1920’s Southern California Estate Returns to its
Landscape Architecture by Heather Lenkin, AIA, ASLA
IL VILLINO ROSA - An estate touched by some of the most influential architects in Pasadena’s history, this San Rafael area home is a gem of Italian Revival Architecture. The estate is credited to the conceptual genius of Reginald Johnson of Johnson, Kaufman and Coate, Architects. Barring an addition to the North side of the house, between 1931 and 1956 by Sylvanus Marston, the house is reflective of Johnson’s love for the Mediterranean style. As an architect he was responsible for the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel Ballroom, and the Mediterranean revival design of wealthy locations in Montecito, and Santa Barbara. Today as inspired its history, the estate stands ready to blossom again as on the of the most majestic homes of Southern California.
A breathtaking 1920’s Reginald Johnson Mediterranean Revival estate with four and one half of gardens overlooking the Arroyo Seco and San Gabriel Mountains in Pasadena California, is the scene of the most recent renovation, update and restoration work by internationally recognized landscape architect Heather Lenkin, AIA, ASLA. In addition to being a family home, the home has been featured in films, books and magazines – as early as 1931!
Following in the footsteps of an amazing cast of incredibly distinguished architects and landscape architects who have already worked on the property, Lenkin was hired in 2008 to breathe life again into the fantastic grounds. The landscape was originally conceived by F. Garvin Hodson in his 1919 drawings of the estate. From 1915 - 1930 world-renowned German landscape architect Paul Thiene worked his magic on the property. Subsequent architectural work was performed by the offices of Marston, Van Pelt & Maybury, in 1930. The present owners worked with the highly respected landscape architect Ruth Shelton in 1988 when they purchased the home.
Lenkin’s interest has been in recreating the original grandeur of the landscape, whilst adding drought tolerant and California native plant material to the landscape. She found much inspiration in the work of the original architects landscape design linking the home and the gardens in a formal Italianate manner. She wisely divided the property into manageable projects with five separate zones.
The formal entry is on axis to the front door, and still contains the original 80’ long boxwood hedges lining either side of the drive. The main entry to the home stayed true to its original concept of a vast courtyard entry to the two-story home surrounded by lush trees and foliage.
The guest compound includes with private walled gardens and a walled orchard. The orchard has been renovated and updated, and now includes a 15th century knot gardens with herbs as well as a spring garden that contains hundreds of bluebells, and a desert inspired ‘inferno’ garden.
A walled pool area, part of a feature in a 1931 Architectural Record article, has been updated by restoring the original tiles and fountain and recreating the original awnings. A gazebo has been tucked into a hidden corner of the area and hides a very wonderful modern spa.
A secret garden on the south side of the house contains the original fountain created by Paul Thiene, and leads to a beautiful green lawn area with a spectacular view Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco and the San Gabriel mountains. A formal parterre rose garden containing several hundred roses also looks over the hillside path below the house leading down into the Arroyo Seco.
Much consideration has been given to The Arroyo Garden that is in a multi-year planting program to preserve the existing vegetation, and to recreate an understory of native California shrubs and wildflowers cons
istent with native vegetation in the Arroyo. This beautiful area is shaded by native oaks (Quercus agrifolia) and olives. The entire property demonstrates the lasting power of great design.