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Beyond their dreams

Children's bedrooms aren't just for slumber. And it's out with the pink or blue: They're stylish and sophisticated spaces where even grown-ups feel at home.

October 09, 2003|Tina Daunt | Times Staff Writer

Luxury defines Caroline Abbasi's suite. Towering walls glow with custom pink paint and wafer-thin wallpaper, hand-printed and flown in from England. The bed is a white confection of fine linens and European lace pillows. A large Belgian hand-hooked rug, swirling with pale pink and mauve flowers, lends just the right air of coordinated sophistication.

It's easy to forget that you are in the personal domain of a 3-year-old.

This is no mere bedroom, this is a fantasyland more elaborately decorated than any other room in the Abbasis' immense Rancho Palos Verdes home. Some might wonder: Why all the fuss for such a small child? For Caroline's mother, Cathy, the answer is simple -- she spends almost all her time in these rooms. She wants them to be beautiful, like the places she reads about in fairy tales.

"I want that feeling of harmony," said Abbasi. The three-room suite, recently redecorated to make room for Caroline's newborn brother, Nicholas, is awash in light from windows facing north and south. Two televisions stand ready, one for Caroline to watch cartoons and the other for her mother. A bathroom is outfitted with a sink large enough to bathe a baby. Shelves bulge with plush stuffed animals and trinkets. A tiny table is set for tea. A mirrored closet opens to a treasure trove of toys stacked up to the edge of the vaulted ceiling.

Years ago, one coat of pink or blue paint and a simple white crib was all you needed to create a baby's room. Now -- with couples waiting longer to have children and with more disposable income to spend -- children's rooms are becoming more like ultra-decorated jewel boxes of designer fabrics, murals and antiques.

"A lot of people want the same quality things in their children's room that they would buy for themselves," said Michael Baker, director of creative services for the Pacific Design Center. "They want things that will last, that they won't look at in five years and want to toss out."

In Venice, 9-month-old Lexi Radziner has an orange-upholstered Bertoia diamond chair and ottoman in her nursery and a miniature wire Bertoia chair along with a Saarinen side table. Oh, and over the crib is a Steven Meisel photograph of Twiggy given to her father, architect Ron Radziner, by Meisel himself. But then her 2 1/2-year-old brother, Asher, who has a tepee against the 12-foot-long, 8 1/2-foot-high glass wall of his bedroom, has his own miniature walnut dining table and dining stools designed by his father.

Along with finer furnishings, parents are giving their children something far more rare in Los Angeles: space. Garages, studios, basements, spare bedrooms, even dining rooms find new life as rumpus rooms. Backyards are given over to forests of playthings, from the usual to the extravagant.

Abbasi brought in a work crew to create the bedroom suite for her daughter by carving large doors in the walls of three rooms. As afternoon wanes, she and her daughter often retreat from the suite onto a hidden patio that runs the length of the rancho-style house. There are toys from end to end: rocking horses, slides, a playhouse, bikes and more. It's no surprise that the neighborhood children, and their parents, have nicknamed Caroline's suite "Abbasi Land."

The daughter of two Hungarian immigrants, Cathy Abbasi always dreamed of having such a place to play. "There's a very cottage-like feel here," she said. "They're the rooms I never had."

The push for better children's furnishings has fostered a cottage industry of entrepreneurs. Barbara Bartman, owner of Auntie Barbara's Antiques in Beverly Hills, specializes in making custom cribs and children's furnishings, including changing tables that convert into adult-worthy dressers. They're not cheap. Larger pieces sell anywhere from $1,600 to $2,000. A special-order crib bumper, made of fine chintz, linen or chenille, sells for $575.

"People are much more involved in their children," said Bartman, who has been in business for 30 years. "They're much more involved in their homes and the way they look. They want the stuff in their children's rooms to look and blend more with the style of the house."

Filmmakers Rachel Davidson and Jeff Janger wanted to find a way to incorporate the Moroccan and Asian decor of their Westwood home with that of their nursery.

One day, while searching through bolts of cloth at Diamond Foam & Fabric on La Brea Avenue, Davidson found a print featuring tents, elephants and palm trees in rich hues that reminded her of a Moroccan circus. It was the perfect fabric to make a whimsical yet chic room for her daughter, Arielle, now 22 months old.

"We decided to build the entire room around it," Davidson said. They took the fabric to designer Thea Seagal, who custom-made a bumper and crib skirt. "We wanted something we liked," Janger said. "We had to live with it too."

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