Seeds: Sacred Heart Holiday Home Tour

11/30/2013 12:00 AM

11/28/2013 8:52 PM

Many famous people have walked past Deborah and David Bonuccelli’s front door. They live next to the one-time governor’s mansion, the former residence of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. It remains a local landmark in Sacramento’s Fabulous Forties neighborhood.

“Tour buses still come by,” said Deborah Bonuccelli, an artist. “You think about all the people that have gone down that sidewalk over the years.”

Her own home is worth seeing, too. Filled with her paintings and work of other local artists, the magnificent Tudor mansion deserves a double take, and that’s just what it is getting this holiday season.

The Sacred Heart Holiday Home Tour celebrates its 40th year with a return to the same house that started this beloved tradition. Sacred Heart’s first tour in 1973 was held inside this stately house on 45th Street.

“We had one house, with designers in every room, and we stayed open 10 days,” recalled Marilyn Park, co-chair of the inaugural tour. “We had 81 volunteers. We got this house because it was for sale at the time. It was empty. We could just move in and take over.

“It wasn’t particularly holiday designs,” she noted. “It was more of a designer show house.”

Park and co-chair Beverly Geremia returned to the home with current tour chairman Angie Smith for a sneak peek of what the current owners had done with the old place.

The first tour had been inspired by a design show house in San Francisco, Park said. The mothers of Sacred Heart students saw a Sacramento tour as a way to make some money for their school.

“Instead of a lot of small things (such as bake sales), we could try one big thing,” Park said.

Added Geremia, “It sure beat baking cakes. People really wanted to go; everybody wanted to be part of it.”

Said Park: “It was something new and different. We were really happy when it was over. We were all moms with little kids.”

Now, more than 300 volunteers take part in the tour.

As this tour has since its inception, teams of top Sacramento designers add their touch to the featured rooms. But instead of one house, they now have five to decorate. Among those working on this tour are Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, Haus, JIL Design and Beyond the Garden Gate.

And instead of 10 days, the 2013 tour lasts three. As one of the oldest and most popular tours in Northern California, the Sacred Heart event often sells out. Organizers expect about 3,400 patrons this week to walk from home to home.

“We start getting calls in May and June,” Smith said. “They come from all over; people who may have moved away but still feel part of the Sacred Heart neighborhood. This really has become a family tradition. Reaching 40 years is pretty significant.”

It has become the school’s major fundraiser, paying for scholarships as well as many school programs.

The holiday tour features east Sacramento homes that have gone through elaborate renovation or restoration while preserving much of what made them great houses: their unique or historical design, architectural flair and beautiful interior design.

This house does all that and more. Designed by Dean and Dean, it was built in 1925 for Royal Miller, a local car dealer and longtime head of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. When new, the house featured a first for its neighborhood: an automatic dishwasher.

At 4,280 square feet, it features five bedrooms and 41/2 baths. All have been updated (some radically) from the home’s original layout, yet all feel like they fit comfortably with the house’s spacious design.

The big difference between 1973 and 2013: the kitchen. From a utilitarian and relatively compact beginning, that room morphed into a modern great room with soaring ceiling, polished granite and space for a crowd. With an oversized island and restaurant-style appliances, the kitchen now stretches the length and width of what had been a long patio.

Most of that patio had already been enclosed when the Bonuccelli family bought the house in 2006. On her way to and from a midtown studio, Deborah drove past the home often. One day, she noticed it was for sale – and had a guesthouse that would make a perfect studio.

Never mind that she and her husband, who works in commercial real estate, had just finished an extensive remodel of their home in another Sacramento neighborhood. She was in love with this house.

When they see it, visitors often feel the same way.

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