NO matter how elegant in concept and statement, decorator show houses are rich lodes of interior-design ideas for anyone who visits them. Since good decorating always involves problem-solving with inventiveness and imagination, the show houses can be viewed at many levels, including sheer theater or as treasure-troves of helpful ideas.
And wherever show houses are set up, they usually serve as fund-raisers to benefit various good causes. Most of them are annual events that require months of volunteer time and effort to put together and sponsor.
The Kips Bay Boys' Club Decorator Show House, on view at 4 East 62nd Street in Manhattan through May 19, is a case in point. This year the show house chairman, Mrs. Allan MacDougall, hopes to net, through $10 admission tickets, $500,000 to benefit the boys' club. The club, which is located in the Bronx, provides programs for more than 3,000 disadvantaged boys and girls, ages 6 through 18.
The success of the Kips Bay show houses over the past 13 years can be measured by the fact that the first such Women's Committee project netted $45,000 to help these young people.
Each year this show house is a bellwether of current decorating trends, particularly as they apply to big-city life styles. This spring the emphasis is on floral chintz, antiques of many periods, black lacquer furniture with gold gilt trim, and huge pots and vases. Old lace, the golden glint of yellow metals, overscaled seating pieces, the usual superabundance of objects and art, and new hand-done painted effects on both walls and furniture are also in evidence. Stenciled borders have high visibility here, too.
The 19 designers represented show city living at its most sumptuous. A formal blue and white dining room by Richard L. Ridge features a table set with china, silver, and crystal. Richard Lowell Neas presents a sophisticated bedroom in muted colors, which in its mixture of French and English antiques and eloquent fabrics achieves a costly, luxurious look. Mr. Neas fashioned a room with an established d'ecor, giving an atmosphere of inherited heirlooms and family continuity.
Reuben de Saavedra heralds the decorating influence of India, in a year that will generally feature India in museum shows, films, festivals, dance, and arts and crafts exhibits. With the ``Year of India'' upon us, Mr. de Saavedra chose for the bedroom he designed a highly decorative, painted, early 19th-century Indian bed, Indian artifacts and paintings, and a 19th-century Indian patterned fabric from Brunschwig & Fils.
He complemented the Indian furnishings with an unexpected mix of Biedermeier pieces, European antiques of the same period. ``The trend toward India,'' he says, ``gives opportunity to introduce a touch of fantasy, of Mogul opulence, of the colorful and exotic.'' Other designers, too, displayed reminders of India, including tall, slender brass candlesticks, craft objects, and single pieces of carved or inlaid furniture.
According to Noel Jeffrey, who designed a stunning living and dining room, ``The trend is toward softer interiors that have tremendous reference to the past. I used, for instance, antique lace to cover and skirt a round table behind a sofa because of its softening effect. I put movable curved walls in the dining room to make it less square and boxy looking, and then gave them trompe l'oeil painted effects to soften them further. I find that people are appreciating more and more the custom finish and the woodworking details . . . done with the skilled hand. I see this new softening and attention to detail as a reaction to plastic, high-tech, and the machine made.''
Other designers also made effective use of antique lace and hand-crocheted bedspreads. Hand towels trimmed in old lace appear in several bathrooms.
``Decorating a room in a show house is wonderful, because you have great freedom and no client except the fantasy one that you imagine,'' says New York designer John Robert Moore II. ``You can establish whatever mood you desire.''
Mr. Moore believes things luxurious are having a great revival. Because the architectural background of the room he decorated is quite strong and its 1879 decorated plaster ceiling is original, he envisioned a color scheme of creams and whites, with a beige and white rug designed by Givenchy and woven in Paris of linen, cotton, and silk. He chose a sofa that is a copy of one designed years ago by Syrie Maugham, an influential English decorator in the late 1920s and '30s. He had the sofa covered with yellow and white damask.
He used only blue and white porcelain room accessories, and at the tall windows he hung curtains of cream taffeta lined with chartreuse silk taffeta and trimmed with gilded tassels. Many other rooms in the show house reflect a new interest in festooning with fringes, cords, and tassels and a more luxurious use of fabrics, wallpapers, paintings, and prints.
The emerging importance of reds and blues is seen here, notably in the red velvet walls chosen by Juan Pablo Molyneux, and in the range of blues and blue-greens featured in a very contemporary room by John Hughes for Walker Associates.
The Kips Bay show house this year is held at Curzon House, a group of several original Beaux Arts town houses redesigned into 13 luxury apartments. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Thursday to 7:30 p.m.