A Meeting of the Designing Minds


Design by committee, in these United States at least, usually is considered something of a joke. Being rugged frontier individualist types, we point to the camel, a really hilarious animal, as the perfect example of what happens when you throw a bunch of good designing minds in the same room and let them run amok.

The Philadelphia Orchestra knows all about this, too. Some years ago, it embarked on a concert tour of Red China, the first American orchestra to do so, and played something called the “Yellow River Concerto,” a piece for piano and orchestra. It was composed by a Chinese state-sponsored committee and sounded like a hybrid of the “Warsaw Concerto” and Muzak in a dim sum joint.

The Soviet Union, until a few days ago, was one big committee, and since 1917 that place has been running with the breathtaking efficiency of a Tijuana Rolex.


So it’s generally a good idea to give a miss to anything that has been designed by committee. Except, of course, heh heh, this newspaper.

And you might try the Trend House at Design Center South, too. Design Center South, a dizzying array of interior design shops in Laguna Niguel that sell to the trade, is where decorators bring their clients to get them good and goggle-eyed at the cornucopia of stuff available to them (not that you can’t do that on your own; you’ll just need a decorator or someone else in the trade to strike a deal for you).

If the design center itself is a showcase of some of the best furnishings available in Orange County, its Trend House, which opened this week and will remain open until Sept. 30, is a head-turning example of what can be done with it all in the hands of some of the area’s best-known interior designers.

The design center invited 10 designers to convert a large, vacant, black-ceilinged unit into a series of partitioned rooms, each of which would bear the stamp of one particular designer (or design firm) and be furnished exclusively with items obtainable at the design center.

The result is a house that might be a bit unsettling to live in for anyone who prefers homogeneity. However, taken individually the rooms are striking examples of “a more advanced viewpoint in interior design,” said Michael Koski, a spokesman for the center. “Here you see the kind of talent you’d see in Architectural Digest.”

The morning room, for instance, was designed by Johnson-Ralls Interior Design and Cottage and Castle Interiors. Intended as a room for the women of the house, it is cozy and livable, but one feature stands out: The walls are painted chartreuse. It’s a color from the ‘50s, said Koski, but designers have begun to use it again. And, combined with the softer furnishings in the morning room, it seems somehow to work.

The family room and the master bedroom are nearly diametrical opposites. Designed by Country Life Interiors, the family room is filled with light-finished wood furniture and inviting chairs covered in the same intensely bright floral prints as the wallpaper. It is a cheerful room, and one that will wake you up quicker than black coffee.

Conversely, the master bedroom, by Jon Jahr and Associates, is described as “minimalist.” The predominant color is brown in a variety of shades; there is an understated Japanese screen on one side of the bed and a dark and massive Korean chest on the other. Two bits of exotica: A Pakistani kilim cloth is used as a bedspread and a hand-woven Tibetan rug in a contemporary brown-and-black pattern covers the floor.

The adjacent sitting room, designed, said Koski, by Jason Titus Interiors for the man of the house, also is done mainly in blacks and browns, the most intriguing piece of furniture being a chaise. This usually feminine piece of furniture has been given the real-guy edge by being covered in brown leather. The leather skirting is rough-cut at the bottom, much like a natural hide would be. On the wall are architectural prints and a geometric diptych made from an unexpected material: pressboard.

The dining room, by Scott/Rohr Design Associates, may be the most deceptive, and pocketbook-friendly, of all. As the designated “budget room” in the Trend House, it makes use of skirted wicker chairs and a pair of large skirted console tables, the tops of which have been made from doors, said Koski. The doors, he said, were covered with an undercoat of brown paint that was then covered with a coat of black. The surface was then scratched in various patterns to give it relief.

Koski pointed out the raspberry paint that was used to cover the walls.

“Wouldn’t most people be afraid to use this color?” he said.

Yep. But in that room, it seems to work.

You get the idea.

Collectively, yes, the Trend House is a bit of a Mad Hatter’s palace. But it offers a fine peek at what the local designing bunch is up to these days, and what they can get for you if you have some adventure in your soul and a few bare rooms in your house. There’s even good browsing music provided.

And, thank God, the “Yellow River Concerto” is not on the play list.