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Grecian Formula '99

The Philharmonic House of Design takes advantage of its classical architecture and ocean view to create a distinctly Mediterranean experience.


With its classical columns, rotundas and bevy of Greek goddesses, the 1999 Philharmonic House of Design is an ode to a Grecian urn.

Situated on a hill overlooking the Pacific, the newly built 8,000-square-foot mansion has enough classical features to make visitors feel they're on a Greek island instead of a gated community in Newport Coast. The $5.9-million home will be open for public tours Sunday through May 23 as a fund-raiser for the Philharmonic Society of Orange County.

In preparation for the tour, 24 members of the American Society of Interior Designers/Orange County have spent the last couple of weeks frantically furnishing, painting, polishing and fussing over every inch of the home's interior, while four landscape design firms have turned the exterior into a Grecian garden.

The result: Lush surroundings that would have suited the Greek god Zeus himself.

Inspired by both the home's classical architecture and ocean view, the designers chose "Aegean Jewel" as the decor theme. While drawing upon ancient Greece as the starting point for a timeless decor, the home has enough futuristic features to ensure it will be ready for the new millennium.

"We felt Mediterranean themes had been worked to death, and we wanted something different," said Mary Swift, chairwoman of the local ASID. "So when we looked at the architectural elements like the 22 columns throughout the house and the domed ceilings, we went a little Greek. But we're keeping it subtle."

Indeed, the only Greek goddesses to be found are the draped figures that adorn table legs, curios, cabinets and artwork. There are no garish statues or overt murals of Mt. Olympus.

Reminders of Greece Throughout

Still, there are small reminders of ancient Greek civilization everywhere, such as the key motif that appears etched on glass and painted on walls throughout the home. Some fabrics have Greek motifs, and there's classical crown molding adorning ceilings, doorways and cabinetry.

Designers from von Hemert Interiors Inc. decorated the library with furnishings that reflected neoclassical themes, including ceramic hand-painted urns on the fireplace mantle and a Russian curio of mahogany and marble with gold-plated Grecian women adorning the front. The area rugs have been stone-washed so that they look ancient.

"One rug looks like it's 1,000 years old, and it's only 2," said Keve Butterfield, an interior designer with von Hemert in Costa Mesa.

In the master bath, which features a round tub surrounded by columns, designer Lori Hankins of Elegant Environments in Laguna Niguel installed a glass panel etched with a Grecian motif of a goddess-like damsel.

Some advanced decorator features in the home will seem Greek to even modern homeowners, such as the glass sinks in Hankins' bath that light up from below.

"They glow like a piece of Lalique crystal," Hankins said.

The master bedroom, by Newport Beach designer Anna Shay of Solanna, features a state-of-the-art fiber optic dome illuminated by neon light that changes hues--so future occupants can play god and change the color of the "sky." Called "An Ode to Greek Astrologers," the dome has pinpoints of light that form constellations.

The master retreat, which connects the bedroom to the bath, has another thoroughly modern touch: its own cappuccino bar.

All of the designers worked from a common color palette, established months ago to give the interior a cohesive look. In addition to using the blues and greens of the coastal setting, designers incorporated the terra-cotta, ivory and black hues found on ancient Greek pottery.

The kitchen has black granite counter tops that contrast with the creamy beige marble on the floor and ivory-colored crown molding on the ceiling. In the living room, Newport Beach designer John Benecke hung cotton drapes with deep terra-cotta flowers against an ivory background to frame the tall windows.

Shared Palette but Separate Visions

Once the color palette was established, the designers met for brainstorming sessions to show each other their plans for their space, including color boards and fabric swatches. While they shared ideas, each space reflects the designer's vision.

"We don't dictate," Swift said.

Designer Beverly Stadler of Design Focus in San Clemente fell in love with a swag motif, which she used throughout the bedroom she decorated for a fictitious college-age woman. She used "Aegean green" swag draperies and silk damask on a daybed. She also used a sea green fabric on an ottoman cushion, which is supported by three Grecian figures cast in bronze.

In an adjoining bath, she installed a neoclassical towel bar and soap dish carved out of stone, a tribute to the ruins of ancient Greece.

"I like repeating a motif without overdoing it," Stadler said.

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