Decorating, Designing And Dealing For A Cause

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One week before the Decorators-Designers-Dealers annual sale opening date, Ann Grimm is a hard woman to track down.

“She can’t be far,” mused Tom Naro, business manager for the Southampton Fresh Air Home—a camp for physically challenged children that doubles as the fundraising gala’s location—while briskly walking between cabins.

“Ann?” he called into three separate bunks before a figure in a robin’s egg blue sweater caught the corner of his eye, hurrying across the courtyard. “Ah, there she is. The one bunk I didn’t look in.”

Ms. Grimm, the gala’s design and decoration chairman, disappeared into Dorm B with her arms full of linens. She still had a lot of arranging to do before the big day, and she has always managed to get it done.

“It’s incredible. What takes nine months, with all my committees and volunteers, to set up, it takes you two days to get rid of,” she said of the rapid pace with which items are purchased at the annual fundraiser.

Now in its 21st year, the yearly home furnishings and antiques sales event—which also features live, silent and wine auctions—will run the gamut on Saturday, June 1, from small ticket items, such as glassware and knickknacks, to luxe high-end furniture and collectibles. The thousands upon thousands of items are arranged by theme into eight areas—four dormitories, the schoolhouse, infirmary, main building and outdoor decks—that approximately 500 guests will peruse throughout the evening. The following day, the prices of the items that remain from the night before are slashed in half for the event’s tag sale.

“It’s really down and dirty,” Ms. Grimm said.

All proceeds of the fundraiser benefit the camp, Mr. Naro said, and accounts for roughly 40 percent of an annual operating budget that pays for 150 kids to attend every summer. In keeping with the notion of charity, any furniture and home goods not sold during the fundraiser are donated.

“It’s rewarding to see children with serious physical challenges—ranging from cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida and other neurological disorders—have a great time and enjoy the unique and enriching camp experience the Home provides,” event chairman Raya Keis Knight wrote in an email last week. “I’m inspired by the campers who face their personal challenges every day with good humor and gratitude. It puts all our petty concerns in perspective. It’s a joy to hear the happy sounds coming from the camp and to realize that, in some small way, we made it possible.”

The process for the big sale begins in September, following a two-month respite for the fundraiser staff while camp is in session. Typically, gently-used furniture piles in courtesy of local homeowners who are redecorating or relocating, Ms. Grimm explained, and it is divided into sections based on her mental sketches of each room. The formal planning begins months later and, this year, the manual labor started on May 5.

“It’s a matter of not knowing what you’re going to get,” she said, “and then putting everything together into showhouse settings.”

“Last year, we had that one Chinese room, all came from different people,” Design & Decoration co-chairman Tish Bliss added. “Just fluky. This year, we have a run on four-poster beds. I’ve never seen so many four-poster beds. It’s crazy.”

Each room—and there are at least three per dormitory—has a different theme, from Country Pine and Traditional to Potpourri and Modern. Every year, there is a room devoted to white furniture, Ms. Grimm said. And she makes it a point to keep the message of the camp alive wherever possible, she added.

In the Modern room, the words “Failure is not an option,” are painted across the wall.

“I make sure we don’t have that covered,” Ms. Grimm said.

The one room where she relinquishes creative control is the schoolhouse room, which she hands over to interior design team James Alan Smith and Gary Crain each year. The team gets first pick among the donations that come in. This year, a few of the stand-out pieces they selected are a full set of Villeroy & Boch chinaware and an antique Chinese screen.

“They like to overdo, so it really looks crammed and wonderful,” Ms. Grimm said, walking through the schoolhouse. “It’s just a special place where things look great. They have such good taste and they know what they want. And they know what they’re going to do with it.”

Just seconds after exiting the schoolhouse, a volunteer called, “Ann?”

Ms. Grimm smiled and playfully shook her head. “Coming!” she responded.

And then she was off.

The 21th annual Decorators-Designers-Dealers Sale, Auction and Benefit Gala will be held on Saturday, June 1, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Southampton Fresh Air Home. Preview ticket holders can enter the event early at 5 p.m.; preview tickets are $300. General admission ticket holders will be admitted at 6 p.m.; general admission tickets are $200. The sale will continue on Sunday, June 2, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; admission is free on Sunday. All proceeds will benefit the Southampton Fresh Air Home, a camp for physically challenged children. For more information, call 283-5847 or visit sfah.org.

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