Home tours, like wildflowers, blossom in spring, when shuttle buses don't get too stuffy, when in Newport Beach there's breeze enough to cool the Harbor Ridge hilltops, sun enough to warm the Lido Isle waterfront.
The elements smiled just so on "Designs for Dining" last week, when more than 1,400 supporters of Childrens Hospital of Orange County gaped and ogled their way through four not-so-humble abodes, two on the ridge, two on the bay, then retired to Von Hemert Interiors in Costa Mesa to compare notes over tea.
A window onto the life styles of our local rich but not necessarily famous, the Cinderella Guild tour generated at least $100,000 for the hospital, according to event chairwoman Betty Finnegan.
Buses shuttled tour members from easy parking to the Harbor Ridge homes. "Why, they even have bugs up here! " exclaimed Louise Schwennesen, guild recording secretary, as an exterminator's truck passed through the guard gate.
The home of Z. Mabel Allred was peachy in more ways than one, not the least of which were the wallpapers and fabrics.
In the dining room hung a 17th-Century Baccarat chandelier. An eye-level awning only partially impeded a view of Fashion Island and the ocean beyond. Paper and masking tape protected the runners in the hallways from the visitors. "Very chic," joked Allred's interior designer Bunny Garr.
Beverly Minney's new home, decorated by Joan Kipper, featured a cobblestone courtyard and beveled glass doors and windows; a brass giraffe stood guard in the entry. Minney, who grew up in Holmby Hills in Los Angeles, said the home is "perfect" for her needs right now but voiced some reservations about the area in general.
"Trees," she said wistfully. "The one thing I was unhappy about when I moved here was the fact that there weren't any big trees. You drive up Benedict Canyon--gorgeous. Newport Beach doesn't have that. And a lot of the houses have no yards whatsoever." Hers featured a natural rock spa.
The Lido Isle home of Emily and Richard Barrett offered a stairway guardrail of flattened brass railroad nails, bleached pickled pine furniture and a collection of antique powder boxes. Both the Barrett home and that of Rosella Herbert boasted bay views and Portuguese tiles in the kitchens.
Most viewers were impressed with the homes on the tour. But not all. "You can't buy taste," said one woman at the tea, adding that she couldn't swallow "all that bow crud." (She was probably referring to the abundance of flower and bow patterns on the walls.)
Though all four homes were unabashedly traditional--the purple house of Belcourt on last year's tour offered more food for thought--Von Hemert Interiors owner Barry Von Hemert feels local tastes might be changing.
"We've noticed a big push toward the contemporary, the avant-garde," Von Hemert said. "We used to have one small corner of contemporary furnishings in the store. Now 40% of our inventory is contemporary. Three weeks ago, we sold five dining sets in one week--all contemporary."
Thirty local exhibitors, ranging from pharmacies to hardware stores to several larger department stores, displayed table designs in the tour homes. Back at the Von Hemert showroom, eight Childrens Hospital of Orange County guilds entered a table design contest judged by Garr, Kipper and Von Hemert's own Joy Butterfield.
First prize went to the Jack and Jill Guild of Santa Ana/Tustin for the second consecutive year. The guild's table settings achieved a dramatic seashore effect with clear plastic, sand and shells. The Small World Guild of Irvine earned second place using only gaily colored paper and plastic goods. Each place setting in the third-place entry, that of the Tres Osos Guild of Mission Viejo, suggested a different holiday. (All dishes, silverware and decorations in the contest must belong to guild members.)
Eve Holmgren and Leann Alford coordinated the homes and exhibitors; hostess chairwoman was Jean Rimpau.
Cinderella Guild president Lynn Cancilla noted that next year will mark her group's 25th anniversary. According to interior designer Courtland Sciortino, who served as liaison between guild and the showroom, the silver anniversary home tour will be the biggest yet. "Corporations are already fighting over who gets to fund us," he said.
Childrens Hospital of Orange County is a private, non-sectarian, nonprofit hospital devoted to the care of children through 17 years of age regardless of ability to pay.