Each year across the country there are a slew of designer showhouses on display for all the world to see. Many times their end design result can be quite innovative, as they illustrate how one design concept – or a fusion of several – can work in each room of a single home.
These show homes celebrate the best work of a cast of designers and their collaborative effort to bring one vision to life – one that works to inspire, and to function daily for the family who lives there.
In the case of the the 41st annual Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts in San Marino, CA, 36 different designers were involved, each with their own unique vision, yet each bound by certain core basics – the primary of these being the need to build a bridge to the past while keeping the style foundation of the 1920s home firmly in the present.
Indeed, the young couple who owns this 10,000-sq.-ft. Italianate estate wanted a contemporary and functional home for them and their three-year-old twin boys.
But, given that the home's history begins with renowned California architect Wallace Neff designing and building it in 1929, the design couldn’t be strictly contemporary. The trick was blending contemporary design with some more traditional elements for an eclectic kind of mix.
The home further inspires innovation, collaboration and design fusion with the designers’ interpretation of the input of the couple’s Feng Shui master. The couple requested the designers follow their Feng Shui master’s observations. This was an unexpected challenge for some, who got a crash course in designing for peaceful balance, particularly in the two kitchens and seven baths.
Two For One
In the main kitchen, creating two separate functional areas in a single space was key – one for the family’s chef and one to accommodate the family as the twin boys grew older.
But, Feng Shui elements were just as important to the kitchen’s overall design – so important, in fact, that some structural changes were made to accommodate the requested balance.
“In Chinese philosophy, the main cooking area has to be on the West wall, and that whole wall in this kitchen is windows,” reports Cynthia Bennett, president of Cynthia Bennett & Associates, Inc., in South Pasadena. So she closed up one window so the main Gaggenau professional cooktop/wok combination with grill could be placed there. A custom-made, Modern Air brushed steel hood sits above the unit. It features hand-painted Walker Zanger stone across the bottom.
The owners’ request for Poggenpohl cabinets led Bennett to choose Pearwood with a high-gloss finish, which gives a contemporary feel, while the ceramic and glass tile backsplash and aged limestone floor by Walker Zanger are more traditional.
The cabinets are topped with Verde Fire granite countertops from Australia. “The background is black, but the colors in it resemble fire when it’s sparking, with the yellows, greens and coral,” states Bennett, “including the green that’s in the backsplash.”
A chef’s sink in cast concrete by Sonoma also sits along the wall. “It has an S-shape that was popular in the butler’s pantries in a lot of the old houses in California,” relates Bennett. “But, this sink is black cast concrete, a very contemporary material. So, it was a way for me to bring in the old and the new.”
There are two separate triangles designed for the chef and sous chef. However, the sous chef area can also be used by members of the family when they want to prepare food. Each area has its own island, sink, cooktop, dishwasher, warming drawer and refrigerator.
One island features a hammered nickel Linkasink model, with a brushed steel KWC faucet. The back of the island is raised 6", and has black leather bar stools. “We raised the bar for eating, but also [to separate the area],” she says.
The other island has a glass electric cooktop and downdraft. It’s also raised in the back, and has a built-in bookcase with lighting.
The lower portion of each island has a countertop made from the same material as the chef’s sink, while the upper portion of the islands uses the same granite tops, completing the look.
The master bedroom suite, designed as a sanctuary for the busy parents, features a neutral color palette for an overall feeling of serenity. A master bedroom, bath, his-and-hers closets, a sitting room and an outside balcony were all part of this project, undertaken by David Reaume Construction & Design in Pasadena.
“In the bath we decided [on] very sleek and chic,” says Michele Stone, interior designer for the firm. “Though it’s just one bath, we tried to achieve the feeling of sections.”
Glass tiles adorn the bath’s entry walls. Vertical, beige glass tiles from Walker Zanger cover the shower and tub area. “It is a small space horizontally, and the tub is very large, so we achieved the illusion of more space via the vertical tile placement,” she offers.
The white TOTO tub features glass tile on the front, and a beige limestone slab on top. A 1930s style hanging pendant light is featured above the tub.
The shower sits at the foot of the tub, and the two are separated by a clear glass partition. A curved wall that was originally concealed is now the shower stall. “The glass tiles look dynamic vertically placed on that curve,” says Stone.
At the back of the shower is a limestone slab, which matches the limestone used on the tub. The shower floor is the same limestone in a mosaic.
Axor Cittero faucets from Hansgrohe add a sleek, modern look to the section. A window over the tub with a sheer Roman shade, and a flat-screen TV in a niche over the foot of the tub finish the area.
Two facing, custom-designed vanities, which were based on the design of an antique Chinese chest, feature a wire brushed oak finish. “Though the finish is almost an ebony color, the wire brushing goes into the wood grain, which is a light chalk color,” says Stone. “It’s very subtle, but it adds movement and contrast.”
A limestone slab also tops the vanities, which feature sandblasted glass vessels by DeRose Designs. Cittero faucets in a platinum finish add a sleek look, while square nickel pulls recall 1930s style.
Oversized custom mirrors over each vanity give a “hall of mirrors effect,” notes Stone, “completely opening the space. They’re framed in glass accent tiles from Walker Zanger in the colors of the room. A hanging pendant lamp between the two vanities adds to the room’s Old World influence.
The floor and wall in the vanity area are done in silver travertine 24"x12" planks from Walker Zanger, installed vertically to match the vertical glass tiles in the shower area. The third and final section is the water closet, featuring a state-of-the-art toilet from TOTO. The walls are beige limestone, and the area is separated by a sandblasted glass wall.
Upon seeing the red and camel combinations used throughout the rest of the home, Susan Sawasy, principal, Casa/Wasy Interior Design in South Pasadena and designer of the twin boys’ suite, was happy with the palette-cleansing blue and yellow. “I think it made the room pop,” she notes.
The suite has a bedroom, dressing room and private bath. Designed as a quiet place for the boys to sleep and begin each day, she used products and themes that will be appropriate as the boys grow. “We did a constant contrast – a yellow bedroom with blue closets, then a blue dressing room with yellow closet drawers,” reports Sawasy.
Flashcards in the main bedroom spell out “ZZZ TIME” on the wall.
Originally, the bath was located in between the bedroom and the dressing room. But, the suite was gutted, allowing the bath to incorporate the window wall. “The most incredible views in this house are out of that window, which used to be in the closet,” she says.
Hand-made bronze printer stamps of old cars, planes and bicycles were recessed and used as accent keys in the bath amid the blue and white stone tiles from Tap n Tile. “We wanted something that made it a child’s room without it being too nursery-like, so that the children could grow up in this room and be teenage boys and still really dig the keys in the tile,” explains Sawasy.
Two free-standing pedestal sinks are separated by a small cabinet that holds toothbrushes and the like. The cross-handle, brushed nickel faucets from California Faucets display a clean and masculine edge while nodding to the age of the house, Sawasy notes.
The tub’s access panel in the front can pop out for maintenance. It features the word “Monsieur” in metal letters.
The wall tile behind the tub and in the shower features alternating blue and white stripes. A checkerboard floor that references the entry floor in the home is sky blue and white quartz stone tile.
The bath also features line Picasso drawings of a mouse and a dog, sophisticated artwork designed to grow with the boys.
The inspiration for the “chic grandparents’ suite” came from the name itself. “You can just imagine Baby Boomer grandparents, old enough to demand comfort, but young enough to desire hip elegance and the latest electronic gadgets,” says Sue Potter, the designer of the space and principal owner of Saxony Street, Inc. in Valley Village, CA.
With additional space gained from reconfiguring the suite, Potter was able to replace a small single vanity in the bath with a dark wood cabinet that features his-and-hers, undermount, white TOTO sinks. A drop-down in between the sinks features a lady’s make-up vanity. The countertop, top deck of the tub and transition floor slab from the bedroom to the bath are white marble with gray veining, something traditionally seen in older homes.
Swivel mirrors with black bronze frames above each sink match the finish on the faucets from Altmans. Above each mirror is a sconce light from Boyd Lighting in brushed satin nickel, wrapped in black leather with white stitching.
A spa shower/tub was installed at the owner’s request. “It has all of the fixings of a spa shower, such as body sprays, just in a tub setting,” reports Potter.
Blue/gray crackle, hand-made, ceramic tile from Walker Zanger is used three-quarters of the way up the wall, and then transitions to the clear glass square mosaic tile, also from Walker Zanger, that is featured on the floor. “However,” notes Potter, “the wall tile is glossy, while the floor is a frosted matte finish.”
The water closet’s wallpaper has a very simple texture sans pattern, in the same hue as the bath tile.
A palette of calm greens and blues set against rich chocolates invites weary travelers to rest in the “traveler’s suite.” Designed by Maria Videla-Juniel and Marcus Juniel of MV Design Group in Burbank, the room exudes a classic ambience, yet with a modern, luxurious bent.
The spa-inspired bath features clean-lined furniture and contemporary fixtures in a neutral setting. The dark wood vanity is topped with a multi-toned countertop and white above-counter sink. Wall-mounted faucets have cross handles for a mix of old and new style. Above the vanity, a rectangular mirror framed in dark wood is flanked by stylish sconces.
A multi-jet, frameless shower in marble greets guests. A swirl floor tile pattern provides movement, as does a mosaic wave, which ties in all of the colors of the suite.
Commissioned to create the Cochere Entry and Cochere Powder Room, Paula Lechman-Testa, owner of Lechman-Testa & Associates in Pasadena, created a slipper room at the entry per the owners’ request. Charcoal gray Venetian plaster on the walls also lends on the Old World feel, but its matte finish has a contemporary edge, she notes.
The Venetian plaster is also in the powder room.
The custom-made vanity, designed by Lechman-Testa, is made to look like a piece of sculpture. Placed in the corner with two sides touching the wall, the piece comes out at an angle in the front. “It’s got a curve in it, almost like an old Bombay chest, only it’s very contemporary,” she relates. The front piece is forged iron that was rust-activated and lacquered when the desired color was attained. The sides feature the same Venetian plaster as on the walls.
The countertop is comprised of 1/2" square mosaic glass tiles from Walker Zanger, in multiple iridescent colors. “The sink has grays, rust, green, purple – all of the colors that are used in the space,” says Lechman-Testa. The tiles reflect off of the clear glass above-counter sink from Vitra Form. A contemporary wall-mounted faucet from California Faucets has an oil-rubbed bronze finish for an antique look. Limestone flooring from Walker Zanger and a gray TOTO toilet complete the space.
The shimmering surface of the swimming pool inspired the design concept of the pool bath, says Judy Taylor, owner of Judy Taylor Interior Design, Inc. in Pasadena. It is the bath located within the house closest to the pool. It has a transitional look that plays on the pool’s colors and nuances.
The textured glass tile floor by UltraGlas “looks almost like water,” Taylor relates. It is a mixture of a water aqua color and apricot, brown and gray stone hues. “They’re all of the elements that you see around water,” she says.
The custom cabinetry in clear-coated Makore (African hardwood) features slight detail for a more traditional look. “The cabinetry is quarter cut to give it an interesting grain,” she reports.
The textured glass countertop in apricot provides a very sparkly appearance, Taylor adds. The 9' counter sports two top-sitting pewter sinks from Bates & Bates, complemented by pewter faucets from California Faucets.
The decorative glass tile backsplash in apricot from UltraGlas has a patterned design that goes around the mirror.
An apricot glass tile liner in the shower surrounds soft, blue-green ceramic tile from Mission Tile West. The standing shower has a clear glass door, with hardware and faucets in pewter. A teak shower floor provides a non-slip surface and adds warmth, says Taylor.
A white TOTO toilet and linen cabinet for storing towels and pool accessories are also featured.
The guest house was designed to be a living area for the family chef. To honor the home’s design and modern form, Carolyn Oliver, owner of Oliver: A Design Studio in Pasadena, designed the chef’s kitchen as a tribute to Milan, Italy. “In Milan they do such an incredible job of blending Old World architecture with modern form,” she asserts.
She followed the owners’ color palette of sage, a warm steel gray, teal blue and “an aqua oyster parchment” color. She began with vintage oyster luster glass wall tile from Walker Zanger, run vertically to make the ceiling appear higher. “It looks like you would [find] it in the ruins of Pompeii,” she notes.
Two of the walls are glass tile from the countertop up. The other two walls feature a custom color paint with a stipple design, finished with soft glazes in colors pulled from the glass tile.
The 10'x15' room created a need for a few design tricks to expand the space. Oliver, who designed the custom-made cabinets from alder wood, painted the upper cabinets one color and the lower cabinets another color. “[This way], it feels larger because the brain is trying to calculate two colors of the same saturation,” she explains.
The matte lacquer finish is also very durable, she adds, a plus when caterers use the kitchen.
The granite countertop from Walker Zanger is a soft sage green with a bit of gray.
“Instead of a speckled design, the granite has quartz deposits, giving it that kind of oyster, opalescent feeling of the glass tile,” Oliver comments.
Relocating the furnace to another area of the home provided room for counter space on both sides of the 30" Thermador range. Oliver also took the countertops down each side of the range, showcasing the piece. “By taking the stone down each side, I made the range a very special [focal] point.”
Oliver integrated some of the appliances, including a 36"-wide Thermador refrigerator/freezer and a full-sized dishwasher. The room also features a 15" U-Line refrigerator, as well as a 32" combination wall oven/warming drawer/microwave, a wine refrigerator, warming drawer and refrigerator drawer from Thermador. A Thermador hood with front rail to hang cooking utensils was also installed.
A Franke commercial stainless steel sink is complemented by a Franke faucet with pull-out sprayer. Cabinet hardware from Atlas Homewares in nickel was hung horizontally to elongate the 10' wall.
For the floor, ceramic tile from Walker Zanger resembles soapstone and is similar in shade to the lower cabinets, notes Oliver. On the ceiling, a hand-painted abstract canvas was installed on the ceiling using a commercial adhesive. “It was inspired by a number of painters who painted in Europe at the turn of the 1900s,” explains Oliver. “It includes all of the colors of the kitchen, and pulls the whole room together.”
Indeed, while the design might be a nod to the Old World style, the performance is strictly high-tech. “The kitchen is actually a Smart House,” notes Oliver. There is an undercounter TV that folds up underneath the cabinet, and a CD player. A control system automates the audio, video and lights. “It can control the room’s climate, open and shut the drapes, and more,” she reports.
While Melinda Schmidt, owner of Fremdling Design Group, LLC in Pasadena, typically does traditional designs, she wanted to give the chef’s bedroom and bath the feeling of today. “I didn’t want a vintage look,” she explains.
A color scheme of chocolate brown, blue and cream is carried from the bedroom into the bath, where she added Jerusalem Gold to the mix.
Instead of doing a long, single cabinet, Schmidt designed a cabinet grouping. “It looks like one piece, but each section has a different function,” she says. The first part is a dressing table that is 17" deep, and includes a custom-designed wood top. The single sink cabinet next to it comes out at 24". “I angled the corners of the countertop to come into the room so you have more ‘dimensionality,’” she notes. “It gives it some nice 45º angles with the cabinets below.”
Though a panel door is featured on the cabinet, “it’s not a traditional recessed panel,” notes Schmidt. “It has a nice beading around the panel, which makes it feel more transitional.”
The countertop on the sink cabinet is hand-made blue ceramic tile from Foothill Tile & Stone, and the Sedona Beige undermount sink from TOTO has detailing around the interior of the sink. Chrome TOTO faucets complement the fixtures.
Open shelves that reach to the ceiling sit on both sides of the sink, with a beveled mirror and sconce in the center. The end of the cabinet also features an 18" storage cabinet that stretches to the ceiling. “It has doors on it for linen storage,” says Schmidt.
The floor is done in Jerusalem Gold stone, with a hand-crafted mosaic in blue, ivory and brown tones at the front of the sink. “That brought a newer flavor to the bathroom, since stone is used a lot now,” notes Schmidt.
A tile backsplash with a border detail travels behind the sink and repeats itself at the dressing table. It continues around to the tub/shower area, and then around the rest of the room. Tile wainscoting is placed under it, all in blue. “It’s all the same blue color used throughout the room, but it varies in the style and pieces,” explains Schmidt. Above the wainscoting, woven silk wallcovering extends to the tile moulding inset at the ceiling.
Rather than use a traditional tub, a Roman tub was built out of tile. “Not only are the front and sides of the tub tile, but the interior walls are tiles, as well,” she relates. The tub sits approximately 19" off the ground, and features a 6" ledge that goes all the way around.
“I inset tiles on the front of the tub in blue, surrounded by the Jerusalem Gold stone.
The inside of the tub is all blue tile to give it kind of a watery feel,” Schmidt offers.
The shower walls are Jerusalem Gold stone to the ceiling, done without grout joints to give it a smooth appearance. The tub also features a sloped back for comfort, Schmidt points out, as well as a frameless glass enclosure.
She notes that she likes to use subtle details to bring a room together. “It’s very detailed, but it’s not overdone – it’s very restrained detail,” Schmidt concludes. KBDN