Wednesday, March 11, 2015

all the single ladies

I get asked all the time about the style of design that I make.  Is it modern? Traditional? Eclectic? Its a question I'm always hesitant to answer, mostly because I'm not really sure I have one.

I have designed homes all over the country, and each has its own particular quirks and characteristics because of the place it sits on the map. The people who inhabit those homes are much the same.  None of my clients has been entirely interested in pure modern, traditional or eclectic and everybody has their quirks. And since I like to think that I always design with the client in mind,  I'd say that my design style is as varied, as diverse, as quirky as they are.

I've been hard at work on two apartments in Los Angeles that are a perfect illustration of this point.

The first space is a uber modern loft in a new building in Mar Vista.  My client here is a woman with a busy life and a demanding career that has her traveling a lot, so it was my goal to create a comfortable, colorful space that welcomed her when she got to spend precious time at home.

Here is where we began:
Polished concrete floors, shiny steel appliances and large, white spaces. A slick, clean slate for sure, but not much warmth.
The living room was tabula rasa.
Great windows with garden views in the loft bedroom, but all of them covered with horrible plastic vertical blinds.
Now it looks like this:
A vintage credenza is paired with a mod pedestal table and red chairs with incredible hairpin legs. Perfect. I love the combo of the cow hide rug and the woven runner, too. And that's a Banksy print at the base of the stairs. 
My client had lots of beautiful, colorful things that we used everywhere we could. She also invested in vintage furniture and some bold modern art -- much of it by local artists.  This pair is perfect.
This piece. Oh man.  Such a gorgeous beast, and such a lovely contrast to the concrete floors.  
No more big white box of a living room.  So much beautiful pattern, color and texture here. And more Banksy.
The concrete floors, the luxe rug, the marble coffee table.
The super high ceiling in the living room made it the perfect spot for a vertical office. And I am totally in love with the little stool with the grey felt seat.
The loft bedroom is dreamy and calming. The graphic art above the bed  -- created with handmade greeting cards -- is some of my favorite in my client's collection.
White linen replaces those horrible plastic blinds on the windows, and the view into the garden is a bit more serene. 

Apartment number two is in a landmark 1928 building called Casa Laguna in Hollywood. It could not be more of the polar opposite of the loft at the beach.

My client works as a film producer, so this home had to become a place for her to retreat and relax after long hours on set.  Luckily, this apartment (and the beautiful building it is in) has long been considered one of the most beautiful in Los Angeles, so all I really had to do was fill it with things that complemented the architecture here.  There are lots of little reminders of my client's beloved hometown, too.

Here is before:
Andalusian details everywhere. Super-high ceilings and giant windows with views of the Hollywood hills from the living room.
Beautiful hardwood floors.  French doors to a Juliet balcony in the the dining room (and every other room).
And this is after:
I kept things sunny and bright here with cream and grey and lots of yellow. The room is warm and absurdly comfortable.
Beautiful little details.
Color, texture, pattern and sparkle.
My client was in need of the perfect a way to store her incredible shoe collection. it was too beautiful to hide in a closet,  so shoe benches were designed for the entryway.  Now her beautiful footwear is decor.
The dining room.  Red silk draperies are the star here, but there is so much more to love.  Especially those hand carved honeycomb doors.
I love this piece as much as I love the credenza in the loft.  It is incredibly tall and covered entirely in the most gorgeous grass cloth. 
And it has the most spectacular hardware.
Chicago chandelier.

See what I mean? There's no one style at play in either of these homes and definitely not just one type of client.

I don't want to choose, so I won't.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

rain city

In the fall of 1995, I moved to Seattle to accept a spot in a Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Washington.  I had just completed my bachelor's degree at the University of a Maryland in College Park,  and had been living in (and loving) the neighborhoods in and around Washington D.C. for the 4 years prior.   I had honestly never given Seattle a second thought before I was offered the opportunity to go to UW and used to joke that I couldn't have found it on a map before I moved there.  I had absolutely no inkling that it was a city that would change my life.

Lots of people had random tidbits of knowledge to bestow on me when they found out I was moving to Seattle.  My favorite example is one of my Pennsylvania aunts trying to convince me that the city was teeming with serial killers.  All I really knew was that there was rain and there was music.  I definitely found those things (luckily no serial killers), but I also found a city with fantastic food, lots of interesting, creative people and beauty -- natural and otherwise -- pretty much everywhere I looked.

In the six years I lived in Seattle,  I became an artist and a member of a creative community like none I've experienced in any other city.  I became a much better cook and fell in love with gardening.  I also became a wife and the member of the giant clan of Seattlites that came with my husband.  With the husband and the clan came the gift of always being connected to this fabulous city.

You can imagine why I consider it my second hometown. 
Beauty.  Natural and otherwise.
It probably seems like a tourist move (it isn't, unless you go on a Saturday in, say, August), but I almost always start a trip with a visit to Pike Place Market.  My first apartment is Seattle was in Belltown in a time (before fancy condos had taken over) when the closest grocery store was either Larry's Market in Lower Queen Anne or the Safeway on Broadway.  Pike Place is where I did my shopping and it was, and remains, one of the most inspiring and places for me.
I never get tired of this place.
Sosio's, Don and Joe's and The Pike Place Market Creamery were my go-to spots.   I was additicted to the baguette and croissants and pretty much everything else at Le Panier.

The plan is always to eat as much seafood as possible while in Seattle.  It is not hard to find the good stuff.
Even with good places in abundance,  my sentimental favorite in the market is DeLaurenti.  When I landed on Seattle's shores I was a 21 year old Italian-American girl from the east coast.  I was terribly homesick for the Italian food culture that I grew up with, so DeLaurenti became the place I went to comfort myself on many a gloomy (and not-so-gloomy) Seattle day.

It was Super Bowl weekend when I was in town, and I've never seen Seattle so pumped up about sports.  It was Seahawks everything, on everyone, everywhere.
Rachel, all dressed up for game day.

There are lots of other things to see and do, but really Seattle visits are all about the food.  I made it a point to eat some oysters from the paradise that is Uwajimaya and lots and lots of Theo Chocolate, but the through line of this trip was sandwiches.
The Pork Medium (P Med) from Pecos Pit Barbeque - a thing of messy, eat with a spork beauty so good that I will sit outside in Seattle in January to eat it and the sweet and spicy beans that are it's perfect mate.  Pecos is the only BBQ joint with a sauce too spicy for me to order the hot version.  The medium is ass-kicker enough.
We are a family of bloggers and food nerds, so of course there was documentation of the construction process of Drew's fried chicken sandwich with spicy slaw --special request for my sister in law's birthday dinner.
Really good burgers from a drive-in count as sandwiches, right?
There is no trip to Seattle that doesn't include a stop at Dick's Drive-in.  Did I mention that it was Super Bowl Sunday?  Lots of very excited Seahawks fans were also having burgers for brunch.  By the time we got our Deluxes and cheeseburgers, fries and a chocolate shake, the all of the lines stretched well into the parking lot.  It was a sea of blue and green.
More sandwiches during the halftime show.
A team effort creating salmon BLTs for Super Bowl sustenance.
My husband is a Seattle native, and he grew up in one of the giant Victorian homes in the Capitol Hill neighborhood (you can see his childhood drawing of that house in this post).  In the past few years, much of the family and quite a few of our friends have moved to Ballard.  When I lived in Seattle, it was a sleepy neighborhood filled with retired fishermen from Scandanavia.  In the last decade or so it has transformed with lots of new condos, restaurants, breweries and shops along the water at Market Street and Ballard Avenue.  They also have a fantastic Sunday farmer's market.  It is a neighborhood where everybody walks and bikes, even in the rain. 
Many of our friends and family have bought cute little houses on the streets surrounding "downtown" Ballard.
A mild Pacific Northwest winter means that the daphne (and lots of other gorgeous flowering things) were ready for spring as early as January.
Quite a few of the little craftsman houses in Ballard are being remade into Northwest modern homes like this one.
There's a fabulous view of the diving lady, my Ballard beacon, from the living room window of my in-laws' condo.
Here's how she looks when the fog rolls in.

And I could never make a post about Seattle without talking about coffee.  I miss the coffee culture so much -- Los Angeles just can't hold a candle to it -- so I have to have "real" coffee when I'm in town.
The Ballard outpost of Bauhaus Books + Coffee.   The original store at the corner of Pine and Bellevue had amazing views of downtown and the Space Needle.  It was one of my haunts during graduate school.
A perfectly made mocha.  And that's a little bar of chocolate on the rim of the cup.
It was a fabulous Seatown weekend -- in so many ways a trip "home".  I am so grateful that I'll get to do it all again soon.

Friday, December 19, 2014

what's your gift?

Last Christmas, my parents asked if I would, as my gift to them, design a new living room for their Pennsylvania home.

First, I should mention that my parents have serious skill when it comes to remodeling and were a big help to Drew and I in the first year or so in our new house.  The MMD studio couldn't have happened without them and I really wanted to repay them in whatever way I could.  But.   When it came to tackling their living room, I was a bit hesitant at first.  Not because I didn't want to avail my parents of whatever design skill and talent that I possess, but mostly because I thought it might be difficult to design my parents' house.  I was concerned about making them uncomfortable with all of the change that design can bring, of insulting them when we disagreed.  I was worried that we couldn't have the kind of relationship that a designer has to have with a client because they are my parents.

And let me also add that the design evolution at my parents' house has been a little odd.  My mom has wonderful taste and great personal style and always decorated the homes I lived in with interesting art and color and furniture she refinished and restored.  I was already away at college by the time she and my stepdad moved into their current home, and in the 20 years since, I've been surprised to see it morph into a house that looked like old people live there -- especially because my parents are decidedly not.

I relented and said yes -- there was really no question -- and in the end my fears were unfounded.  At one of our first design meetings, my mom said "I don't want it to look like an old lady's house anymore."  I knew right then that she got it and was ready for something different.   I stopped being nervous and just decided to do for my parents what I do for every other client.  And if I'm really honest with myself, I've been dying to get my hands on their house for years, so I was thrilled to get down to it.

My mom is dreading this part, but here are the before photos:
The matchy old lady floral furniture.  The green carpet.  The pink walls, fake flowers, awkward floor plan, all of it.  Ugh.

Dark, heavy draperies covering big, beautiful windows.  The giant TV in front of the window.  Uncomfortable furniture.

Here's my sketch of the new floor plan:
All of the furniture was replaced by more comfortable, more contemporary pieces.  The two focal points of the room, fireplace and TV, are now on the same wall.
My parents turned out to be really great clients.  They were open to color and furniture ideas that were far more contemporary than anything in their previous comfort zone and they were really motivated to get the space done.   After a couple of design meetings we finalized a color palette and furniture plan, and they really got to work.  They did lots of furniture shopping.  My mom spent hours in fabric stores, choosing the drapery and accent pillow fabrics.  They had the place painted and had new carpet installed.  They replaced overhead light fixtures, hung the new draperies and removed the brass trim around the fireplace.  We exchanged endless photos of art, lighting and accessories options and tweaked the floor plan where necessary, but really, after the design development and my initial site visit back in February (really an excuse for me to come and hang out with my family), my parents rocked the project management and installation on their own. 

Here's what the room looks like now:
This room is filled with grey tones, but is still light and bright.  The velvet sectional is over-sized and super comfortable and serves as the anchor piece in the space.  A long, slim console table behind it is a perfect perch for the lamps.  And my stepdad still has a recliner.
I never thought my stepdad would love an IKEA chair (or IKEA anything for that matter), but this recliner is his new power spot.
Remember the corner that used to have the big TV in it?  Now it is my mom's center of gravity.  Those spectacular armchairs are my absolute favorite thing in the room.
Double drapery rods with peacock blue velvet draperies are perfect with all the grey tones.  They are also great insulation during the cold Pennsylvania winters.  The second rod is hung with pure white sheers -- perfect for creating daytime privacy while still allowing the room to fill with light.
A pair of beautiful prints, picked up on a trip to Paris my parents took a few years ago. 
Paris meets Pittsburgh in the books, art and accessories in this room.  The carpet is luxe, too.
The grandfather clock has been in the Brinker family since the 1840's.  Its the most traditional element in this room (the only room in the house with ceilings high enough accommodate it), but it seems to work.
Pillow and sectional sofa details.
We're still working on the artworks for a few of the walls and a family photo gallery for another, and I don't think that I'll ever convince my mom that less is more when it comes to accessories, but I think its safe to say that this room is a success.   During my visit last month we spent almost all of our time here.  It is comfortable and beautiful and best of all, my parents are happy with it.  They will be spending Christmas 2014 in the room I gifted them last year, and it brings me nothing but joy to think of my Pennsylvania tribe, all of them, having a fantastic holiday in their beautiful new space.
A photo from my parents as they decorated for their first Christmas in the new living room.

So. What's your gift?  What are you giving this holiday?  I hope it brings you as much happiness to give it as it does to those who receive it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

sparkle and shine

My favorite pair of shoes are red patent leather Marc Jacobs pumps with a round heel and a peep toe.  They were a birthday gift from my husband six or seven years ago, and have been my footwear nirvana ever since.
Favorite shoes, perfect Christmas gear.
I wear them whenever I can during the year, but the best time to put them on is during the holidays.   I'm not really the Christmas sweater type, so I have to figure new things to pair with my shoes to create my holiday attire.  And since I almost always wear a pair of dark jeans and a white blouse (sometimes black), the easiest way to pull together a look is with jewelry and accessories.

It just so happens that my friends at Chairish (Remember them?  They asked me to design a room with some of their vintage furniture?)  just added thousands of vintage jewelry and accessory pieces to their marketplace.  With Thanksgiving coming up next week and Christmas hot on its heels, it seems to me to be a great opportunity to find some perfect pieces for my holiday looks -- and maybe a little something that I'm hoping to find under the tree.

The beautiful girl in the photo is not me, but you get the idea.  Everything here except my shoes is available from Chairish.
So many beautiful things to make my blouse, jeans and red shoes holiday ready, from the vintage clutch to the square pendant necklace.  Jade bangles and the little glass earrings are just enough green.  The cocktail ring isn't too matchy.  And Christmas is sunny in Los Angeles, like, really sunny,  so you can bet I'll be rocking those red cat's eye sunglasses.

This time of the year there seem to be parties and gatherings every spare second from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.  Nothing is ever too fancy in my life, but I do like to dress up my jeans and blouse when it is not the right occasion for red and green.  I love to get a little sparkly, too.
That's my jacket and shoes.  Everything else is from Chairish.
I swap out my red shoes for black Mary Janes and pull on my blue velvet jacket -- sometimes with the white blouse, sometimes with a black t-shirt.  I am obsessed with the Dior insect brooches, and they seem to have been made for the lapel of my jacket.  The pearl and glass cocktail ring is  spectacular.  The little round handbag is adorable.  I'll be wearing this outfit as long as there is an excuse to celebrate.

Besides all of this beautiful stuff, there is one more piece that I'm hoping to find under my tree.

 I'll just have to wait and see if Santa is kind to me.