Outdoor Fitness

Stadium Fitness promises to train you “where legends have played.”

It’s 5:55 a.m. on an overcast Friday in late May and I’m standing outside the entrance of the venerable Rose Bowl stadium in the Arroyo Seco. Looking around, I notice that the crowds of recreational runners and bikers so common on the weekends are nowhere to be found. It’s still and quiet. I turn back toward the stadium and think about its history: how it has been home to 105 New Year’s Day post-season collegiate football contests; how A-list musical acts, from Journey and Depeche Mode in the ’80s to Taylor Swift and Beyoncé in recent years, have performed here. I think of all the events I’ve personally attended: AmericaFest, the Independence Day fireworks extravaganza, UCLA football games, the longstanding annual Turkey Tussle game between Pasadena and Muir high schools, end-of-year American Youth Soccer Organization presentations, Billy Graham’s last Southern California crusade, in 2004. But this morning, I’m not here as a spectator. I’m here as a participant in what can only be considered an exceptional workout opportunity: In five minutes, I will be inside the Rose Bowl, running 77 stairs to the top of the stadium alongside other early risers who have made their way here for a 6 a.m. workout.   

I like the idea of exercising outside again, especially now that the days are warmer and longer. Running on the three-mile loop that surrounds the Rose Bowl used to be part of my regular routine, but lately my workouts — primarily weights and fitness classes — have been inside the gym. As I wait for the stadium gate to be unlocked, I’m not 100 percent sure what I’ll be doing this morning besides scaling the stairs. But I’m excited; I love new athletic challenges. Who will be in this early–morning session, I wonder. Marathon runners? Elite athletes? I soon find out that it’s a lot of regular folk who are just interested in staying healthy in a very cool setting.

David Liston, the founder and co-owner of Stadium Fitness, has a unique arrangement with the Rose Bowl Operating Company that has allowed him to bring health and wellness to the community, as well as the bowl’s own employees, since 2009. He greets me warmly at the gate and tells me to head into the stadium. If you’ve never done it, I recommend walking into a completely empty Rose Bowl. It’s a bit of a cinematic moment, heading through the dark tunnel and emerging into the early morning light (even on this gray day) to be greeted by the historic green field that has seen so many contests and the nearly 91,000 seats that surround it. “You should see it when it’s clear and the sun is just coming up,” he tells me.

There are about 16 of us this morning and we come in a wide range of ages. Liston is particularly proud of Bernie, 75, the group’s senior member, who has been maintaining her fitness by working out in the stadium three times a week for years.

Before I even begin, Liston asks me what kind of physical activity I already do, gauging my fitness level. I tell him about my gym repertoire and about the triathlons and half-marathons I’ve done in the past. Confident that I can handle a lap around the perimeter of the field, he sends me off with the other folks doing the same. Liston doesn’t lead a class in the traditional sense; rather, he works out each of his clients according to their ability, giving what he calls “individual workouts in a group setting.”

When I return, warmed up and eager for the next challenge, he asks me if I’m ready for some stairs. I nod enthusiastically. My next assignment is to run — four times and row by row — up the 77 steps that lead to the top of the stadium and back down again. In a race with myself, I bound up the stairs, making great progress…until I reach the 65th step. That’s when my legs start burning from the exertion, slowing me down to a walk-run pace. It’s not enough to make me stop, though. I make it to the top, feeling triumphant, before heading down for round two. By the time I reach the bottom, my legs have recovered enough for me to begin sprinting up the next row. Each time, I slow at stair 65. But I make it, and I feel good.

It turns out that Stadium Fitness workouts aren’t just about running. For the next hour, I alternate between stair sets and other moves that target my arms, legs and core: lunges, bicep curls, triceps dips and pushups. After each exercise, Liston checks in with me: “How do you feel?” “How are the legs?” “Ready to run the stairs again?”

Liston began his career as a seventh-grade social studies teacher in his native Massachusetts before arriving in Pasadena in 1996 to work with his brother, who was already involved in fitness. It’s easy to see that he still loves teaching. During the course of the hour, Liston connects with all his clients, not just me. He remembers each one’s workout goals, ailments and what’s going on in their lives. “I try to ‘touch’ everyone three times an hour. I can have multiple conversations going on at the same time. My wife says I would be a good air-traffic controller,” he says with a laugh.

Although we’re not down on the field today — the South Korean boy band BTS recently performed and, as a result, new sod has been laid  — Liston says that about 75 percent of the time his groups are down there running sprints and “doing a lot of fun group exercise stuff” such as partner and running exercises, relay races and agility training. Stadium Fitness participants work out in the locker room on occasion, particularly in the winter. “If it’s 39 degrees [outside] everyone is like, ‘Can we please start inside?’” he says. They also stay inside when it rains.

Kids as young as 11 have worked out with Stadium Fitness — Liston accepts youth based on their maturity level — but the youngest average about 12 or 13, he says. Particularly in the summer, “we encourage people to bring their kids to the 8:30 a.m. class,” he says. The 6 a.m. class I am sampling is for people, like me, who have to go to work.

The hour goes by quickly and, when it’s over, I ask Liston what makes his workouts so popular. “For most people, exercise has to be fun for them to do it on a regular basis,” he says. “Eighty percent of exercise is getting to the place to do the exercise. It’s easier to let someone tell you what to do.”


Stadium Fitness
(626) 232-6900 • stadiumfitness.com
Classes are ongoing and meet Mondays at 6 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.;
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 and 6:30 p.m.; Wednesdays and Fridays, 6
and 8:30 a.m.;

Single class $25/Student $18
10-Class Pack ($22/class): $220
24-Class Pack ($16.63/class): $399
1-month unlimited: $150
Other pricing available


Boot Camp Pasadena

A couple of days before I ran the stairs with Stadium Fitness, I sampled a 5:45 a.m. class with Boot Camp Pasadena, another early-morning group-exercise business that has been putting people through their paces for a decade.

Founder Stephen Cooper, a personal trainer with nearly 30 years of experience, leads all the early-morning and early-evening (6 p.m.) classes, which take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday and Thursday near the Pasadena-Altadena border. (Contact him for details.) Despite what the name implies, there’s no military-style training at Boot Camp Pasadena. You won’t find Cooper wearing camouflage or barking instructions. His approach is decidedly low-key and he considers his clients friends, not soldiers. “I don’t think instructors have to yell to be effective,” he says.

Cooper touts BCP as a toning and fat-burning program. There’s no running of stairs, just some sprints, along with targeted muscle work using TRX suspension training, medicine balls, kettle bells and boxing, among other things. “People love the stress release of boxing,” Cooper says, “and some people have a lot of stress!”

His clients, who are primarily in their 30s to 50s, come to Boot Camp Pasadena not only because they want accountability in their workouts and wouldn’t necessarily exercise on their own but because it’s a friendly environment where people of different fitness levels can work out together. There’s no competition among the participants; in fact, they encourage one another. “They like being in the group because there’s camaraderie,” he says.

Cooper wants his clients to make their workouts a regular part of their lives, and a number of them have been with him almost from the beginning. “I can tell when it clicks with people; for a while they’re hoping that some kind of fad diet is going to help them lose the weight or change them dramatically,” he says. “It takes them a while to realize, ‘Okay, this is a serious commitment, it’s a habit; once they realize that, they’re calmer and they see the payoff.”

Like Stadium Fitness’ Liston, Cooper prides himself on knowing his clients’ needs. It’s that personal touch, he says, that keeps bringing people back.

            N.H.


Boot Camp Pasadena
(626) 509-9958 • bootcamppasadena.com
Classes are ongoing and meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or Tuesdays and Thursdays:
Mornings: 5:45 to 6:30
Evenings: 6 to 6:45
One-time rate: $18–$20 per class
Monthly rates: $135–$175

Campanile Chef Mark Peel serves up his latest seafood eatery in his hometown.

Before he was mentored by Wolfgang Puck, before he worked at such celebrated French restaurants as La Tour d’Argent and Le Moulin de Mougins and before he cofounded La Brea Bakery and the Los Angeles culinary mecca known as Campanile with his former wife, chef Nancy Silverton, James Beard Award–winning chef Mark Peel was a young boy who spent life’s first decade growing up in the San Gabriel Valley. It seems fitting, then, that Peel should return to his birthplace, Pasadena, to expand his most recent venture, Prawn Coastal Casual, a sustainable seafood eatery that he opened in downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market in 2017 (on the site of his previous eatery Bombo).

Prawn opened eight months ago in Old Pasadena’s One Colorado complex, in the historic structure formerly occupied by Escuela Taqueria. It’s the latest manifestation of an idea that Peel, 63, contemplated for decades but only started to make a reality three years ago. With the closure of Campanile in 2012 — and after working in such high-end California restaurants as L.A.’s Ma Maison, Beverly Hills’ Spago, Santa Monica’s Michael’s and Berkeley’s Chez Panisse for the majority of his career — he decided to focus on creating a different kind of place: one that offered healthy high-quality food that was accessible to more people in terms of price and atmosphere. Bombo, which offered steam-kettle seafood stews and boils, was a start; Prawn expands on the idea with a bigger menu that also includes grain bowls, salads, sandwiches and fish and chips.

But Prawn isn’t just a “fast-casual” restaurant, a concept that has been touted as the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant industry in recent years. (Chipotle, Tender Greens and Lemonade, with their stylish interiors, quick service and better-than-average food, are three that fall neatly into that category.) Prawn is fine-casual,” a newer term, defined just last year by Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer on CBS’ 60 Minutes as marrying “the ethos and taste level of fine dining with the fast-food experience.”

Sure, walking into Prawn, with its fully exposed kitchen and menu above the front counter, one immediately gets the sense that it’s a relaxed space. And, yes, the food comes out in just a couple of minutes. Prawn, too, has a stylish décor (white and oceanic blues predominate; Instagrammable renderings of sea creatures adorn the walls). But what truly sets it apart from fast-casual concepts — beyond its table service and beer and wine selections — is the food created by the renowned Peel: rich, complex broths; intriguing flavor combinations; seafood that is just held to a higher standard, at a lower price.

Fine-casual is a concept that’s fast on the rise: According to restaurant industry– news website Skift Table, which cites data from market research firm Mintel, 69 percent of consumers want to see more casual restaurants that offer high-quality food and are quick and convenient, a step above fast-casual. It makes good business sense, too: Fine-casual concepts are typically smaller than full-scale formal restaurants and can benefit from lower rents; a correspondingly smaller staff also means lower labor costs. At the same time, a chef-driven menu means prices can be a little higher (in Prawn’s case, still lower than other seafood establishments serving comparable quality), and the sale of beer and wine can help raise revenue as well.

Peel and his current wife, television personality and standup comic Daphne Brogdon (Food Network’s Daphne Dishes), saw the need in downtown L.A. for just such a place — particularly one focused on seafood — when they were researching their first location. “There are a lot of [seafood] places in downtown Los Angeles, but there was nothing that was an affordable [concept],” Peel says. “Water Grill is wonderful but it’s not inexpensive. I was really targeting the 70 percent [of consumers], not the 3 percent.

“You can make a good meal for $100 a person, it’s not that difficult, but to make it for $15 a person, there’s a trick there,” he continues, referring to the broths that are the base for many of Prawn’s offerings, including the clam chowder, shrimp butter boil and spicy scallops. The “trick” is the manner in which the broths are developed. A lobster broth, for example, is based on gutted shells with remnants of lobster meat, which Peel purchases from his L.A. seafood supplier for about $2.50 a pound. For recipes that require chunks of lobster, such as his $19 Thai lobster roll, he gets meat that has already been blanched and picked. Prawn also offers a $14 paella, laden with shrimp, mussels, chicken and house-made pork sausage; and the $14 Seattle fish stew, a bestselling item, is made with lobster broth, shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, salmon and bacon, served over rice. “It’s essentially a bouillabaisse,” Peel says. “Rice doesn’t belong in [a traditional] bouillabaisse but” — chef’s prerogative — “I wanted to put it in there,” he says with a chuckle.

Fans of the increasingly popular grain bowl will find it at Prawn, too. Starting off with a base of barley and quinoa, guests can opt for the Scottish salmon bowl ($12), which features an aromatic shiitake and seaweed broth, napa cabbage and pickled onions. Or they can create their own custom grain bowl (starting at $9), by picking up to four veggies, including turmeric roasted cauliflower, kabocha squash, roasted broccolini, spiced almonds, stewed chickpeas and roasted shiitake mushrooms. Next comes a protein — choose from fried egg, tofu, spicy chicken breast, spicy shrimp or salmon. “We really don’t need more than three or four ounces of a protein in a meal,” Peel says. “It’s actually healthier to have some carbs — some rice, a pasta, potatoes, vegetables. More than three or four ounces is excessive and contributes to heart disease and cancer and all kinds of things.”

Prawn’s beer and wine offerings are primarily from local suppliers, and most beer is on tap “because it’s environmentally friendly,” he says. “You don’t have all those bottles at the end of the day. Our wines are [from the] Central Coast; they’re young, fresh, delicious — complex but not overbearing.”

The Pasadena Prawn is larger than the original — at about 1,500 square feet, it’s about three times the size of the compact space in Grand Central Market — and it has a more relaxed vibe than the frenetic market scene. Peel says that working at the downtown location is “intense,” due to noise level and the crush of customers. The menu is the same in both locations, however, thanks to a centralized Lincoln Heights commissary where all the food is prepped. This “hub-and-spoke” business concept allows for consistency of product and cost control, and will continue to serve future locations as the business expands, he adds. (Peel has already been looking at Long Beach, Culver City and Century City as possible locales.)

“In the commissary we’re able to concentrate the skill and the equipment,” he says. “We do all the broths there, made in 10-gallon pressure cookers to seal in the flavor and produce rich results; we roast the potatoes and onions and bake all our cookies there. We make all of our own lemonades there, too: a fresh ginger, a passionfruit-ginger, a limeade with fresh mint and honey — and a touch of chipotle peppers to give it a little spark.”

Back at Prawn, Peel gets to play with “toys” he coveted for years before acquiring several when he opened Bombo: shiny $60,000 steel-jacketed steam kettles that put the finishing touches on all of Prawn’s broth-based dishes by quickly cooking on-site the seafood added to the premade broths. He first saw them at New York City’s venerable Grand Central Oyster Bar, which opened in 1913, and now Peel’s kettles are prominently on display — and put to use — in both locations. “I love those because they’re really clean and fast,” he says, as it doesn’t take more than three or four minutes to finish a dish. “There’s also a little bit of theater to them.”

Prawn is located in the One Colorado Courtyard, 16 Miller Alley, Pasadena. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call (626) 219-6115 or visit prawncoastal.com.

Campanile Chef Mark Peel serves up his latest seafood eatery in his hometown.

Before he was mentored by Wolfgang Puck, before he worked at such celebrated French restaurants as La Tour d’Argent and Le Moulin de Mougins and before he cofounded La Brea Bakery and the Los Angeles culinary mecca known as Campanile with his former wife, chef Nancy Silverton, James Beard Award–winning chef Mark Peel was a young boy who spent life’s first decade growing up in the San Gabriel Valley. It seems fitting, then, that Peel should return to his birthplace, Pasadena, to expand his most recent venture, Prawn Coastal Casual, a sustainable seafood eatery that he opened in downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market in 2017 (on the site of his previous eatery Bombo).

Prawn opened eight months ago in Old Pasadena’s One Colorado complex, in the historic structure formerly occupied by Escuela Taqueria. It’s the latest manifestation of an idea that Peel, 63, contemplated for decades but only started to make a reality three years ago. With the closure of Campanile in 2012 — and after working in such high-end California restaurants as L.A.’s Ma Maison, Beverly Hills’ Spago, Santa Monica’s Michael’s and Berkeley’s Chez Panisse for the majority of his career — he decided to focus on creating a different kind of place: one that offered healthy high-quality food that was accessible to more people in terms of price and atmosphere. Bombo, which offered steam-kettle seafood stews and boils, was a start; Prawn expands on the idea with a bigger menu that also includes grain bowls, salads, sandwiches and fish and chips.

But Prawn isn’t just a “fast-casual” restaurant, a concept that has been touted as the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant industry in recent years. (Chipotle, Tender Greens and Lemonade, with their stylish interiors, quick service and better-than-average food, are three that fall neatly into that category.) Prawn is fine-casual,” a newer term, defined just last year by Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer on CBS’ 60 Minutes as marrying “the ethos and taste level of fine dining with the fast-food experience.”

Sure, walking into Prawn, with its fully exposed kitchen and menu above the front counter, one immediately gets the sense that it’s a relaxed space. And, yes, the food comes out in just a couple of minutes. Prawn, too, has a stylish décor (white and oceanic blues predominate; Instagrammable renderings of sea creatures adorn the walls). But what truly sets it apart from fast-casual concepts — beyond its table service and beer and wine selections — is the food created by the renowned Peel: rich, complex broths; intriguing flavor combinations; seafood that is just held to a higher standard, at a lower price.

Fine-casual is a concept that’s fast on the rise: According to restaurant industry– news website Skift Table, which cites data from market research firm Mintel, 69 percent of consumers want to see more casual restaurants that offer high-quality food and are quick and convenient, a step above fast-casual. It makes good business sense, too: Fine-casual concepts are typically smaller than full-scale formal restaurants and can benefit from lower rents; a correspondingly smaller staff also means lower labor costs. At the same time, a chef-driven menu means prices can be a little higher (in Prawn’s case, still lower than other seafood establishments serving comparable quality), and the sale of beer and wine can help raise revenue as well.

Peel and his current wife, television personality and standup comic Daphne Brogdon (Food Network’s Daphne Dishes), saw the need in downtown L.A. for just such a place — particularly one focused on seafood — when they were researching their first location. “There are a lot of [seafood] places in downtown Los Angeles, but there was nothing that was an affordable [concept],” Peel says. “Water Grill is wonderful but it’s not inexpensive. I was really targeting the 70 percent [of consumers], not the 3 percent.

“You can make a good meal for $100 a person, it’s not that difficult, but to make it for $15 a person, there’s a trick there,” he continues, referring to the broths that are the base for many of Prawn’s offerings, including the clam chowder, shrimp butter boil and spicy scallops. The “trick” is the manner in which the broths are developed. A lobster broth, for example, is based on gutted shells with remnants of lobster meat, which Peel purchases from his L.A. seafood supplier for about $2.50 a pound. For recipes that require chunks of lobster, such as his $19 Thai lobster roll, he gets meat that has already been blanched and picked. Prawn also offers a $14 paella, laden with shrimp, mussels, chicken and house-made pork sausage; and the $14 Seattle fish stew, a bestselling item, is made with lobster broth, shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, salmon and bacon, served over rice. “It’s essentially a bouillabaisse,” Peel says. “Rice doesn’t belong in [a traditional] bouillabaisse but” — chef’s prerogative — “I wanted to put it in there,” he says with a chuckle.

Fans of the increasingly popular grain bowl will find it at Prawn, too. Starting off with a base of barley and quinoa, guests can opt for the Scottish salmon bowl ($12), which features an aromatic shiitake and seaweed broth, napa cabbage and pickled onions. Or they can create their own custom grain bowl (starting at $9), by picking up to four veggies, including turmeric roasted cauliflower, kabocha squash, roasted broccolini, spiced almonds, stewed chickpeas and roasted shiitake mushrooms. Next comes a protein — choose from fried egg, tofu, spicy chicken breast, spicy shrimp or salmon. “We really don’t need more than three or four ounces of a protein in a meal,” Peel says. “It’s actually healthier to have some carbs — some rice, a pasta, potatoes, vegetables. More than three or four ounces is excessive and contributes to heart disease and cancer and all kinds of things.”

Prawn’s beer and wine offerings are primarily from local suppliers, and most beer is on tap “because it’s environmentally friendly,” he says. “You don’t have all those bottles at the end of the day. Our wines are [from the] Central Coast; they’re young, fresh, delicious — complex but not overbearing.”

The Pasadena Prawn is larger than the original — at about 1,500 square feet, it’s about three times the size of the compact space in Grand Central Market — and it has a more relaxed vibe than the frenetic market scene. Peel says that working at the downtown location is “intense,” due to noise level and the crush of customers. The menu is the same in both locations, however, thanks to a centralized Lincoln Heights commissary where all the food is prepped. This “hub-and-spoke” business concept allows for consistency of product and cost control, and will continue to serve future locations as the business expands, he adds. (Peel has already been looking at Long Beach, Culver City and Century City as possible locales.)

“In the commissary we’re able to concentrate the skill and the equipment,” he says. “We do all the broths there, made in 10-gallon pressure cookers to seal in the flavor and produce rich results; we roast the potatoes and onions and bake all our cookies there. We make all of our own lemonades there, too: a fresh ginger, a passionfruit-ginger, a limeade with fresh mint and honey — and a touch of chipotle peppers to give it a little spark.”

Back at Prawn, Peel gets to play with “toys” he coveted for years before acquiring several when he opened Bombo: shiny $60,000 steel-jacketed steam kettles that put the finishing touches on all of Prawn’s broth-based dishes by quickly cooking on-site the seafood added to the premade broths. He first saw them at New York City’s venerable Grand Central Oyster Bar, which opened in 1913, and now Peel’s kettles are prominently on display — and put to use — in both locations. “I love those because they’re really clean and fast,” he says, as it doesn’t take more than three or four minutes to finish a dish. “There’s also a little bit of theater to them.”

Prawn is located in the One Colorado Courtyard, 16 Miller Alley, Pasadena. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call (626) 219-6115 or visit prawncoastal.com.

With ClassPass, mixing up one’s fitness routine has never been easier

Ah, January. Fresh starts, new beginnings. It’s the perfect time of year to get back on the fitness track, now that all those gleefully consumed holiday calories are starting to make their presence known (tight waistband, anyone?). But if feelings of sluggishness or workout boredom are getting in the way, it’s easy to get one’s mojo back by mixing things up with challenging and fun group fitness classes. A bevy of inspired choices awaits thanks to ClassPass (classpass.com), an ingenious service that allows users to participate in classes at gyms and studios around Arroyoland — even around the world — without committing to memberships at those locations. Studies have shown that participants in group fitness activities tend to be more consistent in their exercise and stay motivated longer than those who do solitary workouts, so get up and check out these local options, all accessible via ClassPass, which are sure to induce both sweat and smiles well into December.

CARDIO BARRE

Where: Rock Barre, 1581 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 256-5555

What it is: The cardio barre class at the newly renamed Rock Barre offers a total body workout that also satisfies one’s inner dancer. Prior dance experience isn’t necessary, though, just a desire to see a difference in one’s butt, legs, torso and arms. Part dance, part fitness, the class combines barre work — pliés and relevés included — with the use of light weights. Owner Leana Rudish recently took the former Cardio Barre studio from being a franchise to a licensee, allowing her to bring fresh ideas into her business. She plans to keep the focus on dance fitness and this year will offer hip-hop, high-impact cardio and intensive stretching classes, as well as a traditional ballet technique class for adults. “Our instructors are so talented,” she says. “I’m excited to expand my offerings.”

GROOV3

Where:  Breakthru Fitness, 345 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, groov3.com

What it is: For a completely different kind of dance experience, check out the high-energy vibe of a Groov3 class, created by Los Angeles dancer/choreographer Benjamin Allen. Allen’s technique leaves participants feeling confident, accomplished and fit — and maybe just a little bit like music video stars. As much a mental workout as a physical one, the choreographed hour is led twice a week by instructor Adam Noel Jones at Pasadena’s Breakthru Fitness (his third class, with a live DJ, is based at Eagle Rock’s Live Arts Los Angeles). Hip-hop- and jazz-infused dance combinations, which change each week, are taught step-by-step, accompanied by the hottest current tunes. “By the end of the hour, you know six to eight counts of choreography,” Jones says. “It’s not done to one specific song because the music is going the whole time. You could take the moves tomorrow night to a club and dance to any song. It’s a blast.”

PEDAL & PUNCH

Where: Classic Bicicletta, 91 E. Union St., Pasadena, classicbicicletta.com

What it is: Last June, Mauricio Gonzalez was inspired to create a new addition to his Classic Kickboxing space in Old Pasadena. Classic Bicicletta is an homage of sorts to the Colombian superstar cyclists he grew up admiring, such as Luis Herrera and Nairo Quintana, who, he says, are “in amazing cardiovascular shape,” in much the way boxers are. As its name implies, Pedal & Punch is a combo cycling-boxing class that begins with a high-intensity ride and ends with a round of boxing bag work. It’s both an upper body and lower body workout led by coaches with diverse backgrounds in music, dance, athletics and the military. Gonzalez says it’s an old-school class that’s all about fitness, not sparring. “Once you finish the cycling portion, you keep your anaerobic part of the workout going with the boxing. They both come together perfectly.”

POUND

Where: Gold’s Gym, 39 S. Altadena Dr., Pasadena, poundfit.com

What it is: If the idea of channeling one’s inner rock star during a workout sounds appealing, Pound might just be the perfect class. Described as “the world’s first cardio jam session inspired by the infectious, energizing and sweat-dripping fun of playing the drums,” participants do all their moves — squats, crunches, lunges, curls, arm extensions, leg extensions and butt lifts among them — to popular, pulsing music, while wielding Ripstix: durable plastic drumsticks that add a quarter-pound of extra weight to each move. The constant pounding on the floor and clicking in the air burns upwards of 900 calories an hour. Once found exclusively in trendy Crunch gyms, the Pound concept, which started in Venice about six years ago, has made its way to Gold’s Gym in Pasadena. Instructor Eddie Gleason puts participants through the paces of his vibrant, nearly nonstop 45-minute class three times a week. “I’ve had everyone from young people to seniors take Pound,” he says. “They all say they love it because it feels like they’re exercising without exercising.” In addition to burning calories, it’s touted to improve rhythm, timing, coordination, speed, agility, endurance and musicality. The YMCAs in South Pasadena and Sierra Madre also offer Pound classes.

WUNDABAR PILATES

Where: WundaBar Pilates, 860 E. Green St., Pasadena, wundabar.com

What it is: For a completely different kind of workout, which focuses on improving flexibility, building strength and developing control, check out WundaBar Pilates. At the heart of every workout is the WundaFormer, a patented apparatus that combines two traditional pieces of Pilates equipment, the Reformer and the WundaChair, with a ballet bar and jump board. “Our founder, Amy Jordan, calls it the Swiss Army knife of Pilates machines,” says Pasadena instructor Heather Morrison. (There are eight locations in Southern California and one in New York’s SoHo). Targeting each part of the body, the sweat-inducing moves are challenging and precise — but not impossible. “People of all abilities can do this,” Morrison says. “Our instructors are trained to take care of anyone who walks in the room — we challenge the people who have been coming for years while still making that first-timer feel like they can do it, so everyone feels successful and gets their best body.” It’s a total body workout, she adds. “You discover muscles that you never knew were in there. We’re asking you to think deeper about each thing versus just an external workout. It comes from within and that’s what we really want to emphasize: It’s strengthening from the inside out.” 


For information on ClassPass’ participating studios and pricing plans, visit classpass.com.

CTRL Collective puts a fresh spin on the trend of coworking spaces.

Some say it was the 2008 recession and the rise of unemployment that followed. Others say it’s the portable technology that allows work to be done from anywhere. Still others point to the thriving entrepreneurial spirit among millennials and their passion for innovation and collaboration. Whatever the reason, the rise of the “gig” economy, a labor market defined by short-term contract or freelance work rather than permanent positions, has led to a different way of working for many people, particularly those between 18 and 45, in the fields of technology, media, design and the arts. It has also led to the proliferation of what are called coworking spaces — where a couch, desk, office or conference room can be rented, according to one’s needs, by the day, week or month.
What’s different about these recent players in the field — Regus, a more traditional temporary office model with facilities around the world, has catered to traveling executives since 1989 — is their emphasis on creativity and collaboration among tenants, who may start off sharing a workspace as strangers but end up as business partners. The look of these so-called creative campus environments, which typically feature large, artsy, relaxed communal spaces alongside more private offices, is intended to foster such collaborations. So are the mixers, workshops and other relevant events that are routinely offered.
In October, CTRL Collective (CTRL, an acronym for curation, thrive, relationship and leadership, is pronounced “control”) opened in Pasadena with a focus on the tech community, although it also welcomes people in a wide variety of other fields. It’s the latest coworking space vying for the attention of entrepreneurs, innovators and independent contractors in the greater Pasadena area. (Others, with varying degrees of attention to décor, include WeWork, CrossCampus, Blankspaces, SpaceCraft and Office & Company; though it’s not furnished to the nines, Prism Church offers simple, free space on Tuesdays and Fridays.) The business was born from CEO David Bren’s own past experiences at other creative campus environments and his desire to take the concept a step further.
A few years ago, Bren worked full-time in real-estate finance. He also had a couple of passion projects on the side, building high-end luxury homes in Bel Air and Beverly Hills, and creating L.A. Track Days, a series of events allowing participants to spend six to eight hours learning to drive high-horsepower cars. As he worked on his side gigs, he found himself frequenting six Los Angeles coworking spaces in the span of six months. In the process, he began contemplating another business opportunity. “All of them fell short of my expectations,” Bren, 26, says of the workspaces he visited. “I was drawn to the proposition that the execution of the concept could be so much better. I didn’t like that just about anyone who walked in with a credit card could have access to the spaces.”
CTRL Collective, in contrast, curates its membership, interviewing potential tenants to find people whose talents and skill sets mesh well with those of other members, thus fostering the potential for real collaborations and innovation among the people working there, many of whom are fledgling entrepreneurs. And once those relationships are established, CTRL Collective’s in-house venture capitalist is available to help make the dream a reality. “It’s not that we’re looking to see who is going to be the next Uber,” Bren says. “It’s rather that we’re looking for people who are excited and willing to engage with each other and the community and lift each other up. One of our business mantras is to build relationships first and business second — not just in the corporate aspect of our company but through our member base as well.”
The first CTRL Collective opened in Playa Vista in 2015. Something else that sets them apart from the competition — there’s another location in downtown L.A. and one opening soon in Denver’s RiNo Arts District — is each venue’s distinct personality, attuned to its surrounding community. In the downtown L.A. location, for example, there’s a distinct Fashion District vibe. Playa Vista caters to tech and film-industry types. The Pasadena site, which can accommodate up to 550 members, is meant to appeal to the city’s science, technology, entrepreneur and design populations. Bren stresses, however, that “you can find any type of industry in each of our spaces.” (Bren also has plans to open additional locations in Manhattan Beach and Culver City.)
Located at 45 S. Arroyo Parkway, on the edge of Old Pasadena, CTRL Collective has found its Arroyoland home in a vintage brick building, dormant since Bally Total Fitness moved out five years ago. It boasts 4,500 square feet of midcentury modern–meets–geometric motif, as envisioned by Bren and CTRL Collective COO Taleia Mueller. “We thought, ‘How can we make this a really comfortable extension of home?’” Mueller says, describing the aesthetic as “Old Town charm with a level of sophistication that will appeal to scientific minds.”
“We’ve designed different types of work environments throughout the building to accommodate the way millennials work,” Bren adds. “They’ll typically spend two hours working on their laptop on the couch, then two hours at a standing desk, then two hours at a quiet heads-down space, then another two hours at another desk in a noisier area. Our design allows for that flow throughout a given workday.”
At press time, CTRL Collective counted folks working in biotech, design, tech media and fashion design among its growing roster of Pasadena members. Available amenities include private phone booths, 3D printers, laser cutters, a creation lab that houses photo and lighting equipment and a computer lab with installed Adobe Suite and CAD software, eliminating the need for a fledgling startup to make costly purchases early in the game.
There are also workshops and classes; community events, both private and public, such as Innovate Pasadena’s recent 10-day Connect ’17 festival, which took place throughout the city in more than 80 venues, including CTRL Collective; yoga classes; a coffee bar and snacks; valet parking; videoconference rooms; and free printing. It’s even dog-friendly.
Another important element of the CTRL Collective ethos is a strong commitment to giving back. The company’s 80/20 rule urges members to spend 80 percent of their time working and the other 20 percent helping others. “That could quite literally be as simple as helping someone [else at the Collective] work on their project,” Mueller says. She’s proud of Operation Give Back, a recent member drive at the Playa Vista property. Funds were raised to give backpacks, filled with enough supplies for the entire school year, to local children in need, and she looks forward to similar endeavors in Pasadena. “Our members were so happy and thankful that they could be a part of impacting the lives of this younger generation.
“We want people to know that we are leading by example,” she continues. “We want our members to set a really strong example in our community. In exchange, we will help you with anything and everything possible to help make your dream a reality.”

CTRL Collective memberships begin at $79 per month for nights and weekends; $199 part-time (10 days per month); $349 full-time; $599 for a dedicated desk; $1,350 for private offices. Custom corporate plans are also available. Visit ctrlcollective.com.

The Great Wall Mural

Designers are adding zing to clients’ décor with unique wall paintings commissioned from local artists.

A couple of years ago, artist Linda Sarkissian and her team painted a scene from a glamorous black-tie celebration on the wall of a contemporary home in Pasadena’s exclusive Linda Vista neighborhood. Done in tones of gray, black and silver, tuxedoed gentlemen mingle with ladies in elegant gowns as they toast champagne, a permanent party the length of a formal dining room wall.

“You can see part of the mural as you enter the house,” says Sarkissian, an American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Pasadena board member and founder of Glendale-based LS Decorative Art, which has specialized in murals, decorative fine art and frescos since the mid-1980s. She notes that it’s such a surprising and dramatic image, the common reaction to it is to gasp — in a good way, of course.

Murals that evoke visceral reactions are just one of the reasons homeowners choose to use the walls (or ceilings or floors) of their homes as canvases for creativity. “The beauty of murals and custom finishing is that they showcase the personality and individuality of the homeowner,” Sarkissian adds, noting that her client is a very social guy who enjoys throwing parties. “They’re also conversation pieces.”

Home murals are a centuries-old design element that can cost from $3,000 to $50,000, depending on size, detail and scope of the project. Along with faux finishes and decorative fine art, murals continue to be popular among homeowners and interior designers who want to make a statement or strive for distinction — sometimes in surprising ways.

After art for children’s rooms, landscapes — popular on domestic walls in late-17th-century Europe — are the most requested type of commission, designers say. Such natural scenery is often depicted in an abstract style. “A couple of years ago, I did a project at the Showcase House of Design where the interior designer wanted a contemporary but organic scene on the wall,” Sarkissian recalls. “We painted the walls white and created a pomegranate tree using only tones of brown,” the designer’s palette of choice.

Most commonly found in dining rooms, bathrooms, hallways and master bedrooms, murals can also be uniquely personal. “We recently did a mural for a homeowner who wanted to have a scene of her children at the beach, taking her back to a time when they were small,” says Sierra Madre interior designer Debbie Talianko, who often works with Sarkissian. “It looked like a [vintage] watercolor and made you feel as if you had traveled back in time. It was really dramatic.”

Marlene Oliphant, a Montrose-based interior designer, recalls a scene she commissioned, a large trompe l’oeil of a window overlooking a faraway place, inspired by a client couple’s anniversary trip. “I designed a condo kitchen that had no window over the sink,” she says, “and I had [L.A.] artist Lucy Jensen copy a photo of a Tuscan retreat; she painted it on paper and applied it to the wall like wallpaper and framed it in travertine tile molding.”

When it comes to what can be painted on one’s walls, “you’re only limited by your imagination,” Sarkissian says. In contemporary homes, like the one adorned with a party scene, metallic finishes in silver, pewter and gold are an ongoing trend. “The look you can get with it is quite interesting and one metallic on top of another makes a really interesting wall,” says Pasadena artist Virginia Fair, who, along with her business partner, Jay Richards, has created murals, faux finishes and other decorative embellishments in homes around the world.

Along with murals, interior designers commonly employ decorative fine art, including antique washes, faux stone and other faux finishes to bring distinction to a room, color match other design elements or hide imperfections. “They’re great for camouflaging bad walls and for matching something that’s already there but cannot be replaced,” Oliphant says. “If you have outlet covers running straight across the center of a kitchen backsplash, for example, you can faux finish them to blend into the tile.

“I had a client who had a big mural on two kitchen walls and they were cracked,” she continues. “I asked Jay [Richards] if he could camouflage them and he patched and painted and made everything blend. You’d never know they were there.”

“It’s a really good solution for challenging areas,” adds Talianko. If a client has a wood mantle that they want to look like stone, for example, “there are different plaster finishes that can be applied” to achieve that look.

While Venetian plaster is hardly a new idea, Fair has devised methods of applying it to create unique looks (“It’s like heavy embossing on the walls,” she says). She and Richards recently embellished an entire dining room in this manner, covering its walls in leaves and vines that were individually hand-painted.

Similarly, Sarkissian uses stencils with plaster, “creating very interesting textured designs,” she says. “We make it raised and paint them in silvers, grays, whites and pearlescent colors. It’s an extreme compliment when people go to the wall and touch it just to see if it’s wallpaper or a painting.”

Custom-made wallpaper murals, a traditional and evergreen addition in upscale homes, are another option for homeowners seeking to add zing to a room. Deciding whether to paint a mural or have it created in wallpaper form —  an extremely expensive option that takes months to prepare, Sarkissian says — often comes down to the designer’s preference.

Oliphant, for one, isn’t a fan. “You have a whole other set of problems with wallpaper,” she says. “A lot of walls are just not perfect — they would have to be skim coated to make them flat in order to mount wallpaper. When you do a faux finish, you don’t have to worry about that. You can just create whatever you want. It’s totally customized and you don’t have to worry about matching everything; the faux finisher has his kit and he just creates the matching tone. It’s like waving a magic wand and it’s done.”

Sometimes, muralists are asked, rather than create something new, just to fix a faded or damaged mural already in place. Fair recalls a recent three-week project she and Richards were called in on, restoring an 80-year-old mural painted on the ceiling of a Glendale home, one-third of which had extensive water damage. They had to study the original artist’s hand and technique and make sure they stayed true to that in restoring the image, reminiscent of a scene one might find in an old hunting lodge, complete with pheasants and trees.

“They didn’t have photos of the entire mural, so we took photos of the other undamaged side, worked out the color and design and completely duplicated it,” Fair says. “Our challenge was to make it look like the original — and we did it! The owners were blown away. They couldn’t believe that anybody could actually put it back together like that again.”

The Fundamentals of Self-Care

Stressed out by the election? Consider Tracey Cleantis’ tips for nurturing yourself.

Self-care is, to a large extent, a framework for seeking happiness.

— Tracey Cleantis, An Invitation to Self-Care

Walking into Tracey Cleantis’ home office in Pasadena’s San Rafael district, one encounters all the elements of a relaxing spa — soft lighting; the aroma of a scented candle in the air; plush, inviting couches and chairs. It’s an appropriately welcoming, stress-free place. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, Cleantis, a gracious and elegant woman who greets a visitor with a big smile and an easy laugh, makes her living helping folks dealing with a variety of difficult issues. In her new book, An Invitation to Self-Care: Why Learning to Nurture Yourself Is the Key to the Life You’ve Always Wanted, 7 Principles for Abundant Living (Hazelden Publishing), she aims to enlighten readers about the importance of “treating yourself like the person you respect and care about the most.”

The concept of self-care has been having its moment in the spotlight lately, with numerous books and articles written on the subject. “As a Google search term,” Cleantis says, “‘self-care’ hit its pinnacle the weekend after the presidential election.” Indeed, anxiety since last Nov. 8 is so common, mental health professionals have given it an unofficial diagnosis: post-election stress disorder. (On that subject, she offers coping advice: “Set limits for yourself, when and how much you’re allowing yourself exposure to Twitter feeds and news media. It’s still going to be there at the end of the day.”)

Why another book on self-care? Cleantis argues that most self-care advice is superficial. Most people assume it is “what you do when you’re burned out, when you have nothing left,” she says. “It’s what you do on Saturday and Sunday after you’ve ignored yourself all week — going to the spa or getting your nails done or treating yourself in some way.” Cleantis adds that true self-care is something that should be done every day, in every aspect of one’s life: psychologically, emotionally, physically, spiritually — in relationships both personal and professional, at work and play; in dealing with one’s finances; even in relation to physical belongings. “It’s essentially about being in a relationship with you, listening to yourself, being an adult,” she says.

In An Invitation to Self-Care, Cleantis points to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with basic human necessities at the bottom and self-actualization at the top, and how certain needs have to be fulfilled along the way before you can reach the peak. She says Maslow was a self-care expert before the term was coined. Inspired by his writings, Cleantis developed her own ideas, focusing on seven principles she reinforces throughout the book: Self-care is a daily, lifelong practice; it is self-love; it requires taking personal responsibility; it means noticing what matters to us; it requires attention and responsiveness; it must be realistic to be effective; and it precedes self-fulfillment.

To help understand these concepts, Cleantis categorizes self-care in different hues of “magic” — white, gray and black — which, she is quick to point out, has nothing to do with the occult, but rather is used as shorthand. “A wonderful, surprising and almost miraculous method of change,” she says. “White magic” encompasses the ideals of self-care that we all pursue (or should pursue) as a matter of course — things like going to the dentist twice a year, getting an annual mammogram, participating in regular exercise, sleeping eight hours a night. “Black magic” is the opposite: drinking too much, sex addiction, compulsive shopping or overeating — in other words, activities that can bring harm, bodily or otherwise.

“All of those things, in some ways, are an attempt at self-care,” Cleantis says of black magic, “to change how you feel and to take some difficult stressor and make it tolerable, but that’s never okay. What I’m particularly interested in is shining a light on the ‘gray magic’ self-care — things like watching too much television or eating ice cream for dinner or going to Sephora to buy another lipstick. Sometimes you need that and it’s okay to give space for things like that; there’s value in it.” It’s when eating ice cream for dinner happens regularly that it might suggest there’s a need for something more, something deeper, in one’s life.

Filled with personal anecdotes, real-life stories, quizzes and self-assessments to help readers along the way, An Invitation to Self-Care is aimed at both women and men, dispelling the myth that self-care is just for mothers, health-care professionals and other caregivers, Cleantis says. In reality, “all of us are in the self-care business, even if we aren’t doing a very good job at it.” She says, in fact, that men tend to be better at self-care than women. In interviewing men for the book, she found that they tended to have “an absolute commitment to certain aspects of their self-care [anything from a standing date with a golf club to ritually going to Starbucks]. I didn’t hear that as loudly from women. Things were a little more negotiable for them,” she says. “I found myself admiring the male attitude of ‘This thing is for me and I’ve got to do it.’”

In fact, there was a time when Cleantis wasn’t very good at her own self-care. “I hate to admit it, but I’ve been lousy at it at times, coming as I do from a family that neither modeled self-care nor taught me its value,” she writes. “I’ve always tended to neglect my needs, even well into adulthood. Once, during a period of exceptionally bad self-care, a friend suggested that if I were treating a child the way I was treating myself, I would lose custody.”

She changed her approach after going through a particularly difficult period in her 30s. At the time, Cleantis desperately wanted to have a baby and spent more than $100,000 in her attempt to have a biological child, undergoing four rounds of in vitro fertilization and 21 of artificial insemination. Even a later attempt at adoption didn’t work out. “I became addicted to the dream,” she recalls. “I believed that the only way I could be happy was to have a child of my own. There were tons of books telling me I could do it, in all sorts of genres: if you believe it, you can see it; if you make a vision board for it; if you see this right doctor or if you do this right thing — but there was nothing saying how to deal with the death of a dream.”

From this pain emerged Cleantis’ first book, The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward (Hazeldon Publishing; 2015). “I wanted to normalize for people that sometimes no matter what you do and how hard you work, dreams don’t work out. So it became a guidebook to surrender. I found out that a lot of therapists were giving The Next Happy to their patients who weren’t dealing with infertility but who needed to learn to do self-care.”

That knowledge was the inspiration for An Invitation to Self-Care. “In a way, by writing this book, I’m getting to do what I wanted to do with having a child — I’m helping people come to take better care of themselves. It has certainly helped me. I am kinder to myself and have a more responsive, tending internal voice just by being with those seven principles.”

Before she became a licensed marriage and family therapist in 2008, Cleantis worked as a newspaper journalist and later wrote the “Freudian Sip” blog for Psychology Today. She says she has always been fascinated by people’s motivations and the why of things. She doesn’t see much difference between her two professions. “In some ways, they’re not so different. It’s all about, ‘Tell me your story. What made you do this? Why are you doing it? Where does this stem from?’

“In my work as a therapist, I always feel like I’m just a couple of feet ahead, shining a light on the process and helping people come to their own answers,” she continues. “I don’t want to tell you how to do self-care and I don’t believe there’s just one answer. What I hope people walk away with is the ability to ask themselves better questions so that they can continue to check in [with themselves] every day.”

A Garland of Public Gardens

Here is a baker’s dozen of lush nearby gardens where you can get back to nature.

The days are getting longer, the weather gloriously warmer. It’s the perfect time of year to visit the many lush gardens blooming in Arroyoland and its environs. Whether botanical, meditative or drought-resistant, they each have something to brighten your day — flowers to buy, plants to admire, opportunities to learn. David R. Brown, the executive director of Descanso Gardens, says, “Botanical gardens attract visitors in search of an experience close to nature. Part of their purpose is to connect people to plants and cultivate a greater appreciation for the connectedness and interdependence of life on earth.” Here are 13 gardens, botanical and otherwise, that do just that.

Arlington Garden

295 Arlington Dr., Pasadena

(626) 441-4478 | arlingtongardenpasadena.com

The three-acre Arlington has been delighting locals since 2005, when Betty and Charles McKenney, in a public-private collaboration, turned the land, owned by Caltrans and leased to the City of Pasadena, into a water-wise oasis of more than 350 trees and thousands of drought-tolerant and native plants, highlighting many that are rare, endangered and native to California — San Diego ambrosia, bush anemone, rainbow manzanita and big-cone spruce among them. An Italian-style allée, a pathway flanked by sycamores leading to a vernal pool, a grid-pattern orange grove, a seven-circuit labyrinth and meandering paths all add to the garden’s charm. 

Open/Hours: Daily until dusk. On-leash pets are welcome.

Entrance Fee: None. Open to the public.

Fun Fact: The garden’s orange grove yields hundreds of pounds of oranges, which are made into marmalade by E. Waldo Ward & Sons and sold locally at the Pasadena Farmers’ Market at Victory Park, Jones Coffee Roasters and Heirloom Bakery, among others. Proceeds support the garden’s care and maintenance.

Descanso Gardens

1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge

(818) 949-4200 | descansogardens.org

The land on which the 150-acre Descanso Gardens sits once belonged to E. Manchester Boddy, the owner of the now-defunct Los Angeles Daily News (no relation to the current Los Angeles Daily News). It was there he built his 22-room mansion, still a centerpiece of the gardens, in 1937. During World War II, when Japanese-Americans were being sent to internment camps, Boddy bought two successful Japanese nurseries, acquiring nearly 100,000 camellias and subsequently running a commercial camellia garden from the property. Today, Descanso Gardens also includes a lilac garden, rosarium, xeriscape, Japanese teahouse and a bird sanctuary. The Descanso Gardens Enchanted Railroad, a one-eighth-scale replica of a diesel train, takes visitors around a section of the park four days a week. Boddy House is available for special events including weddings, conferences and filming; and the Stuart Haaga Gallery, free with admission, rotates exhibits throughout the year.

Open/Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Entrance Fee: $9; seniors (65+) and students with ID, $6; children 5–12, $4; members and children under 5, free.

Fun Fact: Prior to Boddy selling his estate to the County of Los Angeles in 1953, Walt Disney considered the land as a potential site for Disneyland.

Exposition Park Rose Garden

701 State Dr., Los Angeles

(213) 763-0114 | laparks.org/park/exposition-rose-garden

Though Exposition Park opened in 1913, the seven-acre sunken rose garden wasn’t built until 1927.  In 1933, the L.A. Times described it as the “greatest rose garden in the world”; in 1991, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today there are 20,000 rose bushes and 200 varieties. Not surprisingly, it’s a popular spot for weddings and photography. So that the roses can be pruned, the garden is closed from Jan. 1 to March 15 by the L.A. City Department of Recreation and Parks, which has been operating it since 1928.

Open/Hours: Daily, 8:30 a.m. to dusk.

Entrance Fee: None; the city charges for photography and weddings.

Fun Fact: Before the turn of the 20th century, the garden’s precursor, Agricultural Park, was a locale for horse, camel, greyhound and auto racing; a saloon that housed L.A.’s longest bar; and an elegant brothel.

Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino
(626) 405-2100 | huntington.org

The Huntington, home to rare manuscripts, important artwork and a dozen spectacular gardens spread across 120 acres, is well known as a cultural jewel in the San Gabriel Valley. Guests can find just about everything here, from lily ponds to the Australian, Desert and Jungle gardens, to fine examples of Chinese and Japanese gardens, to rose and camellia collections, just to name a few. The Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden is designed for little ones ages 2 through 7, while the Huntington Ranch is a demonstration garden that holds workshops and classes focused on sustainable urban agriculture. The Huntington also has annual spring and fall plant sales and free second-Thursday lectures featuring gardening experts and authors.
Open/Hours: Wednesday–Monday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Entrance Fee: Adults $23 ($25 weekends); seniors (65+) $19 ($21 weekends); youth (4–11), $10; under 4, free.
Fun Fact: Most of the sculptures found throughout the gardens are from the late 17th and early 18th centuries and share a common theme: love.

James Irvine Japanese Garden

244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles

(213) 628-2725 | jaccc.org/jamesirvinejapanesegarden/

Folks in the know visit the secluded and award-winning James Irvine Japanese Garden, a hidden oasis in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo, by going through the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. Also known as Seiryu-en or “Garden of the Clear Stream,” it presents an assortment of plants, flowers and blooming trees, cedar bridges, stone lanterns and a hand-washing fountain. This serene sanctuary was patterned in the Zen tradition after the famous gardens of Kyoto, and is also available as a venue for an outdoor wedding or other special event.

Open/Hours: Tuesday–Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; call for weekend schedule.

Entrance Fee: None.

Fun Fact: The garden features a 170-foot cascading stream.

Kyoto Gardens

120 S. Los Angeles St., Los Angeles

(213) 629-1200 | doubletreeladowntown.com/our-hotel/kyoto-gardens

Another hidden gem in Little Tokyo, Kyoto Gardens, a tranquil half-acre of plants, flowers, waterfalls and ponds, is perched on the rooftop of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. It is a re-creation of an ancient Japanese garden in Tokyo created for the 16th-century samurai Lord Kiyomasa Kato. Kyoto Gardens is available for weddings, private photography and filming; groups of 50 or more can enjoy an elaborate afternoon tea ($48).

Open/Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. seven days a week; call ahead to make sure no event is scheduled.

Entrance Fee: None

Fun Fact: A number of movie and TV projects have been filmed at the garden, including Her, Rampart, The Runaways, Law & Order: Los Angeles, The Biggest Loser and NCIS Los Angeles, among others.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens

5333 Zoo Dr., Los Angeles

(323) 644-4200 | lazoo.org/botanicalgardens/

There are more than 7,000 singular plants, representing more than 800 distinct species, at the L.A. Zoo, which seeks to educate the public about the importance of plants and the vital role they play in the lives of their animal residents. The zoo boasts native, succulent and edible gardens, as well as rare plants such as cycads, bald cypress and Chilean wine palm. Plants are organized according to their indigenous origins and then paired with their corresponding geographical regions within the zoo.

Open/Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Entrance Fee: $20; seniors (62+), $17; children 2–12, $15; under 2, free. Ticket price includes admission to both the zoo and gardens.

Fun Fact: The zoo is a plant rescue center for illegally imported items confiscated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens

3500 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles

(323) 737-4055 | peacelabyrinth.org

A travertine marble labyrinth, a replica of the one found at France’s Chartres Cathedral, blends in with a small Asian-themed meditation garden at Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens, established in 2002 as a nonprofit spiritual center in L.A.’s Jefferson Park neighborhood. Self-described as “a spiritual oasis in the city,” the garden features 16 water fountains, a koi pond and several intimate seating areas, along with hundreds of trees such as bamboo, cypress, jacaranda, tipu and tabebuia; flowers such as jasmine, azalea, rose and birds of paradise; and flowering plants such as stephanotis, oakleaf hydrangea and pittosporum, among many others.

Open/Hours: Tuesday–Friday and Sunday, 12 p.m.–4 p.m.; fourth Saturday of the month: 12 p.m.–4 p.m.

Entrance Fee: None. Donations are welcome.

Fun Fact: For about 10 years beginning in the late 1930s, famed musical director and choreographer Busby Berkeley was the owner of the Guasti Villa, an L.A. Cultural Monument that serves as the gardens’ headquarters. It was later a home for unwed mothers and, after that, a boardinghouse for budding actresses.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

1500 North College Ave., Claremont

(909) 625-8767 | rsabg.org

At 85 acres, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is the largest botanic garden dedicated to the native plants of California. Tucked in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, it serves as an outdoor classroom to the students studying botany at Claremont Graduate University as well as the public, offering a variety of classes and workshops to the latter. (There are also programs and tours designed specifically for children in grades K-12.) The garden is comprised of three sections: Indian Mesa Hill (mature cultivars and wild species of native plants), the East Alluvial Gardens (where the Desert Garden, Coastal Dune and California Channel Island collections are found) and Plant Communities (home to four-needle pinyon, California flannel bushes and boojum trees).

Open/Hours: Daily, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Entrance Fee: $8; seniors (65+), $6; children 3–12, $4; under 3, free.

Fun Fact: In addition to those from California, plants found in southern Oregon, western Nevada and Baja California, Mexico — in botanical terms, the California Floristic Province — are all represented at Rancho Santa Ana.

Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens

270 Arlington Dr., Pasadena

(626) 399-1721 | japanesegardenpasadena.com

The two-acre Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden, conceived for a private residence in the 1930s, is the last existing garden created by Kinzuchi Fujii, who designed and built Japanese landscapes throughout Southern California in the early decades of the 20th century. Visitors at this pond-style stroll garden will find four bridges, a formal teahouse and a traditional cedar-log “waiting house” amid its flora, two large ponds, a 25-foot hill with a cascading waterfall; spreading sycamores and old oaks shading a winding dry riverbed, stone lanterns and granite statuary. Guests can stop and take this all in at numerous gathering points and vistas throughout the garden, which also hosts a number of cultural events and educational programs throughout the year.

Open/Hours: Still a private residence, the garden is open to the public the last Sunday of each month; every Thursday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; and by reservation for private invitation-only events, including weddings.

Entrance Fee: $7.50 online, $10 at the gate.

Fun Fact: This is one of two Japanese gardens in California listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants

10459 Tuxford St., Sun Valley

(818) 768-1802 | theodorepayne.org

Considered to be the father of the native-plant movement in California, Theodore Payne was a pioneering nurseryman, horticulturist and conservationist. His foundation was established in 1960 and today operates a retail nursery that has the region’s largest selection of California native plants, many of which are drought-tolerant and low maintenance. These include sun-loving perennials, chaparral shrubs, desert plants and riparian, as well as trees, grasses, vines and groundcover. The property also offers visitors an art gallery and a three-quarter-mile walking trail to Wildflower Hill, providing a grand vista of the San Fernando Valley from the summit. Classes and field trips for both children and adults are available through the foundation’s Education Center and outreach programs.

Open/Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Entrance Fee: None. Friendly dogs on leash are welcome.

Fun Fact: Members receive a 20-percent discount on the purchase of a Plant of the Month. The designee for March is the burgundy desert willow.

Wrigley Gardens

391 S. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 449-4100 | visitpasadena.com/businesses/tournament-house/

Encompassing four-and-a-half acres, Wrigley Gardens surrounds the Italian Renaissance–style Wrigley Mansion, the headquarters of the Tournament of Roses Association, and showcases more than 1,500 types of roses, camellias and annuals. The Wrigley family, heirs to the chewing-gum empire, handed their private residence to the City of Pasadena in 1958 on the condition that it was to become the new home of the TOR.

Open/Hours: Free tours of the Tournament House are given each Thursday at

2 p.m. and 3 p.m. through the end of

August. Reservations aren’t required except for groups of 10 or more.

Entrance Fee: None

Fun Fact: William Warriner, named the country’s No. 1 rose breeder, developed the Tournament of Roses Rose, a pink variety resistant to black spots, white powder and rust, in honor of the TOR’s centennial.

Color Master

Event designer Billy Butchkavitz creates extraordinary environments for HBO’s biggest celebrations.

 

Bold. Vibrant. Exotic. The lavish, elegant and over-the-top creations that event designer Billy Butchkavitz creates for HBO’s annual Emmy Awards and Golden Globes celebrations are legendary in Hollywood, making them the hottest party tickets in town. His rich and opulent style — often inspired by strong Asian, North African and Spanish cultures he encounters in extensive ,  around the world in search of treasures to fulfill his vision — first caught the eye of HBO executives in Hawaii in 1994. Since that time the Pasadena resident has been the cable giant’s exclusive party planner, creating not only awards season bashes but every grand event HBO decides to throw, from series-premiere celebrations to high-end executive retreats.

The Emmy extravaganza is Butchkavitz’s biggest annual soirée. Held in a massive custom-built tent on the fountain plaza of West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center for the 14th consecutive year, the 2016 gala used water as the design inspiration. He started choosing patterns and developing a color palette for the September gala in February — seven shades of blue, from the palest aqua to the darkest navy. By May, large-scale décor elements were finalized, original furniture designs were being made into prototypes for approval and the design of the custom-made, rippling-water–patterned carpeting (all 59,000 square feet of it) was fine-tuned.

Butchkavitz says the eight days leading up to the Emmy bash are always intense: That’s when the tent goes up and the venue is built. “I have to do everything from meeting with electrical inspectors and the fire marshal for the permits to dealing with the fact that HBO has added more people to the guest list at the last minute, which means you have to build a bigger kitchen and order more restroom trailers,” he says.

Then there are those things that are beyond anyone’s control. Last year, a torrential downpour delayed the delivery of the Emmy party’s carpeting. “The trucks were coming in from Georgia,” he recalls. “It was like a river on San Vicente, so we had to cancel everything for a day and find someplace for the trucks to park.”

Over time, he has learned to roll with the punches — and anticipate disaster, even if it never comes. “If the party is on the 10th, I tell my vendors it’s on the first,” he says, “because a lot of my material coming from overseas can sometimes get caught up in Customs. I overorder a lot, too, because I always have a backup plan if something doesn’t get here in time.”

On the night of September’s fete, which celebrated HBO’s six Emmy wins including Best Drama Series (Game of Thrones) and Best Comedy Series (Veep), a water-themed collage — created by Butchkavitz’s longtime event photographer, Gabor Ekecs, based on Butchkavitz’s designs — served as a backdrop for the 150-foot press line. Invitees then walked through (or relaxed in) a 105-footlong lounge, built around a huge rectangular fountain, which stretched from the entrance to the VIP dining pavilion. Twenty-five-foot-high decorative perimeter walls constructed to enclose and enhance the space were covered with two-tone metallic jacquard punctuated with 25-foot-high blue metallic columns. Guests feasted on Wolfgang Puck’s cuisine at tables topped by hand-blown aqua pedestal bowls with floating “dinner-plate” dahlias, creating the effect of tabletop water gardens. A 24-foot-tall cascading fountain sculpture held court in the multicolored dining pavilion, while the lighting, a crucial element in all of Butchkavitz’s dramatic designs, created the impression of being underwater.

“Lighting is everything,” he says. “It helps to set the mood, enhances the environment and defines the energy of the event. Since 90 percent of my events take place at night, I depend on the lighting to convey my design message and to showcase my work.” 

Not surprisingly, Butchkavitz says the secret to pulling off celebrations of this magnitude is to be organized. Knowing how, where and when to spend money is crucial, too. Though his parties look like a billion bucks, during his international travels with his brother, Brian, Butchkavitz is always on the lookout for skilled artisans and quality materials with the lowest prices. (Butchkavitz runs day-to-day company operations with a team of four: Brian; their sister, Peggy, who does the bookkeeping from her New Jersey home; and Butchkavitz’s best friend, JR.) “We just go on our adventures and find weavers and textile factories,” he says. “When I go to Chiang Mai [in northern Thailand], China or Rajasthan, India, I can draw a picture of what I want — whether it be a vase, a chandelier, furniture, textiles or costumes — and they will make a prototype for me to approve before it goes into mass production. I don’t go to the wholesaler. I go to the place where the wholesalers buy. I get more bang for the buck that way and HBO appreciates that.” 

They also appreciate his distinctive designs. “Billy’s creativity and ingenuity are limitless,” says HBO Vice President Lauren McMahon. “Each event is an amazing realization of so many ideas, all flawlessly executed. There’s no mistaking a Billy premiere — it’s always visually and experientially unique and seriously great fun.” 

Butchkavitz has carte blanche in selecting awards season celebration themes, but when planning premiere parties, he works with HBO executives to develop a game plan, generating ideas by watching advance screenings and picking out elements unique to the show.

For the September premiere of one of the cable network’s most recent hits, the futuristic Old West–themed Westworld, held at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre and the nearby Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Butchkavitz recreated the show’s homage to Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Vitruvian Man, devising a 13-foot-tall Styrofoam replica of a white skeleton-like figure standing inside a giant circle with arms and legs outstretched. In the series, the circle serves as a device that creates very human-like robots, known as “hosts,” which help “guests” play out their darkest desires at an Old Western fantasy playground. Butchkavitz also created a “laboratory” in the hotel lobby, with metal sculptures representing the initial stages of the manufactured “hosts” and a second Vitruvian Man holding court in the center of the room. In the hotel’s ballroom, partygoers dined against a Westworld town backdrop, while other venues in the hotel became show-inspired settings: a brothel, a casino and an underground storage facility for discarded “hosts.” Outside, yet another, larger Vitruvian Man rotated on the hotel’s facade — a convincing projection, created by master projection designer Bart Kresa, with whom Butchkavitz routinely works to create an otherworldly, immersive experience.

By his own admission, Butchkavitz was a colorful kid. (“In school, I was the one who decorated the classroom [for the holidays],” he recalls, “and at home would tell my mom which drapery we should get.”) So it comes as no surprise that he ended up in the line of work he did. Even so, he didn’t set out to be a designer. In fact, he was on track to pursue a career in broadcast journalism before a bit of serendipity changed all that

The Philadelphia native’s serendipitous moment came after he graduated from Temple University in 1985 and moved to Hawaii to intern at a local TV station. Butchkavitz also began working for a catering company as a waiter/decorating assistant, and as a lifeguard for an exclusive, privately owned home that was featured on the TV series Magnum P.I. and often rented out for special affairs. “The two women who owned the catering company were also into flowers and they taught me all about their treatment, care and design,” he says. “After working for them for about a year, they asked me if I wanted to do the décor for a party they couldn’t take on because they were going out of town.”

It turned out to be a high-end affair at Honolulu’s Bishop Museum for the National Audubon Society and England’s Prince Philip, for which Butchkavitz created a vibrant luau-themed event. That celebration’s success sparkedted a stream of calls from other aspiring clients.For the next eight years, Butchkavitz designed private parties for wealthy Japanese families in Hawaii and produced celebrations for a number of hotel openings. He met HBO executives at the opening of Oahu’s Ihilani Resort & Spa in 1994 (now the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina), and they liked what they saw. Once Butchkavitz started working with them, HBO’s party strategy evolved from hotel dinners to spectacular events in enormous tents — sometimes requiring street closures in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills — including a memorable Moroccan-themed Golden Globe bash in 2005. “I have never been to Morocco, actually, but I buy so much stuff from there through my importers,” he says. “A lot of the design, particularly the inlay, is very similar to that found in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.” It’s one of the few countries he hasn’t visited yet. He’s also had textiles made in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Europe. 

When shopping overseas, Butchkavitz has learned to ask a lot of questions — and with good reason. “I once saw these really beautiful urns when I was preparing for one of my first parties in Thailand, at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. Some were done in metalwork and some were painted porcelain,” Butchkavitz recalls. “I decided to use a number of pagoda-shaped ones as vases. I found out after the fact that the little pagodas were actually funeral urns.” 

When he started working with HBO in 1994, Butchkavitz left Hawaii and moved to downtown Los Angeles, where still he has a 10,000-square–foot warehouse. That’s where he stores exotic props and treasures he can’t bear to give up, plus all the shipments for upcoming celebrations. You won’t find a lot of furniture from past parties there, however, since Butchkavitz isn’t in the habit of reusing things. Instead, he gives many reusable furniture items to one of his vendors, Town & Country Event Rentals. “You’ll very rarely see me reuse something,” he says. “If I do, it might be a very generic urn — like the ones I had made in the ’90s for a Sopranos premiere in New York; they look very Tuscan but they’re just very neutral and really tall. I still use those.”

Three-and-a-half years ago, he moved to Pasadena. “I love Pasadena. When I lived in downtown L.A., there was nothing down there; there were homeless people everywhere, hardly any restaurants…so I would come to Pasadena to go to Trader Joe’s or the movies,” he says. 

He walks around town as much as possible and, more than once, he’s been inspired by strolls through the majestic botanical gardens of The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. “I was totally inspired by the Huntington’s water lilies for a party I recently did for Bizbash,” he says, adding that the silhouette of water lilies adorned the carpet,  tabletops and walls.

Since the Emmy celebration wrapped, Butchkavitz has been hard at work preparing for January’s Golden Globes, the details of which, at press time, were still top secret. Inspired by the late legendary Hollywood designer Tony Duquette, who worked on movie sets, in jewelry and in interior design until he passed away at the age of 85, Butchkavitz is thinking about branching out into other areas. He says he’s been approached about doing reality shows but has turned down the offers because he’s afraid the overexposure would cheapen his product. “I’ve also been approached to do a line of vases and china but I’m not ready to do that yet. I’d definitely like to do a movie set, though,” he adds. “I’m in it for the long haul. I want to keep doing this until I’m in my 80s.”  

Billy’s Holiday Tips

While Billy Butchkavitz has decorated many hotels, resorts and private residences with gorgeous over-the-top designs for the holidays, when it comes to decorating his own home, he prefers to keep things a little simpler. Here are six of his decorating tips for a more personal touch.

1. KEEP IT BASIC

Make sure that whatever decoration you’re putting up isn’t too difficult to install and is equally easy to take down. “Once the holiday season is over, I don’t want to waste a lot of time packing and storing holiday décor,” Butchkavitz says. “That’s why I tend to use a lot of live holiday greens and flowers that can be thrown away once they are past their glory.”

2. USE WHAT YOU HAVE

Butchkavitz likes to use containers he already owns to display things. “I’m not a big fan of tree stands,” he says. “I much prefer placing trees in decorative urns or planters.”

3. MIX IT UP

Butchkavitz likes to incorporate layers, assorted textures and mixed patterns in his holiday presentations. If you’ve got some figurines or other small decorative pieces, blend them into your display of presents under the tree to add some depth, whimsy and texture. “If you choose wrapping paper, boxes and ribbons that work with your design palette, that’s an extra bonus,” he says.

4. CHOOSE COLOR WISELY

“Since my place is already overloaded with color, I tend to stick with white lights, white candles, Christmas greens, red ornaments and red and gold ribbons,” he says. For darker interiors, he suggests using lots of silver and/or gold. Got a neutral colored space? “Use assorted festive holiday colors and go to town!”

5. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on holiday décor, “a few wreaths and holiday greens, decorative ribbons, some bowls and vases filled with colorful ornaments and lots of white or ivory candles” will go a long way toward capturing the holiday spirit, he says. 

6. KEEP IT CLEAN

“The cleaner, neater and tidier an environment is, the better the holiday decor will look.”