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Designers Work Magic on a Hollywood Villa for Charity


Although interior designer Gail LeVine specializes in French interiors--she's director of the Pierre Deux store on Rodeo Drive--she has spent the summer remodeling a bedroom and bath for a 1920s Italian Renaissance villa in the Hollywood Hills.

"I was very lucky because the colors translated well," said LeVine, who upholstered the walls with a toile de jouy fabric, replaced the recessed lighting with an eight-candle polished steel chandelier, glazed the ceilings with an ochre gloss and combined antique furniture with luxurious cushions.

She is one of 30 interior designers whose volunteer work is represented in this year's Design House 2000, a fund-raiser for the Assistance League of Southern California, which is open for tours through the end of October.

Working from a common color palette of earth tones, yellows and soft blue, participating designers have remodeled and updated a spectacular 29-room Hollywood villa, balancing an individual look for each room with the need for an overall aesthetic.

The house was built by the late Charles Edward Toberman. Known in the 1920s as "Mr. Hollywood," he was developer of 36 important buildings, including such landmarks as the Grauman's Chinese and Egyptian theaters as well as the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Toberman's dramatic taste extended to his own home. When he and his wife, Josephine, decided in 1922 to build their dream home, they chose a terraced hillside in Hollywood and spared no expense in building "Villa Las Colinas." Designed by architects George Vernon Russell and Norman W. Alpaugh, with interiors by William P. Dawson, the estate is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Its 29 rooms are built around a courtyard and include an immense solarium with indoor pool, separate guest pavilion and upstairs four-room master suite with its own elevator.

"We've had eight design houses, and personally I think this is the best," said Katie Osterloh, president of the Assistance League. "This has a Mediterranean look, and we have tried to keep the authenticity." When a house is chosen for updating, designers bid for the room they want and follow basic style guidelines, she said. "We can't have one room modern and the next French Provincial. Still, they can put in their own touches."

"The designers definitely put in hours and hours we don't get paid for on these projects," said Tiffany Farha, who, with partner Joy Stowell, remodeled the living room, retaining the original wood trim, beams, sconces and plaster ceiling and adding modern touches to the furniture. "But the benefits outweigh the stress and finances that go into it. You get a lot of publicity and feedback, and it is a great portfolio builder."

This is her second Assistance League design house. "This house flows better than any other design house I've seen or worked on," Farha said. "Everybody was drawn to the neutral yellow tones."

Built into the terraced hill, the three-level house abounds with nooks, tiny balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows that bring its garden-vineyard setting and fountains indoors.

"The house itself is brilliant--its gracious entry and living room with arched windows are so warm they invite you in," said designer Denise Foley. "There are great details everywhere, such as arched windows, crown molding and encrusted plaster work."

She used yellow paint with an overglaze to create a sunny Tuscan ambience for the octagonal breakfast room with a wall mural replicating a fresco fragment from Pompeii. "I wanted the old look of plaster walls but didn't want them dirty, so I used the glaze," she said. "What everyone did was combine old techniques with modern materials to get an authentic look." Other attractions on the grounds are an outdoor restaurant and boutique shop. Proceeds from Design House 2000 support the work of the 81-year-old Assistance League, which sponsors community services, including a latchkey program for kids and day care for Alzheimer's sufferers.

"We have a staff of 100 and 1,000 volunteers," said Osterloh. "Last year's Design House made $200,000."


Design House 2000 is open Tuesdays through Sundays (closed Mondays) through Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: $20 at the door; no reservations required. Free parking lot for shuttle service at Odin Street (north of Franklin) and Highland; (818) 509-3898 or (323) 993-1097.

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