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Saturday, June 30, 2007

5 Books I Love About American Design

With the 4th of July holiday on the horizon, what better time to celebrate the great design of America. These books are a selection that I love the highlight the beauty of the classic American Style, simple, straightforward and with an inherent elegance. I hope you enjoy.



Just as a reminder if you click on the image it will take you straight to Amazon in case you want to purchase a copy for yourself.

1.

No list on American Design would be complete with Sister parish, the woman who almost single handedly created the profession. This book is a great read, as it is nice to see how little things have changed. She writes candidly about the process and the problems of dealing with clients etc, for anyone interested in the history of design, a great vacation read.


2.

A fine book by the editor of Metropolitan Home magazine. It captures the new vitality of American design, showing how much it has changed to fit today's lifestyle, without abandoning a great tradition. Beautifully shot images and a well constructed book, it is one of the staples of my library.

3.

I am a huge fan of the Arts and Crafts Style, and while it is English in it's origins it has morphed into a classic American style. This book is part of a terrific series on Bungalows and gives valuable information on restoration and remodeling. I recently worked on a Bungalow in Los Angeles and this series was the first place i turned for inspiration.



4.

I love the honest simplicity of the American Farmhouse, and this book is a great inspiration for anyone looking to create that style. It gives terrific insights and tips as well as great photo's for those who just want to look at the pictures:).

5.

It used to be all that I was ever asked to design was Tuscan or Mediterranean houses, but lately there have been more and more traditional American houses coming through the office, whether they be shingle or saltbox, I have loved them all. This book is a personal favorite because it shows some great examples of what you can do with that style, and how to work within the framework of Classic American Style but still come up with something unique and modern.


I hope you enjoy this list and have a great holiday (put another shrimp on the barbie for me ;) ).

Friday, June 29, 2007

Voices of Design: John Ellis, Architectural Photographer

I am always looking for people with a unique perspective for the Voices of Design postings that I write, and today I am interviewing just such a person. His name is John Ellis, and he is an architectural photographer, and I think his voice is unique because he is shouldered with the task of documenting design in a way that is both honest to the design, but seductive enough to sell a magazine. Sometimes these can be cross purposes.
John is a frequent contributor to some of the best magazines published today, such as Architectural Digest, Metropolitan Home, California Home + Design, and Metropolis. He also serves as an Executive Board Member of the Society of Architectural Historians, Southern California Chapter, for whom he organizes tours on the built environment in the region, which gives him a great historical background on the projects that he shoots. He is also photographing a book Simply Modern, The California Home of Harwell Hamilton Harris, to be published by Gibbs Smith by end of '07 (which I am sure will be on my book list as soon as it's available).
MC: How did you come to specialize in Architectural photography?

JE: I worked for Tim Street-Porter for a year and a half. That sold me on it. I liked spending the day with architects and designers. I found enjoyment in creating with light, studying these amazing architecturally inspired spaces and designing compositions. And, the glamorous lunches with editors and homeowners were always fun, too.
Working with space, light and composition were a strong match with my fine arts background. Before long, I shot 10 projects on my own, sent them to a few mags, which resulted in receiving my first assignment for the LA Times Magazine with Barbara Thornburg.

MC: Are there any particular elements that make your approach to shooting unique? Why do you think these are important?

JE: I approach each shoot with an open mind and let the shots ‘reveal’ themselves. Usually, if I’m open like this, I get excited to ‘see’ the shots as I explore the space Whether it’s ├╝ber-modern, traditional, eclectic, or its own thing: I want the essence of the project to be revealed in an ideal light. This is important so the projects looks and feels like it does to the eye, if not slightly better. I like including people, at least in one shot, to bring a sense of scale and life.

MC: When you shoot for a magazine, are you usually given free reign, or are you sent in with a particular shot list and direction?

JE: Both. But really you have to ‘explain the story’ of the house or project. If the editor isn’t present, usually a magazine has a specific list of shots they want. Generally it’s important to explain connections and the flow of a space while making pretty compositions. Even if It’s not on the shot list, I often like to do a vertical ‘cover try’. I like to give a little extra whenever possible.

MC: Do you find that particular magazines have characteristic looks? Can you give some examples?

JE: AD goes for drama and that super high-end thing. Met Home likes a more natural look, with architecturally inspired, design-forward projects: modern but with an edge. Others, like California Home + Design choose to capture the lifestyle and show a range of styles. Interior Design is into super graphic imagery and high concept projects. House Beautiful leans more toward the traditional these days while Better Homes and Gardens is ‘hipping’ things up. There’s a place for every well-done project. I often submit projects for designers to appropriate publications, which is a win-win for both the designer and me, if it gets picked up.

MC: What is your favorite style to shoot?
JE: I like punchy, clever, graphic and just plain beautiful.

MC: Do you shoot in digital or on film? What are the pros and cons of each?

JE: I shoot both. I like film, shooting medium format and capturing the essence. Digital is very immediate, very flexible, and the results are stunning. Digital is evolving and I am with it.

MC: What have been some of your toughest assignments?

JE: The all night shoot for Cost Plus World Market in Ventura was challenging. But driving home from Ventura along the Coast at dawn was my just reward.

MC: If you could no longer be a photographer, what would you be and why?

JE: Interesting question. I’d probably go into something completely different. Like maybe being a freelance Editor (well that’s not so different). Or maybe an Occupational Therapist, as I dig the mind-body connection to wellness.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday is Resource Day



I love writing on Thursdays because it gives me a chance to highlight another resource and hopefully give them some great exposure. As a designer, you are only as good as the resources you are able to find, and today's resource Dos Gallos is a great one.
Located in West Hollywood this company provides an incredible one stop shop for all sorts of antiques and reproductions from Central and South America, as well as Spain, Italy and Greece. I have bought anything from tables and chairs to incredible old doors (that make great art pieces hung on a wall if you don't have a doorway big enough).
I think that the staff is very knowledgeable and above all, pleasant to deal with and are willing to find that special piece you have been looking for. My other favorite thing is that they keep their website up to date with new pieces, so I can stay current while sitting at my desk.
So give this company a try, I think that a trip to their warehouse is a real adventure, or just try them on the Internet, either way, I am sure you will like what you find.
Dos Gallos
924 N. Formosa Ave,
Los Angeles CA 90046

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Using Mirrors in Decoration


It occurred to me as I was going over a bunch of old images, that I use mirrors a lot in my work. This is not by any means a deliberate decision, but is more of an intuitive one. So I thought today, I would put some thoughts down about ways you may want to consider using mirror to create a more dynamic room.
  • First of all, be sure that you have something to reflect. Try sitting or standing in the spot that benefits most from the mirror's reflection, and see what you see. Hopefully, it will be a view to a window or a vista through the house, not a direct shot at the Powder Room.
  • If the spot that you deem for your mirror has an unfortunate view, but you are determined that is still the location, consider an antiqued mirror, it will break up the view but still throw some nice light around the room.
  • Another way to break up a less than ideal view in your reflection is to use a collection of mirrors, like I did in the image above, that will also help with your problem.
  • Treat the mirror almost like another window in the room. If it is going on a wall opposite a window, you may want to consider mimicking the windows proportion, or keeping the top of the mirror at the same height as the top of the window. The same thing can be said about floor standing mirrors, try to keep them about the same size as any doors that are nearby.
  • Lastly mirror walls. I am personally not a big fan, I understand that it can help open a space up and can make a space more dramatic, but for me it is uncomfortable to keep seeing movement in the corner of my eye every time I walk through the room.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The 100th Post!!

Today is my 100th post for this blog. I started on something of a whim one Saturday morning, and quickly became addicted to the world of blogging. I now can't get through my breakfast without checking my numbers, planning a post or checking on as many of the other blogs I regularly read, as possible. Thanks to everyone who checks in often to see what I have to say, I hope that you find some of this information useful. Thanks too for all of the other sites that have asked me to guest blog with them, that is really fun to share ideas with your readers too.
So stay tune it's only going to get better, with more regular interviews coming up, as well as a new look in the works. Thanks again, now onward to post number 200!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

5 Big Books I love

Every Saturday I post a list of 5 of my favorite books on any given subject, sometimes it has to do with something I have been focused on during the week, for instance last weeks list on Florida. Today, I am feeling in somewhat of a lazy mood, and have been browsing through some of the big books that sit on my coffee table, and I thought that it might be an interesting list.
The idea of Cabinets of Curiosities have always fascinated me, as I love to collect things. So this book quickly has become one of my favorites, it's like a trip to the Natural History Museum, in the comfort of your own home.


Warhol's work presented in a large format like this seems to do it more justice. This 15lb book covers Warhol's whole life and includes not just great reproductions of his work, but copies of letters and photo's of friends and acquaintances. Even for people who have Warhol books, this is a fresh look, that will hold something new for everyone.


Well it's no surprise this made my list, Candida Hoffer is one of my favorite photographers and when the lens is turned to Libraries, the result is extraordinary. This is one of my favorite gifts for book lovers and is always well received.


This book has been on other lists of mine I know, but I think it is one of the best homages to a city I have ever seen. Aside from the great photography, the way the book has been put together it tells the story of the city through its often maligned architecture.


This is just a great piece of fantasy. The world of fashion photography at its shining best. I might not be able to find a thing to wear here, but it sure inspires you to look.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Creating a Sense of Entry


I know, I know, you only get one chance to make a first impression. But beyond this, an Entry has requirements other than aesthetic. It is a transitional space that is you buffer to the outside, it should be big enough to great guests, and a place where jackets can be taken, cocktails given and then be ready to move on to the rest of the house.
The Entry above is from a large house I did in Southern California, my clients bought it and I was responsible for the remodel. One of the things that always bugged me was that you approached this home, through a long drive and beautiful tropical garden, but once you got to the front door, you walked right into the Living Room, almost without any transition. We wanted to give the house a sort of Modern Asian feel, so I was able to add some elements to help both the sense of Entry and the Asian motif. Here are some of the things I did, you may be able to apply some of these ideas to your home:
  • The first thing was to lower the ceiling right inside the front door. To do this I created this wood screen that we draped above the door. It creates a more intimate feeling within the larger space, and the way it transitions from low to high, and narrow to wide as you enter, really draws you into the room.
  • Next was lighting. Good, flattering lighting is an imperative part of the Entry experience. I added some downlights (low voltage) above the screen so that the light passes through and creates a dramatic shadow on the floor, and then balanced that with sconces attached to the columns that will light peoples faces (I didn't want them to be striped with shadow). Then using a combination of other recessed lights and table lamps I was able to get the light levels higher, creating a transition when you stepped beyond the protection of the screen.
  • A pair of dramatic Chinese antique chairs flank the door, making a place to sit, also adds a sense of graciousness to the space. I always think that a chair in an Entry is crucial.
  • Also, adding a rug, that serves just the Entry, helps to mark this as a special area. In this case I used something with a lot of color and pattern (it will disguise dirt well).
  • Finally, just to add another layer of detail, I put grasscloth wallpaper over the ceiling. One of the issues with this type of paper is that you always seem to see seams. I counter this by cutting the paper into squares and lay it in a basketweave pattern. That way you make the seams work for you as a extra bit of detail.

I hope that there are some ideas here that you can use to help make you Entry a bit more special.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Resource Day-Before and After

















I was going through some old photo's the other day and I came across some shots I had taken in a house, before we started work, and you can see beside it, the completed picture of the new Dining Room. So I thought today, for resource day I would let you in on the resources I used to make this project come to life. Let me walk you through some of the things I did to create more warmth and detail in the space.
  • I decided that the old fireplace needed to go. The mirrored overmantle was serving no real purpose (in my mind a mirror should always give you something to see, and a reflection of the Entry didn't justify it being there). So I removed the mantle and replaced it with a new one, that had more architectural detail. (www.kernswilcheck.com)
  • The next thing was the walls. I decided that wall paper would give me another layer of detail, so I went with this handpainted paper by Cowtan and Tout.
  • In a lot of my projects I custom design pieces to create a unique look, and this was no exception, the chandelier is a custom piece, based on several antiques that I had found. It was made for me by the guys at Paul Ferrante (www.paulferrante.com)
  • The chairs too, were made especially for me, based on some photograph's of some antiques that I had seen. This is not an unusual request, sometimes antiques are too small in scale or too delicate to use in situations where they will get a lot of use, so reproducing them is always a good option. Just make sure that you find someone who works in that style, and Richard Mulligan specialises in early American, so was the perfect choice (www.richardmulligan.com) .
  • The table is a design by Formations in Los Angeles, they are part of the Dennis and Leen group, and unfortunately do not have a web presence, but if you are in Los Angeles a trip to their Melrose Ave showroom is not to be missed.
  • Now for some of the other pieces in the room. The white wrought iron console on the right, is actually an old balcony that I purchased and repurposed from a terrific Architectural Salvage yard that I frequent, Scavengers Paradise (www.scavengersparadise.com) . And the stunning metal sconces on either side of the fireplace come from Mecox Gardens (www.mecoxgardens.com ) one of my favorite stores in L.A. and with stores on the East Coast too.

Well, that gives you an insight into who I use, I know it's a bit out of the ordinary for Resource Day, but I thought it might be helpful.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How to Hire a Designer


A lot of the advice and tips that I give on this blog is about how to tackle design projects in your home by yourself. Often times though, it is important to realise that the project is beyond your abilities, whether in complexity or budget. This is the time that you need to consider hiring a professional. This task can be intimidating, so I thought I would layout some tips about how to go about this process, and things to look for, so that you make the right decision.


  • Always interview at least three people. Throughout the industry there is remarkable diversity of people. We are all different in the way we conduct ourselves and our business, so by interviewing several people you are able to get some perspective on what works well for you.

  • Don't be afraid to ask friends or acquaintances, who they used, and how the experience was. A personal reference could save you lots of time. When you meet with a designer, ask to see a completed project, sometimes this might not be possible, if that's the case, always ask for a few references.

  • when looking at a portfolio, ask lots of questions. Why did you use this color? Why this chair? It is important that you see how decisions are explained, this will give you some insight into the process of selection, that the designer uses.

  • Most of all, find someone that you like. You will be spending lots of time and money with this person, while they do not have to be your new best friend, it is crucial that you like and trust them, or else what can be a difficult process to begin with can become harrowing.

  • Have a few ideas about what your particular likes and dislikes are. Maybe this is some pictures from magazines etc, enough to give the designer a bit of a direction toward what your style is. Having said that, be open to new approaches, part of the goal of hiring someone is that they bring new ideas to the table, so be open to hearing that.

I hope this gives you some thoughts about how to go about the process, remember my contact info is at the top of the page if you want one on the World's Top 40 Designers! :)


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Voices of Design: Thomas Lavin: Arbiter of Taste



Today I am posting an interview I did with Thomas Lavin, who owns a showroom at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. For those of you not familiar with the Design Center, it is a large building in the heart of Los Angeles' Design District. It houses some of the most prestigious showrooms in the city, and is regarded as one of the best resources for designers on the West Coast.


A little background on Thomas first, and why I think he has a unique voice in the community. He opened his first showroom in 2000, and then after several expansions, finally moved to the Design Center in 2005. Aside from being one of the youngest showroom founders, his showroom hosts some of the most interesting talent around. His eye for spotting new trends and creating careers for young designers sets him apart from his competition. He has created a business based on fine ethics and strong personal relationships, I consider him a great friend and a true inspiration. More info can be found at his website http://www.thomaslavin.com/ .

MC: Your showroom at the Pacific Design Center is unique among other reasons, because it represents several lines of products created by Interior Designers -Madeline Stuart, Michael Smith and David Dalton- to name just a few. Is this a deliberate decision?

TL: I HAVE SELECTED THE LINES TO REPRESENT BASED ON A VARIETY OF CRITERIA:
I’M GUIDED BY MY EYE AND MY GUT WHEN I FIRST CONSIDER A LINE FOR THE SHOWROOM. IF I LOVE IT, THEN I PURSUE IT
HOW IT RELATES TO THE REST OF MY SHOWROOM IS KEY; EVERY LINE THAT I REPRESENT IS OF THE HIGHEST QUALITY IN DESIGN AND MANUFACTURE
REPRESENTING WELL KNOWN DESIGNERS IN THEIR HOME TERRITORY SEEMS TO BE A SLAM DUNK FROM A BUSINESS POINT OF VIEW. OUR CUSTOMERS (DESIGNERS) AND THEIR CLIENTS VISIT THE SHOWROOM SEEKING OUT THESE LINES


MC: To someone who has never visited your showroom, how would you describe it? And to what do you attribute your success?



TL: THOMAS LAVIN IS A HIGH-END, COUTURE, HOME-FURNISHINGS SHOWROOM. OUR PRODUCT RANGES FROM CONTEMPORARY AND TRANSITIONAL TO TRADITIONAL
I AM IN A SERVICE BUSINESS AND WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT MY CUSTOMERS AND VENDORS ALIKE ARE WELL CARED FOR. DESIGNERS CAN BUY CHAIRS AND FABRIC FROM ANYONE; BUT I ACTUALLY CARE AND I THINK THEY GET THAT


MC: With the rise of the Internet, consumers have more and more access to information and product, previously the domain of only Designers. As a trade only vendor, how do you deal with this, and how do you see your business changing as this trend continues?



TL: MY EXPERIENCE IS THAT WHEN THE CONSUMER IS AT THE LEVEL OF APPRECIATING AND AFFORDING MY PRODUCT, THEY HAVE AN INTERIOR DESIGNER. THEY MAY RESEARCH OR PRE-SHOP, BUT THEY HAVE THEIR DESIGNER GET IN TOUCH WITH US DIRECTLY ON THEIR BEHALF.
MY BUSINESS SEEMS TO INCREASE WITH CONSUMER AWARENESS; IT SEEMS THAT DESIGNERS AND THEIR CLIENTS WORK IN A MORE COLLABORATIVE WAY THAN IN PREVIOUS DECADES.
OUR CUSTOMERS, THE DESIGNERS, ARE REALLY BUSY, SO SOMETHING IS WORKING

MC:When you decided to open your own space, what was the void that you were hoping to fill?



TL: FIRST AND FOREMOST, MY SHOWROOM REPRESENTS A VARIETY OF LINES, SOME COUTURE AND ACCESSIBLE ON A LIMITED BASIS, AND OTHERS THAT WANT TO BE IN A SHOWROOM WHERE THEIR LINE WILL SHINE AND NOT JUST BE CRAMMED INTO A CORNER. WHEN I OPENED, I WANTED A DESTINATION WHERE DESIGNERS COULD SHOP AND RECEIVE SERVICE FROM (ME, THE OWNER). I WAS, AND REMAIN, ACCESSIBLE. I WANTED TO OFFER A PLACE WHERE CUSTOMERS ARE WARMLY GREETED AND TAKEN CARE OF. THERE ARE MANY SHOWROOMS WHERE DESIGNERS FEEL PUT OFF BY STAFF THAT THINKS THEY KNOW IT ALL. THAT IS REALLY TEDIOUS.

MC: As someone whose reputation is built on staying one step ahead of the trends, what do you forecast we will be seeing in the next year or so?



TL: AT THIS SEGMENT OF THE MARKET, I SEE THE RARE AND LUXURIOUS CONTINUE TO INCREASE IN SALES. THERE ARE A RANGE OF STYLES THAT PEOPLE PURCHASE; THE ECLECTIC IS HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER. IT IS TRULY AN FASCINATING TIME.

MC: Over the last couple of years your business has continued to flourish, as many around you have faltered. How have you bucked this trend?



TL: AGAIN, I HOPE IT IS A PERSONAL LEVEL OF SERVICE THAT I AND MY STAFF OFFER. ADDITIONALLY, WE ARE PRO-ACTIVE IN OUR MARKETING EFFORTS. WE HOST EVENTS, SEND OUT DIRECT MAIL, AND CHECK IN WITH OUR CUSTOMERS BY PHONE. WE WORK HARD. I WANT TO SELL NOT ONLY THE BED, BUT ALSO THE MATTRESS, BOX SPRINGS, NIGHT STANDS, TABLE LAMPS, SHEETS, AND ACCESSORIES.

MC: Imagine we were looking forward to the 20th anniversary of Thomas Lavin, what would you have liked to have achieved?



TL: THAT I RETAIN THE SAME PASSION FOR THE INDUSTRY AND MY BUSINESS WHICH FUELS ME TODAY.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

5 Books I Love About Florida

I am in Miami, Florida this weekend, so I was inspired for this weeks book list. I hope you find some things here that inspire you.

Addison Mizner, almost single handedly created the concept of Florida. His work on both residential and commercial projects has set the tone for the state that even continues today. This book provides some great images and insights into his philosophy that I think are fascinating. Here is the story of a man, who visited a swamp, and imagined a tropical wonderland.



Long considered the ultimate playground of the rich and famous. Well that continues to this day and they have built some of the greatest homes, all of which are featured here. The houses vary from Italian Villa's to French Chateaus. If you want a book about architecture as fantasy, then this is the book for you.



Miami's South Beach is known for it's amazing collection of art deco gems. This book highlights some of the best examples. It shows some great examples of the flamboyant style of early Miami. The candy cane colors, capture the tropical, resort feeling.



What started as an experiment in "New Urbanism" and has revolutionised the way people look at planned communities. This book highlights some of the beautiful homes that have been created in this community, perched on Florida's gulf coast.



The "New Miami" is a chic cosmopolitan city, full of cutting edge style. This group, Arqitectonica was one of the first to create that break out style. Their work continues to push the envelope and redefine the skyline of this growing city.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Resource Day- Tile Painter






As people who read this blog regularly know, I am fascinated by the design work done in California during the 20' and 30's. It was a high water mark as far as I am concerned. One of the things that many of the great works done during that period have in common is beautiful tile work. A lot of that tile was created by Malibu Potteries, which was a company located in Malibu. The factory was destroyed by fire years ago, but the home of the Family that owned it is still there and is now a museum. The Adamson House in Los Angeles is special because the owners used it as a virtual showroom for wares, so every room, has another example of tile in it, whether it is a fireplace, a bathroom or a stairway, it really is something to see.








Luckily there are a few companies now that sell reproductions of these designs. My favorite is California Pottery and Tile Works (www.calpot.com ) I think they do an amazing job of recreating the old tile. Their website features some great examples as well that you will want to check out. But the best thing about the site is an add on program called Tile Painter (www.tilepainter.com ). This is the tool you need because one of the hallmarks of this pottery is the amount and complexity of color. This handy tool, allows you to color your tiles, see it on screen and then print out a specification sheet with all the colors marked. Trust me, this will save you hours and many prototypes, I think it's just genius.








They are very easy people to deal with too, so check out the site and you will have many happy hours of coloring ahead of you. The image above is a room I did recently with them, I hope it gives you some inspiration.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

New Feature! Design Project Day: Temporary House



Today I am introducing a new feature called Design Project Day, where I will talk about a project that I am working on in the office at the moment. What i hope to do, is to provide some insight, into how to put a design together, and also share some insight as to what a designers process is like. Please, give me feed back, as to whether this is something you want to hear about or not.


At the moment I am working on a very interesting project that has it's own special quirks. It is for a couple with children, who plan to tear down their existing house and build a new one. So they need a temporary place to live in the meantime. They have found a place, and since construction may go on for well over a year, they have asked me to decorate in a way that they will be comfortable, but still not spend a ton of money on things that they may ultimately not need.


So how do you pull a house together on a shoestring, but make it look and feel like a million dollars? Here are some tips:




  • Do not skimp on upholstery! The moment you sit down you can tell, by all means use a inexpensive fabric, but use a quality piece, cheap stuff is not that much cheaper that it justifies discomfort.


  • Save money on tables and lamps, you can find great ones at some of the big retailers like Crate and Barrel or Ikea. Remember though, the less you spend, keep the design simple. There is no way to make a complex lamp cheaply, if you want to save money here, keep the shapes simple.


  • Think outside the box. I am a big fan of old used furniture stores. The chairs above I got for a beach house, for nothing at a consignment store, then had them painted red, now they look great.


  • Layering will give you a very rich, detailed feel. Don't forget, rugs and drapery, those touches will make the room warmer and feel more complete.


  • Use a mixture of new and old things, you want to create an illusion that this is a collection that has grown over time, not just delivered by the UPS man.


I will let you know in the weeks ahead how it's turning out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bathrooms, Some Fresh Ideas

Kitchens and Bathrooms can be some of the most challenging and expensive rooms in a house to design. Because of this, I try to make my designs as timeless as possible, but at the same time, try and inject some fresh ideas, so that they don't look boring and uninteresting. The bathroom pictured above, is in an old 1920's style home that I recently worked on, I think that we were pretty successful in staying true to the period, but here are some ways that we tried to make it feel fresh and and a bit out of the ordinary.



  • One of the first things you might notice is that the floors are wood, normally a big no no. If you look in the image, you will notice a stone slab, right outside of the shower, this is the wettest part of the bathroom, and it serves to protect the floor from water damage. Its a great feeling to walk on bare wood in a bathroom, it is so much warmer than tile or stone. On another Bathroom I did recently I also used wood, but used a marine varnish on it (normally used on boats) that will also protect the floor, and with some care you could even eliminate the stone slab.


  • I wanted an open, airy feeling, so instead of creating a wall to provide privacy to the commode, I used a wooden folding screen, it takes a lot less space and doesn't intrude on the architecture of the room, and can even be a cool place to hang paintings over the tub.


  • Instead of using art to decorate the walls, I found these great stained glass windows, and incorporated them into the design. Sourcing out great salvage places in your city, can really help you get some unusual at a very affordable price.


  • Look into using free standing towel and toilet paper holders, once again it is those small details that will provide you with interest in a timeless sort of way.


  • I really like freestanding tubs as well. This particular tub is by Ultrabath and also is jetted so you can still get the therapeutic benefits of that while maintaining a classic, old world look.

The key to success is to keep your design simple and be clear about your concept, it will make decision making easier and the end result better.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Answer Day: Drapes and Cats


Today's question, came from another designer, who is working with a client at the moment who is a cat person. The problem she is facing is how to deal with window treatments that will withstand the affection of her feline friends. I really appreciate this kind of question, because good design is all about solving peoples individual design problems in an elegant, sophisticated way. Here are some thoughts that hopefully will lead to beautiful windows and a happy cat.



  • Obviously, declawing the cat is not an option, it would seem then that you will need to find a fabric that can hold up to Kitty's affection. I would suggest that you use an ultra suede. It is a synthetic fabric, made to look like suede. Because it is not a woven fabric, it doesn't really give the cat a way of getting hold of it. Also for the same reason, you don't even need to hem it, because there are no threads to come undone. This fabric will give a clean, modern feel, as it it too thick to pleat at the top, so you will need to use grommets instead.




  • Another idea is to use roman shades on the windows. If you use a loose Roman, you can still get almost the same softness as a drape, but it will be safely out of reach (if it is a window, not a french door).




  • A wooden Venetian blind is also a possibility, but becomes a little "drier" than you might be hoping for. You could always add a valance or cabot, but that would work mostly with a more traditional style.




  • If you want to block the view but still need light, there are a variety of companies that provide adhesive sheets that stick onto windows and provide privacy, but still allow light through, and give some tidy pattern too. http://www.surfacematerialdesign.co.uk/

I hope that these ideas help, and good luck with your design.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

5 Books I Love About Architects

Every weekend I post about "5 Books I love about..." and mostly it has been about Interior Designers etc, naturally enough I think. But where would Interior Designers be without Architects. My training was originally in Architecture (thank you University of Qld, Brisbane Australia), and I switched over to doing mostly Interiors about 15 years ago. However, this has given me the greatest respect for Architects and there art. So, I have put together a sampling of books that cover most styles of homes, about Architects that I really enjoy. Most of these have done large scale commercial work as well, but I really enjoy seeing what these designers do, on a smaller residential scale, I hope you do too.


1.
I doubt that any list on Architecture, residential or otherwise would be complete without Frank Lloyd Wright. His work redefined Modern Architecture, by creating a link between tradition, context and modernism. This book shows a series of his greatest houses, and would serve as a great introduction to his style.


2.
Over the last twenty years or so, a trend has arisen, of huge scale residential architecture, often derisively call "McMansions". The term is often well deserved, as these new mega-homes are often poorly planned pastiches of traditional and classical architecture. Then along came Robert Stern, who has an incredible depth of knowledge about classical design, and has managed to find a way to design on a large scale but still create buildings that are timeless and beautiful. My favorites have always been the shingle style houses he has created out in the Hampton's, but the book also includes some of his Mediterranean homes done in other parts of the country as well. For those who enjoy great homes on a large scale, this is not to be missed.


3.
While much is made of the Mediterranean homes of Florida, by Addison Mizner etc, Florida also has a rich tradition of Modern Architecture, and this book is about one of it's greatest practitioners. Paul Rudolph created some of the best Modern houses in the state that expertly blended tropical fantasy with modernism. His unique voice is a great counterpoint to the traditional work that was going on around him.


4.
In recent years Richard Meier's reputation has exploded with his development of the Getty Center in Los Angeles, as well as other huge projects around the world. Given the size of most of his projects, I find it fascinating to see him work on a more intimate scale. Most of these houses are not huge, but they all embody his classic modernist outlook. I particularly enjoyed the beach houses.


5.
No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a tour of the tony suburbs of Beverly Hills, Bel Air and San Marino. These neighborhoods, constructed mostly in the 20's and 30's are full of great Mediterranean homes that are inspiring in their detail and execution. This man, Wallace Neff is responsible for some of the best examples. His frequent trips to Europe and his eye for detail, gave his work a look of effortlessness that seems timeless even today. This book is a great story about one of the first society Architects in Hollywood, and is a great addition to any collection.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Resource Day- Gump's



Every major city has one or two stores that define it's shopping identity. In Los Angeles there is Fred Segal, New York has Begdorf Goodman, and in San Francisco there is Gump's. While the first two stores I mentioned are department stores, although boutique ones, Gumps is a home decor wonderland. Spread over two glorious floors in downtown San Francisco, this store embodies what a great shopping experience is all about, from old standbys to new pieces by undiscovered talents.
They sell tabletop in all it's varieties from the most stunning European designs, to more handsome everyday pieces. What I especially love is that they try to discover and foster new talent as well, here you will see work by emerging glass and metal artists as well that gives the store a fresh, vibrant appeal. There is also an extensive furniture and accessory department as well. The price points vary from very reasonable to "are you sure that's right?", which I really like, because that blend of high and low brow, makes for a much more interesting combination.
While I visit this store every time I get the chance, their well put together web site is a great way to stay up to date on the latest goings on (www.gumps.com). So please, take a few minutes and browse through what they offer, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Take a Look at My New Web Site

Well, I am happy to announce that I have finally gotten around to updating my Web Site. To be honest, I have to thank Meryl Pollen our graphic artist and Jack Brown, who works with me, who put it all together, despite my lethargy. I think they did a tremendous job, and it now highlights some new projects. So take a look and let me know your thoughts.
The next project is to update the look of the Blog, so stay tuned for that one!

Designing with One Color

I have been working on a new project recently that has been giving me trouble. It is a beautiful house, right on the beach, for a young family. I have been struggling with getting the right approach, that is sophisticated enough for the parents, but usable enough for the family. I have tried all sorts of patterns, textures and prints, but nothing seems to resonate with me. My work is known for it's subtle blend of pattern and colors, so that is the approach I have been using. This morning i had a breakthrough, though. I have decided to use this great linen texture on everything. It will be Upholstery in the Living Room, chairs in the Dining Room and even some wall upholstery in the Entry. It is going to be terrific!
using a relatively monochromatic color scheme can be tricky, you have to be very careful not to let it get too bland, here are some thoughts on how to bring your singular vision to life:
  • While you may decide to go with one color on all your major pieces, use accent color and texture on things like pillows etc. In my new scheme, I am contrasting the linen texture with some silk and wool pillows, the contrast between a rustic fabric and something more refined, elevates the mood of the room and creates some splashes of interesting color.
  • If you are using predominately one color, you will have to find other ways to create interest, so that the eye will move around the room. I am introducing an old, rustic dining table, this antique piece will give me the interest, I would otherwise have used color to create.
  • If you are going to do most or all of your upholstery in the one fabric, make sure that you change up the shapes. If all of your pieces look similar in shape, then you will run the risk of looking like a "suite' of furniture, you want it to look like a collection that is unified by color, not a last minute purchase at a big furniture store.
  • As far as what color to choose, there are basically two schools of thought. My approach is soft, subtle color that blends with what is going on. The other approach is to go for drama, with a strong color or pattern, I like this approach a lot, but it's not one that I use a lot, I am always concerned that it will get dated very quickly.

Anyway, I hope that this gives you some inspiration when you sit down to design your rooms.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Answer Day: Wicker


Today's question was posed by a woman, who is a big fan of wicker furniture, but also has young kids. Her concern is whether or not she can incorporate wicker into her home, without fear of the kids ruining it. The short answer to that question is yes, and no. It really depends on the pieces you have in mind.



Like all types of furniture, wicker comes in a variety of qualities and styles, and this will determine it's suitability for your home. The classic designs that we are all used to seeing on the Southern Porch is large with lots of loose weaving, is probably not the best choice, as it has a lot of fairly unsupported pieces that give it it's decoration. On the other hand, there is now a whole group of wicker furniture that is a little simpler in design and works well in almost any situation. The image of the sofa above is a good example of this.

There are several manufacturers that build this furniture too, and like most things, the less expensive the items are (Pier 1 and World Market), the less likely the piece will hold up to lots of stress. I have always had success with Walters Wicker (www.walterswicker.com), they have a great selection of product, that are reasonable in price, but with a quality that I feel good about.

Now, the other option that you have, especially if it is the more decorative kind of wicker that you had in mind, is to choose pieces, other than seating. A decorative plant stand, or occasional table will probably be safe from the onslaught of most kids, but will still give you the look that you are after.

I hope that this has helped, let me know what you decide on.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

5 Books I Love about Gardens

So each Sunday I am planning on posting a group of 5 books about a particular subject. As anyone who reads this Blog regularly knows, I am passionate about books (I have a collection of about 2000 design books) and I firmly believe that they are a necessary resource for anyone serious about design. While I think magazines are great, they do not give an in depth analysis that a book offers. Today's list is about gardens. You will notice that when it comes to gardens, I am a bit of a traditionalist and also a bit California-centric, but I hope that you enjoy the list, and that I have piqued your interest.

This book by Winnifred Dobyns, was originally published more than 50 years ago, but it has become one of the touchstones for anyone interested in the great gardens that were constructed in Southern California in the last century. But this reprint is much more than a historical book, it can provide some great inspiration for anyone looking to create an old world garden that captures some of the qualities of the classic European gardens.

2.

Almost any book by David Hicks is worthy of making almost any list of great design books (in fact I think one of my future lists will be my favorite David Hicks books). I particularly enjoy this book, as Mr. Hicks gives you access into some of the greatest and eccentric gardens in the world. It is beautifully shot and with insightful descriptions, this book is one of the most used in my collection.

3.

No list on gardens would be complete without a book by the legendary English Garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll. She is known for her books on designing classic English Gardens and borders. Her theories on layering color and texture in gardens, have influenced generations of garden designers, no matter of the style that they work on. This book on Arts and Crafts Gardens is a more accessible volume about creating a thematic garden. California has a great Arts and Crafts tradition, so this book has been particularly helpful to me, and would make a great addition for anyone who wants to create a loose cottage style garden.

4.

I included this book for people who enjoy gardens, but do not "garden". For those of us who prefer to sit on the porch and enjoy the garden, rather than dig in the soil, and actually garden, this is the book for you. It is a great story written by a couple as they construct a garden at their new home. Follow the ups and downs as they try different plantings, and follow them to the their ultimate success. It's a perfect gift for your gardening friends too (couple it with some cool gardening gloves and some great bulbs and it makes the ideal gift).
5.

For all of you that think a garden is all floral borders and gravel paths, this is a terrific book. Written by Pamela Burton (a more than accomplished Los Angeles Landscape Designer in her own right) this book looks at contemporary gardens of Southern California. Los Angeles in particular has a great collection of mid-century modern houses, and to see how these are complemented by imaginative landscape is very interesting to see. I think that Pamela's descriptions provide both insight and a historical perspective that really bring these gardens alive.

So that is my list for this week, I hope you enjoy the collection!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Unexpected Element....

Decorating a room can be an intimidating task. Where do you begin? Or more importantly when do you know you are finished? One of the most common questions that i am asked, is how do you make a room that is co-ordinated and put together, but at the same time, does not look like the pages of a catalogue. One of the hallmarks of my design work is that it is totally a reflection of the people who live there and has an almost effortless looking, undecorated style. If I were to narrow this down to one thing I think I would call it the "unexpected element". It is that one thing in the room, that, on paper probably doesn't work, but in execution gives the room a bit of a shake up and stops it from feeling too "done".

As an example take a look at the image above, it is a home Library that i did a few years ago. The color palette is very neutral and the story is really all about the texture of the room, but then, out of nowhere comes this rug in magenta and orange. It gives the room a confident, just thrown together kind of feel, it is the unexpected element.

Here are some tips on how you can introduce this into your designs, and bring them to life even more:
  • Pick a piece that can stand alone from the rest of your design, a rug or an occasional chair are perfect pieces for this kind of approach.
  • While you want it to stand out from the rest of the room, pay close attention to the other design elements of the piece. For instance, if you are using a piece in an off color, pay close attention that it ties to the room in scale and texture. Or if you are using something that is over scaled, make sure that the color works with the other pieces in the room.
  • A piece can become unexpected by using it in an unusual location. For instance, using outdoor furniture inside, or a great French antique chair in a bathroom. It is the context that can create the tension that makes the piece interesting.
  • One or two of these elements in a room is usually more than enough to create the desired effect, more than that and you start looking like a random assortment of cast-offs.
  • Mixing periods is also a simple way to create this sort of visual texture. I just designed a Dining Room with a great old antique table and then paired it with a classic modern chair, the Brno Chair.

Remember the key to making this work, make it look effortless! Happy Designing!