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Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills gets a makeover that pays homage to its murderous history

No amount of Gustavian furniture, flamboyant wallpaper or Tony Duquette-inspired decor can mask the dark history that permeates Greystone Mansion.

And that's what makes the Maison de Luxe Designer Show House, the latest designer makeover of the Beverly Hills estate, so much fun.

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This year, instead of ignoring the mansion's tragic past, several of the 23 designers use their decorating skills to acknowledge the Feb. 16, 1929, deaths of oil heir and homeowner Ned Doheny and his secretary, Hugh Plunkett. Authorities ruled that a deranged Plunkett shot his employer, then killed himself, but the crime remains a source of speculation.

The massive living room features groupings of furnishings and accessories from Maison Gerard, Dune, Paul McCobb, David Wiseman and Peter Lane, among others. It also includes a painting by Joseph Albers, which is on private loan.
The massive living room features groupings of furnishings and accessories from Maison Gerard, Dune, Paul McCobb, David Wiseman and Peter Lane, among others. It also includes a painting by Joseph Albers, which is on private loan. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

In the dining room, Los Angeles-based designer Jane Hallworth pays homage to the Doheny family by wrapping dining chairs in black mourning bands and blanketing the room with gothic bronze moths.

Down the hall in the first floor salon, designer Chloe Warner acknowledges the room's grim back story — it was the scene of the crime — with sinister wallpaper detailed with black crows, dark curtains and funeral-appropriate terrariums.

But the show house is not just about death and decor.

Layers of color, texture and pattern highlight the Nina Campbell-designed bedroom suite for Mr. Doheny. The chaise longue is by O Henry House.
Layers of color, texture and pattern highlight the Nina Campbell-designed bedroom suite for Mr. Doheny. The chaise longue is by O Henry House. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Look for newly released hand-painted leather tiles by Avo in the modern kitchen, as well as a custom ping-pong table made of Caesarstone in the Patrick Dragonette-designed lounge. In an effort to open up the small social salon, Consort Design has cleverly installed a colorful — and perfectly styled Italian-modern bar in a large window. The estate's massive living room has been a challenge for designers in the past, but Sara Story balances scale nicely by adding a contemplative art installation at the front of the room based on Josef Alber's color theory. And then there's the wallpaper — subtle, outrageous, elegant, outlandish — everywhere. If you're looking for wallpaper ideas to steal, this is a good place to go for inspiration.

Playing off the dark vibe of Hallworth's dining room next door, Cliff Fong created a light-filled breakfast room featuring hand-painted murals by Hattas Public Murals.
Playing off the dark vibe of Hallworth's dining room next door, Cliff Fong created a light-filled breakfast room featuring hand-painted murals by Hattas Public Murals. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Before they tour the 55-room estate, visitors may wonder if Greystone's inherent intrigue is more compelling than the interior design on display. Fortunately, the latest show house resonates because it is blessed with both.

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Maison de Luxe info

Designer Jane Hallworth describes the dining room she decorated as an homage to the Doheny family. "I wanted the room to feel as though the family just left," she says.
Designer Jane Hallworth describes the dining room she decorated as an homage to the Doheny family. "I wanted the room to feel as though the family just left," she says. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Maison de Luxe Designer Show House

Where: Greystone estate, 905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills

When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 11-15 and 18-22

Price: $39 per person; groups of 20 or more, $30 per person. Children under 10 not permitted.

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Contact: (310) 285-6830, www.beverlyhills.org/maisondeluxe

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