Remodeling and Home Design

Monday, June 30, 2008

architectural venezia

yesterday i had the pleasure of attending aia/la's venice home tour, "a stroll through venezia" hosted by snaidero usa. there were many beautiful features and details throughout the tour but what struck me the most was mdesign's mark baez's mcube modular prefab system. with a steel frame and concrete floors, baez uses translucent light emitting fiberglass insulated panels that serve as cladding, exterior and interior walls, insulation, operable windows and moveable /removable walls/doors. the panels are reminiscient of shoji screens but are definitely modern. it was remarkable how cool and comfortable the space inside was for such a hot sunny day. there was also plenty of light and no electrical lighting needed. the modular system can be fully erected in 90 days at a starting cost of $100 per square foot! there are more sustainable elements too like photovoltaic panels, radiant floors, and passive solar design. the space we got to tour was actually 1 unit in a 3-unit case study building at 709 5th ave. it is clear that this system is successful since baez has almost completed a similar structure on the corner of rose and 4th.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

vintage fabrics reborn!

yesterday i rode my bike to the venice ecofest presented by the venice chamber of commerce and earth day LA. as usual, the weather was beautiful and since it was at the beach, there was a nice breeze keeping everyone cool. there were many eco vendors like one offering info and investment opportunities for wind energy, a sun-powered sound stage, e-waste collection, filtered water stations, free bike valet, and the green truck with food and beverages.

there were also eco fashion vendors like christine ladd huffman and her recyclicious headbands. chrissy creates fun and fahsionable headbands using vintage fabrics so they are eco-friendly! this white, pink and green one is my new acquisition from her booth at ecofest. i actually bought it for my sister, but may keep it for myself! check her website for retail locations and where else she may be selling them herself this summer.

Friday, June 27, 2008

downtown LA has a suburb?!

did i hear birds and see trees blowing in the cool evening breeze in downtown LA? yes, i did! last night, i helped out with an event by patrician company at the newly completed barker block on molino st by kor group (you know, the folks responsible for the very hip successful viceroy hotel among many other cool properties). it's a beautiful building on a lovely tree-lined street in a very cool art enclave! a local walking her dogs who lives with her husband down the street told me she's been there "since the beginning" and added that she calls it a "suburb of downtown LA". i have to admit that i didn't really feel like i was in a downtown area. there were no high-rises nearby, no city noise, no city traffic and no city trash. it was a friendly street too with neighbors taking walks, riding bikes, waving to each other and a couple stopped to chat with neighbors on their patio. i urge you to learn more about the development downtown, especially barker block as they still have some units left!

universal sustainable product certification is HERE!

i am so excited to learn about the institute for market transformation to sustainability(mts), an amazing group that has been working for about 15 years so far to achieve a sustainable world through transformation of the way products are designed, made and sold. this includes a universal certification called SMART certified, available for any sustainable product except for planes and cars! SMART is a rating system based on 24 sustainable product certification criteria for building products, fabric, apparel, textile & floor covering. it provides many benefits like environmental, social, economic, liability reduction, and product differentiation. also, SMART protects against unlawful greenwashing. it's clear that this is integral to a sustainable future.

thanks to treepeople and usgbc for hosting an aia and idec accredited evening last wednesday of SMART certified sustainable products education and awards.where i first learned about mts and smart certified. located in treepeople's new green building conference center, designated for LEED certification, it was a lovely evening with organic wine and food too!

help & hope for green remodeling

green remodeling refers to projects that are designed and constructed to reduce the environmental impacts in areas like energy, water, materials consumption, waste generation, and harmful indoor and outdoor emissions. the REGREEN program, developed by usgbc and asid, is a set of best practice guidelines for sustainable residential improvement projects. whether or not you are considering applying for LEED or Green Point Rated certification for your green remodeling home project, check out REGREEN. simply download the 180 page pdf from the website and learn how to take a whole-house systems-thinking approach from different case study examples, detailed drawings, strategy library, resource lists, green product checklist, etc.

global green's green building resource center, sponsored a free workshop last tuesday at the santa monica library that introduced REGREEN. there was a nice turnout of community members and homeowners concerned and curious about greening their homes. in addition, mary cordaro environmental consultant, bau-biologist, and owner of an organic bedding collection, taught us how to create a healthy home through environmentally-friendly solutions that also contribute to healthy air quality. get more info in person at the green building resource center (hours) and attend some of their wonderful events listed here! also, learn more from an interview with monica gilchrist, global green usa's national resource center coordinator.

Monday, June 23, 2008

beeswax buzz

after my posting about queen b beeswax candles, i received a note from the owner of that company, cate burton, explaining why beeswax makes the healthiest candle. so, i did a little research and here are a few fascinating tidbits i discovered about candles.

  • aromatherapy candles actually create poisonous byproducts when the oil is burned.
  • paraffin candles are made of petroleum industry waste, then bleached and other chemicals added.
  • according to the epa, paraffin candles are known to release carcinogens.
  • the american lung association warns against burning scented or slow-burning candles with additives.
  • vegetable and soy candles are a good alternative to paraffin or aromatherapy candles, but toxins are created when oils are converted into wax to make the candle.
  • another surprising issue with vegetable and soy candles, is that in order to create supply for them, large areas of virgin rainforests are being illegally cleared.
  • beeswax looks like the best choice for its non-toxic, non-polluting, non-allergenic, and all natural properties.
  • beeswax is also made from a renewable source and gives off a sweet honey aroma.
  • beeswax produces negative ions which purifies the air.
  • beeswax candles burn efficiently, about 10 times longer than paraffin.
  • beware though when a candle is labeled beeswax since by law it only needs to have at least 10% beeswax in order to be labeled as beeswax.
  • finally, be sure the wick is cotton since many candle wicks contain lead.
thanks cate for helping us improve the indoor air quality and the natural world!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

eco fashion

thursday night i attended 'green with envy fashion experience' in hollywood, an eco-fashion event hosted by janice dickinson and presented by reality cares and gaudy pr. it featured a fashion show by 4 designers including deborah lindquist one of the most sought after environmentally-conscious designers. she uses sustainable materials like hemp, organic cotton and organic wool, plus recycled cashmere, repurposed kimonos and saris, and vintage silk scarves. the most important factor of all is of course that the designs are beautiful and comfortable. just as with eco-friendly interior design, it's not good enough that a design is green, it must also be beautiful and functional.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

YOU improved

there's a lot of pressure as a designer to dress and present myself in a certain way. luckily, i have a good sense of style in terms of how i dress and put myself together. in fact, i often get compliments on my outfits. however, i'm an expert in interior design and NOT an image consultant. so i knew that i would benefit from hiring an expert in that department to avoid costly mistakes down the road. by the way, this is the same philosophy i believe in for why people need to hire an expert interior designer like me!

since i was shooting a hosting video yesterday, i wanted to be sure i had the best outfit. so i met with monique marco, a talented stylist and image consultant who taught me a ton! just check her out in the hip, adorable and eco-friendly outfit pictured here! even though i had a good foundation about what shapes and colors look best on me, monique was able to enhance that knowledge and boost my look. best of all, she has a unique approach re. the environment known as "ecoLove" which you can learn more about on her website.

thanks monique! i can't wait to have you come back to do a complete overhaul on my wardrobe!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

santa barbara discoveries

yesterday i had the pleasure of participating as a speaker at built green expo sponsored by the santa barbara contractors association. a nice variety of build and design exhibitors were located in a beautiful outdoor setting at the santa barbara city college under blue skies with the ocean, kites and masts in the background. the extensive conference portion was located in classrooms adjacent to the exhibit area and speakers included michelle kaufmann! speaking of michelle kaufmann, at the final hour i caught the end of the house tour, also part of built green expo, and saw one of her designs. i liked the seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors. the interior is filled with lots of daylight and the sun casts beautiful shadows on the front and back patios through adjustable louver overhangs.

to make the most of my santa barbara visit and feel less guilty about the gas guzzling trip, i spent time visiting with my ventura-based designer friend carrie chase. we visited 3 lovely diani boutiques in the same plaza. inspiration comes from the pristine diani beach in kenya where the owner spent many childhood holidays. i was happy to see green design elements like driftwood used as a table base and mirror frame. also, the owner re-used perforated panels originally installed in the windows and recessed some of them into the wall and also made some stencil on the wall! they also sell queenb candles, a brand new 100% beeswax candle from australia. yes, it's imported but it's a step in the right direction.

then, we went to canary hotel, formerly hotel andalucia, which i helped re-design when i was at michael s. smith. it was so nice to see the lovely general manager again as well as the beautiful result of our design efforts last year. there was also a nice transition into the newly renovated restaurant coast by jim gillam of the design firm backen gillam. they did a wonderful job converting the restaurant which seems to already be a hit as evidenced by the crowds pouring in over the early dinner hour on a Saturday.

it was a wonderful day trip to santa barbara topped off with a stop at my favorite smoothie place, blenders in the grass. then i drove back to LA along the coast with a stop to view the surfers hanging 10 on friendly waves at leo carillo as the sun set...ahhhh.

Friday, June 13, 2008

uncovering layers at the getty

last april, i learned about a fascinating new layer at the getty research institute. the discovery started at a dwell magazine event discussing art and architecture, where i met christopher j. alexander, the associate collections curator for the getty research institute. christoppher fills a new position as the research institute to help develop its architectural collections and share them with the public. christopher is responsible for several exhibitions of julius shulman's work and recently at the getty, 'lessons of bernard rudofsky'.

yesterday, i was excited to park at the upper lot at the getty at no charge! i was meeting with christopher and eleanor schapa, an amazing art history teacher from santa monica college and ucla extension, whose art history comment was quoted in the new york times! i was thrilled just to be at the getty and escape LA for a bit. it ended up being more of a treat than i anticipated as christopher gave us a surprise mini tour behind the scenes of the institute. we strolled through parts of their incredible library with a general collection of 900,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogs. there is also the special collections room and a photo study collection with about 2 million photographs! we peeked at the incredibly organized and well-maintained julius shulman collection (including 260,000 prints!). the best part of this institute is that it's not just for scholars, but access is available to anyone with a government-issued photo ID! however, if you are a member of the scholarly and museum communities or a particular researcher, then you get more access privelages. and to top it off, the parking is free by reservation!

thanks christopher for the wonderful introduction to the Getty Research Institute and their fascinating architectural collections.

note: the photos are mine from my getty visit years ago when family from new england visited, as the getty is always on the agenda for out-of-town guests.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

vegas & venice

you're probably wondering what vegas and venice (CA) could possibly have in common. well, on my recent visit to vegas for HD expo (see prior posts), i noticed some beautiful veiny marble floors at wynn (among many other indulgent details). it reminded me of the veiny sand i've seen at venice beach after the water washes over it and leaves dark grey streaks. check out these photos which illustrate the surprising similarity. who would've thought that something found in a very contrived world on the strip would serve as a reminder of something so beautiful and natural as the beach!

Monday, June 9, 2008

sophistication by Dwell

'dwell on design 08' (DOD) graced LA with 2 1/2 days of an exhibit that was more sophisticated than the usual. not only was the space void of the usual trade show carpets to reveal very cool concrete, most vendors presented their wares in a more sophisticated way than typically shown.

towards the back, just beyond a lovely display by monrovia gardens, was a magnificent discovery of a company called hom who was launching their lifestyle business at DOD. hom displayed an actual 2BR 2BA manufactured home that was very different than the usual prefab out there for many reasons. one is that it has a gable roof which adds an element of warmth and charm. the home has many ecological components including its own beautiful line of furniture, lighting and accessories. they offer 3 floor plans which go all the way up to a 6BR 4BA 3600SF home which cost about $200/SF which is much more affordable than the typical prefab.

there were several architects and design/build firms exhibiting who showed us some stunning examples of their work. to help illustrate that, often there were models and the most strking models i saw were at demaria design associates' booth. they're made from wood and at a quick glance, this close-up view looks like the real thing!

it was extremely exciting to meet several of the designers behind the gorgeous exhibited products. this included teresa grow, the designer behind the eco-friendly luxury wallcovering company madison & grow, who with her business partner erin yasgar, launched their product at DOD! the designs are inspired by many of my favorites, dorothy draper, david hicks and dwell. their product works well in a myriad of settings whether with antiques or modern pieces and it's also eco-friendly! their wallcoverings are non-toxic and hand-screened with water-based inks on clay-coated paper.

another designer, daniel ogassian, shared his innovative exterior cladding solutions. daniel began his design career on a potter's wheel 15 years ago and making ceramic tile (pictured next to him). while his business still offers ceramic tile along with the cladding, he also makes concrete (see detail image), precast and custom solutions.

yet another designer, brook bannister of mccloud design, makes some of the most beautiful waterfalls i've seen! brook, like many of the designers, has a quiet and modest demeanor despite his gifted talent. his water features are quite sculptural and are set against different metal finishes like patina, perforated and corrugated.

some other great treasures from 'dwell on design 08' include vintage and re-used furniture. for example, fusion furniture displayed clever pieces re-designed by tim george. george takes industrial pieces that have been discarded and converts them into something very suitable for the home. for example, this metal bar cart with wood interior was originally a medical cart (without the wood of course)! what a great way to contribute beautifully to the sustainable design cause.

there was also eco-intelligent furniture from animavi who uses a cradle-to-cradle methodology. the sustainable components of this beautiful product include hand-polished steel, soy based foam, 3form ecoresin shell, 100% natural flame-retardent wool felt liner, solvent-free water based adhesive, durability and timeless quality. the un-upholstered version is great for outdoors!

i was delighted to see that rugmark foundation exhibited at dwell and to learn that not only is dwell a sponsor of rugmark, but the publisher and president of dwell, michela o'connor abrams, is on their board. rugmark was established in 1994 to help end child labor in carpet manufacturing. today, more than 4 million rugs have been sold with the rugmark label! however, ALL imported rugs should be sold with this certification so there is still much work to be done. before looking at a rug's cost or sustainable qualities, please make sure it's rugmark labeled to be sure it was made without child labor. to find a rugmark rug near you, go to the search option on the rugmark website.

The luxury to Dwell

it has been too long since my last entry, but i was distracted with the official launch of my website and blog as well as dwell magazine's 4 days of 'dwell on design 08' in LA (DOD).

i was fortunate to be a part of DOD as a speaker and share my knowledge of sustainable interiors (see the dwell fan page). DOD appeared to be a huge success and offered inspiring presentations, cool and unique products, a focus on sustainble design, sold out home tours and fun parties. and the dwell staff behind the event are so nice and stylish!
i really hope DOD returns to LA next year!

activities began last thursday with the first of 2 days of their conference with a party thursday evening at fordbrady downtown. they feature stylish and unique furniture, lighting and accessories among which includes this chair displayed in their exhibit booth. it's the garden boy stainless chair designed by angus hutcheson. it was displayed like a museum piece and looked so magnificent and sculputural, as if it were a piece of art, not just a functional piece of furniture.

on friday, i had the honor of speaking on a panel about sustainable interiors with lori dennis and mary cardaro. it was a wonderful session where we were able to explain why green design is so necessary and how to create a sustainable interior. in addition, we discussed that green design doesn't define a space, rather it is 1 component of a bigger picture. an environmentally friendly space means that it's efficient and healthy, but the space must also be beautiful, comfortable, and effective. we also emphasized the importance of evaluating a product or material based on its full life cycle, not just whether it has some recycled content.

friday night was the vip party at moca downtown with a great dj and beverages sponsored by izze and 360vodka. perhaps the coolest part of the party was the design tournament featuring LA's top rendering gurus. these designers were seated in a circle with large monitors above them so that party guests could watch their every move. it was fascinating to watch beautiful homes conceived right in front of your eyes!

another fun activity was a landscape design challenge sponsored by monrovia who also supplied the plants and trees throughout the 4 day event. i got to experience this first-hand as i was part of a team in the 1st round who won! we had 10 minutes to create a design using any number of plants supplied by monrovia and work within a small square area. our design was inspired by dwell of course and resulted in a minimal, asymmetrical design with a curved path running through it. as a prize, we received dwell tshirts and a monrovia plant of our choice! i proudly took home an arabian lilac.

in my next post, i will share a glimpse of more cool products from the exhibit.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

hip restaurant renovation

last night i got together for a fun and inspirational evening with a group of wonderful ladies who are business owners in the los angeles and orange county area. every month at a cool local spot after work, we get together to meet other female business owners for support and inspiration. last night we met at the del restaurant in playa del rey. the service is excellent, the food good and atmosphere in the lounge is hip and comfortable. it's a new business but in the spirit of green design, they kept the existing building and many elements like the leaded glass windows and doors and even the very cool captain figured door handles!


eTTa designs presents ettabits to highlight some of the visual treasures around us - enjoy!