James Hernandez is sitting in his newly finished sunroom at the 2022 Pasadena Showcase House of Design, held this year in the 1905 English Tudor known as Oaklawn Manor in South Pasadena. Being a South Pasadenan for the past 18 years, this return to the Showcase House after sixteen years, is especially meaningful. “It’s always an honor to be selected – it means you’ve been invited by the Pasadena Showcase House design committee, that you’re recognized by the docents, by fellow designers ” explains Hernandez. “It’s a privilege to be recognized by the Pasadena Showcase House for your commitment to interior design and the contribution you are giving to the arts and community.”
Hernandez exudes enthusiasm and his passion for design emanates from him as he shows us the sun room he has designed for this year’s Showcase House. “I’m here every day. I get so excited – I’m editing and fine tuning my space,” he says. “Today I went out and got living gray willows to compliment the gray stem that’s in the lotus wall covering.” The room is also peppered throughout with beautiful succulent arrangements and he explain that, “You will never see faux flowers in the Showcase House. It’s part of the official guidelines.”
He goes on to say, “I take so much pride in my work. I don’t sleep at night because I’m thinking of what I can do to enhance my space. And sometimes I realize that less is more. I love the simplicity of the silouhette of the sofa” he says gesturing towards a piece in the sun room. “I love the neutrality of this swivel chair.” His own personal touches are scattered throughout the room like a painting of his dog, Barnaby, done by a client’s 11 year-old daughter and commissioned abstract artwork done by Dr. Frank Flowers.
“My goal here is to attract both the traditional and the non-traditional. For example, some things in this room read as mid-century modern – the sofa lines are Italian mid-century modern – I’ve used Cubism in the fabrics, and then a classic stripe – that to me is where you take modern and traditional and make it work together,” he says. He also points to the mobile-like light fixture used in place of a chandelier to demonstrate added modernity.
This is Hernandez’s fourth Showcase House and his first time back in sixteen years. “It’s a lot of dedication and hard work – people think designers just come in and decorate – no” he says. In addition to designing the concept, designers use their own vendors, supply all furnishings and décor, everything from A-Z in creating the room. “Because of Covid delays, I purchased furniture from showrooms months ahead and had everything reupholstered,” he explains. “That white furniture? You may think, “oh I don’t ever want white furniture”. That is Crypton. I could spill something on it and it would bead up. And these chairs are faux leather. So instead of your classic brown, man’s leather – I’m showing you an interpretation of a man’s club chair. You could call it a delicate, women’s channel back chair or a handsome channel back men’s chair. It’s versatile. I don’t want you to not sit on my furniture – I want people to live in my work – I want it to function. I want it to be high performance but still have elegance.”
Hernandez has an enviable energy and says that while he’s developed his design style over the years through his extensive travel, style has always been a part of his life. “I’ve always been high energy and I think that you have to have some innate sense of design. I think you can learn the formalities of design but you have to have a sense of style. I’ve always had that.”
Hernandez began his foray into interior design many years ago working with a prominent interior designer in Santa Monica. It was while working for her, they discovered Pasadena Showcase House. “It’s an honor to be selected to do the Showcase and we were chosen for the first time in 2000 for the home in Arcadia. We did a little girl’s room and that lit a fire in us and the next year we did the Walgreens Estate near Annandale Golf Club.”
After a year of living abroad in Barcelona, Spain, he settled in South Pasadena in 2004 and branched out on his own. Shortly afterwards he began working with a well known Supermodel/TV personality, designing her mother’s home among other projects which led to more high profile clients throughout the Los Angeles metro area like Kimora Lee Simmons. His work was featured on her reality show “Life in the Fab Lane” and he designed the interiors of Caitlyn Jenner’s home in Malibu which is featured in Vanity Fair. He has worked all over Los Angeles but is delighted to be working more locally. “I never thought I’d be working in Pasadena but I work a lot here now and I love it. I live in South Pasadena and I’m now generating work where I’m with the same family multiple times through multiple generations. They take me along with them,” he laughs. “I’ve become part of their lives! I keep growing with these families and now my clients kids are in college and I’m still working with their parents.”
Having the Showcase House in South Pasadena has afforded him a very short commute and an opportunity to work in the town he’s come to love. “Living in South Pasadena brings charm and tranquility to a very hectic and busy design life,” muses Hernandez. “Having lived on the west side, I find a certain calm and peace after a long days’ work, which carries me all around LA, Manhattan Beach, Calabasas, and recently a project in South Carolina. I look forward to the local Farmers Market and evenings at Garfield Park with my dog, Barnaby, local dining and dinners with friends and neighbors.”
It is indeed an exciting and challenging life, one he has tremendous gratitude for, adding reflectively, “I’m grateful that I get appreciated for the work that I’ve done – to make people’s lives brighter, happier – to elevate people’s sense of style.”
The 2022 Pasadena Showcase House of Design will be open through May 22 (house tours are closed on Mondays). Tickets ($40-$50) are on sale now. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit pasadenashowcase.org. Use code Hernandez to save $10 off on tickets after 1:30pm.
Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, has been supporting local music and arts programs since 1948. With the hard work and dedication of its 200+ members, the organization raises funds from its major benefit, the Pasadena Showcase House of Design—one of the oldest, largest, and most successful home and garden tours in the country.