Lori Dennis Celebrity Luxury Interior Designer | Blog

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


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!

Hollywood Regency Vs. Regency

This morning at the Pacific Design Center architectural expert Virgil W. McDowell gave a lecture on the difference between Regency and Hollywood Regency.  Technical difficulties aside, it was a compelling session comparing the  two styles, exemplified in McDowell's own architectural drawings, copious photographs and actual clips from old Hollywood movies starring dreamy Carey Grant (yum). I just love it when eye candy is soooo educational! A Los Angeleno, McDowell finds inspiration in the work of legendary, Southern Californian architects like George Washington Smith, Wallace Neff, Paul R. Williams and Reginald D. Johnson.  Who wouldn't ? Immediately after the lecture I headed over to the ASID office for my interview of Tracy Murdock, January 2011covergirl for LA Design Magazine.  On a rainy LA day she was as glam as ever in her sparkly, leopard print, cashmere sweater from Neiman's, a triple strand pearl choker and a pair of shiny black Channel rainboots.  When I asked her what places have inspired her during her travels, she told me she didn't have to go anywhere to be inspired.  Books like  Memoires of a Geisha painted pictures in her mind that were a lot less expensive and time consuming than flying to Japan.  It reminded me of the interview I read on Laura Hunt who said she didn't need to leave the United States to be inspired or find the best of the best. Green lesson learned this week: reduce your carbon footprint by staying home and reading.  

Fall Market 2010 at the Pacific Design Center

The day started at Baker with jazz and mimosas ,( BTW Audrey Hieb a big thank you for sending the Dwell feature on me.) followed by a kick-off,  keynote address discussing the New Face of Affluence. Something I've never seen before is Charles Cohen, owner of the PDC, welcoming everyone and introducing the day's events.  I felt honored, but had to wonder if business is suffering somewhat for him to make an appearance to a less than standing room only crowd. Michela O'Conner, Dwell Media President;Frances Anderton, wunderkind reporter KCRW- -- P.S. Frances I will not stop bugging you until you interview me on your show;  Jennifer Siegal, Office Of Mobile Design and Funky Williard Ford, Ford and Ching told us all about their experiences with the new affluent.  Basically they love Apple, the environment and will place  Ikea directly next to a rare antique.  MY PEOPLE!  I also got confirmation that my efforts on Facebook were worth the while, as 87% of "them" are using it.  Now, I liken the FB experience to having a phone number.  You're simply out of touch without one.  Perhaps the most provoking part of the presentation was the comment from a woman in the audience who reminded us not to forget the design loving,  Chinese consumer, attending the EXPO in Shanghai to the tune of 46 million visitors.  Michela O' Conner wholeheartedly agreed.  I owe a lot to that lady in the audience- my big public relations meeting the following day took on a whole new direction focusing also on China- NI HAO!   When the keynote ended, I was minding my own business when I walked down the hall by the new ASID office.  There sat the  past president, president and president elect who summonsed me in and told me I had been appointed Editor in Chief of LA Design Magazine, the chapters' Quarterly. WTF?  So, now I'm an editor of a design magazine -pretty cool.  First order of business: CALLING ALL WRITERS: anyone who thinks they have something to contribute- - Hollah Back at me! Other things at market that inspired me were the exhibit at Mya Stark's pop up gallery featuring a massive collection of other people's old photos.  I seriously wish I had a few hours to really look at all of them (there had to be thousands) because they really told a story of American history without saying a word- although some had some did have informative comments written on the back ranging from racy to ridiculous.  Greg Gorman's A Distinct Vision was also among my favorites with striking, larger than life (literally) photography displayed along glass walls.   Get over there and take a look before they're gone. After a day full of informative programs Janus Et Cie threw... yet another fab party with killer appies, a stocked bar and hip deejay.  Unfortunately for them 3/4 of the regular crowd was gone.  Margaret Russell was up on the third floor throwin' down one hell of a shin dig for Thomas Lavin's  10th Anniversary. The SoCal Contractorwas VERY impressed with the Scotch selection, not an easy fete for a man who bar-tended in Scotland. I saw people I haven't seen in ages including Keith Granet and Lloyd Princeton. I've known and loved Thomas from way back and was delighted to see all stars aligning for this wonderful man. Congrats TL, you really deserve it. Thomas and Lori: Back in the Days Before I Needed Botox!

This Is Why I Live In Southern California

After coughing in bed for days,  I decided to finally get some fresh air.  All summer long the  beaches have been jam packed, no waves and it's been a bit chilly- I found other things to do.  Late Sunday afternoon was warm, sunny, the crowds gone, a perfect time to hit Malibu.  I downed the Formula 44 and hoped for the best. The SoCal Contractor caught some waves, Elle Bell had a sandy chat with the ducks and the salty, ocean air soothed my entire sore body.  September 19th and it feels like July at the beach.  Don't tell anyone; I'm sneeking out early and going back today.

Green Surprises in Santa Monica

Earlier this week I went to an event at Epoxy Green featuring  the latest in  fully electric cars and product displays of materials that rival anything available at Ann Sacks.  Sasha, the owner, has really nailed "glamorous green".  My favorite was the collection of pearly laminates that are applied as tile.  It reminded me of the sublime Maya Romanoff wallcover introduced at Donghia a few years back- only it's eco friendly, made of recycled content. I also liked the bamboo wall tile, applied horizontally with a chocolately grout,  featuring the material in an entirely new light- mod and sultry. I've been weary about using bamboo because it's become  known as "a cheap flooring solution" .  Haven't seen a  comeback this noteworthy since  John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. In the "I'm not sure if I like it, but it sure is interesting category" was Richlite's recycled paper counter tops. In a word -unbelievable.  How can paper be durable enough for a counter top.  They claim it can.  Has anyone used it?  I'd love to know. Also impressive were two of the fully electric cars on the front patio.  Although pretty to see, Tesla models run at about $150,000... not really a solution for most of us.  But there was a BMWish looking model with a $30,000 price tag (after the gov rebate of $10Gs) , evidence that we are getting closer to ending dependence on fossil fuels for transportation. Later I headed over to Santa Monica Place to see what ripping off the roof would do to the shopping center.  My first  high school job was in this mall (at the GAP) and it was always dark, dreary and cramped.  Post remodel and sans roof:  I witnessed loads of natural light and an abundance of fresh,  ocean air,  green roof tops, a showcase of recycled fashions from Otis students and plenty of people from the community and beyond enjoying the open air space and comfortable seating next to a fountain in the courtyard.  In a word- wow.  

Cheap N Chic Green Decoration

 Wrapped in ribbon &  fabric from an old gift I received,  placed  in saucers ( left over from a Trader Joe's dessert) and a Nambe platter , I'm going on week four of these flowers that I bought for 99 cents each to decorate a BBQ party.   I'm amazed.  It's the dollar that keeps on giving.  AND... I'm going to plant them when the flowers die. The next one cost me nothing.  The box: from some flowers someone gave me two months ago; the raffia: I had;  herbs and fruit:  from my garden.  I brought it as a hostess gift.  She was delighted.  Having style and being generous doesn't always have to cost that much.

10 Green Interior Tips That Don’t Cost A Penny

I've been asked by my publisher to prepare these tips for my upcoming book tour and thought I'd share them with you too. 1. Clean often (and vacuum) with non toxic products.  That layer of dust in your home includes dead skin from humans and pets (not so bad) and a breakdown of walls, fabrics, paints, plastics which probably contain carcinogens.  This is why interior air is often more harmful than exterior air.  Keeping it clean is one of your best Green Interior Design strategies.  A proper green clean arsenal includes: white vinegar, baking soda, peroxide and rags for cleaning vegetable oil with a few drops of lemon for polishing a hefty portion of elbow grease   2. Remove shoes when entering your home.   You wouldn’t believe how many toxins your shoes pick up from the streets, driveways and gardens.  Taking off shoes before entering a home helps to prevent these chemicals from coming inside. 3. Open the windows and let the sunshine in.  Sunlight is a natural disinfectant.  Even if you live in an apartment, you can place pillows, blankets and mattresses in front of an open window to allow solar rays and fresh air to help sanitize them. It’s a lot easier than steam cleaning them too! 4.  Reuse what you already have.  If you are inspired by a space you see in a magazine, look around your home or office.  What pieces do you have that are a similar look, scale, color?  Arrange existing items in the same way as the magazine spread.  You’ll be amazed by how you old things take on a fresh, new look. 5.  Next time you’re going to buy cut flowers, consider a flowering plant instead.  If you take care of it, it can last for decades.  An added bonus is that plants help to clean the air and produce oxygen. Gerber Daisies, Peace Lilies and Bamboo are cool looking plants that do this well. Studies have shown that plants improve your mood.  Market cut flowers are expensive and usually grown with copious amounts of petrochemical pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, plus  they often travel across continents to get to you.  That’s a lot of poison production and wasted energy. 6.  If you really want or need something entirely new, comb through what you have.  Sell something that you aren’t using on Craigslist or at a yard sale to offset the cost of the new item.  Preferably buy the “new” item used.  One man’s trash is another’s treasure. 7. Don’t water you grass.  Let it die, rip it up and throw in seasonal seeds from your favorite veggies and fruit.  There’s nothing as tasty as fresh tomatoes from your own garden.  If you live in an apartment, ask if you can borrow communal space or plant in a pot next to a window. 8.  Remove or unplug electric devices from your bedroom when sleeping.  Electromagnetic fields react with electronic devices confusing your natural body rhythms and making your sleep less sound.  Darker rooms also help to increase melatonin production, resulting in a regenerative night of rest. So close the blinds or curtains all the way each night or wear a sleep mask. 9.  If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.  Arid states like California are familiar with this drought time slogan.  In an attempt to use less water only flush when absolutely necessary- or when guests arrive. 10.  Don’t throw away food.  Keep it old school and make breads, cakes, soups and sauces from rotting produce.  You can also compost for your garden if food is beyond use.

Staycation in Beverly Hills

I've heard a lot about these "staycations" everyone is taking.   Exhausted from a summer of globe trotting, I decided to try one on for size.   I'm lucky because I live in a place where most of the world comes to visit.  Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Monica and Hollywood are all stomping grounds for me and my posse.   But to be honest, it's a completely different experience when you approach these places with a staycation state of mind.  We began at lovely Douglas  park in Santa Monica with a picnic hosted by our good friend the deb from Houston.  In addition to a fenced in area with copious amounts of creative structures for little ones to climb and a sublime duck pond, this park also has a fountain area that sprays into the air and keeps kids busy and cool on hot days. It felt like a place you would normally have to pay for entry.One out of towner commented twice about how beautiful the parks of Los Angeles are and that they don't have anything like that in her city.  (Hearing things like that always makes me feel better about our 10% sales tax.) The dutchess from the South brought it with yummy finger food, fashionable guests and delightful table decorations. Anyone who knows me, knows I love a civilized picnic at the park. (And someone has also being doing pilates- look at those arms!)   MY LOVELY LITTLE ELLE BELL Fig jam was the next treat on my holiday at home.  The trees in my front yard are EXPLODING with figs and don't look like they'll stop anytime soon.  We had a fig fiesta last week- serving up grilled figs with goat cheese and tri-tip keebobs.  I sent folks packing with figs galore, but alas, those trees kept pumpin' out more figs.  What better way to thank the editors who gave my book, Green Interior Design, rave reviews than jam made from the organic figs that I grew myself?  I also plan on sending a few jars to the people who missed the fig fiesta like Ms. AGL and  the editors from Angeleno and LUXE.  Since one of the chapters includes ideas about replacing grass lawns with edible gardens to grow  produce that is  free of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, I think it makes sense.  I hope they like figs. For any of you wondering, it's pretty simple.  1 part figs to 3/4 sugar, finely chopped lemon rind and a splash of vanilla.  Put it on slow boil for two hours.  Let cool. Cover until next day.  Boil for 15-20 minutes. Let cool.  Put in jars. Next we headed over to the Beverly Hills Food and Wine Festival. Christofle has been sending me invite after invite for the last 6 months, so I popped in to finally say hello.  I had no idea that they made jewelry, frames and other amazing accessories.  They served up Bouchon cookies and delicious red wine against a back drop of some of the prettiest things I've ever seen. The SoCal Contractor and I are renovating a hacienda on Laurel Canyon so we decided to mix business with pleasure and head over to the Montage for some inspiration.  I never thought about doing this with our toddler in tow, but we sat down for cappucinos and ice cream in the lobby lounge.  It was so pleasant and Elle was so well behaved that we stayed for dinner: sliders, fish tacos and french fries.  The last thing I expected in a place where the well heeled go for cocktail hour was a chest filled with children's books.   Very smart boutique hotel.  Darrell Schmidt's fabulous interior design, a phenomenal jazz sound track, gourmet cusine and NO DISHES, forget a Cabo beach, this is what I call paradise.   We were so elated that we spent $80 on a stuffed cat Elle adopted in the gift shop. ( Incidentally every single item in that shop was something I would want to receive as a gift, simply the best hotel gift shop I've ever visited. And Nicole Campbell, at the helm, was adorable too.) Our real cat Monkey thinks he's been sent a mail order bride. Three more house parties to attend befor this staycation is over on Tuesday.  I'll keep you posted....

Architectural Digest Has a Cool New Feature

Paige Rense gave us a going away present in the latest issue of Architectural Digest. Designers' Own Homes-  it seems like every other issue covers this topic, but this time there was a little something extra on select designer's pages.  A Matrix looking  "tag" now allows you to snap a shot with your smart phone and watch interviews with the world's best interior designers.   It was like I sat in a meeting with Mica Ertegun, Mariette Himes Gomez, Juan Montoya and Thad Hayes during the 3 hours it took to highlight my hair this morning.  How's that for muli-tasking?! I hope Margaret Russel, the new lady at the helm, decides to keep the feature in every issue and other editors follow suit.  Interviews I'd like to watch include: Victoria Hagan, Karin Blake, Bunny Williams, Kelly Wearstler, Jennifer Post, Joanne de Guardiola, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Peter Marino,  Ann Getty, Candace Olson, Nina Seirafi, Suzzane Tucker, Jeff Lewis, Kenneth Brown, Barclay Butera, Windsor Smith and even though he's not a designer, Mayer Rus.  Anyone listening? Until now, I had to fight traffic, pay enormous sums for parking  and walk unusally long distances (usually in heels) through design centers, trade shows or showrooms to listen to these people speak.  It was worth it because I ALWAYS learned something valuable. They are the best of the best after all.  But now, I can just scan and view anytime, any place. Thanks for the parting gift Paige, we'll miss you.

Death of the McMansion

Today the front pages of Yahoo and CNBC confirmed:  The McMansion- IT'S OVER, IT'S DEAD, and hopefully it's not coming back-EVER!  For the past twenty five years I've watched McMansions destroy the once upon a time quaint neighborhoods of Los Angeles like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and the Palisades.  Adorable, appropriately sized cottages and little haciendas with charming courtyards were replaced with bloated "Mediterranean Palaces".  In addition to looking ridiculously out of place, wasting enumerable amounts of energy and resources and  encouraging owners to fill them with CRAP they don't need, these structures keep occupants captive indoors.  It's bad news for two reasons.  The indoor air quality in these types of homes is known to contain massive amounts of carcinogens- home toxic home.  And since  these McMansions contain their own libraries, media rooms, spas, playrooms (and anything else you can imagine in 3 to 12,000 square feet), residents feel less than compelled to go to the public equivalents.  It causes a disconnect and breakdown in communities when folks don't interact regularly. It's a trend that's ripped through our nation for decades.  And now, thankfully, it's over.   Smaller homes, less waste, better health for people and the planet, more human interaction- times they are a changin'!

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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