John Wallace Benecke has maintained a successful interior design firm and a stellar reputation throughout the West Coast for over 30 years. He brought his unique style to the 2016 Philharmonic’s House of Design where he has transformed the living room of a 8656 sq. ft. Dana Point home on The Strand into a place of comfort and elegance, merging old world Europe furnishings with contemporary design.
Q: Explain your style of transitional eclectic?
A: To define my type of design style is not easy for me. I don’t follow trends, I just do good design. I find what is appropriate for the house and understand the feelings the people have for it. So I use the term transitional eclectic because what I create blends contemporary and traditional elements that is not quite modern nor old world. Someone commented on a room I put together for the House of Design one year, how nice it is, so pretty yet none of the furniture matches. Adding an eclectic mix to a room is not always an easy thing to do, and requires proportion and balance to be right.
Q: What were your initial thoughts and inspiration to designing the room at the 2016 Philharmonic House of Design?
A: I wanted to design the living room because it was its own space and not part of another room. The first time I walked into it I immediately envisioned a Baroque Austrian desk of mine from the early 1700s, and a Biedermeier chest of drawers that would showcase perfectly. Then I started thinking of balancing it out with much more contemporary pieces. But the challenge really begins – where to locate the pieces to finish the room.
Q: What types of challenges?
A: The challenge we always have in participating in design homes is getting showrooms to lend you their pieces for five weeks. This requires a good relationship with the businesses. Sometimes when a piece is unavailable for me to use, I have to rethink the design which is all part of the creative process. So fortunately for this House of Design I was able to get everything I wanted such as artwork, furnishings and light fixtures without having to put up thousands of dollars for it just to be taken apart after it’s over. Sometimes the homeowner offers to buy some of the pieces in the design. But for the most part, any wallpaper, paint, or fixtures added to the home must be taken off and returned to the house’s original state.
Q: Do you always add whimsical aspects into your design such as the “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” white glazed terra cotta monkeys in this year’s House of Design?
A: I try to add things like that. It’s a fun way to bring a smile to my client’s faces. It’s part of understanding your clients as well. One of my clients was relocating to a new home and in conversation she told me her husband liked fly-fishing. Soon after I was in an antique store where I spotted a gilded bronze bear about 6” tall on a white stone base. Over its shoulder there was a fishing line with a little gold fish hanging on it. When I unveiled the room to them for the first time, I watched their eyes take in the whole living room and land on the little bear and they absolutely loved it. I’ve always said it’s the little pieces, the accessories that give the home a personal feel.
Q: How important is wall art when designing a room and how do you select the works?
A: It’s an important design feature that is the finishing touch for the space. For the House of Design it became very important and necessary to have something on the walls to bring the room together and create an additional focal point. I contacted Art Resource Group founded by Miriam L. Smith and though she had never worked with me, she knew of me and was willing to lend me several wonderful art pieces for the room.
Q: What did you end up using?
A: I have three pieces, all different and all work so well. One is “Poet with a Brown Hat” by Michael West, a piece painted in 1941. Another is by Lita Albuquerque, very horizontal, 6 foot long but only 7 inches high. It is a perfect balance for the space. But the talking piece of the house seems to be a large Jean-Francois Rauzier, “photo-collage” of sorts, “Laura,” from his Sleeping Beauty series. It’s printed on high gloss acrylic, unframed. If you step back and look at it, there are so many different dimensions and such depth to it. Rauzier used hundreds of high resolution photographs which he had taken and reassembled them so each scene seemingly interacts with the other. It’s a marvelous piece. I hung it over a very contemporary bronze console with a white stained walnut top.
Q: You mentioned your past childhood traveling to Europe sparked your creativity for interior design. What sparks your passion these days?
A: Design work is what I love, but my passion is sparked by making a home that my clients love. One of my clients threw an elegant but fun birthday party for her husband’s 50th and I was invited, sitting at her table. To me, that is the ultimate compliment, to become part of the family. It means I’ve done my job well.
John Wallace Benecke, ASID
John Wallace Benecke Interiors
2180 Temple Hills Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Tel: (949) 494-4476
Fax: (949) 494-4405