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The IdeaHouse look is ultra-contemporary, softened by Old World ambience and materials that evoke nature.


Interior designer Joe Ruggiero is leading a tour through his newest creation--a model home no one will ever live in, but an estimated 30,000 people a year will visit. It's the latest version of IdeaHouse, a showpiece located on the second floor of West Hollywood's Pacific Design Center.

The model, dubbed "Contemporary Home," is a 4,000-square-foot residence furnished with more than $1 million in new products from the design center's showrooms. It's the ultimate answer to "What's new?" and its purpose is to offer decorating possibilities to anyone decorating, remodeling or just daydreaming.

"This is the seventh one I've done," says Ruggiero, whose multimedia design firm has produced shows for both PBS and Home & Garden Television. "People are more concerned today with the look of their home than any time in my memory--husband and wife both."

And while he has noted an ecological trend toward natural cottons, wools and silks, at the same time a range of new man-made materials "offer things most people couldn't afford in the past, such as faux limestone."

The new IdeaHouse, unveiled during the WestWeek interior design festival, was designed for a mythical '90s family: Jason, a prominent California architect; his wife, Adrianne, an art dealer; and their daughter Jennifer, 21, an intern for Calvin Klein.

To accommodate their fast-paced lives, the house's sleek look is softened by Old World design, surface-interest fabrics and a variety of area rugs to achieve different looks throughout the home. "This is the most contemporary house we've ever done, but it isn't stark," says Ruggiero. "We've incorporated some of America's top young furniture designers and also Italy's new thinking."

He chose earth tones throughout, with an emphasis on light woods and limestone, because he thinks a monochromatic scheme is restful. But Ruggiero also likes an occasional burst of color--"the sort of surprise the Japanese like to put in their wandering gardens."

The clean lines and open feeling of the house are enhanced by functional art pieces. Entry hall lighting, a sculptured track system to fit in any space, comes in bronze, matte black or stainless steel with 40 different fixtures, designed by Neoz of Australia.

In the dining room, standing pottery sconces and a ceiling fixture that appear to be floating are from Studio Metz, which also provided an Art Deco glass fire screen. And in the pale gray master bedroom, an unusual Venetian stucco wall finish and accompanying screens were created as an art piece by Rebecca Spivack.

"There is so much new--it was a pleasure to do this house," says Ruggiero. Some highlights:

* Inventive furniture has a double or triple life. An Italian maple wardrobe's opaque glass doors slide open to reveal a home office, an entertainment / TV unit and a clothes closet. A divider between the living and dining rooms of large glass squares in a wood-like laminate frame gives a feeling of space but also acts as a buffer.

* Innovative surface materials abound. "New technologies are producing things that look more expensive than they are," says Ruggiero. The entry hall's blue and white mosaic tiles are not individually laid, but rather Creative Environment's 12-inch-square tiles with a wavy "grout line" edge.

And the living room's ceramic faux limestone floor is "actually a third the cost of limestone, but gives the room a sleek, California look." Plastic paneling that looks like expensive blond wood and "marble tiles" that come in 6-foot sheets are also new. In one bedroom, a full-length mirror is not glass but a sheet of plastic.

* Fabrics on furniture, too, have a new look, such as the red "billiard cloth" on Ted Boerner's sofa. The pliable felt, says Ruggiero, becomes very sculptured with exquisite tailoring. And a dramatic red wall-hanging above the sofa of 100% polyester is a "dramatic fabric that didn't even exist 10 years ago."

* Bathrooms sparkle with high-style luxury. A new whirlpool tub by Kohler is small enough to tuck into a bathroom corner. Another bathroom has a spa-shower with eight jets that can be preheated and preset for the perfect massage. And in the powder room, Barbara Barry has designed stylish nickel sculptured hardware--including faucets, sconces and mirror--for Kohler.

* The newest look of all waits in the kitchen, which used to be "Mom in a ruffled apron working alone in a room where everything was attached to the walls," says Ruggiero. "Now everybody is cooking, even the kids, so we have combined the kitchen and family room."

Replacing built-ins are SieMatic modular units with gray granite-like tops. They include a double island for food preparation; a cooking center with oven, cooktop and warming oven drawers; and a cleanup module with dishwasher. GE Monogram appliances of industrial gray steel are sleek as rockets.

"You can mix and match, move them around and take it all with you, if you move," notes Ruggiero.

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