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Inside Hot Property

The Write Place

Novelist Judith Krantz's sprawling Bel-Air house reflects a love for things plush and patterned.

July 04, 1999|RUTH RYON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Novelist Judith Krantz likes to dance in her bedroom.

She and her husband, Steve, roll up the carpet and waltz, rumba and fox trot. Often they tango and swing.

Other times, she sits by the fire in the large 40-foot-long room and reads.

Whether dancing or reading, the author describes her bedroom as "cozy and gay at the same time."

No wonder it is her favorite room.

The walls are covered with a joyous-looking fabric depicting colorful roses and other flowers in cascading bouquets. An alcove near the fireplace serves as a small library. Between the bed and the alcove, a large table displays Krantz's collection of green and pink opaline glass, made in France during the 1800s.

She started collecting opaline on her honeymoon in Paris. The Krantzes celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in February.

Their bedroom also has a golf-course view. The house is on the 17th hole of the Bel-Air Country Club.

"The golfers make a lot of noise," she said. "It's all one word . . . starting with sh . . . and then their balls go into our pool."

Another room where Krantz spends a lot of time is her office, where she has written a number of books since buying the house in 1986.

Krantz, who wrote her first novel when she was 50, has written 10 to date, from such bestsellers as "Scruples" in 1978 to "The Jewels of Tesa Kent," published in the fall.

"The room is an honest mess," she said, opening the door. "This is as messy as it gets, but I always leave it messy until I finish a book."

She calls the room her sanctum. It has a computer and a desk, but it also has her stuff, as she calls it: objects that she finds inspiring.

At one side of her computer is a pile of written pages; at the other side, a vase of flowers, a clock and a hat. The hat reminds her of one of her books. "I got a whole scene with a heroine wearing that hat in 'Lovers' (1994)."

On a table, laden most of the time with Krantz's bestsellers, is a bronze bust of a bare-breasted woman. "She is my muse," Krantz says. "Her name is Sarah."

Krantz found the bust in a Paris antiques shop. "She would be Edwardian. She's certainly not Victorian. They didn't run around like that in Victorian days."

The table is near a window overlooking the grounds, an acre spread in a half-circle around Krantz's house.

But Krantz rarely looks out the window when working. "If I do, I lose my concentration," she explained. The garden is lush with lavender trumpet flowers, a grape arbor and a California pepper tree.

When she and her husband, a TV producer, bought the house, there was no garden.

"And we lived in the pool house for a year while redecorating," she said. "The decor was faux chandeliers and dead animals--heads of things the lady [the former owner] had shot herself and put on the walls."

Many additions had been made over the years to the 8,000-square-foot house, which only had five rooms when it was built in 1938.

"So it's sprawling," Krantz conceded, "but I like a house like that."

A two-story library and entrance hall--created when the previous owner cut through the second floor--got Krantz's attention when she and her husband were house-hunting.

At 6-foot-3, Steve Krantz liked the height of the entry, which the novelist later turned from what she terms "glitz" to French country by digging up the marble floor and installing very expensive 300- to 400-year-old French tiles.

"The floor was my folly, but folly is OK if it lasts," she said.

The two-story library appealed to Krantz, because she could always see its potential for displaying her novels. Krantz now keeps copies there of the miniseries and foreign editions of her books.

The foreign editions especially amuse her. "What is this one? Oh, it's Greek," she said, taking one from the shelf, "and here's one in Hebrew. The cute ones are in Japanese--two little volumes for one book. And this beauty? It's probably Finnish. They also do large print for people like me."

Her novels have been printed in 43 languages, and there are about as many book-jacket designs as there are editions. She appreciates the artwork on each and arranges the books, like her other collectibles, to suit her eye.

She even does this with books by other authors. For example, a dictionary stands next to some other books in her TV room, because they all have red jackets "to divert attention because the TV is so ugly," she said.

Krantz likes patterns rather than plain fabrics. When she was growing up in Manhattan, her parents had muted grass cloth on the walls and dusty rose and moss-green furnishings.

"There were no prints," she recalled. "I went the other way. If a room doesn't have six patterns in it, I think something is wrong."

Her two-story library has fewer patterns because of its many books, but even so, the room has a floral love seat, gingham pillows, plaid curtains and a floral carpet.

"I'm a fabric nut," she concedes. "Every time I see one I love, I want to redecorate."

It's a romantic notion, not something she would actually do. She just redecorated much of her Bel-Air house last year, glazing walls and reupholstering furniture.

"And I don't want to go through that again for another 10 years," she said.

She has, after all, another book to write, and she has family things to do.

She is a grandmother of two children and the mother of two grown sons: Nick, a stockbroker, and Tony, co-chairman and chief executive of Imagine Television, which produces "Felicity," "Sports Night" and "The PJs."

"In this town, people don't know I'm a novelist," she said. "Here I'm known as Tony Krantz's mom."

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