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The White House : The 'Non-Color' Scheme of This Harbor Residence Is More Breathtaking Than Bland

June 15, 1991|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One thing about white, it catches the eye.

And if a little white stands out, a lot of white . . . well, a lot ought to really make a statement.

It does.

Witness Toni Tuso-Faber's contemporary remodel on Huntington Harbour's Davenport Island. The pure white structure shines like a beacon, its pristine exterior drawing attention both in the glare of day and the artificially lighted glow of night.

This, dear reader, is a white house.

A white house that is white from the top of its bold, geometric facade to the ceramic tiles that cover the driveway, the courtyard, the terraces, the back deck and even the side yard.

And that's just outside.

Chez Tuso-Faber is white inside, too.

The walls are white, the floors are white, the countertops and cabinets are white. The appliances are white. The furniture is white. The artwork on the walls is white.

Even the garage is white, with the same white tile from the driveway covering the floor, and a white rubber mat carefully placed to catch the occasional unsightly drip of oil from Tuso-Faber's--you guessed it--white Mercedes.

Not to put too fine a point on things, but even the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall in the master bedroom closet is white.

What relief there is comes from the jungle of lifelike green silk plants scattered throughout the house; from the silvery sheen of stainless steel and chrome hardware and fittings, including the striking 20-foot stainless columns that frame the fireplace; and from the sweeping views, through expanses of glass, of Harbour Channel and the boats that line it.

Tuso-Faber, a former Miss California, onetime magazine publisher and now designer and manufacturer of a custom clothing line, likes white.

Some people, she says, have called the place "the ice house, or the ice queen's castle, which means it strikes them as cold. But to me, white is warm and homey. It gives me a real good feeling."

White, she says, has been her "favorite color, or non-color, I should say, ever since I was a little girl. My mother told me that my room was all white when I was a baby, so maybe that's it."

Whatever started it, every house Tuso-Faber has owned--and the Huntington Harbour place is No. 6--has been all white.

In Tuso-Faber's book, a house is background for the people in it, not a centerpiece that diminishes by its very nature those who have gathered within.

White accomplishes that goal very well, she says. "It's like a blank canvas. You can set the mood with lighting and plants."

And you can be sure, in a house like this, that the people in it will never take a back seat to their surroundings.

That is not to say that the house is innocuous. Even with all that white, it is more breathtaking than bland.

But this is not a place in which most people would choose to raise a family.

Imagine having to clean sneaker tracks off the all-white floors and fingerprints off the all-white walls every day--even in the garage. Then there's the oversized glassed-in shower and oval raised tub standing proudly side by side in the middle of the master bedroom.

Tuso-Faber is quick to point out that the unusual placement of the shower and tub wasn't part of the entertainment scheme. It is just that she hates to feel closed in.

Tuso-Faber, who added the Faber to her name when she married Beverly Hills jeweler Bruce Faber six months after completing the intensive remodeling, planned the house for entertaining. And for that purpose, it works like white fur on a pedigreed Samoyed.

When Tuso-Faber bought the house in August, 1988, she was attracted by the location, the fact that it came with about 70 feet of channel frontage and three large boat docks and by its potential after what she initially envisioned as "a slight remodel."

Huntington Harbour is a nearly 900-acre enclave of expensive homes built on land reclaimed from a massive saltwater marsh in the mid-1960s. A number of homes, including Tuso-Faber's, are built on a threesome of man-made islands while others offer owners frontage and docking space on the community's system of canals. When the first residences were built there in the late 1960s, the developers astounded buyers by asking as much as $80,000 for a two-story waterfront home.

Tuso-Faber's white house started life as a typical California coastal home of the early 1970s. Stucco walls, an A-frame roof line, a blue and gray color scheme and a dozen or so clones within a five-block radius.

Initially, Tuso-Faber intended the house to be her primary residence--she says she never would have committed to the huge remodeling job that ultimately was done if she'd intended to sell right away.

But marriage to Faber changed her plans and for the past 11 months the house has been on the block with a cool $1.9-million asking price.

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