A Guide to the Best of Southern California : DESIGN : The Ultimate Turn-On

AFTER EVERY interior detail is perfect, it's time to focus on the light-switch plates. Kevin Loughran, who describes his customers as "people who are sensitive to subtle details in their environment," has made a specialty of handcrafting wall plates. Yellow-toned brass shapes mix and match with silver and copper accents. Loughran also uses verdigris (turquoise-colored oxidized copper).

In addition to the plates, he's done knobs and pulls, doorbell covers and plates to hide smoke alarms and thermostats. "There are ugly things that society decides we have to live with. We can hide them and make them beautiful," Loughran says. Used to filling orders for decorators, he is open to suggestions.

Loughran is a jewelry maker who started as a painter, moved on to etchings and then finally to metalwork. Living in San Francisco nine years ago, he made a few switch plates for his own Victorian house. He guessed correctly that there was a market for them. He has been making them ever since.

Switch plates sell for between $20 and $300. Simple dimmer switches start at $40; the most elaborate ones are $200. Although Loughran has an inventory of standard sizes and shapes, he will do custom configurations for unusual switches and problem areas where a normal plate won't fit.

Kevin Loughran, House Jewelry, P.O. Box 24152, Santa Barbara, 93121; (805) 962-9970. Loughran shows his work at the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show held on Cabrillo Boulevard every Sunday from 10 a.m. to dusk.

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