Pasadena Pretty with Emily Ruddo

When designer Emily Ruddo first met with new clients in Pasadena, she expected to find an airy, contemporary California home. Instead, she met a home that took her back to her Southern roots
Emily Ruddo and her clients call this space the atrium because of the generous natural light. Pink quince and green viburnum complement the Pierre Frey wallpaper.
Emily Ruddo and her clients call this space the atrium because of the generous natural light. Pink quince and green viburnum complement the Pierre Frey wallpaper.

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.

serene blue and neutral living room designed by Emily Ruddo
The contemporary artwork above the sofa drove the color scheme in the living room. Emily used texture to add depth to the soft palette. With a linen sofa, leather stools, woven shades, mohair armchairs, and a wool rug, she says, “we checked off all the texture boxes.”

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.

Pasadena family room designed by Emily Ruddo
Bold prints from Lee Jofa and natural elements such as wicker, bamboo, rattan, and a Patterson Flynn Martin abaca rug lend a casual vibe to the family room. A pair of blue-and-white Ralph Lauren lamps and a farmhouse console from the homeowners’ collection worked perfectly with Emily’s design scheme.

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.

dining room designed by Emily Ruddo
The designer believes that flowers are a final, finishing layer to any interior. In a blue-and-white Chinese bowl, she mounded anemones, hydrangeas, hellebores, ‘Juliet’ roses, ranunculus, and seeded and silver dollar eucalyptus. Wallpaper is by Phillip Jefferies; slipcover fabric is by Perennials.

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 chest. 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.

soft blue-and-white main bedroom by interior designer Emily Ruddo
The main bedroom showcases Southern style in the elegant canopied bed, monogrammed linens from Matouk, fabrics from Quadrille, and lighting from Visual Comfort.

“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.”

Continue the Tour

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butler’s pantry
Lee Jofa’s Sameera wallpaper adds an exotic layer to the butler’s pantry.
dining room drapes
For the dining room draperies, Emily chose Cowtan & Tout coral ikat-patterned fabric trimmed in an aqua stylized Greek key from Lee Jofa. 

“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

place setting
Herend’s green-and-white Chinese Bouquet pattern layers beautifully with embroidered napkins and chargers. See this china pattern in another setting.
interiors by Emily Ruddo
A pair of custom benches with nailhead trim and an antique chest define a portion of the living room, accented with a Carvers’ Guild mirror and celadon lamps from Stephen Gerould. Lucite frames add a modern counterpoint.

“When a room has multiple colors and patterns, I prefer using all of the same type of flower in an arrangement.” — Emily Ruddo

dressing room and closet designed by Erica Ruddo
The wallpaper in the wife’s closet is reminiscent of a garden trellis. Bench fabric by Schumacher.
purple flower arrangement
A bouquet of ‘Sterling Silver’ roses and tulips and an amethyst crystal create a pretty vignette on a shagreen tray.


Interior Design

Emily Ruddo Interior Design,


Living Room

  • Benches, custom with Cowtan & Tout linen fabric,
  • Commode, 1st Dibs,
  • Ottoman fabric, Cowtan & Tout

Family Room

Dining Room

Butler’s Pantry

  • Wallpaper, Sameera from the Oscar de la Renta Collection for Lee Jofa,
  • Sconces and ceiling light, Visual Comfort,
  • Custom lamp shades in Fermoie light blue fabric,

Master Bedroom


By Cathy Still McGowin | Photography by Meghan Beierle-O’Brien | Interiors by Emily Ruddo,

This story originally appeared in Flower magazine’s March/April 2021 issue. Find Flower in a store near you or subscribe.

cover for Flower magazine March/April 2021