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Issue Date: July 2005 Issue

Toy Story

Check out these four high-end home items that'll have the neighbors drooling.
Lynne Thompson

Everybody's heard the old saying, "He who dies with the most toys, wins." But for those who are really serious about the game of material consumption, mere quantity is not enough. Size does matter. So does cost. And there are bonus points to be earned for acquiring items of style, taste and innovation -- things that the girls and guys at the club just don't have, yet. So what playthings fill the bill in a luxury home? We surveyed local merchants to come up with a handful of top-tier toys for your abode.

Renaissance Royal Augustan billiard table
Price tag: about $60,000, minus the precious gems and depending on the woods and inlay designs chosen (The matching cue rack is more than $5,000)

It's fairly safe to say that the proud owner of a Renaissance Royal Augustan billiard table will have the only one in the neighborhood. Kathy Vegh, president of Danny Vegh's billiards & Home (locations in Cleveland, Mayfield Heights and Montrose) says the Bland, Mo.-based company only turns out a dozen tables of that model a year. "It's all handmade," she explains. The 9-foot-long table in the brochure boasts a cabinet of Honduran Mahogany inspired by classical Roman architecture -- "one of the thickest cabinets in the entire industry" at a little more than 2 inches thick, Vegh says -- with intricately-carved "lion" legs, arches fitted with center turrets, 12 raised panels overlaid in Carpathian elm burl, top rails with a 12-step piano finish and hand-tooled leather net drop pockets camouflaged by hand-tied bullion braid and silk tassels. But Vegh is quick to point out that customers can choose whatever woods strike their fancy.

"If you happen to really like teak, or you happen to really like some kind of rare wood from Africa, Renaissance will import it and build a table for you of that wood," she says.

Customers can even select or design the elaborate abalone and mother-of-pearl inlays that surround the personalized 24-carat-gold-plated name plate and diamond sites on the top rails, which players use to line up their shots. "They're almost like little pieces of art," Vegh marvels. Some folks have gone so far as to have the lions' eyes set with rubies.

Sub-Zero Model 430 Wine Storage Unit
Price tag: approximately $4,600

The size of this Sub-Zero wine storage unit suggests that its target customer is the wine collector without a wine cellar. But Barbara Ford, builder sales manager at Snow Bros. Appliance Co. in Lyndhurst, says even homeowners with wine cellars are ordering it so they can both show off and store a portion of their stash in a more convenient spot.

Eighty-four inches high, 30 inches wide and 24 inches deep, this refrigerator-sized appliance can store 147 750-ml bottles on its 14 cherry-fronted metal shelves, which also accommodate half-bottles and magnums. And like a refrigerator, it can either stand alone or recede into the cabinetry, its stainless-steel exterior concealed by custom panels.

"The wood fronts [on the shelves] can also be stained to match existing cabinetry," Ford offers.

The unit boasts two independent, digitally controlled zones that maintain temperature and humidity. Other features include a UV-resistant glass door that protects wines from damaging rays, an illuminated center display shelf for prized vintages, a compressor that operates without generating agitating vibrations, and an optional lock. Ford adds that the unit is wired for incorporation into a home security system -- a move that can help protect wines from more than fruit-of-the-vine-loving thieves.

"If you have a power failure or something like that, you'll know that the wines have not been held at optimum conditions," she says.

Hitachi UltraVision Director's Series 55-Inch Plasma HDTV
Price tag: approximately $8,500

One of the undisputable must-haves in electronics is the flat-screen plasma television. John Ramsay, merchandise manager for Audio Craft's four Northeast Ohio stores, explains that customers are wowed by the idea of being able to hang a TV on the wall or fireplace like they would a large piece of art. (Cords can be hidden behind the wall during custom installation.) Clint Doolittle, manager of Audio Craft's Mayfield Heights store, adds that there's no compromise in picture quality for the thrill of doing so.

"It's actually as good or better a picture than other technologies you could be watching," he says of flat-screen plasma technology.

One of the biggest and most technologically advanced models available is the Hitachi UltraVision Director's Series 55-inch plasma HDTV.

"Because there is more and more high-definition programming, which is a better source for your pictures, that's where you get the very best performance," Doolittle says.

Ironically, one of the set's coolest features is an optional remote-controlled table stand that allows the user to change the position of the TV with the touch of a button, without ever leaving his or her easy chair.

Ramsay says those who insist on having the biggest plasma TV in the Cleveland market can check out 60-inch versions produced by Pioneer, which typically run in the $15,000 price range.

"But the picture quality of a 55-inch is decidedly better than what you're finding in a 60-inch, at least at this minute," he says.

The ideal viewing experience for the person who doesn't have the space or inclination to build a home theater, he asserts, is provided not by the biggest flat-screen plasma TV available but by a quality flat-screen plasma TV augmented by a front-screen projection system. He describes a setup in which the touch of a single button lowers a ceiling-mounted screen ("120 inches wide is not at all uncommon") in front of the TV, dims the lights, and turns on a wall-mounted projector when it's time to watch a movie.

The Home Elevator
Price tag: $20,000 (for a modest two-story elevator with swing doors on each floor), but prices vary depending upon unit

When it comes to movin' on up at home, it's becoming fashionable to take the elevator instead of the stairs. Judith Cohodas, vice president of the Access Elevator Co. in Oakwood Village, estimates that at least half of the company's business is residential.

She says homeowners are installing an elevator during construction of their multistoried homes instead of waiting until a family member becomes sick or disabled, especially if they plan on retiring in what they're building or anticipate caring for an elderly parent.

Those who don't think of installing the amenity are finding the shaft is already included in some condominium plans.

"The construction of the elevator shaft is actually more expensive sometimes than putting in the elevator itself," Cohodas says.

The shaft can then be built out as an extra closet on each floor until the elevator is needed. Either way, Cohodas describes the elevator as a good investment in a country where a large segment of the population is aging.

"It's definitely going to increase the resale value of a home," she declares.

The home elevators Access Elevator install range from a simple car hidden behind a swing door that looks like any other in the home to an elaborate setup featuring sliding doors, car position indicators and brass hall station plates on each floor and a car with raised wood paneling, slate or tile floors, recessed lighting and polished brass handrails.

"They're becoming so trendy that people want an elevator that really looks like an elevator," Cohodas says.

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