STYLE : Display's the Thing

Ever visit the Pacific Design Center and not have the slightest idea where to start once you walked through the door? The West Coast's largest furnishings resource--all 1.2 million square feet of it--could be a daunting (not to mention exhausting) experience. But not anymore, thanks to a brand-new addition called the IdeaHouse.

A collaboration between the PDC and designer Joseph Ruggiero, former editor-in-chief of Home and the host of two Home & Garden Network TV shows, the IdeaHouse allows shoppers to get acquainted with the PDC by presenting items from various showrooms in a realistic environment. "The IdeaHouse gives consumers a specific spot to go," Ruggiero says of the nearly 4,000-square-foot loft. "We wanted to get them to relate to products in a home setting."

This particular setting is inhabited by a hypothetical urban couple--she's an advertising executive, he's an art dealer who works at home--and their 6-month-old son. Besides having an up-to-the-minute kitchen and bath, the IdeaHouse illustrates several current home design trends such as "flex-space," the unfitted (as opposed to built-in) kitchen and the home office. "This is how people live and decorate today," Ruggiero says. "Gone are the days when we had one room set aside for one function--a dining room used only for holidays or a living room just for company. Today, rooms must be multipurpose."

In the open plan of the 20-by-40-foot living room, for example, space functions as an art gallery and reception area or simply as a casual gathering place for family and friends. In the 20-by-20-foot kitchen/home office/family area/deck, our imaginary couple can cook a pot of pasta, work after hours, feed the baby and watch TV together. "We've removed the walls to create one large space," Ruggiero explains. "The furniture groupings determine the function."

And throughout the loft, which has a striking bronze- and terra-cotta-stained hickory floor, furnishings span centuries as well as continents: Caribbean Colonial dining room tables, a Jacobean gate-leg table, a Balinese temple door/mirror and a Chinese chest. Says Ruggiero of such eclecticism: "No one buys one specific style of furniture anymore. That's passe. People are mixing up the furnishings they love."

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