Residents of snowy regions around the world have been California dreaming for a while now. “Home in Pasadena, home where grass is greener,” goes a 1920s song about the Los Angeles suburb. But even earlier still, back in the 19th century, Pasadena was renowned for its generous sunshine, lofty palms and perennial roses. And no one might know this better than designer, author, blogger and podcaster, Kelly Wilkniss, owner of her very own piece of Pasadena history.
Kelly and her family reside in a Victorian house built in 1886, the fortunate result of a particularly harsh Midwest winter, she says, recounting excitedly everything she knows about her home. The house was one of the original dwellings built for the Indiana Colony, a group of Indiana residents who fled to the verdant, rolling hills of Pasadena. In this case, the grass was actually greener, or at least Pasadena has its beautiful roses.
But it took a while for this Victorian to bloom. First it was moved from the corner near the Rose Bowl to its current location, a move Kelly confirms a prior owner had made. Later, another owner, the man Kelly purchased the house from, had left the property and back barn full of rubbish. “Oh, you wouldn’t believe what was out there—random things, Trader Joe’s receipts, about 27 phone books and several cars.” It took Kelly nearly a year and a half to install all the electrical updates and fully renovate the property.
Despite these challenges, though, Kelly knew the house was special. “There was just something about the house,” Kelly says. “It’s not like I wanted a Victorian. I just came across it and thought the porch was gorgeous.”
The prior owner had painted the inside of the home in garish dark greens and oranges. “Instead, I really wanted a new palette that was neutral.” That way, Kelly says, she could add “pop color” to enliven the house. “It’s great to bring in natural elements, and nothing does more for a room than bringing in fresh flowers.” A favorite of her “nods to the season,” sunflowers, Kelly says, with their happy golden hues, are a great fall flower. “When I decorate for the fall, I like to be subtle and not go overboard with too much color.”
“I’m not afraid to bring the inside to the outside either,” Kelly explains. She has several pieces of indoor furniture she uses on her porch. “Adding a rug anchored the furniture, and adding draperies delineated the space and gave some privacy,” she says. “Then I added some tall plants to bring height and combine the indoors with the outdoors.”
Kelly calls her style “farmhouse glam.” “What makes any décor interesting is when you have different looks combined in an interesting way.” Before Kelly’s keen eye for décor reinvigorated the Victorian, the house had been “very dark and full of doilies—Victorian to the extreme,” Kelly laughs. “I certainly didn’t want to live in a museum.”
All the same, Kelly insists she wanted to stay true to the home’s roots. Many of the house’s characteristic features come from the original: unique light fixtures, an above-ground tub and old wood painted in fresh new shades. “When Victorians used wood that wasn’t that great, such as in the staircase, they meant for it to be painted,” Kelly says. So she made sure to paint the staircase—but with a style all her own.