When it comes to knowing houses and the right look, Pacific Palisades realtor Joan Sather excels, so it is no surprise she has hosted the annual Patriotic Home Decorating Contest since 2008.
“I am thrilled each year with the love and energy and excitement that folks express when decorating homes,” said Sather, who works at Sotheby’s International on Sunset. “Each year, I say to myself ‘What will this year bring?”
The daughter of a Naval officer, Sather has lived all over the United States, including Hawaii, and also spent three years in France. She attended five elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools and two colleges, before graduating from UC Berkeley. She met her husband, Kent, in San Francisco and they moved to an apartment in Brentwood.
Through friends, they heard about Pacific Palisades and started house hunting. “We looked quite a while before we found something we could afford in the Marquez Knolls area,” said Sather, who was pregnant with her first child. A major drawback was a long set of stairs to reach the home.
It was then she developed the buying philosophy she shares with clients. “There were more things about the house we liked than we didn’t like,” Sather said. “Even looking at a $10 million home, you won’t find a totally perfect house. You have to decide where you compromise.”
After daughter Kelly was born, Kent accepted a job with a real estate developer in Arizona.
“I went to look at houses there, but I knew it would be a mistake,” Sather said. “When Kent asked which Arizona house I wanted to make an offer on, my answer was definite: ‘None, because I cannot leave the Palisades.”
The family stayed, and Kent focused on Westside real estate investments.
Sather, who received her real estate license in 1988, explains why the Palisades has such a pull. “It’s one of the world’s best communities. Its combination of small-town feel and sophisticated population is completely unique. The tradition of citizen pride remains strong and seems never to be diminished.”
The Fourth of July celebration exemplifies that feeling. “There is enthusiasm, community spirit and everyone enjoys the day together.”
Susan Montgomery joined Sather as a co-sponsor in 2018. “She and I have been colleagues and a support system for each other over the years,” Sather said. “Our hope and goal this year is to use the Home Decorating Contest as a happy substitute for the 4th of July activities that had to be cancelled. Folks are not doing summer traveling, cannot watch the parade or fireworks, so this is a way to celebrate this wonderful holiday.”
Sather and Montgomery decided to expand the categories to five this year to encourage more participation. Sather laughs and admits, “We plagiarized the winner categories from the Rose Bowl Parade Float winning categories.”
They have also contacted several exterior lighting/decorating companies in case a resident would like to hire a professional to get the job done.
“It is always fun to look at houses year after year,” Sather said. “People are so clever at expressing the 4th of July patriotic elements.”
HOME DECORATING CATEGORIES:
1) “Hometown Style,” which means using homemade decorative elements. In 2015, the Jack and Sharon Sutton family on Galloway was the winner with a colored cutout paper USA in the front window and small flags located throughout their drought-tolerant landscape. In an interview that year, Zach Sutton, 8, who was visiting his grandparents from New Jersey, said: “I took big pieces of paper and cut the lines with a ruler. It was my idea to put up the stars around the USA, too.”
2) With “In This Together,” the idea is to best represent that theme. Have your family put on their thinking caps and come up with what Covid-19 and safer-at-home means to everyone.
3) “Proof Through the Night” will finally give those who decorate with lights a chance to shine. Generally, judges just see the daytime effort, but in the past they were told that there were some outstanding lighting displays. If you are one of the people who have a myriad of star lights or red, white and blue lights framing your house—this is the category for you.
4) The “Americana Award” will go to the house that best depicts national treasures and traditions. One of the most beautifully decorated patriotic homes in past contests belonged to the Hassett family on DePauw. The flags and patriotic bunting drew ahs from the neighbors and those walking/driving past.
5) The “Grand Champion Award” will be given for best-overall display. The Mercer family on Toyopa, which won in 2010 and 2013, managed to decorate not only the front yard, but their house as well.