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Mountain High

Hooked on Lake Arrowhead's Natural Beauty, a Couple Transform a Small Home Into a Sky-Hugging Aerie

February 11, 2001|BARBARA THORNBURG

Seismologists were talking about the possibility of a quake, news that galvanized Angelika Schubert, president of the Celestine styling agency, to whisk husband David Tate, a busy TV advertising producer, to Lake Arrowhead for a few days to escape the temblor. Although the "Big One" didn't occur that weekend in 1989, the pair fell in love with the idea of living in the clear air and mountain setting. For Schubert, who spent childhood summers at her family's 16th century manor in the Austrian countryside, it brought back memories of "picking berries, hiding in the trees and taking long walks in the woods."

Excited about finding their own retreat, the couple spent the next Sunday looking at properties and left word with a broker to call if anything looked promising. Six weeks later a house became available in the upscale Skyforest area of Lake Arrowhead--a 10-minute drive from the lake. Nestled among pine trees at the end of a dirt road, the two-bedroom 1950s redwood home had the rustic seclusion the couple desired, but it needed major reworking. "We began with the idea of a small place, then we thought it would be wonderful to have a couple of rooms for friends," Schubert says. "David and I also love to play Ping-Pong, so we needed another large room for that--the house just sort of grew."

Schubert and Tate gutted the upstairs, removing walls, sandblasting dark wood paneling and transforming a series of small rooms into one large, open space designed for living, dining and cooking. Standard 8-foot ceilings were raised to a lofty 20 feet and skylights and picture windows were added to capture treetop views. "We wanted to bring in as much light as possible," says Tate.

The open floor plan also allows the producer, famous among his friends for his apple tarte tatin and tiramisu, to entertain in a relaxed atmosphere. "I can be cooking in the kitchen and still be part of whatever is happening in the living room." Additions downstairs include a utility room, two guest rooms with separate baths and a large room devoted to Ping-Pong tournaments. "We often play after lunch to burn off the calories," says Schubert.

Not surprisingly, their second home reflects a more relaxed decor. While a handsome collection of antiques ranging from Baroque armoires, Biedermeier sofas and Joseph Hoffman chairs fills their Bel-Air Crest townhouse, the couple wanted something more casual for their mountain retreat.

"Seventy percent of the furniture we found at local flea markets, the rest is from our travels around Europe," says Schubert. "It's all very eclectic." Schubert, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Vienna and a former fashion designer, used earthen-hued kilim rugs to set the color scheme, then brushed walls with a butter-colored paint pigment mixed with water. Sofas are piled high with pillows covered in vintage fabrics that she bought at Odalisque--an L.A. store specializing in 19th century European textiles in which she is a silent partner.

"If we found something we liked, we just bought it," she says of their decorating goals. "Most of all we wanted it to be comfortable and warm." For the busy couple, a new deck under the pines off the second-floor living room has quickly become a favorite spot for relaxing. "When I look up and hear the wind moving through the trees and smell the wonderful air, I don't ever want to leave," says Schubert.

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