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A Chronicle Of The Passing Scene

October 16, 1992|SUE REILLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Stuck On the Kitchen

The sophisticated country kitchen of Design House '92 in Encino makes you want to be reincarnated as the new Julia Child.

* It's 650 square feet, the size of some apartments and almost as big as the room in which Zsa Zsa Gabor hangs her clothes.

* The room has a 16-foot island down the center and top-of-the-line appliances.

* Sandra McGarry of Simi hand-painted the tiles with flowers and herbs.

* Two green wrought-iron sculptures used as light fixtures were created by Cheryl Casey Ross of Cross Interiors in Van Nuys, who also designed the kitchen.

* The butler's pantry, actually a room, has been brightened by a trompe l'oeil window with herb pots on the windowsill.

* The eating area resembles something out of the Bistro Garden at Coldwater.

The kitchen stars in this year's design house project by the Assistance League of Southern California and the International Society of Interior Designers. The groups have given selected decorators each a room to redesign.

The finished product is at 4657 Encino Ave. in what used to be fruit orchards near a former stagecoach stop.

The home, which is being offered for sale for about $2.5 million through Pat Evans of Brown/Realtors in Thousand Oaks, has 7,000 square feet on almost one acre.

It was built by screen star Warren William about 1920 and still has the gas pump he installed because he said there was no place to buy gasoline.

For $15, you can looky-loo between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday until Nov. 1. The money benefits the league's Volunteer Center of San Fernando Valley and other groups that help the aged and needy.

Oh, the best part of the kitchen--in addition to the smell of the bread Ross keeps baking--is its movie set view. There are banks of windows overlooking the rolling green lawn that seems to go on forever. There is also a rocky waterfall.

"The view almost makes dishwashing look like fun, doesn't it?" Ross asks a visitor.

Well, no, but it makes the task seem almost glamorous.

Trolling for Dollars

Australian transplant Alan Saffron, 45, and his trolls are doing big business in the North Valley.

Trolls, the gnome-like creatures of Norse mythology that were also big when a lot of us were kids, have become--along with the Roller-Blading Barbie--the hottest doll in the United States, according to the Toy Manufacturers Assn. of America. Spokeswoman Jody Levin says she doesn't know why trolls are so popular but describes troll mania as a phenomenon.

Saffron says the troll happened for him when he was unemployed and things were looking grim.

"For more than a year I was an out-of-work executive. In November of 1991 my wife, Genevieve, and I started selling adult and children's puzzles at local swap meets in order to keep busy and bring in some money," Saffron says.

Pleased by their success, they attended the Toy Manufacturers Assn. show in February in New York, where they decided to add some trolls to their swap market merchandise.

The trolls did so well that in June the Saffrons opened Puzzle World and Troll World at 19350 Business Center Drive, Northridge.

While the trendy, less expensive dolls were popular with the youth market, Saffron found there also was a market for the hand-painted and handmade dolls created in Scandinavia that collectors seek.

"We special-ordered a shipment of Norwegian dolls that sell for between $200 and $2,000. A serious collector was in the shop when they arrived and bought $500 worth of the trolls before I had the shipment out of the box," Saffron said.

Since then he has ordered more handmade, collectible trolls. Saffron's proudest possession is an almost 4-foot-high troll, which he claims is the world's largest.

Coming and Going

Five years ago, Rafe Cohen's Relocation Advisors in Sherman Oaks spent most of their time helping incoming Valley-bound engineers get housed and settled.

Nowadays that business has completely turned around.

"These days it seems everyone wants to get out of here. My staff and I spend most of our time helping people decide where they want to go," Cohen says.

Some say they don't care, they just want to get out.

Almost everyone, especially the newly unemployed, want to leave L.A. for the Northwest, either Oregon or Washington.

"They think the climate is more interesting and that they won't have to deal with crime, overcrowding, year-round schools and the bad air we have here," Cohen said.

What they don't realize, he said, is that there are no jobs there, and urban blight is everywhere.

For $80, you fill out a questionnaire, and a counselor gives you three options to consider.

"We study the questionnaire and suggest three cities or areas in the United States that most closely fill the needs and expectations of the applicant. Then we have people in those cities send information about jobs, weather, lifestyle, schools and the housing market there," Cohen said.

Cohen's current No. 1 pick for a destination for a working couple with children is Colorado Springs, Colo.

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