Local Designers Add Their Mark to House of Design

Designer Jeanine Veldhuis in the room she worked on.

Designer Jeanine Veldhuis in the room she worked on.

The Philharmonic Society of Orange County this year selected a sprawling Tuscan-style villa in Coto de Caza where local interior designers could showcase their talents and help support the society’s youth music education programs, which serve 150,000 students a year.

Five bedrooms, a wine cellar, the entry, a lounge, living and dining areas, a library kitchen and baths now reflect the designers’ vision as well as complementing the architecture of the house and its surroundings. The showcase’s final day is Sunday, May 19.

Among the 12 designers, four with previous Design House credentials are based in Laguna Beach: Jeanine Veldhuis, Veldhuis Interior Design; Gary Finley, Gary Finley Interior Design; John Wallace Benecke, John Wallace Benecke Interiors, and the late Steve Stein, SLS Designs,Inc. Stein died shortly after finishing the Design House project, a living area he had dubbed “the lounge.”

John Wallace Benecke

John Wallace Benecke

Educated at Cal Poly San Louis Obispo, Veldhuis chose the master bedroom and bath, which she transformed into a casually elegant retreat reflecting imaginary owners who traveled, bringing back eclectic mementos.

“I used a fairly neutral color palette with accents of earthy colors like brown, terra cotta, cream and gold and added lots of plants,” she explained. “With a master bedroom you don’t get too inventive but follow a recipe and add spice.”

To Veldhuis, spice arises from a variety of textures and an eclectic mix of materials and artifacts, such as an iron canopy bed, a leather chest, antique iron sconces and Moroccan embroidered bedding as well as contemporary acrylic pedestals.

Veldhuis pulled her entire project together in 10 weeks. “Normally it takes 12 to 14 weeks just to get the furnishings,” she said.

Designers are not granted unfettered creative freedom, but must adhere to some rules, such as retaining the color of the walls and plaster in keeping with the Mediterranean look. And since the home is for sale, designers weigh the project’s cost as well as its effectiveness as a marketing tool.

For example, furnishings and artifacts not lent by distributors or manufacturers must be selected with future settings in mind. Items paid for by firms or individuals will be re-purposed for other showcases or sold. Then again, designers order draperies and upholstery, custom made for the space and absorb the cost.

Finley’s forte is putting art into unconventional settings. A large abstract painting by Luc Leestemaker dominates the sitting room-library, here named Biblioteca, accompanied by 17th and 18th century antique furniture and eye-catching accessories. Laguna gallerists Dawson Cole and Joanne Artman as well as a La Jolla gallery lent works for the project.

Gary Finley

Gary Finley

“I wanted the public to know that large works of art need not be imposing, even in smaller spaces,” he said. An adjoining narrow, 30 foot-long hallway proved a challenge that he met by placing two Italian chests of drawers, known as commodes, works of wall art and assorted plants, effecting an airy illusion of width. “I love offering the unexpected,” he said. Practicing since 1987, he said that one of the aspects that attracted him to design was his ability to give his client’s abstract ideas physical form.

Wallace Benecke chose what he considers a home’s focal point, the large entrance foyer and powder room. “The entrance sets the tone for the house,” he said.

He explained that he aimed for an old world house with a youthful sensibility.

His biggest challenge came when he changed out the heavy iron chandeliers suspended from a 36-foot ceiling and put up three drum-shaded fixtures. The new setting needed rewiring but he said the effect was worth it.

Wallace Beneke grew up steeped in classical music as his mother hails from Vienna, he said. He also is a Philharmonic Society board member and chairs a committee dedicated to bringing youth into concert halls.

He advises clients and others to avoid a decorator look and says: “Pay attention to individual collectibles, put them in the right place and don’t overdo it.”

Walls filled with art reflect both the house and the owner’s sensibility, he said, reminding owners that objects need not stay in the same place forever. “Art can be moved, and then don’t forget to put something good into the bathrooms either,” he said. He summed up his philosophy saying: With art and interior design there is really no wrong way of doing it. It’s all a matter of perception, a different approach.”


Sat: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun: Noon to 5 p.m. Park at Trabuco Presbyterian Church,

31802 Las Amigas Drive, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679.

Call (714) 840-7542 or email [email protected]


About the Author

Leave a Reply