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Cultivating Compassion

Compassion is part of our biology, doing good is the key to feeling good.  Neuroscientists are actually discovering that feeling compassion is associated with the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps calm stress and boosts immune function.  Acts of loving, kindness, meditation and dwelling on positive thoughts for other people are free, easy to do and ultimately help improve your mood and health.  One of my favorite charities is the Smile Train.  What I love so much about this organization is that for the price of a cute shirt or a nice dinner $250, I can show  compassion and literally change a child's life. They are one of the best run organizations I've come across, traveling the world and teaming up with local doctors to repair cleft palates around the planet.  In poor, underdeveloped regions of the world having a cleft palate is considered as a bad omen for a family or a village.  So in addition to not being able to eat or speak properly, these children are shunned by society and sometimes even their own families. Countless children are ridiculed and beaten by other children, preventing them from going to school. Unknown numbers of infants with cleft palates are simply abandoned. It doesn't have to be this way because the Smile Train has never turned away one person who arrives for a surgery- which takes just under an hour to completely repair a cleft palate. Some people walk for days with only the hope that this blessing really exists.   I invite you to watch the video below.  If you're feeling compassionate after, the organization takes donations as little as $25 and think about how you will smile knowing you helped a child being able to do the same.   Click here to see video Smile Train Visits Somalia


Earth Friendly Skin Care

Back in the 80s I heard Christie Brinkley kept her teeth white with baking soda. This was before all the toothpaste manufacturers had figured this out, so I placed a box of Arm&Hammer in my medicine cabinet and brushed.  It worked well and I still use her trick to this day in conjunction with my peppermint flavored Tom's of Maine toothpaste.  So after two decades of hearing how Sophia Loren stays so beautiful  (Olive Oil) I decided to try this one too.  It's also a fact that olive oil absorbs easily into skin.  A  gallon of it runs about $11 dollars at Costco and the pretty Umbra refillable pump jar costs$15 at Hold Everything.  I've been using olive oil all over my face, hands and body in place of three separate creams and IT WORKS GREAT.  Bye bye expensive, organic creams and all their containers that need to be recycled.  This gallon should last me about 6-8 months.  I'm saving a small fortune on product which I can use for the "additional" doctor visits I've learned Ms. Loren also uses to keep her youthful appearance.


Juan Montoya and His Second Hand Furnishings

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a designer series lecture at the Pacific Design Center.  AD 100 and Interior Design Hall of Famer Juan Montoya spent an hour dazzling us with images of his work and insider info on how he does what he does so well. Anytime I have the opportunity to listen to a person who is this successful, I take it.  Mr. Montoya is in his 70s and is going strong after decades due to his common sense approach and passion for interior design and architecture. One of the things I love so much about being an interior designer, is that if you’re good,  you get better with age- like a fine wine.  It was reassuring to hear someone I hold in such high esteem, espouse the same principle that I hold dear- a green approach to design.  No he didn’t use the words “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” or “green” but he practices these things none the less. In most of his designs he uses furniture, art and accessories from the 20s, 30s and 40s, some of my favorites being  Jean Michele Frank and Jacques Rhulmann. (This one is actually one of my projects, but it's a Rhulmann table and chairs in the Frederick Lowe Estate.) He rarely uses carpets  and instead creates design in a hard (more easily cleaned and longer lasting) surfaces.  He is well known for his liberal use of exquiste veneer on columns, walls, ceilings- but always prefers to restore what is there vs. ripping it out and installing new.  And the greenest of all is his attitude, his very best advice being to smile a lot.


Elle’s First Tea Party, No BPAs Invited

My daughter Elle recently celebrated her first birthday. Checks for college funds, adorable clothes, noisy toys (she loves), a soccer ball and a super stylish swimsuit were among the gifts she received.  But the tea set from one of her BFFs  (whose mommy happens to know a thing or two about etiquette being a deb from Houston) was our favorite.  I believe all young ladies should host tea parties for their stuffed friends.  Doing so teaches grace and generosity, vital ingredients to being a social success.   Of course little Elle Bell took to it like a fish to water, tiaras in tow.   Plus, tea sets don’t make annoying noises and they don’t require (rechargeable) batteries. But what was unique about this tea set and the reason we loved it so much was that it is green, made from 100% recycled, plastic, milk bottles retrieved from curbside collection.  The back of the recycled cardboard packaging gives a little information about how much energy green toys can save. In this case it’s equal to using 3,000 AAA batteries or enough energy to power a TV for 3 weeks or run a lap top for a month.  This set also contains no BPA, phthalates or lead paint.  Just a box of good ole’ fashioned, girly fun- and best of all- made in the USA.  You can find one at GreenToys.com.


Green Dining Al Fresco

A few days ago we headed out to Franklin Canyon for a New Year's,  first birthday celebratory picnic.  While having a picnic certainly isn't a new idea, doing it without disposables certainly did drawn some attention. Our lunch consisted of free range, beef fillet sandwiches, beans, green salad, custard with blueberries (everything organic, of course) and a bottle of Champagne- not organic, but French- and we all know Europeans have higher eco standards for things that go in their mouths. It was served on 19th century Limoges china, an antique table cloth, with matching cloth napkins, silver utensils and hand blown glasses.  Instead of cut flowers, we brought two pots of fragrant herbs to decorate the table.  (Later that day they were planted in the ground at our house). At the end of the picnic, we had almost no trash, which delighted everyone at around the table.  Everything we brought was eaten, reusable or recyclable with the exception of the champage cork/wrapper and a little plastic wrap used to cover the custard ramekins.  Soon we will be able to buy biodegradable plastic wrap and we can walk away as if we never visited. THAT'S IT FOR THE TRASH! After our lunch, we loaded up the car, left the herbs in the baby stroller (because it looked cool) and circled the lake for some more fresh air and exercise.  Europeans aren't the only ones who know how to enjoy a civilized outing. And now we can enjoy our "decorations" for many meals to come.


The SoCal Contractor on Design*Sponge

Big thanks to Grace at Design*Sponge for blowin' up our favorite green builder Mr. SoCalContractor on one of our befores and afters. BEFORE AFTER BEFORE AFTER BEFORE AFTER BEFORE AFTER Fresh, green goodness! Enjoy.


Happy New Year

2009 was a sweet challenge...had a baby, traveled around the globe, filmed three tv shows, wrote a book, finished two huge projects, won an award, got no sleep, joined DAR, participated in a show case house, visited with friends and family, attended all "the events" -baby in tow and survived a recession. Looking back at the year reminds me that you can do anything.  Here's to 2010 and our new ventures, GreenDesign.org, retailing, book tours, MORE design and awards, a new home,  Ford Motor Company and maybe, just maybe... another baby in the making. Success, health and happiness to all of you!        


Recycled Doilies Steal the Show

This may be the coolest way I ever seen to display a doily.  Designer Kristen Wicklund showed her collection of porcelain dipped dolies at Greenwich House Pottery this holiday season.  She dips them in porcelain and fires them in a mold until the fabric evaporates.  I'm wondering if I can dips granny's doilies in starch and get the same effect.


Los Angeles Interior Designers…Who’s on Top?

Lately I've been doing a lot of market research for our new retail shop and discovered who ranks where in the Los Angeles interior design world (based on keyword searches, recent publications and blog/website mentions). Being number four never felt so good. 1. Kelly Wearstler- licensed everywhere, hosts Top Design, is entirely FAB. 2. Rose Tarlow- old guard, always refined, boyfriend isn't too shabby 3. David Phoenix- designs for governors, streamline traditional, entertainment industry darling 4. Lori Dennis- green guru, rustic modern, organic chic 5. Karin Blake- AD 100, Americana, Malibu Mama 6. Kathryn M. Ireland- European flair, relaxed fabrics, joie de vivre 7. Nathan Turner- smart retailer, impecable style, location location location 8. Martyn Lawrence Bullard- exotic tastemaker, bold interiors, excellent name 9. Molly Luetkemeyer- Wearstler protege, funky vintage, no charity is too far 10. Barclay Butera- west coast answer to Ralph Lauren, hell of a sweetie, knows a good outdoor lantern and there you have it.


The Modern American Collection in China

Last night I was thrilled to come home from dinner at a friend's and see a box from China. It was a stack of Kira Krumm's new book, featuring world class designers, their projects and ten coloful pages of our designs.  The book is written in Chinese and English and will sell all over the world.  So exciting!  


Recycle Bins in the Lobby

This week we shot film and photography for Blue Jay Way in Hollywood Hills and The Keys Estate in Rancho Mirage with Ken Hayden who is a photographer for Architectural Digest.  Throughout the days I had to keep reminding people not to throw batteries in the trash, to recycle their glass bottles and turn off the lights when we left a room.   It was such a pleasure to come back to the hotel and see, not one, but  two recycle bins on each floor's lobby by the elevator.  I can't say the Spa Casino and Resort in Palm Springs is the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in, but it is rated 5 stars.  To see  recycle bins in a five star lobby just made me smile. Now if people can figure out how to use them... we'll be in business.


Poliform’s Grand Reopening and An Introduction to Atmosphere

Well finally at 7:30 PM I am able to drag myself out of bed (stomach flu) to tell you all about Poliform's Angeleno Partyand The Klara Porkrzywko show at Atmosphere. The Poliform grand re-opening on Beverly was spectacular with wine by Wente Vineyard, the oldest winery in California, and culinary delights by Chef  Andrea Cavaliere from Cecconi's.  In attendance were Angeleno Home Editor, Alex Abramian-Mott, Luxe Editor at Large, Michael Wollaeger, Marty Collins the developer of the sensational W residence hotel in Hollywood, Lonni Paul  Design Star Finalist and Celebrity designer Liana Ried. In addition to being exquisitely crafted, Poliform is made following E1 guidelines, for strict European, emission standards, another example of how glamorous green can be. The SoCal Contractor, known to scrutinize every last detail of the built world, was immensely impressed. Marcelle Danan recently opened a fabulous, Melrose boutique, Atmosphere, featuring some of the prettiest things I've ever seen made from recycled glass. We will definitely be using them over at 1525 Blue Jay Way. The stylish, French maven held an opening party on Thursday night  for Klara Pokrzywko, who's work celebrates the feminine form.  She's  just back from showing in Shanghai and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum.  It's certainly something you want to see.


Say It Isn’t So

December 2009 is the last issue Met Home will ever print.  That leaves only 6 national shelter magazines. Tragic.


Dreamscape at the LA Mart

Last night Los Angeles Magazine and the LA Mart partnered with Look Galleryto present Dreamscape, a conceptual design exhibition that explores the symbolic references of our personal spaces through the interplay of fine art and high design. It was really one of the loveliest parties I've attended  in a long time. The halls were covered in white astroturf which glistened like clean, cold snow, the walls, draped in yards and yards of flowing white fabrics along with the LED uplights created a dreamy backdrop for this high style event. Plus DJ Patrick/Crash Entertainment spun the sweet sounds and Flowers of Beverly Hills provided elegant assortments of tulips, hydrangea and paper roses. Top Chefs   Ilan Hall of The Gorbals and Marcel Vigneronof Modern Global Tastings served up pork laden tray after tray including bacon wraped matzoh. Gorgeous interior vignettes were cleverly displayed, my first, second and third place ribbons go respectively to Memory by Paul + Vickery (serene textiles, deconstructed chandelier and chair placement),  The Mermaid's Lair by Stephen Pappas Interiors (sexy mermaid)and  Egomaniac by Franklin Studios (stunning modern secretary).  Also presenting were talk of the town design team, Woodson and Rummerfield. But honestly I think they're an overrated, watered down Kelly Wearstler look.  But to be fair, they dress to kill every single time I've seen them.     Jr. designer Elle showed up in skinny jeans and rode around in her chariot all night, otherwise known as the SoCal Contractor. PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM HARRIS What was green about this event? I saw something I've not seen before: more than one person asking the bartenders to reuse their original glass. People are starting to get it! Oh happy day!


Martinlozano Gallery on Robertson

Last night the alluring Lloyd Princeton of DMC and artist Chris Martin invited a select group to view and dine.  Among the who's who were Michael Wollaeger our beloved Editor At Large for Luxe Magazine, vinter Caren Rideau of Rideau Vineyard and Hillary Atkin of the Atkin Report.  I was so excited to meet Chris and learn about his colorful creations.  We have a great big project to fill up on Blue Jay Way and timing is everything!  Scrumptious treats were provided by Susan Feniger's Street and the boutique vineyard Rideau served some of the smoothest Sangiovese I've had since the Portland Wine Festival. Everyone in the intimate gathering had a fabulous time.  I was particularly thrilled with the fact the group of 20 or so WALKED from the gallery on Robertson to Chris' lair a few blocks away. It was so very unLA and so very green!     Rideau Vineyard Partners and Mrs. Chris Martin   This picture on Chris' wall was poignant, since we've been contemplating a move to Miami.  Have you  heard about the arbitrary, additional 10% state tax that California has just attacked its citizens' paychecks with-- begining Monday?  I'm not sure what kind of monkey business is going on when the seventh largest economy, with agriculture, technology, oil and entertainment can't  balance its checkbook. But it's frightening to think taxes can be levied in such a stealth manner.  I'm just sayin'.


Cherokee Studios Rock N Platinum Showcase

Alcie Cooper Lyrics Platinum records for the Platinum loft   Thursday night, across the street from Genghis Cohen and behind a secretive, black curtain Rethink Development unveiled the rock n' roll lofts at the Cherokee Recording Studios LEED Platinum Lofts Showcase benefitting Habitat for Humanity.  We (Lori Dennis and Brook Casey of the Dennis Design Group)  were in charge of the Alice Cooper pad and took our assignment very seriously, literally dressing the part. Dennis Design Group gettin' down in bed?   Our shock rock loft never could have been possible without the generous donations of our many vendors and time from our interns, Sara, Rob and Natasha. Plus it's not really a party if Tony of Francois and Roy from the SoCal Contractor aren't in tow.  In the bedroom Heritage Draperies fabricated and installed our padded, chained window treatment and Mike Ragan of Rags put together this amazing patchwork, padded wall with fabric from Jason Asch of  Diamond Foam.  The stars were out in LA on Thursday night and two showed up at our event: Jodie Sweetin , who we all know and love as the old Stephanie Tanner from Full House and Calico Cooper, Alice's daughter and former co-star of his stage show. Calico Cooper representin' for Papa Looking at these pictures you would never know that a mere 24 hours before the event we had no stairs and were finishing up our super style in a deadly, construction zone! Sparks from the welding were hitting us, the wall, the furniture and Sara even got smacked on the noggin' pretty good by a wayward steel beam.  It's a good thing she has a better work ethic than that witch who hit her head on the Apprentice and wasted the team's time going to a hospital. No, not Sara... she just kept on hot glueing those recycled, reclaimed water bottles that we used as wall art in the guest bath. Through it all Brook and I just kept hammering the boxes and boxes of nails into our wall eating snake.  Jason Asch over at Diamond also donated this massive amount of rocker, (faux) snake skin fabric. Lori and Brook Nailing Still nailing... and finally it was done. I was afraid Brook was going to hang himself. But he stuck it out and we even finished the lyrics on the bathroom wall so Tony from Francois could learn them and sing along. Don't do it Brook!!   When the doors opened at 7PM we all took a shot of Skull Vodka and welcomed our guests to Alice's Lair.   Francois provided the Gothic mantel in the living room, serving as the perfect backdrop to the snake skin bench from Bausman and Co. and upholstered chairs from Cisco Brothers.  All the kitchy 60s, 70s and 80s accessories from Retropia and the original props from Alice Cooper's show gave our loft an authenticity rarely seen in staged showcase homes.  Big Red Sun even landscaped our balcony in a true, desert decor representative of the golf courses in Phoenix that Alice so dearly loves. Alice's Lair You'll never guess what these balls are for! Cooper Gang in the Loft The most shocking thing about our shock rock loft was the dirty, little secret in our turquoise blue, laundry room.  Really, how could you not go there in this loft?! Pleasure Chest hooked us up for the event and I'm not going to reveal we did or didn't use before hanging it on the walls. Green bondage-stay in and save gas! All in all the showcase was an event to help the developers sell property in a really tough market.  Habitat got more than a few bucks, we had a blast and I heard someone is making an offer on our loft today!


Whips and Chains Anyone?

Toys From the Pleasure Chest We're in the final stretch gettting ready for the Cherokee Recording Studios LEED Platinum Lofts Showcase for Habitat For Humanity. Our loft is designed for the Rock Shock King and Brook's personal friend, Alice Cooper.  In any showcase , it's all about reaching out to the community for donations to make the event a success, and no rock and roll show would be complete without a few sex toys. So we headed over to the Pleasure Chest for some props. Check out what  you can get for $5,800.  They even donated a spanker for the party, so if you've been naughty, make sure to come get yours! I like the sparkly ones! Brook the Gimp A whole lot of spanking going on... The next stop was Retropia for some chic vintage finds.  Our newest interns Rob and Sara, always ready for the call, kept their eyes sharp and found a few pieces that will make Alice Cooper proud! Introducing Sara (left) and Rob (center)     Alice likes em' dead If you're ready to party the Thursday before Halloween, put on your best outfit , come walk the red carpet at Cherokee Studios and see the greenest lofts in LA.    


Living Green at California Mart

Yesterday I attended part three, Living Green :Sustaining Business with Sustainable Design Practices, of the California Mart's Designer's Forum 2009 Series.  The lecture included panelist: David Hertz, Mariel Hemingway, Nathan Turner and was moderated by California Homes' Susan McFadden.  The audience was packed with many of the old guard at ASID, eager to learn more about green design.  David Hertz, who I've lectured with at my Alma Matter, the UCLA Interior Design Program, gave a riveting power point presentation and ending with a preview of the Wing House he has been working on for the last three years.  I'm pretty certain this house will be remembered in history with the same relevance as the Glass House or Falling Water, only sustainable. Then it was Mariel Hemingway's way turn. Now I understand the draw of star power, and to be fair she has written some books on healthy living, but what that had to do with the business of sustainable design practices eluded me.  These old guard designers left the CEU presentation thinking that, "slow down and eat right" was relevant information to their bottom line.  Also speaking was Nathan Turner, an elegant retailer and designer with impeccable taste who runs a gorgeous little antique shop in West Hollywood.  He did work on Entourage's Adrien Grenier's ultra green home.  What bothered me about this presentation was that two of the most successful green designers in the business were sitting in the audience, Rachel Winokur of Etta Designs and me.  California Homes must not have been paying attention to the design firm they named Best Green Designer, my firm, when they made decisions for the panel.  Green design is a serious matter as the planet and people become sicker, resources shrink and energy costs rise. Educating designers and clients with applicable information would be a good start to help form real solutions.  Wake up editors! A gracious thank you to Palecek, one of my favorite green retailers,  for the following reception.


Fall Market at the Pacific Design Center

Badly needing a break from the book writing, I headed over to the festivities at the PDC for some inspiration. I'm currently on the "Living Rooms" Chapter which focuses on maximizing use of space, especially precious outdoor square footage. Luxe Magazine's  gorgeous, garden party in the lower level lobby featuring stunning vignettes from all our favorite outdoor vendors couldn't have come at a better time.  The wine was delicious and the steel drum band was a breath of fresh air conditioned air from the 102 degree fall weather outside. Michael  Wollaeger, the new Luxe Editor at Large, never disappoints. Christian Liaigre at Holly Hunt Richard Frinier at Century Corbin Bronze at Sutherland Janus Et Cie Chinoserie at Robert Allen Janus  Et Cie Richard Schultz at Summit In a town where we are literally running out of water, it was great to see Synlawnand Astro Chic make a green statement.  I've noticed about five of these synthetic lawns on my nightly strolls, along with a lot of gravel and succulents. I'd like to say it's concern for the environment, but it looks like the water bills finally converted a few folks to the sustainable side. Synlawn at Fall Market Astro Chic Pillows, Ottoman and Lawn The first floor gave us a sneak peak of what was to come on the second floor open house.  I especially loved these three sculptures made of everything green including cleaners of the kitchen sink. Cleaning Up at Fall Market   Worm Hole by Lynn Aldrich A More Combustible Smoke by Greg MacLaughlin Broken Sofa by Jeremy Everett DJs were spinning and one piece was more interesting than the next throughout the second floor galleries. Green Wall at Pucci Love this Chandelier How much is that Horsey in the window?-Twentieth So sad....... mine is even better. Art by a USC Graduate? By this time the world's most stylish builder, Mr. So Cal Contractor, and Junior Designer Elle started getting a little sleepy...... but woke up for a bit more fun in the best installation of the night. Little Miss Elle obviously shares her Designer Mommy's love for graffiti art! Bravo to the PDC for another Fall Market success. Take that recession!  


Valcucine’s Sexy Glass Kitchen

Form Magazine and Valcucine invited the who's who of interior design to their LA showroom this week to unveil the world's first 100%recyclable kitchen cabinet system, Invitrum.  Of course the Dennis Design Group and Jr. Designer, Baby Elle, were in attendance.  As always, we were surrounded by glamour: the cabinets, the people, the food, the fashion displays. I'd have to say it was one of the better events this year. Go showroom manager Reba! More about the cabinets- not only do they exude the sexy, sleek styling, which could only be Italian, but the contents are totally lacking in emissions.  The Invitrum by Valcucine features recycled aluminum, sustainable wood, water based finishes, mechanical joints (so no glue is needed) and practically scratch proof, tempered glass.  The cabinet fronts are half the thickness of normal systems which reduces the weight by 50% and extends the life of hinges, joints and the overall kitchen. When the time comes to recycle the components, they are labeled for an easy dismantle.


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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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