The Dalton-Bell-Cameron house, built in 1914, was one of the most unique homes in High Point, North Carolina. Built in the Craftsman style, the house was quite different from its more traditional Victorian and Colonial neighbors. But the pioneering structure was stricken by two major fires—one in 1997 and the other in 2012—and by 2017 it was in such a forlorn state that the city ordered it be to be either repaired or demolished.
At that point, the High Point Preservation Society stepped in to save it, just prior to it being sold to Rick Lewis and his wife Margaret Bell Lewis, who had once lived there as a child. Following the purchase, the Society and the Junior League of High Point moved quickly to help with the goal of restoring the home. To assist the new owners with some of the restoration costs, they decided to raise funds by creating a showhouse in the historic home, enlisting a diverse group of 21 extraordinary designers to bring the interiors back to life.
Inside the Showhouse with David Santiago
aspire design and home: How much time did you have to complete this room, start to finish?
David Santiago: Well, I was fortunate enough that I was able to travel back-and-forth. First to-do: walk through and see the space in the roughing and framing stage, take my measurements, and start my rendering process. I started in July and finished during October’s installation dates.
aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a “Eureka!” moment during the process?
David: The biggest challenge was installing the wallpaper on a 45-degree angle and staying true to the concept. We had obstacles during printing and had to get the job done! My “Eureka!” moment was: treat this like any other design project and it calms the waters, so I did.
aspire: What did you and your team accomplish that you thought would not happen in time?
David: We were able to achieve a multicolored concept that revealed the unexpected. There were times that we thought we should play it down. In the end, we went big and had a huge wow factor!
Seeking Inspiration and Finding Cohesiveness
aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
David: I wanted a hospitality feel in a residential space, hence the “Hospidential” concept. The experience of travel with color, graphic design, and movement with curated areas of art and furniture all playing their parts. The energy and vibrations of Old San Juan resonate through the Passport Wallpaper collection – paired with color infused chandeliers and sconces: all products that crossover to both styles of design that are part of my Strictly Santi Collections
aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
David: I did! I took a leap of faith and made a decision to participate and utilize this opportunity with sweat equity and a financial investment: I stayed for the entire run of the showhouse from October to November! I was committed beyond expectations to the work and it paid off.
aspire: Despite the fact that there were so many designers involved, there is an inherent cohesiveness to the home. Did you all converse/collaborate? Or was this a completely individual process?
David: Actually, from my experience, I did not converse with anyone about their concepts. What the showhouse revealed were the “signs of the times” and trends that were happening during the showhouse. There was a quiet, undisclosed commonality that came to fruition when the house all came together. It wasn’t a surprise either; the designers that were part of the house are all top designers from all over the country and experts in the industry. It was most wonderful!
Exploring Creative Spaces
aspire: Is your preference for a showhouse a small space or a large space? Does one or the other provide a better opportunity to stretch your creativity?
David: In this particular case, the hallway/entry was ideal for me – to have fun with the space, takes you on a journey. I truly believe there are no small spaces. The opportunity to showcase your talents is what it’s about: take the wheel and design and make a statement.
aspire: Describe the town of High Point in one sentence.
David: High Point is the most important, welcoming city in the home furnishings industry, and we are all the better with it in our industry. I love High Point, N.C.
”This or That?” with David Santiago
aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
aspire: Saturated color or black and white?
David: Saturated color.
aspire: Brunch or dinner?
aspire: Mid-Century or 18th Century?
David: 18th Century.
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
David: The English Patient.
aspire: Week at the spa or week of Broadway shows?
David: Broadway, but really the opera.
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Photography by Dustin Peck.
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