L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: David Keeps

'True Blood' raises the design stakes in Season 5

"True Blood" has done it again. Last season, the fang-tastic HBO vampire series introduced swank new sets for lead character Bill Compton's royal residence as Vampire King of Louisiana. For Season 5, which introduces new characters and political turmoil within the world of the undead, production designer Suzuki Ingerslev and set decorator Ron V. Franco have created stunning stages for the subterranean New Orleans headquarters of the draconian Vampire Authority, led by Roman Zimojik (Christopher Meloni, in the navy suit and blood red tie above).

742539_TB503_1_31_JJ_0052The set also includes a wildly sumptuous Art Deco-meets-Grauman's Chinese Theatre boudoir for Salome (Valentina Cervi), the legendary biblical temptress who, in a stroke of "True Blood" genius, is revealed to be an ancient vampire and Chancellor of the Authority. Not surprisingly, Salome uses the room as a chamber for seduction, and the bedroom is to die for. 

Ingerslev and Franco detailed via an email exchange the inspirations and sources they used to create the Authority headquarters and a bedroom that is likely to become a new touchstone for goth glamour. 

Question: How did you come up with the look of the Authority HQ? 

Ingerslev: The structure acts as an office building and prison, as well as a residence for some of the more powerful vampire officials, and I thought it should be austere and ancient. The exterior is an existing power station in Glendale. For the main chamber interior, I based the brick walls on a cistern in Turkey and intended for them to have been directly excavated and brought over to New Orleans when Authority vampires were originally establishing their headquarters. The floor plan of the main chamber pays tribute to the layout of a cathedral, conveying a sense of power and history.

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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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Cappellini hits sweet spot with Candy table, Lace lamp

Giulio Cappellini No, it's not some Don Draper-devised take on Rodin's "The Thinker" staged with midcentury modern accent tables. This is Giulio Cappellini, artistic director of Cappellini, the Italian furniture manufacturer known for more than 30 years for discovering talent and producing works by designers such as Jasper Morrison, Marcel Wanders and the Bouroullec and Campana brothers.

For those who equate high design with out-of-reach prices, here's a pleasant surprise: The new Candy table, pictured here with Cappellini, is set to land in the U.S. this fall with a price around $300. 

On a recent visit to Los Angeles, the dapper Cappellini, 54, sat down with L.A. at Home and answered some questions about his life, his work, the current state of design and the surprising material used for that Candy table.

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'Mad Men': The story behind Don Draper's new digs

"Mad Men" Don Draper apartment"Mad Men" returned after its long hiatus Sunday, earning record ratings and a host of Midcentury Modern design fans newly obsessed with Don Draper's new Manhattan home. It's June 1966, and though Draper (played by Jon Hamm) might be a newlywed, he's traded in his dreary digs from last season for an Upper East Side spread complete with serious bachelor pad trappings.

Don Draper's apartmentApartment 17-B, right, set decorator Claudette Didul said, is "in a high-rise that feels like it was built in 1960 with a white-carpeted sunken living room and a fascinating fireplace and a Case Study-style kitchen with two pass through windows."

It also sports walnut cabinetry with a built-in television set and one of those new-fangled-for-the-time push-button phones. 

Didul said Draper's love of sleek modern lines and high-tech gadgetry and manly appointments (leather lounge chair, countertop cocktail bar with a drum-shaped ice bucket) is contrasted with his new wife Megan's youthful taste and love of color. 

"I imagine she might've dragged Don through Bloomingdale's to see the model rooms," Didul said. 

The set decorator also took inspiration from two books by 1960s bestselling interior design author Betty Pepis and "Decoration U.S.A.," a 1965 collaboration between Jose Wilson and Arthur Leaman. "The colors of the rooms and furnishings are so vibrant in those books they almost make your teeth rattle," Didul said. 

MM_MY_513_0112_0274The kitchen has rich blue and blazing coral cabinets exhibiting "happiness and hopefulness," Didul said. "The pastels of the 1950s are giving way to brighter and earthier tones." She spotted the brown 1964 Frigidaire in a vintage copy of the Los Angeles Times Home Magazine. "It's my favorite appliance in the whole show."

Keep reading to see Don's dining and living room and a list of Didul's shopping sources ...

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Farrow & Ball color consultants: Paint regrets, begone

Farrow and Ball paint
If you've ever felt like you've spent too much time and money testing wall colors -- or repainting rooms that just didn't look right -- you may be happy to know that Farrow & Ball is launching in-home color consultations here starting at $200. A Farrow & Ball color consultant begins with an analysis of the architectural detailing and lighting of up to four rooms, then reviews the client's favorite colors during a one-hour meeting. The consultant devises color schemes from the company's 132 shades with suggested paint finishes for exteriors and interiors, as well as options from the Farrow & Ball wallpaper collection. The room pictured in the lead photo is painted in Pointing Estate Emulsion with the cupboards in Teresa's Green Estate Eggshell.

 After the consultation, clients receive a color fan deck and written specifications including the quantities of paint required to complete each room. Sessions can be scheduled through Farrow & Ball showrooms or by calling (888) 511-1121. The program is being offered through showrooms in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston and Washington.

Farrow & Ball's Los Angeles color consultant Cindy Saenz gave us a sampling of the service by answering our email posing some common questions:

52_PrOrange_Lnge_1343RPS_ 004What colors are trending?

Colors that tend to be most popular in Los Angeles right now are cooler grays such as Cornforth White or Pavilion Gray and warmer grays such as Elephant's Breath or Hardwick White. Additionally, we find that most people like to introduce accent colors in the woodwork such as cabinets, bookshelves or furniture pieces using colors like Hague Blue, London Clay and Down Pipe.

[Pictured here, a room painted in a gray called Railings.]

What colors look best in small rooms or dark rooms?

Lighter cooler tones such as Strong White, Blackened or Cornforth White help to make a space feel open and airy. Darker, warmer tones such as Charleston Gray or London Clay make a space feel more intimate and cozy.

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Lladró gets hip with Jaime Hayon, Tim Biskup, Devilrobots

The sentimental Lladro figurines have taken a radical leap into contemporary culture with the Guest, top Spanish designer Jaime Hayon Hayon's collaboration with L.A. artist Tim Biskup and the Tokyo design team Devilrobots
This ain't your grandmother's Lladró. The sentimental -- some might say saccharine -- figurines that porcelain collectors have prized for generations take a radical leap with the Guest, pictured above. Working for Lladró Atelier, top Spanish designer Jaime Hayon commissioned L.A. artist Tim Biskup and the Tokyo design team Devilrobots to collaborate on a Red Bull character for a company built on sarsaparilla style.

The large Guests stand about 20 inches tall on lacquered wood bases and sport crazy eyes (Devilrobots), a skull shirt (Biskup) or a tattooed face (Hayon). Created in a limited edition of 250, each sells for $2,800.

Flowers of the seasonThe smaller Guests are about 1 foot tall and are also designed by, from left, Devilrobots, Hayon and Biskup. Each sells for $775 in a numbered, unlimited edition. (By comparison, the bestselling 1983 Lladró piece "Flowers of the Season," pictured here, is $3,500.)

Lladró appointed Hayon as an artistic advisor in 2006. His first collection, Fantasy, included porcelain jewelry, vases and sculptural objects showcasing the designer's mix of classical forms and the graphics found on Japanese vinyl art toys.

Other china and porcelain manufacturers such as Nymphenburg and Rosenthal have updated their offerings by working with contemporary designers too, but Lladró arguably has taken the boldest leap forward.

You can see for yourself. The Guest collection premieres in Los Angeles at an event open to the public from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 13 at Unici Casa, 9461 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. Lladró President Rosa Lladró and artist Biskup will be on hand to greet guests of the Guest.


CasamaniaScenes from the Milan Furniture Fair

Inside Sunnylands, Xanadu of the California

Centre Street: Apartment living for a modern generation

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credit: Lladró

Set Pieces: The Neutra house in Mike Mills' 'Beginners'

Christopher Plummer "Beginners"
After snagging a Golden Globe and a SAG award, Christopher Plummer seems like a good bet for the supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of Hal, a 75-year-old retired museum director who comes out of the closet in director Mike Mills' autobiographical "Beginners." Plummer was ably abetted by Ewan MacGregor (who plays Hal's son, Oliver), Melanie Laurent (Oliver's girlfriend) and Cosmo, the Jack Russell terrier, but Los Angeles architecture and design also play key roles in the Focus Features film, now available on Blu-ray, DVD and video on demand.

"Beginners" movie house Hal lives in the Lovell Health House, the 1927 modernist masterpiece in the International Style by architect Richard Neutra. (The kitchen is shown at right.)

Mills chose the house not only because it was appropriate for the character but because Neutra's design allowed the director to shoot with natural light. 

In an email, set decorator Coryander Friend answered our "Beginners" house questions for this edited Q&A: 

What difficulties did you encounter filming in a historic Modern home?

We had to remove all of the books on the homeowner's bookshelves and keep track of the exact order of the books and replace them with all of Mike Mills' art books. The biggest challenge, though, was really just to not cause any harm to the Neutra house and or its contents. Our entire crew was treading up and down on those cork floors in the entryway to the living room with camera equipment, while the original Neutra-designed furniture was roped off with caution tape in a corner. Just thinking about it still stresses me out!  

How did you come up with the decor, which feels so worldly yet very California?

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Spots Illustrated: Nat Reed's Modern map of Palm Springs

Nat Reed's map of Palm Springs Modern design sights is part of "Postfabricated," an exhibition at a Palm Springs pop-up shop Feb. 17-26 as part of Palm Springs Modernism Week
If Nat Reed's "Palm Springs Modern" map evokes memories of traipsing around the Magic Kingdom jacked up on cotton candy, it's purely intentional. "My inspiration was the Disneyland maps," said the Los Angeles artist, who weekends in a butterfly-roof midcentury home in the desert. "They are certainly not meant to be used for navigation, but to draw you into the Fantasyland of Palm Springs."

Nat Reed's map of Palm Springs Modern design sights is part of "Postfabricated," an exhibition at a Palm Springs pop-up shop Feb. 17-26 as part of Palm Springs Modernism WeekReed will be selling the 24-by-32-inch map as a signed limited edition giclee print ($250 unframed, $400 framed) along with other prints of his giddy midcentury landscapes at "Postfabricated," an exhibition at a Palm Springs pop-up shop open Feb. 17-26 as part of the city's Modernism Week.

The various prints depicting landmarks such as John Lautner's Garcia House (often called the Rainbow House) and the colonnade at the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs (a 12-by-20-inch piece, pictured at right, $225 unframed), can also be bought through the Nat Reed website.

Reed grew up in Huntington Beach in the 1960s and 1970s. His maternal grandfather, Eli Hedley, was a tiki carver and interior designer of Polynesian lounges across the U.S. and opened the original Island Trade Store at Disneyland. Reed's father was a set designer for RKO studios.

Reed began showing work in galleries in 2009 and created a large-scale mural for the Peterson Automotive Museum's "Fantasies in Fiberglass" exhibition in 2010. 

His art is inspired by Modernism as well as Googie, the kitschy Atomic Age style seen in coffee shops and bowling alleys. Fans of the artist Josh "Shag" Agle will recognize a similar sensibility, though Reed has a slightly more psychedelic approach to color and form. He also exercises a surrealistic playfulness, plopping Tiki heads atop human forms and painting poodles in toreador costumes perched on midcentury lounge chairs. 

"My art takes me down a garden path," he said, "that is a little more contemplative."

"Postfabricated" is on display from noon to 6 p.m. daily at 388 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (323) 304-8822. An opening reception runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday.


John Lautner tours during Modernism Week

-- David A. Keeps

Illustration credit: Nat Reed

Remembering Jeff Karsner of Huntington children's garden

Jeff Karsner

Jeffrey Karsner, the head gardener of the children's garden at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, was memorialized Saturday as the man whose whimsical installations and educational displays delighted patrons of all ages.

Karsner, who died in an accidental fall at his home in North Hollywood on Jan. 30, had worked at the Huntington since 2006. Colleagues, friends and family were on hand Saturday for the dedication of a park bench with a plaque that reads, "in loving memory of Jeff Karsner for his creativity and energy."

"Jeff brought a special kind of magic to the children’s garden through his imaginative use of plants, and young visitors responded to it joyfully,” said James Folsom, the Huntington's director of the botanical gardens.

Jeff Karsner corpse flowerKarsner, formerly president of the Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society, designed low-water gardens for private clients throughout Los Angeles. His work was featured in the Los Angeles Times Home section in a story about succulent wreaths during the 2006 holiday season.

The inventive gardener was a natural performer and was photographed by The Times wearing a headdress replicating the Huntington's legendarily odoriferous corpse flower in 2009, right. 

Karsner was born in Baltimore in 1961 and worked in children’s television at PBS in New York before moving to Los Angeles, where he was a story editor for Warner Bros. and CBS.

His lifelong passion was puppetry, and his ability to build marionettes from found objects blossomed at the Huntington. One of his characters, Sen the Centennial Senecio, was made of nine varieties of senecio and heralded the 100th anniversary of the Huntington’s desert garden.

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L Conceal bookshelf: Umbra's new twist on a classic

L-Conceal Umbra bookshelf
No, it is not an anti-gravity book bookshelf. Umbra's L Conceal, shown as a pair here, is the latest twist on a minimalist design that allows books to be stacked on an invisible bracket, so they appear to float on the wall.

Screen shot 2012-01-12 at 1.34.07 PMIn 2005, Pratt Institute student Miron Lior won a competition sponsored by Umbra with the simple powder-coated steel hardware -- an L-shaped bracket with a clip that holds the bottom flap of a hardcover book in place, right. The bottom book creates a cantilevered platform upon which other books could be stacked.  

Nicely priced at $13, the Conceal was an immediate hit when it launched in 2006. Umbra has since rolled out three additional sizes, including one specifically created for stacking towels.

The newest addition to the line, L Conceal, uses the same apparatus placed on both ends of a bentwood shelf. 

"The beauty of this L-shape shelf is that it plays with the traditional and typical straight line shelf, and creates the unexpected," said Matt Carr, Umbra's director of design, in an email.  "The gentle bend in the shelf allows the user to make compositions on the wall." 

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