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Whittier Museum Fund-Raiser : Designers Transform Home Into Showcase

April 21, 1985|DAVID JEFFERSON | Times Staff Writer

WHITTIER — On a shaded street that was considered the Beverly Hills of Whittier during the 1920s, 14 local interior designers have transformed a two-story, Mediterranean-style home into an exhibition palace for their talents.

The Design Showcase House, at 6048 Friends Ave., is a project of the Whittier Historical Society designed to raise money for the Whittier Museum. Through May 9, visitors can tour the house for $7 and see the work of the designers, each of whom donated nearly 100 hours to decorate a room in the home.

The house, just one of many large, two-story homes from the 1920s in this middle-class neighborhood, is owned by Eleanor Neslen, a widow who agreed to move out while the designers worked their transformation. Neslen had considered selling the home before the project, but the Whittier Historical Society said she was so pleased with the work that she plans to keep the home for her daughter's family.

'Learn a Great Deal'

The Historical Society calls the Design Showcase a place where "the average person can learn a great deal. . . . If you're planning to remodel your home, you might pick up a wealth of ideas."

Or you might pick up ideas for the wealthy.

The price tag on the living room alone is estimated at $45,000, much of that in exotic pieces of art and furniture loaned for the exhibit. There is an antique Chinese vase, a French backgammon table and a Belgian cut-crystal lamp. The fireplace facing, originally of painted pine, has been remodeled in Philippine mahogany. In the center of the room is a custom-made area rug with a floral design taken from the historical society's logo. The floral design comes from the Japanese symbol of the walnut, in honor of the walnut tree along Whittier Boulevard that is a California historical landmark.

The designer of the living room, Les Braunstein of Van Cleave's, said he wanted to "make a statement" with his design, since his is the first room visitors see when they enter the house. His solution was to combine styles: traditional French, contemporary and "chinoiserie" (an interior designer's term for Oriental-like). "In the history of furniture, it has always been acceptable to mix Oriental and European styles," he explained.

Functional Design

Despite the rich, exotic look of the room, Braunstein said his design is practical for a family. "I specifically designed the room to be functional," he said.

The room has been painstakingly color-coordinated in terra-cotta and teal, down to the bowl of orange and green candies on what was described as a "chinoiserie black lacquer brunching cocktail table." Even Braunstein, a slender, bearded man of 31, matched the color scheme, in his off-green suit and teal and terra-cotta shirt.

The striped silk draperies are among the most eye-catching objects in the room. Rather than hanging from the rods, the drapes are wrapped around them--or as Braunstein explained, "The muted silk-like stripe fabric is pantalooned at the sides and sensuously wrapped around a two-inch fluted wood pole, swooping down to an unconstructed swag."

The same drapery effect is used upstairs in the master bedroom, which was designed by Jill Keene-Lucas and Marty Yochum of Jill Keene-Lucas and Associates. But Keene-Lucas insisted that the repetition of design was purely coincidental, because the designers did not coordinate their rooms to match one another, except in terms of a floral motif and a predetermined color palette of cinnamon rose, teal, cream and off-white.

Eclectic Furnishings

Keene-Lucas described the style of the bedroom as "eclectic" in its combination of antique and contemporary furnishings. The bed, with its strongly geometric leaded glass headboard, and the contemporary dressing mirror contrast with the antique wardrobe and floral wall covering to create an effect that Yochum said is "glamorous and sophisticated."

Keene-Lucas, 28, said the design should appeal to the up-and-coming couple.

"This is not old-ladyish. This is yuppie. We wanted young striving professionals. To afford this they have to be," she said.

She estimated the price tag on the room at $30,000.

The adjoining master bath is completely mirrored and accented with green tile.

A male mannequin stands in the shower with soap-on-a-rope around his neck and his dog at his side. His spouse lounges in the bathtub, which is filled with Styrofoam chips to simulate bubbles, eating a breakfast that sits before her on a Victorian silver tea service.

The designer, Tracy McCloskey of TLM Interiors, said her concept for the room was that "the family that bathes together stays together."

'Design Should Be Fun'

McCloskey smiled as she explained the specific design elements in the room, particularly the fishbowl shaped like a fish, which sits on the toilet tank, and the porcelain girdle hanging on the wall.

"I feel that design should be fun--it's not to be taken too seriously," she said.

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