Enormous space, tons of light and exuberant color are what stand out when touring the Knox Summer Estate at Knox Farm State Park – site of Decorators’ Show House 2013, which opens this spring.
The place is huge – the largest Show House yet at 14,400 square feet – and the windows, with idyllic views, are magnificent. The house has unique details, including doors that double as bookcases and a feast of colors – a garden palette of pinks, blues, yellows, plums and greens that dates back to the 1990s, when the late Seymour H. Knox III and Jean Knox lived in the home.
“It was a very harmonious house; everything just flowed. It was really a wonderful, airy, fabulous house,” recalled Jean Knox, who lived in the house for 10 years and chose the vibrant colors.
“I’ve always loved color. I grew up in Purchase, N.Y., which is down in Westchester County, and my parents had a Georgian house. The (light lavender) color in the living room in East Aurora was the color of my parents’ dining room,” she said.
Back then, Knox chose a light raspberry pink for the foyer, which is still in place: “It just warmed it up – and made it seem not as large.”
She combined plum-colored walls with a light blue ceiling in the dining room: “I love blue ceilings. I think it adds a lot. I also painted all the outside soffits blue,” said Knox. Through the years, she also participated in a half-dozen previous Decorators’ Show Houses, primarily as a faux painter for Gina Campbell of Chez Hazard Interiors.
Now the unoccupied house is about to get a 21st-century update by local design pros, transforming it into the 17th Decorators’ Show House. Before it does, the public can attend a Sneak Peek of the undecorated house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 9 and 10. (See box below for details.)
Decorators’ Show House, which takes place every other spring and is co-sponsored by the Junior League of Buffalo and The Buffalo News, has raised more than $3.4 million for local charitable projects since the first show house – the Larkin House – opened in 1981. All but two have been within Buffalo’s city limits. Decorators’ Show House 2009, E.B. Green’s Wallace Estate, was in Eggertsville. This year, it’s off to the 26-room main house in Knox Farm State Park, just outside the Village of East Aurora.
Show House Chairwoman Kitty Lysiak sees the location as an opportunity for people to plan a day in East Aurora, visiting the house and then touring, dining and shopping in the nearby village.
Some 20,000 visitors are anticipated, including out-of-towners. “We’ve already sold close to 4,000 combination gift tickets,” Lysiak said. These tickets admit visitors to both the Sneak Peek and the decorated Show House, April 27 to May 19. Regular presale tickets will be available after Sneak Peek weekend.
The interior decorators and designers, who submitted proposals in November, dig in beginning March 10. They will be joined by landscapers, painters and craftsmen. The Friends of Knox Farm State Park also enlisted volunteers to make necessary repairs to the house, including wall and ceiling repairs due to ice dam damage.
In fact, the Friends of Knox Farm State Park Inc. is responsible for suggesting the main house as a candidate for the Decorators’ Show House, according to Betsy Wallace, vice president of the board of directors of Friends of Knox Farm State Park.
“They also facilitated the ‘meeting of the minds’ between the state and the Junior League that made this event possible,” Wallace said. (Visit the website www.friendsofknoxpark.org to learn more about the history of the property, renting the main house for events and more.)
By the time Show House opens its doors to the public in April, more than 50 spaces will be redecorated, including closets and hallways.
The decor does not have to flow from room to room, said Janice Worobec, one of three Show House co-chairwomen. “We want many different designs. That’s what people come to see.”
Some background: The house was built in 1916-17 as a summer home for Frank H. Jr. and Dorothy Knox Goodyear, who later sold it to Seymour H. Knox Jr. After his death in 1990, his son Seymour H. Knox III and Jean Knox lived there year-round. New York State acquired the 633-acre park in 2000. The house was designed by Cleveland architects Frank Bell Meade and James Montgomery Hamilton.
Some highlights sneak peekers will see:
• The windows – and lots of them, with views overlooking Knox Farm State Park. John Glenn, former farm manager on the property who has known the Knox family for decades, estimates that there are approximately 2,270 panes of glass throughout.
• The “before” wallpaper. Besides the lively floral in the kitchen – including on the ceiling – designer wallpapers include a Brunschwig & Fils “Bibliotheque” wallcovering that mimics shelves of books in the upstairs library (and is still part of the company’s collection) and a vibrant floral in the master bedroom.
• Other highlights include a sleeping porch off the bedroom; a large kitchen pantry with a Jewett refrigerator and adjoining room with a safe door for storing silver; a billiard room with equestrian/polo-themed photographic murals depicting family members; various ceiling styles including barrel and pitched, and multiple fireplaces.
In anticipation of Decorators’ Show House’s spring opening, landscape chairwoman Bethany Rubin has planted 125 red and white tulip bulbs in the garden outside the breakfast room, which is being decorated by local interior designer Mark Taylor.
DECORATORS’ SHOW HOUSE SNEAK PEEK
What: A look inside the undecorated Show House before the transformation begins.
Where: The Knox Summer Estate at Knox Farm State Park, 437 Buffalo Road, just outside the Village of East Aurora.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 9 and 10.
Admission: Sneak Peek tickets are $5 at the door. A $20 combination gift ticket allows admission to both Sneak Peek and the decorated Show House, which opens to the public April 27 to May 19.
The combination tickets are available online at www.jlbuffalo.org as well as at the Sneak Peek. Regular presale tickets will be available online Feb. 11.
Parking: Free shuttle parking will be provided in nearby lots. Watch for shuttle signs along Buffalo Road near Knox Farm State Park.
Restrictions: No infants or children under age 10. The house is not wheelchair-accessible.
For more information on Decorators’ Show House, including Monday tours and volunteer opportunities, visit www.jlbuffalo.org.