L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: Budget

Spare closet turned into hidden home office

Closeted home office
Small home offices are big right now, according to the National Assn. of Home Builders, and when my colleague Lisa Boone wrote about the trend two months ago we invited readers to share photos of their pocket offices. Among the photos that rolled our way was this design sent by Katie McAuliff, a Chicago designer whose firm, LB Interior Design, converted a client's spare closet into a space-efficient work area.

Closeted home officeThe project was a reminder that anyone with a guest bedroom, kids playroom or TV room could equip the closet as a pocket office without losing the function of the rest of the room. It's an idea we saw done well when profiling the Studio City home of furniture designer Reza Feiz a few years ago (photo below).

For those DIYers among us, we posed some additional questions to McAuliff, who worked on the project with business partner Lindsay McDonell. We asked for specifics about how they put the space together for this edited Q&A:

Could you tell us a bit more about the doors? Are they powder-coated metal or painted wood? And is that a strip of wood delineating the colors?

The doors were made with three Wilsonart laminates and a raised piece of wood trim to separate colors. Laminate is a little tricky for the DIYer (and requires routers, files, etc.). To achieve this look, my advice would be to paint the colors onto existing doors, then add the trim pieces using glue and small nails. [McAuliff credits the doors pictured here to Brian Haughey of BH Woodworking.]

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$42,000 Council Design table versus $799 Z Gallerie piece

Screen shot 2012-06-18 at 9.25.04 PM Screen shot 2012-06-18 at 9.50.06 PMOnly one of these pieces is the $42,000 Periodic Table by One & Co., the San Francisco design firm that put a luxurious spin on the rustic lumber trend. Using a specially developed process, the 44-inch square table is produced by Council Design using reclaimed Douglas fir coated in silver.

The original costs such a huge chunk of change that a smaller version, the 47 (named for silver's number on the periodic table of elements), was released last year and featured on L.A. at Home. The 47 sells for $1,200 at Design Within Reach.

Now, Z Gallerie has minted a lookalike coffee table that sells for $799. Which of the photos is the original Periodic Table, and which is Z Gallerie's Timber Coffee Table?

Keep reading to find out which is which and why they cost what they do ...

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Schoolyard trailers turned into modular homes

Trailer de Cuba exteriorWhen it comes to energy efficiency, most homeowners focus on heating, cooling and lighting. But it may take as long as 15 years for a home's energy usage to match the amount of energy embedded in a home's construction.

This was the concept that a West Hills architecture firm embraced with research+upcycle, a modular home company that intends to reuse classroom trailers, transforming them into low-cost but high-style living space.

"We really need to rethink the way that we build homes," said Chase Anderson, who founded the company last year with his father, Robert, an architect and general contractor, and his stepmother, Petra, an interior designer. "With all the changes in the housing market and economy over the last several years, high-end, custom-built homes aren't selling." They started looking at different structures that would be inexpensive to transform into something chic.

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Woodbury architecture students turn sheds into cool little cabins

Woodbury shed cabinsThe challenge for three teams of architecture students from Woodbury University in Burbank: Design the coolest, smartest cabin that you can dream up. The catch: Your building materials have to come from an ordinary, not-so-cool shed kit from Lowes.

Woodbury paper cabin“There was a lot of grumbling at the beginning,” said Jeanine Centuori, chairwoman of the undergraduate architecture program at Woodbury. Each 10-by-10-foot shed had to be transformed to accommodate two people for sleeping. The template had to be tweaked to provide light, ventilation and insulation. And though the teams each had a budget of $1,500 for additional supplies, they also had a mandate to experiment with one assigned material — paper, plastic or wood.

PHOTO GALLERY: Woodbury students tweak shed kits into mini modern cabins

POLL: Vote for your favorite cabin design

Just how much can a simple shed be transformed? The answer becomes apparent before you're even off the driveway at the Shadow Hills Riding Club, the San Fernando Valley equestrian center where the three cabins were built.

The paper team's bright orange cabin practically glows, its exterior pop-outs borrowing an idea from motor homes (imagine dresser drawers left open). The pop-outs provide seating on the outside and space for luggage racks on the inside. Two beds are cleverly hidden under removable floor panels. Colorful hammocks from Craigslist hang from the ceiling, prompting student Sunny Lam to claim (as only a college student could) that the cabin “sleeps four.” (That's Lam in the photo hanging out, with Colin McCarville holding a floor panel that, when lifted up, becomes a privacy screen.)

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Architect Jon Frishman's Laurel Canyon retreat

Jon Frishman houseAnyone who has remodeled a kitchen or built an addition to a house knows that construction hardly ever passes like clockwork. It takes time — and in the case of a perfection-seeking architect whose dreams soared higher than his budget, lots and lots of time.

Jon Frishman living roomArchitect Jon Frishman needed just two weeks to design his house but 10 years to build it. For his methodical approach and patience, Frishman’s reward is a three-story, 1,500-square-foot house in Laurel Canyon that is loaded with custom features at an off-the-shelf cost.

PHOTO GALLERY: Jon Frishman's house

By planning meticulously, acting as his own general contractor and knocking out projects bit by bit, the architect said, his expenses were about $150 a square foot, about half the amount often spent to build similar homes today.

His series of low-cost solutions started with his interpretation of the Los Angeles building code, which required covered parking for two cars. Rather than devote space to a two-car garage he didn't need, Frishman designed a one-car garage and an adjacent garden courtyard, which, thanks to a sliding front door that the architect installed and a retractable fabric awning that he has planned, can double as a carport.

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SolarCity launches loan program for energy efficiency upgrades

An installer applies solar film insulation to windows at a Culver City houseOwners who want to make their homes more energy efficient but can't pay for improvements up front have a new option: The Home Energy Loan program from SolarCity introduced Monday allows homeowners to finance energy efficiency upgrades through 10-, three- or one-year loans, the last of which comes with no interest.

An average U.S. homeowner spends about $1,900 annually on utilities, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. SolarCity estimates that 40% of the money homeowners spend to heat and cool their homes is wasted through duct and air leakage.

The San Mateo-based company can audit home energy consumption, recommend ways to reduce usage and identify rebates. The evaluation uses 3-D software with detailed information about window types, insulation, water heaters, even light bulbs. Energy use is modeled for a calendar year, the recommendations can be as specific as changing a 100-watt incandescent bulb.

"If you replace it with a CFL," said Levi Blankenship, SolarCity's energy efficiency manager, "the software not only knows the light bulb will consume less energy but it will also know how many more BTUs the furnace needs to produce to account for the fact that the new light bulb puts off less heat."

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IKEA premieres how-to-assemble furniture videos


Anyone who has ever assembled IKEA furniture -- or had to disassemble something put together incorrectly (those pesky sliding doors on a Pax wardrobe, perhaps?) -- will be pleased to learn that the purveyor of flat-pack furniture launched a series of how-to videos Tuesday on YouTube. 

 Designed as a visual complement to IKEA's much-parodied printed instructions -- all the rudimentary pictures, the arrows, the umlauts -- the videos feature IKEA co-workers walking the Allen-wrench-phobic through the assembly process from start to finish. 

In the first video, about four minutes long, two people assemble the Malm bed frame in 10 steps. Helpful tips pop up on screen, as do pictures of the required tools for each step. You can pause or rewind at will. (And if you find yourself needing to rewind frequently, let us suggest muting the music, lest you completely lose you mind.)

New videos are planned weekly, including ones on the Pax Lyngdal wardrobe and Galant corner desk. No word yet on whether the series will include IKEA's popular kitchen cabinets.


IKEA launches Share Space

Palm Springs' Uptown Design District

Anthropologie's new spring collection

-- Lisa Boone

Video: IKEA


LivingHomes C6 house and the promise of affordable prefab

LivingHomes C6 prefab house
The concept is simple: Make a modern, prefabricated home with the lowest environmental impact -- and price -- possible. It's called the C6, and it's premiering in two locations this week: Palm Springs, where it is part of a Modernism Week prefab showcase open through Feb. 26, and the TED Conference in Long Beach running through March 2.

LivingHomes C6 interiorStarting at $179,000, the C6 prefab from Santa Monica-based LivingHomes is half the price of the company's other models. The C6 is touted as the first production home designed to achieve LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and it's the first to incorporate a range of products certified by Cradle to Cradle, the environmental rating program founded by sustainability gurus William McDonough and Michael Braungart. The cost, $145 per square foot, includes 34 tons of carbon offsets. (That's the main living area of the Palm Springs installation pictured above, photographed earlier this week while workers were still staging it for tours.)

PHOTO GALLERY: LivingHomes' C6 prefab house

“When we started in 2006, we wanted to bring homes to a class of consumers who value design, health and sustainability in the products they buy,” said LivingHomes chief executive Steve Glenn, citing Prius-driving, Whole Foods-shopping, iPhone-wielding, Patagonia-wearing consumers as his target. “Production builders haven't historically targeted those people. LivingHomes does.”

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Domino magazine plans return to newsstands in April

Domino_-_premier_issueWhen Domino succumbed to declining advertising and folded in 2009, fans of the youthful home decorating magazine were heartbroken. Apparently sensing that their love is still alive, Conde Nast Editorial Director Thomas J. Wallace announced Tuesday that a special Quick Fixes edition of Domino will be available on newsstands April 17.

Domino's Quick Fixes, which is still in the planning stages, will mix new and previously published content, said Susan Portnoy, vice president of corporate communications and digital strategy at Conde Nast.

"We love that there is still that Domino lover out there,"  Portnoy said. "The best thing about the magazine will remain the same -- all the great ways that you can make a big difference without a huge amount of time and effort."

A news release described Quick Fixes as "Domino's best home decorating stories, focusing on easy, often inexpensive changes that make a big difference -- from quick spruce-ups of dowdy furniture to more involved DIY projects like painting stairs or reorganizing a home office." 

Quick Fixes will be available through July 16. Price: $10.99. A second issue is planned for the fall, although the subject matter is not known at this time.

Portnoy dismissed the idea of a campaign to bring the magazine back, but she did acknowledge, "We know that we have a very passionate audience."


Shelter magazines thrive in China, Russia, India

-- Lisa Boone

Photo: Domino's premiere issue in 2005. Credit: Conde Nast

Before and after: Family-friendly L.A. loft remodel

Cha:Col loft living room
Chinmaya Apurva Collaborative recently completed its first interior loft renovation, a 1,574-square-foot space rethought as a series of areas for parents and child to rest, work and play. The project, completed in December, is the latest installment of Pro Portfolio, our Monday feature that looks at recently built, remodeled or  redecorated spaces with commentary from the designers.

Cha:Col loft windowsLocation: Downtown Los Angeles.

Designer: Chinmaya Apurva Collaborative, which also goes by Cha:Col. General contractor: Alex Taslimi, Taz Construction. 

Designer's description: The clients -- husband, wife and 3-year-old daughter -- bought this historic loft in the South Park neighborhood of downtown last summer. The couple needed a flexible space for living as well as occasional home-based work. The building is seven floors high, the top three of which were added by the developer.  This unit is on the fourth floor, giving us the opportunity to design within the historic structure.

Cha:Col loft planWhen the couple purchased the loft, it had spartan, unmaintained finishes including synthetic wood flooring; reinforced concrete (or RC) columns with granular, degenerating stucco; RC beams; retrofitted aluminum-framed windows; and exposed HVAC and electrical work along ceilings, concealed within partition walls.

The clients needed a flexible live-work plan as well as a separate space for their daughter. The budget was extremely limited, so at the outset we decided to limit the scope of the project to  interior mill work and finishes.

We worked extensively with 3D models and drawings to establish key sight lines. These were required so we could define separate zones without losing visual continuity between any of them. First, we defined all areas that were beyond the limited budget. We then cut an  existing utility room in half and redesigned it as an open, flexible workspace with integrated shelving. Storage was relocated to a new partition wall. We then built open shelves to separate spaces yet leave porous boundaries.

To see more, keep reading ...

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