INTERIORS : Harmonic Conversion : More Than 20 Designers Transformed an Anaheim Hills House Into a Villa by Blending Classical With Contemporary in Tones of Tuscany


It could have been a decorating disaster on a grand scale: More than 20 Orange County interior designers, each with his or her own distinct style, recently collaborated on revamping a 17-room estate from floor to ceiling.

With so many decorators on one project, one would expect a hodgepodge of clashing decors. Instead, when the 1994 Philharmonic House of Design opens its tall, arched doors to the public today, visitors will see a home unified by theme and color that looks more like the work of one versatile designer instead of two dozen.

The estate, a 7,500-square-foot Mediterranean-style villa in the Peralta Hills area of Anaheim Hills, was transformed by volunteers from the Orange County chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. It will be open for tours through May 29 to raise money for the Orange County Philharmonic Society.

Visitors to the home will see a blend of traditional and contemporary styles. The designers managed to pull together an eclectic mix of furnishings, window treatments, faux finishes and floor coverings to create one harmonious interior.


Like the designers, homeowners often must create a cohesive decor by drawing from a wide range of styles--mixing, say, a beloved antique wingback chair with a modern iron and glass coffee table. The design house shows how seemingly disparate design elements can work together.

To achieve this unity, they worked with committee leaders who decided on the decor’s theme and color scheme. In keeping with the home’s architecture, the committee encouraged designers to incorporate the classical elements of an Italian villa with contemporary features befitting a modern Southern California home.

The designers responded by painting the walls with faux finishes, murals and frescoes in the tradition of Michelangelo. They covered the floors in everything from Persian rugs to contemporary Berber carpeting. They picked fabrics for draperies, bedding and upholstery that run the gamut from light gauze to heavy tapestry. They found artwork and unique accessories that are both contemporary and Renaissance-inspired.

Color proved the glue that holds these competing textures and materials together.


“Each room is very different . . . but they all blend,” says Mona Clark, ASID co-chairwoman of the design house project. “The blending force is the color palette.”

In keeping with the Italian theme, the committee chose the warm, rich hues of Tuscany for the color palette: a pale, dusty green called “willow,” off-white, clay, a deep, gun-metal gray called “iron stone,” moss, antique gold and terra cotta.

“We looked at colors that were coming into fashion for 1994-95,” Clark says. “Then we looked at fabrics. The colors all reminded us of frescoes. We thought they would fit in with an Italian villa.”

Each designer was assigned a room and came up with a floor plan and concept for the decor that was submitted to the committee.

“The committee let them know if they were on the right track,” Clark says. (The owner, who is selling the estate for about $2 million, also approved the plans. Although furnishings will be removed after the tour, surface treatments and carpeting will remain).


John Garcia, the designer in charge of the estate’s “great room,” a flow-through kitchen, kitchen nook, family room and bar, used a mix of colors, textures and furnishings to give his area a warm, lived-in look.

The stainless steel of the kitchen stove and hood and cabinet fixtures, the large bronze Thai rain drum in the center of the family room, the mirror and glass coffee table, the taupe and black faux leather ottoman, the nubby oatmeal-colored carpet and knotty pine floors--all blend to form “a room that looks like it’s been put together over many years of traveling and collecting,” Garcia says.


One of Garcia’s first acts was to replace the “busy” hand-painted floral tiles in the kitchen with French tile in a subtle bone color with a limestone border.

“A lot of times, less is more. Everything can’t be a star in the room,” Garcia says. “You need control. Let one thing be your highlight and the others support it.”

He painted the walls “the color of chocolate mousse” to give the family room a “warm, homey feeling. It’s a color that draws you.” The light-colored carpet, massive windows and a sectional sofa lit from underneath all keep the room airy and light.

Dawn Piel, the designer who created the combination home office and den, had a different challenge.

“I didn’t want to do a stereotypical home office,” Piel says. “That’s an area of the home that really hasn’t been addressed. It often looks terrible, but we spend a lot of time there.”

Piel’s chief obstacle was how to hide unsightly computer equipment and desk files. She designed an office center that looks like a china cabinet with a faux burl wood finish so that all the equipment could be hidden behind doors and drawers. She also covered the walls with 2/3-inch layer of foam and a clay-colored damask fabric for sound-proofing and a soft look.

“It’s terrific to do if you have a small condo where you have to share walls. It absolutely deadens the sound,” she says. Instead of uncomfortable office furniture, Piel used upholstered furniture including a tapestry-covered daybed to make this a room for both work and leisure.

When not staring into a computer, one can relax on the daybed and peer up at a trompe l’oeil cloud-covered ceiling painted by artist Lorenzo George. The Renaissance-inspired ceiling is one of many frescoes and murals throughout the residence. The library, for instance, has cherubs looking down from on high.


“It looks like the Sistine Chapel,” Clark says.


Examples of the power of the paintbrush are everywhere. Designer Gene Zettle’s powder room is entirely paneled in wood painted to look knotty and aged. Lana Barth and Deanna Rousseau had white doves painted on the walls of the piano niche. Bathrooms, stairways and even the baby’s room have walls treated with a faux finish that make them look dappled or aged.

In a bedroom designed for a fictitious teen-age girl who dreams of going to Paris and studying fashion design, one wall has been painted with a mural of a Parisian street scene. Actual pink and white striped awnings above the windows and real flower boxes add to the fantasy, and the black wrought iron headboard on the bed serves double-duty as the make-believe balcony of a French chateau.

“We wanted this room to be very whimsical,” says Donna McHale, who designed the room with Judi Smolin under the direction of Betty Hyde. “Everything’s very swirly, very French and very dreamlike.”

In another room decorated for a boy who likes to play with magic, a mural of a wizard hovers over the bed, and there’s a tree painted in one corner from which real puppets dangle like apples.

Home decorators can learn much about proportion by studying the house. Visitors who check out the sitting area of the master bedroom suite will find massive artworks by Orlando A.B. on the walls. Designer Bill Kiefer chose the 4-by-6-foot contemporary paintings because the room has a 19-foot ceiling but is not excessively large. The pictures give the room balance, drawing the eye upward from the floor.

The bed, itself a work of art, has a towering canopy of textured iron with a “desert” gold finish and fills the space created by the bedroom’s high ceilings. To complement the hardness of the iron bed, Kiefer chose pale silk bedding and sheer cream-colored curtains that wrap loosely around the towering windows.

“They’re just floating,” Kiefer says. Other romantic touches: Persian rugs, a large leaded glass window, columns and a fireplace with a faux marble finish, a hand-painted chest, an antique gold mirror above a built-in desk area and Oriental sculpture.

“I like to show how you can bring old things in and use them” in a contemporary setting, Kiefer says. “We have antique sculpture mixed with ultra contemporary art.”

The blending of styles is also evident in the dining room designed by Karen Myers Ziccard. She put a contemporary glass table with Lucite sculpture on a bronze base atop a traditional needlepoint rug with a floral motif.

“Everything doesn’t have to be contemporary or traditional,” she says. “It can work together.”


Unlike the designers, most home decorators don’t have unlimited access to original artworks and expensive accessories, yet they can duplicate some of the decorating techniques used in the design house.

“A lot of things you can do yourself (to) make major changes in how you feel about a room,” Piel says. The faux finishes, for instance, can be done with paint and a sponge, rag, tissue paper or even a feather. Fabric slipcovers can rejuvenate an old chair or sofa and add softness to a room.

In addition, choosing eclectic furnishings and mixing contemporary and traditional styles as the designers did can help a home avoid looking like one of those sterile environments seen in some models, Kiefer says.

“We mixed textures, tones and pieces,” he says. “This is definitely not a model home.”

Philharmonic House of Design

What: Public tours of a 17-room villa showcasing work of 20 interior designers to raise funds for Orange County Philharmonic Society.

Where: Peralta Hills area of Anaheim Hills

When: Today through May 29. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: $17 per person

Group tours: Docent-guided tours for groups of 20 or more on Fridays. Discounts available; reservations required.

Call: For tickets, directions and information, (714) 840-7542.