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Decorating and design: stars jump over the moon

The rich and famous know just what they want in a home and they're not about to let a few million dollars stand in their way, according to top West Coast designers, decorators and architects.

Arthur McLaughlin, of San Francisco, who designs and furnishes upscale retreats for clients such as Oprah Winfrey, says the sky is the limit. He says today's stars want in-home theaters for 10 to 80 people, with overhead projectors and drop-down screens, small service kitchens in the master bedroom suite, and catering kitchens.

Also on the star wish lists are secret steel-walled "panic rooms" large enough for four people, and which are fire and bombproof, equipped with oxygen, food and water and wireless phone links to police and security guards.

Computer controlled living
"They even want their own cave to store fine wine," adds McLaughlin, along with elaborate, preprogrammed lighting systems. Heating and cooling systems, pool covers, fountains and garden lights that can be activated with a phone call are also popular.

Stone floors that are heated from below are popular and bars -- casual ones, self-serve and with a wine fridge -- are back in vogue.

"Many of our clients have three or four kitchens," says architect Robert Earl, who has an A-list of confidential customers. There's often a garage-sized main kitchen, with a large island and standard-size cook top for personal use; in addition to a restaurant-size secondary kitchen in the same room where the staff cooks for large parties entertained.

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"There's a second kitchen in the servants' suite, for their personal use, and third and fourth kitchens in the two master suites so the owners can prepare late-night snacks for themselves," explains Earl.

Rain bars replace shower heads
Bathrooms in these homes are huge, according to the expert, who list hand-cut marble floors, steam showers, saunas, bidets, stereos, televisions and phones and even fireplaces among the most popular features. Closet-sized power showers come with 12-inch heads with automatic shampoo dispensers, temperature controls, skylights, and heated towel rails.

"One couple, adds Earl, "had vertical 'rain bars' installed that jetted hot water in anything from fine mist to a hard spray. The soap niches had recessed lights and an ice water dispenser was installed next to the bench seat."

Actor William Shatner -- "Star Trek's" Captain Kirk -- had a replica of his starship commander's chair built around his toilet so he could boldly go alone, in style.

Drapes are motorized, as are the crystal chandeliers that must be lowered for cleaning, while discreet, pen-sized video cameras monitor the house and grounds and can be viewed by the owners from most rooms.

Some people have high-speed elevators installed to whisk them from basement gym to fourth-floor sauna. Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar called for extra-deep stair treads to accommodate his size 16 feet.

Treasures on display
To properly display her gowns "Dr. Quinn" actress Jane Seymour prescribed a special cedar-lined closet, stacked two gowns high so she could view all 150 at a glance.

Other must-haves for the wealthy are prestige libraries and galleries.

"We put in two-story libraries for a number of clients, " said architect Earl. "The entrance is off the foyer and there is a ladder or circular staircase access to the book loft on the next floor. Or, you can enter the upper library balcony from the master suite."

Galleries are next on the list, because many celebrities have collections of extremely valuable artifacts.

Some of the famous, like Pia Zadora, put their art treasures on show.

Designer Reginald Adams created a long gallery in Pia's Malibu Colony oceanfront home. It leads to the guest bedrooms. "Guests can enjoy the paintings as they walk to their ocean side accommodations," he explained.

Treasures locked away
Some celebrities prefer to hide their treasures. "Clients ask for concrete catacombs, some around 2,000 square feet that can only be entered through a secret door in a library or master bedroom," said McLaughlin.

The secret chambers are often locked behind bank vault doors and the treasures inside, from artworks to collections of semi-precious stones, are displayed behind bulletproof glass.

Some celebrities use the catacombs as shooting galleries, bowling alleys, gymnasiums, wine cellars or private playrooms. Some have underground parking for 20 or more vehicles, plus a six-limo garage.

Outside the house: fountains and swimming pools -- with a separate pool for the staff -- putting greens, stables, riding areas, playgrounds for children and even a par course for the exercise-minded.

Security, from silent alarms to bulletproof window glass, can cost $1 million, and stars have been known to spend close to $2 million on landscaping -- including outdoor movie-set 'moon' lighting that illuminates trees from above.

Even fish get the royal treatment. Carp ponds with up to $50,000 worth of koi swimming in them are popular but tennis courts are losing favor.

-- Posted: July 1, 2003


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