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"It actually has marble chips in it," explains Jeff Fitzharris of the the Venitian plaster walls he finished on the third floor of the circa-1805 main house of Maison Du Pré... which has just undergone a magnificent redesign as the 2009 Charleston Symphony Orchestra League Designer Showhouse.

I ran into Jeff and his wife, Bobbi Jean, on the house’s elegant stairway after the much-anticipated ribbon-cutting ceremony ushered in partygoers for their first glimpse at the creative work of some of the city’s top interior designers (not to mention skilled artisans such as Jeff).

The event couldn’t have come at a better time for the city’s embattled symphony that is feeling a serious cash crunch due to the recession. Just before cutting the ribbon with Maestro David Stahl, who is celebrating his 25th season leading the CSO, the mayor delivered a fervent, much-welcomed address pledging his continued support for the symphony and vowing to make sure it not only survives but that it will emerge from the economic crisis stronger than ever.

Backing up a bit, though, I ran into Caroline DeVlaming-Farrier of DeVlaming Design and her hubby, Billy, at the check-in table. How appropriate is this: Caroline, who is a newlywed, just happened to draw the honeymoon suite as her makeover room. While still in line, I also ran into Laura Anne and Bill Moore. Laura Anne was excited to see the work of her colleagues from Herlong & Associates in the 1803 Maison Stoney, one of the five historic structures comprising Maison Du Pré, which serves as an elegant inn.

The symphony brass quintet, perched on a second-story piazza, set a festive tone as guests sought refreshments at several bars and buffets scattered throughout the property’s meandering courtyards. Judging from the line, the crab-cake station beside the 1835 Maison Whiting stole the culinary show, although the chocolate fondue fountain was receiving a fair share of attention as well.

Hovering around the crab-cake line, CSO concert master Yuriy Bekker and I compared notes on last week’s recital in which he and three other symphony members, debuting as the newly formed Tempranillo Ensemble, performed local composer Edward Hart’s new string quartet, Amori Vini, a musical musing on three different wine varieties. (Look for a reprise performance complete with a wine tasting at this year’s Piccolo Spoleto.)

On the Maison Whiting piazza, I ran into Morris Muzekari Interior Design’s Lauren Muzekari, who along with her business partner Reagan Morris decorated the breezy outdoor space. Think interior design is all glamour? Well, I saw Lauren again two nights later at the HCF’s Young Collectors Soirée, and she filled me in on how she’d been battling spring pollen on the piazza on a daily basis.

The CSOL showhouse runs through April 18, so you still have plenty of time to buy tickets to check out the work of some true Charleston design talent while giving much needed support to our symphony. As the mayor stated in his opening remarks, “No great city is complete without a symphony orchestra.” Visit http://www.csolinc.org/ to buy tix.

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