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Geek goes glam

'Pushing Daisies' creator Bryan Fuller puts his idiosyncratic stamp on a newly elegant house. It's an exercise in taming his inner nerd.

October 04, 2007|David A. Keeps | Times Staff Writer

WITH just a touch, Ned the Pie Maker, the hero of the new ABC fantasy-comedy "Pushing Daisies," can make rotten fruit turn ripe and bring the dead back to life. The show's 38-year-old creator, Bryan Fuller, does not enjoy such instant gratification. In 2000, he bought and began renovating a place he calls "the boathouse." High in the Silver Lake hills, the three-story 1905 structure seems to levitate above the turquoise reservoir. Only the western vista of tiled roofs and the distant Hollywood sign give away its location.

Fuller has since been trying to do for his first home what Ned can do so easily: restore life. Initially, the comic-book fan and sci-fi aficionado treated it like a playhouse -- the kind of place where, says friend Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed the "Pushing Daisies" pilot, you'd expect to see "too much stuff made of plastic that originated in a galaxy far, far away." But after seven years, Fuller's residence has evolved into an elegantly idiosyncratic home. "Bryan has gone from geek to chic," says Betsy Burnham, the interior designer who helped guide the transformation.


FULLER, a writer- producer whose credits include "Dead Like Me," "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Heroes," says the house started as a funky little place with a spectacular view of the water -- "quirky and odd enough to feel like my home and a great template to do something fun with." The problem: too much fun and not enough focus.

"Tin windup robots and plastic action figures were occupying the same space as an entertaining area," he says. "There were lots of toys in the living room."

Some survived exile to Fuller's cluttered office on the lower level. Woof Woof, a werewolf doll that TV's Eddie Munster carried as a teddy bear, sits on a stack of Edgar Allan Poe books on a bamboo media cabinet in the bedroom.

"Bryan had his own style, a dark whimsy, but it was more like a boy lives here," Burnham says. Relocating his extensive collection of toys to custom-built shelves in his office, she adds, "was not a slap on the wrist. It was just time."

Fuller, who dresses in English-tailored tweed vests, candy-colored Paul Smith shirts and Prada shoes, agrees.

"I was still in the transition space between apartment living and home owning," he says. "Betsy said, 'Why don't you select a few toys and framed movie posters surrounded by beautiful fabrics and interesting furniture that is more grown up?' "

Burnham had no intention of curbing Fuller, the collector.

For proof, look no farther than the living room, where "Star Wars" light sabers are propped near the fireplace, next to a replica of the cane that vampire Barnabas Collins carried on "Dark Shadows."

Sitting between a plantation chair trimmed in suede and nail heads and a sofa upholstered in a rich Schumacher paisley, a life-size replica of Gollum, the ghoulish creature from "The Lord of the Rings" films, looks as if it has been sentenced to a timeout.

"I understand the need to have things around," Burnham says. "I think it's so much more rich and layered than someone who just wants to accessorize their house."

The designer suggested new materials and categories: precious metals, anthropological specimens, nautical objects and more traditional men's collectibles such as barware and smoking paraphernalia.

"Betsy brought a timelessness to the style of the house," Fuller says. "Before it was much more pop-culture specific. Now you have a taxidermy duck and a brass lighthouse cigarette holder on a campaign chest instead of a plastic Darth Vader and Jason Voorhees."


MUCH of the decoration suggests that Fuller and Burnham have their fingers on the pulse of contemporary design: Zebra-print wallpaper and upholstery mixed with boldly colored Chinoiserie furniture, lighting and window treatments exude Hollywood Regency glamour. A menagerie of animals and bugs in bronze, bone and ceramic scream neo-Victorian eccentricity, as does a bowl filled with lifelike glass eyes.

For a dash of upscale boathouse style, the dining room sports polished nickel hardware and lighting fixtures with a nautical vibe, along with Burnham's use of bespoke men's shirt and suiting fabrics for curtains and upholstery.

In the master bedroom, grass-cloth walls, a sisal rug, a woven rope bed and a British Colonial ceiling fan conjure the island ambience.

"It's definitely a tropical getaway room," Fuller says. "If you open the curtains, you don't know whether you will see the oceans or the jungle."

Instead of a trendy amalgam of popular decorating styles, the rooms feel unified -- an organic outgrowth of Fuller's tastes and, as Burnham puts it, "fearlessness when it comes to color and pattern."

Defined by animal objects, antique Oushak and Samarkand rugs and an African beaded chair, the double-height living room has the opulence of a safari lodge.

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