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Celebrating 20 years of design
September 10, 2008, 12:00 AM By Heather Murtagh

Photo courtesy of Tara Brady This year, 333 Uplands Drive is the choice for the long-standing Dickens House holiday fundraiser to support the students and programs at St. Matthew's Episcopal Day School in San Mateo.

After Sonia Sohn installed the windows, flooring and tiles in her new French-style style home in Hillsborough, it was time to turn it over to the designers.

She did not leave the home in the hands of just anyone. Each year, a house in the Burlingame/ Hillsborough area is chosen to be the Dickens House holiday. This year, 333 Uplands Drive is the choice for the long-standing fundraiser to support the students and programs at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School in San Mateo. Now in its 20th year, the volunteer effort brings together parents, community members, designers and artists to annually transform one house. The product features green materials, neutral colors, an airy feel and lots of outdoor accessories.

Unlike most years, which feature a historic house, designers had the opportunity to work with a brand-new home.

Finding a home to work with requires a fine balance, explained St. Matthew’s parent and designer Emily Taylor. In this year’s case, the house also features the homeowner’s abilities, she added.

"It requires finding the right homeowner at the right time,” explained design tour Chair Dianne Bradley since the process takes many months.

A new house presents a unique opportunity for the designers this year, since the chosen location is normally a bit older.

"It’s a chance to show that a new home can be fine and include workmanship,” said Stephan Blachowski of McGuire Furniture Company, which decorated the outdoor spaces.

The new home featured a modern, clean look while also being warm and inviting. Neutral hues can be found throughout with splashes of color — mainly in the artwork, pillows and drapes.

Much light shines into the open family room and kitchen in which Christine Sheldon, of Christine Sheldon Design, took cues from the blue tiles and chocolate woodwork when designing the room.

"I wanted it to be comfortable,” she said.

Utilizing durable, often kid-friendly fabrics while interjecting large pieces such as a large ottoman coffee table allowed Sheldon to successfully create the vision.

Downstairs offered a wine cellar, media room and almost hidden outdoor space. Patrice Cowan Bevans, of Patrice Cowan Bevans Interiors, worked with the terra cotta wall color and blue ceiling colors the owners liked as inspiration for the downstairs room which featured a cowhide rug with an unexpected sheen that played off the added blue elements.

Outside, Bevans added a unique and cost-savings touch by creating a design to be created on the existing floor rather than tiling. The effect was beautiful and unexpected in the serene setting which featured a small waterfall and greenery for ambiance.

Upstairs the children’s rooms featured fun details like artwork by the children. In the little boy’s room, Melodie Rubin, of House of Ruby Interior Design, used a patriotic color scheme mixed with some retro nods like an old telephone and PEZ dispensers. The bed had a lot of fluffy pillows, which Rubin said was perfect for the little boy to dive onto when entering the room.

One unique space was a nook above the front door. Only truly visible from the upstairs hall balcony, the space was more of a showcase spot than living area, however, Taylor made it homey with an orange leather chair, throw blanket and artwork.

Designers’ work will be on display for the public through the designer tours this month.

This year’s boutique will feature holiday decor, jewelry, gifts and home decor. Those touches will be brought in next month.

The Dickens House is one school activity requiring family participation through St. Matthew’s. Families are required to volunteer shifts at the house. The annual boutique is the number one fundraiser for the school bringing in $200,000 to $300,000 annually. The majority of the money goes toward financial assistance.

The 2008 Dickens House design tour and holiday boutique kicks off this month with tours Sept. 11 through Sept. 15 and Sept. 18 through Sept. 22. Tickets for the tour are $40; $150 for the opening night premiere Wednesday, Sept. 10. The holiday boutique will run from Oct. 18 through Nov. 2. Advanced tickets are $30; $35 at the door. For more information visit or call 342-5436.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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