Art of Home: Philharmonic's design house goes Tuscan this year in Dana Point

If you want to see state-of-the-art decorating up close, no destination in Orange County is better or more inspiring than the annual Philharmonic House of Design.

It has been a staple of the interior design community's style calendar for 24 years and is typically staged in Orange County's most desirable housing stock, making it a perfect venue for showcasing fashion statements.

And to top it off, all proceeds benefit the Philharmonic Society of Orange County's nationally recognized Youth Music Education Programs for nearly 160,000 Orange County students in kindergarten through high school.

This year's epicenter for great decor is an 8,656-square-foot, Tuscan-style home in Dana Point's gated oceanfront community The Strand at Headlands. It has five bedrooms and 5 1/2 bathrooms and is for sale in the $10 million range.

The sprawling show will also include an adjacent cafe and boutique featuring clothing, jewelry, accessories and home decor items.

The participants are 15 interior designers from Southern California, including award-winning design pros Frank Pitman, Wendy Ann Miller and John Benecke, who have been featured in several of the society's House of Design tours.

A stylish blend of tradition and modernity abound, from walls coated in a creamy neutral palette of paint supplied by British paint and wallpaper company Farrow & Ball to luxurious bath fixtures and faucets by Rohl to premier hardwood DuChateau flooring. It's enough to make a visitor long to discard everything in his or her own home and start over.

The showcase house allows local design professionals to display their talents without the typical constraints of client budgets and preferences. However, that doesn't mean the designers don't have financial pressures. They must provide the pieces for t heir respective rooms, though the furnishings are available for purchase. The wall and floor coverings are donated.

Benecke, who has participated in past House of Design locations and has more than 30 years of interior design experience in Los Angeles and Orange counties, was responsible for the home's entry way and living room.

When it came to outfitting the living room, the last thing Laguna Beach-based interior designer Benecke, of John Wallace Benecke Interior Design, wanted was a period room. On the contrary, he wanted the space to seem as if it had been furnished over time.

"It's not a room that follows trends," Benecke said recently at the custom, luxury homesite as construction workers and designers shuffled past, carrying ladders and power tools. "It's creating a space to say, 'This is my home.' It should feel exciting, have an interesting twist to it and feel comfortable to live in."

In the living room, for instance, Benecke placed a rare 19th centu ry Biedermeier chest with a shimmering finish and clean lines to preside over a seating area that includes a chaise and an early 18th century Austrian secretary desk that belonged to his mother.

To add a contemporary tweak to the room's Baroque-inspired decor, he then added abstract artwork, a black leather stool before the secretary desk and floral drapes.

And to inject a bit of levity into the home's first room, Benecke positioned statues of the three wise monkeys onto three separate capitals, the tops of fluted columns.

But look closer at the white-lacquered mystic apes embodying the principle "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," and you'll notice the monkeys are seeing, hearing and speaking, he said.

"Someone taking this room is a little worldly because this room has collections, and they've been around to museums and to European art stores and have assembled things over time," Benecke said.

"It's not a look someone gets overnight, unless the y give the designer free rein," he added with a laugh.



What: 24th Philharmonic House of Design

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays for "Meet the Designers," and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays from May 24 to June 19

Where: Shuttle and parking at Strands Vista Park, 34111 Selva Road, Dana Point

Cost: $40 to $50

Information: (714) 840-7542 or visit

Twitter: @KathleenLuppi

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