BY: Jeanne Chung
PHOTOS: Jeanne Chung, Erika Bierman, Mowry
Since 1965, the Showcase House for The Arts has been supporting area music programs by bringing area designers together with local estate properties, and inviting them to put their design vision on public display.
Spring is always my favorite time of the year, and while most recognize spring as the time when flower buds slowly unfold to reveal the color flower petals hiding within, to me, spring is the season when designer showcase houses around the country metaphorically bloom by opening their doors in the same fashion. Attending the Pasadena Showcase House is an annual ritual for many—including myself. For years, I attended with my own mom but this year, I had the honor of previewing the home before it opened to the public.
I attend several decorator show houses a year, both in Southern California and beyond, but I have always had a soft spot for the Pasadena Showcase House, which gave me my first exposure to a showcase house, more than 30 years ago. It’s the perfect opportunity to seek inspiration and to see what interior designers view as the newest trends and innovations for the home. This year’s home, “Dryborough Hall” made its debut as the Pasadena Showcase House in 1987, and for its second go-round features 31 newly designed spaces conceived by 29 designers and showrooms.
When touring a home, I always look for fresh use of color and pattern, as well as how effectively the current styling and amenities are integrated with the traditional architecture of the home. This year’s showcase did not disappoint with the palette influenced by the home’s Mission Revival architectural style, with adaptations to fit today’s iconic California lifestyle.
It is always interesting to see how each designer interprets the space. In this year’s home, some designers opted to recreate what the home may have looked like back in 1918 when it was built, while other designers took the opportunity to showcase the full extent of services their businesses offer, whether it be tile, millwork or interior design. There were a few memorable standouts in this year’s house and these spaces were conceived by interior designers that utilized their extensive list of resources to put together exciting and well-thought-out spaces.
Stepping into the conjoined cloakroom and lavatory, designed by EMI Interior Design, transported me to a completely different state of mind. While Erica Islas of EMI may be a newcomer to the Pasadena Showcase House, she is in no way new to design. Being from outside the Pasadena bubble worked to her advantage as she brought her own unique style and vision, free from any such preconceived notion of what a Pasadena Showcase House “should” look like. Instead of opting to play it safe, Islas pushed the boundaries and added unexpected elements to a small space that could have otherwise been easily overlooked. Instead, it stood apart from the rest.
Islas took a tired and narrow space and infused new life by introducing traditional architectural elements to connect it to other areas of the house. A soothing blue wainscot was installed level with the door header in the narrow cloakroom but was brought down low in the lavatory to allow the custom wallpaper to take center stage. Custom wallpaper from Black Crow Studios was meticulously engineered so that the pattern on the walls blended in seamlessly with the ceiling above—not an easy task when the wallpaper appears to be one continuous, non-repeating pattern with barely a visible seam in sight. Accents of brass and gunmetal finishes appeared in the lavatory and lined the corridor of the cloak room with two statement chandeliers in brass from Zia Priven hanging from above—one in the cloakroom and another in the lavatory. Texture, pattern, color and multiple layers ensured the room would not be easy to forget.
The Music Room, designed by Pasadena interior design firm Parker West, was nestled between the living and dining room and thoughtfully juxtaposed traditional millwork and original architectural elements with simplified, contemporary lines. The crisp edges of a cocktail table consisting of a glass top and grouping of falling, brass cubes were in sharp contrast to the predominantly sinuous lines that were sprinkled throughout the room. A rich play between color, texture, shapes and period styles bounced around the room, resulted in a harmonious tension that was fitting for a music room.
Every which way I looked, I was intrigued. The music room was designed to provoke thought while stimulating the auditory senses. A contemporary canopy consisting of concentric brass circles was specifically designed by Parker West to complement the existing pendant, which could not be removed, and in doing so infused new life to the space. The theme of concentric circles was again echoed on the wall with two sconces flanking a figural sculpture by Cecilia Miguez, which upon closer inspection was created using thinly sliced colored pencils. On the wall opposite the windows, an existing bookcase was transformed into a curio cabinet of sorts, displaying antique instruments and decorative objects.
Stepping foot into the spacious guesthouse designed by The Art of Room Design, was a welcoming surprise. Casual yet still sophisticated and chock full of pattern, color and texture kept me engaged and visually stimulated as I made my way through the room. Weathered wood floors (which was actually porcelain tile printed and textured to look like wood) paired with other natural materials such as rattan, cerused oak and grass cloth in the living area exuded warmth and a sense of familiarity that felt like home.
The bedroom felt a little less coastal and a little more luxurious, with touches of gold and Lucite. Classic shapes using non-traditional materials, appeals to those drawn to traditional design as well as those with a more modern design aesthetic. With pattern, albeit subtle, encompassing the perimeter of the room, the visual emphasis was on the bright, curry-colored custom upholstered headboard attached to a bed outfitted with luxurious embroidered bed linens. The overall effect was one of unpretentious luxury—which I oftentimes think of as the essence of Pasadena.
What began as one of my formative design experiences, the Pasadena Showcase House continues to be a highlight of every year. It is a premier design showcase on a national level, and this 2016 showcase proved its prestigious reputation to be true. Thanks to the hard work and endless hours of volunteered time, members of the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts created the optimal environment in which to display the talent and originality of the Pasadena design community. Every room displays a personal design perspective — things you’ll love, things that will inspire you and possibly things that will provoke you. You’re guaranteed to leave with plenty of food for your own design thought.