THE interior designs are inspired by Hollywood celebrities, and the furniture is worth an estimated $3 million. But according to organizers of this year’s House Beautiful Celebrity Showhouse in Brentwood, the trends on display here actually can be replicated on a smaller scale, so visitors leave with plenty of ideas to take home.
House Beautiful editor in chief Mark Mayfield acknowledges that show houses tend to be over-the-top collections of rooms designed as high-priced set pieces rather than actual living space. Not so here.
“The point of this show house,” he says, “is to inspire the people who see it.”
Elizabeth Quinn, creative design director for House Beautiful, says the 20 designers dug into their own pockets to make over their assigned rooms. Many used pieces from their product lines and personal collections, resulting in a heady mix of European and Asian period pieces, 20th century classics and contemporary upholstery.
The essence of these designs can be re-created with a little imagination. Case in point: The Hollywood Regency look, as seen in the family room created by Barclay Butera, can be replicated by hanging patterned mirrors on the wall, lacquering furniture and upholstering ornate pieces in basic black and white. Stacks of patterned pillows and shiny metallic trays add to the glamour. As if to prove that beauty and budget are not mutually exclusive, Butera filled glass containers with red coral and red Hot Tamales candies.
Peter Dunham’s dining room is part of the emerging bohemian approach to decor that he calls Hippie Deluxe. Though Dunham’s dramatic light fixtures, based on a picture of artist Joan Miro’s house on the Spanish isle of Mallorca, were custom made by Broad Beach Designs in Los Angeles, they could be reproduced easily by wrapping raffia ribbon (available for less than 10 cents a yard) around a drum-shaped lampshade (less than $20 at some discount stores).
The well-heeled world-traveler look continues to define an eclectic approach to decorating, though it need not require a globe-trotter’s financial resources. Elaborately painted Indian and inlaid Moroccan tables and cotton paisley textiles, which can be found at reasonable prices in stores throughout the city, grace outdoor areas by Dan Marty and Kathryn Ireland, giving the spaces a casual, yet exotic air. Chinese ceramic drum-shaped garden stools are used as glossy sculptural side tables in Michael Berman’s Hollywood mogul library and in Mary McDonald’s romantic chinoiserie-by-the-sea boudoir.
In terms of capturing a look that’s fresh yet affordable, paint continues to provide the best bang for the buck. Parlor designer Kerry Joyce used “chalk dust teal,” a glaze he had made at Athens Decorative Painting of Los Angeles. The powdery green room is inspired by Jami Gertz, star of CBS’ “Still Standing,” who imagined a Paris apartment that might be occupied by a “gypsy-esque woman in flowing skirts and cashmere shawls who haunts the flea markets for things of beauty.”
“It’s my own little pied-a-terre in the city of lights,” she says, beaming as she surveys the plush late-'30s ambience. Then, with a sigh: “Now I’m going to want to live in it.”
Green is a delicious accent in tones ranging from Granny Smith apple to Spanish olive for adjoining rooms designed by Jackie Terrell and Berman, who used Dunn Edwards’ Dark Cavern as a glaze on paneled walls. Reds that would have made Max Factor blush also give a dash of Technicolor drama to rooms by Alessandra Branca, a Chicago-based decorator, and Vicente Wolf, the New York designer of the Luxe Hotel in Beverly Hills.
“I made the red work by not being afraid of it,” Branca says, noting that her show house bathroom is painted in a custom blend of two Ralph Lauren colors: Dressage Red (TH41) and Stadium Red (TH42).
“We are seeing so much green and red in varying tones,” editor Mayfield says. Red even pops up on metal patio benches and chairs with a Moorish accent on Patricia Benner’s terrace. “We have moved away from the beige look toward much more color. People are less intimidated by it than they were a few years ago,” Mayfield says.
Wallpaper also can provide a big effect for relatively small change. It makes a cameo appearance in smaller rooms such as Butera’s crazily paisley powder room, and it serves as a neutral wall covering throughout a vast pool house designed by David Phoenix. Phoenix’s choice -- a thick, natural-colored woven fiber that looked jauntily nautical -- echoes many of the easy-to-imitate patterned and textural floor coverings of the show house. Many resemble sea grass and sisal even though they are Berber wool.
“Sisal has a marvelous texture, is very stylish, and really inexpensive and easy to find,” says Suzanne Rheinstein, founder of the Hollyhock home design store in West Hollywood. To dress up the “humble” material in the show house master bedroom, she tosses white cowhides as area rugs. Like other designers, she plays low-cost elements off luxurious pieces, hanging budget-conscious bamboo window blinds behind more costly curtains.
A bigger trend: upholstered surfaces. “It’s a warm and rich design element that you can change a lot more easily than wallpaper,” Mayfield says.
Branca covered bedroom walls with red-and-white striped linen that takes its inspiration from mattress ticking and awning materials.
“As houses get progressively bigger with more and more rooms, wall upholstery provides another way of varying the texture and feel of a room, creating a big impact quickly relatively cheaply. Upholstered walls have a very nurturing feel and absorb a lot of sound, which is easier for conversation,” says designer Dunham, who covered the dining room in “an adaptation of a 19th century Persian fabric, the kind people had as inexpensive cotton bedspreads in the 1960s.”
With lightweight fabric, a staple gun, wooden molding strips and fabric trim to cover seams, the look can be imitated on an accent wall or used to create a gallery. Dunham hung artwork and African masks on his.
Personal collections, be they precious relics or found objects such as seashells, can be displayed with imagination and set a theme for a room. Branca took centuries-old plaster and stone intaglios and gave them a strikingly modern appearance by mounting them in glass frames and domes. It is a technique, she says, that can be used to display heirlooms or souvenirs.
Throughout the house, designers are breathing new life into old things. Traditional pieces, particularly wing chairs and roll-arm sofas with carved and lathed legs and casters, exhibit a hip new air of luxury thanks to old-fangled upholstery embellishments such as button tufting, nailhead trim and even fringed skirting.
Rheinstein’s bedside table, swathed in luxurious denim made from silk, can be copied with any old table draped with a favorite tablecloth or tapestry. Pacific Palisades designer Catherine Bailly Dunne made wall sconces part of an eye-catching art installation by surrounding them with framed floral prints. In a children’s suite, Terrell used a bed with huge bolsters and headboards at both ends to create a space where kids can kick back or take a nap.
Even the smallest of details get the designer touch in the show house. The books in Berman’s library are covered with dust jackets made from plain paper to minimize visual distraction. In preparing for the show, Joyce admits that he “pretty much wiped out Acres of Books in Long Beach for attractive-looking old books,” building volumes into sculptural columns.
“Every time he comes to visit,” Gertz, one of his clients, says with a laugh, “I catch him stacking my books.”
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Decorating trends and inspiration are on display in the Celebrity Showhouse sponsored by House Beautiful magazine.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Oct. 16
Location: 12805 N. Bristol Circle, Brentwood
Price: $25; proceeds benefit the Children’s Action Network
Information: Children’s Action Network, (800) 525-6789
David A. Keeps can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.