A house with concrete walls can be a cold place. And so it was with the 96-year-old Mosser mansion in Upper Macungie Township. Empty and up for sale, it seemed forlorn, almost forbidding a month ago.

But not anymore.

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    • When: Today-May 21: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays

    • Where: Mosser mansion, 1170 Mosser Road, Breinigsville

    • Tickets: $15 in advance; $18 at the door; $12 each for members of groups of 10 or more. Mother's Day brunch and fashion show, $45. Advance tickets are available at all Wegmans stores and various other locations.

    • Info: Call 610-432-4222, ext. 15 or visit www.sotashowhouse.org
    • Background: Society of the Arts produces this biennial interior design event to benefit the Allentown Art Museum's education endowment fund.

    Twenty-four decorators agreed to take on a major facelift for the traditional Georgian mansion, built in 1910. The family's involvement with Lehigh Portland Cement Co., coupled with the fact that concrete doesn't burn as wood does, made cement the building material the natural choice for construction.
    However, concrete is less forgiving than other building materials and is a challenge to a designer who is trying to cut down on the echo in a room and create an inviting space. The techniques the SOTA designers used can be applied to any home to make it warmer and more cozy:
    • Color: "Warm" colors such as yellows, browns, golds, deep creams and reds were used in almost every room. When blue, traditionally a "cool" color, is used it's a smoky, pale turquoise.
    • Fabric: In windows, around doors, on beds and on furniture as throws or pillows makes any room warmer and more inviting.
    • Texture: Rugs, whether deep plush or sisal, cut down on noise and help take the chill off a room.
    • Accessories: They'll fill up a room's empty spaces to make it look fuller and friendlier. If well-placed, they don't create clutter.
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Using every trick in the book, the 24 interior design wizards assembled by the Society of the Arts (SOTA) for its biennial Designers Showhouse have worked powerful magic. They have pulled a sumptuously delightful, warm and inviting contemporary house out of a relic.

There's a lot to admire and learn here. A step into the foyer begins the tour.

Ethan Allen designer Hulya Akman took the once-cavernous entryway and made it a place to linger and relax.

She adopted a divide-and-conquer approach, splitting the foyer into two manageable spaces: A small welcoming area with a round table and chairs by the entry doors and a larger but infinitely cozy sitting area with a gorgeous view by the floor-to-ceiling window-doors.

Primarily, Akman explains, the intimacy is created by the color palette of cream and vaporous blue she chose and by lots and lots of fabric.

A look up reveals a swag with contrasting pelmets that adorns the crown molding over the doors. Then the eye naturally falls to catch the shirred-on-the-rod panels that frame them. She essentially swaddled the wall of glass and white wood in soft comfort.

She also softened the dark hardwood floor with two thick carpets -- a smaller Oriental near the entrance and a white area rug piped in complementary blue beneath the love seats and ottoman.

The space will invite tour guests to linger for a restoring cup of tea or hear the history of the house before continuing on the decorating tour, which the Society of the Arts produces to benefit the education endowment fund of the Allentown Art Museum.

What's often referred to as the Mosser mansion, the traditional Georgian structure was built by George Keck Mosser, grandson of James K. Mosser who, with the colorful Gen. Harry Trexler, founded the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. Hence, the cement as building material of choice. It is built on the site of George's grandfather's tannery business, now across from the Lehigh Valley Velodrome.

The nine-bedroom, 8,000-square-foot house is for sale and was most recently inhabited by John H. and Judith M. Body, now of South Whitehall Township.

All the designers who responded to SOTA's call for talent were given a space to transform this year, says Stuart Dubbs, director of publicity. Co-chairs Deb McGinley and Dot Ervin felt confident the colors would coordinate from room to room because creamy yellows and muted, light turquoise blue are so popular this year, Dubbs says.

Your Morning Call preview of the tour this week will take you through several of the master rooms in the house, including kitchen and bedrooms. Next week, we'll visit the occasional rooms, including the dens and the dreamy spa.

From the foyer, the tour route leads through a den into the kitchen. Lia P. Fraccaro, a designer and owner of House Splendid in Emmaus, says her biggest challenge here was working around the existing cabinetry. One floor-to-ceiling cupboard in the kitchen mirrors another in the adjoining pantry.

But the cabinets that frame the kitchen sink, dishwasher and stove were vintage 1950s maple and didn't coordinate very well, a common problem in many kitchens.

"I scrubbed them and then began sketching some ideas and it all came together," Fraccaro says.

She ultimately conferred upon the kitchen a country garden feeling, starting with the creamy yellow walls and blue ceiling. Crimson appliances contribute to a cozy feeling that's reinforced by coordinating fabric on the kitchen and pantry windows and on the lining of the skirt around the metal sink in the pantry.

A wine tasting "cave" is tucked behind the kitchen on the left and the planning room tucked just beyond the kitchen sink.