Showcasing the Designers
A few Arroyoland participants in this year’s Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts reflect the wide range of styles, from contemporary to classic, that will utterly transform a 1927 Paul Williams estate.
By Bettijane Levine 04/01/2011
This year’s Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, perhaps more than most of its 46 predecessors, reflects the glories of tradition along with the benefits of change. Designed by renowned Los Angeles architect Paul Revere Williams in 1927, it is an elegant English Revival–style manor, once described as “architecturally perfect” in the Los Angeles Times. The home was surrounded by wooded acres, stables, bridle paths, tennis courts, picnic grounds, a pool and poolhouse and other amenities rare even in that over-the-top era of huge fortunes and minuscule taxes.
Williams (1894–1980) designed more than 3,000 elegant homes and public structures that helped define the architectural character of Los Angeles. He was brilliant at interpreting Modern, Mediterranean, Colonial, Tudor and European residential styles. It was Williams’ stately mansions that first established the residential character and prestige of Hancock Park and added caché to enclaves in Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Beverly Hills, Bel Air and areas of the San Gabriel Valley. Known as the “architect to the stars,” Williams reportedly designed homes for Cary Grant, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Frank Sinatra, Danny Thomas and Humphrey Bogart, to name just a few.
He was just as prominent as the architect of dozens of Los Angeles churches, schools, corporate headquarters and resorts. Notable projects include the iconic spaceship-style “theme building” at Los Angeles International Airport, the Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue store and the acclaimed 1947 remodel of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Polo Lounge. Williams also
designed the Los Angeles County Courthouse as well as upscale restaurants, such as the
The irony of it all was that Williams, an African American, was not allowed to dine in many restaurants he designed, nor could he spend a night at any of his hotels. Due to restrictive covenants of the era, he could not even buy a home in neighborhoods where his structures were (and still are) considered status symbols.
He succeeded in spite of all that and raised a large, loving family who did likewise. Distinguished, erudite and soft-spoken, Williams became the first African-American member and fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles. His legacy endures, while change continues to alter the architectural and social landscape in which he once plied his trade.
This year’s Paul Williams Showcase House reflects that change, blending the sensibilities of interior designers relatively new to the area along with those whose families have been here for generations. It contains rooms of contemporary whimsy alongside those steeped in classical tradition. It is a potpourri of what Arroyoland once was and what it is becoming. Here, we spotlight a few young designers from this year’s Showcase House class of 27, who’ve arrived on the scene to fulfill their varied fantasies of what “home” is all about.
Tamara Kaye-Honey came to interior design from the world of fashion. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, she attended the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and started her career as a clothing buyer for high-end Manhattan emporium Bergdorf Goodman. Married and pregnant with her first child in 2001, Kaye-Honey was on the subway when the World Trade Center was attacked. “That was a turning point for my husband and me,” she says. The couple moved west with their baby in 2003 and bought a mid-century modern fixer in Los Angeles, which she proceeded to remodel in her inimitable style. “People would visit and ask, ’Who’s your designer, who did your house?’ I’d say it was me, and things just took off from there.”
Kaye-Honey has been designing interiors ever since and last year opened the House of Honey, a design shop and studio on Mission Street in South Pasadena. She calls her style “modern eclectic — a mix of pieces from different eras,” often refurbished to add wit, drama or a bit of lacquered glitz and gloss. “Maybe an Art Deco piece teamed with an ornate period piece to give the space a unique personality,” she says. Kaye-Honey’s special gift, evident at houseofhoney.la, is creating simple, contemporary rooms that look clean and fresh, yet also echo Old World quality and comfort.
For fun, she designs and sells custom chairs, using vintage pieces she upholsters with fabrics from her personal collection of designer gowns and vintage fake-fur coats. “I collected these clothes when I lived in New York and had no use for them here. So I use them as upholstery, and I always attach the item’s designer label to the back of the chair, with a Polaroid of what the item looked like when it was a dress or a coat.”
For this year’s Showcase House, Kaye-Honey was asked to design a rumpus room for two sisters, ages 6 and 16. “That was a challenge, because of the divergent ages,” she says. She chose bold, playful colors “to inspire their imaginations,” with a brown-orange-and-gold-patterned wallpaper, a ceiling of gold metallic paper and a wood floor stained a dark chocolate. “The room has pops of bright color thoughout. I have a Chinoiserie gaming table lacquered bright orange, a vintage Murano orange glass fixture above it, two mini-rockers for the little ones and two Danish modern high-back chairs, in brown and beige polka dots, for the older girls.”
In short, a room fit for mini-Pasadenans.
“Pasadena has changed, even since I’ve been here,” she says. “I think there’s a new sensibility; people are embracing the adventurous, they’re more open-minded. I’m delighted they’ve embraced my work and my shop.”
Joshua Cain and Jeff Godbold, partners in Saxony Design Build, have ties to both California’s old and new settlers. Godbold, a third-generation general contractor, is also a third-generation Californian, born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley. Cain, the newcomer, arrived here 10 years ago after a childhood in Bruce, Mississippi (population 3,000), and design school in Denver.
Cain says he and Godbold created a formal partnership in 2005, after meeting on a Pasadena Showcase project. “I was designing, Jeff was the contractor for the home’s owner,” he says. “It just made sense.” They began offering full design and construction services to clients wanting new luxury homes and remodels in California, Hawaii, Colorado and Costa Rica.
The partnership works particularly well for the duo’s latest Pasadena Showcase assignment: to build and design a guest house where a stable, potting shed and caretaker’s digs once stood. “The stable had eight horse stalls and a dirt floor. We took it down to the studs and pretty much had to build the guest house from scratch.”
What the team came up with is a 1,700-square-foot guest house with a great room, kitchen, two bedrooms and two baths. “We created the great room with its vaulted ceiling from two of the horse stalls,” Cain says.
“I used the old barn wood from the stalls to create a wood ceiling, then had the big beams distressed and aged to match the ceiling wood.” Floors are antiqued Portuguese limestone and European oak that’s been distressed. “We wanted the guest house
to echo the antiquity and history of Paul Williams’ original,” Cain says. And a look at the firm’s website (saxonydesignbuild.com) reveals that Cain has always been a devotee of the gracious comfort that marked so many fine homes of Williams’ era, as well as the Southern mansions he remembers from childhood.
“My taste is traditional,” Cain says. “I strive to make things comfortable and easy to live with, which is what I think most people want.” His mellow interiors tend to feature classic pieces in fine wood and upholstery, with elegant accessories. And he is not a fan of the seemingly ubiquitous painted drywall, favoring walls with wood paneling, or fabric covering, or tile or stonework. His walls in the Pasadena great room are plaster with grass cloth. Furnishings include antiques, hand-carved woods, Tibetan rugs and comfortable seating, which includes a pair of dark chocolate-brown sofas. “This is the biggest project we’ve ever done for the Pasadena Showcase,” Cain says. “It’s also the most fun.”