Design : TURNING INWARD . . . A SPECIAL REPORT ON THE PEOPLE AND IDEAS THAT ARE SHAPING OUR HOMES, OFFICES AND STYLES OF LIVING : Rooms That Are Full of Ideas : When Designers Design Their Own Special Spaces

An interior designer's office is used for many purposes--showroom, presentations, conferences, storage, as well as business.

How then does a designer plan and furnish an office to meet these functions? Does the office become a design statement at the same time? Six Southern California designers--Penny Paul, Hank Morgan, Carole Eichen, Joseph Terrell, and Eileen and Norman Kreiss--were asked how they use their offices and how these spaces reflect their design philosophies. When they are their own commercial client, what special needs must be met? And what trends do they see on the horizon?

The L-shaped design office of Penny Paul, ASID, is small by comparison to some, but the advantage is that it has been in the Pacific Design Center for nine years. Just outside her office door is the vast design complex with virtually all the furniture, fabric and accessory showrooms she ever needs to shop.

"It is convenient to say the least," says Paul.

Her office walls are a warm, pink floral print. Her honey-colored desk is a graceful French style with cabriole legs and behind it is a dark wood hutch. "I don't spend that many hours at my desk. So much of my time is spent shopping with clients, working with contractors and architects."

Paul describes her interior design philosophy as "detailed down to the soaps in the soap dishes. I love color and pattern and don't like plain, painted walls. Even if I were working on a contemporary job, I'd tend to use a textured paper for the walls. I think things just look more finished with pattern on the walls. I do love wall upholstery as well."

Paul sees the au courant Southwestern look this way: "Southwestern style with its light finishes and casual appeal make lots of sense in Southern California. I think Southwest will go on a lot longer. I feel the colors are a large part of its appeal. It's a style that can be interpreted so many ways, and you don't have to have adobe walls and log beams to make a Southwestern theme. There's more to it than that.

"In Southern California we'll always appreciate the richness of beautiful woods and antiques. And cotton chintz fabrics will always be good here--they make traditional styles work."

Hank Morgan describes his 1,200-square-foot Los Angeles office as "a working office--not a showroom, museum or showplace. It is not representative of my design work--this office is often like a warehouse. We might make presentations here from time to time, but generally I don't spend much time here, sometimes no more than two hours a day. I have others who do spend time in the office, but I don't.

"My car is really my office. I go back and forth to showrooms, upholsterers, installations. When we do offices for clients, we go out of our way to make them warm and comfortable. Since many people spend half of each day in an office, they need to be comfortable, inviting and functional all at the same time.

"I still believe a simple updated, uncluttered traditional look with large-scaled furniture mixed with stone tables, wicker and antiques is a timeless look and will remain popular for a long time.

"My East Coast clients want my California-style clean sophistication as a departure from what they're used to there. You could call it a Southwestern look, I guess. Color trends may change here and there, but this mix of traditional and contemporary furnishings is the look I think we'll be seeing a great deal of for a long time."

Joseph Terrell, of Alcasar Terrell Inc., uses his high-tech Larchmont-area offices as a showplace. "I am out on projects at least three to four hours a day, but I show presentations here and draw here as well as use it as a showroom," he says.

He draws and works at a high-tech desk designed by Ron Rezek. His carpet is a low-pile charcoal-gray commercial grade; walls and molding are art-gallery white. There are white mini-blinds on the windows. Carefully placed track lighting highlights work areas and art.

"I'm into white on white--really Zen spaces--and I can make anything look good with the proper molding and light. Spaces then hold up for themselves without crowding. I feel that I'm more of a presenter of space than a designer. Everything then becomes art with the proper air space around it." Terrell recently illustrated his "Art Space Environment" philosophy in a series of award-winning model homes at Marina del Rey's new Del Rey Colony development.

What's to come after the current interest in Southwestern design? "I feel that what's next is Spanish Colonial and Spanish Mission. And I hope that there is less of a commitment to the Santa Fe style and more of a commitment to understanding the culture behind it."

For the past 25 years Santa Ana-based Carole Eichen has been designing models for the country's major builders. Her 25,000-square-foot office complex, which includes several departments, has housed her company since July, 1981. "My office spaces are in a soft contemporary style with earth tones, brick and wonderful art. My office walls are a soft ivory, not stark white. I prefer these neutral tones for showing off artwork," she says.

"My clients are builders who generally like traditionalism. My offices have a feeling of home--a comfortable place to work. In my office I am surrounded by things that mean something to me--Lalique glass, antique dolls in plexiglass boxes, an 18-year-old swivel chair (that has been recovered many times) and family pictures.

"My own desk is an ivory laminate one with no drawers. I designed it that way and I like my desk top to stay clean. It's what you might term eclectic. And once I design things the way I like them, I don't change them."

The next trend on the horizon: "I see young people heading back into traditional and going more formal," Eichen says. "I mean such as having a formal dining room so they can use their good china, silver and crystal. Young people today seem to want to return to the type of life style their parents and grandparents had. Charm and a sense of security is what I see young people feeling most comfortable with."

The offices of Eileen and Norman Kreiss are in a somewhat isolated section--they refer to it as "the penthouse"--of their elegant 9,500-square-foot Melrose Avenue showroom called the Kreiss Collection. Within this "office" space there's a travertine-topped desk, plump, linen-covered sofas, comfortable oversized chairs plus a travertine dining table that doubles for client lunches as well as for presentations. The overall impression here is very-pulled-together , a vision that immediately says elegance.

In this showroom one can see pale, whitewashed woods, off-white travertine and shell-stone tables, linen, silk, canvas and even stone-washed denim upholstery. All of this bespeaks what might be termed "very Southern California design" with touches of the Southwestern influence. It is in these light-filled surroundings that Eileen and Norman Kreiss and their three sons--Mike, Tom and Bob, all three of whom hold key positions in the business--conduct meetings with clients and among themselves. In addition to their Los Angeles showroom, there are 24 showrooms around the country, all of which display that "Southern California Look."

"When we opened our New York City showroom in 1986, that city was hungry for our relaxed 'California Style,' " Eileen says. The Kreiss' business includes selling furniture to interior designers nationwide, but they do a vast number of residential and commercial design jobs themselves all over the country.

"We travel the world to get the California Look," says Eileen. "Isn't that ironic? We always know what we're looking for before we travel overseas, however. One of the things we do when we are on a buying mission is that we like to adapt things to what we feel is the right look for our audience, such as lightening the finish. The California Look is very much a mix of styles--it's a combination of Spanish, Oriental, Italian and Mexican."

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