Inside the 50th Anniversary Pasadena Showcase House of Design

The Los Angeles area's greatest annual design show house celebrates in style with stunning rooms and landscaping.

Photo courtesy of The 50th Pasadena Showcase House of Design The 50th Annual Pasadena Showcase House of Design House & Garden Tour of this 100-year-old English Arts and Crafts mansion runs April 13 through May 11. For tickets and information, visit PasadenaShowCase.org.

You could say the Pasadena Showcase House of Design is the Queen Mother of all designer show homes nationwide. After all, it is the largest and oldest continuously running house and garden tour in the country. It’s certainly the grandest event of its kind in the Los Angeles area, to which elegant neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Pacific Palisades humbly defer. The event is increasingly spectacular each year, but when you realize that this is the event’s 50th anniversary, you know it’s going to be extra special.

This year’s 100-year-old English Arts and Crafts home has been on the organizing committee’s wish list for some time. There just aren’t that many private residences in the Los Angeles metro area that sit on 3.5 wooded acres and are owned by people willing to move out for six months and give designers a blank slate to express their own vision. These owners even set designers free on other buildings on the property, including a carriage house, greenhouse, slat house, pool, pool dressing rooms, outdoor kitchen, aviary and a cute little river rock spring house that precedes the rest of the estate.

The designers worked within a palette influenced by English Country architecture, as well as the early California lifestyle. Dunn-Edwards Paint colors range from lighter shades like Tea Biscuit and Pale Frost to stronger hues like Deep Coral and Dark Chocolate. This is so rooms will complement each other and flow, rather than clash, when the owners finally move back in.

While rooms can be reconfigured and new features can be built in (larger bathrooms and closets replacing smaller storage rooms and parlors, for example, and bookcases built-in or removed from alcoves), there are some architectural aspects that cannot be tampered with — the staircase, in the middle of the kitchen area, for one. 

The savvy designers from Cynthia Bennett & Associates were able to transform a part of the house that contained five rooms in approximately 850 square feet of space, into a cohesive and inviting kitchen, with a breakfast nook and multiple seating areas. They also added clever storage and ample food prep stations. Each year's Showcase House kitchen seems to have countertops made of something unusual and intriguing. Last year they were pewter. This year they’re made of a unique, variegated material called “leathered limestone,” which are attractive, warm and – it would seem – virtually impossible to visibly to stain or scratch.

Of course there are fascinating features and details around every corner, but some of our favorites included:

  • John Cole’s “Salon,” or living room, that was transformed from a dark paneled and dingy space into a bright, elegant room with gold-and-white paisley upholstered walls. Cole commissioned custom artwork and furniture for the room, along with flowing draperies. Since the room was so large, he divided into three individual “suites” or seating areas.

Photo by Miles Doppler The Young Woman's Suite includes a beautiful bathroom in which designer Alicia Friedman used blue, gray and white marble tile by Artistic Tile, from Mission Tile West.

  • We know this sounds a little unusual, but we’re in love with the intricate tile patterns used in two of the bathrooms — the foil Walter Zanger circles in the Master Suite, and the light blue, gray and white marble by Artistic Tile from Mission Tile West in the Young Women’s Suite.
  • The vintage Nursery by Amy Peltier was done in surprisingly soothing shades of mint and coral, but the show-stopping piece was a wall hanging that featured a little girl’s dress fashioned of folded maps, by British artist Elizabeth Lecourt.
  • The Media/Game Room, by Jerome Thibault and Lucero Gutierrez of JTID, Inc., is an international masterpiece, with the bricks on the fireplace and the white oak flooring imported from Belgium; fascinating, lichen-like Japanese wall sculptures; and a $12,000 poker set on loan from Hermes.
  • The entire backyard was a work of art. Especially outstanding were the pool and spa, which Pacific Outdoor Living entirely rebuilt; Maya Williams' Salon Pavilion, which graciously blended indoors with out; the elegant Lily Pond by Jon Rasmussen; and the Terraced Garden by Karen Miller of Sacred Space Garden Design, who used beautifully colored water-wise plants with a state-of-the-art drip watering system featuring a smart controller that charts water patterns daily and delivers on an as needed basis.

Photo by Miles Doppler This is a bay window seating area in the International Traveler's Suite, designed by Amy DeVault Acuna and Tarryn Brodkin. They created the entire room, including the unique ceiling, using all wallcoverings and textiles from Lori Weitzner.

You might not realize that the Pasadena Showcase House of Design is about so much more than gorgeous rooms and landscaping. Its purpose is to raise funds for the arts, and to date, the organization has donated more than $19 million to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, as well as schools and other non-profits in support of symphonic music, music education and related programs. 

To fully appreciate the 50th Annual Pasadena Showcase House of Design, you’d best attend the House & Garden Tour in person. It runs April 13 through May 11. For tickets and information, visit PasadenaShowCase.org.

And if you can’t attend in person but really love this type of elegant design, a limited edition 50th Anniversary book is available. Described as “a visual history of design and architecture through half a century,” it’s a hardcover masterpiece that features photos from all 50 years. Find out more about it at Showcase50.com


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