Innovation, design make show house a very sweet home


It's a house much like your house: the lavish elevator; the bedroom with fireplace, spa and mini-kitchen; the videophone; the computerized shower; the grand ballroom and state-of-the-art media theater in the basement. Well, much like your dream house anyway.

To say that the Masco Showhome of the East showcases design trends and innovative products is like saying Cal Ripken plays baseball. Located in Columbia's exclusive Estates at Forest Glen, it's open to the public through Oct. 29. Net proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Columbia Foundation, the Junior League of Baltimore and the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital.

If you fall in love with the Classical Revival mansion itself, built by the Siegel Organization on the Rouse Company development, you can buy it after the event for only $1.4 million -- all the bells and whistles (but not the furnishings) included. The fire hoses on every floor stay, for instance, as well as the computer-controlled electric, lighting and security systems; the cherry cabinets; the wine cooler in the kitchen; the perennial gardens; and the lily pond in the back yard.

The Masco Showhome is a different kind of show house. Most show houses start with an existing structure, and a different designer decorates each area. But this one has been created from the ground up by the Masco Corporation, one of the world's largest manufacturers of building products and home furnishings. Some 70 other national manufacturers are also participating.

Only one designer, Stanley Hura, is responsible for the interiors. Mr. Hura, imported by Masco from New York, has used Drexel Heritage, Maitland-Smith and Le Barge furnishings (all Masco companies) and a color scheme of predominantly black, white and coral. The interior design is unified in a way that you've probably never before seen in a show house.

"We created a family to live in this home," says Mr. Hura, "A family whose lifestyle revolves around the home."

That means an emphasis on areas for entertaining; an elaborate kitchen; a ballroom with a separate kitchen downstairs (all done in so much coral it's like standing inside a steamed shrimp); a fabulous home theater with $70,000 worth of interactive equipment; a complete home gym; and an outdoor spa.

As you can probably tell, the main reason to visit the Masco Showhome is for the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing how the very rich live. "We want people to feel they're peeking through the keyholes of this family," says Mr. Hura.

But as builder Herbert Siegel points out, there's also a more practical consideration.

"If you get just one useful idea from this," he says. "It'll be worth it."

Start with the handsome "street print" driveway, made of asphalt with a cobblestone pattern.

As you enter the Classical Revival mansion (the architect is Scholz Designs Inc.), notice the unifying effect of using the same black-and-white carpeting with its neoclassical border in the dining room and library and on the stairs.

Consider having regal 8-foot-tall doorways in the house you're building, even if it's not a $1.4 million mansion.

Note how the grandparents' apartment has been set up to create a separate living space and yet keep them part of the family.

You'll certainly want to think about putting Formica on the walls of your laundry room as well as the counters for easy clean up.

Don't miss the Comfortex blinds in many of the rooms -- unusual, stylish and practical.

And have you been wondering how to incorporate those design trends you've heard about into your house? Here are some of the many you'll see at the Masco mansion:

* The use of granite in counter tops and on floors. It looks newer than Corian or marble, and the pebbly pink-and-black is the inspiration for much of the color in the house.

* Neoclassical design. Classically inspired furnishings and accessories, used with restraint, subtly reflect the style of the house itself without looking "period."

* Giant ottomans. Great for coffee tables and as a place to put your feet.

* Pale leather. It looks elegant as well as comfortable on the chairs in the family gathering room.

* Distressed finishes. Particularly on the chairs in the parlor. (There's no living room but instead the house has a family gathering room next to the open kitchen plus a separate formal parlor.)

4 * Slipcovers. Used on the breakfast area chairs.

* Animal prints. Both fabric patterns and framed prints of animals decorate the man's bedroom.

* Soft contemporary. The woman's bedroom done in peach and cream is a prime example. Very French, very feminine.

The Masco mansion is good for the charities that will benefit and good for those who love to visit show houses. But what do the companies involved get out of it? Besides the fact that you might get California Closets to reorganize your closet after you see the ones in the show house, or you might buy one of those neat phones from AT&T;, the rooms are going to be featured in several Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications, such as its Decorating and Kitchen & Bath Ideas magazines. In fact, Meredith Corporation, the publishing company, is considered one of the sponsors.

The Masco Showhome of the East, at the Estates at Forest Glen, Route 108, Columbia, is open Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tickets available through TicketMaster, American National Savings Bank locations and the benefiting charities or at the door. Prices: $10 weekdays, $12 weekends, $2 more at the house. For information and directions call (410) 654-9100.

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