L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: Craig Nakano

Summer style: Outdoor chairs that strike a chord

Ligne Roset Fifty
We're calling them airy chairs: outdoor seats whose wire or cord construction makes for an easy, breezy sensibility — the it look of summer, light in silhouette but not on style. We've chosen a sampling of chairs in a range of prices. Higher-end designs tend to have more refinements: Ligne Roset’s Fifty chair and ottoman, pictured here, has a steel frame that has been treated to protect against corrosion and lacquered in polyester so it’s cool to touch (no sear marks on thighs, thank you very much). Nearly 1,150 feet of UV-resistant polypropylene rope are strung into a cool silhouette that  cocoons you in comfort. The Ligne Roset chair retails for $1,435, the ottoman for $525, but we have some other picks that are as much a comfort to your wallet as they are to your back and feet.

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Malibu modern: New house makes most of every inch, every view

W+D rear view

You could admire the ocean view from the second-floor deck — coastal bluffs covered with wind-sculpted cypress trees to your right, pretty Point Dume off in the distance to your left, 10 miles of prime Malibu beach in between.

Click here for interactive panoramasOr you could admire the architecture from the street below, looking up at a first floor that juts out from a cliff and hovers over nothingness.

Or you could contemplate the house from the front, where the weathered redwood siding turns out to be planks recycled from olive and pickle tanks.

You could do all of that, but then you might miss part of what makes this house special. This dream of a retreat — set along exclusive Broad Beach, among the mansions that Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford, Goldie Hawn and Steve Levitan have called home — holds smart design ideas that could translate to houses that are miles and miles away, in geography, budget or style.

PANORAMAS: Interactive 360-degree images from inside this house

After all, on paper this house is merely 1,700 square feet of living space: open kitchen and living room, powder room, small office and guest bedroom with bath on the first floor, master suite on the second. That's it.

But as conceived by the young Los Angeles firm W+D, this Malibu house plays out as a case study in the efficient use of space. Wedged next to noisy Pacific Coast Highway and set snugly between neighbors, the house also is inspiration for anyone trying to balance a love of the outdoors with the need for quiet and privacy.

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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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Tomato cages: Readers see red over pros' picks

Tomato fight

This is what happens when you ask gardeners to vote on their favorite tomato cage. Well, maybe not this bad. But close.

Tomato cage Florida weaveAfter we asked six garden pros to reveal their favorite ways to support tomato plants -- from cheap Home Depot wire cages to somewhat pricey and chic catalog buys -- we asked readers to chime in too. (This is where things got a little messy.)

No frenzy of tomato flinging. Not yet. But tomato lovers did let us know they have some strong opinions.

Some of you slapped your head and wondered why none of our experts suggested the Florida Weave, a system in which plants are propped between twine strung between posts. The Florida Weave may sound like a bad hairpiece, reader Linda Ly said, but it works.

SFlorida weave illustratedhe supplied a photo, above right, and even an illustration, below right, to elaborate.

As she wrote on her Garden Betty blog: "This is an aerial view of what the Florida Weave should look like. The top illustration shows my current setup of three plants across an 8-foot bed. The bottom illustration shows an efficient setup that can be repeated for longer rows."

Glendora reader Tom Matkey seconded the effectiveness of the Florida Weave but also sent photos of his PVC cages, declaring that "the circular, cone-shaped cages are virtually worthless."

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Best tomato cages: Six picks from the pros

Tomato ladder croppedBrandywine or San Marzano? Cherokee Purple or Early Girl? Once you get past the questions of what kind of tomatoes to plant, you quickly reach question No. 2: What kind of support is best? We surveyed six L.A. garden pros about their favorite tomato cage and got six different answers, including some clever tweaks on garden-store staples:

Tomato cage DaigreScott Daigre: The owner of Powerplant Garden Design in Ojai and the organizer of the Tomatomania! events said tomato vines are more flexible than you might think.

He wrote an article titled “Your Tomatoes Deserve Better Support” for Fine Gardening magazine last year in which he explained how he likes to train tomato plants across trellises made of concrete reinforcing wire or heavy galvanized animal fencing, often called hog wire, sold at feed stores.

The effect is a bit like espalier — a sort of living fence, a surprisingly elegant strategy for corralling one of summer’s most gangly crops.

(Photo credit: Scott Daigre)


Tomato cage Rhett Beavers croppedRhett Beavers: The Los Angeles landscape architect offered his own artwork to illustrate his design.

“I take the standard cages and stack them, using a bamboo pole as a support,” Beavers said.

His arrangement of basic, cone-shaped cages was born out of his method for planting tomatoes: Seedlings go in a deep layer of compost — so deep that “they develop roots along the stem that would normally be above ground. With all the new roots to support the plant, the plants grow really tall.”

The stacked tower accommodates the plants' height and helps to give a new look to a common form.

For more pros' favorites, keep reading ...

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Lost-pet poster: Six tips for a more effective sign

Daisy flierI returned home Saturday to two discoveries: Both of my dogs were gone from the yard. And worse: One dog’s collar had slipped off and was lying by the fence.

Wally returned home on his own, but with Daisy still missing -- and lacking any identification -- I had only two likely ways of seeing her again. Someone would have to catch her, drive her to an animal shelter and have her scanned for a microchip containing my contact information. Or someone would have to see her on a lost-dog poster.

It’s good I didn’t know the odds. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, a nonprofit organization whose members include the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Veterinary Medical Assn., less than 2% of lost cats and less than 20% of lost dogs are returned to their owners — and that’s if the animal has a tag, a microchip or both.

I poured my energy into the posters, but making an effective lost-pet flier proved to be art unto itself, a fact that I learned the hard way. Only after I had posted dozens of fliers around my neighborhood did I realize all of the mistakes I had made in the one pictured above. Here are six things I would have done differently:

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'Girls' on HBO has a breakout star: Charlie's apartment

Girls Charlie studio mainSorry, “Girls.” When it comes to home design, the latest breakout star of the HBO series belongs to one of the guys: the apartment of Marnie's wet-noodle of a boyfriend, Charlie.

“It looks awesome in here,” Marnie says upon seeing the studio for the first time, even though they have been a couple since 2007. “It looks like a Target ad. It's perfect.”

“A Target ad?” an annoyed Charlie responds, showing a hint of an emerging backbone. “It's not quite a Target ad, but whatever.”

Whatever, indeed. Charlie's apartment turns out to be more complex than Marnie could imagine. Conceived by production designer Laura Ballinger Gardner, submitted to series creator Lena Dunham for her approval and then built from scratch — all in just four days — the fictional 12-by-12 studio set in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn is a character unto itself.

Girls Charlie rendering
“We knew from the script that he lived in an older, not good apartment, but he had taken a small studio and done something wonderful with it,” said Gardner, who also is production designer for “Veep.”

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Neutra lamp auction part of effort to fix Silver Lake landmark

LAMA-Neutra-Prototype-Lamp-May12-3 copy
Four pieces of wood, some glass, a light bulb and wire. Do I hear $20,000? That’s the low estimate floated for a 1942 prototype lamp by Richard Neutra to be sold by Los Angeles Modern Auctions on May 6. The value, the auction house said, stems from the piece’s rarity: Only one other like it is known to exist.

Designed for Neutra’s parents’ house in Westwood, the lamp now belongs to Raymond Neutra, son of the iconic L.A. architect, who is donating proceeds toward the renovation of the Neutra VDL home and studio in Silver Lake. Robert Alexander, interim director of the landmark house, said the next phase involves reconstruction of the main roof by the L.A. firm Marmol Radziner, with hopes of eventually reviving Richard Neutra’s original vision: a rooftop reflecting pool with a surface that visually melds with the Silver Lake reservoir in the distance.

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York Boulevard, Highland Park: A hub of hip, really


Anyone who heard reports of Highland Park's revitalization a few years ago and headed to York Boulevard likely would have noted all the auto-body garages and the marijuana dispensaries operating with varying degrees of legality and asked, "Really?"

Matters of Space potteryAt long last, even a skeptic would concede: Really. The York gastropub and Cafe de Leche coffeehouse that set anchor on York Boulevard have been joined by new home decor boutiques, a glass studio with classes for DIYers and a vinyl music shop that draws DJs from coast to coast. Indie furniture maker Jay Dunton, above, augments his own designs with affordable accessories and some vintage pieces in Meridian Mercado Deseño. Another furniture maker plans to be doing something similar at Sawhorse. Matters of Space has small ceramics by Highland Park potter Lily King, starting at $15. The piece pictured here? Just $40, plant included.

New restaurants include HPK (short for Highland Park Kitchen), which held its opening party last week, and the forthcoming country French spot Ba, which has been putting the finishing touches on its baroque-meets-'80s-punk interiors. Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila recently offered praise for the new Maximiliano down the street.

Pop-Hop, a bookstore and print studio, and the Highland Cafe also are prepping to open. And though the street's vibe is still ruled by urban grit, for better or for worse not one but two storefronts have been claimed as the future homes for that symbol of neighborhood renewal: the wine bar.

If the gentrification gets you down, you still can get a sad face inked on your arm at the Vintage Tattoo Art Parlor. Or you can submit to change. Head to York this weekend for Second Saturday, when food trucks roll in, no-name art galleries throughout northeast L.A. open their doors, and stores on York keep late hours to accommodate crowds.

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Iconic LC1 sling chair remade for outdoors

LC1 sling profile
It may be unwise to meddle with perfection, but the Italian furniture company Cassina is taking its chances, releasing a clever outdoor version of the LC1 sling chair, the iconic 1928 design by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. The tubular frame, originally produced in steel and later replaced with chrome, has been returned to stainless steel with silver welds for all-weather performance. The leather seat and armrests have been swapped out for waterproof, fade-resistant Sunbrella fabric, proving how “innovation in materials can lift a classic to new heights while still maintaining its original design concept,” said Kari Woldum, vice president at Design Within Reach, which is selling the outdoor LC1. The designer looks still come with a designer price: $2,345.

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