Visiting the Sam Maloof House

As the year winds down so does my 2019 Must Visit List and I’m happy to say it’s nearly complete. Last weekend I was able to check off another location when I visited the Sam Maloof house in Rancho Cucamonga. For years I’d seen its marker on the 210 freeway and I finally used my birthday as a excuse to get off the road and check it out.

The Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts is located at the base of the San Gabriel mountains in the Inland Empire city of Rancho Cucamonga. Named for the famed mid-century furniture designer and his equally talented wife it features a gallery, garden, historic home and more on a picturesque 5.5 acre site.

Sam Maloof was born in Chino and spent the majority of his life in Southern California. Trained under the famed mosaic artist, Millard Sheets, he developed a furniture style uniquely his own and became one of the leading designers of the mid-century. With Alfreda he ran his woodworking studio from the family compound in Rancho Cucamonga. A little slice of paradise hand built by the couple over several decades it was threatened with demolition when the 210 freeway was extended in the early millennium. Luckily, the family home was declared a historic landmark and moved 2 miles north of the freeway. Sam remained there until his death in 2009 and it became a museum soon after.

Today the entire compound, including the historic home, is open to the public. The gardens and galleries are free of charge, there are workshops and classes offered and there are regularly scheduled home tours. The tours tend to sell out so I made sure to purchase my tickets ahead of time and, last Saturday, my family and I headed there for the first tour of the day.

We arrived early and headed to the garden for quick stroll. Filled with California native plants it features wandering paths with surprises around every corner. And by surprises I mean art. Lots and lots of art.

Currently on display are two exhibitions – Sculptures in the Garden featuring a range of artists and Convergent Discourse featuring the work of Larry White and Lauren Verdugo. Both whimsical and thought provoking the displays are a welcome addition to the flora and fauna.

Soon it was time for the tour and we headed to the house. We started with an introductory video about Sam Maloof and the moving of the home and then headed inside. No photos are allowed inside the home so you’ll just have to take my word for it – it’s extraordinary. Completely hand built by Sam and Alfreda it’s unlike any home I’ve seen before. Filled with stained glass, pottery, woodwork and more it’s a thoroughly unique mid-century home. I adored every inch of it and upon entering each room I found myself oohing and ahhing over what I saw. I wish I could share some pics with you but perhaps it’s better I can’t so you’ll go see it for yourself!

Not only was the home incredible but I learned so much about Sam and Alfreda thanks to our wonderful docent. She was extremely knowledgeable and her enthusiasm for the subject matter won us all over. She encouraged us to continue to enjoy the property so we headed to the gallery to view the exhibits.

Currently on display are two botanically inspired exhibits Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change and FLORAGALORA: Flora from the Maloof Garden which features artwork from Pat Warner. Both exhibits were filled with beautiful imagery and perfectly complemented the properties natural setting.

All too soon it was time to leave and we bid adieu to the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation. As it was my birthday I had convinced 6 family members to join me. Not one of us had been there before and by the time we left each and every one of us was fascinated by what we had seen. The Sam Maloof house is in the heart of Southern California yet remains a hidden gem. I hope that changes because it’s one of the most wonderful places I’ve visited and should be enjoyed by many. When you’re driving on the 210 and see its historic marker be sure to get off so you too can enjoy an local treasure.