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Wanted: A Cozy Place to Relax

Mike and Debbie Carona's hilltop home in Orange has suited them since 1986. When his badge comes off, a recliner in the family room is the place to chill.

March 04, 2000|ANN CONWAY

In the spotlight: The Brittany-inspired, three-bedroom house of Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona and his wife, Debbie. The couple purchased the hilltop Orange residence in 1986 for $170,000.

Married for 19 years, the Caronas "met in jail," Debbie said. "I was working for the public defender and Mike was working for the marshal."

The home they wanted: Weary of condominium living, the Caronas searched for a home spacious enough for entertaining yet cozy enough to

be comfortable.

With its open formal living area and snug family room, the 1,800-square-foot, one-story dwelling was just the ticket. "It was the right size for us--and our budget," Debbie said.

Along with their 9-year-old son, Matthew, the Caronas spend most of their time in the family room that sits off the light-filled kitchen. There, with Mike in his favorite chair and Debbie curled up on the sofa, they listen to Matthew play the violin.

"This is my all-time favorite thing to do," Mike said on a recent afternoon as Matthew happily played Vivaldi.

After a demanding day at work, Carona had kicked off his shoes and socks and traded in his imposing sheriff's uniform for a pair of Levi's and a denim shirt. "On Sundays, I fix a martini, settle back in my recliner, and get serenaded," he said, grinning.

About that recliner. Mike wanted it; Debbie didn't. So the couple settled on a chair that didn't look like a recliner, Mike noted. "We had quite a debate over that one--but it was the only thing I asked for," he said. "I've always wanted an easy chair."

Focus on the family: From the beloved antiques that accent the living room--including a dining table once owned by Debbie's parents, and a vintage radio that belonged to Mike's dad--to the colorful collection of Depression glass that gleams in the kitchen, the Carona household is geared to promoting a sense of history.

"Things from the past get special treatment at our house," said Debbie, whose glass collection is a nostalgic reminder of the Great Depression.

The value of each piece is determined by its rarity, pattern, color and desirability.

"In those days, they told customers at filling stations to load up their tanks and get a free piece of glass," she said. "Black, blue and pink are the most expensive. I have mostly green--and a few of the blue and pink pieces."

Mike is grateful for Debbie's reverence for the past. Being surrounded by cherished treasures helps the couple create a meaningful atmosphere for their son.

"Kids flourish in a solid family environment, and so do their friends," Mike said. "Kids want to go to the house that has that family feeling."

Family pet: No room in the Carona house is off-limits to Houdini, the family cat. "We named her that because when we brought her home from the pound, she disappeared for two weeks--then returned out of nowhere," Debbie said. "She's basically a cat-dog--she follows Matthew wherever he goes."

Into the garden: During visits to Northern California, Debbie fell in love with the flower-filled gardens found there.

Inspired, she replaced her traditional front lawn with a free-flowing English garden.

"It's my pride and joy," she said as she watched Houdini eye a bird hovering over the blooms. "I've always lived with grass lawns--so to have the scents and colors of a fresh flower garden is a new and wonderful experience."

Ann Conway's In Home feature appears on the first Saturday of the month. She can be reached at (714) 966-5952 or by e-mail at ann.conway@latimes.com.

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