The folks at Near & Far Aid know how to throw a party. So much so that their celebrations since 2000 have raised more than $13 million for Fairfield County organizations fighting to break the cycle of poverty.

This year's "Celebrating the Art of Living," on Friday, May 2, will continue the tradition with a daylong menu of offerings, including a Fairfield breakfast with international author and interior design doyenne Kathryn M. Ireland and a Designer House Tour in Fairfield, Southport Harbor and Westport.

"Beautiful settings and a beautiful cause, Near & Far Aid's Designer House Tour demonstrates how people create their homes and an environment that underscores their own unique style and reflection," Kelly Scinto, of Fairfield, chairwoman of the 2014 tour, said in a statement. "Not only are we celebrating the `art of living' as spring blooms, we're also assisting (the all-volunteer) Near & Far Aid to continue to help our neighbors in need" through grants to programs for families at risk, the homeless, elderly care and adults in crisis.

In an email from the United Kingdom, Ireland (she was born in England) wrote that she is especially looking forward to her visit.

"Though my design practice is based in Los Angeles, I love traveling the country meeting designers and people I have inspired, and oftentimes find myself inspired by them. There is nothing better. I am always happy to support organizations that give back to the community, as that has always been very important to me in my own life."

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"Celebrating the Art of Living," Near & Far Aid house tour
Friday, May 2
Breakfast with interior and textile designer Kathryn M. Ireland, 9:15-10:45 a.m. at the Patterson Club in Fairfield; tickets, $65.
Designer House Tour featuring five estates 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tour tickets, $60; $75 on tour day. Boxed lunches, $15.
"Toast the Tour" cocktail reception and luxury car show, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Fairfield County Hunt Club, Westport; tickets, $100.

Ireland, who counts among her clients Steve Martin, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Mamet and is the author of four books, recently launched a paint line with C2 Paints. Known for her collection of textiles, Ireland is also among the cast of Bravo TV's reality series, "Million Dollar Decorators." But great design is not just for the very rich, she wrote.

Do-it-yourselfers can develop their sense of style, color and design through visiting "museums, (reading) magazines and traveling locally -- all of which can be done on a small budget. Also being aware of what works and what doesn't can save someone starting out a ton of money. Another way to test things on a budget is to do so by experimenting with color and just believing in what you like. If a color doesn't work, it is cheap to change out.

"Start with the fabrics," she said. "Getting your palette right is essential, and that is where it should start. My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you get the proportions right. How everything in a room relates to each other is key: furniture, fabric, art. No one thing should shout out at you. All the pieces should live together harmoniously."