Wide porches adorned with potted ferns are a hallmark of venerable Southern homes, so when interior designer Emily Ruddo took a look at the double porches on her clients’ two-story columned home in Pasadena, California, she immediately wanted to load them up with the classic greenery.
“The house felt more like something you would see in Alabama or Louisiana than California,” she says. Built in 1952 with a few renovations since, the genteel design is thanks to the original owner, a Southern soap opera star who wanted a slice of home on the West Coast. It’s also a style that Emily and her client, both originally from Maryland, connected over. “Because we are from the same place and have similar backgrounds, we almost had a kind of shorthand when talking about the project,” says Emily.
Familiarity with the Southern vernacular—along with her clients’ desire to have fun spaces for entertaining family and friends—helped lead Emily’s interior design scheme. In keeping with the floor plans of many historic homes, this one does not have an open layout. “The front door opens to a wide hallway that leads straight to the back of the house,” says Emily. “The architecture and moldings are beautiful, and the house feels very grand. I wanted the interior design to live up to the house, but I didn’t want it to be stuffy.”
To combat trappings of formality, Emily connected spaces through patterns that pop and cheerful colors grounded by the family’s antiques. “I love using my clients’ existing pieces. I grew up in a home filled with my grandparents’ antiques,” says the designer. “Antiques immediately warm up a home no matter the color or finish. These pieces add texture and make a house feel cozy.” Add to that a palette of reds, pinks, corals, blues, and greens and rolls upon rolls of lively wallpaper, and the house is equally lighthearted and sophisticated.
In the family room, Emily kept things casual with cozy seating, woven fabrics, and bold prints. In lieu of pattern on the walls, she splashed it across floors and upholstery. A navy and green ikat from Lee Jofa dresses wicker armchairs and accent stools, while an abaca rug makes a graphic statement underfoot. Other spaces present just slightly more subtle derivatives of the ebullient schemes.
In the dining room, coral draperies in another ikat pattern embellished with a braided aqua trim lend freshness to the antique Italian birdcage table and chairs. Here, quieter details include grass cloth walls and light blue piping on slipcovers.
The living room features a pale blue tufted ottoman and armchairs upholstered in caramel mohair velvet on a creamy-gold wool rug. Opposite the main seating area, Emily situated a pair of custom benches covered in blue-and-white striped linen on each side of an antique commode. The simple form of the celadon green lamps contrasts nicely with the intricate design of the Chinese Chippendale carved mirror.
The greatest departure from the home’s vibrant palette is the main bedroom. Here, brighter blues and corals fade to muted Windsor blues and champagne pastels for a serene setting. The custom canopied bed covered in monogrammed linens is a dreamy oasis overlooking the front lawn. Custom mahogany bedside chests replicate antiques.
“When you work with a client, you have to channel their tastes,” Emily says. “It’s not often that client and designer totally align. Maybe it’s our Southern connection, but the home speaks to my personal style as well.”
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“I purposefully chose a wide variety of wallpapers in different motifs and textures. Some are geometrics, others more fluid, but they are all lively, colorful patterns grounded in tradition.” — Emily Ruddo
“When a room has multiple colors and patterns, I prefer using all of the same type of flower in an arrangement.” — Emily Ruddo
By Cathy Still McGowin | Photography by Meghan Beierle-O’Brien | Interiors by Emily Ruddo, emilyruddo.com