The fountain in the living room had to go. But real estate developer Stefan Hemming says the rest of Liberace's desert retreat will be restored with the spirit of the pianist in mind.

"It was strictly Liberace fashion," Hemming said of the Spanish-style home's interior design. "It was very colorful. It was done some years ago. You'd do different things in the '60s and '70s than you would today."The entertainer, known as much for his outlandish lifestyle as his music, invested heavily in real estate.

By the time he died in 1987 of complications from AIDS, Liberace's property included a mansion and shopping center in Las Vegas, a home at Lake Tahoe and a five-story office building in Los Angeles.

He wanted Casa De Liberace in Palm Springs to become a museum of Liberace memorabilia. But the idea struck a sour note with the City Council, which rejected a request for a zoning permit because it would have disrupted the ambience of the old residential neighborhood.

Hemming, a San Francisco businessman, said he fell in love with the house while attending a party there. After Liberace's death, he bought the 7,000-square-foot home - at the reduced price of $750,000 - because he liked the "whole feeling of it."

He hopes to have Casa De Liberace restored by Christmas.

Some of the restorative changes have been as simple as taming the overgrown garden, fixing leaky faucets and polishing the 5-foot-tall French bronze chandelier. Hemming's also ordered custom rugs to cover the lime and rust-colored ceramic tiles in the living room: "It's a very busy pattern - a little goes a long way."

The biggest change, however, has been the removal of the 6-foot-wide octagonal fountain in the living room. "It didn't belong there," Hemming said. "He had it disconnected and filled it with plastic flowers."