Renowned architect George D. Mason designed this house, which is the setting for the Junior League of Detroit’s 25th and final Designers’ Show House.

Renowned architect George D. Mason designed this house, which is the setting for the Junior League of Detroit’s 25th and final Designers’ Show House.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Junior League of Detroit prepares for final Designers’ Show House

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 24, 2024

 An intricately carved wooden staircase and beautiful windows are hallmarks of this 1929 Grosse Pointe City home.

An intricately carved wooden staircase and beautiful windows are hallmarks of this 1929 Grosse Pointe City home.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE CITY — After nearly 50 years, the Junior League of Detroit will host its 25th and final Designers’ Show House this spring.

The biennial tradition, which started in 1976 as a fundraiser for the JLD, will take place May 4 to 19 at 315 Lakeland Ave. in Grosse Pointe City. The almost 8,500-square-foot Tudor home, which brims with fine detail from carved wooden bannisters to stained and leaded glass windows to a wood-paneled library, was built in 1929 for Dr. J. Milton Robb and designed by acclaimed architect George D. Mason. Mason’s other buildings include landmarks such as the Gem Theatre, Detroit Yacht Club, Masonic Temple, Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church and Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory.

“This house has great details,” said JLD Designers’ Show House co-Chair Ann Baxter, pointing out Scottish thistle imagery in the plaster and Tudor roses carved into a limestone fireplace.

Over the next couple of months, interior designers will transform the home into a stunning and stylish abode.

The show house has long been the JLD’s biggest fundraiser and has raised more than $4.5 million for programs and projects in Detroit. The JLD, which was founded in 1914, also awards community grants and, since 2014, scholarships to young women.

“Our mission is to advance women’s leadership for meaningful community impact through volunteer action, collaboration and training,” JLD President Mary Hollens said.

While the show house is beloved among attendees and JLD volunteers alike, Hollens said sustainability was the reason they decided to conclude the event this year. It takes at least 100 volunteers to put on a show house and volunteers spend “thousands of hours” in the weeks leading up to the show house alone, Hollens said. The whole process takes about a year.

“A lot of women don’t have the time to devote to a project that takes weeks,” said Hollens. “We think that we can find additional revenue, additional projects, additional opportunities to train leaders … that don’t involve a show house.”

Hollens said they’re looking at other types of fundraisers in the future, as well as ways to keep their members and donors engaged.

“This is very labor-intensive,” JLD Designers’ Show House co-Chair Julia Keim said. “It turns into a full-time job. … There’s not a lot of people who have the time to do this anymore.”

JLD members are sad to see the end of this era but understand the reasons behind it.

“It’s disappointing,” Keim acknowledged. “We’ve invested so much blood, sweat and tears into this, but times change.”

Keim and Baxter are both past show house co-chairs and longtime show house volunteers. For this last show house, the JLD reached out to members who have worked on this project in the past, as well as past designers.

“We have the dream team,” JLD spokesperson Caroline Marks said of this year’s show house leaders and volunteers. “It’s like getting the band back together.”

To mark this bittersweet milestone, the program book that show house ticketholders receive will include information and photos from the past homes as well as this year’s house.

“It’s going to be a real commemorative piece,” Keim said of the program. “It’s going to be spectacular.”

Some of the early show houses in the 1970s were homes on Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores that were slated for demolition. Keim said the first six or seven show houses sold as a direct result of the designer makeover they received.

Baxter said it’s been harder in recent years to secure a home because homes are selling so quickly now, and while show houses do get improvements, the JLD doesn’t have the money to take on homes that need extensive repairs.

“In the 1970s, a lot of houses were empty,” Baxter said of the real estate landscape in the Grosse Pointes during that time.

Baxter said Grosse Pointe City, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Park and Grosse Pointe Shores have each had roughly five show houses. In 2018, the JLD selected its first Detroit home, the historic Charles T. Fisher mansion in Detroit’s Boston-Edison District, which had recently been purchased by actor and philanthropist Hill Harper. In 2020, the JLD selected the Bingley Fales house, the largest home in Detroit’s Indian Village neighborhood. The JLD returned to the Pointes in 2022, selecting the House on the Hill on Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Farms, so named because of its elevation.

Excitement is building not only among JLD membership, but also the community at large, for this last house.

Despite bitterly cold weather, Sneak-a-Peek weekend Jan. 13 to 14 — when the public was able to see the home before the designers come in and work their magic — was a hit. Hollens said more than 500 people visited the home during those two days.

Tickets are already selling briskly for the show house dates. As of press time, Hollens said one JLD member had already sold 200 tickets.

“We’re very confident this is going to be a very successful show house,” Baxter said.

Hollens wasn’t sure if the JLD would be able to add hours or dates to the show house run if the event sells out early, but suggested it might be a possibility if demand is there and they can meet that demand.

“We’ll pivot when we have to pivot,” Hollens said.

The end of the show house tradition doesn’t mean the end of the JLD.

“It may be the last (show house), but it’s not the last you’ll hear of the Junior League of Detroit and great projects and community impact,” Hollens said.

Show house tickets cost $35 before May 4 and $40 afterward. For tickets or more information, visit or call (313) 881-0040.