Tuesday, May 5, 2009


(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) – Restoring vintage homes is one way an interior designer can make a living. Designing commercial buildings is another. And teaching others how to do it is a third.

Riverside’s Tony Burton, an Interior Design instructor at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire and a former designer of the new Los Angeles County Medical Center at University of Southern California, does all three.

As a hobby, he loves to restore vintage homes. This passion has recently made him a bit of a celebrity, as a Victorian home he and wife Wilma restored and now live in appears on the March 2009 cover of Victorian Homes magazine.

 “Wilma, and I had an agent looking for a house for my mother-in-law. He found the perfect challenge for me – an 1893 actual city landmark.” David Gilson, one of the five founders of the city of Riverside, and its first treasurer, was the original owner. “But, when we saw it, it had been abandoned for five years,” Burton continues, “and vandals had taken about anything that could be moved.”

And a “challenge” it was. “I worked closely with the contractor at every step, having already designed health care facilities through my former company, Gene Burton and Associates.

“Wilma, an Emmy-winning television writer/producer, took on the task of Project Coordinator. I had to travel to my projects all the time, and left much of the job to her. What was especially good was that since we agree on design issues 99 percent of the time she didn’t have to wait for us to talk before making a decision. She monitored everything that had to be done, and kept the restoration on schedule.”

That schedule targeted one year to get the entire project finished. And they made it. Among numerous other tasks, Tony Burton took on the design and lighting, with the contractor responsible for the plumbing and re-wiring. “Also, my wife and I had been scouring auctions to find over-mantel pieces and period furniture then I do the restoration of it all,” he says.

The most difficult part of this difficult job? “Permits! There were permits for everything, and they seemed to take forever for the necessary approvals. Just a big pain.”

The Gilson home originally had five bedrooms, but the Burtons converted it into three upstairs for themselves. The first floor has been both restored and redecorated, to makeit a fully period showcase. The Burtons have lived in the home for the past five years.

“We often make the house and the first floor available to non-profit organizations,” he adds. “It’s perfect for fund raisers, parties, annual meetings. That sort of thing.”

The house may be seen at 3209 Mulberry and 2nd Street in Riverside. It’s easy to spot, with its colorfully restored paint job, echoing what David Gilson boasted more than a century ago. And the March issue of Victorian Homes magazine features this painted lady on the cover.

When Tony Burton isn’t captivated by another restoration, or running his clothing and art boutique, Citrus Punch Designs in Riverside, he’s on the faculty of the Interior Design Department at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire, a position he’s held since the fall quarter of 2008, under the guidance of Academic Director Sara Sandoval. His classes are Introduction to AutoCAD, Intermediate AutoCAD and Institutional Design. Burton is a graduate of O’More College of Design in Franklin, TN, with a bachelor’s degree in interior design.

Sandoval recalls, “We met at the FHA-HERO design competition in Riverside in 2008. We worked together as judges for the high school interior design section. I realized that Tony’s natural ability to work with aspiring young designers, his critical eye and his keen sense of the latest design trends would make him an excellent addition to our Interior Design team at the school.”

Even though his background encompassed the field of health care facilities design, this made a perfect experiential paring, explains Sandoval. “Part of our curricula includes competencies in health care planning and design.” His vast experience designing health care facilities with computer aided design (CAD) software was a major “plus,” too.

Burton clicked in the classroom right away. “With the first classes he taught,” Sandoval adds, “students were drawn to his professional expertise and his great sense of humor. What a marvelous addition Tony has become.”

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire offers Bachelor of Science degrees in Game Art & Design, Graphic Design, Web Design & Interactive Media, Interior Design, Fashion & Retail Management, and Media Arts & Animation. It offers an Associate of Science degree in Graphic Design, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design.

The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire offers an Associate of Science degree in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree in Culinary Management. Each program is offered on a year-round basis, allowing students to work uninterrupted toward their degrees.

It’s not too late to start a new term at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire. Courses begin May 18 and classes are offered in the day, evening and on weekends for new and reentry students.

For more information or a tour, call The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire at (909) 915-2100.

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire is one of The Art Institutes (www.artinstitutes.edu), with more than 40 educational institutions located throughout North America, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary arts professionals.