2016 Empty Showcase House: The “Before”

Feb 15, 2016

IMG_9573We do find it rather astonishing that people hand over the keys to their stately homes, with only a few caveats here and there, and say, do what you will. But so it is every year with the Pasadena Showcase House of Design. As we missed the charity’s opening event—the lovely and fun Empty Showcase Party where champagne flows, nibbles are scrumptious, and designers present their visions—we thank PSHA for arranging a tour of the property so we could share these “before” photos.

It’s not certain, but it is “thought” that the 52nd Showcase House—a 1918 Mission Revival—was designed by the esteemed and prolific local architect Myron Hunt (think Huntington Library, Caltech, Occidental College, and the Ambassador Hotel).

What is certain is that this 16,000 square feet main residence on a 2-acre property that includes grand trees, a pool and a spa, an outdoor barbecue, and a horse corral—oh yes, and the guest house is 2,032 square feet—was originally built for restaurateur Leon C. Riggs, and was once known as Dryborough Hall. The estate had its debut as a Showcase House in 1987.




La Cañada Flintridge is the location of this year’s Showcase House and we found ourselves driving along a street lined with California Oaks, their branches curving towards each other to meet above our heads. Very quickly we were amid homes that can be described quite simply as massive—the mini-massive being mere quaint cottages next to their mighty massive neighbors. A majority of the homes contain the hallmarks of dignified age, though we were surprised to see several new builds (in the massive category), too. One new build is right across the street from the 2016 Showcase House.





Currently, this Mission Revival is papered (protecting the floors) and shorn, sometimes down to its bare bones…






… but the remaining lines and details are delightful including push button light switches, which were common in the 1920s, and an intercom with frayed cord ‘n all. Though the square footage is large, the rooms are sized for humans rather than hordes, so an element for homeyness prevails.








On view? Dark hardwood-paneled walls, built-ins, stone etched fireplaces, etched glass in windows and doors, old radiators, marvelously ornate (Art Deco?) decorative candle sconces and flush mount ceiling lights, and fabulous—large, shall we say massive—chandeliers.


Looking from the living room into the library (?)

Looking from the living room into the library


Close up of stone fireplace in the living room

Close up of stone fireplace in the living room


A divine Grandfather clock in the living room

A gorgeous Grandfather clock in the living room


Some TLC needed for this gorgeous (and massive) chandelier in the intimate dining room; looking toward the fireplace

Some TLC is needed for the domineering chandelier in the intimate dining room; looking toward the fireplace


Who gets dibs on the architectural elements that will be replaced, such as this Deco ceiling mount?

Who gets dibs on the architectural elements that will be replaced, such as this Deco ceiling mount?










The foyer and central staircase…




The basement runs the full length of the house. If we remember correctly, there are six rooms including one with a bar and a vintage cash register—a Prohibition hideaway perhaps?



Below: Archways in the kitchen leading to the breakfast area. Our guides were not sure if they were original to the house and whether or not they would be removed in the remodeling. (We hope not.)



A brilliant old double sink in the pantry, which may have seen its last useful day in this location…



In consultation with the 2016 Showcase House Interior Advisor, Joshua Cain of Saxony Design Build, and Sara McLean of Dunn-Edwards Paints, 16 colors have been chosen for this year’s palette, which are said to be historically accurate for the Mission Revival period and will be reflected not only in the paint used but the dozens of fabrics and textiles. Tiffany Rose, Charcoal Smudge, Summer Pear, Citron, Maize, Jefferson Cream, and Shadow Effect are a few of the colors to be used by the 20 interior designers. which include:

~Pasadena’s Ederra Design Studio, Foothill Tile and Stone Co., Marks and Bleue Design, Inc., Parker West Interiors, and Salutations Home
~San Marino’s Robert Frank Design, Tocco Finale Corporation, and Lemmon Hill
~Claremont’s Kelly Ferm, Inc.
~La Cañada Flintridge’s The Art of Room Design and Ra Designs

One of our favorite designers from last year’s Showcase House, Glendora’s G. H. Wood Design—for examples, its exquisite wood sink pedestal and ping pong table may be viewed at “2015 Showcase House Sneak Peek“— will be redesigning the kitchen, butler’s pantry, breakfast room, laundry room, and the caterer’s kitchen. Other rooms to be created are a Lady’s Office, a music room, a grandparent’s suite and sitting room, The Smoking Lounge, and The Writer’s Room.

Eight exterior designers will be creating a sculpture garden, designing the parkway and entry garden, a side rose garden, the pond, and the pool.




The whole house has a wonderful array of large and lovely windows. This is the foyer, looking toward the front door (and a bit into the living room)…



Our gratitude again to PSHA, as well as the two interior chairwomen we met, Suzette Cummings and Susie Aguirre for accommodating us so we could share the “before” pictures of the 2016 Showcase House. We’re sure we’ll hardly recognize it come April (and we can’t wait).

2016 Showcase House of Design
Open to the public April 17th – May 15th, except Mondays
Location: La Cañada Flintridge
Order by mail or online here
Or by calling 1.714.442.3872
For complete details, visit



Empty Showcase House photos by Kat Ward.





Marilyn Campbell Anderson
Benefit Chair for the 2016 Showcase House of Design


Illustration by Lynn Van Dam Cooper

Illustration by Lynn Van Dam Cooper



5 Responses for “2016 Empty Showcase House: The “Before””

  1. A really interesting article. I didn’t realize the designers had so much leeway. To take out arches? To replace a Deco ceiling mount? No! Seriously, no, please don’t do it. Those things make the place the distinctive residence it is. Anybody can build something massive.

  2. Maureen McGillan Sklar says:

    Those arches, do NOT look vintage. I believe they were put in, when it was a Showcase House, in 1987. I doubt if any of those etched windows were original either, probably another 1987 addition.
    The homeowner can request that certain things be left intact. I personally, would say, ” Leave that great sink!” That is an original piece…

  3. Kat Ward says:

    PSHA has responded to our inquiry regarding your comments, Petrea:

    Each year, the Showcase House is in a different state of disrepair. Other than being dated, this year’s home was in pretty decent condition. As mentioned, the construction photos are of the new designs and not a result of the state of the home. Our designers try to restore and re-purpose original architectural details and those of historical significance so that the house can be brought back to its original grandeur.

  4. Kat Ward says:

    Thank you, Maureen!

  5. Thank you both for enlightening me! The Showcase House is always interesting, and it will be exciting to see what they do with it this year.



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