• A fancy pool with deep blue clear water

      Pasadena Showcase House of Design (Photo – Blu Van Zandt)

      When you discover something special that everyone else seems to know about, there’s a twinge of disappointment and a feeling that you’ve been missing out. That’s how I felt when I learned about the Pasadena Showcase House of Design just a few days ago.

      By Blu Van Zandt

      The Showcase House exhibit is the annual fundraising event held by the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts (PSHA), a philanthropic organization which began in 1948 with a group of 18 women who formed the Continuance Fund. At that time, they held a variety of events to help raise money to pay for the Pasadena series of concerts performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic (established in 1919).

      Not Just Another Pretty House

      By 1965, the group – then called The Pasadena Junior Philharmonic Committee – decided a home and garden tour would be their only fundraiser and the Pasadena Showcase House of Design was born. That simple decision has blossomed into one of the largest and most successful such tours in the country. Now celebrating their 75th Anniversary, PSHA held its Diamond Jubilee last month and awarded $900,000 to 75 worthy non-profit organizations, bringing their total contributions to music and arts programs in the community to over $25 million.

      Due to the pandemic, the 2020 Showcase House could only be toured virtually, and there was no Showcase House in 2021. Fortunately, I was able to spend a delightful Sunday afternoon perusing this year’s selection for the 57th Pasadena Showcase House of Design. Arthur and Ruth Stewart received the property as a wedding gift, and the home originally was built for the newlyweds in 1933 at a cost of $13,000. This, however, is not the majestic estate’s first rodeo with the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts. (Oops, my Texas roots are showing!) Stewart House was also the 19th Showcase House 40 years ago in 1983 and has remained in the same family for all those years.

      When choosing a Showcase House, Board member Garrett Collins explained, “it takes a year to identify a home, and we have a list of about 200 in the Pasadena area that fit our qualifications.” Strict criteria must be met, and certain features are required to be considered. Two staircases are must-haves so that visitors can ascend and descend the levels in a seamless flow. Check. A Georgian staircase greets visitors at the foyer while another narrower staircase leads you to the kitchen and family room. The home should be situated on at least an acre of land to accommodate guests and transport vehicles. Check. Stewart House sits on a generous two acres of pristine grounds that include many wonderful floral gardens, fruit trees, and a delicious “salsa” and vegetable garden. Because Pasadena Showcase House of Design hosts 17 shops, there must be a relatively large flat area to accommodate them. Check. A regulation tennis court fits the bill nicely.

      a dining table with fancy silverware

      The dining table at the Pasadena Showcase House of Design (Photo – Blu Van Zandt)

      When PSHA discovered that Stewart House was on the market, it seemed like a perfect choice for a second run. Work began in January and in a quick three months over 30 designers have completely reimagined the grand colonial estate that spans 11,000 square feet of living space from its more stately past into a warm and welcoming modern home filed with exquisite, custom details in every area.

      Many visitors came on Sunday to enjoy the Mother’s Day brunch, and I met several mother-daughter groups who make a visit to the Showcase House their annual Mother’s Day tradition. A team of over 200 volunteers assist in bringing the Showcase House to the public. Several are stationed throughout the home to offer tidbits of information on the transformation.

      As you meander through the cozy settings, some of the designers are on hand to regale you with stories about their work in the various spaces. On my visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Gwen Sukeena, who designed the Speakeasy in dark and moody tones to match the feeling of the prohibition era in which the house was built, adding custom pendant lighting adorned with hand-blown glass. Christopher Ward sat playing a 90-year-old guitar in his space, The Artist’s Wunderkammer – a room of wonder. Particularly fascinating was the six-legged table in the middle of the study with two legs in the middle intertwined in a lover’s embrace and topped with a dragonfly which symbolizes new beginnings. The distinct sounds of French chanteuse Édith Piaf wafted through the air as I turned into the covered patio titled “La Vie en Rose.” Designer Shari Tipich explained her inspiration for the area now transformed into “a life in pink – love, roses and romance – Parisienne-style, looking through rose-colored glasses like when you first fall in love.”

      So, whether you’re late to the party (like I was) or you’ve visited the Pasadena Showcase House of Design in the past, you only have a few more days left to see this year’s magnificent home and garden tour which lasts for a mere month. Once the exhibit concludes Sunday, May 21, Stewart House will go back on the market, and we’ll have to wait another year for the next Showcase House.

      > For tickets and additional information, see pasadenashowcase.org/tickets.

      Troy Schaetzle from Denver, Colorado; mother and daughter, Debora and Tahira Collier; Jeannie Kagey with her caregiver America Ortega. (L-bottom) Barbara, Andie and Stephanie Morse; Designer Christopher Grant Ward with Colleen, Eunice and Karen Rockwell (Photos – Blu Van Zandt)

      Various scenes from a house showcase

      Scenes from the Pasadena Showcase House of Design (Photo – Blu Van Zandt)

      living room and powder room

      Scenes from the Pasadena Showcase House of Design (Photo – Blu Van Zandt)

      Scenes from the Pasadena Showcase House of Design (Photo – Blu Van Zandt)

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