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STRUCTURES : Getting Considerably More Than the Two-Bit Tour

April 29, 1993|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The concept of fund-raising with a home tour is a somewhat strange one.

Why are we so intrigued by the prospect of traipsing through other people's homes? Is it a matter of hospitality, voyeurism, swapping decor ideas or a combination thereof? It all depends on your perspective.

Whatever the socio-psychological rub, home tours give the "outsider" entre into private domain, as demonstrated by last Sunday's 10th annual House and Garden Tour benefiting the Santa Clara Valley Hospice, and the 1993 Design House, the Ventura County Symphony's annual fund-raising event, which will be open through the month of May.

On a grander scale, the tours afford an inside view of the architectural life of this unlikely bastion of small town Southern California.

This weekend marks the opening of the Design House, where the public is invited into the private space of a Santa Paula home just in the finishing stages of being built.

This year's Design House differs from most of the structures in the event's 10-year history in that the house was a work-in-progress, built by Don and Sheryl Abeloe on a large plot, formerly orchard land, on Telegraph Road.

Normally, Design House provides a showcase for area decorators who create design make-overs to existing homes.

Here, the slate was relatively clean, and the design challenge clearly delineated: to work within the ornate dictates of the house's Tudor style, while recognizing the pragmatic realities of a house that will be host to six scampering children under 10.

What has resulted is a house both functional and, in spurts, fanciful. Children's rooms have been graced with tromp l'oeil mural work. High caloric color schemes of purples and deep greens and floral imagery abounds. No doubt, some of the more delicate touches will have to be modified, child-proofed.

The house itself, designed by Walt Phillip of the Ventura firm of Phillip and Te, makes a dramatic presence, with its two-story mansion-esque structure perched at the end of a long cobblestone driveway and auto court.

Don Abeloe, a mason, has left his personal imprint on the house, from the brickwork on the unusual fireplaces and exteriors to the tall stone chimney that serves as the hearth in the tall-ceilinged "great room." Designers Jyl Atmore and Catherine Smith-Dart have guided that room's decor with a lightness of touch.

As one of the many benefits of offering a home to the Design House machinery, the driveway will be lined with jacaranda trees, donated by Brokaw Nursery. Limoneira is donating the labor force.

In all, the landscaping and interior decor benefit the Abeloes, while their generosity in allowing the designers to go to town enabled the project to happen.

Giving a reporter a walking tour, Design House chapter president Betsy Chess explained, "it's very typical of this project--the community pitches in."

Twenty-odd designers were involved this year, including on team projects such as the kitchen and breakfast nook, done by Paul Morse, Jone Pence, Judy Ellis and Elizabeth Alexander.

Mary Smith has given the pub--with a pool table as its nucleus--a dark, handsome ambience, while the "Aunt Sophie's P's and Q's," by designer Ardis Nelson, is all about maximum flora, with rose motifs run amok.

Barbara Legacy, who in last year's house created a playful bathroom design, is once again working in a cranny of the house. She turned a powder room into an illusionistic garden scene.

Some of the memorable aspects of the house are pleasant surprises in out-of-the-way places. Speckled suns, done by Midge Haerterich, are painted on the skylight, which rises 15 feet up from the children's hallway.

In the hallway, Chess pointed to the display of family photos in the hall. "People enjoy the reality of it, the fact that this really is somebody's home," she said.

We all love a good dose of reality, mixed in with the fantasy decor ideals that the Design House represents.

Last Sunday's Hospice home tour was a different occasion altogether. Five Santa Paula homes of different types were opened to through traffic, and the tour, incidentally, told a compact story about the lay of the land and the nature of its residents.

First on the list was the 1909 Craftsman home of Jean and Bob Dyer, who is the current president of the Santa Clara Valley Hospice. The hospice, which operates out of the Presbyterian church in Santa Paula, as Dyer explained, "is dedicated to helping people die with dignity.'

The Dyer home, a woodsy structure nestled under a broad gable roof, sits happily on one of those idyllic tree-lined blocks in Santa Paula, with Norman Rockwell-like gentility written all over it.

Bob Dyer, the affable homeowner, sat the reporter down for a cup of coffee in the plant-lined patio out back. "I was reluctant to offer our house for the tour, because I didn't think it was fancy enough. But then I realized how nice it was."

Craftsman architecture, once a generic garden-variety style, seems to appreciate with time and revisionist aesthetics.

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