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Scoring on a Make-Over

Couple bring a warmer feel to house once owned by ex-Laker.

January 17, 1998|KATHRYN BOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When former Los Angeles Laker Byron Scott moved out of his home in San Juan Capistrano, he left behind crystal chandeliers shaped like torpedoes, a glaringly white decor and black porcelain toilets.

The black toilets are still there, but today even Scott would have trouble recognizing the place. Since moving in eight months ago, new owners Jim and Renee Borsack have launched an ambitious home make-over. Renee Borsack has been largely responsible for replacing the white-on-white contemporary interior with warmer, Old World surroundings.

Scott's taste was fine; it just wasn't Renee's style. "Everything was bright white, crystal and shiny brass," Renee Borsack says. "I wanted a rustic, south-of-Spain look, and the house was very contemporary. But then I said, 'Imagine this' and 'Imagine that.' "

Today, guests of the Borsacks don't need to imagine: As they walk into the couple's home, they're greeted by a warm, rich palette of taupes, golds and deep reds.

Textures have gone from hard to soft with numerous needlepoint rugs and comfortable furnishings with lush, touchable fabrics, such as the taupe-colored ultra suede chaises in the master bedroom. On the walls hang massive mirrors in gilded frames and original paintings by Renee Borsack's late mother.

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Despite its size (5,700 square feet), the five-bedroom home has a cozy, unimposing feel thanks to whimsical details: the cluster of framed photos atop stacks of picture books, hand-painted terra-cotta pots, an old wheelbarrow filled with pumpkins, and a crystal bowl on the living room coffee table that on a recent winter evening held cranberries and red candles floating in water.

"We don't do silk flowers," Renee Borsack says. "I'm a snob about fresh things."

Borsack redecorated the home without the help of an interior designer. A director for Irvine-based St. John and Amen Wardy Home, she has worked on the house in her spare time.

"I'm running here and there, finding fabric, looking at furniture," she says.

One of her first acts after moving in: removing the torpedo chandeliers dangling from the high ceilings in the foyer. The sleek glass-and-brass fixtures didn't fit her image of a Mediterranean-style villa. She clipped out pictures from a magazine of rusty metal chandeliers and had them made in a large scale to fill the cavernous space.

Throughout the home, Borsack looked for ways to weather and soften surfaces and colors.

She had the shiny brass rails on the double staircase in the foyer painted to look like aged bronze. She had the white walls of the downstairs rooms painted a "mushroomy taupe" for a softer finish.

Whitewashed oak doors throughout the interior were painted a deeper taupe, and the mantel and bookcases in the library were darkened with a black walnut finish.

In the family room adjoining the kitchen, a panel of oak cabinets were painted black, then sanded to look worn. In the "cowboy bedroom," which got its name because of her small couch with a kitschy cowboy-print fabric, Borsack had an old dresser painted to look like a pair of faded bluejeans.

The Borsacks like a lot of light, which means open windows and doors. The couple took down the heavy swags, shades and dark cornice boxes that often blocked the windows and French doors.

"The master bedroom had these big swoop-dee-doo curtains that were dusty blue and mauve that didn't fit a Mediterranean home," Renee Borsack says.

Where necessary, the Borsacks covered windows and doors in cream-colored sheer fabrics stretched on spring rods to show off the carved molding around the frame.

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When friends turn to her for decorating advice, Borsack likes to show them how they can dramatically change an interior simply by rearranging the furniture. She recently moved a set of antique bedroom furniture inherited from Jim Borsack's great-aunt from her teenage stepson's room to a guest room.

"Everyone wanted to know if we got new furniture. It looked totally different," Renee Borsack says. "I like to start with what I already have, then I keep moving it until I find a place for it."

When shopping for new furnishings, she refers to an accordion file filled with magazine cutouts and photographs of pieces that have caught her eye.

"I take pictures wherever I go," she says. She'll take a camera with her when visiting a design showroom or model home and snap a photo of something she likes, even if she doesn't intend to buy it right away. Later, when she does want a new sofa or bed, she'll have photos of ones she likes on file.

She shops in consignment stores and often has furniture custom-made when she can't find the perfect piece. Although she has a good eye for furnishings, working without an interior designer has led to a few costly goofs.

"I've made a lot of mistakes on the way," she says. "I'm not an interior designer, and I don't know proportions. That's my shortfall."

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