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STYLE: HOME RENOVATION : Re-Feathering the Nest

June 13, 1993|Barbara Thornburg

With today's philosophy of "Don't move; improve," homeowners are becoming increasingly inventive about working with the space at hand--converting garages, utilizing rooftops, even building into the sky. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry estimates that homeowners will spend more than $1.3 billion on improvements this year. Most are correcting specific problems--a kitchen that's too small, the need for a home office--rather than redoing the whole house simply for the sake of style. Here's a portfolio of imaginative ideas from local architects, designers and homeowners. But stay wise to the renovator's caveat: Once you start, it's hard to stop.

IN THE ROUGH Rather than bow to tradition and cover her bedroom walls' "brown coat" (the rough plaster applied before the final coat), artist-designer Jo Ann Belson decided her Hollywood Hills home would show off the subtle honey color and interesting texture. She swagged two pieces of iridescent taffeta above her bed to create an undulating headboard. A wire inserted between the folds of the fabrics allowed her to bend and shape them.

SEEING GREEN Photographer Michael Arden covered one of his bathroom walls with thin copper sheeting, fastened with copper nails and treated with a copper finish. He also painted the white switchplate with copper paint. Now, every time Arden takes a steamy shower, the wall changes color. The cost: Less than $125. Los Angeles architect Jeffrey Tohl designed the free-standing cabinet covered in natural and green-stained birch plywood.

FULL TILT When a remodel threatens to look like a clumsy stucco box, cant can help it. By giving an exterior wall a hefty slant, architect Jeffrey Tohl created a geometric sculpture out of photographer Michael Arden's bathroom addition in Sherman Oaks. The bay window pushes out toward the pool, above a concrete base. Viewed from across the pool, the structure appears to float on water.

MANTEL OF INVENTION Artist Jo Ann Belson wanted a sculptural shape around her bedroom fireplace but saw nothing available commercially that suited her. When she noted the primitive shapes of the Bouquet Canyon stone being installed for her bathroom floor, she sculpted the mantel on site, with the materials at hand. Says Belson: "I call it Stonehenge."

FREE-RANGE KITCHEN When Santa Monica designer Brian Alfred Murphy converted a Hollywood Hills garage into this kitchen, he filled the 20-by-22-foot room with professional equipment ordered directly from a restaurant-supply catalogue. The focal point is a sectioned island of stainless steel and granite. Half of it is used as cooktop and counter space (36 inches high). The other half, two triangular pieces (29 inches high), can be rotated to form a square table for eight. Underfoot, new concrete was poured on top of the original floor, then polished, so any spills can be hosed off.

THE TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT With the neighboring house almost within arm's reach, Santa Monica designer Nick Berman needed to block out noise from this Venice Canals home. His water sculpture of Brazilian Sayonara granite provides a Zen sense of aural and visual relief. Berman's stylish breakfast nook, located midway in the house, lends a view of the outside and brings light into the center of the long, narrow (24 by 75 feet) residence.

A CUTTING EDGE Designer Nick Berman laminated three slabs of three-quarter-inch Sayonara granite to form a sculptural counter for this Venice kitchen. A practical eased edge at the working end of the surface gives way to an unexpected chiseled edge. Double-decker mahogany cabinets built up to the 10-foot-high ceiling maximize wall space.

ROOM WITH A VIEW Although artist Jo Ann Belson originally planned to have the glass panels around her shower sandblasted, she later opted for a visually uninterrupted flow of space. Three pieces of knotted organza are her nod to privacy. Elsewhere in this sleek master bathroom addition, Los Angeles architect Michael Lehrer sheathed the ceiling, columns, lintels and gable in stainless steel. Clerestory windows frame trees in the garden. The curved, free-standing sink is fashioned out of purple heart, ebony and bird's-eye-maple woods.

GOING IN TILE Six years ago, a glass-block and pink-tile spa was the height of back-yard chic at photographer Michael Arden's 1950s home. But it soon began to look like a mid-'80s relic. Resurfacing the spa with brightly colored hand-painted tile (designed by Arden's mother, artist Melba Langman, and ceramist Cindy Kolodziejski) updated it and added a splash of color to the concrete deck and exterior wall, designed by architect Jeffrey Tohl. The deck's surface features blue, green and red pigments, which were sifted and troweled on while the concrete was still wet to create an aged appearance.

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