Seasonal Living Magazine's
Luxury Virtual Designer Showhouse
Seasonal Living Magazine’s Luxury Virtual Designer Showhouse was the brainchild of Gary Pettitt, founder and CEO of the award winning indoor/outdoor modern furniture brand, Seasonal Living. He realized very quickly, when the pandemic hit, that he and his fellow manufacturers were going to have find new and innovative ways to reach interior designers and consumers. So was born the idea for the world’s first completely virtual Showhouse.
“The Virtual Showhouse will live forever as a 360 walk around, shoppable experience, with product discovery and augmented reality highlights, in the pages of a Special Edition of Seasonal Living Magazine” – Leslie Carothers
Gary engaged Leslie Carothers of Savour Partnership to create the proposal, and execute a multi-brand influencer marketing campaign. He then hired Jenna Gaidusek, founder and CEO of The eDesign Platform to use her proprietary software platform to create the experience. As a proud member of Jenna’s rendering team, under the Director of 3d Modeling, Sarah Durnez, I was invited to participate. My role has been to create the exterior architecture, choose the location, incorporate basic landscaping, and then render photorealistic still images and drone style flyovers of the house. These images and animations are now being used for all online marketing purposes.
Gary had a well thought out vision for the virtual home. He provided a very detailed project brief to Jenna. She worked with Sarah to develop the floor plan and incorporate all of Gary’s ideas. After working with Gary to finalize the interior layout, the plan was handed over to me to design the building exterior, and bring it into 3 dimensions.
It’s not often, as a designer, that you get the chance to have free reign to use your imagination. But, with no budget, labor, or material constraints, we were free to truly be creative. Sarah, Jenna and I engrossed ourselves in hours of watching YouTube real estate listing videos, and in researching multi-million dollar broker’s websites. We studied the amenities, architecture, interior finishes, and landscaping. We also looked deeply into the current wants and needs of modern families, bearing in mind our collective “new normal”. (This was probably the most fun I’ve had doing project research.)
I then took all of this information, along with Gary’s brief, and pulled the floor plans up. Using 3D architectural software, I built the house.
I changed nothing of the floorplan, other than minor adjustments and slight nudges here and there, making sure that the structure was sound and buildable. I addressed specific elements such as the stairs, elevators and mezzanines, and also made sure that the architecture meets ADA standards for universal accessibility.
As a Certified Professional Building Designer, I am educated and experienced in building codes and construction methods. When I design real world homes, I always make sure I have a clear understanding of what’s needed structurally, and what can actually be built. Just because this showhouse will only exist virtually, doesn’t mean I ignored those principles. It was very important to me to make sure that this house COULD be built.
For the architectural elements, I also did my due diligence. I researched everything from finding the manufacturer that makes the largest plate glass windows for the solarium and the entrance, to how the retractable ceilings would function, to the types of stone and teak for the cladding.
If you wanted to build this house in the real world, you could. You would need partner with several professionals in your area. A structural engineer, landscape architect and custom builder would all need to be brought on to the team straight away. The structural engineer would address all of the environmental, seismic and wind engineering aspects of the home.
Within this virtual design, even though it’s not being built, I made certain to incorporate plenty of wall thickness, floor plate and ceiling plate thickness, vertical supports and proper cantilever distances, to ensure room for structural components of the highest quality and strength. Side note: My plans have never been kicked back from an engineer, nor been denied permitting.
This virtual house boasts 20’ ceilings, a sanctuary space, a wellness room with a private terrace, a 3 story solarium for indoor food growing with an observation deck, a koi pond with a glass top, which runs under the first floor, a temperature controlled wine cellar, a decontamination room, a Zoom room, and a 3 story indoor courtyard, just to name a few of the spaces.
Gary’s vision placed this house in Malibu, California, where the landscapes and the real estate are nothing short of amazing. His brief for the virtual home included having it located on 20 acres as close to a beach as possible, with options for a fully sustainable garden and a vineyard.
I started with a property search, to get an idea of what 20 acres in Malibu really looks like. Essentially, we would need several adjacent properties to make it happen. (Or, I could imagine one large property that that could still exist, had it been passed down through a family perhaps.) I settled on Western Malibu, a bit farther from the busy city, where the land is hilly, and there’s a good distance from the beach to the Pacific Coast Highway. I found an area between 2 parks, with almost exactly the right amount of land, called Encinal Beach. (Encina is Spanish for Holm Oak, a type of evergreen oak holly oak tree.) As you can see from the Google Earth image, you cannot even see the PCH from where the house would sit.
In real world design, we would have needed to get through some local zoning, and apply for some variances, but, since this is a virtual house, this is true Blue Sky design… no limits.
I was able to download the actual terrain map data, and import the topography into my design software. From there I did just a bit of virtual demo and earth moving, and placed the house just up from the beach. (There are currently many homes this distance from the beach in Malibu, so I took my cue from those. ) The landscape around the house would be xeriscaped, and the rest of the property would be left natural, with future plans for food gardens and a vineyard.
I geolocated the virtual site, and set the north direction and time zone. This allows me to accurately show the sun location at any time of the day, which in turn creates real life lighting effects and shadows. As you can see, the sun rises over the mountains in the east, and sets over the ocean in the west. Each rendering is set for a certain time of day, all during July, for that perfect mid-summer California feel.
The architectural style in Gary’s vision was to be modern in every way. Some clients are very specific and detailed in their brief, some aren’t quite sure what they need. The program for this project was definitely the former. Gary had a very clear vision for this property, and for the essence of the virtual home.
If you’ve taken a look at my portfolio, you probably noticed that my work has focused on traditional styles, and historic properties. This house is definitely a departure from my usual style, but it was not difficult. While I do love classical and vernacular architecture, I feel, as a designer, my client’s style and vision are always first and foremost, top priority. I love utilizing my creativity and education to bring their ideas to life. So, when creating this exterior, I still drew on the classical principles of architecture for the underlying balance. I love Midcentury design, so while this house is not MCM, I did imagine some of my favorites while working. As you can see, the aesthetic of the virtual home is modern, and the elements are still properly balanced. Being inspired by this project, I’m considering adding a line of modern style homes to my portfolio.
This is the initial phase of the property design. The interior designers are already working their magic to transform the spaces. When you see the final presentation, you will notice differences. The interior spaces, including the terraces and pool deck, were left as blank canvases for the designers. As seen here, they are yet to be transformed.
After the building design received final approval from Gary, it was time to create the real experience of this project: The Interior. Using Jenna’s proprietary software, The eDesign Platform, Sarah has built the entire interior in 3 dimensions. Next, I will assist her (along with her team of trained and certified modelers) in creating all of the interior elements and furnishings . Everything will be included, down to the flowers in the vases, and the throw blanket casually draped across a chair.
When completed, this house will be a 720 degree fully tourable experience, much like real estate listings you may be used to seeing by now, or Google Maps, with 360 degree views and clickable navigation spots. Visitors will be able to walk all over this house from the comfort of their own home. But, here’s the thing that sets this apart. Not only can you “walk” around the virtual house, but the furnishings will be marked with clickable links, which takes you to product and purchasing information. You can SHOP this showhouse! Selected products will also have an augmented reality feature, meaning you can view them IN your own home. This will be an experience like no other.
The Interior Designers
The VIP Opening Event
Seasonal Living Magazine’s Luxury Virtual Showhouse went live during a complimentary, professionally produced online VIP Preview Launch Party event on Thursday, December 3rd at 6 pm ET.
Now, you will be able to tour the Virtual Showhouse at your leisure, and from the comfort and safety of your home, in the Special SHOWHOUSE Edition of Seasonal Living Magazine.
Publications & Blogs
Business of Home Article
Veronica Solomon wrote this gorgeous post introducing the sponsors to her audience.
Carla Aston wrote this incredible post for her blog’s readers, detailing some of our sponsor’s products she is using in the room she is designing.
Arianne Bellizaire created this fabulous video to introduce her You Tube audience to what she is doing and inviting them to follow along!
Leslie Carothers wrote this in depth post telling the full back story of the project.
Boston based interior designer, Janet Pendleton Lorusso’s post:
Minneapolis based interior designer, Lisa Peck’s post
Seattle based interior designer, Judith Wright’s post:
US Virgin Islands based interior designer, Tiffany Cassidy’s post:
Boston based Kim Macumber’s post:
I want to close by expressing my utmost thanks to Gary Pettitt, Jenna Gaidusek, Sarah Durnez, and Leslie Carothers, for trusting me with this project. This is a world’s first, one of a kind opportunity that I in no way take lightly. The designers that have come on board, and the sponsors that are making this possible are the best of the best. I am honored to be part of it.