At swimwear designer Rod Beattie's house in Pasadena, pass through a courtyard dominated by a majestic tree believed to be more than 200 years old, and soon you'll find yourself inside a glass-walled living room, surrounded by 30 live oaks and stunning views that take in the Rose Bowl and the Arroyo Seco.
Nature plays a role in making each part of this home feel special. Virtually every room in the 2,000-square-foot residence has a door to the outside, where Beattie has created not one garden but rather a series of intimate vignettes — distinct deck and patio areas punctuated with artfully arranged container plants and furniture.
“So much of the impact of this property is there,” Beattie said of the outdoor connections, adding that the landscape has another effect on the interiors. “You think the house is much larger than it really is.”
The three-bedroom house is on 1.3 acres that Beattie has replanted and updated over 15 years, taking as inspiration frequent visits to the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino and Lotusland in Montecito.
The Mid-Century post-and-beam stood vacant and unattended for more than a year before Beattie purchased it in 1999, becoming the home's second owner.
"It hadn't been altered, and no one had done a weird 1970s remodel," he said. "It was like they built this amazing home in 1953 and then never did anything else to it other than letting it age naturally over the years. It was a canvas just waiting to be painted upon."
William Rudolph, a commercial architect, was said to have designed the home, although Beattie hasn't been able to learn much about him. The big windows, beamed ceiling and indoor-outdoor connection are what resonated.
"I grew up in a 1960s tract home in Eagle Rock, and certain aspects are familiar to me here," said Beattie, creative director for Pasadena-based Bleu/Rod Beattie, a women's swimwear collection that launched in 2012. His aesthetic is "clean, uncomplicated and simple," and he often finds inspiration on the road.
"When I do design research in Europe or Brazil, I don't just look at swimwear," he said. "I go to art museums. I look at jewelry."
Rose Brantley, founding chairwoman of fashion design at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, where Beattie trained, said her former student can move easily from one medium to another.
"Design principles show up in fashion as well as architecture," she said. "It might mean creating a focal point to lead the eye or considering proportion. Thinking about proportions of plants isn't any different than proportions in sportswear."
Indeed, back in Beattie's living room, the eye is drawn through ceiling-to-floor windows to the garden, the swimming pool and the Arroyo's wild landscape beyond. The free-flowing living and dining areas connect with the kitchen, renovated this year, to form the top of the house's T-shaped footprint. Bedrooms, including one furnished as a home office, sit off a long, intersecting hallway.
Beattie replaced a closet that ran inside that hallway with a built-in bookcase and cabinetry that feels original to the house. He updated other parts of the interiors with a light hand, replacing original cork flooring and refinishing the existing beams, the tongue-and-groove ceiling, paneled walls and other millwork.
When it's extra hot, Beattie heads to the swimming pool. The contractor who built it once knocked on the door to introduce himself. "He told me that the shape of the pool was supposed to be an abstract profile of a man's face," Beattie said. Restored and resurfaced, the pool has a new deck that cantilevers above the ravine and is walled in glass, allowing for hillside views. Festive groupings of planted containers come in California hues: poppy orange, ocean turquoise, lime green and sunny yellow.
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