By: Chrysa Smith

I’ll admit it. I’m a Peeping Tom.

No need to worry though. Before you close your blinds and draw the curtains, I’ll say that I’m in good company. Along with the thousands of ladies who love to take a peek inside other people’s homes. And then go home, wanting to rip their homes apart and begin again.

I think on most weekends in May and June, if you’re near a metropolitan area, you can find a designer house somewhere within a 20 mile radius. It’s a great opportunity for designers to bring their often hidden work out of client homes and into open houses for hundreds to see. For us do-it-yourselfers to see how we measure up to the pros and steal ideas for our own homes. And for a nice day out to just see beauty–inside and out.

It’s funny, but my mother-in-law told me that her mother-in-law told her she never wanted to go to open houses. ‘Why frustrate yourself with what you don’t have or can’t afford?’ she would say. Practical advice, I suppose, if not seeing the glass half-empty.  It was probably a depression-era mentality, because let’s face it. Nowadays, who doesn’t want to see what other people have done? How many of us run out and buy something that is either the exact item we saw, or something that will give us the exact look for something we saw? And isn’t it also interesting to just peek inside people’s lives and homes, where years of ups and downs, ins and outs have happened. To me, it’s all very interesting.

Just this week, I volunteered at the Bucks County Designer House right here in the Philadelphia suburbs. And I have to say, it was a beautiful day looking at beautiful things and watching the beautiful smiles of women of all ages, as they admired the homes transformed by a team of local designers. Each year, the committee, which works diligently to find grand, empty homes, embarks on an enormous undertaking. There are designers and landscapers to be chosen, tickets and guide books to print, supporters to be found, events to be scheduled, volunteers to coordinate—and a lot more. These events have make-shift boutiques and cafes on the grounds, all needing tending. And oh, by the way, the stone farmhouse dates from 1775; a year before the Revolution. Just imagine how many lives were formed, changed, grown, cared for in this home? What did it look like back then, and did they have the cocktail nook in the kitchen? The chic chrome kissed dining room? Wonder what the colonials would think of that?

Some might think these events are for shallow, wealthy, pampered women who want to do something with all of their free time. But I see volunteerism and dedication that is all too often, a thing of the past in organizations today. And I see a wonderful cause—raising money for the local hospital which is run by—-hmmm—women. Through the years, they’ve given back to women, by updating and improving the maternity ward with the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised. They’re working for a cause, not to raise money to feather their own nests.

So take advantage of the beauty and the luxury of spending a day being a peeping tom—especially if it spreads beauty on this earth and good will toward women.

The Bucks County Designer House runs through the end of May. I highly recommend seeing it. Tickets can be purchased around town, through the Village Improvement Association, at the hospital or on the grounds.  Location: 131 Pine Mill Circle, Doylestown, PA.