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CENTERPIECE: Ventura County

Artists in Residence

Local designers work their magic on make-over of New West Symphony's Design House.

April 30, 1998|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

By its nature, the annual Design House project, an important fund-raiser for the New West Symphony, is about work in progress, a mad race to get things shipshape by opening day.

Here we have a collaborative-yet-individualistic team of designers, settling in their separate crannies to recreate and rethink an existing house, with owners keenly awaiting the results. And the designers and workers do this in their off hours, for charity's sake. Under these circumstances, who would expect a virtuosic tying up of loose ends?

But this year's model, a contemporary home on the outskirts of Camarillo with a dazzling view, was unfinished come media day last week. The dust was far from settled, and many of the rooms still had no flooring or furniture. Blame it on the extent of the face lift. As project architect Martha Picciotti explained, rushing from one end of the house to another, "We're basically dealing with a major remodel here."

This year's team rose to the challenge and accommodated the wishes of the owners, who wanted to make structural alterations to the house and change it from a clean, open-planned contemporary home to one with a more classical feel. The designers--and the construction team, led by Ken Morgan and Craig Young--rolled up sleeves and brought in sledgehammers. High ceilings were lowered, walls were inserted and doors installed.

And, hopefully, the new house was cleaned up and ready for viewing when the monthlong Design House run began Wednesday .

This will be the 16th annual design event, started as a fund-raiser for the now-decommissioned Ventura County Symphony and continued in the New West Symphony era of the last three years. It's an appealing way to raise money for the ever-worthy cause of classical music and to showcase the work of area designers.

On a more personal level, there is also the inherent appeal to the voyeur within. Many of us love to peer into another's domestic reality, even when it's as staged and poly-stylistic as Design House.

This year's project began in the home's master bathroom. Before the owners agreed to subject their house to the Design House process, they wanted to turn a lackluster bathroom into a more inviting place to kick off one's shoes.

Enter designers Jone Pence and John Anthony Turturro, who teamed to do an overhaul of the bathroom, transforming it into a master-bath suite, an elaborate in-house "spa."

An oddly placed bathtub was removed and a new whirlpool tub installed in the back of the room. A new aroma-therapy steam shower was added, along with a hidden cabinet for a TV, on a swivel behind pocket doors, viewable from any position within the suite.

Another touch was to lower the ceiling, already fitted with a skylight, and creating a lower, pyramidal skylight.

"They thought we were nuts," remembered Turturro. The owners reminded the designers, "We already have a skylight."

But the new, more intimate ceiling treatment combines the virtue of literal sky light and hidden light fixtures, for more controlled illumination.

As Turturro explained, "We tried to establish a sense of calm here, make it a place to relax."

Pence noted, "Master bathrooms are turning out to be more important these days, as a place that serves as a haven, that you'd want to actually spend some time in."

The owners then decided to reconsider the entire house, and the designers were happy to oblige. One was Laury Crary, an eight-year Design House veteran. This year, she settled on the living room, and the first order of business was to shrink and define it.

Again, the ceiling was brought down to a humble, human scale. Before, Crary said, "You felt that you were at the bottom of a cave. The ceiling felt too high for that small a room."

Also, the open space where you enter the room was reduced to a more official entryway, with pillars.

Last week, Crary was busily working on the gold-leaf touches on the mantel. The rest of the room was empty, due to the domino nature of interior design. Until the entryway tiles arrived ("They're on a slow boat from Italy"), the carpet couldn't be laid, and the furniture and paintings, by Ojai's Leslie Clarke, were also waiting to be put in place.

But a prized feature of the room was immediately apparent: Its broad picture windows reveal a spectacular view of the green fields and ocean beyond. That view factor is maximized, as well, in the one open area retained from the old design. Where the kitchen opens into the family room, a long series of windows offers a panoramic vista.

Exterior enters interior space again in the guest room, where a wall once broken only by a small window was refitted with sliding-glass doors.

"We decided to add drama to the room," explained co-designer Glenda Couture-Goldstone.

The basic ambience of the room was also rethought. It is now equipped with recessed lighting, and its walls have been repainted a dark color with subtle gold glazing on the surface, echoed in the gold-tinged bedspread on a pedestal bed, which has lighting underneath.

By contrast, Raymond Keift's dining room brings the focus indoors with a luxurious scheme involving a gold-leafed dome over the table.

In the case of this room, as with the rest of the house, contributions from various sources informed the whole. Keift obtained valued accessories and input from Santa Barbara artist Lucy Brown, Ventura sculptor Michele Chapin and, not insignificantly, guidance from feng shui consultants Bill and Delvina Cox of Ojai.

It's a community effort, from the drawing board to the point when the dust finally settles and the public ambles in.

BE THERE

New West Symphony Design House '98, 70 La Patera Place, Camarillo, through May 31. Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, noon-4 p.m. Designer Fridays, hosted by the designers, 5:30-8 p.m. $16. (805) 655-5613.

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