Sometimes it’s what you don’t see that counts. This was the case for CALM, or Child Abuse and Listening Mediation, when it modernized the interior of a Mission district home while trying to respect the integrity of the house’s architectural heritage.

Months ago, as part of its signature event of the year, Santa Barbara’s only child abuse prevention organization designated the George Washington Smith-designed Las Tapias (Spanish for “The Walls”) as its Design Showcase House. From September 4 to October 1, tours of the just completed house will be offered to the public, in addition to a slew of related events that combine charity and the latest in interior tech-design.

Las Tapias, situated at the corner of Los Olivos and Garden Streets, was built in 1922 without the technological bells and whistles that come with the modern home. Mixing the old with the new and bringing Las Tapias into the 21st century was the responsibility of interior designers Korpinen-Erickson, INC., and Hi Fi Club, both firms that specialize in custom homes.

The process of such an improvement can be difficult, involving a tricky game of incorporating new electronic equipment while preserving the footprint of a residence that in time has achieved architectural and historical merit. The challenges notwithstanding, the principal designers in this venture say houses like Las Tapias lend themselves well to this type of project.

“Larger historic residences such as Las Tapias are always good candidates for fine audio and video entertainment systems and related home control systems,” says Hans Betzholtz, who with wife, Elaine LeVasseur-Betzholtz, owns Hi Fi Club, a Santa Barbara audio and video contracting company.

“Originally designed for people who had busy social calendars, these houses often housed multiple generations at the same time,” Betzholtz continues. “The large living room and kitchen, formal dining and grand gardens offer gracious entertaining options. Since the modern luxury home no longer provides legions of live-in help to keep things up and running, today’s homeowners can depend upon home electronics to help them.”

The idea of hiding fixtures and internal equipment isn’t new, of course. Even at Las Tapias, plumbing and electrical systems were originally embedded into the home’s thick plaster walls. Home entertainment electronics, as it turns out, are treated no differently.

“Everything that is not desired to be seen and touched is hidden in walls, cabinetry or the basement,” says Marilynn Jorgensen, owner of Las Tapias. “These hidden elements last for decades and only the interfaces, such as TV control panels or disc players are switched out as desired, especially when new technologies become available.”

Working with Hi Fi Club, Jorgensen and her husband, Errol Jahnke, went after easy-to-use, sturdy, proven and high-quality products and did so with a firm budget. A fine home theatre was high on their list, as was a distributed music system and the capability of adding on to their music and theatre systems in the future. Hi Fi Club brought the newest technologies in video storage and Ethernet-linked control pads. Cabinetry below will contain a Sony Super Audio CD player and amplifier.

The music distribution system at Las Tapias will include a Crestron Adagio control system, Triad loudspeakers and Sony electronics. This system will also enable different music choices to be played in any combination of rooms at the same time. The whole system can be turned on or off from any Crestron control keypad or touchpad.

Adding to the drama of the makeover is discovering old secret rooms or passageways. In what used to be a garage will now be a media room/wet bar that will incorporate a state-of-the-art audio visual system that you enter through a hidden bookcase abutting the formal living room. The intimate library wall will conceal a high performance home theater system. As you enter, you’ll look up and see a Sony video projector in brushed aluminum featuring Sony’s High Definition SXRD technology. A small, wireless Crestron MT-1000 touch screen remote control adjusts room lighting and powers up the projector. There’s a Sony surround receiver and DVD player, a High Definition Cable TV receiver and a Da-Lite electric 92-inch video screen that descends from the ceiling.

Interior designers for the entire project, Neil Korpinen and Rick Erickson, used non-reflective materials and saturated colors, such as claret red, cocoa and burnt orange to create a muted theater-like atmosphere. “From the start, we wanted to create a modern day version of Spanish interior,” Korpinen says, “mixing old world with fresh, sometimes irreverent ideas such as having rugs made that use the design for a window grill shown on the original blueprints of the house.”

The designers also selected artwork that “mixes old and new,” such as two paintings of early Fiesta scenes at the Santa Barbara Courthouse. Their favorite accessory, though, is located in the master bedroom – a luxurious velvet throw pillow embroidered with: “George Washington Smith Slept Here.”

It’s a message that despite the extreme modern makeover, the traditional elements of Las Tapias rest safely in place.

Showcase House Tour

Dates: September 4 to October 1

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday,

10 am to 4 pm,

Sunday, noon to 4 pm

Cost: $25 in advance,

$30 at the door

Info: 965-2376

Special Events: Showcase House

Premiere Gala (September 2)

Brunch with the Interior Designers

(September 10 & 24)

Trunk Show (September 18)

Learn about the Architect

(September 17)

Landscape Architect Garden Tour

(September 12 & 19)