Showcase Home Revealed at Huge Party

Originally published in “A Stone’s Throw” column in the South Pasadena Review  1.28.16

Showcase-House-1
2016 Pasadena Showcase Home, Illustration by Lynn Van Dam Cooper

On Friday night, blueprints of design, swatches of fabric, and bare rooms with delectable food filled the “Empty House Party” and the newly revealed 2016 Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts (PSHA.) This year, the non-profit organization will showcase a 1918-built mission revival, found on a 2-acre property in La Canada Flintridge.

The Empty House Party is a very exciting night for us. We have been working diligently to get the House to this point,” said former South Pasadena resident Marilyn Campbell Anderson, this year’s Benefit Chair.

The event kicked-off the designers’ dream-making spree, as ideas are fleshed out and the creativity revealed to the public April 17-May 15. Landscape and interior design artists vie for a spot to strut their stuff and help raise money for the arts around Los Angeles County.

The process is straightforward. The owners of the property, in this case the nearly 100-year-old gem, move out for 6 months while the place is gutted of furniture and belongings while preparations are made for a design renovation inside and out.

Professionals submit their proposals for the space they desire to transform. The selection committee then decides which ideas shows the most promise and entrusts the designer with the task.

This year’s sprawling property has a three-story, 16,000 square foot main residence with six bedrooms, five bathrooms, a variety of open spaces, balconies, an elevator, and even a rumored speakeasy on the lowest floor. There is also a 2,100 square foot stand alone guest home in the back. In the main house, the master suite alone is 1,500 square feet and includes separate his and hers bathrooms and a changing room the size of a large living room in your average home. Samantha Williams of Ederra Design Studio is one of two designers who will take charge of this space.

Though a great deal of work lie ahead for the 20 interior design firms, 8 exterior design firms and hundreds of volunteer members associated with the PSHA, all agree that it’s fully worth the effort. Anderson said, “Showcase is a huge undertaking. Our volunteers are the backbone of the organization and through their efforts, year after year, we are able to produce Showcase and raise funds to support music education programs throughout the community.”

The goal is for 30,000 people to walk through the home in 25 days. $630,000 was donated last year alone for gifts and grants and more given to other artsy endeavors. A cumulative $20+ million has been donated since the start of the organization in 1948.

The funds go toward music and art education in and around Los Angeles County: gifts and grants for outstanding community programs, the “Music Mobile” bringing a hands-on music experience to hundreds of 3rd graders, a concert at the Walt Disney Hall by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for an audience filled with 4th-grade students, competitions for promising young musicians (16-24 years of age) who receive monetary awards to assist in furthering their music education and more!

But truly, this is a win-win for all. Not only does the philanthropic owner enjoy some improvements to the house, but many have the opportunity to give directly to their community by supporting children in the arts. The public can experience a historic home with modern ideas to accentuate and celebrate the past; and designers benefit by showcasing their talent to thousands.

When asked why he’s done this for the past seven years, Jason Lai, owner and principal designer of L2 Interiors said that it was simply “good advertisement and all worth it.” Lai will be showcasing a “young adult” bedroom and bath. He is proud to be debuting a textured porcelain that looks like stone and a custom faucet for the bath that “mix metals” in a tasteful manner.

The cost for the redesign are incurred by each design firm. Designers also work with a variety of businesses who advertise alongside them, donating materials and ultimately add to the cause.

When the home opens to the public in April, it will be the 52nd showcase, “one of the oldest, largest and most successful house and garden tour in the U.S.” according to PSHA.

Tickets go on sale February 3 and are $35-$45/person, depending on the day and hour of a scheduled tour. (A $60 golden ticket that allows a visit during any open hours is currently on sale online.) Parking will be in Lot I at the Rose Bowl, shuttling people to and from the home.

For tickets and information, go online to pasadenashowcase.org.

List of Designers & their Design Space

Entry, Staircase and Second Floor Hall: Saxony Design Build Inc., Joshua Cain & Jeff Godbold (Interior Advisors)

Grand Salon: Designs of the Interior, Karen Shoener, Genaro Lagdameo & Carla Padour

Music Room: Parker West Interiors, Greg Parker & Paul Heinz

Dining Room: Kelly Ferm Inc., Kelly Ferm

Cloakroom and Lavatory: EMI Interior Design, Inc., Erica Islas

Master Suite: Ederra Design Studio, Samantha Williams & Cynthia Lambakis

Morning Room and Lady’s Office: Tocco Finale, Dona Dockendorf

Grandparent’s Suite and Sitting Room: Lemmon Hill, Cathy Arkley

Grandparents’ Suite Bath: Foothill Tile and Stone Co., Vincent Chow & Carmel Chow

The Artist’s Veranda and The Aviary Elevator: Shari Tipich, Decorative Artist

The Writer’s Retreat: Mark and Bleue Design, Inc., Savannah Bleue & Ally Marks

Little Girl’s Bedroom: Salutations Home, Scott Moore & Jonna Carls

Young Adult Bedroom and Jack & Jill Bath: L2 Interiors, Stephanie Leese & Jason Lai

Family Room, Main Hallway and Powder Room: Robert Frank Design, Robert Frank

Guest Suite: Julia Wong Designs, Julia Wong

Smoking Lounge: Michael Wrusch Design, Michael Wrusch

Kitchen, Butler’s Pantry, Breakfast Room, Laundry Room and Caterer’s Kitchen: GH Wood Design, Amin Khademi, Kaleena Khademi & Jack Carino

Basement Hallway/Art Gallery: Roula’s Decor, Roula Dardari

Guest House Bedroom, Bath, Living Room and Dining Room: The Art of Room Design, Maria Videla

Guest House Kitchen, Breakfast Room and Laundry: D Christjan, Phil Vonk

Exterior Design Spaces

Exterior Advisor: Land Re: Vision, Larry Pastre

Entry Gardens and Rose Garden: RA Designs, Mouna Stewart

Sculpture Garden: Gad Garden Architecture & Design, Leo Cruz

Tidellii of Fountain Valley, Tatiana Mendelli & Ginger Evans

Entry Veranda: Interior Devine, Paul Devine

The Pond: Mystic Water Garden, Steve Sandalis

Sacred Space Garden: Design Inc., Karen Miller

Guest House Gardens: Outdoor Elegance, Inc., Douglas Sanicola & Roxanne Spear

The Pool: Pacific Outdoor Living, Terry Morrill and John Durco

The Sports Court and Putting Green: TD Sports Inc./Sportcourla, Dale Hendrickson

Award-Winning Author, Gary Schmidt Visits SPMS

Originally published in “A Stone’s Throw” column in the South Pasadena Review 3/26/15

By Ann Suk Wang

GaryDShmidt

Many become excited when a movie star or a well-known musician is seen in person. Palms may become slightly damp and the heart may pound a little faster. The rush of recognition causes even the coolest fan to quickly assess, whether to try to get an autograph, snap a quick photo with a phone, shake the celebrity’s hand, or form words of praise: “I loved you in [such and such] movie” or “Your song is the best.”

For me, I feel a bit giddy and star-struck when I have the privilege of meeting an author. Maybe it’s because we share a love for words and good story telling. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent days in their world, with their characters and their thoughts. But no matter who strikes intrigue in you, it’s probably because there’s an instant respect for whoever creates the art that moves you.

signing for a long line of students
signing for a long line of students

On Friday, the students of South Pasadena Middle School (SPMS) got a taste of the excitement that comes with meeting a two-time Newbery Honor-winning, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Honored author of The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Gary D. Schmidt. These awards are no joke in the children’s book publishing world. They’re the best of the best novels, chosen among all published works for youth each year.

But how did such an author find his way to SPMS? Librarian Betsy Kahn loved Schmidt’s book Okay for Now so much that she persuaded the South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF) to fund the purchase of dozens of copies and distributed them so that students and staff could “read it forward” around school. Eventually she wrote Schmidt a lengthy hand-written letter about the stir his book was creating, included a photograph of herself dressed for Halloween as the hardcover copy of the book, and asked if he could possibly make a visit. Schmidt later admitted to Kahn, he just “couldn’t refuse.” So with further financial help from SPEF, Schmidt was flown to California.

Schmidt teaches prospective writers
Schmidt teaches prospective writers

When Schmidt arrived at the school on Friday, his day was packed: autographing books and pieces of paper for a winding line of students during brunch and lunch, speaking to student artists and writers, and giving two assemblies. He led a workshop about developing intriguing characters. He disclosed that he has a secret room in his home that he’s never entered because he likes the mystery, revealing a little more about him. He told a moving story that included how “The Draft” was done during the Vietnam War and how older men now, still remember “their number.” He spoke about stories starting with questions and ending with even more. All was inspiring.

As for my part in all this, I had none. I was just a parent volunteer at the library who caught wind of the Okay for Now phenomenon and was fortunate enough to see it unfold from a distance and as a parent of a pre-teen who now calls Schmidt’s writings one of his favorites.

But don’t feel too bad if you feel you missed out. Fortunately for those who live in and around South Pasadena, there are many opportunities to learn from and meet local and world-renowned authors: during events at the South Pasadena and surrounding libraries and at bookstores like Vroman’s in Pasadena and Once Upon a Time in Montrose. Check them out because these locations attract the biggest names in the industry!

The power of a book: there’s no telling where it’ll take you… maybe right to the feet of your favorite superstar author and beyond. Way beyond!

Rose Parade Self-Builts Add Sense of Community to World Event

The 124th Tournament of Roses Parade
2013 Fantasy Trophy winner – Burbank’s “Deep Sea Adventures”

Originally printed in The Quarterly magazine, Winter 2013

As numb fingers and eyes droop in weariness, a lively spirit keep volunteers going through the night and into the following year… year after year as another self-built float for the Rose Parade receives its finishing touches. The volunteers are the key ingredient in the self-built floats.

“Exhausted and exhilarated, it’s [a] sweet taste of accomplishment and pride,” says Greg Lehr, Director of the Rose Float Program at Cal Poly and involved with float building since 1988. Civic-minded helpers work year-round with members of the same community, all for one special day: January 1.

Since the inception of The Pasadena Tournament of Roses and their first parade in 1890, local flora have adorned floats, carriages, vehicles, animals and people going down Colorado Boulevard. At the heart was a desire to showcase Southern California’s idyllic Mediterranean climate; and through tireless community members, the world continues to get a taste.

This small-town tradition continues in the 6 self-built floats: Burbank, Cal Poly Universities, Downey, La Cañada Flintridge, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena.

Among the roughly 45 floats in each of the recent parades, the “self-builts” are dubbed as such because the entire project is driven by volunteers and donations. The price tag of a professionally-built float could be roughly $300,000 on up, but most of the self-builts stay in the $50,000-$100,000 price range.

No one is paid to come up with the concept of the float. Usually there is a contest to pick the winning design. A handful of energetic volunteers fundraise all year long to cover the cost of materials. Community members donate their skills to help shape and weld the pencil steel that creates the skeleton. And hundreds of decorators for each float, mostly from “deco week” (the day after Christmas until the morning of Jan. 1) labor free of charge at all hours.

The know-how to create a traveling and animated work of floral art is passed down from one committed volunteer to the next, through trial and error and the sharing of knowledge.

“Even though we compete against each other, it’s a friendly competition between the self-builts. We all help each other. If someone is ahead of schedule and [we’re] behind, they’ll help [by sending over volunteers]… Even if you run out of flowers, other self-builts are willing to share [their extras,]” says Bonnie Colcher, a volunteer for 11 years and Volunteer Coordinator of the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association.

The self-builts compete with the professionals for all the awards, but one recognition is especially for them, the ‘Founder’s Trophy’ for most beautiful entry built and decorated by volunteers from the sponsoring community or organization. And though the parade is not simply about getting awards, it’s certainly nice to be recognized for the particularly huge task for the self-builts.

“We’re all in this to make a better parade for everybody, professionals included.” Paul Abbey, volunteer since 1999 and President/Chairman of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses comments about a time their float was damaged in a fire and a professional float builder, Fiesta Floats, helped by providing a facility and additional people who could get the job done.

The people who stay involved with float projects have a special camaraderie. Says Gary DeRemer, volunteer for 21 years and President of the Downey Rose Float Association, “All the people who build and decorate are family to me. We don’t always get along, but we all work as a team and love each other.”

And like quirky families, floats can also be temperamental in varying temperatures and situations; not everything comes up roses. There are certainly challenges with each goliath float-creating task. There are bound to be issues: from major glitches (like when La Cañada built an 18-foot wide float that had to go through a 16-foot wide gate) to full-blown panic-stricken re-dos and overnighters (like “the great coconut fiasco” when the glue didn’t work after a cold spell and nearly all the coconut shavings fell off at 2 AM, an hour before Sierra Madre’s float was to make its way to the judges.)

But in the end, to see what was so meticulously cared for over a year, traveling the 5 1/2-mile route on New Year’s Day, makes all the hardships worth it!

As Downey’s float makes its way to Pasadena, “Our city cheers us on. The people on the streets clap for us; and you feel so proud to be a part of something great,” says DeRemer.

Some Unique Aspects of Each Self-Built Float

The Burbank Tournament of Roses Association is celebrating 100 years since their first float entry in 1914. Their 82nd float entry this New Year’s will be “Lights… Camera… Action!” (In earlier years an entry was sometimes a marching band or no entry at all.)

Robert Hutt, volunteer for 12 years, currently in charge of Public Relations and past President of the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association, comments on what drew him in. “At first, I wanted to learn how to weld. [But it] took about 5 years before I got into the construction part.” Often, volunteers must learn about nuances of float building before wielding heavy tools.

Recent awards include: Fantasy Trophy (2013) and Mayor’s Trophy for most outstanding city (2012).

For more information, visit www.burbankrosefloat.com

Cal Poly Universities (Pomona and San Luis Obispo) have entered a float since 1949, celebrating 66 years with their 2014 entry “Bedtime Buccaneers.”

Cal Poly’s float is unique even among the self-builts as the only one that’s not a city and is student-centered. The students “have the ingenuity that paves the way…We were the first to have animation (moving parts) and fiber optics… These students love it. They live it. If you cut their veins, it would leak hydraulic fluid. I’m very proud of them,” comments Lehr.

The float is also built on two campuses and brought together in late October. Pomona is in charge of the animation while San Luis Obispo takes care of the float propulsion or drive system.

Recent awards include: Bob Hope Humor Trophy (2013) and Fantasy Trophy (2011).

For more information, visit www.rosefloat.org

The Downey Rose Float Association first entered the parade in 1913. This year, their entry is titled “The Glass Slipper,” which is more elegant than animated.

“We are teaching people how to weld, order flowers and pick [appropriate ones]. Some of our people become florists…” says DeRemer.

And to raise funds for their float, they sell tacos and have concerts in the park, sponsor casino nights, and put on car washes.

Recent awards include: Founders Trophy (2012) and Lathrop K. Leishman Award for most beautiful entry from a non-commercial sponsor (2011).

For more information, visit www.downeyrose.org

La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association (LCFTRA) had it’s first entry in 1979 and it’s 36th consecutive entry for 2014 is “Dog Gone.”

According to Bill Pounders, volunteer for more than 20 years, on the board of LCFTRA, the learning never stops. With their 1992 float ‘Sherlock Hounds’ “we learned that there is no banner for cuteness.” (A banner proceeds an awarded float down the parade route.)

As for participation, people from all over the foothills join-in. “Local high school students enjoy their winter vacation days doing something different and find float decorating a fun community-service activity,” says Pounders.

Recent awards include: Animation Trophy (2013) and Bob Hope Humor Award (2012).

For more information, visit www.lcftra.org

The Sierra Madre Rose Float Association’s first entry was in 1917. This New Year’s will be their 82nd entry, “Catching the Big One.”

Colcher says it gets more and more challenging every year for their “smallest” of the self-builts, given a city population of around 11,000. “We’re like the little engine that could.” Their budget is the smallest at about $50,000, but “There’s a lot of pride in it, so we get it done.”

Recent awards include: Governor’s Trophy for the best depiction of life in California (2011 and 2010).

For more information, visit www.smrosefloat.org

The South Pasadena Tournament of Roses first entered a float in 1910, making it the oldest self-built float in the parade. This New Year’s they will present “Intergalactic Vacation.”

When explaining how a design is chosen, Abbey said “It’s got to have that ‘ah ha’ factor and wow people… It has to resonate with the audience.” But in the end he doesn’t help build floats “for awards, but I build them to make people happy… it warms my heart to see people enjoy what they’re seeing. It’s the whole reason I do this!”

Recent awards include: Founders’ Trophy (2013) and Fantasy Trophy (2012).

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2012 Founder’s Trophy winner – Downey’s “Enchanted Paradise”

For more information, visit www.sptor.com