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BY DESIGN : Flights of Fancy : Silk-draped walls? Free from budgets and clients, designers let their muses run wild for Divine Design.

November 30, 1995|GAILE ROBINSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

James Bond scored here.

Or so it would seem on a pass through the just-finished "Divine Design '95" showrooms at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. There were martini glasses everywhere--artfully grouped on end tables in a tableau of lipstick-stained cigarettes, black-seamed stockings and abandoned high-heeled shoes.

That high-gloss, 007-style glamour infuses the work of architects and interior designers who have strutted their stuff on behalf of AIDS charities without any hobbling restraints such as clients or budgets. To stroll down "Designer Boulevard," showcasing more than 50 firms this year, is to walk through a home-furnishings fantasy land.

Janet Polizzi's vision, "The Lady Makes Camp," with walls draped in white silk charmeuse, a ceiling of vines, and chairs and chest inlaid with mother-of-pearl is preferable to the old Coleman tent and plaid flannel sleeping bag.

And wouldn't it be wonderful if, just for the holiday season, we could all have a room like Edward Turrentine's scarlet and gold, tufted and tasseled extravagance?

The sheer fabric floating over the painted walls in Tommy Chambers' and William Murray's room is a wonderful effect, but re-creating it at home would mean the cat would have to go.

So, too, would the children if one embraced the silver and white opulence of Jeffery Goodman's and Steven Charlton's "Mrs. Peel Reclines." The white satin chaise and flokati rug are no place for sticky fingers and muddy tennis shoes.

And therein lies the allure of the Divine Design: The license to fantasize--particularly for a good cause--drives some designers to the brink. "I completely torture myself," says David Dalton, who let such old movies as "Shangri-La" influence his "A Study in Black and White," with white leather upholstered doors, fabric draped walls and his own furniture designs. "I must change my mind 45 times over the course of the year."

These unfettered visions have attracted global interest. As construction of the vignettes wound down last week, representatives from home furnishings magazines all over the world were tripping over each other to get a first look.

"We're well on our way to becoming an international show," says event co-chair and participant Mel Lowrance, witnessing the melee. He and partner Kevin Kolanowski designed a private art gallery using the commanding sculptures of Mexican artist Javier Marin; one of them is expected to fetch more than $9,000 in the silent auction.

Beginning Friday, paying customers can bid silently on other artwork by international artists in the gallery or on tagged items in each of the showrooms. (James Northcutt's lavish bedroom scene, for example, contains more than $80,000 worth of merchandise, from the furniture to the linens to the fireplace.) A live auction on Saturday will feature art and antiques valued at $10,000 or more.

For those more comfortable with traditional shopping, the 40,000-square-foot Marketplace is filled with fashions, jewelry and home furnishings. Calvin Klein, Mossimo, Tommy Hilfiger and Lucky Brand each constructed boutiques within the large space to hold their donated goods. Donna Karan sent seven crates of merchandise, half of it high-end signature label and the other half DKNY. And Richard Tyler, Todd Oldham, Romeo Gigli and David Dart also made generous contributions. All clothing is priced 25% to 75% below retail, and further markdowns will occur as the four-day event progresses.

An awards gala on Sunday night will cap Divine Design, with Oldham being honored for fashion, Ross Bleckner for fine arts, Hachette / Filipacchi for periodical publishing and Athos Pratesi (posthumously) for interior design. Karan will receive a special award for corporate humanitarianism.

The event, which raised more than $1 million last year, benefits Project Angel Food and Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS.

Tickets are available through Friday by phone at (310) 358-8000 and afterward at the Pacific Design Center. The cost is $20 for one day or $50 for a five-day pass.

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