aloha

Back in May, when I was making all of the arrangements for Drew and I to take our first trip to Maui, I knew that we would have an experience, see and eat and do things, that I would want to write about here. What I didn't know is that being on the island would effect me (and my husband) in ways I hadn't even considered. I just thought I was going on vacation -- a long, long overdue break filled with tropical drinks and days at the pool -- after a year that had thus far been filled with a giant dose of grief and loss and exhaustion.

But Hawaii was not what I expected. It was strange and wonderful. It was warm and green and lush and beautiful. It was, at times, hyper-emotional and at others, insanely relaxed.

Before our trip, I was talking with one of our cousins who is a serious Hawaii lover. 

"It's not just a vacation." he said. "It's transformational."

I'm sure I didn't get what he meant then, but I do now. I am changed. It was transformational.

I'm still processing my time there, and all I've really managed to gather so far is that I didn't have nearly enough time. Next time (already planning it) we'll stay for much longer. I don't feel ready to write about it -- like I can't yet get the essence of it into a couple of sentences in a blog post.

So. Rather than try to describe what I saw, what I ate, what I did, what I experienced, I'll just post a bit what my "vacation" looked like.

The chickens and roosters at the airport. This guy was hanging out with another beast that populated the island, The Ford Mustang. Drew and I stopped counting at 35 on our drive to Hana. I do love the Hawaii rainbow license plates though.

The chickens and roosters at the airport. This guy was hanging out with another beast that populated the island, The Ford Mustang. Drew and I stopped counting at 35 on our drive to Hana. I do love the Hawaii rainbow license plates though.

The lobby at the gorgeous Hotel Wailea.

The lobby at the gorgeous Hotel Wailea.

You know I love beautiful chairs. There were pairs of these all over the place at the Hotel Wailea.

You know I love beautiful chairs. There were pairs of these all over the place at the Hotel Wailea.

Welcome truffles. And a whole box of my new favorite thing, the pineapple shaped shortbreads from The Honolulu Cookie Company.

Welcome truffles. And a whole box of my new favorite thing, the pineapple shaped shortbreads from The Honolulu Cookie Company.

The garden nerd paradise that was the grounds of The Hotel Wailea.

The garden nerd paradise that was the grounds of The Hotel Wailea.

Our big bed with a view of the mountain.

Our big bed with a view of the mountain.

The view from our lanai.

The view from our lanai.

It rained every day we were there, so these awesome cabanas were perfect for hanging out (and drinking mai tais) until the sun came out again.

It rained every day we were there, so these awesome cabanas were perfect for hanging out (and drinking mai tais) until the sun came out again.

At Monkeypod Kitchen: the famous mai tai with fancy foam on top that tasted like lilikoi dole whip. The chocolate cream pie.  The poke tacos and salad of local greens, beets and Maui onions.

At Monkeypod Kitchen: the famous mai tai with fancy foam on top that tasted like lilikoi dole whip. The chocolate cream pie.  The poke tacos and salad of local greens, beets and Maui onions.

Andrew relaxing in one of the awesome little conversation areas scattered around the grounds of the resort.

Andrew relaxing in one of the awesome little conversation areas scattered around the grounds of the resort.

I'm in the photo for scale.

I'm in the photo for scale.

In Pa'ia. I loved everything about Pa'ia.

In Pa'ia. I loved everything about Pa'ia.

The best meal of the trip was at Da Kitchen. I had awesome Saiman with hand cut noodles made nearby in Makawao (and added some gorgeous pork and shrimp dumplings) and Drew was introduced the plate lunch perfection of Kahlua pork, rice (gotta have two scoops) and potato mac salad. He has already made this dish twice since our trip.

The best meal of the trip was at Da Kitchen. I had awesome Saiman with hand cut noodles made nearby in Makawao (and added some gorgeous pork and shrimp dumplings) and Drew was introduced the plate lunch perfection of Kahlua pork, rice (gotta have two scoops) and potato mac salad. He has already made this dish twice since our trip.

I saw lots of Hawaiian sovereignty signage, lots of kick ass fruit stands. Also lots of waving Hawaiian flags, with the Union Jack as the reminder of the conquerors who showed up before the Americans did.

I saw lots of Hawaiian sovereignty signage, lots of kick ass fruit stands. Also lots of waving Hawaiian flags, with the Union Jack as the reminder of the conquerors who showed up before the Americans did.

The outdoor shower at our cottage in Hana.

The outdoor shower at our cottage in Hana.

Watching the paddleboarders with my toes in the black sand at Hana Bay Beach.

Watching the paddleboarders with my toes in the black sand at Hana Bay Beach.

Thai Food by Pranee. One of the handful of awesome roadside eateries in Hana selling plate lunches, fish tacos, huli huli chicken, and any number of Thai specialities. Incredible smells every day as we walked by.

Thai Food by Pranee. One of the handful of awesome roadside eateries in Hana selling plate lunches, fish tacos, huli huli chicken, and any number of Thai specialities. Incredible smells every day as we walked by.

Coconuts, bananas and breadfruit were everywhere in Hana.

Coconuts, bananas and breadfruit were everywhere in Hana.

The Hasegawa General Store.  I can't begin to express how much I love the insane and brilliant collection of stuff sold here. We walked there every day we were in Hana.

The Hasegawa General Store.  I can't begin to express how much I love the insane and brilliant collection of stuff sold here. We walked there every day we were in Hana.

Abandoned temple on the Hana highway.

Abandoned temple on the Hana highway.

The grounds at the temple with the Pacific in the background.

The grounds at the temple with the Pacific in the background.

The real estate agent has my favorite office ever. I am now determined to someday have my studio in an old trolley car (or a schoolbus, or an Airstream . . .).

The real estate agent has my favorite office ever. I am now determined to someday have my studio in an old trolley car (or a schoolbus, or an Airstream . . .).

Just one of the beauties we met at Hana Ranch.

Just one of the beauties we met at Hana Ranch.

The ubiquitous wild ginger. The walls along the roads built with black volcanic rocks. The rain clouds rolling through. The green, the green, the green.

The ubiquitous wild ginger. The walls along the roads built with black volcanic rocks. The rain clouds rolling through. The green, the green, the green.

Mahalo, Maui. I'll be back soon.

 

 

 

 

dining in

 

I am a little obsessed with dining rooms.

Maybe it's because I've found myself in quite a few of them of late -- in family homes all over the map, in clients' homes, in my own. For the longest time, I have puzzled about what it is that makes a dining room work and what makes one that doesn't. Is it the furniture, the color palette, the lighting? And it can't possibly be all about the food, as I've had wonderful experiences in the dining rooms of some seriously good cooks, and equally great times eating take out in the dining rooms of those not so culinarily inclined.

After lots of consideration, I've come to believe that the good dining rooms worked because each of them, no matter how different they looked, were warm, beautiful, functional spaces that made it easy for the people in them to connect to each other as well as enjoy the food. The other thing they all had in common? Comfortable chairs.

Really.  That's one of the keys to a perfect dining room. Comfortable chairs. It is absolutely impossible to want to sit around and talk and eat and be with your people if your seat is uncomfortable. So. When I'm designing a dining room and know that I'm looking for no end of options that offer both beauty and comfort, I begin (and usually end) with Chairish.

Before I get to the chairs, I should mention that I've got this beautiful thing to work with.  Nothing like having a vintage Saarinen tulip table as the anchor for your room. And I so love an oval table. Much more welcoming -- especially in smaller spaces -- than anything with a corner.

A marble top and a pedestal base. It's a classic for a reason.

A marble top and a pedestal base. It's a classic for a reason.

And that leads me to the room itself.  Its a little space just off the kitchen. Not palatial, but it does have lots of light from all of the fantastic windows and more than enough space for the table and six chairs. I toyed with the idea of putting a big buffet in this room, or maybe a vintage bar cart, but ultimately decided that those pieces could come later, and only if the client decided that they were necessary.  Adding anything other than a beautiful rug, a cool chandelier and some interesting art would be too much. I kept it simple.

The dining room furniture plan.

The dining room furniture plan.

Alright.  On to the chairs.  As I mentioned, Chairish has so many dining chair options that it was a challenge to choose. I thought at first that I would mix it up. Maybe use four of one chair and two of another style.  I even considered using six different chairs. In the end, after all sorts of combinations, I surprised myself and went with a matching set.

I mean, honestly, have you ever seen such beautiful chairs?

I mean, honestly, have you ever seen such beautiful chairs?

The winning chairs were designed in the style of Charles Hollis Jones, kind of Hollywood Regency with glamorous materials. There are lots of reasons that I chose them.  The color first off, I mean, what a perfect blue. I love the slim silhouette and simple lines. And the Lucite legs -- they disappear and make the chairs seem to float -- especially great with the tulip base of the dining table. And besides being beautiful, the thing that really makes them the perfect chairs is comfort. These have plush upholstery and lovely high backs with a gentle curve to them. They are the chair to linger in after a meal and enjoy the other people around the table.

Once the table and chairs and table were selected, I went back to Chairish and found a gorgeous Ikat area rug and a glam 1970's chandelier. I couldn't help myself from adding the Andy Warhol painting, the Ernest Trova poster and the vintage Louis Armstrong print. They fit right into the client's collection of modern and graphic art, and are a perfect way to finish the space.

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And although I'm not really sure if my client is a good cook, I am so excited to be invited over for dinner. ❤️

 

 

pompelmo

I love grapefruit.

I know its not everyone's top choice as far as citrus goes, but I totally dig the stuff. Los Angeles is filled with a grapefruit trees, and luckily I've got a friend with a tree in his garden that has been producing fruit every year for nearly two decades. He brings me shopping bags full of them in exchange for the pickles and jams I've been making or some tomatoes or greens from the kitchen garden. Most of the time I toss them into the juicer with beets, carrots and garden greens, but the most recent fruit haul (probably the last until late summer) inspired me to make something that would allow me to get my grapefruit fix until the trees are once again heavy with fruit.

Marmalade seemed just the thing.

My Italian grandfather was a big fan of citrus, and he was the one to turn me on the sweet, bitter and tangy goodness of marmalade.  Most of the time, we ate it on an English muffin toasted dark and crunchy with lots of butter. And although I've broadened my horizons on how to get my marmalade fix, on toasted bread with butter will always be in my repetoire of how to eat it.

I made orange marmalade once before, years ago -- a really traditional recipe from Saveur magazine that called for Seville oranges. Like, from Spain. The guys at Sosio's produce in Pike Place Market (I lived in Seattle at the time) were the only ones who would order them for me, but not before they quizzed me about what I was planning on making with them ("You know those things are bitter, right?"). Once I had the oranges in hand and discovered that they were, indeed, inedible, I went through the very involved process of juicing them and removing the pulp, then wrapping the rinds in cheesecloth and boiling them in the juice and sugar.  Then I had to remove the rinds from the pot, let them cool, slice them razor thin and return them to the pot to boil some more. It was a lot of work, and although the results were pretty tasty, the Seville orange marmalade was not transcendent. I knew that for this go round of marmalade-making I wanted something simpler. Plus, the grapefruit I get from trees in Westwood are far tastier than bitter oranges flown across the world from Spain, so I knew I could up the deliciousness level considerably.

I was looking for a recipe that simpler than the Seville orange one.  I love Pinterest for just this sort of thing, and quickly found what I needed at Serious Eats (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/01/fresh-grapefruit-marmalade-recipe.html). Fresh grapefruit marmalade with no cheesecloth in sight, and it took me about half the time of my original attempt. Done.

The result was a dozen jars of golden goodness that I have been eating on everything -- as a glaze on grilled chicken, baked into turnovers with fresh ricotta cheese, stirred into a dipping sauce for spring rolls or dumplings. I've given away a few jars to other grapefruit lovers, too, including the friend with the tree. The response has been nothing but positive, so I guess I'll be making this one again as long as the grapefruit gods provide.

And in case you're wondering if I still eat my grandfather's classic toasted bread marmalade delivery system, and I know you are, let's just say I have eaten my weight (at least!) in Beverlywood Bakery pumpernickel bread since making this batch. I can happily report that it still tastes as good as when I was a kid.

It always makes me think about my grandfather, too.

the birdhouse

Last year, I had the opportunity to design a master bedroom and bathroom. Just recently, the work on those rooms was finished.  It was one of those projects that had many delays, several scheduling hiccups and even the occasional catastrophe. At one point during the work on the bathroom, I would jump each time my phone rang because I was sure that there was another problem to solve.

But.

It was also a project that, despite its challenges, turned out even better than I envisioned and taught me some serious lessons as a designer and a business owner. I love it when that happens.

Here is where we began:

The bedroom before was blah but had lots of pros. A great size, with high ceilings and architectural detail, beautiful hardwood floors and a view of the marina.  And though I'm not usually a fan, the plantation shutters looked great, too.  The problems in the room included the absolute lack of color, the wrong furniture in the wrong places, and lots of clutter.  There was also a really odd opening in one of the walls, and although it let in a good amount of light, it let in lots of noise from the ground floor as well.

The bedroom before.

The bedroom before.

The home is about a block from the Marina and literally across the street from the sand, so I think it is safe to say that that it qualifies as a beach house. The client asked me to transform this space, without the usual cliches like pastel colors and shabby chic furniture, into a coastal sanctuary.

The bedroom after.                                                                                                                                                                            photo by Amy Bartlam

The bedroom after.                                                                                                                                                                            photo by Amy Bartlam

The most dramatic change came with the paint (Benjamin Moore Saratoga springs). All of a sudden the high ceilings stand out and the tone of the floors and shutters looks much richer. The rug is SO beautiful, and the size of it makes the room feel spacious and adds lots color and texture.   The bed is adjustable, with the upholstered headboard mounted to the wall so that the bed can articulate.

In the before space, the beam had been painted the same color as the ceiling and pretty much rendered invisible. A few coats of velvety paint (Benjamin Moore stone brown) turned it into a feature of the room and the perfect home for a much needed ceiling fan. A pair of night tables with pullout shelves provide lots of surface space as well as storage for my client's many books. The bubbled glass lamps are clean and simple, and they let the wall color and the light shine through.

The beam and the gorgeous ceiling fan.                                                                                                                                        photo by Amy Bartlam

The beam and the gorgeous ceiling fan.                                                                                                                                        photo by Amy Bartlam

Another of the client's requests for this room was a place to curl up with a good book. She mentioned that she'd never had a chair in her bedroom before, so that seemed a good opportunity to design something. Her armchair (specifically, that amazing fabric) is the piece I love most in the room, and the crackled mercury glass lamp on the dresser next to it is a favorite, too. The only item from the original space -- a lingerie chest -- has found its home beneath a self-portrait. And that weird opening in the wall was filled with etched glass (used elsewhere in the room in the transom window above the bathroom door) that lets the light in and keeps the noise out.

The spectacular armchair and lamp. The re-purposed lingerie chest and new dresser. The etched glass window.                photo by Amy Bartlam

The spectacular armchair and lamp. The re-purposed lingerie chest and new dresser. The etched glass window.                photo by Amy Bartlam

My client has the most incredible art collection. It was great fun to incorporate as many of her pieces as possible into a gallery wall of beach and water scenes.

The gallery wall. The etagere displays pottery, glass and wood pieces.                                                                                      photo by Amy Bartlam

The gallery wall. The etagere displays pottery, glass and wood pieces.                                                                                      photo by Amy Bartlam

 

And then there's the bathroom.

The bathroom before was definitely not a sanctuary.  The floors were vinyl tile, beige and boring. The paint was, too. There was terrible lighting, and a wall (with a door that swung open to hit the shower door) dividing the vanity area from the toilet and fiberglass shower. The vanity was made of fiberglass, too. It was dark, and kind of depressing.

The before blah trifecta: the long hallway covered in vinyl tile, the dark, walled-in WC with the door that bumped the shower sliding door, the molded fiberglass shower stall with a sad plastic hand shower.

The before blah trifecta: the long hallway covered in vinyl tile, the dark, walled-in WC with the door that bumped the shower sliding door, the molded fiberglass shower stall with a sad plastic hand shower.

And now, well, now the bathroom looks really different.

The bathroom after.                                                                                                                                                                           photo by Amy Bartlam

The bathroom after.                                                                                                                                                                           photo by Amy Bartlam

Notice how large this space seems now? That's because the dividing wall is gone. Another reason is that the wood floor was continued from the bedroom so the spaces would feel a bit more unified. The runner is soft under bare feet, and brings the colors of the bedroom into this otherwise neutral space.

I chose a creamy gray (Benjamin Moore gray wisp) for the walls. The original cabinets were painted, some new hardware was added and the plastic vanity top was replaced with a beautiful new sink and sparkly quartz counter surface. The lighting was much improved by the addition of a pair of sconces. There is lots more elbow room around the toilet as well.

And then, the shower.

The bathroom after.                                                                                                                                                                           photo by Amy Bartlam

The bathroom after.                                                                                                                                                                           photo by Amy Bartlam

The incredible cement tiles (Granada Tile) in the shower are the star in this room. I knew it would be beautiful, but I think spectacular is a better word it.

The shower after. Quite a difference.                                                                                                                                              photo by Amy Bartlam

The shower after. Quite a difference.                                                                                                                                              photo by Amy Bartlam

The hand shower after.                                                                                                                                                                     photo by Amy Bartlam

The hand shower after.                                                                                                                                                                     photo by Amy Bartlam

The antique Greek plate on the wall is my client's favorite piece of art, so it served as inspiration for the tile and the rug in this room. I love it with the photograph of the sunset, taken just steps from the front door of this home.

The vanilty after. The inspiration piece for the bathroom design.                                                                                                 photo by Amy Bartlam

The vanilty after. The inspiration piece for the bathroom design.                                                                                                 photo by Amy Bartlam

Looking at these spaces transformed makes me happy.  And what's more, my client is loving living in her new master suite. That makes it worth all of the headaches.

the remedy

Whenever I'm feeling blue, under the weather, or just in need of a bit of comfort, I inevitably reach for the tomato sauce. I hold firm to the belief that it is a remedy, and not just for Italians.

Between stretches of heatwave, Southern California does have a few cold-ish winter days. This when the most intense tomato craving happens for me.  Luckily, the garden gave and gave last year, so I've got a pantry filled with jars of luscious homemade tomato confit that tastes like summer.

One of the many, many tomato hauls from 2015.  This one became my very first tomato confit.

One of the many, many tomato hauls from 2015.  This one became my very first tomato confit.

Making confit was a surprisingly simple process. I put my clean, dry tomatoes into a baking dish with a handful of whole garlic cloves and a bunch of basil leaves from the garden.  I covered the tomatoes about three quarters of the way with olive oil (the best you can get your hands on), sprinkled on some salt and pepper and let them roast in the oven until they were blistered and soft. I wanted to be sure that we'd have our summer tomatoes well into the winter, so jarred my confit and pressure canned it the same way that I do my pickles and jams.  It is just as good eaten immediately out of the oven, or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week or two.

Before: Tomatoes, garlic, basil in an olive oil bath.

Before: Tomatoes, garlic, basil in an olive oil bath.

After: Soft, velvety tomatoes and garlic. Bubbly, intensely flavored oil.

After: Soft, velvety tomatoes and garlic. Bubbly, intensely flavored oil.

Sometimes we toss the confit with fresh pasta and parmesan cheese, sometimes Drew adds capers and anchovy to it and serves it as a relish for grilled fish. Our favorite way to use it, hands down, is as the base for homemade pizza.

Drew is the pizzaiolo at our house -- here's his technique:  He stretches the dough (we are lucky to have fresh dough from Sorrento Grocery, but any frozen or homemade dough is fine) and then brushes it with the garlicky oil from the confit.  He smashes the tomatoes onto the dough, and maybe a roasted garlic clove or some basil, salt and pepper.

Next, toppings. You can use whatever you like. Then cheese and more salt and pepper. Into the oven (on the highest possible temperature) for just about enough time to drink a glass of wine.

The 4 P's: pepperoni, pepperoncini, provolone and parmigiana.

The 4 P's: pepperoni, pepperoncini, provolone and parmigiana.

The money shot, with a bit more parm and fresh basil added for sparkle.

The money shot, with a bit more parm and fresh basil added for sparkle.

I don't think I need to mention how good this pizza is or that it is the perfect delivery system for the healing goodness of the humble tomato. I do think you should make it and see for yourself.

vintage modern

One of the things I notice most when making design in Los Angeles is how new everything is. There are an incredible variety of architectural styles represented in the homes and buildings, but very few places have celebrated a 50th birthday.  That seems to be just how ever-forward moving, always changing, youth-obsessed Los Angeles likes it. 

But every once in awhile I discover a place like La Fontaine, beautiful, historic and ancient by L.A. standards.  And the opportunity to make new design in an old space is pure joy.

To say that I was excited to get to work in this gorgeous place is an understatement.

To say that I was excited to get to work in this gorgeous place is an understatement.

The building was designed in the early 1930's by workaholic-genius architect Leland Bryant.  He designed dozens of extraordinary Los Angeles buildings during this period.  Just a few of my favorites are the Savoy Plaza, Harper House and the zig zag moderne masterpiece that is Sunset Tower. In the late 20's and 30's, Bryant's buildings in this district of West Hollywood became the homes of the stars, writers and directors who were responsible for creating the movie industry.

Luckily, my client is a lover of old Hollywood history who just happens to work in the new Hollywood.  The apartment at La Fontaine, with its big rooms, beautiful details and glamourous ghosts, seemed a perfect fit for for her. In each space, I decided to pay homage to the building's fancy past with lots of luxury and vintage inspired pieces combined with contemporary design more suited to my client's very modern life. Plus, it was a big, clean, white canvas, so there was abundant opportunity to add color.

The living room and connected dining room before:  Lovely blank slates with high ceilings, carved beams and lots of windows.

The living room and connected dining room before:  Lovely blank slates with high ceilings, carved beams and lots of windows.

The living room after:  A velvet sofa, silk pillows, the giant red rug. Lots of metal in every tone in the tables and lamps. An ever-evolving library wall behind the sofa and ample wall space with incredible light to display the client's collection of vintage prints and illustrations.

The living room after:  A velvet sofa, silk pillows, the giant red rug. Lots of metal in every tone in the tables and lamps. An ever-evolving library wall behind the sofa and ample wall space with incredible light to display the client's collection of vintage prints and illustrations.

The epic windows in the living room are dressed with natural linen draperies. The chaise lounge is roomy and deep and has become the preferred spot for watching films or binge watching series.  A writing desk creates a mini office in a quiet corner.

The epic windows in the living room are dressed with natural linen draperies. The chaise lounge is roomy and deep and has become the preferred spot for watching films or binge watching series.  A writing desk creates a mini office in a quiet corner.

This adorable desk and (adjustable) stool are a perfect fit in this spot.  A pair of the client's vintage illustrations hang above.

This adorable desk and (adjustable) stool are a perfect fit in this spot.  A pair of the client's vintage illustrations hang above.

There was so much beautiful detail to the fireplace that I was hesitant to mess it up by adding too much. Simple candles in big glass cylinders (the ones with the chicken wire!) make it glow again.

There was so much beautiful detail to the fireplace that I was hesitant to mess it up by adding too much. Simple candles in big glass cylinders (the ones with the chicken wire!) make it glow again.

I decided not to dress the windows in the dining room so that it would always be filled with warm light. The chandelier does the job at night.  The dining chairs were upholstered in sunny yellow linen that had been used as draperies in the client's previous apartment.  An antique (and super soft) rug and four South Shore Line prints finish the space.

I decided not to dress the windows in the dining room so that it would always be filled with warm light. The chandelier does the job at night.  The dining chairs were upholstered in sunny yellow linen that had been used as draperies in the client's previous apartment.  An antique (and super soft) rug and four South Shore Line prints finish the space.

And then there's the glorious beast of a hutch.  Eight feet tall and covered in the most gorgeous grass cloth, it displays my client's beautiful things and serves double duty as a bar or buffet.

And then there's the glorious beast of a hutch.  Eight feet tall and covered in the most gorgeous grass cloth, it displays my client's beautiful things and serves double duty as a bar or buffet.

The bedroom before:  Incredible views of Los Angeles all the way to the ocean, but not much else to make you want to relax or rest here.

The bedroom before:  Incredible views of Los Angeles all the way to the ocean, but not much else to make you want to relax or rest here.

The bedroom after:  the windows are dressed with robin's egg blue silk, the walls are a creamy gray and the bed is super welcoming, but my favorite thing in the room (and possibly the apartment) is the Angela Adams nasturtium rug.

The bedroom after:  the windows are dressed with robin's egg blue silk, the walls are a creamy gray and the bed is super welcoming, but my favorite thing in the room (and possibly the apartment) is the Angela Adams nasturtium rug.

The big bed is a reproduction of a Victorian design.  I dressed it simply, with a linen duvet, shams and bedskirt and pair of accent pillows in a silk that references the rug. The sconces and crystal lamps are pure art deco.  The bedside tables are substantial, with lots of drawers for storage and a pull out tabletop for extra surface space.  The bed is dressed in a linen duvet and shams with accent pillows in a luscious silk that references the pattern of the rug.

The big bed is a reproduction of a Victorian design.  I dressed it simply, with a linen duvet, shams and bedskirt and pair of accent pillows in a silk that references the rug. The sconces and crystal lamps are pure art deco.  The bedside tables are substantial, with lots of drawers for storage and a pull out tabletop for extra surface space.  The bed is dressed in a linen duvet and shams with accent pillows in a luscious silk that references the pattern of the rug.

So many pretty details:  The mother-of-pearl herringbone on the frame of the mirror, the beautiful jewelry and boxes, the vintage Art Institute of Chicago print in the reflection.

So many pretty details:  The mother-of-pearl herringbone on the frame of the mirror, the beautiful jewelry and boxes, the vintage Art Institute of Chicago print in the reflection.

The dressing room before:  The exposed brick wall and red fire escape were cool little bonuses in this room.  And although we'd originally envisioned this room as an office, it was clear that this space would make the perfect dressing room and closet.

The dressing room before:  The exposed brick wall and red fire escape were cool little bonuses in this room.  And although we'd originally envisioned this room as an office, it was clear that this space would make the perfect dressing room and closet.

The dressing room after:  The walls are the same creamy gray as the bedroom and the exposed brick is slightly distressed. Simple white linen dresses the windows. My client's incredible wardrobe is on display on slick, modern Kate Spade garment racks. A mirrored vanity is perfect storage for more jewelry, scarves and small bags.  And the rug, a soft wool kilim in a fabulous color, is the star of the show.

The dressing room after:  The walls are the same creamy gray as the bedroom and the exposed brick is slightly distressed. Simple white linen dresses the windows. My client's incredible wardrobe is on display on slick, modern Kate Spade garment racks. A mirrored vanity is perfect storage for more jewelry, scarves and small bags.  And the rug, a soft wool kilim in a fabulous color, is the star of the show.

Two more garment racks surround the galvanized mirror on the opposite wall.  The graphic art pieces are a perfect reminder, and were inspired by a speech given by my client's beloved grandmother.  A tufted pouf (it swivels!) is upholstered to match the vanity stool.

Two more garment racks surround the galvanized mirror on the opposite wall.  The graphic art pieces are a perfect reminder, and were inspired by a speech given by my client's beloved grandmother.  A tufted pouf (it swivels!) is upholstered to match the vanity stool.

Sparky sconces light the the way to the perfect outfit.

Sparky sconces light the the way to the perfect outfit.

Turned out to be quite a lovely mix of old and new, right?

(r)evolution

I have not posted here in almost a year.

When I began writing here back in 2011, this blog was a meditation during the fledgling stage of my business. It was a struggle to get my first few clients (interior design during a recession?), so in an attempt to keep things positive while I built a portfolio, I decided to chronicle the beauty and creativity that I saw on a daily basis. For a couple of years it was lots of fun and relatively easy. But for most of last year, coming here to write felt like a chore, a slog. It made me miserable.

So I decided not to do it.

I could not bear to come to the blank page and write about choosing furniture and fabrics and art and paint colors, about the luxuries of year-round vegetable gardening. I could not write about living and working in this amazing city or all of the interesting places that I get to see and the fantastic food I get to eat during my travels. I did not want to insert anything personal about myself, even though my voice, my experiences and my particular talents are what make the engine go around here. Nobody wants to see that stuff, I reasoned. Besides, I was too swept up in the wave of crazy busy to sit down and write (meditate).  I convinced myself that it was trivial to write about design and good living, about beauty and creativity when the world outside my little bubble was such a mess of sadness and hate and tragedy. Posting here felt like bragging, because I get to do something I love and live a pretty fantastic life while other people were suffering.

I should mention that 2015 was a real ass-kicker of a year for me. I was forced out of my comfort zone in so many ways. Professionally, although my business was growing, I had to confront my limitations, acknowledge mistakes (some made more than once) and work with some incredibly difficult people. Personally, even though I got to celebrate a milestone in my marriage, I had to let go of some friends (mostly because I felt them let go of me) and was pulled into the cycle of worry and grief that come with a close family member dealing with a serious illness.

That's a lot, right?

I let life overwhelm me and I stopped coming here. I lost sight of how important it is to be an an artist. I forgot that the mere act of showing up and making something, anything, is an antidote to all of the sadness, hate and tragedy happening outside my door.

And there is just too much beauty out there not to point it out.

That idea is still at the heart of what I want to convey. And I still want writing it to be a meditation. The longer I do the kind of work that I do, the more I think it necessary to illustrate the transformation of places and spaces that is so often at the root of my job and most definitely the fuel for my creative engine. I'm still so excited to write about design, both mine and otherwise, and the impact it creates in those spaces, places and in the lives of the people who inhabit them. And sometimes there is nothing more compelling than before and after.

I can also promise that I will occasionally post about food and travel. Like design, like art or expression of almost any sort, it is what moves me and keeps me inspired to create. 

The other thing is how this space looks.  Allies and Admirers is still evolving, but changing the way that this blog looks was a big part of it.  This post is the house re-warming party after the renovation. Its just a glimpse of the beauty that I created and experienced last year. 

Thirteen prints and photographs, framed and ready to be hung at the apartment in West Hollywood.

Thirteen prints and photographs, framed and ready to be hung at the apartment in West Hollywood.

The garage mural at the Hyde Park house.  Almost finished.

The garage mural at the Hyde Park house.  Almost finished.


Driving through Oxnard means fresh strawberries.  My first strawberry jam.

Driving through Oxnard means fresh strawberries.  My first strawberry jam.

Drawing day for the La Fontaine penthouse.

Drawing day for the La Fontaine penthouse.

A pair of vintage beauties outside the very modern house of my Texas family.

A pair of vintage beauties outside the very modern house of my Texas family.

The recycled tire planters at Oddfellow's in stormy Dallas.

The recycled tire planters at Oddfellow's in stormy Dallas.

The perfection that is the armchair in the master bedroom at the Channel Islands Marina house.

The perfection that is the armchair in the master bedroom at the Channel Islands Marina house.

Blackberry cobblers for dinner with some of my favorite people.

Blackberry cobblers for dinner with some of my favorite people.

The Howell chairs, before and after.

The Howell chairs, before and after.

Endless tomatoes and greens of every color filled the colander in 2015.

Endless tomatoes and greens of every color filled the colander in 2015.

A beautiful dinner at a dear friend's fab restaurant.

A beautiful dinner at a dear friend's fab restaurant.

The back patio and banana garden at the Hyde Park house.

The back patio and banana garden at the Hyde Park house.

Cheese party with garden tomato bruschetta for some of our road tripping friends.

Cheese party with garden tomato bruschetta for some of our road tripping friends.

The finished living room in the La Fontaine penthouse.

The finished living room in the La Fontaine penthouse.

A wedding anniversary at the glorious Hotel Sorrento in Seattle -- the very spot we spent our wedding night fifteen years ago.

A wedding anniversary at the glorious Hotel Sorrento in Seattle -- the very spot we spent our wedding night fifteen years ago.

The view from Merrihouse, our cottage in Ojai.

The view from Merrihouse, our cottage in Ojai.

The incredible shower in the master bathroom at the Channel Islands Marina house.

The incredible shower in the master bathroom at the Channel Islands Marina house.

My husband, my dogs, my neighborhood.

My husband, my dogs, my neighborhood.

I'm more than happy to be back, and I can't wait to see what 2016 has in store.

 

all the single ladies

I get asked all the time about the style of design that I make.  Is it modern? Traditional? Eclectic? Its a question I'm always hesitant to answer, mostly because I'm not really sure I have one.

I have designed homes all over the country, and each has its own particular quirks and characteristics because of the place it sits on the map. The people who inhabit those homes are much the same.  None of my clients has been entirely interested in pure modern, traditional or eclectic and everybody has their quirks. And since I like to think that I always design with the client in mind,  I'd say that my design style is as varied, as diverse, as quirky as they are.

I've been hard at work on two apartments in Los Angeles that are a perfect illustration of this point.

The first space is a uber modern loft in a new building in Mar Vista.  My client here is a woman with a busy life and a demanding career that has her traveling a lot, so it was my goal to create a comfortable, colorful space that welcomed her when she got to spend precious time at home.

Here is where we began:
Polished concrete floors, shiny steel appliances and large, white spaces. A slick, clean slate for sure, but not much warmth.
The living room was tabula rasa.
Great windows with garden views in the loft bedroom, but all of them covered with horrible plastic vertical blinds.
Now it looks like this:
A vintage credenza is paired with a mod pedestal table and red chairs with incredible hairpin legs. Perfect. I love the combo of the cow hide rug and the woven runner, too. And that's a Banksy print at the base of the stairs. 
My client had lots of beautiful, colorful things that we used everywhere we could. She also invested in vintage furniture and some bold modern art -- much of it by local artists.  This pair is perfect.
This piece. Oh man.  Such a gorgeous beast, and such a lovely contrast to the concrete floors.  
No more big white box of a living room.  So much beautiful pattern, color and texture here. And more Banksy.
The concrete floors, the luxe rug, the marble coffee table.
The super high ceiling in the living room made it the perfect spot for a vertical office. And I am totally in love with the little stool with the grey felt seat.
The loft bedroom is dreamy and calming. The graphic art above the bed  -- created with handmade greeting cards -- is some of my favorite in my client's collection.
White linen replaces those horrible plastic blinds on the windows, and the view into the garden is a bit more serene. 


Apartment number two is in a landmark 1928 building called Casa Laguna in Hollywood. It could not be more of the polar opposite of the loft at the beach.

My client works as a film producer, so this home had to become a place for her to retreat and relax after long hours on set.  Luckily, this apartment (and the beautiful building it is in) has long been considered one of the most beautiful in Los Angeles, so all I really had to do was fill it with things that complemented the architecture here.  There are lots of little reminders of my client's beloved hometown, too.

Here is before:
Andalusian details everywhere. Super-high ceilings and giant windows with views of the Hollywood hills from the living room.
Beautiful hardwood floors.  French doors to a Juliet balcony in the the dining room (and every other room).
And this is after:
I kept things sunny and bright here with cream and grey and lots of yellow. The room is warm and absurdly comfortable.
Beautiful little details.
Color, texture, pattern and sparkle.
My client was in need of the perfect a way to store her incredible shoe collection. it was too beautiful to hide in a closet,  so shoe benches were designed for the entryway.  Now her beautiful footwear is decor.
The dining room.  Red silk draperies are the star here, but there is so much more to love.  Especially those hand carved honeycomb doors.
I love this piece as much as I love the credenza in the loft.  It is incredibly tall and covered entirely in the most gorgeous grass cloth. 
And it has the most spectacular hardware.
Chicago chandelier.

See what I mean? There's no one style at play in either of these homes and definitely not just one type of client.

I don't want to choose, so I won't.


rain city

In the fall of 1995, I moved to Seattle to accept a spot in a Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Washington.  I had just completed my bachelor's degree at the University of a Maryland in College Park,  and had been living in (and loving) the neighborhoods in and around Washington D.C. for the 4 years prior.   I had honestly never given Seattle a second thought before I was offered the opportunity to go to UW and used to joke that I couldn't have found it on a map before I moved there.  I had absolutely no inkling that it was a city that would change my life.

Lots of people had random tidbits of knowledge to bestow on me when they found out I was moving to Seattle.  My favorite example is one of my Pennsylvania aunts trying to convince me that the city was teeming with serial killers.  All I really knew was that there was rain and there was music.  I definitely found those things (luckily no serial killers), but I also found a city with fantastic food, lots of interesting, creative people and beauty -- natural and otherwise -- pretty much everywhere I looked.

In the six years I lived in Seattle,  I became an artist and a member of a creative community like none I've experienced in any other city.  I became a much better cook and fell in love with gardening.  I also became a wife and the member of the giant clan of Seattlites that came with my husband.  With the husband and the clan came the gift of always being connected to this fabulous city.

You can imagine why I consider it my second hometown. 
Beauty.  Natural and otherwise.
It probably seems like a tourist move (it isn't, unless you go on a Saturday in, say, August), but I almost always start a trip with a visit to Pike Place Market.  My first apartment is Seattle was in Belltown in a time (before fancy condos had taken over) when the closest grocery store was either Larry's Market in Lower Queen Anne or the Safeway on Broadway.  Pike Place is where I did my shopping and it was, and remains, one of the most inspiring and places for me.
I never get tired of this place.
Sosio's, Don and Joe's and The Pike Place Market Creamery were my go-to spots.   I was additicted to the baguette and croissants and pretty much everything else at Le Panier.

The plan is always to eat as much seafood as possible while in Seattle.  It is not hard to find the good stuff.
Even with good places in abundance,  my sentimental favorite in the market is DeLaurenti.  When I landed on Seattle's shores I was a 21 year old Italian-American girl from the east coast.  I was terribly homesick for the Italian food culture that I grew up with, so DeLaurenti became the place I went to comfort myself on many a gloomy (and not-so-gloomy) Seattle day.

It was Super Bowl weekend when I was in town, and I've never seen Seattle so pumped up about sports.  It was Seahawks everything, on everyone, everywhere.
Rachel, all dressed up for game day.

There are lots of other things to see and do, but really Seattle visits are all about the food.  I made it a point to eat some oysters from the paradise that is Uwajimaya and lots and lots of Theo Chocolate, but the through line of this trip was sandwiches.
The Pork Medium (P Med) from Pecos Pit Barbeque - a thing of messy, eat with a spork beauty so good that I will sit outside in Seattle in January to eat it and the sweet and spicy beans that are it's perfect mate.  Pecos is the only BBQ joint with a sauce too spicy for me to order the hot version.  The medium is ass-kicker enough.
We are a family of bloggers and food nerds, so of course there was documentation of the construction process of Drew's fried chicken sandwich with spicy slaw --special request for my sister in law's birthday dinner.
Really good burgers from a drive-in count as sandwiches, right?
There is no trip to Seattle that doesn't include a stop at Dick's Drive-in.  Did I mention that it was Super Bowl Sunday?  Lots of very excited Seahawks fans were also having burgers for brunch.  By the time we got our Deluxes and cheeseburgers, fries and a chocolate shake, the all of the lines stretched well into the parking lot.  It was a sea of blue and green.
More sandwiches during the halftime show.
A team effort creating salmon BLTs for Super Bowl sustenance.
My husband is a Seattle native, and he grew up in one of the giant Victorian homes in the Capitol Hill neighborhood (you can see his childhood drawing of that house in this post).  In the past few years, much of the family and quite a few of our friends have moved to Ballard.  When I lived in Seattle, it was a sleepy neighborhood filled with retired fishermen from Scandanavia.  In the last decade or so it has transformed with lots of new condos, restaurants, breweries and shops along the water at Market Street and Ballard Avenue.  They also have a fantastic Sunday farmer's market.  It is a neighborhood where everybody walks and bikes, even in the rain. 
Many of our friends and family have bought cute little houses on the streets surrounding "downtown" Ballard.
A mild Pacific Northwest winter means that the daphne (and lots of other gorgeous flowering things) were ready for spring as early as January.
Quite a few of the little craftsman houses in Ballard are being remade into Northwest modern homes like this one.
There's a fabulous view of the diving lady, my Ballard beacon, from the living room window of my in-laws' condo.
Here's how she looks when the fog rolls in.

And I could never make a post about Seattle without talking about coffee.  I miss the coffee culture so much -- Los Angeles just can't hold a candle to it -- so I have to have "real" coffee when I'm in town.
The Ballard outpost of Bauhaus Books + Coffee.   The original store at the corner of Pine and Bellevue had amazing views of downtown and the Space Needle.  It was one of my haunts during graduate school.
A perfectly made mocha.  And that's a little bar of chocolate on the rim of the cup.
It was a fabulous Seatown weekend -- in so many ways a trip "home".  I am so grateful that I'll get to do it all again soon.



what's your gift?


Last Christmas, my parents asked if I would, as my gift to them, design a new living room for their Pennsylvania home.

First, I should mention that my parents have serious skill when it comes to remodeling and were a big help to Drew and I in the first year or so in our new house.  The MMD studio couldn't have happened without them and I really wanted to repay them in whatever way I could.  But.   When it came to tackling their living room, I was a bit hesitant at first.  Not because I didn't want to avail my parents of whatever design skill and talent that I possess, but mostly because I thought it might be difficult to design my parents' house.  I was concerned about making them uncomfortable with all of the change that design can bring, of insulting them when we disagreed.  I was worried that we couldn't have the kind of relationship that a designer has to have with a client because they are my parents.

And let me also add that the design evolution at my parents' house has been a little odd.  My mom has wonderful taste and great personal style and always decorated the homes I lived in with interesting art and color and furniture she refinished and restored.  I was already away at college by the time she and my stepdad moved into their current home, and in the 20 years since, I've been surprised to see it morph into a house that looked like old people live there -- especially because my parents are decidedly not.

I relented and said yes -- there was really no question -- and in the end my fears were unfounded.  At one of our first design meetings, my mom said "I don't want it to look like an old lady's house anymore."  I knew right then that she got it and was ready for something different.   I stopped being nervous and just decided to do for my parents what I do for every other client.  And if I'm really honest with myself, I've been dying to get my hands on their house for years, so I was thrilled to get down to it.

My mom is dreading this part, but here are the before photos:
The matchy old lady floral furniture.  The green carpet.  The pink walls, fake flowers, awkward floor plan, all of it.  Ugh.

Dark, heavy draperies covering big, beautiful windows.  The giant TV in front of the window.  Uncomfortable furniture.

Here's my sketch of the new floor plan:
All of the furniture was replaced by more comfortable, more contemporary pieces.  The two focal points of the room, fireplace and TV, are now on the same wall.
My parents turned out to be really great clients.  They were open to color and furniture ideas that were far more contemporary than anything in their previous comfort zone and they were really motivated to get the space done.   After a couple of design meetings we finalized a color palette and furniture plan, and they really got to work.  They did lots of furniture shopping.  My mom spent hours in fabric stores, choosing the drapery and accent pillow fabrics.  They had the place painted and had new carpet installed.  They replaced overhead light fixtures, hung the new draperies and removed the brass trim around the fireplace.  We exchanged endless photos of art, lighting and accessories options and tweaked the floor plan where necessary, but really, after the design development and my initial site visit back in February (really an excuse for me to come and hang out with my family), my parents rocked the project management and installation on their own. 

Here's what the room looks like now:
This room is filled with grey tones, but is still light and bright.  The velvet sectional is over-sized and super comfortable and serves as the anchor piece in the space.  A long, slim console table behind it is a perfect perch for the lamps.  And my stepdad still has a recliner.
I never thought my stepdad would love an IKEA chair (or IKEA anything for that matter), but this recliner is his new power spot.
Remember the corner that used to have the big TV in it?  Now it is my mom's center of gravity.  Those spectacular armchairs are my absolute favorite thing in the room.
Double drapery rods with peacock blue velvet draperies are perfect with all the grey tones.  They are also great insulation during the cold Pennsylvania winters.  The second rod is hung with pure white sheers -- perfect for creating daytime privacy while still allowing the room to fill with light.
A pair of beautiful prints, picked up on a trip to Paris my parents took a few years ago. 
Paris meets Pittsburgh in the books, art and accessories in this room.  The carpet is luxe, too.
The grandfather clock has been in the Brinker family since the 1840's.  Its the most traditional element in this room (the only room in the house with ceilings high enough accommodate it), but it seems to work.
Pillow and sectional sofa details.
We're still working on the artworks for a few of the walls and a family photo gallery for another, and I don't think that I'll ever convince my mom that less is more when it comes to accessories, but I think its safe to say that this room is a success.   During my visit last month we spent almost all of our time here.  It is comfortable and beautiful and best of all, my parents are happy with it.  They will be spending Christmas 2014 in the room I gifted them last year, and it brings me nothing but joy to think of my Pennsylvania tribe, all of them, having a fantastic holiday in their beautiful new space.
A photo from my parents as they decorated for their first Christmas in the new living room.

So. What's your gift?  What are you giving this holiday?  I hope it brings you as much happiness to give it as it does to those who receive it.



sparkle and shine

My favorite pair of shoes are red patent leather Marc Jacobs pumps with a round heel and a peep toe.  They were a birthday gift from my husband six or seven years ago, and have been my footwear nirvana ever since.
Favorite shoes, perfect Christmas gear.
I wear them whenever I can during the year, but the best time to put them on is during the holidays.   I'm not really the Christmas sweater type, so I have to figure new things to pair with my shoes to create my holiday attire.  And since I almost always wear a pair of dark jeans and a white blouse (sometimes black), the easiest way to pull together a look is with jewelry and accessories.

It just so happens that my friends at Chairish (Remember them?  They asked me to design a room with some of their vintage furniture?)  just added thousands of vintage jewelry and accessory pieces to their marketplace.  With Thanksgiving coming up next week and Christmas hot on its heels, it seems to me to be a great opportunity to find some perfect pieces for my holiday looks -- and maybe a little something that I'm hoping to find under the tree.

The beautiful girl in the photo is not me, but you get the idea.  Everything here except my shoes is available from Chairish.
So many beautiful things to make my blouse, jeans and red shoes holiday ready, from the vintage clutch to the square pendant necklace.  Jade bangles and the little glass earrings are just enough green.  The cocktail ring isn't too matchy.  And Christmas is sunny in Los Angeles, like, really sunny,  so you can bet I'll be rocking those red cat's eye sunglasses.

This time of the year there seem to be parties and gatherings every spare second from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.  Nothing is ever too fancy in my life, but I do like to dress up my jeans and blouse when it is not the right occasion for red and green.  I love to get a little sparkly, too.
That's my jacket and shoes.  Everything else is from Chairish.
I swap out my red shoes for black Mary Janes and pull on my blue velvet jacket -- sometimes with the white blouse, sometimes with a black t-shirt.  I am obsessed with the Dior insect brooches, and they seem to have been made for the lapel of my jacket.  The pearl and glass cocktail ring is  spectacular.  The little round handbag is adorable.  I'll be wearing this outfit as long as there is an excuse to celebrate.

Besides all of this beautiful stuff, there is one more piece that I'm hoping to find under my tree.

 I'll just have to wait and see if Santa is kind to me.

Central Grocery doesn't deliver

The muffaletta from Central Grocery in New Orleans is my favorite sandwich. And that is saying a lot when you consider that my runners up are the grilled pork sandwich from Paseo in Seattle, the cap and cheese from Primanti Brothers (the location in The Strip only) in Pittsburgh and The Godmother from Bay Cities Itailan Deli in Santa Monica.

Lots of delis and sandwich shops here in Los Angeles make their version of a muffaletta, but I haven't found any of them particularly satisfying.  And since Central Grocery doesn't deliver, sometimes I have to take matters into my own hands.

It started with bread.  I've been on a bread baking kick lately thanks to an absurdly easy and crazy good recipe from Cucina Collora.  A perfect loaf, just out of the oven, begged to become sandwiches.
I made this beautiful thing. 
Crusty exterior, great crumb, slightly sour flavor.   Perfect for muffaletta.
While my bread was cooling, I made what I consider to be the most crucial component of the sandwich:  the olive salad.
I combined kalamata and picholine olives with our homemade giardiniera and pickled hot and sweet peppers and a little olive oil.  Add a bit of salt (not much) and some black pepper and you're all set.
You can use whatever good stuff you've got on hand to make your olive salad.  The longer you let it marinate before you use it, the better it tastes.
Drew stepped in, as he often does, to assemble our sandwiches.
Lettuce and tomato, then salami, mortadella and capicola.  And Drew's big bird slippers.
Provolone cheese, my fabulous spicy olive salad and condiments.  Just to gild the lily, we topped it all off with a kosher dill pickle slice, too.
Not bad for our first go at it.  And I barely had time to take the photos before we'd devoured them.

Got a favorite sandwich?  A favorite sandwich joint?  A secret spot for great muffaletta?  You know I'd love to hear all about it.

everything old is new again

Anytime I'm in a house that is truly a home, the thing that is most noticeable is that almost nothing is brand new.  There may be a few new pieces (I'm a big proponent of mixing new stuff with old), but the rooms with the most comfort and charm don't come from going into a retailer and buying furniture and setting it up like the display at the showroom.  The really good ones are collected, put together over years with thrift store finds and family heirlooms and vintage pieces from different eras and varying provenance.  So when the lovely people at Chairish, purveyors of all sorts of vintage furniture, art and accessories, asked me to design a room using some of their gorgeous stuff, I was excited to give it a go.

The space in question:  a library with particular challenges.  Not a super large room (12'x15' or so),  but with great features like windows on two walls and a built-in bookcase (because its a library) running the entire length of one wall, from the floor to just beneath the window sills. 

The whole design started with the golden velour sofa.   I was obsessed with it the moment I saw it and knew it would become the anchor in this space.  I also found a pair of long lumbar pillows in a graphic gold chain fabric that were perfect for it.  Biggest piece in the room and some accessories for it.  Done.

The antique Persian rug came next -- it is comfy and rich and great with the sofa.  The room is full of light, so I knew that the deep gold/red/chocolate brown tones wouldn't be too dark or heavy here.  Plus, they are just the sort of colors that make for an inviting spot to curl up with a book.

The room needed way more seating than just the sofa and I LOVE chairs, so it was a no-brainer to choose a pair of them to go with the sofa and rug combo.  Chairish has so many fantastic options for seating (and you know that I love chairs), but I managed to narrow it down to a pair of mohair club chairs by Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams.  MGBW has long been my go-to for chairs, so it makes sense that I chose them.  And just like always these are super comfortable, the upholstery is luxe, the color is yummy and they are so right with everything else in the space.

The mood board for the Chairish library.  Besides all of the books, I found every item in this room in one place.
The tables were easy.  The tree shaped teak table is so interesting and unique.  I was determined to find a way to use it, and it turns out that it tucked nicely between the club chairs.  The mid-century modern nesting tables, well, I'm a sucker for the versatility of nesters.  I've used two in front of the sofa like a coffee table and the third one as an end table, but they can be used in the room in lots of different ways.

Every library needs a bar, and this one was no exception.  I wanted a piece with some size and weight, so instead of seeking out a typical bar cart I decided to re-purpose an art deco dresser with a beautiful walnut finish and great hardware.  The drawers are storage for glassware and the cabinet side is perfect used as liquor storage.  The surface space is great for mixing and serving drinks and is large enough to accommodate a glossy cobalt blue lamp with a clean white shade. 
My sketch of the furniture plan with each item on the mood board.

Sometimes the hardest part of a room is getting the art and accessories right.  Good art -- the kind that you love and want to live with -- is tough to find.   And I'm a firm believer that accessories should be a minimal amount of stuff, but it should be the right stuff.  I think I managed to collect a balanced mix of art and accessories that looks great with all those books.
I could not resist the vintage George Nelson clock.  It will fit perfectly between the windows on the bookcase wall.
Globes are the greatest thing ever.  This one will live atop the built-in bookshelves.

A large shot of the abstract art for the wall behind the sofa.  So much dreamy color.  I love the frame on this piece, too.


So.  Like this room?  Love and covet something in it?  Its all for sale right now, so don't hesitate.


make me over

When I'm working with a client on their home, we inevitably have a conversation that involves "the perfect piece" for that breakfast nook or space at the bottom of the stairway or empty corner of the master bedroom.  Whatever the trouble spot in a house may be, I find that I bump up against that idea all the time.  Lots of people are convinced that they haven't properly designed or even attempted to design their space because they just haven't found that perfect piece that they envision will make the room complete.

While I definitely visualize the right item for each spot in any room I'm designing,  I'm also of the mind that if you can't find that perfect piece, you should create it yourself (or hire a pro to do it for you).  And one of the best parts of my job is making old things new and not so fabulous things beautiful.  

The Hyde Park house is in progress, and is filling with examples of creating the perfect piece.

Some seating was necessary for the living room, so we made the pilgrimage to my favorite resource for rehab-able chairs in Los Angeles -- Hotel Surplus Outlet.  They sell new furniture overstock, but more importantly, any and everything from hotel and resort liquidations.  Tons of furniture, lighting, art and frames, even a room filled with hotel dish and service ware -- total designer Disneyland. Its one of those places that I feel so lucky to have nearby and it always feels like a treat to walk into their warehouse to see 200 ugly chairs and know that a couple of the will soon be beautiful.  The other great thing about HSO are the prices.  The pair of red chairs I selected only cost $50.
Looks like it belongs in a chain hotel lobby, right?  That's because it does.  But the shape and scale are just right for the living room, so we'll reupholster and give them some cool new legs.


Side view.  And ugh, can you imagine how many dirty traveler hands have touched that armrest?  Gross.

Here are the same chairs after rehab.  They are perfection.
The new fabric is a bold peacock blue with a really subtle herringbone.  At only $10 per yard,  it was a quite a find at the discount outlet of F&S Fabrics.  The trio of metal tables are from CB2
No more dirty armrests!   And some beautiful new legs from tablelegs.com
The white boucle pillow is from Crate & Barrel.
The orange Ikat pillow cover is from Fabricadabra.

The master bedroom is a serious work in progress, with wall color and the removal of the builder's beige carpet and restoration of the hardwood floors still to come.  The furniture plan in this space is really starting to take shape.  The room is already a colorful and comfortable place to be.

The headboard was created specifically for this space.  It is simple and streamlined with a bit of cushion and a luxe linen from Robert Allen. The dust ruffle was constructed in the same fabric.
Not bad for only halfway finished. 
The beautiful pulled thread detail on the headboard and dust ruffle fabric.



Bedside tables are key to comfort, in my opinion.  Must have a drawer for the book (or whatever).  Must be sturdy, and have surface space for a lamp and maybe an alarm clock or glass of water, too.  Storage is a bonus.

I scored a great pair of bedside chests for $20 at a garage sale.  Paint and hardware is all they needed to tick all the boxes.


Solid wood but hideously painted.  An easy fix.

Here they are in their new home:
A pair of vintage lamps with white drum shades are great atop the rehabbed chests. 

The gorgeous new finish and hardware.
The bedroom is a nice, long room, so we wanted to take advantage of the space with a bench at the foot of the bed.  Nothing too large or chunky, but something with storage.  The piece we started with came from one of my absolute favorite resources, my local Home Goods store.  It sometimes take a couple of shopping trips, but I always find what I'm looking for there.  This bench cost about $100.


Great shape and the scale is right.  Bonus storage.  Boring upholstery can be remedied.
 After re-upholstery, it is everyone's new favorite piece in the room.
The fabric has just enough pattern to be a feature, not so much that it looks crazy.  And it is great with the red bedside tables.
The bright, graphic cotton on the bench is from The Fabric Store.  I love it paired with the draperies, from West Elm.

So.  Is there a place in your home that's missing its perfect piece?  I want to know. 

city camping

The first architect I ever worked for had his office in an Airstream trailer up on blocks in his Venice backyard.  I had never seen one before coming to the West Coast, and had certainly never been inside of one.  My family did not camp.  And though I grew up in Pennsylvania where lots of people did camp, the families I knew who did, well, they did not do it in anything as cool as an Airstream.   For me, these sleek silver pods were a sort of symbol of the west, of the freedom of the road, of my beloved California.  I became an almost instant Airstream enthusiast and have longed to buy and restore one in the decade since.  And although I sometimes comb craigslist and lust over the odd gem for sale, I remain Airstream-less and have to get my fix in other ways.

In May of 2013, I read an article in Sunset magazine about an Airstream hotel in Santa Barbara called Autocamp.  Right away, I was sure I wanted to spend my 40th birthday (in September) there so I called and emailed and had zero success.  Turns out they were booked solid for almost six months.  Lots of other Airstream lovers must have read that Sunset article, too.

Fast forward to February 2014.  I was on the Autocamp website looking for photos and just happened to check to see if they had the weekend of my 41st birthday available.  Miracle of all miracles, there they were.   Tucked into the calendar surrounded by lots of no vacancy,  three days were available in a 1973 (built the same year as me) Airstream Sovereign.  I snapped them up and have been looking forward to my birthday weekend all year.

Our home, nestled into the the heart of beautiful Santa Barbara.  Did I mention that there's a queen-sized bed, claw foot bathtub, cable TV?  Yep.  Not exactly roughing it.
This place has been here for a long time.  I totally understand why.
Here's the view of the mountains from our patio.  And see those beach cruisers in front of our neighbors' Airstreams?   We had those, too.  No driving for three days!  To a Los Angelino, that is the best birthday gift ever.

Pretty much any trip that Drew and I take begins with a meal.  For some places it is totally specific (the very first stop in Seattle is always Dick's Drive In), for others, not so much.   We've been visiting Santa Barbara since way back before we were married people and there are lots of spots we like, but no favorite.  Many, many people seemed to recommend Norton's Pastrami when we mentioned our upcoming trip, so we decided it was time to give it a go.  It did not disappoint.
My half of "The NYC".  I was not prepared for how good the onion rings were and I ate every one of them.  And the garlicky, chilled homemade pickles and cherry soda.  Perfection.  We even managed to snag a couple of seats at the (gorgeous) counter so we could watch all of the sandwich action in process.

The thing that I always forget about Santa Barbara -- and it is the thing that dazzles me most when I'm there -- is the beauty of the place.  The blue Pacific is there and the mountains are green and between them is a little gem of a city that has taken care to preserve the old and grow in a way that respects its architectural history. 
The color of the sky doesn't look real, right?  It is.
Spanish style is so soothing and so stimulating.  And I love that I can't tell if this is an old or new building.

One of the places that is new to Santa Barbara since our last visit is the Santa Barbara Public Market.  It was an easy place to spend an afternoon -- and eat some fantastic food - before heading back to to camp.
The counter seats at Belcampo Meat Co.  It is pretty cool to sit and watch a real butcher at work, too.
Spinach and ricotta and ham and cheese croissants from Crazy Good Bread.
One of the fresh cases at The Pasta Shoppe.  Italian girl nirvana.
At the oyster bar at Santa Monica Seafood, we found these beauties.   We also ate a really fresh ceviche and a perfect New England clam chowder, but they were devoured far too quickly to photograph.  Drew drank a lovely Poor Man's Blonde Ale from Barrelhouse Brewing Co., brewed right over the hill in Paso Robles.
We walked past the Arlington Theatre at least a dozen times as we traveled up and down State St.  I think it is my favorite building in Santa Barbara.
Inside the lobby at the Arlington.  Drew does not enjoy having his photo published, but he's neccessary for scale here.  We are plotting a way to set up long tables and throw an epic dinner party in this space.


This incredible mosaic (yep, thousands of little tiles) mural on on the Santa Barbara Public Market building is almost an entire block long.
The next morning we had a giant brunch on the gorgeous (and crowded) little patio at Scarlett Begonia.  After filling up, we rode our bikes along the coast, through a state park and back through town.  It was a lovely (almost 11 mile) route that I found on the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition's website.  They provided a great map of the ride that proved to be really helpful along the way.
My absurdly good (and messy) house made bagel with lox and dilled cream cheese.  And the Bloody Mary was made with spicy salt and fresh tomato juice.  That's Drew's tri-tip sandwich with chimichuri on house made bread in the background.
Did I mention that there was a claw foot bathtub in our Airstream?  A perfect remedy after a long ride on (seriously rickety) beach cruisers.  After a soak I was ready for champagne and picnic supper on our patio.
The big tree that shaded our spot during the day lit it up at night.
Champagne.  Lots of it.  In seriously cute glassware.
My birthday cheese party, DREWfood camp-style.
The entire weekend was the was the perfect way to celebrate the beginning of my 41st year on the planet.  Santa Barbara remains a charming and magical little city, Autocamp is a new favorite place to stay and an awesome Airstream fix.  I'm determined to do it all again really soon.

sweet and hot

The pepper onslaught is in full swing in the garden.  Overnight we went from pounds and pounds of tomatoes to a few dozen peppers each day.  And just like with the tomatoes, I've been really excited about canning and preserving anything we don't eat fresh.  It has most definitiely been a time of experimentation around here and we've had peppers in pretty much every dish, but I have to say that I'm loving the hunt for recipes to try as well as incorporating the offerings of the garden into our family classics.

As soon as we realized how large they would grow to be, we decided to roast our large, sweet peppers and preserve them in olive oil.  This was my first time canning with oil, and I'm happy to report that it is just as simple as canning with brine.
See those big (as my feet) red peppers?  Those are Giant Marconi.  This was our first season growing them and they turned out to be sweet and meaty and perfect for fire-roasting.
The Marconi and a handful of poblano chiles roasted right on the range top.  A cooling rack (we used the rack from inside a large roaster) is the perfect thing to hold the peppers over the flame until the skin is black and blistered.
Here's how they look after the black skin has been removed and peppers have been cut into ribbons and nestled into a jar with a clove of garlic and lots of good olive oil.  So far we've eaten these on sandwiches and they have become my favorite pizza topping with chevre and watercress.  Yum is an understatement.

I have pickled our super-spicy jalapeno and serrano peppers in a really simple brine (you can find the repice at Simply Scratch) many, many times before.  This time around I also made some jars of sweet peppers for the people don't love the hot stuff so much.
The jalapeno and serrano are really hot but still have tons of flavor.  The banana and Anaheim are mild and mellow and take really well to the brine.
The sweet peppers are great on sandwiches and pizza of course, but my favorite is diced up into potato hash.  We eat the hot peppers on tacos and all foods Mexican,  pizza (pepperoni and jalapeno is a classic at our house), and especially in scrambled eggs.  Drew dices them fine and puts them in coleslaw, too.

I was excited to give pepper jam another go this year.  I made two batches last year -- one that was pure pepper and one with tiny flecks of diced mango (inspired by the apple-mango pepper jelly from Bramble Basics).  This year I used the same ingredients, but pureed the mango instead of dicing it.  I love what the puree does to the texture of the jam.
Lavender and orange bells, sweet banana, Anaheim, golden cayenne, jalapeno and serrano peppers pre-pulverization.
Five ingredients:  the pepper mix, pectin, apple cider vinegar, sugar and pureed fresh mango.
The mango pepper jam, finished and ready to eat.  Drew eats this stuff on everything, from peanut butter sandwiches to fried chicken.  My fave way to eat it is on crostini or whole wheat crackers with goat cheese.  With cream cheese on saltines works (and is just as delicious) if you want to go white trash with it.
And there you have it.  My three favorite ways with garden peppers -- just in time for the second big harvest.  Hope it will be as sweet and hot as these last days of summer.

everything is illuminated

It is certainly the case in the dining room at the Hyde Park house.
Here's where we started:  builder's beige walls and a cheap, clunky (and SO bright -- we immediately installed a dimmer) chandelier.  The room isn't particularly large, but the gorgeous floors and the corner windows make up for that.

The first thing to do was paint, and I chose Benjamin Moore stonington gray for the walls.  The color was also used in the adjoining living room and hallway.
Pretty, right?  A little bit taupe and a little blue, too.


The furniture plan for this room was minimal, so I designed draperies to add interest and height to the space and soften the corner without taking up too much floor space.  I selected a really fancy silk in a modern, graphic botanical. 
The drapery silk has fantastic pattern and texture.  Great weight and a slight sheen, too.

A while back, I repaired and re finished six school chairs scored for $2.50 apiece at an LAUSD auction.  They are colorful and eclectic (as this room took shape, it became clear that eclectic would rule here) and absolutely the perfect size.  They also pair well with the super simple dining table planned for the room.

Dining chairs before shot.  Sturdy and comfy, but not looking so good.
Dining chair frames, mid-refurb.  I chose to use a traditional dining room color in a new way.  The wooden seats and backs got a lovely sand and refinish, too.  And we scraped off dozens of pieces of chewing gum!

Sometimes a dining room is all about the chandelier, so it took a bit of time figuring out with what sort of fixture was right here.  Something grand and traditional was considered -- after all,  there is crown molding and silk drapery in this space.  Any number of my modernism faves (like this Nelson Saucer pendant lamp) could have worked, too.  In the end, I settled on the simplest option I could find-- the Finley pendant lamp from Crate & Barrel.  It was the element necessary to get this room just right.
Here's the dining room today:  velvety wall color, dining table that comfortably seats six, refurbed school chairs, luxe draperies, perfect lighting, bold artwork.  So happy and comfortable.

The fab finish on the dining room table (from Urban Home) and Dahlias from the garden.
An heirloom bar cabinet is tucked between windows.  A trio of paintings of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz from Tomata DuPlenty's "Tomata Loves Lucy" series hang above.  The pair of vases are from West Elm.

Alright.  I think its time to bring on the dinner guests.

all over the map


Every Spring, my clients and I do the big build up.  We decide on the projects to tackle, discuss style and color, decide on furniture and art and fabrics and dozens of other details until we put everything together into a design plan.  When summer hits, my clients disappear on various vacations and holidays.  I get down to the work of putting those design plans into action while everybody is away.   Summer is always the busiest season for design, and I am in the thick of it these days.

Two projects are in progress on opposite ends of Los Angeles.
The first is a gorgeous apartment in a historic Spanish-style building in Los Feliz.  There is so much southern California charm here, and I'm doing my best to bring it out with silk and linen draperies, a luxe living room rug and grand chandelier in the dining room. There are also lots of reminders of the client's beloved hometown with some vintage Chicago poster art.  So far, I am absolutely thrilled with how this little gem of a place is turning out.
Perfect Chicago poster art.

High ceilings call for a grand chandelier in the dining room.

Great color in the living room rug.  Perfect with the leather armchairs, too.

Over in Mar Vista, my client has a clean, ultra-modern loft space as her new home.  We are filling it with design classics, great color, quirky vintage finds and modern art.
How can you beat dining chairs with red hairpin legs?  They are from West Elm.  The pedestal table is from CB2.

I've often spoken of my undying love for FLOR carpet tiles -- this mod cow pattern was made for space like this one.
Lots and lots of big white walls in the loft.  This Banksy piece will find a home (and add lots of color) in the living room.
This one is Banksy, too.  For the bedroom.


At the project in Las Vegas, work this year began with furnishings for the patios and poolside.
There are pairs of these Chatham armchairs from Pottery Barn in a few spots around the property.  I love the clean lines and the crisp green of the cushions with all of the desert colors. 

For lounging around the pool,  I designed portable (they have the cutest little handles) cushions in a vibrant Sunbrella stripe that references all of the colors of the pool and garden.  There's also a pretty spectacular view of the The Strip when you're sitting on them.

The patio near the barbeque and bar is shaded with one of the simple umbrellas dotted around the backyard.  These outdoor poufs from Crate & Barrel are super durable, comfy and colorful seating.  A metal basket weave table found on Overstock.com is topped with a glass top from Pier 1.

Inside the house, the design process has just begun to transform a spacious but terribly dated (think gold chrome, glass blocks and terra cotta tile) master bathroom into a super luxe retreat.  I'm sure a handful of things will change before all is said and done, but I'm really excited about what we have so far.
Tile and fixtures and cabinetry, a spectacular bathtub, a glam chandelier and fabulous art.  The things that master bath nirvana is made of.

In June, I took my first trip to Bend, Oregon to visit a family who were among my very first clients when they lived here in Los Angeles.  Bend is a wonderful little city with great energy and my clients have chosen to live in a spot surrounded by so much natural beauty.  It has been great fun designing in a new and inspiring place, and I really love helping my clients settle into their new home. 
The view from the front patio of the Bend house.  Peaceful and beautiful.  And quite a departure from Los Angeles.



All of this travel -- both within my city and without -- has me feeling like I need a serious vacation.  It'll have to be when summer is over and the after photos are posted.

its a classic for a reason

I mentioned in one of my Instagram/Facebook posts about my desire to eat my weight in tomatoes this year, and I think the garden is going to accommodate my wish.  Summer is only halfway through in Los Angeles (it really doesn't end til after Halloween weather-wise), and I've already got more tomatoes every other day than Drew and I could ever eat.  I have had to get creative so that I am sure that we don't waste a single fruit. 

My go-to right now is classic bruschetta.  It seems like the birthright of any Italian gardener/cook, and Drew and I have been perfecting our version.   I based it on a recipe in one of my fave books about cooking with seasonal foods from the backyard, Vegetables From an Itailan Garden.  I've made it as the first course for two parties so far and we eat it at least once a week.  Rest assured, if you are a dinner guest at my home this summer, you will be served bruschetta.  It is a classic for a reason.

I'm not really a recipe posting sort of girl, but this is more assembling (it is just tomato salad on toast, after all) than cooking, so here goes:

You'll need 10 tomatoes, chopped,  2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil (the best you can get your hands on), salt and black pepper to taste, and a handful of basil leaves, chopped fine (or not, just as good without).  Combine everything in a bowl and refrigerate (I like to make my salad at least 30 minutes before so that the flavors marry nicely) until ready to serve.

A little extra condiment that we have been making for this dish is a simple balsamic syrup for drizzling over the bruschetta just before we serve.  Totally unnecessary, but it makes everything extra delicious.  The whole process is just putting 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and cooking on low until it has reduced by half and is just a bit syrupy -- about 15 minutes or so.

To make your toasts, slice your bread and brush it with olive oil.  We used a bread from Sadie Rose Baking Co. and it was delicious, but you can use any bread you like.  Grill your bread until its nicely marked on both sides.  When cool enough to handle, rub each toast with a clove of raw garlic.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of tomato salad to each toast, arrange on a serving platter or board, drizzle with the balsamic syrup.  Devour.

Our components -- tomato salad, grilled toasts with garlic, balsamic syrup.  Our test toast.  I didn't even have a chance to take a photo of the finished platter of bruschetta because they were so quickly devoured.

My plan B of late is canning my garden tomatoes.  I'd made jam and pickles, but had never canned tomatoes (although I watched my grandmother do it almost every summer of my childhood).   I used the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving as a guideline for the processing of my tomatoes, but it really is as simple as putting a healthy pinch each of salt and sugar  and the juice of a lemon into a (warm -- make sure the jar is warm or it'll break -- I know from experience) quart mason jar and filling the jar with whole, peeled tomatoes.  After the jars are processed, the perfect summer tomato-ness is sealed in.
My first canned tomatoes.  I love opening the pantry and seeing jars that look like these.
Got an awesome tomato recipe?  I'd love to hear all about it.  I'm guessing I'll have plenty of tomatoes to give it a try, too.


how does your garden grow?

I have discovered, as Drew and I have been working on the studio garden for this past year, that the cycle of of the of the garden has a nice rhythm to it. A period of not much at all is always followed by intense periods of growth and productivity that yield more produce than two people could ever eat.  We find ourselves pickling and preserving and giving a LOT of veggies to friends and neighbors.

Since March of 2013, we've grown many, many pounds of lemon cucumber, eggplant,  beets, crookneck squash, bok choy, carrots, radishes, mirlition, zucchini, bell, cherry, jalapeno, banana and cayenne peppers, parsley, basil, dandelion greens, kale, Swiss chard, strawberries, lettuces, red and Walla Walla onions and endless varieties of tomatoes.  I've made a habit of photographing my hauls each time I harvest anything and posting the photos to Instagram.   I get lots of feedback from people near and far who are amazed that we are able to produce all of this food in the urban crush of Los Angeles  (and also in the midst of a drought -- we use very little water).  But here we are, growing everything you see in the photos here in just two 5'x5' planter boxes.


















Does any of this stuff look good to you?  Then please, pull out that (so not drought tolerant) lawn -- even a little chunk of it -- and grow your own food.  City dwellers without garden space can do it, too.  Just a little planter box or a couple of big pots will do just fine.