Shining Glory
Shining Glory

Wayne’s 1970 Mercedes Benz 280SL sits on the circular driveway in front of the porch, ready for a ride.

Hospitality is the inspiration behind Glory Johnson and Wayne Gensler’s renovation of a 1948 Spanish Revival home on East Walnut, where the couple hosts family gatherings, community get-togethers and charitable dinners throughout the year.

President of Orange Home Grown Foundation, Glory has been an active member of the Old Towne community for many years, including volunteering with the Old Towne Preservation Association (OTPA).  Wayne has previously done volunteer work with the OTPA, the Orange Library Foundation and Orange Home Grown.

Whether the smartly remodeled kitchen or their huge entertainment room that unfolds into the beautifully landscaped backyard, the home and property provide the perfect backdrop for entertaining.

“I do dinners all the time for gatherings of 20 or more people,” says Glory.  “This fall, for example, we are hosting the third Chef Series farm-to-table fundraiser dinner for Orange Home Grown.  I love to cook, especially Italian cuisine because of my family background.”

Seeking to downsize from their previous 1900 Revival Victorian on East Maple, the couple purchased the one-story home in 2019.  The enormous 15,000-square- foot lot was a key attraction for Glory, whose talent for landscape design takes center stage.  The backyard, which consisted mostly of dirt and cement, gave Glory an open canvas to create her dream yard and garden.  Additionally, the property includes a workshop that Wayne utilizes for woodworking projects such as making tables and custom birdhouses.

Glory in her favorite room, the kitchen, with her husband Wayne.  The counters are made of black soapstone, which contrasts with the all-white custom cabinets.

The living room showcases treasured art works complemented by architectural arches and Spanish Revival vintage lighting.

“There used to be sparse landscaping in the front, which I completely took out and redid to create a Santa Barbara type of feel,” says Glory.  “We added a circular driveway and reworked the entire front exterior into a Mediterranean-style setting with olive and fruit trees.  In the back, we covered the cement with flagstone and added a garden and a raised bed for herbs.  Each corner has its own microclimate: one corner for shade, one for full sun, another for drought-tolerant, and one for natives.  The flagstone conveys a Spanish retreat.”

According to Glory, the property had only two previous owners that she knows of.  The original owner/builder raised their family here.  Although the house was in good shape when the couple purchased it, the former owners had changed some original aspects, compromising the true architectural style

Upon acquiring the property through local realtor Dan Slater, Glory and Wayne set out to transform the premises in keeping with the 1940s’ vintage era.  They opened up the floor plan by removing several walls, which brought more light and ventilation into the interiors.  To emphasize the Spanish Revival theme, they added archways to the remaining portions of the walls they removed, plus installed Spanish-style wood accents for the moldings and trim.  They also replaced all the tile floors and laminate flooring and installed beautiful oak floors to replicate the original floors.

The tiles on the roof are original to the home.  “We repaired the roof and kept the original tiles; they are just so beautiful,” she says.  “We remodeled one of the bathrooms with marble, which I really enjoy.”

Glory has plenty of experience renovating old homes, having previously restored two historic homes in Old Towne.  In addition to gleaning ideas from magazines and books, Glory relies on her daughter Gwen Sukeena for interior design choices.

Glory and Wayne under the portico leading to the backyard.

A flagstone path meanders to the casita, which serves as a playhouse for the grandchildren and an art studio for Glory.

“Gwen is an interior designer with her own business, Sukeena Homes,” says Glory.  “She lives here in Old Towne, as does our other daughter Gaylin Goodman and her family.  My other children and grandchildren live in Huntington Beach and Long Beach, so we enjoy their frequent visits here at the house.

“Gwen was integral to everything I did here,” she adds, “specifically the design of the arches and the walls in the kitchen.  She helped me secure all the vintage lights, which I obtained mostly at Architectural Salvage in Pasadena.  Some of my furnishings we also found in Pasadena at stores specializing in Spanish Revival.  We even acquired some pieces here in Old Towne.”

Designed for entertaining, the kitchen is a cook’s dream.  It includes a double oven with warming drawer, a stainless-steel sink, and a large island with barstool seating.  The counters are made of black soapstone, which contrasts nicely with the all-white cabinets and pullout drawers.  Local contractor Kevin Hockenberry helped finish the remodeling project.

“I had my husband make a small table with a banquette,” she says, “and I also integrated my grandmother’s historic door in the kitchen.  I kept it all these years, knowing it will always be a part of our home no matter where we live.”

The interiors convey a monochrome-white theme with earth tones for accents.  The couple replaced the dated French doors with Spanish-style doors that have double panes.  Historic etchings of European themes hang on the walls, along with plein-air oil paintings on display in the family room.  There are also two large pieces by a well-known New York artist who is a friend of their daughter.

Providing the ultimate party space, the entertainment room features a vintage 1920 player piano and an extended live-edge dining table.

For Wayne and Glory, the perfect place to relax at the end of the day is in front of the outdoor fireplace, under the gazebo lighted by a vintage chandelier.

The 2,000-square-foot house has three bedrooms, three baths and a two-car garage.  A small utilitarian bathroom is located off the garage.  The couple converted the additional three-car garage into a family entertainment room that includes a long, pine, live-edge dining table.

Glory says she lives for the outdoors, relishing the retreat-like feel of the property.  She enjoys gardening and watching her family and grandchildren enjoy the yard.

“I love all seasons, but being a gardener, springtime is my favorite.  In the backyard, there is a portico, and beyond that, we added a gazebo and fireplace.  The entire place really does look like a spa.  There’s a playhouse for my grandchildren which I share with them as an art studio for doing watercolors.”

For Glory, it’s a labor of love to restore an old home to its original “shining glory.”  She admits that their remodeling projects are never really done, and what’s next is yet to be revealed.

“It’s a special thing to be able to restore a vintage or historic home,” says Glory.  “It helps you fall in love with the house even more because you know all of its characteristics and you get to enhance what you like about it.  We are so fortunate to live here.”

Article Published in the
Sep / Oct 23 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Karen Anderson Photos by Kristin Smetona
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