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ELEGANT LIVING, BY DESIGN : DECORATORS TURN BING CROSBY'S FORMER HOME INTO A SUMPTUOUS SHOWPLACE OF STYLE AND TASTE.

Byline: Barbara De Witt

Even in 1935, movie stars needed an escape from the world of paparazzi, obsessed fans and life in the fast lane.

For Bing Crosby, singing star of ``White Christmas'' and other films, it was the sleepy community of Toluca Lake. He had architect J. Robert Harris build a stately Georgian Colonial revival-style house in the middle of a walnut grove. There, he and his wife, Dixie Lee, raised four sons, living the American dream with a swimming pool and tennis court in their own back yard.

In later years, it was owned by Andy Griffith, and it's now the home of Jerry Van Dyke (TV's ``Coach'') and his wife, Shirley, who are opening their home to the public Tuesday through Nov. 3.

The estate had suffered a fire and several earthquakes when it was recently turned over to a team of 20 local architects and designers to be remodeled and redecorated in the latest design trends. Design House '96 is the annual project of the nonprofit philanthropic Assistance League of Southern California, which benefits needy families in Los Angeles.

The home is slightly smaller today than the original, attributable to a fire in the '40s and a scarcity of building materials during World War II. Today's version has 17 rooms and 10,000 square feet. During the rebuilding, a portico was removed from the front and the house was given a Federal exterior, which has been painted white with soft green trim and enhanced with a parklike garden setting.

As you enter through the front gates and walk up the curved brick driveway, you'll see roses, fountains and manicured lawns and hedges that make the yard look much as it did in its early days. There's a guest house to the right, where stars probably stayed when visiting the Crosbys; now it's an office and gym with a mirrored ballet barre.

Instead of displaying the latest in contemporary furnishings or taking a traditional approach in the house and guest house, the Design House team created an open, airy ambience based on American Empire, a popular decorating style for Federalist-period buildings. The color palette is white and cream and terra cotta, with hints of deep green, blue and burgundy. Typical of that period, there is extensive use of carved crown molding painted white to accent creamy walls, but there's also a Mediterranean undercurrent seen in the white glazed terra cotta tiles on the kitchen counters and in the Italian tile floors.

In keeping with the American Empire decor, the furniture is often large in scale, with rococo ornamentation on gilded mirrors, sconces and candlestick stands. There are several antiques from the American Empire period, including a lyre table (intricately carved to resemble a harp), as well as heavier carved pieces that reflect the earlier Spanish style, and art deco pieces to create an eclectically theatrical mood.

Marieann Green of Los Angeles designed the formal dining room with numerous pieces from K. Spiegleman Antiques.

``Predicable dining rooms are so boring,'' she said. ``I knew I didn't want to do Chippendale, so I bit the bullet and went for drama with big-scale pieces.'' The results are a huge Spanish-style dark-wood table with massive carved legs, nail-head-trimmed chairs and an upholstered bench. On the table is a massive urn filled with dried artichokes and other greens, and over the fireplace is a Mayan stone medallion the size of a luxury car tire, complemented by a pair of smaller-scale, free-form bronze roosters on the mantel, and gilded fireside chairs at the sides. Not to be missed are the 4-foot-tall pedestals with cupids, perhaps designed to hold candles but now topped with large ferns.

In the kitchen designed by Sylvia Parker of Encino, there's a mix of Empire and Mediterranean design. The cabinets, while heavily and somewhat primitively carved, are in pale pine, and the counters and floor feature glazed tiles.

Also light and bright is the living room, designed by Tania Lowi of Sylkan Designs in Los Angeles. She gave the walls a faux finish in a pale lemon, highlighted by more white-enameled crown molding and built-in bookcases, and a cream-colored diamond-patterned carpet. The artfully puddled draperies are kept to a minimum so that sunlight pours in through the French doors that open onto the many gardens.

Typical of a Design House, there are always a few ``jewels'' that may be small in space but big on style. This year, they're the downstairs powder room and guest bedroom with private bath.

In the ultraspacious powder room, designer Cheryl Casey Ross of Cross Interiors of Van Nuys ripped out the original bathroom, a closet and hallway to create a room enhanced by floating mirrors and back-lighting.

``You want everyone to look good, and feel good when they're in the room, and pink lights tend to be the most flattering to complexions,'' Ross explained.

Instead of a single overhead light fixture, Ross used 16 individual lights in various locations, including the raised ceiling, which can be turned on and off, and up and down, to create five different ``scenes'' at the touch of a button from a remote control.

Using a magnolia blossom theme, Ross carved flowers out of the silver backing of the large mirrors, and also a slab of thick glass which she used as a privacy screen in front of the toilet. There's also a magnolia blossom painted on a wall and the tile floor.

Across the hall, Sue Potter of Saxony Street Inc. in Toluca Lake and Sharon Horowitz of Encino joined forces to create a very old-Hollywood-inspired suite that reflects several new decorating ideas. The glamorous bed with a chaise longue-like headboard is placed at an angle, and there's a pleasing mix of metallic surfaces, ranging from the silver-leafed urn behind the bed to the gold-leafed chandelier, to the heavier gold-finished rococo mirrors. ``That's a new trend,'' Potter said of the odd pairing of metals, ``and they create a very romantic mood as long as the designs are vintage rather than contemporary.''

In the adjoining bathroom, it's total glamour. Potter and Horowitz have not only lacquered the walls so that they look and feel like marble. They've added a mirrored vanity with jeweled drawer pulls, frosted glass and a crystal basket light fixture on the ceiling. The piece de resistance, says Horowitz, is the faucet on the pedestal sink. The water trickles out of the trumpet of a ceramic calla lily.

Unlike past Design House tours, guests are encouraged to stroll the numerous gardens bordered by a Federalist-style fence and divided by meandering paths covered in nostalgic crushed granite.

THE FACTS

What: Design House '96, an insider's look at a renovation of an earthquake-damaged property featuring designer showrooms throughout. Sponsored by the Assistance League of Southern California.

Where: 10500 Camarillo St., Toluca Lake. Free parking and shuttle at Lakeside Plaza (Barham Boulevard and Forest Lawn Drive).

Admission: $15 in advance or $17 at the door. For tickets, call (818) 509-3898.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, Tuesday through Nov. 3.

Details: There are design workshops, guided tours, fashion shows, gift items and gourmet lunches available for an additional fee.

CAPTION(S):

10 Photos

Photo: (1--2--Cover--Color) Eduardo Chavez sets bricksin the new driveway leading to the Toluca Lake home used for Design House '96. Jerry Van Dyke, inset, is the home's current owner.

(3--4--Color) At left, Sharon Horowitz, seated, and Sue Potter soak in the glamour and elegance of old Hollywood that they designed into a guest bedroom and its bathroom, above.

(5--Color) Spanish-style wood dining table and Mayan stone medallion lend sturdiness and formality to the dining room designed by Marieann Green.

(6--Color) A magnolia-blossom motif recurs through the powder room designed by Cheryl Casey Ross.

(7--Color) Jaime Callens adds some last-minute strokes to the entryway of Design House '96 in Toluca Lake.

Michael Owen Baker/Daily News

(8--10) The Toluca Lake home transformed into Design House '96 was built for Bing Crosby, above, bought later by Andy Griffith, above right, and is now owned by Jerry Van Dyke, right.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 28, 1996
Words:1345
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