L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: Craig Nakano

Uptown Design District, the new heart of Palm Springs

Palm Springs Uptown Design District
Modernism Week fans wondering if Palm Springs' Uptown Design District could hold on through the recession get their answer as soon as they roll into town and see the new store 5001 Home Collection, stocked with Italian housewares. Or the signs announcing the expansion by fashion designer Trina Turk, who in April is expected to open an annex — her second — for her home collection and men’s clothing. Or contemporary furniture store Insolito Home, which has doubled in size since last year’s Modernism Week.

A La Mod Palm SpringsThe Uptown Design District, running along North Palm Canyon Drive from about Hermosa Place to Alejo Road, is bustling — and with more than Midcentury. Earlier this week at the newly expanded A La Mod, owners James Claude and Miguel Linares were busily prepping their showroom, which is five times the size of a space they used to have down the street. Their showstopper was a chaise, at right, designed by Massimo Iosa Ghini for Moroso that was so thoroughly 1980s in style, you could practically hear early Duran Duran playing in the background — hardly the epitome of the “Mad Men” style that has propelled Palm Springs back into travel magazines.

Christopher Anthony Palm SpringsTony Larcombe of Dwight Polen, which has been selling fine Chinese antiques in the area for more than a dozen years, said the Uptown Design District is thriving with a mix that goes beyond Midcentury Modern. So after shoppers at Christopher Anthony Ltd.  swoon over the Ib Kofod-Larson armchairs -- a 1950 design with barrel backs in stained beech and white vinyl seats, at right -- Insolito Home Palm Springsthey can fly across the street to Insolito Home and perch on a folded felt Peacock chair, below right, designed by Dror Benshetrit for Cappellini just three years ago.

As part of the L.A. at Home crew's desert reconnaissance this month -- scouting that included the Palm Springs Art Museum's exhibit on pool photography and an installation of LivingHomes' new C6 prefab house -- we asked Times photographer Irfan Khan to capture the mix on Palm Canyon.

Outside the store Interior Illusions, pictured at the top of the post, Khan found much amusement by the parade of reactions to a chair that the store calls the Majesty. (The seamless polyethylene indoor-outdoor chair is sold elsewhere as the Queen of Love.)

To see more of Khan's shoot and a sampling of Uptown Design District shops, keep reading ...

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Maximiliano's spaghetti wall: How it was cooked up

As walls go, it's a bold one: the red spaghetti wall inside the new Italian restaurant Maximiliano in Highland Park. David Freeland, principal of the firm FreelandBuck, said the material is simple 1/8-inch medium-density fiberboard, or MDF, that had been spray-painted red and etched with a computer-controlled router to emulate the lines of handmade pasta.

Modeling software called Grasshopper used algorithms to create the graphic pattern, and the router cut the MDF just 1/16-inch deep, shaving off the red paint to reveal the natural brown of the MDF. “Each line is different,” Freeland said.

Though industrial equipment was needed to create such a large-scale installation, DIYers could apply the concept on a smaller scale using hardware store materials — child's room art, perhaps?

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'Hardware Store' decor: Candlesticks made of plumbing parts

Hardware candlesticksOne minute, 26 seconds. That's how long it took to assemble the largest candlestick pictured here, one of more than three dozen ideas in Stephen Antonson and Kathleen Hackett's “Home From the Hardware Store.” The best craft projects generate an immediate reaction — quick recognition of a bit of wit. In this case, it's an amusing riff on silver candlesticks using steel hex bushings from the plumbing aisle of Lowe's. Wipe them clean with a damp rag, screw them together, done.

The only other work left is to shave the base of a standard taper, so it can nestle snugly in the top hole, and to light the match.

The authors suggest uniform candlesticks made with hex bushings, starting with one that's half an inch in diameter on one end and three-quarters-inch on the other. That piece screws into another bushing that's three-quarters-inch on one end, and 1 inch on the other. The size of the bushings grow in quarter-inch increments, ending with a 1.5-inch piece as the base. I used the same gradations of hexings but bought different bases, including one 1.5-inch T-shaped pipe fitting.

For the sake of photography, and to emphasize the contrast between the rough industrial candlesticks and the smooth, refined tapers, I left the hardware in its raw silver state. But I do think it would look good sprayed a glossy white or black.

Other projects in the book (Rodale, $22.99) — wall shelves, room screens, retro lighting, even a table runner made from copper flashing — seem plausible, if you don't mind a distinctly homemade look.

The results for this one? Quirky candlelight for a modern loft or even a Craftsman table. A fitting gift for the hammering-sawing-sanding ultimate DIYer. A prank present for the mother-in-law, perhaps wrapped in a Waterford box. The possibilities are endless.


Concrete cupcakeConcrete cupcakes

Geodesic dome gingerbread house

Top picks from the L.A. Renegade Craft Fair

— Craig Nakano

Photos: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Sweet little cupcake pots in 'Concrete Garden Projects'

Concrete cupcakes
What says “I like you” more than a concrete cupcake? They look sweet and are half-baked in a humorous way. In terms of potential holiday table decor and DIY gifts, these little treats — one of many in the new book “Concrete Garden Projects” — have all the ingredients.

Concrete Garden ProjectsPart of the appeal of Malin Nilsson and Camilla Arvidsson’s book is simplicity: Most of the pots, vases, candle holders, stepping stones and decorative figurines in the book were created using the same easy steps: Find an interesting mold, fill it with concrete, let it dry. 

If you’ve picked your molds well, the results look great. The pots pictured here were made with jumbo cupcake molds made of silicone, which was firm enough to hold its shape but pliable enough to remove the concrete with incredible ease.

The authors recommend brushing molds with vegetable oil; I spray my silicone forms with Pam. Plop in wet mixed concrete, push in a smaller object to create the interior well (I used cheap IKEA glass votive candleholders, also sprayed with Pam), then level and smooth the top with wet fingers. After two days of baking in indirect sunlight, the silicone molds and the votive holders can be removed. Your cupcakes are ready.

These things work best as tea light holders, but if you want to use them as miniature pots with drainage, put a half-inch piece of oiled-up wine cork at the bottom of the mold before pouring in the wet concrete. After the pot has dried, the cork should pop out.

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Renegade Craft Fair: 10 top picks

For those who may be missing the Renegade Craft Fair, L.A. at Home has made its scouting runs to check out makers' holiday gifts, home accessories and other modern craftiness. Our roundup of picks from the show starts with Robert Mahar's rubber stamps for making DIYer gift tags. The one above is complemented by another that says: "I baked your gift. It's delicious. You'll love it and agree it tastes way better than anything else money could buy." The Mahar Craft stamps are $12 apiece and come in a gift tin, perfect for those who would rather give the stamp to a baker than do the cooking themselves.

Renegade Peanut Butter DynamiteThe monster doll craze seems to have ebbed, we're happy to report, though mash-ups of cartoon drawings with profane messages on greeting cards and T-shirts is popping up more than one would hope. (Yes, that cute animal is swearing. How naughty.)

Foxes are the new owls, as witnessed in the booth of the Riverside outfit Peanut Butter Dynamite, right. Its menagerie of knitted pillows also included a monkey and penguin, each $45.

For the rest of our picks, keep reading ...

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Old Bollywood movie posters recycled as wallpaper

Cinema-Posters-postersCinema Posters, a new wallpaper design from Weitzner, is editing in the extreme: Bollywood movie posters from India have been sliced up and stitched back together as art-house wallpaper. Seen from afar, Cinema Posters look like a random configuration of saturated colors, intensely graphic and chaotic. Up close, bits of imagery — an eyelash here, credit text there — come into focus. Nylon thread that holds the poster strips to a paper backing creates an orderly pattern of transparent stitches across the surface.

Some caveats: Cinema Posters is not recommended for areas with moisture (such as bathrooms) or direct sunlight. The design is sold through the trade, meaning an interior designer will need to price the material for you through the Kneedler-Fauchere showroom in the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, (310) 855-1313. Weitzner: (888) 609-5551. For a closer look at Cinema Posters, keep reading ...

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Richard Neutra's Kronish House sold to 'preservationist'

Neutra Kronish House
Richard's Neutra's Kronish House, the midcentury modern residence in Beverly Hills whose threatened demolition triggered renewed calls for better architectural preservation in that city, was sold Friday to a trust that intends to restore the property, the listing agent said. Price: $12.8 million.

The identity of the buyer was not disclosed, and listing agent Susan Smith said a confidentiality agreement prevented her from revealing details. "All I can say is that the person who is buying it is a preservationist," she said, and the intention is not to demolish the house.

Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency confirmed that he represented the buyer but declined to disclose details. A source close to the deal would say only that the buyer is not a celebrity and is a lover of architecture who intends to preserve Neutra's design.

Even without the architectural pedigree, the property drew notice: nearly 7,000 square feet of living space, albeit in disrepair, set on a 2-acre, flag-shaped lot above Sunset Boulevard. Smith's clients, Soda Partners, purchased the house in foreclosure in January. Earlier reports that the partnership paid $5.8 million were misleading, Smith said, and did not factor in a loan of around $1.8 million that the partners assumed, as well back taxes owed on the house and litigation expenses. She said the partners had bought the property for the land, not knowing it contained a house by one of Los Angeles' preeminent figures in modern architecture.

News of the partners' intention to scrap the house spread, culminating in a contentious City Council meeting in early August in which preservationists decried not only the pending demolition but also Beverly Hills' lack of ordinances to protect its architectural history. Soda Partners agreed to postpone demolition until October, allowing more time for a preservation-minded buyer to step forward.

The campaign to save the house drew the support of the Los Angeles Conservancy, which on Friday issued a statement from executive director Linda Dishman that said in part:

"The Kronish House has dodged the wrecking ball, and we could not be more thrilled. This outcome is a testament to the very hard work of many people, the willingness of the city and the owner to give preservation a chance, and the power of public support."

Ennis HouseALSO:

Kronish House gets a reprieve

Kronish House: Just another tear down?

Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House sells for $4.5 million

Landmark Houses: The Times series

-- Craig Nakano

Photo: Marc Angeles / Unlimited Style



Home Room: Bouroullec Textile Field, PETA and porn, 2012 colors

Bouroullec Textile Field
Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, PETA, Pergo and other notes from a lunchtime desk clearing:

Bouroullecs' Textile Field: French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec teamed with the company Kvadrat to create the 100-foot-long Textile Field, above, inside the Raphael Cartoons Gallery of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The designers' statement: "We conceived an expansive, colored foam and textile piece with gentle inclinations to produce a sensual field on which to comfortably lounge while meditating on the surrounding Raphael Cartoons. ... No efforts, no apprehension just contemplation." The installation will remain in place until Sunday. Nice time-lapse video on the Kvadrat Textile Field website. More photos toward the end of this post.

0921-Pergo-elephantPETA goes porno: "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), whose controversial campaigns draw criticism from women's rights groups, said it hopes to publicize veganism through a mix of pornography and graphic footage of animal suffering," according to a Reuters story by Ray Sanchez. The piece adds: "PETA has filed paperwork to launch its pornography site when the controversial new .xxx domain becomes active in early December. While many nonprofits and corporations are scrambling to protect their website names from being hijacked by a pornographer slapping on a .xxx domain, PETA is embracing the new domain as just another way to conduct business." Full story.

Don't tell PETA, but: Pergo staged a demonstration that included an elephant, right, and male wrestlers in women's shoes to prove that the company's XP flooring "can stand up to just about everything." In a fashion contest of bow tie versus high heels, we give the sartorial edge to the elephant. (Another photo toward the end of the post.)

FishscapeA little less wild: Behr, paint of choice at the Home Depot, released four 2012 "design themes," color palettes that purport to provide inspiration in the coming year. The description for Safari Escape: "Exotic and posh accents include copper, iridescent tile, mirrored surfaces, shells, African artifacts and animal prints."

Animals, part 4: Gessato offered its reminder than the Gaia & Gino Fishscape fishbowl, right, is scheduled to begin shipping Oct. 5. Gessato's price: $139.

Baronial Bloomberg: The New York Times has a piece Tuesday about the homes of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Apparently, the mayor may guard his private life, "swearing reporters secrecy before granting access to his homes," but photos of two "Old World and lavish" residences still popped up for public consumption on the website of his decorator, Jamie Drake. (Sorry, pictures have since been taken down.)

Bath covers: Duravit has introduced new covers for the bath. Lay out four of them side by side and the tub becomes a padded seat. Stack two and you've got a stool for a foot bath. Or deploy just one when you are in the tub, and you've got a table for your book or wine.

More photos ...

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Great divides: Room screens for the space-starved

Zeitrum Struktur
Room dividers, screens, backdrops. Whatever you call them, we've got a roundup of some the newest designs: notched cardboard, patterned Tyvek, felt panels, earthy bamboo, solid walnut and leather. Whether you want to turn one room into two, increase privacy, add storage or absorb some noise, these pieces might do the trick -- or at least provide the inspiration for a DIY fix of your own.

Photos: The great divides -- 12 novel room screens

 ABR Feel-Thru 2 Mio Loop by the yard 







"Nano House: Innovations for Small Dwellings"

Shopping for modern patio chairs

Renaissance of the poster

-- Craig Nakano

Photo, top: Zeitraum's Struktur, cardboard pieces that fit together for an airy backdrop (Credit: Zeitraum).

Photos, bottom, from left: The Spanish studio ABR designed Feel-Thru, felt panels connected by magnets and set on a ceiling track (ABR); Loop by the Yard, patterned Tyvek from the design studio Mio (Mio).

Home Room: Prouvé Raw, 2012 color forecast, Pets on Furniture

Prouve Raw 2 Prouve Raw 3 Prouve Raw 1 Prouvé Raw, 2012 color forecasting, "Carrot City" and other notes from the principal's desk this morning:

Prouvé Raw: Vitra premiered Prouvé Raw, a collaboration with the clothing brand G-Star Raw. Says the publicity machine: "G-Star, the Prouvé family and Vitra have worked on giving some of Jean Prouvé's best known designs a fresh and contemporary look and feel, while re-discovering some of Prouvé's less known designs." Photos above. Credit: Vitra.

2012, the year of blue: Benjamin Moore released its 2012 color forecast, which says "blue will be big in 2012 as the population seeks out a sense of calm, trust, and the tried-and-true." Smug note of self-congratulation: In early 2011, when so many were hailing Pantone's choice of pink as the color of the year, we noted a shifting tide toward blue. Of all the hues highlighted in Benjamin Moore's 2012 color forecast, let me go out on a limb and say I'm most drawn to a gray called Sharkskin. Will we be feeling a bit gray next year? (Sharkskin photo below.)

Home office: In a new survey from the American Institute of Architects, members report that the "specialty room" most requested by clients is (drum roll): the home office. Shocking, thinks the reader taking work home every night. The Home office blew away outdoor living rooms, mudrooms, home theaters and exercise rooms. 

Pet portraits: Modernica, maker of Eames shell chairs and George Nelson bubble lamps, declared its third Pets on Furniture photo winner. The most brilliant contest in the history of retailing?

"Carrot City": Next week the Monacelli Press is scheduled to release "Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Architecture" by Mark Gorgolewski, June Komisar and Joe Nasr. The pitch: "40 projects, created by designers from the United States and around the world, that explore innovative approaches to making space for urban food production."

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