Friday, March 7, 2014

on the list

Almost every day of my working life I have made a list.  

When I worked in offices, design or otherwise, I'd start each morning by sitting quietly at my desk with my coffee and my blank page.  I'd list all of the aspirations/tasks of the day ahead in three columns on the page.   Then, with my list from the day before, I'd transfer all of the uncompleted items from that list on to the current day's list. Writing things down made them somehow less scary when everything to to accomplish, handle, absorb was all in front of me on the page.  

I don't remember who taught me to make lists, but I still do it.   I count it as one of those little rituals, this writing down of the contents of my brain, that has sustained me, given my life and work structure.  And I'm more than a little bit results-oriented  so I LOVE that feeling of crossing something, anything, off the list.

In the year or so since I purchased this property and for the 4 years I ran my business from my spare bedroom, "MMD STUDIO" was an item on nearly every list I made.  On February 10, 2014, I finally, happily, got to cross it off.  

If you missed it, you can check out my post about the transformation of the studio exterior here.  

The interior of this space looked like this when the project began:

Scary, dark and hot as the garage was at the outset, only a few elemental changes had to happen to get the ball rolling:
Windows and a door.

Drywall and trim, primer and paint.

Now its my sunny Melissa Mascara Design bubble.
A view of the palm trees and the vegetable garden, my beloved desk, my comfy new (frickin' rotating) desk chair and a pair of classic Nikki McClure prints = awesome place to work. 
The fab fabric on my (frickin' rotating) desk chair.
The homosote pin board - built it, covered it with dressmaker's muslin and hung it over an IKEA Expedit bookshelf.  The printer/scanner lives here, and there is plenty of storage for project binders and catalogs and design magazines.  Good Fucking Design Advice has found its perfect spot, too.
A  little inspiration from the Panyl blog  helped me to IKEA hack a couple of Expedit cubes, a couple of sheets of plywood and  some caster wheels into my (rolling) work table, library and sample storage.
The cord lights brighten the entire space.  They are especially great over the work table.

The lighting was IKEA hack #2 on this project.  I started with 8 Hemma cord sets, added a roll of plastic tarp, 3 cans of high gloss spray paint and lots of patience. I LOVE how they look.
After super-scrubbing the concrete floors, I covered the bulk of the space in a rug made of 2 colors/textures of FLOR carpet tiles (Feelin' Groovy in grass and Reverb in lime).  
Remo is serious about his role as design dog, and spends most of his time (when not in my lap) in this exact spot doing exactly this.
Half of the wall opposite the new windows was tricked out with storage shelving.  The other half became a workbench.

Remember that narrow door from the original garage?  Its been recycled into the tabletop for the workbench.  An old baker's rack provides the base.
Here's the workbench after shot.  And, um, can I mention how much I love pegboard?  I had to hold myself back from putting it EVERYWHERE.  And the fact that all of my tools and paints are visible and organized is nirvana.
IKEA hack #3 transformed Kvartal curtain track, 6 Mariam curtains and lengths of chain into a wall of sky-high orange draperies that slide open wherever I need them to.  Best of all, especially for a neatness nerd like me, they camouflage the storage and the fabulous work bench when closed.  A pair of gorgeous chairs gifted from a dear friend have found a happy home here, too.

I predicted a "build it and work will come" effect about this studio, and so far I've been working at a steady hum since move-in day.  I'm still pinching myself a bit that these are my digs, but I also feel incredibly at home here.  Its been well worth all the work and the wait and it still feels like the best of the year is to come.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

what a difference a year makes

I have long been obsessed with having a studio space separate from my home (but still on my property -- I love solitude and I love to come to work in my bathrobe).    My design business has been up and running for nearly 5 years now, and pretty much after year one, I was exhausted with working out of the spare bedroom in our little house.  I coveted the tiny garage that was behind the house (made more painful by the fact that my landlord used it for his personal storage) but knew it would never be mine.  I lusted after the detached garages of all my neighbors, too, even if they (gasp) stored their cars in them instead of tricking them out for studio space.  The worst was when I'd be walking my dogs past an open garage door and see that the inside was packed, hoarders-style, from floor to ceiling with stuff.  That happened more times that I than I care to recall.  Totally heartbreaking.

When Drew and I started shopping for a house, I figured that it was the perfect opportunity to satisfy my longing.   I added that item to our must have list.  Detached garage.  Check.

Here's what we got:  
When we moved in, the garage had zero windows and a single door to the backyard that was so narrow that we had to step out sideways if we were carrying anything at all.  Luckily, it was a sturdy building, and after seeing lots of homes with rickety old garages that we could have easily pushed over by leaning too hard on them, I was glad to have a structure that wouldn't fall apart when I tried to remake it.  Plus, it was a big, blank space.  To someone like me, there is nothing more exciting.

Removing the metal awning and the concrete are projects we tackled this spring (photos of that day here), so the next step was taking a sawz-all to the spots where the new windows and door would be. 
Demo day is always my favorite.
After framing the windows and door and hanging them, we had to rebuild the space in the wall where the old door had been and to repair all the stucco.
The old door was half as wide as the new window.


Here's the after shot.  Did I mention that Drew and I painted the whole building in the happiest, most vibrant red I could find?  Drew built the fab little deck and patio (with the last of our concrete from the demo), too.
I am absurdly excited about this joint becoming the new MMD HQ.

I've done so much research about remaking garages and home studios this year.  My favorite is a post from Tue/Night written by a fellow Angelino creative-type named Jenna Briand.  You can (and should) read it here.  I'm not a mom, and my offices in the past decade haven't been quite as fancy as Jenna's, but I relate to pretty much everything else she expresses here.  In the decade before I started working for myself (in that tiny spare bedroom), my offices have been in a guest room of what was originally a motel built for the Seattle World's Fair, a 10th floor corner cubicle with a view into downtown Seattle, a desk in a design and architecture studio a block from Venice Beach.  As interesting as all of those experiences were (some definitely more than others) I can't help but be reminded that to do my best work I need my own kind of space -- something of my own creation and in my own control -- where I can go and make stuff.  I've also long subscribed to the idea that if I had the right space to do my work then lots of it would come my way.  Now there is a little red studio in my backyard, and I already know that its going to be a space where my business, my creativity, my life, will flourish.

And that leads me to gratitude. 

Drew and I moved into our house on December 30, 2012.  It has been a crazy blur of a year filled with so much change and so many moments of joy and satisfaction.  I can't believe what we've managed to accomplish here so far, and I'm so grateful for the awesome community of people in my life who love me, dream with me, and help me make things happen.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to live and work in this amazing city and to feel, after so many years on the move, that this is my home.  I feel incredibly lucky to have this life.   Each time I have that thought I am reminded that the best way to express my gratitude is to put something, anything,  positive into the world.  So that's the plan, for the year ahead and beyond.

I am already dreaming about the interior design for the studio, so I'm all up in Pinterest.  If you're a Pinterest person and would like to take a peek at what the studio interior might look like, take a look at my MMD STUDIO board.

And so I'm on to the next.  Lots of stuff in the works for 2014.  I can't wait to see what sort of surprises are in store as well. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

its all just a bunch of vibrations

Its been forever (mid- May!) since I last posted.  The summer has been a blur, and since its now the last day of September, the end of summer wrap-up is an imperative.  Here's  a bit of what I've been working on these past months, plus a little summer vacation design inspiration for good measure.

In Santa Monica, I've been remaking a living room, kitchen office and lounge for a family of 6.  Since lots of people live here, and they are all musical or artistic, we needed to make space for all of their stuff in some not so big spaces. 

Here is where we started:
A big room with all the wrong stuff in it.  You can't see the fireplace because its the same color as the walls.  The beams in the ceiling are sage green.  There's a GIANT sectional sofa blocking your path into the room. A favorite old chair is covered with a blanket because its stuffing is coming out. The sconces are a bedazzled mess that don't have anything to do with the (beautiful) iron chandelier.  
There is cement tile still remaining to be installed on the fireplace, and a couple of pillows and tchotkches to perfect, but the living room is looking really good these days.
The fireplace and beams got lovely new colors and there's a creamy new white on the walls, too.  That's the old favorite chair, reupholstered.  The triptych on the wall is from the clients' collection.  The new sconces and floor lamps make much more sense with the chandelier.
 A small sofa and the big lounge under the window replace the sectional sofa.  There's a wool rug and rich linen draperies.  Lots of space to play and display the family's musical instruments, too.
The cement accent tile for the fireplace.
The fab combo of the lounge fabric and the super-luxe rug.
The family needed an office and workspace.  There was a spot in the kitchen, so we had a nice, big desk created to mimic the style of the cabinetry.
The new desk has lots of desktop space as well as storage for office and art supplies.  The magnetic board above it captures the chaos of a family of 6 in an ever-changing exhibit of photos, kids' art, schedules and notes.
I love designing chairs, and this niche in the dining room was dying for this pair.  These clients had some really fantastic art in storage, in the garage, elsewhere around the house.  THE CARESS OF YOUR GLANCE is my favorite piece from their collection, and has finally found its perfect home.

In Las Vegas, some simple but essential changes have occurred in the living room and the office.

This is the living room built-in before.  Like, way, way before:
When we started working on this room, we nicknamed this built-in "the beast."  You can't really get the scale from the photo, but its about 11 feet high and 13 feet wide.  It was also not centered on the wall and made the room feel slightly off balance.  And the speakers.  And that giant, old TV.  Ugh.
This is the way, way after: 
Beautiful zebra wood is the perfect material for the clean lines of the new design.  Although its nearly the same size as the original built-in, it fits the space much better because it is centered.  The TV is smaller and will float in the niche in the center.  The speakers are now elegantly camoflauged in the ceiling.  The luxe furnishings and accessories help the fab new look of this room, too.
A couple of years ago when we started the design process for this home, I suggested diptych by the artist Janet Bothne, and my client became a fast fan of her work.  Her paintings are lush and colorful and the perfect scale for the office wall behind his heavy, carved desk.
The warm yellow is the perfect backdrop for this piece, called MEASURING LOSS AND GAIN.
The library, still in progress but fast becoming my favorite room in this house, is just across the entry hall from the office.  There's a fantastic view of the new art if you're sitting in here, too.

I went to King's Valley, Oregon this summer, and it was a magnificent reminder -- and a huge shock for an L.A. girl -- of the power of nature.  Nothing but trees and water and mountains and quiet.  The stars had more wattage than the city lights, too. 
Here are a few shots of the beautiful home of our fabulous hosts:
A reminder each time the switch is flipped.

A little red cottage with a purple front door.

I was also lucky enough to get back to my beloved Seattle, where I find it impossible not to be inspired by all of the flowers and food and art and architecture and music.  I found some of the coolest design details in the homes of my family and friends.
Little details like the built in planter are what give my sister in law's little craftsman bungalow so much charm.  Plus, I love this vintage sofa and I'm a sucker for the orange-red color combo.
Accent pillows with fantastic color and texture.

Fab shag.
This glorious, ever-evolving magnetic chalkboard wall was one of my favorite things in a BFFs new home.  Everyone who comes to the house leaves their mark. 
Okay.  So I'm back in L.A. and back at work.  I'm excited for all of the things that are in the works and ready to see what the new season has in store.  It is always an adventure.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013


After three months of tearing apart the garden at the Alviso house, we’ve finally begun to build it back up again.   Springtime renewal is the name of the game around here.  It is pretty darned exciting.

First item on the reconstruction list was the deck.
We designed a deck that floats off the house and is accessible through the laundry and studio doors.
The redwood is termite resistant and it has a beautiful grain when sealed.
Here's the after photo.  Drew added a step into the laundry door for Ruby.

One of the things we were most committed to was re-purposing the concrete (there is SO MUCH of it) from the old garden into the new one.  So after the deck had a couple of coats of sealant, Drew started placing the recycled concrete pads to create the path around the garden.  We'll fill the gaps in with more soil and grow some mosses and small grasses there so that its green.

Who knew that chunks of old concrete could be so beautiful!
And did I mention that we have kick-ass friends who were willing to spend the day in the dirt, removing a giant patch of the grass in the backyard and helping to construct the redwood boxes for the vegetable garden?  I hope to be able to reward them handsomely when the garden starts to produce.

I've got 3 types of tomatoes, 2 eggplants, strawberries, hot and sweet peppers, squash, green beans, zucchini and cucumbers, carrots and radishes in these 2 5'X5' boxes. 
Old wooden flower boxes re-imagined as the salad garden.  I love coming outside to pick leaves just before we eat them.   Faves are the red romaine and the "freckles" spotted lettuce.


There is still a stack of concrete pads, brick, rocks and rubble to contend with, and a corner of the backyard is made uninhabitable by bamboo, but I am determined to worry about those things later.  I am ready for cocktails and dinner and parties and picnics on the patio all summer long.

Friday, March 29, 2013

in the dirt

It has been a time of destruction in the backyard.

Here's what it looked like the day we got our keys:
The view from inside the side gate to the far back corner of the backyard. 

The house we bought was given a 6 week makeover by a house flipping company. The flippers spent all of their landscaping budget on generic curb appeal and on cleaning and pruning the giant rubber tree in the front yard.  When it came the the back of the house, well, they ran out of steam.  That turned out to be okay with us.  The back garden was overgrown,  but large and bright.  We could see that there was some great stuff already there, but knew we'd have to do a LOT of pruning and cutting and digging and cleaning before we could begin to create anything like what we envisioned. 

Drew started the whole process by attacking the giant pink bougainvillea that filled the entire back corner and completely obscured the neighbor's garage wall.  Over the last month he's been removing chunks of flowers and leaves and dead vines and thorns, just enough each week to fill the green waste bin and get the debris out of the garden.   Its now completely gone - cut to the ground and ready to grow back only in the spots that we want it.

Bamboo removal is a trickier endeavor, so Drew spent many hours over the course of several weekends cutting through a wall of plants 3 feet deep and 8 feet tall, leaving giant piles of bamboo waiting to to be cut into chunks and deposited into the green bin.

Our neighbor's garage and our back wall are now visible.

Bamboo - some as tall as 10' - ready for reuse elsewhere in the garden.

The big bottle brush tree was next.  It started out like this:
Another overgrown bouganvillea next to an even more overgrown bottle brush tree.

 Here's what it looks like now:
A lovely canopy and a view of the neighbor's cypress trees.  And I can't wait to paint a mural on the side of the garage.

I had every intention of completely removing the teeny lime tree placed randomly near the middle of the backyard, but it was in bloom when we started demoing and it smelled too good to cut down.  It has been so happy since being pruned that it has started producing tasty little fruit again.  I will be making Margaritas.  And ceviche.
The lime tree is covered with sweet-smelling blooms and the bees who love them so.

The giant aluminum awning.  It had to go.  Luckily it was no match for Drew and Fred.  They unbolted it fron the concrete, pulled it down and cut it into pieces.   It took them about 2 hours, beginning to end.   The scrap metal guys took the remnants away and its almost as if it never existed.   Now the back yard is a lot sunnier.

Two men and a Sawz-all.
At last, it was time for the concrete.  I have been dying to remove it from the moment we got our keys.   A jackhammer was rented.  Luckily, there was no rebar inside, so the big pad was was broken into paver-sized pads that we'll use elsewhere in the rebuilding of the patios and paths. 
Two men and a jackhammer.

It looks like a bomb exploded here, but all I can see are the possibilities.

Its been a blur of happy change and it is so exciting to have the garden in a really raw state.  The reconstruction, which we've already begun to plot and plan, is going to be even more fun.

Happy spring!