LAGUNA NIGUEL — If you think Design Center South, the interior design retail complex, is "for the trade only," you're both right and wrong.
"Many people have a misconception of what design centers are all about," says Michael Koski of Design Center South. "And that includes designers, particularly the younger ones. They think (the design centers) should lock our doors and be a very private place, and make sure what goes on behind here is very mystical and magical. It's true only up to a point."
Of the 65 showrooms inside the center, Koski says "99.99%" of them will only sell "to the trade"--meaning professional interior designers and architects. However, a new experimental program will expand the public's purchasing ability inside the center. The "Designer Desk" will soon link the public with an interior designer, who will then handle purchases.
Design Center South is the only design center in the country to host its own cable television program. Concerts, art exhibits, seminars and other public events are scheduled throughout the year.
Four times a year, the center has a sidewalk clearance sale that is open to the public. The next sale is scheduled for October.
"It's a great day for the public to come in and see what we offer in terms of merchandise," Koski says. "But the best part of it is the 70% to 80% savings on the quite chic furnishings. Who could resist that?"
The center--which looks like an upscale shopping mall with a courtyard, fountains, lush gardens, sculptures and background music--opened in 1982.
Where else do Orange County interior designers--the "professional" shoppers--shop?
Asked this question were designers Lana Barth of Huntington Beach; Lynn Deal of Newport Beach; John Garcia of Corona del Mar; Janine Harris of Dorian Hunter Interiors in Fullerton; Jan Turner Hering of Corona del Mar; Sherry Johnson of Mission Viejo; Peggy Kisielius of Cottage & Castle Interiors in Anaheim Hills; Abby Menhenet of Design Associates West in Laguna Beach and Lisa Weber of Fullerton.
Included in their list of favorite places are the following:
* Allan Alder Silversmiths in Corona del Mar for handmade silver items for gifts and table tops.
* Between the Sheets in Newport Beach for some of the finest linens available in Orange County.
* Beverly & Partner in Newport Beach for top antique reproductions.
* Big Y Yardage Outlet in Orange for great fabrics wholesale.
* Blake House and de Benedictis in the Design Center South, Dillon-Wells in the L.A. Mart in Los Angeles, Donghia and Forbes Monsell at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood for furniture and decorative accessories.
* Charles & Charles in Costa Mesa and Lyman Drake in Santa Ana for unusual antiques.
* Dubin & Moore Design Group in Laguna Beach for plasterwork, metal, relief sculptures and staircases.
* Garrett-White Gallery in Laguna Beach for handcrafted glassware for both art and table top use.
* Gina B and Harsey & Harsey in the Design Center South for unique furniture and decorative accessories.
* G.R. Durenberger in San Juan Capistrano for 17th- and 18th-Century antiques.
* Indigo Seas in Los Angeles for everything from linens to furniture in European country style with a tropical twist.
* Jefferies Ltd. in Costa Mesa for high-end framing work.
* J. Robert Scott in Design Center South for exceptional showrooms.
* Light Adventure in Newport Beach for contemporary lighting.
* Lippe-Waren in Laguna Beach and Crystal Court in Costa Mesa for fine crystal and China, such as Lalique and Baccarat.
* Maxton and Polacek, both in the L.A. Mart, and Mimi London and Peter Lange, both in the Pacific Design Center, for high-quality furniture and accessories.
* The Museum Shop in the Muckenthaler Center in Fullerton and Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar and MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana for unusual accessories.
* NormandyQ Metal Refinishes is Costa Mesa for fine furniture restoration work.
* San Lorenzo in Anaheim for wholesale decorative flowers and accessories.
* Shears & Window in Laguna Niguel for furniture and fabrics.
* Sheridan in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, a fine European bedding store, and Strouds Linen Warehouse in various locations, for excellent bedding on a budget.
* Umbrello on Melrose in West Hollywood for great accessories.