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Bay Area decorators showcase skills in gracious villa

Standing serenely next to the wooded Presidio on San Francisco's Nob Hill, a pale pink villa overlooks the Palace of Fine Arts and the shimmering Bay. This was the grand setting of the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, held April 30 through May 22 and sponsored by the San Francisco University High School.

Visitors entered the elegant European-style residence through an imposing wrought iron gate, under a covered walkway, and into an open, trellised courtyard filled with fragrance from flowering plants and topiary trees.

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Inside, under the careful eye of Howard Hein, chairman of the design committee, the rooms decorated by more than 42 Bay Area designers conveyed a sense of continuity and a consistent level of high quality difficult to achieve in a showcase home.

''The committee looks for compatible designers and the members choose what they believe are the best in any one given year,'' Mr. Hein says.

For the most part, the designers were sensitive to the special character and features of the house in their interpretations of the various rooms.

In the large second-floor living room, for example, Scott Lamb left a clear view from the entrance of the room to the floor-length windows looking out to the Bay. ''With a view like that you feel you're up in the clouds. I wanted to keep that feeling,'' he says.

Mr. Lamb also wanted to retain the spacious feeling of the room, yet create an inviting area for people to sit and relax. A plush, oversize sofa, matching chairs, and ample, low-level lighting set an easy, restful mood. To help brighten the originally somber room, Mr. Lamb chose rose-colored upholstery for the walls and an off-white wool and cotton area rug.

In the equally spacious formal dining room, designer Robert Hering included areas for smaller gatherings in a space scaled for entertaining large groups. In addition to the skirted, circular dining table dominating the center of the room , he provided a seating area at one end for after-dinner conversation and a small Queen Anne table and chairs in front of a bank of windows for breakfast.

Designers Craig Leavitt and Stephen Weaver captured a lived-in, comfortable tone in their treatment of the library, off the dining room. On sunny mornings, the library is bathed in a beautiful, iridescent light from windows on three sides of the room. The subtle beiges and browns chosen for the color scheme, which would come alive in the glow of lamps in the evening, unfortunately lacked vitality in the daylight.

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In keeping with the European flavor of the house, designer Victoria Fay created a haven of Old World comfort in her ''Guest Bedroom - A Lady's Retreat.'' A French lit a la polonaise provided an elegant focal point for the room, done in soft shades of yellow, peach, and blue. Fine antiques, including a German rococo carved walnut chest, a marbletop Italian table, a neoclassical folded screen, and Venetian wall panels, completed the rich effect.

A masculine counterpart to the ''Lady's Retreat'' was the dramatic second-floor master bedroom by Michael Anthony & Associates. Deep chocolate-brown gathered fabric covering the walls and a thick carpet created a hushed, luxurious setting for a wealth of antiques and a massive bed draped with white fabric. The room exuded an air of opulence appropriate for a home on this scale.

On a more contemporary note, designers Trey Hoagland and Marc Hamman mixed sleek, modern furniture and striking antique pieces in a small, sophisticated bedroom. Two black leather and tubular steel ''Brno'' chairs (designed by Mies Van der Rohe) and a low, black marbletop table composed a seating area next to a contemporary bed with silk draperies and canopy treatment. A black lacquer English chinoiserie armoire echoed the colors of two Chinese porcelain vases flanking a mirror on the opposite wall. Other carefully chosen elements such as a classical plaster bust and an Italian painted plaque were set off against the rose-colored walls.

A ''Guest Bedroom'' in peach and white by Joseph Horan, ASID, was inspired by the Mediterranean loggia across the courtyard. The room featured an unusual wall treatment of cream-colored canvas with a hand-painted border in a Greek motif. Above the bed, the canvas folded back to reveal a room-enlarging mirror. References to ancient cultures, such as a Grecian bust and a faux bone Egyptian-style mirror, evoked a timeless quality in this tranquil room.

Painted effects were a recurring theme throughout the show house. The most ornate example was the interior of the house elevator, painted by Ami Magill. An intricate Oriental-inspired floral pattern covered the walls and the floor design included simulated semiprecious materials such as tortoise shell, agate, and mother-of-pearl. Upstairs, hand-painted English chinoiserie wallpaper panels by the Day Studio Company decorated a long second-floor hall.

On the third floor, white clouds floated on a lavender sky in a sitting room by Judy Simes, an ASID associate, and Richard Kenarney. Next door, a trompe l'oeil trellis on the ceiling added to the fresh, gardenlike effect of a pristine bedroom by David Michael. The garden theme carried over to the adjacent dressing room and bath, by Alice Wiley and Kimberly Walsh, with a blue flower pattern stenciled onto a white enamel floor.

Visitors to the showcase would hardly guess that the mansion was in a state of disrepair before the designers set to work.

''Nothing had been done to the house for at least 40 years, and there was water damage throughout,'' explains Gisele Huff, administrative chairman of the show house. ''The designers must refurbish the walls and floors, not just cosmetize the room.'' After the show house, designers were required to leave the rooms in ''move in'' condition.

Proceeds from the showcase go to the San Francisco University High School Scholarship Fund.

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