Local designers tapped for House of Design

When Lagunan John Benecke was invited for a drink with a fellow Philharmonic Society of Orange County board member, designing a room for the House of Design was not on his mind.

"Am I in trouble?" Benecke told of his reaction to the invitation. "[The board member] thought I could [decorate] one of the rooms in the House of Design. I couldn't say no."

Benecke, who owns a Laguna Beach-based interior design firm focusing on home renovations and room design, was one of 12 designers from Los Angeles and Orange counties pegged to transform the 7,100-square-foot Coto de Caza home into the society's annual House of Design.

The event is a key fundraiser for the society's youth music education programs.

Four of the 12 designers were from Laguna Beach. Benecke, Gary Finley, Jeanine Veldhuis and Stephen Stein decorated and transformed the residence.

Finley also has a Laguna Beach-based interior design firm and has contributed to two previous House of Design events.

The public will be able to view the designers' work Tuesday through May 19.

Furniture, drapes and art will be on sale to the public during the tour's first week, Finley said.

Designers petition for a specific space inside the house. Benecke was charged with the house's entryway. He said the space is 10 feet wide, 28 feet long and 26 feet high.

"I like to create an impact while still in tune with the style of the house," Benecke said.

His first order of business: swapping out three iron chandeliers. He replaced the chandeliers with lampshades to create a "more contemporary feel to the space."

The society describes the house as an Italian villa sitting on more than 2 acres. It has five bedrooms, five fireplaces and a temperature-controlled wine cellar.

Finley designed two upstairs spaces: the gallery (or hallway) and biblioteca (or library). He started installing furniture in the spaces April 9 and made final touches April 19.

Veldhuis designed the master suite while Stein worked on the lounge.

However, this was Stein's last House of Design; he died shortly after his work on the house.

"We have lost a cherished friend and comrade in design," said Cindy Kornhaber, marketing and public relations chairwoman for the House of Design, in an official statement. "Always a crowd favorite, Stephen's designs exemplified impeccable taste and refinement, but always with an element of surprise. Stephen was a true gentleman with a gentle spirit. Please enjoy his last masterpiece — his beautiful room."

The house is not handicapped-accessible or child-safe, according to the society's website. Children 12 and younger are not permitted inside the house.

If You Go

What: Philharmonic Society of Orange County House of Design

When: Tuesday through May 19

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays (public can meet with designers); noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays.

Where: A 7,100-square-foot home in Coto de Caza. Free parking at Trabuco Presbyterian Church, 31802 Las Amigas Drive, Trabuco Canyon. Shuttles run every 10 minutes from church parking lot to the house.

Cost: $40 for general admission; $50 for a house pass

How: Tickets can be purchased online or by phone at (714) 840-7542, or in person from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 16889 Algonquin St., Huntington Beach.

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