Monday, January 15, 2018

January Design Inspiration: Bullock’s Pasadena

Bullock's Pasadena (now Macy's) exterior (2018).

By Emilie Pallos

As a creative professional who loves architecture, I am particularly drawn to vintage department stores, especially those built in the 1920s through 1960s. Technology rules our lives, so it's nice to put away the computer screens once in awhile and step inside elegant, classic spaces for design inspiration.

Bullock’s Pasadena (1947) is a longtime favorite. From a young age, I remember many shopping visits to the store to purchase back-to-school clothes. Mom would not allow me to wear anything new until September, which seemed like an eternity! Fast-forward a few decades, and the same store is now Macy’s. And I still shop here.

Thankfully, the building retains its original architecture, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. L.A. architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket created the streamline moderne store which features inviting curves and breezeways (see photo above). Mr. Becket also designed gorgeous Bullock's stores for Palm Springs and Westwood, and other suburban branches.

Pasadena’s original open-air parking lot at the corner of Del Mar Blvd. and Lake Ave. has been replaced by Trader Joe's grocery and a multi-level garage, but some of landscape architect Ruth Shellhorn's planter boxes can be seen around the store's periphery. She was well-known for her tropical themes at Disneyland and her taste for exotic plants. Ruth was true maverick in her field. More info on Ruth here.

Current Macy's exterior windows display women's fashion. Bravo to Macy's for keeping these current! Inside, on the lower level, elegant curved cases display glassware and gift items (near the elevators). The Tea Room on the top floor is only a memory — the full-service restaurant closed when Bullock's was bought by Macy's. The Tea Room was the spot for people watching, fashion shows and lunch.

On the main floor, you can still admire the charming Pennsylvania Dutch mural in men’s furnishings, and gaze up at the nautical ceiling in the children's department (top floor). Asian art in the stairwell is a nice touch.

Three sales floors feature art, antiques and decorative touches, so walk through various departments and look around. The store has done an admirable job keeping the building both classic and up-to-date. Signage explains many of the decorative objects on view throughout the store.

Be sure to look for Hungarian designer Paul Laszlo’s elegant square display niches in the cosmetics department (behind the Clinique counter). These are gems!

Macy’s Pasadena
401 S. Lake Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91101


Emilie Pallos Graphic Design helps clients shine. High-quality, professional graphic design, photography and art direction for clients in a range of professions, from healthcare to the arts. 

We design and develop custom websites and create print design projects of all kinds — annual reports, brochures and publications, stationery and corporate identity, signage and more. Classic, yet modern.

Good design is good business.

Call Emilie 1 (818) 242-9055 or email us here.

View website with our newest work here.



Vintage linen postcard from my own collection. I have many Bullock's postcards!

Pennsylvania Dutch mural — men's furnishings

Designer glassware, lower level

Original architectural rendering by Wurdeman & Becket (artwork located on lower level).

Looking east toward Lake Avenue

Nighttime view — motor court entrance

Lake Avenue view


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