L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: Gifts

'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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Henckels? Wustof? Global? Masahiro? A buyer's guide to knives

Knives Rhino Chop
If, as the chef Sascha Lyon says, knives are one of the cool toys of his profession, then plenty of amateurs are aiming to play with the pros. “The choices for a home cook have blossomed,” says Laurence Segal, who opened a shop in September in Santa Monica, where he makes knives by hand as well as sells other brands and sharpens blades.

“One thing driving the knife market is that people have much more sensitive palates than they used to,” Segal says. That means discriminating eaters can — or say they can — distinguish between food that's cut or torn with a dull knife and food that's properly cut.

A second driver is men. More of them are cooking and want the tools to do it, he says.

“I'd agree with that. Men are probably our most prominent buyer of cutlery. And that's not true with our other products,” says Susanna Linse, a spokeswoman for Sur La Table. “Men love their cutlery.”

A $20 knife with a plastic handle will work just fine, at least for a time. But a $200 knife that's well cared for can be passed on to grandchildren. And if a $200 knife still seems mundane, there are custom-made knives designed to fit the hand that feeds with it, some that cost thousands of dollars.

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It's a good time for battery powered clocks

Bedfellows clock Braun clockWith power still out across parts of L.A. County more than a day after the windstorm, it seemed fortuitous that our annual onslaught of holiday gift ideas happened to include a bunch of battery-powered clocks.

Among the merits of clock as gift: Available in a range of prices. Generic enough to fit many people, yet varied enough in design to seem novel. Potentially entertaining. Probably practical. Excellent hint for the friend or family member who's always running late. (Though does that mean we'll get a clock in return?)

New Stone Age clockThe old flip clock gets fresh legs in this Kikkerland design, top left. It's no longer available on the Kikkerland site, but we saw them at Bedfellows in Studio City. Price: $119.

Braun has reissued an old favorite — its 3-inch-tall square plastic alarm clock, top right. It couldn't be simpler, for home or travel. It has a voice- or clap-activated snooze function and a clean, analog face. It's $42 at the A+R store in Venice.

For a different way to illustrate the march of time, little gears turn the big gear on the large wall clock, right, at New Stone Age in Los Angeles. Price: $90.

And if you're rather wake up to a chirp than a buzz, there's this 6.5-inch-wide bird alarm clock, below. It can perch on a stand or hang on the wall. It's $40, also at A+R.

Bird block standing Bird clock wallBird clock display






Gift ideas for little kids, big kids, party people, would-be vegetable gardeners

Shopping: What's new on La Cienega, L.A.'s high design district

Shopping: What's new on boho Sunset Boulevard

Shopping: What's new on funky Abbot Kinney

Shopping: Main Street in Santa Monica

-- L.A. at Home crew

Photo credits, clockwise from top: Jenna Haggard, A+R, New Stone Age, A+R.


Eco lunch boxes for the modern brown-bagger [Updated]

Kids Konserve

As part of our holiday gift extravaganza, might we suggest the practical present of modern lunch containers? Here are three green-minded options for reusable food transport:

U KonserveStainless steel: Kids Konserve originally designed kids’ lunch ware but now makes containers for adults. The U-Konserve collection includes a 33-ounce leak-proof stainless steel rectangle (with plastic lid) for $17, pictured at right. A two-pack of reusable Food Kozy sandwich wrappers (including the orange one above) is $9 to $9.50. A reusable bamboo spork is $5.50. (Let's also admit that the kid-size steel containers and canvas lunch sack also pictured above could work for us too.)

EasyLunchboxesPlastic: EasyLunchboxes, right, serve up food bento style, with three compartments in a single box. They’re made of plastic that is free of bisphenol A, or BPA, and polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and phthalates. A set of four is $13.95.

Glass: Wean Green storage containers are made from 100% recyclable tempered glass. They’re available in five sizes with lids in four colors. A two-pack of sandwich tubs or snack boxes costs $10.99 to $17.99. 




Shopping: Silver Lake, Echo Park

Shopping: Abbot Kinney in Venice

Shopping: Main Street in Santa Monica

Gift picks: Barware, cheeseboards and more

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos, from top: Kids Konserve, Kids Konserve, EasyLunchboxes, Wean Green


Gift guide: Compost pail, cocktail glasses, blankets and more

Gifts compost pail
We're calling it the 2011 money-wise, fun-loving, recession-induced, self-sufficiency-promoting, mostly practical but occasionally whimsical home and garden gift guide. Why? Because giving feels a bit different this year. Few of us are looking to spend with wild 2005 abandon, but we don't want to be miserly either. We're drawn to the pragmatic but fun. Gifts that perhaps encourage some self-sufficiency among our loved ones — and induce a smile.

When spending was easier, some people caught “spiritual Alzheimer's,” says Robert Wicks, author of the new book “In Streams of Contentment: Lessons I Learned on My Uncle's Farm.” “They lost their memories for the little things and the people who meant so much to them.”

Gifts cocktail glassesRealizing this can give people “the chance to lean back and see things differently,” says Wicks, a clinical psychologist and professor at Loyola University Maryland. Don't deny that the bank account is smaller or that the home repairs are waiting longer, but “make something different.” Realize that time is passing.

With that in mind, we offer some holiday presents meant to amuse -- and get used. For family, friends and others, how about a cute and clever piggy bank or welcoming and warm throw blanket? Mod lunch boxes for the (formerly) brown bagger or cocktail gear to make party hosts that much happier? How about garden goods to grow one's own salad -- and compost the leftovers?

More gift picks will come in the days to follow, but here's a good place to start:

PHOTO GALLERY: Holiday gifts for home and garden


Gifts Harry Allen chrome pigs


Shopping: What's new on Main Street in Santa Monica

Shopping: What's new on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice

Shopping: What's new on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, Echo Park


Main Street, Santa Monica: Smart shopping away from Promenade

Tower 20
Santa Monica's Main Street has a friendly neighborhood vibe that's less exclusive than that of Montana Avenue and less frenetic than that of the Third Street Promenade. For the modern parent and the fan of handmade artisan goods, Main Street can be one of the most pleasant shopping districts on the Westside. Dotted with casual restaurants, the stretch from Bicknell to Rose avenues is a pedestrian-friendly zone punctuated by the trend-setting Obsolete, the curiosity cabinet that is Jadis and new arrivals such as Kellygreen Home. Writer David A. Keeps leads this tour, part of our annual series looking at what's new in the region's top shopping districts.

PHOTO GALLERY: A shopper's guide to Main Street in Santa Monica


Weego Baby


What's new on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, Echo Park

What's new on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice

West Elm opens near Beverly Center

Photos, from top: Vintage cast brass leaf dishes lend some holiday sparkle to Tower 20, designer Tim Clarke's store. For something softer, Sedrick the monkey delivers some crocheted cuteness in blanket form. It's at Weego Baby. Credit: David A. Keeps.


Time to shop? Start on Sunset in Silver Lake, Echo Park


Dustmuffin Silver Lake
The Sunset Strip may draw the crowds west at night, but the eastern end of Sunset -- the part that runs through Silver Lake and Echo Park -- is where the skinny-jeans crowd shops by day, earning the area favorable comparisons to hip Williamsburg area of Brooklyn and the Mission District of San Francisco. Indie-label fashion and vinyl records mix with Midcentury Modern furniture and crafty handmade goods by local artisans. You'll find lots of décor geared to small-space and earth-friendly living.

Writer David A. Keeps grabbed his laptop and camera to give you this whirlwind tour, sequenced as a one-way journey from east to west. Hop along for the ride.

PHOTO GALLERY: What's new on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake and Echo Park


  Living Room Silver LakeHemingway and Pickett


Skirball's don't-miss holiday pop-up shop

What's new on Main Street in Santa Monica

What's new on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice


Photos, clockwise from top: Vintage clocks are part of the mix at Dustmuffin. Wood owls deliver some Scandinavian style at Hemingway and Pickett. Embroidered pillows and other accessories complement the furniture at Living Room. Credit: David A. Keeps


A shopper's guide to Abbot Kinney in Venice

Abbot Kinney Surfing Cowboys
Abbot Kinney ZingaraFiercely independent, Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice is one of L.A.'s most forward-thinking shopping districts for artisan-made furniture, shabby chic housewares and vintage decorative arts and all manner of modern design. Swarms of food trucks makes for fun shopping along a street where many stores are set up in early 20th century bungalows.

The range of businesses is impressive: In addition to trendy bars, restaurants and clothing boutiques, you'll find a bespoke bicycle shop, a custom perfumer, genuine junk shops, Midcentury Modern dealers and stores devoted to Scandinavian and Japanese design. Parking, which can be sparse at times, is blessedly unmetered.

To kick off our annual series of L.A. shopping guides for design fans, here's a visual tour of Abbot Kinney, including newcomers such as Huset, Mono and the appropriately named Very Venice. Look for updates on other design shopping districts in the days to come.

PHOTO GALLERY: A shopper's guide to Abbot Kinney in Venice


Abbot Kinney Tortoise

Photos, from top: A leather sling chair and vintage Pendleton blanket at Surfing Cowboys; felt place mat and coasters at Zingara; Ryota Aoki's bowls and Kazunori Kochi's birds at Tortiose. Credit: David A. Keeps

Purcell Living 1ALSO:

West Elm opens L.A. store

Purcell Living opens house as showroom

The Downtown Women's Center store, Made

 -- David A. Keeps


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