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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Knitted Furnishings for the Home

Knitting has made a huge come back in fashion over the last decade. But today's knitters and their creations are not typical of your grandmother's knitting circle. The craze for hand knitted goods has extended into the world of home décor.

For those who love the look of knitted home accessories but don't have the time, there are many knitted accents on the market today. The look of knit and crochet can be found on everything from pillows to area rugs.  Hand knitted throws make a wonderful accent on a bed or sofa, chair or chaise. Knitted pillows can add great texture to a sofa, bed or chair.  The popular small ottoman, called a poof, can also be found in knitted covers. We’re even seeing knitted chairs!

Handcrafted textiles, including knit and crochet pieces, are a wonderful way to bring a touch of the handmade into a room. Whether you knit or crochet yourself, buy something new or proudly display a crocheted afghan made by your grandmother, these pieces add a textural beauty to any space.  Knitted and crocheted pieces can work in many design styles ranging from traditional to contemporary.  If so inspired, pick up your knitting or crochet needles, or find a beautiful knit piece online or in a home store near you.

Two of the professional knitters were digging right now put a fun twist on knitted fashion for the home. 

Made from synthetic fiber, Kenneth Cobonpue 's Knottee Outdoor Suspension Lamp is tough enough to withstand the outdoors. Two knitting needles are skewered through the lamp’s top for a humorous touch.

Claire-Anne O’Brien creates fully functional knitware for the home in the shape of chairs and footstools. Her work can be found on her website

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why I am a Designer- Phil Norman

An unexpected benefit of doing this series has been that I have learned the back story of people who I thought I knew really well already. Phil Norman is one of those people. So often we expect the great designers that we know to have exotic and mysterious pasts that have lead them to the rarefied life of an aesthete. The reality is that the designers that are really able to capture the essence of their clients, and produce timeless, beautiful homes often are the ones  for whom life is lived with a quiet richness and dignity. These are the people I come to admire so it is with great pleasure that I present this weeks designer, Phil Norman.

I met Phil several years ago and have always been struck by his ability to listen with sincerity and to distill ideas into very straightforward and intelligent pieces. When you look at his design it captures these skills. His homes are places where it is easy to imagine life going on, lives that are enhanced by his backgrounds, not restricted. I hope you enjoy his essay as much as I did.

I am very glad Mark asked me to do this because it feels healthy to spill my thoughts and reassess why I am an interior designer . I became a designer against odds,  I grew up in Iowa, I did not re-arrange my bedroom furniture when I was young, I was all boy  growing up in a very small town in Iowa- the kind that when you hit a home run in baseball it went over the fence and into a cornfield.  So how the heck did I become an Interior Designer in Los Angeles ?  

My Mom and Grandma were great influences on me.  Both collected antiques and my Mom took me to estate sales and purchased furniture, refinished them, and then decorated our home.  I really admired how she transformed these unsightly pieces into beautiful works of art.   The before and after was something I could understand and get excited about.  My Grandma, well, those Towne and Country magazine she got , somehow always kept alive the desire to learn more about the world as  a young boy. 

In High School  I decided to take a visual arts class.  With a gruff old guy-Mr. Myers, I could barely make eye contact with this guy in the hall .  He had all the kids in his class that were not in sports and wore black to school!  Well, project after project; he kept giving me very good grades.  One day he leaned down and told me privately “hey Phil, its Ok to be really good at art and design.”   I think I just needed permission from someone to venture down that path.  And so I did…….

I am a designer because I am passionate about the end results.  Because I can say “ I created this, this was not here before!”  No one is more worried than me to have the end result as near to perfect as it can be.  To get a fresh set of prints in my office from the architect after we get hired is one of the most exciting experiences for me .  I look at those plans and ideas run through my head so fast , my writing cannot keep up with my thoughts. 

Craftsmanship, colors, lighting fixtures, furniture , fabrics, textures, all the cool products I get to see, tile, stone, woods, paint techniques, challenging clients, getting creatively pushed by clients, the talented design staff I get to work with every day, creative challenges, the “what if we did this” questions discussed in our studio dailey.  I know I am in the right profession because, when I go to my job sites and see progress from drawings to implementation, I get incredible feelings of accomplishment.  It’s a creative “high” for me and it occurs daily.    The bad days are few compared to all the great creative ones I seem to enjoy. 

I can not imagine doing anything else and I can not imagine retiring .  I feel like I have so much more to do and learn and deisgn.   I am lucky that I do not feel (ever) that I “work” each day.  I am a designer because I see potential in everything I get to be involved with, it’s just up to me on how to creatively solve the problems. 

Thanks Mark for asking me , that felt great to dump those thoughts on paper!

Phil Norman ASID, CID
Norman Design Group, Inc.
310-378-1111 Phone

310-378-1114 Fax

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Design Inspiration: Peacocks

I’ve long been in love with peacocks, and luckily, peacocks have long been design inspiration for fashions and interiors. These rare birds were collected by royalty and aristocracy as pets. Their tail plumage and intense blue bodies have been glorified in both the fine and decorative arts for centuries.

The 1920s and 1960s both saw a resurgence in the peacock as a design icon. Today we are experiencing another design trend inspired by these regal birds. Peacock inspired designs can take the form of color palettes, feathers and replicating the shape of the famous “eye” on the tail feathers.  The entire bird or just a single feather can be used in patterns for wallpaper, area rugs and fabric.


Peacock inspired color palettes are beautiful and sophisticated examples of jewel tones and contrasting colors. The blues and greens are contrasted with yellows, purples and browns on the feathers. The rich blue is balanced by the deep, rich chocolate brown. Acidic green, or chartreuse, paired with purple and accented with teal or rich blue is a strong but beautiful palette for a living room or bedroom.

The shape of the peacock “eye” can be replicated in graphic patterns in every color. Taking the shape of the tail feather and eye and stripping it of the classic colors of a peacock makes the shape feel very graphic and modern.  Abstract or realistic, the “eye” is as much of a design icon as the color palette inspired by peacocks. Peacocks are a design inspiration that can work for most interior styles. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

All-time Favorite Kid's Books

I love my daily dose of Daily Candy. If you haven’t discovered this sweet resource be sure to visit the site. Daily Candy editors “scour the corners of the U.S. and London to deliver the very best in style, food, fashion and fun.” Their “finds” are not ones you’ll discover with a quick internet search. They give a voice to all of the unique, one-of-kind artists, designers and products you might run across on a day trip to the city or neighboring town. Plus, they deliver all of the resources to you in a fun and hip way that’ll have you grinning.

After our post on willful and wonky bookshelves earlier this week, I was drawn to DC’s email which featured a list of their editor’s “all-time favorite kids’ books.” Read it here. I’ll share a few of my own favorites here, along with a few of the irresistible kiddo’s bookshelves I ran across. 

This tree of knowledge would make a wonderful addition to any playroom, nursery or kid's room.

"Ooh-La-La (Max in Love)" by Maira Kalman

Guiltily, I would always pick this book when the kids wanted me to read to them—I just loved the artwork, but most of all, I loved Max--the poetic, undeniably-bohemian beatnik dog. Maira Kalman's ineffably painted, hiply designed, and wonderously worded Ooh-la-la (Max in Love), is the story of a poet dog named Max who goes to Paris to realize his dream of becoming a famous wordsmith.

The story starts out…”I can't believe it. Me. Max Stravinsky in Paris. Picasso. Paté. The opera. Ballet. The crème de la crème. The city that gleams. That romantic, extravagantic city of dreams. Oh pluperfect Paris, just give me a chance and I'll toast your beauty, oh Paris of France." 

There is nothing like a wall full of books to inspire young and old minds alike!

"Magical Moonballs" by Laura L. Seeley

This enchanting, award-winning book will have you peaking in the kitchen to see what the forks and the spoons are up to...

"His nose felt an itch, and it twitched in the breeze. Then he shuddered and shivered and sneezed a big sneeze!" With his sneeze, the man in the moon blows the clouds into zillions of rollicking moonballs, who gleefully tumble to Earth to spread their message of cheer and friendship."

I love the way these shelves are situated so little ones can find their favorite titles quickly.

"Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch

This book will have you tearing up with the first read. It’s about as endearing as it is wacky, but you’ll be singing the chorus long after you’ve closed the book.

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living 
my baby you’ll be."

Don't forget to take a look at Daily Candies exhaustive list of books perfect for your little one's first library. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why I am a Designer- Gary Gibson

Week 3 of the series brings another of the most known designer's in Los Angeles. He also has a store that serves sort of as a design laboratory, and is one of the highlights of the hottest design strips in L.A. Beverly Blvd. If you haven't been by recently do yourself a favor, it's like looking into the mind of a design genius.

One of the things that I am trying to do with this series is to provide insight into the minds of people who I admire as individuals as well as designers. I think to walk the tightrope of decency and still create beautiful work is not an easy task, and I am hoping to shine a light on how this is really achieved, buy highlighting the people who do it with such elan. Gary along with meeting all of these criteria, also designs furniture, has a store and is one of the most savvy business people I know, honestly he is exhausting!

So I hope you enjoy this one...

I am a designer, because I think it was meant to be!

I was fortunate to grow up in a time and environment that helped me hone my skills early on, with family, teachers, mentors. I loved to collect "stuff" from the time I could crawl.  I have fond memories of our neighborhood fun and friends, family vacations, especially the camping trips, which allowed me to be explore nature, truly our greatest inspiration as designers!!!. So all of these early experiences really had a huge impact on me artistically, and the love of all kinds of art projects and the encouragement of people, I just always was so passionate in doing this stuff. I was also very observant and loved to listen to people, I had 2 great teachers early on, Mrs.Waldo and Mrs. Crawford.  it  was Mrs. Waldo  that really got me hooked and interested in art, to the point I was always volunteering for school projects that involved any type of artistic project.  I think that was when I realized I wanted to do something in the arts.  At first I thought I wanted to be a painter. I was fortunate to be a painter for a period of time earlier in my career, but it wasn't enough to hold my interest. I met a designer early on that asked me to help her with her space she was doing for the Pasadena Showcase House, that was 100 years ago.

 That is when I realized I wanted to be a Designer, which was the best of the all arts, and enrolled in UCLA.  At that time, I did all I could to work in the design field, and was fortunate to work with some of the top designers of the day.  I also worked in all aspects of the interior design industry that I could, which included;sample clerk, draftsman, design assistant, showroom sales, etc. which to this day have proved to be invaluable.  

So after many years of working for others, I decided it was time to start my own firm! Well, now you realize this was 30 some years ago!. This was very scary! and the technology of the day was still a Portfolio(a printed book) of ones work!! did not have a web page, iphone(still don't) Internet etc. so I really had to be charming and hone my people skills. So fast forward and years later, with a stable of very loyal clients, and friends, amazing people that have worked with me over the years, has allowed me to have a successful design firm, along with our Gibson Studio Furniture line, and my personal favorite our store "Gibson" which is our design studio and interior design offices. So 35 years later I am still a designer, product designer, retailer, which all fulfill my varied interests in art and design.  After all these years, I am very fortunate to still love what I do and when people enjoy and appreciate what we do, I am very humbled and grateful for that.This is why I am a designer!!!

7350 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
P) 323-934-4248
F) 323-934-4298

Bookshelves with Loads of Personality

OK, so your bookshelves may not be overflowing with the knowledge of over 5,000 books like artist Alicia Martin's Biografias sculpture above, but little and big tomes alike can add up to a huge dilemma for the earnest bibliophile (myself included.) With so many innovative, and sometimes just plain freaky, bookshelf designs available why settle for the standard horizontal library format? I've gathered some of my favorite bookshelves which will hopefully inspire you. If you can't find these particular ones to buy, think of having them custom built. 

Mark & Team custom-built dining room bookshelves. I love the whimsical vibe this unit gives off. The mint green interior gives a punch of color against the unit's chocolate brown exterior.

Another lovely custom built bookshelf by Mark & Team. I love the distressed, almost sea-worn look of the room with the ocean blue bookshelf set on the diagonal.

I'm a Texas girl, so I'm allowed yet another reference to cowriffic-inspired interior elements. This hot pink number--Estante Vaco by Estudio Antimateria--would make an imaginative addition to a nursery or casual family room. Differing size compartments hold fairy tales, picture books and other fun reading materials.

There is something quite serene about this circular bookshelf, it's definitely one of my favorites.

The Moderntique Shelves by Katzhg Whitezine have so much personality they would look terrific in most any style decor. 

This honeycomb design makes a case for organic, nature-based art which is as functional as it is artful.

Simple, yet effective, the Flybrary Shelf holds your current hardcover reads at the ready for a quick chapter or two. 

Olivia Bradateanu's "Shelf in the Wind" was born out of the idea: "What if a simple shelf moved with the breeze that enters the front door."  Hometone.com

A fun twist on the standard horizontal bookshelf--who knew stairs and books could look so cool together?

Editor Note: Read more about Alicia Martin's "tornado of books" on MyModernNet.com.

Monday, March 19, 2012

West Week 3

I have to be honest, I am a creature of habit, so I don't go to the Andrew Martin Showroom at the PDC as often as I probably should. It is a shame, because every time I go there i realize what a cool place it is and what terrific, interesting pieces they have, most of which are in stock and available off the floor. During West Week they are premiering a new collection of wallpaper called "Engineer". I feel in love with it from the moment I saw it, now it may not be for everyone, but the quirky and somewhat whimsical approach makes this a great addition to the other wall papers that are currently available.

The patterns are all images of textured walls, whether it be an old plank wall, or even a crusty old brick wall.

Used on a large scale maybe not the use for something like this. I would envision using it more for a feature wall, maybe the back of a book case etc, or even wrapping a simple piece of furniture, like a parsons table.

Either way, you should stop by the showroom, the people there are great and always happy to walk you through the collection.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

West Week 2

I am a big believer in collaboration. The coming together of two minds can create something that's totally unique and different than either could do alone. That's the case with the new collection that is a collaboration between David Rockwell and the Studio of Jim Thompson.

The new collection will be part of the West Week premiere of product at Kneedler Fauchere.

His new Spotlight Collection captures his deep fascination with the play of light and it results in modern metallics and rich and playful colors found in nature.  Velvet Feathers (pictured) is a glamorous, fashion inspired pattern with teals and purples to intensify a dramatic effect.  In six colorways; 60% rayon-40% cotton

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why I am a Designer - Philip Nimmo

I know its a day late, but this posting of "Why I am a Designer" is worth waiting for. Today it is Philip Nimmo. To say that he is a Los Angeles based designer who also makes furniture is like saying Noah just built a boat! Philip is one of the top people in his field, not only because his designs are elegant and unique, but because his designs bring a breathtaking ingenuity and sense of life to them. Also he is a person as generous with his spirit as he is with his talent, a true gentleman, in every sense of the word.

I hope that you all enjoy the insight he brings:


Why am I a designer? Well, “I was born this way,” like Lady Gaga says.
Even if I were the president of General Motors I would still be rearranging furniture.

I really was born to design, though I didn’t know that until I was well into my 30s. When I was a kid growing up on the beach in Laguna I was attracted to the arts – jewelry making, ceramics, drawing. I liked to do anything that I had the ability to take from my mind and actualize into a physical form. Manifesting a conceptual thought is bliss, it’s heaven.


I dreamed up this satchel when I was in high school. I made the metal ornament in shop class and stitched the leather myself. My teacher was amazed. I thought it was cool. The artist was born.

While the plan was for me to study business at USC, that was not for me, and I lasted only a year.  I had to respond to my creative urges, but I also had to pay my bills. Luck landed me at the doors of the Ritz Carlton, where I worked my way up from waiter to catering director.

 I really got to indulge my creative side there while at the same time working in a structured business environment. At the Ritz, we were selling lifestyle, pampering our guests and making sure their needs were met. It was all about offering the best service. That has been my mantra ever since, and it perfectly segued into my interior design business with my clients.


Gep Durenberger, the famous antiques dealer in San Juan Capistrano who was the love of the New York decorative arts crowd, introduced some of us well known Orange County designers – Michael Smith, James Magni – to interior design.  He was a master at layering comfortable interiors.  He would so casually throw down a newspaper and make it look perfectly in place.


Gep truly was an inspiration. From him I learned that interiors are fluid, they’re living, and since things are continually alive that means they are always imperfect. To make something perfectly imperfect is an innate talent. There’s nothing worse than an interior holding you hostage in the sense that something is out of place.

With what I had learned from Gep and with what I was born, I knew that I could be an interior designer. A friend of mine introduced me to my first client, and not only did I discover my calling but I discovered my passion in life.

First, there’s the aesthete in me.  A living environment has to be pleasing in all 360 degree views.

I like to become involved in the architecture and space planning of an interior because I want to make sure that every moment of my client’s experience is one of comfort. That’s the service-oriented part of my nature talking.


Good design is that things can move around. My personality is that nothing is written in stone. My dining table can become my desk. Things can move around and be repurposed. 

I take all of this seriously. My motivation to hone my craft is very intense.  I aspire to perfection. Execution is beyond reproach. I am this way when I’m cooking, entertaining or organizing my closet.

I love my clients. Were it not for them I wouldn’t be in this business. Some of my clients are very specific and focused on the art they collect. And they know my interior design will complement whatever they are collecting.  With each new piece of art that comes into a client’s home we’re rearranging furniture, moving things around –we’re allowing the interior to be alive, letting it move, shift. Sometimes it requires pieces being removed or shifted so that the art may be hung in an area where it’s not in danger. All of these things contribute to the development of the interior design of a space and of a home.

My clients also prompted me to begin designing ironwork, lighting and furniture. It started about 10 years ago with Randy Newman, who needed a large-scale fire screen for his home, which I was designing. He disliked what little there was available in the size we needed and told me, “Philip, why don’t you design a fire screen for me.”

Randy Newman was the first. Since then, clients have encouraged me to design furnishings for them. I feel like an artist and that my clients are patrons.

The ability to satisfy any client means I have to be like a chameleon, working in a variety of styles. That has been a fascinating part of my career. One of my clients was influenced by the beautiful old department stores, with grand dressing rooms and personal service. Formality is important to her in the way she lives her life and her house reflects that, with gilding and crystal everywhere.


Another client, who has a traditional, glitzy home in Las Vegas, wanted a contemporary, minimal feel at his Southern California beach house. I combined a palette of light upholstery against wenge wood walls, and to give the house some drama, particularly at night, I designed backlit onyx walls and a 2-story chandelier of crystal balls.

I am a luxury item. I bring luxury to my clients. The greatest luxury there is is comfort.  I had an amazing education in that.