Adams chose an off-white linen color for the walls to complement cabinets.
For the ceiling, she chose a grasscloth wallpaper with a pattern reminiscent of the Art Deco period and, by coincidence, the living room ceiling.
“It’s an opportunity to do something with the ‘fifth wall,’ ” Adams said.
Reminders of history remain.
The kitchen retains its original pine floors, now sanded and refinished.
The original call panel, which showed which rooms were calling for service, remains on a wall but no longer works. So does a small trap door covering what was once an incinerator shoot.
“The premise was to create a kitchen that’s timeless and reminiscent of the architecture of the home, and also to incorporate some original elements,” Adams said.
The servants’ quarters
A space above the garage once held the servants’ quarters: three small bedrooms, two cedar-lined closets and a bathroom with a cast-iron tub, sink and toilet.
Eight students from UNC-Greensboro’s Department of Interior Architecture transformed it into an in-law suite for visiting relatives.
They joined the effort through the department’s Center for Community-Engaged Design, which partners students and faculty with nonprofit community projects.
Homeowners wanted walls removed to open up the space. Contractors took them out, and students created their floor plan.
Contractors refinished floors, patched drywall, painted, installed wall covering and laid new bathroom tiles.
High Point manufacturer Surya provided rugs, pillows, throws, lamps and art. The dry bar countertop and laminate on step risers came from Wilsonart.
Red Egg of High Point provided furniture. Currey & Company donated light fixtures.
“It came out better than we even expected when we started installing it,” student Bailey Chu said.
Working with eight students proved an initial challenge.
“In the end, we found our groove and it became kind of easy, actually,” Chu said. “A lot of us became really close friends. We have discovered we really like working together and we like being a team.”
Since they weren’t a design firm, students didn’t have contacts with larger companies, so they learned to “wheel and deal” to get companies to donate or lend pieces, student Tyson Howlett said.
Most accessories will be returned when the showhouse ends.
Khoi Vo, who heads UNCG’s Interior Architecture department, praised the students.
“Students learn about the real profession of design,” Vo said.
“Things don’t go as they had planned,” he said. “We came up with this immaculate schedule that got thrown out the window, probably on Day 1 or Day 2. They learned how to recover from things like that and learned how to think on their feet and make quick decisions. That was a big challenge for them, and I think they did a great job with it.”