L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: DIY

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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Hotter than hot: Welding lessons for the DIYer

Welding is not for the timid.

Temperatures above 7,000 degrees — Fahrenheit? Centigrade? At that point, who cares? About a gazillion sparks shooting off the grinding tool. And then there’s the warning from our teacher not to wear synthetic fabrics because they could melt right into your skin if they catch fire.

Welding class Paul DavisBesides, it’s physically demanding work. And when was the last time you had to apply sunscreen to work indoors? (The welder gives off enough UV rays to burn skin.)

But my five-hour beginner’s class in welding ($160) was great fun. At the end, I had welded a steel “pillow” and gained some confidence that I could figure out a simple repair and, with help, maybe make something simple.

I learned the basics of arc welding (or MIG, metal inert gas) with five other people in Matt Jones’ cavernous Molten Metal Works studio in Echo Park. It’s the easiest kind of welding, he says, and the equipment to do it can be rented from home supply stores. This is not a class for aspiring structural welders; it’s for artists and DIY metalworkers.

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Woodbury shed poll: And the coolest cabin design is ...

Woodbury plastic exterior Woodbury Oscar the Grouch Woodbury paper exterior  Woodbury cabin interior Woodbury wood interior Woodbury paper 3

Several weeks ago we reported on 17 architecture students in Woodbury University's design-build program who were asked to create three cabins using mainly components of a hardware store shed kit. Each cabin had to sleep two and provide light, ventilation and insulation. We asked readers to tell us which team had the best design. After a week of voting, the results were surprising: We had a tie. With 2,145 votes cast, the green split-level and the orange hammock hangout each received 1,002 votes. The silvery recycled bottle loft was a distant third, with 141 votes.

We look forward to seeing three more cabins, to be built next semester. Meanwhile, you can read our full story and click through a photo gallery of the finished projects.


Simon Story house interiorSmall-space stories

Homes of the Times archive

Eames House moves into LACMA: Time-lapse video

Marmol Radziner house: 360-degree interactive panoramas

Photos: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

'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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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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TreePeople to host workshops on capturing rainwater

Rain barrelDuring the wet season, the city of L.A. sends an average of 100 million gallons of storm water into the Pacific each day. That water had been handled as pollution for years, because rainwater picks up effluents that then flush into the ocean untreated.

But rainwater is also a resource that can be harvested and reused. The environmental nonprofit TreePeople is hosting workshops to teach homeowners exactly how. A March 24 event at TreePeople's Center for Community Forestry in Beverly Hills will focus on so-called waterworks, or the plumbing of rainwater catchment, including rain barrels, rain chains and downspout disconnects. Participants can buy 55-gallon barrels at a discounted rate of $100, $25 of which is tax deductible. Admission to the four-hour workshop is free, but registration is required.

The March 25 workshop at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles will center on earthworks -- how to contour the earth to capture rain and use permeable pavement. The three-hour workshop is free, though participants will need to pay museum admission, which is $5 to $12. Registration is required.

Separating rainwater catchment into water- and earth-works sessions "helps people's heads not explode," said Lisa Cahill, TreePeople's senior manager for sustainable solutions. "It's a lot for people to take in."

During the workshops, participants will learn how to calculate the amount of rain that falls on their home during a storm and how to translate those inches of rain into gallons that can be collected. They then learn about the advantages and disadvantages of various catchment systems. Each workshop also includes information on rain gardens, native plants and pest management, Cahill said.

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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


'Handmade Garden Projects': Face-lift for wire fencing

  Handmade Garden tableHandmade Garden lightFollow the simple instructions in "Handmade Garden Projects," Lorene Edwards Forkner's new book, and you'll discover that a pair of bolt cutters can transform something as prosaic as utility fencing into an sculptural tomato cage, an al fresco cocktail table or a garden chandelier.

The book features more than 30 clever DIY backyard projects, and each one lets you to clean out the garage while turning nothing into something.

Handmade Garden Projects coverWhether you're working with a leftover roll of galvanized fencing (also available at hardware stores in a 28-inch-by-50-foot bolt) or pieces of vintage scalloped garden fencing, Edwards Forkner says, the trick is to use a hand-held bolt cutter.

Once I tried her steps, I was amazed at how easy manipulating wire can be if you use a bolt cutter rather than wire cutters. A bolt cutter can be found at home improvement stores for less than $10. Save your wrists and buy one.

I set out to make one of the decorative wire plant supports featured in "Handmade Garden Projects." For this job, you'll also need a pair of pliers. Edwards Forkner uses the tool to bend and crimp decorative patterns. Other materials: one roll welded wire utility fencing (2-by-4-inch cell mesh), measuring tape and clothespins. Keep reading for more photos and step-by-step instructions ...

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Wall treatment ideas: Instant mood with pattern, texture, color

Walls Walter Herrington
Walls Rebecca RudolphThe red spaghetti wall at the new Highland Park restaurant Maximiliano is a reminder that bold looks can come from the humblest of materials. As we reported last week, the graphic design is etched MDF, the same kind of inexpensive medium-density fiberboard you can find in hardware stores.

The Maximiliano wall prompted us to blast through our weekly home profiles and pluck examples of designers and homeowners who decided to forgo the basic paint job in favor of something different for their walls.

One of our favorites is in the Pasadena home of Walter Herrington, a graphic designer who painted an abstract backdrop for his master bedroom, above. It's complemented by a bed and wooden stool by Christian Liaigre, a floor lamp by Isamu Noguchi and pottery by Oly.

We also love how architect Rebecca Rudolph and her husband, Colin Thompson, a designer and builder, repurposed materials when they remodeled and expanded their house in Atwater Village. In the living room: a wall wrapped in recycled pine fencing, right. 

For more glimpses at wall treatments, keep reading ...

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Post-recession, starting over in a Costa Mesa garden

Laura Haskell, Laird Stoneman, Andrew Stoneman
The struggling economy has forced many Americans to ponder, if not live out, their Plan B question: How would I start over? In the case of Andrew Stoneman, the answer sits in his Costa Mesa backyard.

When the structural steel salesman was laid off twice in two years, he and his wife, vintage-textile consultant Laura Haskell, pooled their sales experience and design savvy to create the Haskell Collection, a Midcentury-inspired line of outdoor furniture and patio planters. If he wasn't going to sell steel for others, Stoneman thought, why not manufacture his own furniture using what he had learned during 20 years in the business?

Andrew Stoneman garden“Steel is the most recycled material in the world,” Stoneman says. “I thought, why not take the greenest material there is and create something that will last forever?”

The clean-lined collection has been well received in the press, and Times readers even made Haskell's recycled aluminum and steel planters the top vote-getters in their category a few months ago in a poll to determine the “California look of 2011.” But beyond that, for Stoneman the primary rewards have been working from home alongside Haskell, who sells fabrics to Marc Jacobs, Stüssy and Paul Smith in London, among others, and spending more time with their bubbly 2 1/2-year-old son, Laird.

“It's a stressful time,” Stoneman says. “But we are content. Exercise, painting, gardening, playing with Laird keeps me sane. What's the alternative? Depression. And that gets you nowhere.”

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