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Byline: Diana McKeon Charkalis Lifestyle Editor

For designer Lori Erenberg, it's all about the drama.

And her retro penthouse apartment in Brentwood reflects this with an exuberant sense of style. A classic 1960s serpentine sofa, a fabulous ``Rock Hudson'' stone fireplace, and clear Lucite chairs, the seats upholstered with turquoise handbag leather, are some of the elements inside that make it clear Erenberg is happily at home with the past.

``I used to drive by and I always wanted to live here because I thought the architecture was so amazing,'' she says. ``I thought I could move in and pretend I had a penthouse in New York, and play the sophisticate living in this cool late-'50s place.''

Erenberg's flamboyant design sense caught the eye of editors at Metropolitan Home. They not only featured her home in their magazine earlier this year, but also included it in the new book ``Decorate: Insider's Tips From Top Designers'' (Filipacci; $45), available this month. ``The way you really find out what a designer is all about,'' says author Michael Lassell, who is also Metropolitan Home's features director, ``is when they design for themselves.''

For Erenberg, who has lived in her current apartment for four years, it means creating a mood. ``I think one of the things that I do well is alter the energy of a place. I change rooms so you feel light and bright and happy.''

Getting her 1,850-square-foot home's look started, she capitalized on its modern architecture: high ceilings, angled walls and a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass in the living room that looks out on the lush greenery of a neighboring golf course.

She chose not to obscure the view with window treatments and also painted each wall in the room a different shade. She made no structural changes in the two-bedroom, two-bath 1959 apartment, only altering the surfaces.

Although many a designer would have ripped out the ``popcorn'' stucco ceiling in the living room, she kept it and put it to good use. ``You don't always have to get rid of it. I painted it and took advantage of the texture.''

She often compares furniture to sculpture and likes to experiment with different shapes. In fact, she sleeps in a round bed that dominates her master suite. It's an item she coveted ever since she saw one in the Palm Springs home of her former father-in-law, who hung out with the Rat Pack and once dated Joey Heatherton.

``Everybody thinks, 'Wow, a round bed.' But it really isn't anything wild at all. It's just the idea of it. You have to have special sheets made for it.''

Erenberg calls the work she does for clients ``traditional with a twist,'' but adds with a smile that her own abode ``wouldn't suit my clients. None of their homes look like this.''

Still, some of her guiding principles for decorating remain the same. For example, mixing high-end pieces with lower-priced items. In her dining room, she paired a rare and pricey mosaic-top table with some generic black leather chairs from the '70s. To jazz them up, she dyed the seats lilac and painted the frames a burnished gold.

``It's how you put them together that makes the difference. I love color. I love texture. I love sculpture. I just see my interiors more like art, like paintings.''

Perhaps this comes from her own artistic upbringing. She grew up in Southern California with a mom who was a painter and fashion illustrator and a musician dad known as the ``King of the Accordions.'' He started a music school in a former hotel/brothel, and it was there that Erenberg too, learned to play the instrument.

Although she was an accomplished musician and dancer at an early age, she also had an affinity for design. ``I was always living in fantasy land as a kid, decorating and painting my room. I watched all the old films, like 1930s musicals, and tried to duplicate the styles.''

She studied art and architectural history at USC, but her musical ability came in handy soon after she got out of school. That's when she was asked to join the offbeat musical troupe Oingo Boingo, led by film composer Danny Elfman. ``It was fun and kind of surreal,'' she says. ``I played for Andy Warhol at the Factory.''

During this time, she also married and had two sons in rapid succession. When they were small, she gained notice for decorating her own 1950s home, dubbed ``Rancho Deluxe,'' which was featured in the style book ``Mid-Century Modern'' and was documented by the Smithsonian Institution. ``It became this huge thing,'' she says. ``It was my stay-at-home project - a way of doing my art.''

By the time her boys were school-age, she was divorced and began to work from home as a designer, starting by decorating friends' homes. ``I always worked out of my house. It was just a way I could be at home and take care of my children at the same time.''

Now her sons are grown - one is a psychologist and the other is studying to be a veterinarian. She lives and works in her home, where she loves to cook and enjoys entertaining friends with ``exotic food and fun music.''

It's a new chapter in her life, but some things remain the same. Like the way she looks at the world as an art project in the making. She confesses that even when she drives down the street, she's always admiring objects or contemplating how she could improve their look.

``My mind is always going. It doesn't matter if it's clothes or cars or a house or a man - I'm always thinking about the look.'' She lets loose a hearty laugh. ``Style is my middle name.''

Diana McKeon Charkalis, (818) 713-3760


How the experts do it

Interior design trends are always changing, and Metropolitan Home's ``Decorate'' wants to help keep consumers up-to-date.

``We've seen a real shift in interior design, away from stark minimalism to much more decorative interiors,'' says author Michael Lassell. ``I pulled out what I think are some of the current trends in design.''

Culled from hundreds of stories that have run in Metropolitan Home magazine since 1999, Lassell focuses on practical advice homeowners can use.

``We wanted it to be a dream book, but we put a big emphasis on accessibility,'' he says. ``We have very hands-on readers, and they want to be able to have or create the stuff they see. The text is really a guide to looking at the pictures.''

The book features design examples from all around the country and covers a range of concepts from how to make white interiors work to embracing and integrating midcentury modern style like Erenberg's, in any home. It also includes advice on eco-design, working with small spaces, and innovative wall and window treatments. Many of the designers featured take an innovative approach to design that anyone can emulate.

``You'll find designers who use high-end large pieces, but they'll mix them with things they built themselves and things that cost very little from yard sales that just look good,'' he says. ``You don't have to go into a showroom. A lot of designers are hip to that now.''

- D.M.C.

Realizing your vision

Here are some tips from Erenberg on how to get the look you want:

Start with the big picture: ``Look at it as a blank, open canvas.'' This means taking into consideration things like the architecture, ceiling height and available light. ``All those things are really important in figuring out what types of furnishings, colors and shapes you can have.''

Choose large pieces first: Things like sofas will anchor your room. ``These will help define the space.''

Consider function: Is the space a combination room such as a dining/living area, or a more dedicated space like a library or child's playroom?

Opt for quality over quantity: ``It's better to get a few great pieces and try them out. Then you can sit back and see what else you need.''

Don't fear color: ``It can really liven up a space. But it doesn't have to be wild - the shades can be subtle. They can be all browns and beiges.'' To try colors out, bring home paint chips and fabric swatches.

Don't forget wallpaper: ``It's really back in. And it's a great way to camouflage an ugly room and make it more interesting. There are so many things you can do, from textural wallpaper to even stripes or plaids or florals. You can really create drama that way.''

Do white right: ``I have done all-white environments, and I like to use different shades. There are these great metallic paints now so you can have metallic white walls. You can also do a white wall of tile, or even try white textured wallpaper.''


5 photos, 2 boxes


(1 -- cover -- color) Midcentury marvelous

Lori Erenberg shares her flair for interior design

(2 -- color) Lori Erenberg's exuberant sense of design and her passion for the midcentury modern look are reflected in the decor of her Brentwood apartment, pictured here and on the cover. The ``Rock Hudson'' fireplace is similar to those featured in the star's movies.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer

(3 -- 4 -- color) Erenberg's home - with its floor-to-ceiling windows, above, and round bed, left - was featured in Metropolitan Home magazine earlier this year and is in the new book ``Decorate: Insider's Tips From Top Designers.''

Photos by Grey Crawford/Courtesy of Filipacchi Publishing

(5 -- color) no caption (book: ``Decorate: Insider's Tips From Top Designers'')


(1) How the experts do it (see text)

(2) Realizing your vision (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 19, 2005
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