Wednesday, October 15, 2014

make me over

When I'm working with a client on their home, we inevitably have a conversation that involves "the perfect piece" for that breakfast nook or space at the bottom of the stairway or empty corner of the master bedroom.  Whatever the trouble spot in a house may be, I find that I bump up against that idea all the time.  Lots of people are convinced that they haven't properly designed or even attempted to design their space because they just haven't found that perfect piece that they envision will make the room complete.

While I definitely visualize the right item for each spot in any room I'm designing,  I'm also of the mind that if you can't find that perfect piece, you should create it yourself (or hire a pro to do it for you).  And one of the best parts of my job is making old things new and not so fabulous things beautiful.  

The Hyde Park house is in progress, and is filling with examples of creating the perfect piece.

Some seating was necessary for the living room, so we made the pilgrimage to my favorite resource for rehab-able chairs in Los Angeles -- Hotel Surplus Outlet.  They sell new furniture overstock, but more importantly, any and everything from hotel and resort liquidations.  Tons of furniture, lighting, art and frames, even a room filled with hotel dish and service ware -- total designer Disneyland. Its one of those places that I feel so lucky to have nearby and it always feels like a treat to walk into their warehouse to see 200 ugly chairs and know that a couple of the will soon be beautiful.  The other great thing about HSO are the prices.  The pair of red chairs I selected only cost $50.
Looks like it belongs in a chain hotel lobby, right?  That's because it does.  But the shape and scale are just right for the living room, so we'll reupholster and give them some cool new legs.


Side view.  And ugh, can you imagine how many dirty traveler hands have touched that armrest?  Gross.

Here are the same chairs after rehab.  They are perfection.
The new fabric is a bold peacock blue with a really subtle herringbone.  At only $10 per yard,  it was a quite a find at the discount outlet of F&S Fabrics.  The trio of metal tables are from CB2
No more dirty armrests!   And some beautiful new legs from tablelegs.com
The white boucle pillow is from Crate & Barrel.
The orange Ikat pillow cover is from Fabricadabra.

The master bedroom is a serious work in progress, with wall color and the removal of the builder's beige carpet and restoration of the hardwood floors still to come.  The furniture plan in this space is really starting to take shape.  The room is already a colorful and comfortable place to be.

The headboard was created specifically for this space.  It is simple and streamlined with a bit of cushion and a luxe linen from Robert Allen. The dust ruffle was constructed in the same fabric.
Not bad for only halfway finished. 
The beautiful pulled thread detail on the headboard and dust ruffle fabric.



Bedside tables are key to comfort, in my opinion.  Must have a drawer for the book (or whatever).  Must be sturdy, and have surface space for a lamp and maybe an alarm clock or glass of water, too.  Storage is a bonus.

I scored a great pair of bedside chests for $20 at a garage sale.  Paint and hardware is all they needed to tick all the boxes.


Solid wood but hideously painted.  An easy fix.

Here they are in their new home:
A pair of vintage lamps with white drum shades are great atop the rehabbed chests. 

The gorgeous new finish and hardware.
The bedroom is a nice, long room, so we wanted to take advantage of the space with a bench at the foot of the bed.  Nothing too large or chunky, but something with storage.  The piece we started with came from one of my absolute favorite resources, my local Home Goods store.  It sometimes take a couple of shopping trips, but I always find what I'm looking for there.  This bench cost about $100.


Great shape and the scale is right.  Bonus storage.  Boring upholstery can be remedied.
 After re-upholstery, it is everyone's new favorite piece in the room.
The fabric has just enough pattern to be a feature, not so much that it looks crazy.  And it is great with the red bedside tables.
The bright, graphic cotton on the bench is from The Fabric Store.  I love it paired with the draperies, from West Elm.

So.  Is there a place in your home that's missing its perfect piece?  I want to know. 

















































































































































































































Tuesday, September 23, 2014

city camping

The first architect I ever worked for had his office in an Airstream trailer up on blocks in his Venice backyard.  I had never seen one before coming to the West Coast, and had certainly never been inside of one.  My family did not camp.  And though I grew up in Pennsylvania where lots of people did camp, the families I knew who did, well, they did not do it in anything as cool as an Airstream.   For me, these sleek silver pods were a sort of symbol of the west, of the freedom of the road, of my beloved California.  I became an almost instant Airstream enthusiast and have longed to buy and restore one in the decade since.  And although I sometimes comb craigslist and lust over the odd gem for sale, I remain Airstream-less and have to get my fix in other ways.

In May of 2013, I read an article in Sunset magazine about an Airstream hotel in Santa Barbara called Autocamp.  Right away, I was sure I wanted to spend my 40th birthday (in September) there so I called and emailed and had zero success.  Turns out they were booked solid for almost six months.  Lots of other Airstream lovers must have read that Sunset article, too.

Fast forward to February 2014.  I was on the Autocamp website looking for photos and just happened to check to see if they had the weekend of my 41st birthday available.  Miracle of all miracles, there they were.   Tucked into the calendar surrounded by lots of no vacancy,  three days were available in a 1973 (built the same year as me) Airstream Sovereign.  I snapped them up and have been looking forward to my birthday weekend all year.

Our home, nestled into the the heart of beautiful Santa Barbara.  Did I mention that there's a queen-sized bed, claw foot bathtub, cable TV?  Yep.  Not exactly roughing it.
This place has been here for a long time.  I totally understand why.
Here's the view of the mountains from our patio.  And see those beach cruisers in front of our neighbors' Airstreams?   We had those, too.  No driving for three days!  To a Los Angelino, that is the best birthday gift ever.

Pretty much any trip that Drew and I take begins with a meal.  For some places it is totally specific (the very first stop in Seattle is always Dick's Drive In), for others, not so much.   We've been visiting Santa Barbara since way back before we were married people and there are lots of spots we like, but no favorite.  Many, many people seemed to recommend Norton's Pastrami when we mentioned our upcoming trip, so we decided it was time to give it a go.  It did not disappoint.
My half of "The NYC".  I was not prepared for how good the onion rings were and I ate every one of them.  And the garlicky, chilled homemade pickles and cherry soda.  Perfection.  We even managed to snag a couple of seats at the (gorgeous) counter so we could watch all of the sandwich action in process.

The thing that I always forget about Santa Barbara -- and it is the thing that dazzles me most when I'm there -- is the beauty of the place.  The blue Pacific is there and the mountains are green and between them is a little gem of a city that has taken care to preserve the old and grow in a way that respects its architectural history. 
The color of the sky doesn't look real, right?  It is.
Spanish style is so soothing and so stimulating.  And I love that I can't tell if this is an old or new building.

One of the places that is new to Santa Barbara since our last visit is the Santa Barbara Public Market.  It was an easy place to spend an afternoon -- and eat some fantastic food - before heading back to to camp.
The counter seats at Belcampo Meat Co.  It is pretty cool to sit and watch a real butcher at work, too.
Spinach and ricotta and ham and cheese croissants from Crazy Good Bread.
One of the fresh cases at The Pasta Shoppe.  Italian girl nirvana.
At the oyster bar at Santa Monica Seafood, we found these beauties.   We also ate a really fresh ceviche and a perfect New England clam chowder, but they were devoured far too quickly to photograph.  Drew drank a lovely Poor Man's Blonde Ale from Barrelhouse Brewing Co., brewed right over the hill in Paso Robles.
We walked past the Arlington Theatre at least a dozen times as we traveled up and down State St.  I think it is my favorite building in Santa Barbara.
Inside the lobby at the Arlington.  Drew does not enjoy having his photo published, but he's neccessary for scale here.  We are plotting a way to set up long tables and throw an epic dinner party in this space.


This incredible mosaic (yep, thousands of little tiles) mural on on the Santa Barbara Public Market building is almost an entire block long.
The next morning we had a giant brunch on the gorgeous (and crowded) little patio at Scarlett Begonia.  After filling up, we rode our bikes along the coast, through a state park and back through town.  It was a lovely (almost 11 mile) route that I found on the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition's website.  They provided a great map of the ride that proved to be really helpful along the way.
My absurdly good (and messy) house made bagel with lox and dilled cream cheese.  And the Bloody Mary was made with spicy salt and fresh tomato juice.  That's Drew's tri-tip sandwich with chimichuri on house made bread in the background.
Did I mention that there was a claw foot bathtub in our Airstream?  A perfect remedy after a long ride on (seriously rickety) beach cruisers.  After a soak I was ready for champagne and picnic supper on our patio.
The big tree that shaded our spot during the day lit it up at night.
Champagne.  Lots of it.  In seriously cute glassware.
My birthday cheese party, DREWfood camp-style.
The entire weekend was the was the perfect way to celebrate the beginning of my 41st year on the planet.  Santa Barbara remains a charming and magical little city, Autocamp is a new favorite place to stay and an awesome Airstream fix.  I'm determined to do it all again really soon.





















































Wednesday, September 10, 2014

sweet and hot

The pepper onslaught is in full swing in the garden.  Overnight we went from pounds and pounds of tomatoes to a few dozen peppers each day.  And just like with the tomatoes, I've been really excited about canning and preserving anything we don't eat fresh.  It has most definitiely been a time of experimentation around here and we've had peppers in pretty much every dish, but I have to say that I'm loving the hunt for recipes to try as well as incorporating the offerings of the garden into our family classics.

As soon as we realized how large they would grow to be, we decided to roast our large, sweet peppers and preserve them in olive oil.  This was my first time canning with oil, and I'm happy to report that it is just as simple as canning with brine.
See those big (as my feet) red peppers?  Those are Giant Marconi.  This was our first season growing them and they turned out to be sweet and meaty and perfect for fire-roasting.
The Marconi and a handful of poblano chiles roasted right on the range top.  A cooling rack (we used the rack from inside a large roaster) is the perfect thing to hold the peppers over the flame until the skin is black and blistered.
Here's how they look after the black skin has been removed and peppers have been cut into ribbons and nestled into a jar with a clove of garlic and lots of good olive oil.  So far we've eaten these on sandwiches and they have become my favorite pizza topping with chevre and watercress.  Yum is an understatement.

I have pickled our super-spicy jalapeno and serrano peppers in a really simple brine many, many times before.  This time around I also made some jars of sweet peppers for the people don't love the hot stuff so much.
The jalapeno and serrano are really hot but still have tons of flavor.  The banana and Anaheim are mild and mellow and take really well to the brine.
The sweet peppers are great on sandwiches and pizza of course, but my favorite is diced up into potato hash.  We eat the hot peppers on tacos and all foods Mexican,  pizza (pepperoni and jalapeno is a classic at our house), and especially in scrambled eggs.  Drew dices them fine and puts them in coleslaw, too.

I was excited to give pepper jam another go this year.  I made two batches last year -- one that was pure pepper and one with tiny flecks of diced mango (inspired by the apple-mango pepper jelly from Bramble Basics).  This year I used the same ingredients, but pureed the mango instead of dicing it.  I love what the puree does to the texture of the jam.
Lavender and orange bells, sweet banana, Anaheim, golden cayenne, jalapeno and serrano peppers pre-pulverization.
Five ingredients:  the pepper mix, pectin, apple cider vinegar, sugar and pureed fresh mango.
The mango pepper jam, finished and ready to eat.  Drew eats this stuff on everything, from peanut butter sandwiches to fried chicken.  My fave way to eat it is on crostini or whole wheat crackers with goat cheese.  With cream cheese on saltines works (and is just as delicious) if you want to go white trash with it.
And there you have it.  My three favorite ways with garden peppers -- just in time for the second big harvest.  Hope it will be as sweet and hot as these last days of summer.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

everything is illuminated

It is certainly the case in the dining room at the Hyde Park house.
Here's where we started:  builder's beige walls and a cheap, clunky (and SO bright -- we immediately installed a dimmer) chandelier.  The room isn't particularly large, but the gorgeous floors and the corner windows make up for that.

The first thing to do was paint, and I chose Benjamin Moore stonington gray for the walls.  The color was also used in the adjoining living room and hallway.
Pretty, right?  A little bit taupe and a little blue, too.


The furniture plan for this room was minimal, so I designed draperies to add interest and height to the space and soften the corner without taking up too much floor space.  I selected a really fancy silk in a modern, graphic botanical. 
The drapery silk has fantastic pattern and texture.  Great weight and a slight sheen, too.

A while back, I repaired and re finished six school chairs scored for $2.50 apiece at an LAUSD auction.  They are colorful and eclectic (as this room took shape, it became clear that eclectic would rule here) and absolutely the perfect size.  They also pair well with the super simple dining table planned for the room.

Dining chairs before shot.  Sturdy and comfy, but not looking so good.
Dining chair frames, mid-refurb.  I chose to use a traditional dining room color in a new way.  The wooden seats and backs got a lovely sand and refinish, too.  And we scraped off dozens of pieces of chewing gum!

Sometimes a dining room is all about the chandelier, so it took a bit of time figuring out with what sort of fixture was right here.  Something grand and traditional was considered -- after all,  there is crown molding and silk drapery in this space.  Any number of my modernism faves (like this Nelson Saucer pendant lamp) could have worked, too.  In the end, I settled on the simplest option I could find-- the Finley pendant lamp from Crate & Barrel.  It was the element necessary to get this room just right.
Here's the dining room today:  velvety wall color, dining table that comfortably seats six, refurbed school chairs, luxe draperies, perfect lighting, bold artwork.  So happy and comfortable.

The fab finish on the dining room table (from Urban Home) and Dahlias from the garden.
An heirloom bar cabinet is tucked between windows.  A trio of paintings of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz from Tomata DuPlenty's "Tomata Loves Lucy" series hang above.  The pair of vases are from West Elm.

Alright.  I think its time to bring on the dinner guests.

Friday, August 8, 2014

all over the map


Every Spring, my clients and I do the big build up.  We decide on the projects to tackle, discuss style and color, decide on furniture and art and fabrics and dozens of other details until we put everything together into a design plan.  When summer hits, my clients disappear on various vacations and holidays.  I get down to the work of putting those design plans into action while everybody is away.   Summer is always the busiest season for design, and I am in the thick of it these days.

Two projects are in progress on opposite ends of Los Angeles.
The first is a gorgeous apartment in a historic Spanish-style building in Los Feliz.  There is so much southern California charm here, and I'm doing my best to bring it out with silk and linen draperies, a luxe living room rug and grand chandelier in the dining room. There are also lots of reminders of the client's beloved hometown with some vintage Chicago poster art.  So far, I am absolutely thrilled with how this little gem of a place is turning out.
Perfect Chicago poster art.

High ceilings call for a grand chandelier in the dining room.

Great color in the living room rug.  Perfect with the leather armchairs, too.

Over in Mar Vista, my client has a clean, ultra-modern loft space as her new home.  We are filling it with design classics, great color, quirky vintage finds and modern art.
How can you beat dining chairs with red hairpin legs?  They are from West Elm.  The pedestal table is from CB2.

I've often spoken of my undying love for FLOR carpet tiles -- this mod cow pattern was made for space like this one.
Lots and lots of big white walls in the loft.  This Banksy piece will find a home (and add lots of color) in the living room.
This one is Banksy, too.  For the bedroom.


At the project in Las Vegas, work this year began with furnishings for the patios and poolside.
There are pairs of these Chatham armchairs from Pottery Barn in a few spots around the property.  I love the clean lines and the crisp green of the cushions with all of the desert colors. 

For lounging around the pool,  I designed portable (they have the cutest little handles) cushions in a vibrant Sunbrella stripe that references all of the colors of the pool and garden.  There's also a pretty spectacular view of the The Strip when you're sitting on them.

The patio near the barbeque and bar is shaded with one of the simple umbrellas dotted around the backyard.  These outdoor poufs from Crate & Barrel are super durable, comfy and colorful seating.  A metal basket weave table found on Overstock.com is topped with a glass top from Pier 1.

Inside the house, the design process has just begun to transform a spacious but terribly dated (think gold chrome, glass blocks and terra cotta tile) master bathroom into a super luxe retreat.  I'm sure a handful of things will change before all is said and done, but I'm really excited about what we have so far.
Tile and fixtures and cabinetry, a spectacular bathtub, a glam chandelier and fabulous art.  The things that master bath nirvana is made of.

In June, I took my first trip to Bend, Oregon to visit a family who were among my very first clients when they lived here in Los Angeles.  Bend is a wonderful little city with great energy and my clients have chosen to live in a spot surrounded by so much natural beauty.  It has been great fun designing in a new and inspiring place, and I really love helping my clients settle into their new home. 
The view from the front patio of the Bend house.  Peaceful and beautiful.  And quite a departure from Los Angeles.



All of this travel -- both within my city and without -- has me feeling like I need a serious vacation.  It'll have to be when summer is over and the after photos are posted.