L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: Indoor-Outdoor

Petite prefab: Six designs for a backyard office

Prefab OfficePod Prefab-Modern-Shed Prefab Verana SummerwoodSmall prefab structures are near-instant backyard work spaces, a corner office that feels separate from home but still provides a commute measured in steps instead of miles.  We put together a photo gallery detailing six options, including the KitHaus modernist mini-manse, the Verana assemble-it-yourself studio from Summerwood and British OfficePod trying to make its way to a garden near you. For details on concept, materials and prices, keep reading ...

PHOTO GALLERY: Small prefabs as backyard offices

Prefab Studio Shed Prefab G-Pod Prefab KitHaus



The pocket office

Separating work from home

House remodeled for live-work efficiency

Photo credits, clockwise from top left: OfficePod, Modern-Shed, Summerwood, Nicolas O.S. Marques for Kithaus, G-Pod, Studio Shed


Ilan Dei's new outdoor Cord furniture

Lounge on Beach
Venice designer Ilan Dei will premiere his Cord Collection of outdoor furnishings at a launch party May 9. Dei's new designs are sculptural, durable and fun. The lounge chair ($799), ottoman ($399), sofa (below, $2,999), dining chair ($499) and bench ($999) consist of vinyl cording and powder-coated steel tubing. They come in four color combinations: orange/white; moss/gray; sage/sage and lime/lime.

The seating is available online now and can be previewed at the party at Ilan Dei Studio, 2100 Zeno Place, Venice. The party is open to all and will include food, drinks and DJ from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.


Ah, Venice -- a beach community known for its surf, sand and colorful inhabitants.


SlingJim Rash: "Community" actor's quirky garden

Coming soon to California: the prefab G-Pod

Iconic sling chair gets remade for the great outdoors


-- Lisa Boone

Photo credits: Mimi Haddon

Sneak peek: New gardens at Natural History Museum's North Campus

Los Angeles is the “birdiest” county in the United States, said Karen Wise, vice president of education and exhibits for the Natural History Museum. One hundred sixty-eight types of birds have been documented in Exposition Park downtown alone, but the museum is hoping to attract even more with its new North Campus gardens. The 3.5 acres are designed to entice critters of all types, so the massive museum that, for 99 years, has documented the history of life on Earth transforms itself into a hands-on outdoor lab.

“We decided the best thing for our visitors was to build a landscape that could serve as a central field site and natural experience in the heart of the city that really allows us and all of L.A. to gather and document the real wildlife that’s living in L.A. today,” said Wise, whose museum houses more than 35 million natural and cultural objects indoors.

Living WallEverything in the new garden is designed to foster life. Winding through the space is the Living Wall, right, constructed from spears of stone that were installed vertically and planted with succulents to entice lizards. The 1913 Garden, so named for the year the museum opened, is a mosaic of colored flowers that is sure to delight hummingbirds.

Passion vines and Burmese honeysuckle grow in 12-foot-tall chain link cages that form the garden’s Urban Edge. The plants were selected because they are most effective at attracting butterflies. And a pond at the garden’s center will be populated with Western pond and red-eared slider turtles.

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At Coyote House, every day is an Earth Day

Coyote House night
Oh, how far we've come from Earth Days past — when the phrase “green home” conjured images of straw-bale structures, when solar panels seemed like such an earnest novelty, when “LEED certified” hadn't yet crept into public consciousness.

With Earth Day 2012 almost upon us, nearly 60,000 homes in the United States are in the process of being certified in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Education and Environmental Design program, according to Nate Kredich, the organization's vice president of residential market development. Need more convincing proof of just how far we've come? Take a peek at the new home of architect Ken Radtkey and landscape architect Susan Van Atta.

PHOTO GALLERY: 26-picture tour of Coyote House

INFOGRAPHIC: How the garden roofs, cisterns and other green elements work

The husband and wife's three-bedroom house nestled into a Montecito hillside is dubbed the Coyote House, partly after the name of the couple's street, partly after the howling critters in the area. Beyond its abundance of energy- and water-saving features, however, the house is notable for its utter normality: On the most basic level, it is simply a comfortable and beautiful family home.

Coyote House veranda“Designing sustainably was a given for us,” says Radtkey, founder of Blackbird Architects, a Santa Barbara firm with an emphasis on sustainable design. “But the most important goal was to make a great home.”

To that end, the house starts with a modern take on the veranda, right. A covered room overlooking the front garden has a sliding screen and front and back sets of glass pocket doors that can open to the outdoors or seal it off in various ways, depending on the season and weather.

A dozen highly flammable eucalyptus trees — by coincidence, cut down just months before the November 2008 Tea fire that swept through the region — were used to build the front door, kitchen table, bookcases, stairs and banister. Other materials used for interior appointments were sustainable too: Cabinets are bamboo, the floors are cork or salvaged stone, most of the walls unpainted plaster.

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Pasadena Showcase House of Design 2012 to open

Pasadena Showcase House of Design
Show houses are often more about aspiration than inspiration, more an exercise in overindulgence than in practicality. This year’s installment of the annual Pasadena Showcase House of Design, however, does contain ideas that could translate in the real world.

When the stunning 1927 Spanish Colonial Revival home in La Cañada Flintridge opens Sunday, tour-goers will see the work of 21 interior designers and seven landscape designers who transformed the property with tattoo-like wall designs, distinctive ceiling applications, hand-painted floors and ideas for outdoor living spaces too. Even the most jaded critic of design houses may fall for the Spanish arches and ironwork, ornate vintage doors, Moroccan-influenced tile and breathtaking view of the San Gabriel Mountains.

The Times got a sneak peek of the house as decorators were putting finishing touches on the rooms ...

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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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Centre Street lofts in San Diego: New vision for apartment living

Centre Street hinged window
On an otherwise unremarkable avenue in San Diego, architect Lloyd Russell has built an apartment complex intended to challenge commonly held assumptions about apartment living. How? By targeting a very specific group of renters — a generation of young Californians burned by the housing bust.

Center Street indoor outdoor“Dad and I thought there were a lot of young people out there who have had a hard time holding on to their first homes,” said Russell, who developed the Centre Street apartments with Lloyd Russell Sr., formerly a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Their expectations about how they wanted to live had expanded, but their ability to pay for them had contracted.”

Soon after the Centre Street complex was finished in late 2010, the architect placed a small “for rent” sign outside. Russell confessed to having been nervous. He posted the apartments on Craigslist as well, knowing that the project needed to reach 90% occupancy in 90 days before the bank would agree to the long-term financing he needed. Russell wondered, “Is there such a market?”

PHOTO GALLERY: Centre Street lofts in San Diego

The answer came quickly. Despite rents that were as much as 20% higher than what the San Diego real estate research firm MarketPointe said was the average per-square-foot price for newly constructed rental housing in the city, Centre Street reached its occupancy goal well before the bank's three-month deadline. Today, the loft-style apartments are loaded not only with design features that are novel for rentals, but also with residents who have happily set aside the dream of house ownership for a cool, modern apartment.

“Several applicants had been through short sales,” said Keith Weibrecht, an associate architect in Russell's office, who manages applications at the Centre Street lofts and lives on the third floor. (That's his apartment with the glass sliders pushed open, above right.) “Another applicant had a credit rating of 400.”

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Palm Springs museum dives into pool culture in 'Backyard Oasis'

Bill Owens "We Don't Have to Conform"
The backyard swimming pool can be an object of desire or a sign of suburban sterility, an icon of the good life or a symbol of its demise. The Palm Springs Art Museum’s new show, “Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography,” looks at these contradictions and provides a revealing peek at this fixture of Southern California life, one that dots the landscape but nonetheless often remains hidden from view.

The photographs, taken from 1945 to 1982, are just plain fun to look at — the exquisite skill of the photographers, pretty bodies in pretty settings, recognizable pieces of recent cultural history. But a closer look uncovers a much more thought-provoking exhibition.

PHOTO GALLERY: ""Backyard Oasis" at the Palm Springs Art Museum

“I had been wanting for a really long time to do a show that looked at cultural geography,” the idea that place is not just its physical coordinates but also “the ideology that makes up people’s imagination of a place,” said Daniell Cornell, senior curator.

Life seems perfect in the 1970 photograph “Poolside Gossip” taken by Slim Aarons — from the pose of a lounging woman and her flip hairdo, to the glassy blue of the generous-sized pool, to the purples and blues of the mountain view.

The group of partygoers in “We Don’t Have to Conform,” a 1971 photograph shown at top by Bill Owens, practically screams Southern California stereotypes. Seven people, drinks in hand, sit in a hot tub with their feet raised at the center, touching, forming a leg tepee.

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Celestino Drago's haven at home, his backyard kitchen

Celestino Drago beehive
Walk in the front door of chef Celestino Drago's Sherman Oaks home, through the soaring foyer and the wide-open designer kitchen and out the back door, and you might think you've shape-shifted your way to the Italian countryside.

Celestino Drago pizza“The best thing for me is when it's Sunday and I am here with the kids in the garden, picking what I want to go and cook,” says the chef, whose restaurant Drago Santa Monica just celebrated its 20th anniversary. That could mean a simple pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil. Or vegetables to grill with chicken or fish.

PHOTO GALLERY: Drago's backyard kitchen

Drago seems fairly indifferent to his indoor kitchen, though it's the sort of room that agents use to sell a house. “To be honest, we don't use the one in the house much,” he says.

No wonder. Outdoors, he has a huge beehive-shaped wood-burning oven, a massive dining table and everything else necessary for cooking and eating. Drago can look out, past the pool, to the hills. Or he can sit and watch one of two flat screens set high on walls at either end of the long, rectangular, open-sided room.

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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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