The 2018 Pasadena Showcase House of Design was once known as “Overlook,” because when this elegant estate was built high on a hill in Altadena, it had a view that reached as far as Catalina. A lot has changed since 1915 when the 11,000-square-foot villa was built for $14,000. At the time, Altadena was an unincorporated retreat for an eclectic mix of retired Easterners, businessmen working in Pasadena and Los Angeles, artists and Western novelist Zane Grey. Imagine small orchards, poultry farms and vineyards on the west side and open tracts of ranch lands on the east. The rural community attracted two widowed sisters, Ruth E. Hargrove and Mary Emma Baker, who bought 5½ acres of land in the sparsely populated northeast section.
Although the American Craftsman era was in full flower in the region (Greene and Greene had established their firm in Pasadena in 1894 and built the Gamble House in 1908), the sisters wanted a Mediterranean-style home. They hired the up-and-coming Reginald Davis Johnson, who’d studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and moved to Pasadena when his father, Episcopal Bishop Joseph Horsfall Johnson, was assigned to the Los Angeles Diocese in 1894.
Considering the similar climates, the white walls and sunny spaces of the Mediterranean style seemed a perfect match for Southern California and Johnson was an early advocate of the style. He left his mark on such other SoCal buildings as All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel, La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla and the Santa Barbara Post Office.
For Outlook, Johnson designed a large foyer, living room, screened porch, dining room, kitchen, pantry and maid’s room with 1½ baths downstairs. Upstairs are four bedrooms and three baths. Later owners added a 780-square-foot duplex residence — most likely for servants — and a garage with a chauffeur’s quarters.
Twenty-three Showcase House designers were charged with updating the design — both interior and exterior — while remaining sensitive to the home’s historical features. Three contemporary trends tying the refreshed spaces together include the return of gold accents in a more muted form, textured wall treatments and decorated ceilings. Creating rooms that span centuries is a welcome challenge for Showcase designers. As Genaro Lagdameo of Designs of the Interior (DI) in Westlake Village explained, “The best part of Showcase is being able to work on a home of historical value” with “an architectural grandeur you don’t see anymore” and adapting it for current lifestyles. The fundraiser, which runs through May 20, benefits local music education and performances.
Think of the petite lounge (at right) as an oasis during or after a game in the adjacent billiard room, both remodeled by Designs of the Interior. Both rooms glimmer with gold, including the light fixtures by Kelly Wearstler and custom-designed by DI; also custom are the lounge’s gold stools topped with faux fur and the shiny brass sink; the brass bar shelving supports were manufactured by Urban Archaeology of New York. Flanking the shelving is black tile with inlaid brass-wire arabesques from Walker Zanger’s Ellington collection. “Right now, gold rather than chrome is the trend,” Lagdameo says. “It was very popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s.”
What changed? Technology, of course. “The trouble with brass is that it turns color and you have to keep it polished,” says Palm Springs designer Michael Wrusch, who used subtle gold touches in the family room. But, he notes, advances in physical vapor deposition (PVD), a light film on the metal, maintains the high polish longer.
A golden gleam left also warms up the modern man’s retreat (see cover and photos above and below), designed by Irvine-based Xander Noori, blending Eastern and Western influences. Noori created a custom desk using the biomorphic “Texas” hand-forged base from Organic Modernism in Brooklyn, New York, which he topped with white marble. He coupled that with the sleek modern lines of Fuse Lighting’s brassy “Tokyo” table lamp, and contrasted contemporary style with a turn-of-the-century typewriter and other vintage accessories he picked up at the Paris flea market and 1stdibs.com. A large floor-length mirror framed in gold amplifies the space.
How about wall zebras instead? Pasadena’s Parker West Interiors designed the master bedroom entry around the owner’s existing wallpaper, bedecked with zebras bounding away from arrows (Scalamandré’s “Zebras,” above).
The wallpapered accent wall of the Cozy Stylish Chic Suite looked to the skies for inspiration — the stars of Orion, that is. Using NASA imagery, Calico Wallpaper of Brooklyn custom-printed the constellation on mylar and sized it for Jeanne K. Chung of Pasadena (at right). Another intriguing wall treatment adorns the Powder Room designed by Burbank’s Louise O’Malley, who covered a wall with Jim Thompson Fabrics’ brown-and-white material in a striking geometric pattern (far right).
Above and Beyond
For one of the latest design trends, look up. Designers are embellishing ceilings with eye-catching finishes. DI’s Lagdameo accented the ceiling with Anthology’s “Oxidise” wallpaper (above), which resembles metallic tiles. Lagdameo says his goal was “a tiled ceiling effect with a metallic touch to add the right amount of bling.”
Another interesting ceiling is in the media room designed by Pasadena’s JS Design + Create of Pasadena. The firm’s Janet Sanchez covered a rectangular ceiling panel in Farrow & Ball’s “Tourbillon” wallpaper with light pink swirls on navy blue, which matches the wall treatment. Sanchez says she wanted to create a “halo” effect to prevent the usually darkened room from looking too gloomy.