Lori Dennis Celebrity Luxury Interior Designer | Blog

A blog about luxury and green living by top interior designer Lori Dennis



An Eco-Friendly Shampoo That Actually Works

After searching for over five years and spending upwards of $30 a bottle on recipes that left my hair lifeless, I've finally found an eco-friendly shampoo that works. As if a 92% biodegradable formula containing no silicons, no dye, no parabens and a 50% post consumer recycled plastic bottle weren't enough, Garnier Fructis' Pure Clean is infused with antioxidant Acerola Berry. My hair looks and feels great- no Seinfeld low flow shower hair.  To top it off,  all 25 ounces sell for under $7.

Well, West Elm’s Figured it Out

In the mid-priced budget, there's less and less need for a professional designer when retailers like West Elm have nailed a look that reflects a well lived and traveled life. Have you seen their latest catalogue?  It looks like they robbed Nathan Turner's shop to be able to offer their latest items at such affordable prices.   Add that West Elm is at the forefront of pushing retail one step further to help sustainable products go mainstream as a growing number of their items are 100% green and there's little reason go elsewhere. For years I've been teaching designers and the public about eco-friendly and healthy resources.  Lately my push has been for awareness of the people who make the goods we buy.  West Elm's latest partnership is with Aid to Artisans.  I'm terribly impressed that a huge retailer has realized a way to profit and create economic opportunities for artisan groups around the world.   This season they are focusing on All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association. The  Indian women’s yarn co-op creates one of a kind, hand loomed and hand woven pillow and throws without the use of any electricity.  Pieces from Stray Dog Designs can also be found at West Elm.  Stray Dog Designs has been an enormous part of pre and post Haitian Earthquake artisan commerce among a lengthy, charitable, corporate agenda . With Certified 100% Organic Cotton textiles for bedding and bath, FSC certified furniture and accessories that are rapidly renewable, reclaimed or recycled, chic and totally within your budget, West Elm has NAILED IT. Add the new collaboration with A-List Design partners like Allegra Hicks, Benjamin Moore and David Stark and it's clear that West Elm has made the taste for champagne on a beer entirely possible. I'm not saying you'll be able to pass their furniture on to future generations, but clearly West Elm understands  a green, triple bottom line.  They've got great style and you can feel good (physically, socially, mentally) about what you buy from them.

Oysters and Gowanus Canal

When I think of oysters,  glamorous appetizers, champagne and  the resulting amorous night ahead flood my mind.  When I think of urban canals, especially Gowanus in Brooklyn, I can literally smell the stench of sewage filled waterways.  In my experience dilapidated waterways and oysters are no match.  Good thing Kate Orff thought otherwise. Gowanus Canal Brooklyn, New York America's leader in upcycling industrial wastelands (think High Line Park), fabulous New York City is the breeding ground for one more brilliant idea.  Known as "oyster-tecture", Kate Orff,  founder and partner of Scape/Landscape Architecture , paired oysters and the dirty canal like Felix and Oscar and consequently has one huge hit on her hands.  The problem: a polluted bay. The solution: Oyster thrive while simultaneously  filtering  the dirtiest of waterways.  In fact, one oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.  Imagine what an entire farm could do.   When Orff approached the locals and Port Authority with her plan to transform the canal into an oyster nursery, creating a clean and dynamic new form of ecological life, their response was, "why didn't we think of this sooner?" It's the simple things (and solutions) in life that are sometimes the most worthwhile.  Savoring oysters from the Gulf Coast to France's Atlantic, it's nice to know they satiate my appetite for cleanliness too.

Top Interior Designers Selected for Greystone Mansion Showcase

Getting ready to settle into a relaxing Fourth of July weekend, I kicked back and opened the latest issue of LUXE.   Then I saw it, my name in the  first, official ad for the Greystone Mansion Showcase House.  What a way to start the holiday!   LUXE Maison de Luxe has chosen over 20 top leading designers from all over the world to participate in this fall’s show house for the historic Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.  You can imagine how excited I am to be included.  This event is one of the largest and most majestic show houses in the country and is sure to be awe-inspiring. Lori Dennis HGTV and my show The Real Designing Women will be following the action, along with celebrity friends like Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, Nathan Turner and Mary McDonald from Bravo’s “Million Dollar Decorator.” Any reputable showcase designer list would include the old gaurd and this one is no exception.  You'll see legends like Hutton Wilkinson, Jamie Drake, Barry Dixon and Suzanne Rheinstein. My Fabulous Friend Hutton Wilkinson Colorful Jaime Drake Lady Suzzane Rheinstein Lord of the Manor Barry Dixon Built in 1928, this Baronial-style estate is over 46,000 square feet with 18.5 manicured acres of land.  It's our city's most famous palace and certainly rivals those of Rhode Island Coasts. Show House Tour runs November 4-20, 2011 and Designer Lecture Series are November 4, 11 and 18.  For more information, Please visit www.beverlyhills.org/maisondeluxe.

The Beauty of Composting Toilets

I just got back from the wettest spot on Earth, Kauai’s Mount Waialeale.  Having been told that it’s the prettiest and greenest of Hawaiian Islands, I expected the flora and fauna to be out of this world.  It was. However, something utterly mundane impressed me so much more, a composting toilet at Limahuli Garden . Having written an entire chapter on plumbing fixtures for my book Green Interior Design, I know quite a bit about composting toilets.  But reading about them and seeing them in pristine showrooms was altogether different than actually using one.  Walking into the small, public bathroom at Limahuli, I immediately noticed the toilet and a friendly sign posted above it (instructions for use). I confess, visions , and worse, smells, of outhouses danced in my head.  Getting ready to lift the lid, I braced myself for “the stank”.  The stank never happened. On an 87 degree, humid, sunny day in a public bathroom that had no  air conditioning,  IT DIDN’T SMELL…  AT ALL. I live in Southern California, literally a desert , where we  import billions of gallons of expensive, fresh water from thousands of miles away.  Composting toilets do the job without a drop of water. I’m thinking if the wettest spot on Earth finds the composting method useful, shouldn’t we start installing these in every public space in our arid state?

An Artful Weekend in Beverly Hills

This spring's Beverly Hills Affaire in the Gardens was the busiest I've seen in five years.  The park,  full of fine art, live music and gourmet vending trucks seemed to lure out every resident in the village.  Kids were dancing,  parents were shopping and the artists all had smiles on their faces, saying, " the Affaire in the Gardens is back!" That means people were buying art and lots of it. My "best in show" ribbon went to the geometric cocktail table made of reclaimed wood pieces by Terry Hansen. I'm hoping to use this in our funky, meditation room at Maison Luxe Greystone Mansion Showcase Event. Came Sculpture playful metal pieces put a smile on every one's face, captivating young and old. A sucker for anything high glossed and nautical, I loved the combo by Neil Zeye. Malen Pierson delighted with his life sized animals made of recycled iron. The glazed pears by Ojima Ceramics were sublime. Other worth mentioning were: Gabe Leonard's spin on movie art, Iris Work's large landscape photographs, Steve Keating's photography and Veronica Schmitt  paintings. Later that night we headed over to Robert Reynold's studio for a birthday bash.  The beginnings of his latest body of work were on display - a Zen inspired boat.  Perhaps he's feeling a bit free these days due to the move he and studio director Gemma are making to LA's Old Building District.  They've scored an amazing studio on the roof with a birds eye view of the city from the mountains to the Pacific Ocean.   The bonus here for all you  art buyers is that the entire 5,000 square foot studio (in the LA  Arts District) is on SALE.  The studio at 821 Traction Ave. is open 9-8 throughout Memorial Day Weekend. This one's favorite and I'm trying to score it for a client, so hands off!

Legends of La Cienega: Mood Boards

This morning I will be speaking at Legends of La Cienega on the topic of creating mood boards.  Here’s a simple 5 step approach that’s an efficient and impressive way to convey your designs to your clients:   There are many benefits of creating a digital Mood Board.  It’s incredibly fast to search online and simply copy/paste images onto a page, or create a visually compelling and exciting presentation using other graphics programs.  Now you won’t have to shlep a big board with you from place to place – just email it.  This conveys your ideas to your clients, and with their reply you’ll have an idea of the direction they’d like to go.  It speeds up the design process so the project can start moving right along. Let’s say you want to evoke the feeling of a Bali style resort and need a little inspiration.  There are many places you can search for your style: HGTV, online Magazines (Elle Décor, Traditional Home, Veranda, Architectural Digest, Luxe – or Google “Interior Decorating Magazines” and a list will pop up).  Blogs are also a fantastic way to find inspiration and see what trends people are writing about.  Some of my favorite blogs include So Haute, All The Best, Apartment Therapy, Tobi Fairly, Remodelista, Design Sponge, Inhabitat, Decorati, 1st Dibs, or Desire to Inspire. There are simple and effective ways to do an image search on Google using keywords, quotes and (+) signs.  For example (Bali+Style+Design) picks up all 3 words listed on websites or images.  Quotes make sure that the entire phrase – in that order – will pop up (“Balinese Design”).  Don’t forget to save each image that inspires you. If you know the piece you’d like to use in your design (sofa, drapery, rug, tassel, etc.), or just have a general idea, search for the item on a vendor or Industry Partner’s website, online catalogue, or again on Google Images.  Most of your favorite showrooms or stores will have plenty of items for you to skim through.  Once you've found what you’re looking for, again save your image under an informative name (vendor + item+description, ie: Scalamandre Wallcovering Stripes). A program like Photoshop or InDesign would be ideal for creating your mood board, but don’t worry if these aren’t available to you.  Simply insert your images into a Word Document, organize and title each image for an easy presentation and voila!

Poisonous Preschool

During spring break my daughter's preschool refinished their wood floors.   As excited as she was to see her teachers and friends on Monday after the break, our visit resulted in a big fat round trip right back to my house.  In two decades of refinishing floors, I don't believe I've ever smelled a more noxious interior.  There was no way I was leaving those tiny lungs to fend for themselves. I immediately turned to the smartest guru I know for healthy green interiors, Mary Cordaro.  In addition to being a certified Bau Biologist, she deeply cares about the effects of built environment toxins on infants and children. Mary, of course, had plenty of answers for me and generously shared her time and research. Mary Cordaro The brain of Larry Gust , another green building expert, was also picked.  Between Mary and Larry I had enough info to go back to the preschool and discuss options.  Unfortunately there weren't many because the product used was within the legal limits (unbelievably) for VOC levels in a preschool.  The owners felt badly that they didn't know more before they finished the floors and said they would research more for future renovations. Moral of the story: GO OUTSIDE OFTEN and get fresh air for as much time as you can EVERYDAY.   The design and maintenance of places where we work, pray, shop and study are mostly out of our control and these interiors are loaded with carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals).  Most Americans are forced to work in very unhealthy environments for 40 plus hours each week, year in, year out.   And many live in homes that contain materials that are toxic.  It's just not good for our bodies or souls.  Human beings are meant to be outdoors. Christopher Kennedy   During the week of research it took to determine how long my daughter would need to stay away from school while the VOCs dissipated, I was invited to Niche's party for Kettal thrown by LUXE Magazine.  Ironically Christopher Kennedy, the designer on LUXE's current cover, was speaking about his concept of bringing the Inside ...Outside due to the toxicity of most interiors.  Unlike architects like Phillip Johnson (Glass House) and Frank Lloyd Wright (Falling Water), who strived to bring nature into our interiors, brilliant designer Christopher Kennedy proposed we do the exact opposite and pay special attention to our exterior rooms.      Kettal's chic outdoor furniture   He echoed my sentiments about human beings not really being meant to live in boxes with manufactured air and toxic paint.  He talked about the interior air being much worse than outside air and the positive effects that sunshine and fresh air has on us.  He even reminded the designers in the crowd to include outdoor spaces in their interior budgets so clients wouldn't be tapped out at the end of their projects and miss designing quite possibly the most important spaces- the outdoor spaces.   (Falling Water and Phillip Johnson's Glass House, beautiful, yes,  but not necessarily designed for outdoor living.) Thankfully my daughter's preschool has a great playground that the children use for many hours during each day.  And... those floors  have almost finished off-gassing.

The Top Five Interior Design Trends of 2011-2012

For the past six months, I've been traveling  the country giving presentations at trade shows and design centers on luxury green living and signing my book Green Interior Design .  I've seen five trends stand out more than any others and here they are. 1. GREEN DESIGN GONE HEALTHY The emphasis on green continues to gain momentum.  While most people are well aware of the built environment's impact on our planet,  less is known about how it relates to human health.  It's hard to believe that the indoors are more polluted than the outdoors. But they are and we spend 90% of our time inside.  In fact, the EPA currently lists indoor air pollution among the top five environmental health concerns. Expect to see more prominence put on home design features that can help improve indoor air quality. For instance, windows, when positioned positioned and operating properly, allow for naturally occurring cross currents of air that result in proper ventilation of indoor spaces.  I highly suggest opening your windows and vacuuming at least once a day. For those of you who do not employ a full time cleaning crew, check out I Robot's Roomba. 2. THE GENTLEMAN'S LOUNGE Leathers, tweeds, flannels and other menswear inspired fabrics are popping up all over furniture.  Icons of high style like Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani  and Andrew Morgan have turned their attention to interiors.  Everything from master bedrooms, media room and living rooms, both indoors and out will be dominated by fabrics traditionally seen on Saville Row. The look evokes a sense of luxury embodied by a life well traveled, a meal savored, a professional respected and a bed never empty.  It's a style that wears well on both male and female, allowing the occupant to invite elegance and permanence into their interior spaces. In residential and hospitality expect to see tweeds in camel and cigar browns; hound's tooth checks in black, green, red and blue; richly hued plum and tangerine silk paisleys and sultry shades of grey pinstriped, flannel wools. And peacock- that male struttin' bird will be seen everywhere for some time to come. 3. AMERICANA SUPPORTING MADE IN AMERICA Thirty years of sending our manufacturing overseas has culminated in jobs lost forever and a nation left wondering where it all went wrong.  Consequently the "Made In America" label has a brand new cache.  People are finding strength in returning to American values and traditions, whether its comfort food , an old pair of Levi's or the design of their homes.  At  Sotheby's and Christie's for example, American antique furniture and objects of art recently sold for record high prices.  Manufactures who produce locally like Milgard Windows have been high on the must have  lists of my clients.  American handmade accessory items are also in demand like  Cheryl Sheehan's gorgeous table toppers.    Consumers want quality products that support the stability of our communities, states and nation.  Expect to see red, white and blue in every room in the home. 4. SMALLER SPACES, QUALITY MATERIALS DOING MORE WITH LESS Gone are the days of cheaply produced mega mansions. Today design is about smaller, well planned spaces made with quality materials that will last a lifetime.  Dollars are being focused on fewer, but higher end products and materials.  These new products have a common thread in the sensuality of their composition, an almost handcrafted feel. Expect to see a re-connection with nature, more wood and metal in design.  Because interior spaces are being made smaller, there will be an explosion in the design of well adorned outdoor rooms that visually create a large living space. 5.  TECHNOLOGY WITH GREATER PURPOSE- FOCUS ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY, DURABILITY AND UNIVERSAL DESIGN Technology and beauty haven't always gone hand in hand, but in today's Apple infused world of style and function, it is now more expected than ever-even in home design.  Cutting edge technology is enabling design oriented manufacturers such as Creation Baumann to produce stylish products that are also durable and easy to use.  The company recently updated its technology in its century old mills to transform polyester into dreamy silk like fabrics that don't compromise indoor air quality, produce little waste in manufacturing and are machine washable.  New technology such as the Smart Touch lock  is fusing style and performance.  The exclusive design from Milgard makes windows much easier to use as we age and was the first window manufacturer to receive the Arthritis Foundation's Ease of Use Commendation. Expect to see more attention put on products and home improvements that offer more style, performance and comfort.  The retirement of the Baby Boomers, in particular, has made Universal Design one of the most important areas in design. That's the top five as I see them.  And trust me, I've seen it all this year!

A Better Way to Brand

We're sick of being sold.  Traditional advertising has become blurry and quiet, we simply don't respond to it anymore.   Tivo's success exemplifies my point.  But I've seen the light, a better way to brand. Hours before the Academy Awards,  AlltheBest blogger and  SFERRA brand ambassador, Ronda Carman, hosted her own red carpet event at Tony Duquette's Dawnridge. SFERRA's TABLE SETTING In honor of  SFERRA's 120th anniversary, ten top bloggers and a sprinkling of design elite sat down to a one of a kind luncheon,  table styled by team SFERRA- Hutton Wilkinson and placed in one of the many magical outdoor spaces of the Dawnridge Estate. Brand Ambassador Ronda Carman   Being a spokesperson for Milgard Windows and a business owner, I am constantly faced with "designing" clever ways to market.  I hit the idea jackpot at Dawnridge.  Ronda nailed it. Step 1. LEAVE AN IMPRESSION- If you haven't picked up a copy of Tony Duquette's More is More, you should because words will never describe the decadence of the estate.  ( Better yet, get yourself invited... somehow. )   No one who attended the event will ever forget the experience that afternoon or the gracious hosts who invited us. Tracy Porter and Hutton Wilkinson Step 2. DON'T MARKET- INSTEAD INVITE and INSPIRE AS A BRAND AMBASSADOR- There was no tradtional marketing at the luncheon, not one piece of literature or signage- but the entire experience sang SFERRA- permanence, luxury, generational, fine, perfection.  The location, the setting and the guests left everyone in awe. SFERRA and Ronda treated us like honored guests instead of marketing targets. Being invited by a "brand ambassador" set the tone for a unique experience that would not be forgotten. Hutton Wilkinson and Lori Dennis Step 3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TIMING- Ronda coincided the event with the first annual Blogger's Convention, on calendar for the following day.  Since the best of the best were already in town, she made an offer no design affectionado could refuse.   Bloggers blog about the things they do and see.  Ambassador Carman made sure they saw something worth blogging.  And let's face it, when respected people say  positive (and unsolicited) things about your brand, it's the most valuable advertising there is. Tobi Fairley and Kyle Knight   Step 4. INVITE THE RIGHT GUESTS- Suzzane Rheinstein, Jan Showers, Barclay Butera, Hutton Wilkinson, Anne Sage, Ronda Carman, Lori Dennis, Tobi Fairley, Clinton Smith,  Tracy Porter... the list went on and on.   I read Tobi Fairley's blog religiously... and there she sat across from me -along with 9 other major leaguers. A mutual admiration society meeting is a good thing and makes for very happy guests. Barclay Butera and Suzzane Rheinstein Ronda Carman and Jan Showers Step 6.  GIVE GOOD SWAG- Each guest left with a boldly colored, personally monogrammed set of SFERRA cocktail napkins.  Think about this.  SFERRA makes heirloom quality linens that can be passed through generations.  Each time these exquisite cocktail napkins are pulled out for decades, it becomes an opportunity to tell the story of Ambassador Carman's luncheon for SFERRA's 120th Anniversary at Dawnridge. That's a better way to brand. SFERRA's TABLE

Getting Ready to Go Outside

I almost feel guilty saying this with  most of the country buried in snow, but it's 78 degrees and sunny with clear blue skies today in Los Angeles.  As soon as my daughter wakes up from her nap we're headed to the Getty.  Perched up on its mountain top, on a day like today,  you can see hundreds of miles beyond the city to snow capped mountains.  With a turn of your head,  you're in full view of the Pacific Ocean dotted with little white sails and gorgeous Catalina Island.  There's nothing like the middle of February in LA, clean, clear and blooming. But....since the rest of you are stuck in the muck- it's a perfect time to start thinking about what you will be doing with your outdoor spaces come spring.  I've just discovered Geobella, a company that carries an eco-friendly outdoor line.   In addition to the stain resistance, moisture wicking and high durability qualities we've come to expect from outdoor fabrics,  Geobella is composed entirely of olefin yarn that is recycled from post industrial waste.   The product is recyclable and can be re-extruded up to 10 times. I'm a sucker for stripes and the line has two that I love. Sagmore Seagrass (above) and Swizzle Bright (below) remind me of something Victoria Hagan would do, East Coast and fine . For the"gentlemen's lounge" inspired by menswear look that is so0000 hot right now, I love  Houndstooth and Bally Castle Tobacco (below). If you're dreaming of the tropics, hot with jungle fever, you'll find the cure with Jungle Beat Lagoon (below). With French and Spanish inspired patterns like Dhurrie Tan (below) and Quickstep Spice (last photo), the Tradtionalists won't be left in the cold.   The line also has a wide range of richly hued solids and can be purchased through Plumridge.com. Break out the rum and Coke, turn on the Bob Marley and start thinking about going outside!

Barclay’s Brand New Bag

Last week Barclay Butera joined design's uber-elite when he opened his new showroom in the La Cienega Design Quarter- the Champs Elysees of Los Angeles Design.  There were swinging tunes, cocktails and canapés as Butera played host to a bevy of A-listers who turned out to view and celebrate the grand opening of his second Los Angeles location.   The atelier concept  is a new one for La Cienega  showrooms, as Barclay is more interested in bringing in his existing clients for a little "shop time"  and is a bit less concerned with retail sales.  (I'm not saying you can't purchase his scrumptious furnishings at the shop, you can. It's just an amuse bouche, instead of a smorgasbord.) “Often times with celebrities and moguls there is a demand for the utmost discretion and privacy.  These clients will now enjoy a very on-brand setting to meet and review projects.  We will have our material at our fingertips, access to internet, samplings of furniture all handy.  It’s the quintessential arrangement for both designer and client” said Butera. With appointments already booked and a  staff of capable, design assistants to cater to one's every need,  Barclay is sure to have yet another grandslam.

If You Want to Get the Word Out, Befriend a Blogger

Recently my book, Green Interior Design  was released.   Like most people who have never written a book, I thought the days of sitting in front of my computer coming up with hundreds of pages of clever material was the hard part.  Visions of Hollywood scenes featuring authors and their publishers led me to believe that I would be traveling around the country on a glamorous book tour (television, radio, chic book stores, exclusive parties) staying at posh hotels, selling millions of copies and having my editor pick up the tab. I mean isn't that what JK Rowling gets to do?  Ha ha. The joke was on me.  After you write your first book, you the author, get the pleasure of marketing it too.  Ok fine,  how hard can it be?  I contacted a PR person known for her prowess in marketing books.  She quoted me $20,000- but no Internet marketing . I did the math. I make about $1 a book , multiply that by a million copies, equals... this sounded like a great plan.  Only when I asked how many copies she thought I could sell,  she said about 15,000.  I confirmed the number with some other design authors.   My next thought was, I'm going to need to look at some other options. Then it hit me- THE BLOGGERS.  One of the greatest things about blogs is that unlike magazines that have 3-12 month lead times, blogs can post content immediately. Plus the bloggers put a link  (straight to a shopping cart) in the article.   I immediatly started contacting the blogs I know and love. In no special order here's the list of the blogs who saved me $20,000 in marketing and helped me publicize my book.  Thank you thank you thank you!  Give em' a read and be sure to tell them if you have something compelling to announce, they're happy to help you spread the word. 1. All The Best Blog 2.Belle Vivir 3.Crib Candy 4.Absolutely Not Martha 5.Blue Ant Studio 6. Chasing Davies 7. Being Tazim 8. Eco- Modernism 9. Live Modern 10.  Just One More Page Or Two 11. Examiner.com 12. Design Shuffle 13. Design Addict 14. Book Page 15. Ink + Wit 16.Shoe  Box Decor 17. HGTV Design Happens 18. Charm Home 19. Design For Men Mag 20. Yossawat 21. LA Mag 22. Lush Pad 23. An Inspired Walk 24. Three Men and A Lady 25. The Jinks Family 26. Cincinati Enquirer 27. Simple & Wonderful 28. Moore Minutes 29. Bijou Kaleidoscope 20. Go Design Go 31. Cliff Spencer If I missed anyone, please let me know!  MWAH to the bloggers.

Pop Up Gallery on Melrose

A few weeks ago I wrote about two of my new favorite artists, Robert Reynolds and David Hollen. Now I know West Siders (from Los Angeles) aren't  likely to make the 15 minute drive "all the way" downtown, so it is with great pleasure that I reveal the location of the Aryai pop up gallery at 8457 Melrose.  Until November 3oth you can see Robert's Jesus inspired, life sized boat hanging from the ceiling and revel in the fantasy filled minatures  of Jeremey Mora. Other artists work on display at Forma Mentis are Kim Abeles and Sia Aryai.  The exhibition is petite, sweet and filled with plenty of whimsy.

Green Remodeling Review

Barry Katz was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book.   Being a recently selected as a member of the ASID National Sustainable Council, one of our first assignments was to update the bibliography.  The book couldn't have arrived at a better time.  Practical Green Remodeling extensively covers areas like insulation, ventilation and alternative energy systems.  Filled with plenty of eye candy and pictures of Americana style homes, it's easy (and fun) to read in an afternoon.  If you're just beginning your journey to the green side of home remodeling,  get up to speed quickly with this power trio: Green Interior Design by Lori Dennis, Practical Green Remodeling by Barry Katz and  REGREEN, a joint effort of ASID and the USGBC.  You'll gain a vocabulary and grasp of the industry that would make Ed Begley Jr. proud.

How Nature Inspires

I'm not quite sure what was going on at the beach this weekend, even for LA, there was a ridiculous amount of photoshoots. Every few steps a professional lense was pointed at a smiling face, a wet, sexy body (or two Kardashians), a chubby baby, a happy family or a group of tourists. It may have had something to do with the unusually warm weather for mid November or the outrageous sky colored in vibrant blues, pinks and oranges that turned to deep purples, fushias and burnt ambers as the sun set over the Pacific. Taking in the natural beauty, I began to flip through my porfolio of work in my head and realized that I often design in hues that resemble this late November afternoon on a Southern California beach.  Touches of beachy blues, stimulating oranges, sunshine yellows and driftwood browns, combined with muted backgrounds of sandy creme have become my signature.  Spending so much of my life on these shores has really influenced the way I approach the built environment. I suppose the next time I'm asked "what inspires you?", I'd better fess up and give nature some props.  

Green Day at the WDC by Jennifer Sergent

Today we have a special treat, guest blogger Jennifer Sergent.  You may know Jennifer from her former positions as senior editor at Washington Spaces and HGTV Magazine.  Currently she is the Marketing Director of the  Washington DC Design Center and was kind enough to invite me to speak on Green Interior Design and lead a tour through DC's finest green showrooms. Take it away Jennifer: We had the most fun last week when Los Angeles designer Lori Dennis, who has become nationally known for her expertise in green interior design, came for a visit. Her new book, Green Interior Design, will be out later this month: I knew Lori back when I edited a publication for HGTV, so when she called to say she’d be in town, I invited her to lunch with a few green experts, gathered through builder Mark Turner of Greenspur, who built the CharityWorks GreenHouse in McLean last year. Left to right: Architect Ernesto Santalla of Studio Santalla, who designed the meditation/spa room in the Green House; Theresa Norton; Mary Anne Duffus, founder of the ultra-green Brooksfield preschool in McLean; Marcia Twomey, president of the McLean Chamber of Commerce; Lori Dennis; Designer Barbara Hawthorn, who designed the outdoor space at the Green House; (me) Jennifer Sergent, Director of Marketing for the WDC; Designer Skip Sroka, one of the design chairmen of the Green House; and Annie O'Connell, manager of the Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman showroom, where the photo was taken We toured through showrooms with products that Lori writes about in her book, which will be out on Nov. 16. We started at Donghia, where showroom manager Liz Allner welcomed us with coffee and pastries. Liz had laid out many different fabric lines that are totally green, including Brentano and Pollack. But the coolest show-and-tell examples were the dazzling samples of Maya Romanoff wallpaper: During the tour, Lori and the showroom managers talked about products that were not only green in and of themselves (Maya Romanoff uses recycled glass for its beads), but also the companies who make them, which practice green standards. Overseas, child labor, too, is a big problem — and these companies try to stay away from factories that are caught using school-age children on their lines. Next, we went to Farrow & Ball, which is now totally green in all its varieties of paint. They have stopped offering oil-based paint, as well. Showroom manager Eve Fay describes the green characteristics of Farrow & Ball. The greatest thing about green products for the home these days (if we haven’t already learned from the stunning CharityWorks GreenHouse), is that going green does not mean sacrificing quality. In Farrow & Ball’s case, it means that their pigmentation is still the best around. Here's an example of Rectory Red, on the right, which Eve had "matched" at two other paint companies. Not possible, as you can clearly see. Moving right along, we went to see the ever-charming and charismatic Brian Benavides at Robert Allen | Beacon Hill, which has an impressive line of green fabrics, from sturdy contract quality to top-of-the-line residential. Here's Brian and Lori. Even in a still photo, Brian's infectious personality comes across. Jaunty pillows with Robert Allen's eco-friendly fabric Robert Allen has an entire green section in the showroom, which Brian pointed out that designers can use to demonstrate to their clients — once again — that the quality of the fabric is never sacrificed just because harmful chemicals aren’t used in the production or milling. The texture of this fabric is so yummy! The green leaf on the label is a symbol that the fabric is green. Next, we went to Edelman Leather, where showroom manager Emily Payne not only welcomed us with open arms, but sat us down in the sumptuous (all-leather) sitting area in the front of the showroom. Emily Payne of Edelman Leather How is leather green, you ask? Well, for one thing, Edelman uses only leathers produced in Europe, which actually has more stringent green standards than the United States when it comes to using non-toxic chemicals, clean factories, etc. In addition, no animal is ever killed just for its hide. Emily pointed out that all leather comes from animals in the food industry, where hides are a by-product. So talk about reuse and recycle… Can you believe this wood-grain pattern on Edelman's newest leather product? Like, on a wing chair? Amazing. The surface of the cocktail table beneath it, by the way, is also an intricately textured leather. Emily sent us away with the cutest gifts: small holders for change, credit cards, or business cards. I have already put mine to use! But probably no one was as thrilled as Mary Anne Duffus, who runs the green Brooksfield School in McLean — Emily gave her a big bag of discontinued leather samples for the toddlers in her preschool to use in their art class. Mary Anne pointed out that no material in their art classes is ever bought new — it’s always reused from something else. The final stop before our luncheon was Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman, where manager Annie O’Connell told us about her company’s “Pure” line of furniture. Annie O'Connell Because this was the last stop on our tour, everyone wanted to take some time to sit down and really “try out” the furniture. Not only are the fabrics, but the frames and even springs in the furniture is green: the wood frames are cut from sustainable forests, and the metal in the springs is recycled. Theresa Norton sits on one of the "Pure" chairs, which was designed so a lady could sit on it, cross her legs, and look sexy. Mission accomplished, right? Ernesto Santalla's purple jacket blends wonderfully with the green silk of this sofa -- green in color and concept, that is. Theresa Norton, Mary Anne Duffus (with her art-class samples from Edelman), and Marcia Twomey also try out the sofa. Two of my favorite designers came along on the tour with us — and they could have helped Lori quote chapter and verse on green interior design: Skip Sroka, whose new house is a poster child for green building, down to the recycled rubber tiles on his roof (see a story and photos of it here), and Barbara Hawthorn, who’s been doing green probably longer than Lori. Skip Sroka and Barbara Hawthorn Skip and Barbara have known each other a long time, and their mutual affection is adorable — I love this candid shot: There are so many green products in our showrooms that we did not have enough time to see them all, but I’ve been talking to Lori about coming back and expanding our little tour to a larger event during our Capital Design Days in the spring. I was so impressed not only with Lori’s command of the subject, but also of our showroom managers’ knowledge, and our guests’ own experience with the green movement. It was an inspiring day, and I can’t wait to read Lori’s book.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard Wins Big

I knew the stakes had been raised at the PDC last Monday night when I walked across the lobby and saw a red carpet with  Sharon Osbourne and no less than 20 cameras flashing their bulbs.  It was Marty's big night, DESIGNER OF THE YEAR, hosted by the PDC and brand new Andrew Martin, super chic, buy off the floor showroom. Everyone was there to congratulate Martyn and PARRRRTEH, including Taylor Dayne (who still has PIPES) and Downtown Julie Brown.  I got so excited during Tell It To My Heart, that I jumped on stage with hunky Martyn and boogied my bootie.   Bravo's new show Million Dollar Decorator was filming, so let's "Watch What Happens" and see if I make it to the episode.  Big night, big party, big award and great, big, talented, sweet man.  Congrats. A few days later I spoke at the Solargy showroom opening party in Tarzana.  The first of its kind in Los Angeles, it's a good looking showroom room filled with energy effiicient solutions for residential and commercial buildings. My favorite was the HVAC system that has an automated humidifier for those dry winter nights.  And designers, co-owner Gabrielle  is quite the charmer. Make sure to book your tour with him. Immediately after I popped into the Jean De Merrry Party to talk about my book, say hi to everyone and see Mike Ragan'samazing fabric display.  The Melrose Place showroom is breathtaking and I love the way they transformed the parking lot into a green paradise complete with fountain, sculpture and exquisite outdoor lanterns. I'd expect nothing less from Jean De Merry. Rounding out the weekend, the SoCalContractor and I headed over toFabrik Magazine's Arts District Art Walk and visited the studios of some of LA's finest. Sculpture by David Hollen, Canvas by Robert Reynolds and Photography by Cyril Helnwein were all fantastic. The experience was entirely surreal going behind the concrete walls into studio spaces that were buzzing with energy and unbridled, urban beauty. DAVID HOLLEN DAVID HOLLEN ROBERT REYNOLDS CYRIL HELNWEIN Beautiful blonde Italian, Gemma Sonego (architect, floral artist, collector of vintage furnishings) and little Elle Bell took a liking to each other and stayed side by side for the better part of our visit.  I fell in love with both her and her husband, Robert Renoylds and will be having them soon for a soiree on the West Side.

Fabulous LUXE Magazine

Having spent the last few months  promoting my new book, Green Interior Design,  I've learned a thing or two about PR.  Most importantly, magazine editors have the power to turn a designer into a star and stylemaker.  LUXE Magazine editor Pam Jaccarino placed me in the  exclusive cover club this month, when she green lighted my Blue Jay Way project for the front cover of the Los Angeles issue.  She even set my story in between powerhouses David Easton and Kara Mann in the national issue. Thanks just isn't enough for something of this magnitude.  I need to design a spa pronto and get both Pam and the publisher, Jo Campbell-Fujii comped for a week of massages, facials and great food. Trust me, I'm working on it! Speaking of Jo Campbell Fujii, I had the pleasure of meeting her at the cocktail and private preview she hosted for the Avenues Design Show House by Billy Rose Design and Assembledge+.     The entire experience was a WOW moment from the bus ride up from Skirball, passing through the Bel Air gates, walking up the split stone driveway big enough to park 30 cars and then entering the 8 foot wide solid wood, pivot door. The eye candy continued with a rustic, but refined, floating stairwell made from entire trunks of bleached oak (FSC certified logs), an exposed wine cellar under the stairs, a media room the size of a small AMC theater(by Innovative), a kitchen that I would kill for, one of the most glamorous master bath suites I've ever seen- can you say unlimited material budget?- and my personal favorite an entire wall of Miele washers and dryers in the laundry room. Oh wait a minute, I forgot to mention the back patio, with not one, but two jacuzzis (seen below) over looking the twinkling lights of the City of Angels.  Really it was a" pinch me, I'm dreaming" moment when I looked down and saw my magazine cover sitting on the side table of the outdoor lounge. Having participated in a few show houses, I realize how much vendors add to the experience.  Here's a shout out to old favorites like Kallista, Vanatage, EcoSmart Fire, Ann Sacks and Samuel Moyer Furniture and new found treasures from artists Daniel Wheeler and Patte Stayrook.  Kudos to all, the production was A-list all night and I felt right at home. Now I've got to trot over to the PDC and see what's going on with Martyn Lawrence-Bullard and his big award.

Murphy Sculpture Garden at UCLA

This Sunday I did something I haven't done since I was an undergrad (back in the days when the first Wall Street movie was in theaters), I walked the UCLA campus from top to bottom. Having had our fill of noisy playgrounds for the weekend, the  SoCal Contractor and I , opted for a much quieter play day for Elle Bell and headed to the Bel Air entrance. Like New York City, UCLA seems empty on the weekends, which was exactly what we wanted.  Established in the 1880s, the campus is home to  captivating, brick buildings designed in the same grandeur as the Ivy League schools you so often see in movies.  Additionally there are world class examples of International style buildings from the north to the south.  My favorite part of the campus still remains the Murphy Sculpture Garden, something so serene and unexpected at a college campus.   We stayed there for a good, long time admiring the beautiful man made structures and landscape.  With a reflecting pond and plenty of space to kick a soccer ball, the trip was a hit with the entire family. Nothing to do next weekend? Pack a lunch- maybe even sneak in a bottle of wine-and head to UCLA.  For a whopping $10 parking fee you'll enjoy a few hours of intellectual solitude and some fresh air. Go Bruins!

Lori Dennis is a top Interior Designer, speaker, best selling author, star of HGTV’s The Real Designing Women and co-founder of Design Campus.




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