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Middletown Life

Middletown’s Designer Show House returns for a sixth time

Jan 08, 2015 09:32PM ● By Kerigan Butt

This year's Middletown Designer Show House is located at 202 South Broad Street. The Designer Show House is open to the public between April 18 and May 11, with tours taking place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

The Middletown Designer Show House is returning for the sixth time this spring and Beth Delligatti couldn’t be more excited.

“I love Middletown and I love historic houses,” explained Delligatti, a Townsend resident who is the only designer to have participated in all six of Middletown’s designer show house events. “It’s a lot of fun and I love the opportunity to work side by side with so many talented designers.”

The house that is being featured during this year’s event, located at 202 South Broad Street, is just the type of historic home that Delligatti and Tracy Skrobot, the program manager for Middletown Main Street, Inc. like to help preserve. Middletown Mainstreet, Inc. is the organization that organizes design show house and other activities to promote the town.

“It is my mission to save all these big Victorian houses,” Delligatti said with a laugh. “For people like Tracy and me, just show us an old Victorian house. It goes from the architecture to the furniture. They just don’t build houses like they used to. They just need a little love and attention to get them back to what they were like.”

Skrobot is equally excited about the event.

“The Designer Show House brings together leading interior designers, carpenters, builders, landscapers, and other professionals from the region who donate their time and resources to provide a magnificent makeover for a property in Middletown’s historic district,” she explained.

This year, the Designer Show House is open to the public between April 18 and May 11, with tours taking place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The house is currently owned by Hedley and Michele Davis. They are raising their two children in the home, which means four generations of the family have lived in the house. Hedley’s mother, Ellen Combs-Davis, was one of Middletown’s most prominent and colorful characters. She was instrumental in the formation of Associated Community Talents, Inc., which helped save the Everett Theatre when it looked like it was going to be lost to redevelopment. She was also very involved with the St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Middletown and many civic organizations.

According to Skrobot, the opportunity to restore this historic home to its previous glory is made more special knowing that it once belonged to such an important Middletown citizen.

“I think it’s wonderful for Hedley and Michele to allow us to do this,” Skrobot said. “And I think it will mean a lot to transform this house. Ellen was an icon throughout the town. All you heard about was what she did for the community.”

The designers had eight weeks to complete their spaces before the stunning results are unveiled on April 18. Some of the designers and sponsors who are working together to make the event a reality this year Shabby Chic Painting & Décor, Mather & Smith Designs, Barbara Pettinella of Decorating Den, Design Decisions, Creative Ceramics, Staged Impressions, K & J Services, and Bob Wagner’s Flooring America. Some of the designers or sponsors are new this year, including Royal Treatments, Delaware Moving and Storage, Amber Shader Photography, Accent Hardwood, and Dippold Marble & Granite. Sherwin-Williams is the paint sponsor, and the company's products were used throughout the entire house.

“I would like to thank our sponsors who have come back year after year, plus the new sponsors that have joined us in 2014 to help with the beautiful transformation of this year’s Designer Show House,” Skrobot said.

The designers were all very eager to work their creative magic on the historic home.

“This house has a lot of interesting architectural details,” explained Barbara Cooper, whose Middletown-based Staged Impressions does home staging throughout the area. Cooper worked on the upstairs bathroom and other rooms as she was needed. She is even helping organize private tours.

This is the fourth time that Gary Mather of Mather & Smith Designs has participated in the Designer Show House in Middletown.

He recalled seeing the home at 202 South Broad Street for the first time in the fall of 2013.

“It’s a Victorian with a lot of interesting and intricate shingle work,” Mather explained. “It’s definitely one of Middletown’s little treasures.”

As soon as he saw the foyer, he knew that was the space that he wanted to work on.

“I asked Tracy if it was still available,” he explained. “It’s a great space and I knew that I could do something with it. That space is in pretty good shape. It’s very formal and looks like an English Manor House. The foyer is where you get the very first impression of the whole house, so the pressure’s on. I want people to be wowed, in a really good way, from the moment they walk in.”

He spent about 150 hours over six weeks preparing the foyer.

“I do what I call architectural painting,” Mather said. “I spend quite a bit of time on the walls and woodwork.”

Delligatti worked on three different spaces this year, including the kitchen and two tea rooms. The kitchen, in particular was a challenge. She wanted to blend the modern with the historic in the kitchen.

“We’re keeping the old character and charm of the kitchen,” Delligatti explained. “I’m striving for the rustic, farmhouse feel.”

The vintage feel is one reason that Delligatti and Skrobot love the historic homes. Delligatti even opened her own shop, The Paint-It Lady, featuring shabby chic furniture and decor, at her home in Townsend. She also teaches painting classes there, helping others to get the shabby chic look that is so popular right now.

Delligatti serves on the committee that helps select the home that will be featured in the Designer Show House. She said that the Davis’ home was an ideal choice because the family had done extensive work on the outside in recent years, but the inside still needed a transformation befitting its status as one of Middletown’s beautiful historic homes.

“I think of the block that this house is on as the prettiest block on South Broad Street,” Delligatti explained.

The house was built in the late-1800s. The exact date of the house’s construction has been lost to history.

“The records are really hard to read,” Hedley explained.

It ended up in the Davis family’s hands very early on, however.

“My impression,” Hedley said, “is that somebody built the house and then we bought it very early on.”

Hedley’s grandfather, W.S.B. Combs, Sr. was a well-known local dentist who oversaw extensive work on the house.

The home eventually passed to Ellen Combs-Davis. Hedley said that it was a great home to grow up in, and he had many friends in the neighborhood. As Hedley grew up, he became aware that his mother was an instrumental—and colorful—part of the Middletown community.

“Mom was a bit of a character,” Hedley explained. “She was very independent-thinking and very direct. She told it like she saw it. She really loved the town.”

An example of her quirkiness: For reasons that Hedley has never been able to figure out, his mother purchased a 1929 Chevrolet Fire Truck and kept it at the home.

“I learned to drive on that truck,” he said with a laugh.

Later on, his mother was a driving force behind the effort to save the Everett Theatre.

“She ran it under her iron fist for many years,” Hedley explained.

Hedley and Michele moved to California as they started their careers and family, but he always maintained a strong connection to Middletown.

When his mother passed away, the Davis family decided to move back to town.

“When mom passed away, I was faced with, ‘what do I do with the house?’ And ‘what do I do with stuff?’”

He also wanted to make sure that the family didn’t leave the historic house in worse shape than they received it. So they moved back to Middletown in 2006 and began extensive renovations on the outside.

When a neighboring house was featured as a Middletown Designer Show House in 2012, the creative team behind the Middletown Designer Show House got the first look at the house and the idea to renovate the inside of 202 South Broad Street was born.

“It has a beautiful, graceful shape,” Delligatti explained. “It has a unique design and a unique layout. Those are the features that sold me on the house.”

Delligatti said that she and the other designers have the ability to look at a space and see the possibility of what it can be, not what it currently is.

Mather, like Cooper, travels to take part in designer show homes. He is a veteran of ten such events since starting in the business in the mid-1990s. He explained what he likes about designer show homes.

“You get to meet other designers and see what they’ve been up to and what their plans are for their spaces. It’s not too difficult. It can be fun,” he said. “Everybody brings their own ideas. There are a lot of different tastes out there.”

Many of the designers work with other contractors as they prepare their spaces in the designer show house. Dozens of people will have utilized their talents on the home before it is unveiled to the public.

Cooper said that she has seen the Designer Show House grow each year. She even helped out this year by scheduling some of the private group tours.

“It’s a really nice event for groups, especially garden groups and ladies groups,” she said. “I think this is a great creative outlet. It’s a fun way to meet the other designers and, as the tours go through, to see the reactions that people have.  I’m excited to be a part of it again. It’s fun to do this in Middletown. There aren’t a lot of events like this.”

Tickets for the Designer Show House tours on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday are $15 per person and can be purchased at the door on online at

Skrobot said that the popular group tours return from April 23 to May 8. There are lunch tours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. The $30 ticket includes the tour of the house and lunch catered by local restaurants. The tea and dessert tour takes place on the same days from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and tickets are $25 per person. The craft beer and wine tours can be scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. All the group tours are by reservation only and they can be scheduled by calling Barb Cooper at 302-437-5640.

To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email [email protected].

Middletown Designer Show House

April 18 to May 11

Tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person and are available at the door or can be purchased online at Private group tours are offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays between April 23 and May 8. Reservations are required for private group tours and can be made by contacting Barb Cooper at 302-437-5640.

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