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Thinking Small

One Room Done Up With Distinction

September 07, 1997|Barbara Thornburg

Andrew Virtue knew he was hooked on antiques when, at 13, he scored his first find--an English Regency tole urn painted by Thomas Barker of Bath, for which he paid $150. Today, Virtue, now 28, is both a passionate collector and an interior designer. Much of what he turns up in his treasure quest makes its way into his eponymous store on La Brea Avenue, which features 18th century to mid-20th century decorative furnishings. Some of his favorite pieces wind up in his 10-by-10-foot Long Beach room--a former maid's quarters above a garage. Unlike the more spacious homes of his clients, Virtue's own home has proved to be a decorating challenge. "This place forced me to think small," the designer says. He purposely packed the room with scaled-down pieces for the sake of illusion. "With so much going on, you forget you're in a small space," he explains. And he makes every piece of furniture count. An 18th century card table is both desk and dining surface. An English Regency footstool doubles as a low cocktail table. He decided on a monochromatic creamy-beige palette "so it doesn't overwhelm" and on vignettes to suggest an entry hall, bedroom, study and library. "They represent a microcosm of a house," Virtue says. "Everything had to be worked out to the last centimeter."

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