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Design Notes

Shoestring Stylist of BBC's 'Home Front' Expands Westward

April 05, 2001|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Move over, Martha. British home-decorating phenomenon Anne McKevitt is launching an invasion on U.S. soil.

McKevitt hosts the BBC's "Home Front," a weekly half-hour TV show devoted to home decor, crafts and gardening, some segments of which have aired on HGTV. She also has five home design books to her credit, published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd. and BBC Worldwide Ltd.

McKevitt's line of home products, called Anne McKevitt Ideas, includes paints, bedding, rugs, cushions, tiles, stencils and stamps and is about to expand to wall coverings, textiles, paintable furniture, glassware, ceramics and garden products. Her line is expected to be available in the U.S. later this year via TV shopping channels, department stores, mass merchandisers and catalogs.

Beginning this summer, she will appear on cable TV's Home Shopping Network four to six times a year. For starters, McKevitt will make an appearance on the shopping channel's home decor and style segment to sell one of her books, "Style on a Shoestring."

Already, McKevitt has taped five guest segments on HGTV's "Smart Solutions." The shows, to be aired in the fall, will reveal her tips on recovering old chairs with sweaters or bath mats, turning old wood ladders into towel or magazine racks, using bed sheets as window treatments and stenciling and painting doors to be turned into tables.

McKevitt, 32, is a native of Scotland. She and her husband of 13 years, Don McKevitt, originally from Ireland, reside in London. They were married while she was recuperating from a serious car accident in 1985. McKevitt, who had been a hairstylist prior to the accident, said they had no money for decorating the apartment they purchased in London.

"An awful lot of people who watch TV or buy decor books are made to feel that they have to have expertise," McKevitt said, "But everyone can start from scratch and have no experience at all, just like anything else in life."

She learned her trade by salvaging furniture tossed out in posh neighborhoods. As friends asked her to decorate their homes, it occurred to McKevitt that she could create a business for herself.

McKevitt's rule about decorating is "no rules but use plenty of imagination." She is also big on shortcuts.

"You don't have to do things the way a craftsperson might do it. Most people work or have a family and have two hours over a weekend for a project and that's the reality of life. Books and TV make people feel they have the time to do it, but not everyone has the time or wants to do a piece that is family heritage. You can do four chairs in two hours. I want people to know there are shortcuts and ways to achieve things."

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To say that there was nothing understated about Liberace would be an understatement. "Mr. Showmanship" was famous for his flamboyant stage presence and props, from the ubiquitous candelabra on his piano to those sequined, jeweled and feathered costumes.

Now the plain-faced exterior of the Liberace Museum, which resides in a shopping plaza in Las Vegas, will match the extravagance of the man whom it immortalizes. Poised for renovation and expansion beginning May 12, the museum holds such items as Liberace's Austrian rhinestone-covered Baldwin and full-length mink coat lined with 40,000 Austrian rhinestones. The museum will get a mock-piano exterior, designed by the architecture firm Leo A. Daly. The museum opened in 1979 and tripled in size to 15,000 square feet after Liberace's death in 1987. The latest expansion will bring it to 21,000.

Daly is also executive architect of the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A., which was designed by Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo. Francis (Frank) Xavier Dumont will lead the Daly team on the Liberace project from the firm's Las Vegas office.

Dumont says he is a Liberace fan and "this project is an entertainment designer's dream--to re-create Liberace's career and legacy in built form." Dumont's aim is to physically capture the virtuosity of a Liberace musical performance with curvilinear shapes covered in a vast, flowing musical score and with piano keys spread across the facade. Over a cylindrical glass entrance foyer will be an oversized 3-D pink neon piano and large rendition of Liberace's famous signature.

The Liberace Museum, located at Liberace Center, 1775 E. Tropicana Ave., Las Vegas, will stay open during construction, which is expected to conclude by the fall.

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Candace A. Wedlan can be reached at candace.wedlan@latimes.com

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