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Design Notes

In a Family Way

Designers and celebrities eschew the Hollywood glitz in favor of elegance and comfort in a showcase house benefiting a kids' charity.


It may be called Celebrity Showhouse, but the accent here is less on Hollywood glitz and more on restrained elegance for a home for a family with two kids. It's appropriate in this case, given that the benefiting charity is the Children's Action Network, which deals with children's issues.

"Our theme is a home for a real family," says creative director Elizabeth Blair of House Beautiful magazine, the benefit's sponsor. "We didn't want a house with five elaborate living rooms."

Opening to the public on Monday for a month, a 6,500-square-foot English country house in Brentwood features rooms by 22 designers, some of whom collaborated with celebrities, using them as theoretical clients for the project.

The basic color palette throughout is soothing: soft greens, muted blues, violets, creams with an occasional burst of red, black and gold as accents in paintings, carpeting and flooring. The same holds true for the exterior, with white and blue flowers, expansive lawns and a new swimming pool by Godfredsen & Sigal Architects made of blue and green Bisazza Italian glass mosaic tiles.

The living room, designed by Waldo Fernandez with input from actress Anjelica Huston, sets a calm tone. Done in soft beiges, the room's decor mixes a sofa designed by Fernandez, Art Deco antiques and a Jean-Michel Frank library table with art, including a plaque by Robert Graham, acid-treated photos by Robert Stivers and a red abstract painting by Lee Mullican.

Designer Barbara Barry's dining area for Oscar winner Halle Berry is serene, using light green, white and lavender. Barry designed the wall-covering fabric as well as the chairs and a dark wooden serving table.

New York designer Christopher Coleman's lounge for Sylvester Stallone and Jennifer Flavin updates a 1950s look in blue and green that coordinates with the nearby swimming pool. The furniture doubles as exercise benches, and there is a cactus-green wall cabinet with vintage blue handles, upholstered leather walls and a state-of-the-art cooling drawer. "We have a lot of items here that aren't on the market yet," Blair says.

Nearly 1,000 square feet were added to the existing house for the project. The kitchen, by Peter Dunham and Tim Barber, was extended to make room for a raised fireplace and extra storage room. The refrigerator and freezer are hidden behind blackboard and corkboard doors. The ceiling was raised to 12 feet to give the room an airy feeling, and French doors were added for light. The handmade floor with patterned tile squares in tomato red, black and gold was designed by Denis Colomb.

Suzanne Rheinstein and Joe Nye enlarged the downstairs family room by adding a long family porch that overlooks a garden, which was once an asphalt driveway. In the room, one wall is replete with old prints of Paris; another has a television in an antique French armoire. Antique tables in various sizes and motifs, including East Indian and Chinese, create interest throughout the room.

Two rooms upstairs fling off the subdued color palette found elsewhere. Thomas Beeton's family room for Julia Louis-Dreyfus has a blast of electric green on the walls, raisin- and rose-colored sofas and, cleverly, brightly colored pieces of children's art put together collage-like in one large frame. "I like to combine fine art with children's art in family rooms like this," says Los Angeles-based Beeton.

Designer Antonia Hutt created a dream room for a teenage boy. There's a large-screen video-game projector with a ceiling-mounted camera (the camera alone cost $12,000), a slim computer on a high-tech desk, a black Marc Newsome chair, long black plastic flaps for a closet door and red Pirelli rubber flooring. Taking the red and black that other designers used in moderation and making them her main colors, Hutt created a room that boys--if not their parents--would love.

Nearby, in the boy's bathroom, by Molly Luetkemeyer, a custom photo mural of a surfer riding a wave hangs on the ceiling. It is created from a photo that was turned into wallpaper. The creative possibilities for this, from Totally Custom Wallpaper of Atlanta, are endless.

This show house mirrors the current desire to spend more time at home with family and friends. Children's art is mixed with fine art; books appear as well as flat-screen televisions; sofas and chairs look capable of being flopped into, and although fabric-covered walls aren't inexpensive, less expensive re-creations could be done with similarly colored paint. The design is in the details--the white floral painting on the master bedroom's walls, the hand-painted silk in off-white and silver tones in the small home office, the sea-grass runner up the stairs. All in all, this is that rare bird, a showcase house that is restrained and in good taste.

Tickets to the House Beautiful Celebrity Showhouse are $25 each and must be purchased at the door. The house is at 130 N. Bristol Ave. and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except on Thursdays, when it is open until 8 p.m. Through May 27. For information, call toll free: (866) 255-9069.

Kathy Bryant may be reached at

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