The first time that Southport Congregational Church introduced the "Rooms with a View" designer showcase 18 years ago, visitors might have guessed that a church service was in progress.

"It was like a library. It was silent," said Barbara Johnson, one of three founders of the popular event that has attracted award-winning and celebrity interior designers. Over the years, the event has become a lively, three-day affair featuring the talent of professional designers, a gala party, champagne dinner, marketplace with almost 40 vendors, a cafe, luncheon, fashion show and book-signings by the designers.

Johnson and Bridget Schulten, another founder, said they are pleased with the way the event has evolved.

The 19th annual Rooms with a View, which opened Friday and continues Saturday and Sunday, welcomes Thom Filicia as its honorary chairman. Filicia is founder and chief creative officer of New York City-based design firm, Thom Filicia, Inc., who gained fame as part of the Emmy Award-winning hit television show, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

Filicia will be the guest of honor Saturday at a champagne tour and dinner at 6 p.m. He will also sign copies of his book, "American Beauty" from 3-5 p.m. Saturday. Filicia's career includes work at the design firm Parish-Hadley Associates, giving him an indirect connection to Rooms with a View long before he joined the ranks this year. One of its partners, the renowned designer Albert Hadley, was a member of the Southport Congregational Church and the long-time honorary chairman of Rooms with a View. Hadley, known as the dean of American design, died in 2012.

He was remembered this year by one of the designers who were invited to transform 12 spaces into vignettes around a particular theme, Americanism: Timely and Timeless Design. Using Scrabble tiles Carey Karlan of Last Detail Interior Design in Stamford spelled out A Hadley on the letter cradle in her vignette titled Game On, a room that represents "good, old-fashioned American games. There's no electronics here."

Karlan modernized Windsor chairs by painting them white, decorated the walls with jigsaw puzzle piece wallpaper framed into works of art, and punctuated the design with board games and larger-than-life chess pieces.

"I love the rooms. We always have the most wonderful designers. I love everything about it," said Mary Martha Sherts of Fairfield, a parishioner who attends every design showcase.

Victoria Vought of Victoria Vought Designs in New York City focused the room that she designed on the relationship between dogs and their human companions. "There's nothing more American than the amount of money we spend on our pets. It's a billion dollar (a year) business," said Vought, who decorated her space with a comfortable chair, dog pillow, apothecary jars filled with dog treats and a champagne bucket of tennis balls. The focal point of the room is a vintage coffee grinder converted into a dry dog food dispenser.

"I like to find old pieces that have a history," she said.

Lynelle Fulda of Fairfield called Vought's vignette "playful." Wendy Ferdinand of Weston said it is "whimsical," adding her sentiment about Rooms with a View as a whole. "I love the originality of the designers and what they can do with such small spaces."

The modern coastal vignette created by Carolyn Kron and Tricia Izzo of Shelter Interiors in Westport and Milford featured an Ernest Hemingway-inspired study with the striking primary color Really Teal on the walls and an accent color of indigo. "We wanted to have some fun with color. Sometimes it's hard to get people to embrace bold color and we wanted to showcase that," Kron said.

The marketplace features artfully created pieces to decorate one's home or self, including the paintings of Westport artist Jarvis Wilcox, decoupage plates and framed wall hangings of Mickey Saverine of Norwalk, gift baskets by Mersene Norbom of Indulge by Mersene in Westport, women's clothing by Carmen de la Brena of Giuliana of Fairfield, and jewelry of Reuben Simantov and Vanessa Bruder of R. Simantov Fine Jewelry of Greenwich.

"It's about lifestyle, this entire event, and jewelry is part of lifestyle," said jewelry designer "Everybody likes beautiful things; wear them, be around them," Bruder said.

Karlan summed up the event by saying, "I feel like I'm in an Agatha Christie novel; a church fete with the nice church ladies serving you tea, and the shopping booths. It has a charming, old-fashioned, intimate feel, a little more relaxed."

For more information about Rooms with a View, call 203-255-4538 or visit the website at www.southportuss.org