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DIFFA Los Angeles 2008- Design Industries Fighting Aids

This past Sunday I had fun, fun, fun at DIFFA's Dining by Design Table Hop & Taste at the LA Mart . Designer's and Sponsors get together, decorate tables and serve up yummy food to raise money for AIDS.  About 15 of LA's top eateries like Wilshire, Vanilla Bake Shop and Crustacean served up tasty treats while the glamourous crowd checked out the amazing table designs. Benjamin Moore delighted with a colorful table decorated with the most interesting use of paint chips I've ever seen.  The added bonus, was the use of discountinued color chips- reuse at it's most inventive. My favorite dinner setting was this horse dominated table.  Imagine the fun you could have at this soiree.  I also liked the fact that the center piece is a living plant, so you don't have to continuosly replace the center piece with fresh cut flowers. You could also plant parsley to pluck after dinner for fresh breath. New kid on the block, Preston Lee's table made me smile when I saw two paintings by artist Robert Ivers which were made for us a few months back.  Unfortunately they were too tall for our space and consequently we couldn't use them.  It was so nice to see Preston take these babies to an entirely new height! My favorite breakfast spot was this Swedish inspired setting by Bliss which proves you just can't take the girly out of this girl. There wasn't anything particularly green about it, I just thought it was very pretty. Lexus and Kelly Laplante were responsible for this tacky mess of a table. The greenest of all, with chairs from Craigslist, table top covered in Innovations Environments, a horrible,  tiny mirror- lost on the wall, organic "crafty" wall paper and a pathetic excuse for floral arrangements (water badly in need of a change), I couldn't have been more disappointed.  With every other table in the place making a grand, gorgeous statement, this one put our "green can be glamourous" campaign at the back of the line. All in all the event was huge success which raised money for a great cause! I'm glad I went.


Windmills Gone Glamorous

Wind power just went glam, thanks to Starcks’ ingenuity and eye for design.   These so called windmills are part of "Democratic Ecology", a line that Starck is developing with the Italian Industrial group Pramac.  It’s part of what we love so much about his designs - the marriage of beauty, function and responsibility.  “Ecology is not just an urgency of the economy and protection of our world but also creativity and elegance” – Philippe Starck.  Made from the same transparent material used in the very familiar Louis Ghost Chair, these clever contraptions are able to generate 20—60% of a home’s energy needs.  In addition to looking like a piece of Gucci jewelry, they are relatively inexpensive (about $630 US dollars).  With the cost of energy (and everything) on the rise and on the loose, people are more willing than ever to make “good investments” that cost a little bit now and save a lot later.  They should be available for purchase in the US early next year.  Something to think about then next time you get that letter on the pretty yellow stationary from Mr. Edison. Keep an eye out for the solar panels and the Prefab Green House that are both under prototype now to be released after the Wind Turbines.


Cleaning Green

Everyone seems to be catching on to the green trend in techniques and materials for buildings and homes. Something people rarely think about is the way they clean these spaces.  It doesn't matter how much effort goes into the design and execution of your project if you don't maintain the property in a green way.  Think about this the next time you clean your windows with a toxic product or wash your whites with bleach.  The amount of toxins that go into your space is alarming. What we've been taught to think of as a " fresh, clean" smell is actually pretty bad for our bodies and the environment.  This hit home on my recent trip to a friend's newly constructed condo. We walked in the door and the new paint fumes (off gassing) hit me like a truck. I told her she needed to open the windows for at least a week before bringing her 2 1/2 week old infant to live in the space. She looked at me like I was crazy and said, "but I love the smell".     Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day are my favorite cleaning products. With smells like lavender, basil and geranium, cleaning is as fragrant as cooking a meal.  I scout Ross and Marshall's  for Mrs. Meyer's on sale because it's not cheap.  I also came across greenhome.com for great deals on healthy, earth friendly cleaners.  Just be careful, buying a bunch of stuff isn't very green and this site is full of goodies!


LED Bulbs

So now that you've changed out all your incandescent bulbs for flourescent, get ready for LED lightbulbs which have hit a home run in light quality and savings. Flourescents seemed to be the answer to our energy and environmental concerns. The price is right, I've seen them on the shelf recently for 99 cents a piece, and they're easy enough to screw into existing lamps. The big problem is the small amount of mercury, a neurotoxin which is especially dangerous for children and fetuses. We haven't come up with an effective way to recycle them. "The problem with the bulbs is that they'll before they get to the landfill. They'll break in a home or containers, or they'll break in a dumpster or they'll break in the trucks. Workers may be exposed to very high levels of mercury when that happens," says John Skinner, executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America, the trade group for the people who handle trash and recycling. Skinner says when bulbs break near homes, they can contaminate soil. Are LED bulbs the answer? The new solid state designs will be twice as efficient as the touted flourescent bulbs and ten times as efficient as incandescent bulbs. To put it in perspective, current models can deliver 12 hours of light per day over an entire year for only 80 cents.  They last ten years and NO MERCURY problem. Over the bulb's lifetime they should provide a consumer $370 savings (per bulb) in energy costs. One additional benefit of LED lighting is color.  Solid state lights can produce a richer more full color than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.  This can not only help with visibility, but has been shown to psychologically improve mood among many. I'm all for better moods! This fall the Department of Energy (DOE) will begin certifying LED designs with its Energy Star certification. Maybe the coolest thing (to me) about LEDs is that LED are my initials!!!  


Get To Know Lori Dennis

Check out this little video of some of the Dennis Design Group and our antics in the last few days.  Fun fun fun!


Green Behavior

When I tell people that I'm an interior designer the first thing they usually say is, "Oh how fun! You must really love your job. It's so glamorous." I often reply that the beginning and the end of a project are what I love and everything in the middle is like solving the Rubix Cube puzzle!  One of the greatest things about being a successful designer is being invited to the parties. This is the time to dress up and behavior like a socialite.  Fortunately the spirit of these parties in the last few months has been one of generosity.  As we drink the finest champagne and preview world class art, accessories and furniture we guests are expected to give to others.  Enjoy the photos and remember being green is all about sustainable products as well as behavior and generosity of spirit. Will and Grace star Eric McCormack and his lovely wife Janet with Glabman Home and Los Angeles Magazine host a silent auction for Project Angel Food. At Hastens the mattresses cost $50,000 but they are as eco friendly and comfortable as they come!   Jean De Merry, Elle Decor and Veuve Clicquot hosted a wonderful party with the very best hors d' oevres by Michelle & Co.  His La Cienega store has some of the most beautiful things I've ever seen including a series of acid etched glass panels from a 19th Castle in Belgium adoring the entry.  Good design that lasts is inherently green and using something a few hundred years old in your interior is about as green as it gets.   Toto unveils their Neorest green toilet at their Robertson Store.  Barclay Butera and Elle Decor host an event benefiting Children's Action Network. Barclay and the guest raised over $30,000 on this night for the charity. So there you are, have fun and be green!


Pretty Things At Dwell On Design 2008

Last week I spoke about green residential interiors at Dwell on Design 2008.  Presenting after Mary Cordaro of H3 Environmental is always fun. Mary is a Bau Biologist who lectures on the health aspects of green design. She's like reading the editorial section of the NY Times and I'm the funny pages.  I showed pictures of pretty interiors and discussed the green elements. The audience seemed to like the combo of brains and beauty. After the morning speaker session, we headed over to the trade show and looked for new and interesting green products. Some of our favorites included the assortment of planters, trees, plants and the lecture provided by Monrovia Plants.  Living, breathing plants are gorgeous in interiors and help to clean the air. We also enjoyed the reclaimed wood wall and dining table display. I just love adding reclaimed wood to a project. It gives a place a sense of provenance rarely acheived by new materials. Next on the list was this cool puzzle cabana.  I wasn't sure how it would hold up outside, but it sure would impress the neighbors. With gas prices crippling the nation, this gorgeous sports car powered by a solar car port may have been the star of the show. But I have to be honest and report that the prettiest things I saw at the show were my husband Roi and my designer Galina.  


Who Says The Republicans Don’t Care About The Environment?

Meeting and convention organizers increasingly require green practices, products.  Green events for both Republican and Democratic conventions are in the works. The fact that the Democrats meeting in Denver will use biodegradable balloons, recycled confetti and carpeting and eco friendly paints doesn't surprise me.  It's the Republicans meeting in Minneapolis who are targeting energy effciency by cutting down on paper use and relying electronic communication and the use of fuel efficient vehicles during the convention that made me smile and realize, everyone is "all in"! CNN adds that "the measures highlight a major shift in the meetings and conventions industry" as green meetings have evolved from "a quirky, nice thing to do," to a mainstream practice "in the past 18 months." CNN also notes that a "wide range of sectors, including technology, real estate, tourism, and religion, have begun planning sustainable events" that utilize "intermediate practices, such as asking for locally grown or organic food," and requests for "hotels and convention centers that take energy efficiency and water conservation into account." CNN concludes that "industry professionals say they choose cities and facilities in the United States and abroad with environmentally sound practices."   The fact that even in "party mode" you can count on both parties to make intelligent choices about their behavior and its relationship to our environment (albeit on a tiny scale) is encouraging.


Robertson Blvd becomes Green Central

I keep hearing "green just needs a little glamour."  I guess those people haven't been to Robertson Boulevard lately.  Some would argue that Robertson outshines Rodeo Drive as the fashion mecca for the rich and famous. Try to get through the street between Burton and Santa Monica when there's a herd of paparazzi trailing Brittney. Not fun and I've never endured this, not once on Rodeo. Now you can add long-time designer retailer H. Lorenzo, with three boutiques at Sunset Plaza, to the who's who of eco friendly establishments on Robertson. The other major is the BP gas station at the Olympic intersection. (We recently blogged about an Earth Day event they held.) H.L.N.R. , which stands for H Lorenzo North Robertson, at 474 North Robertson Blvd,  just south of Melrose, has recently opened its new 4,000 square foot eco concept boutique. It's not just that they're selling eco friendly duds, it's the actual building that is green.  They installed a solar paneled roof, paperless receipt system  (emailed to you instead), eco friendly hangers and dual flush toilets (Toto's Neorest  which can handle the job without any paper) in the bathroom. The labels at H.L.N.R. are similar  to other H. Lorenzo boutiques, stocking Zac Posen, Ann Demeulemeester, Balmain, Comme Des Garcons, Preen, Veronique Branquinho, Viktor & Rolf, Junya Watanabe, Dsquared, Yohji Yamamoto, Marc Jacobs Shoes and Chloe Shoes. But they also sell environmentally friendly lines like Kohzo Denim- non cotton jeans made from Japanese paper, bamboo and pineapple.  In a statement, owner Lorenzo Hadar said he chose to open on Robertson because "this is where the fashion nucleus in L.A. has shifted. Nowadays the fashion elite who come here to shop are people who care about the environment." Can I get a Hallelujah? This is coming from an LA retailer who's run a successful business for 23 years. Another exciting draw is the 13-space parking lot, and for VIPs, a private entrance. Hopefully they will swarm the alley with the paparazzi and let us get through Robertson streets on the way to the PDC.


Dwell On Design 2008 has moved to Los Angeles

On June 6th, I am speaking at the Los Angeles based Dwell on Design 2008 event and being touted as one of the most influential minds in desgin, plus a mover and shaker in the industry. Cat's out of the bag people, it's been published by the bible of green interior design, Dwell Magazine. Check out the info below and please join us in what will prove to be the biggest, best and most important design event of the year! Location: Los Angeles Convention Center (West Hall A) Join the Dwell magazine's editorial team for an in-depth, inspirational, and engaging examination of all things modern, including architecture, urban planning, interiors, landscapes and products. We’re bringing together over 50 of the most influential minds in design such as Lorcan O'Herlihy, Michelle Kaufmann, Mark Rios, and Lori Dennis — the people who are moving and shaking the industry. Plus, we'll let you in on the exhibition on Friday before it opens to the general public. For more info contact Dwell on Design 2008.


And Walmart Joins the Party

Unless you lived under a rock, you know replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs helps to save energy.  Now Walmart has jumped on board with this helpful tip and a few others in their latest TV campaign.  It's a major turn in events when you think about 200 million buyers doing all these small things and how they add up to making a BIG GREEN difference.  Learn More. How about this one? I've heard it said many times that cows are the biggest culprits in the global warming arena. Apparently all the grass they eat makes them pretty gassy and the methane they emit is warming up the environment. Plus, it takes 11 pounds of grain (grass) to produce 1 pound of beef.  Walmart suggests drinking soymilk instead. Learn More. When I last visited my health conscious, socially responsible, psychologist for blind kids in the Bronx sister, she was cleaning her sink  with bleach. This is the place where the bottles of her infant son and sippy cups of my 3 year old niece are washed.  I reminded her that chlorine bleach is linked to breast cancer in addition to be just plain awful for the earth when the drain eventually dumps into an ocean or a river.  She reminded me that she needed to "sterilize" the area so her kids wouldn't get germs.  Ever hear of super germs? I've located their birthplace. Thankfully Walmart is now offering a solution for overly paranoid germaphobes.  FYI... I use vinegar, lemon and water in a spray bottle, it works pretty well. Learn More. I drink coffee, lots of coffee. Walmart says if I drink Rainforest Alliance Certified I can help to save 135,000 acres of land.  This is because it's sustainably harvested and you can feel good about knowing people are getting fair (relative) wages for their crops. Learn More. Finally, one of my biggest pet peeves is American people who drink bottled water, especially Los Angelenos.  There was a recent taste test that showed we have some of the best tasting water in the nation.  We live in a first world country, it's ok to drink the water from the faucet. Remember we all did it in elementary all the way to college- from the fountains. We're all still alive.  If you don't like the taste, it's easy to add a lemon slice or buy a filter.  I get a kick out of the people who won't drink from the tap at my house, but will drink a Star Bucks, Coke from a soda fountain or iced tea in a restaurant. Uh, what do you think they made those drinks with- bottled water? Nope, it's tap tap tap!  And the same people sit there drinking the water a waiter brings to their table- hello this is tap too and so is the ice! And what about the organic pasta you bought from Whole Foods? You filled the pot with tap water before you boiled it, right? The newly plump pasta is chock full of TAP WATER  and then you eat it and live!  Bottled water is just ridiculous.  Walmart's pushing a filter, buy it and stop the insanity (and expense) of the bottled water. Learn More. I admit even I have to buy a bottle of water sometimes. I recently blogged about what to do with the empty bottles.  Here's another "feel good" solution. Walmart is offering shirts made of recycled bottles. This is cool on a few levels. First, the more people see them, the more they think about recycling and doing their part. Second, the tees are aimed at teens, so we have a new generation being brought up with green values. And finally it's a tangible product to actually see how the second life of the water bottle (you shouldn't be buying) is serving a better purpose than being a resident in trash dump. Learn More.  Unfortunately Walmart is still manufacturing all this stuff in China which is creating so much pollution that it offsets every action we make toward sustainability. They've taken the first step in promoting green products. Let's hope they will carry on and do something about the bigger problem.


Earth Day and My Favorite Gas Station

Last summer I was lucky enough to get my dream car the Lexus Hybrid SUV, white with creme interior.  I'm constantly carrying loads of design materials around and I'm a regular on construction sites, so it wasn't long before I had two nails and a screw in my two front tires.  They're slow leaks so I decided to fill them as needed instead of going out and replacing two almost brand new tires. I happen to live a few blocks from two famous LA  hot spots- the Kabbalah center and this outrageous BP gas station.  I remember when they were building it. Everyone in the neighborhood was like, "what the hell is it?" It looks like something from the Spider Man movie set. When I found out it was going to be a new gas station, I was pretty bummed out because it replaced the most affordable gas station on the Westside. But one day I pulled in to fill up my deflated tire and was pleasantly surprised. First of all the air was free and the adorable attendant was dressed in what looked to be a stylish hemp jump suit.  He asked me if he could help and if I needed the air gauge. This is service you don't even get at the overpriced, architectural wonder of a  76 station on Burton Way in Beverly Hills.  I asked him, "what is going on here?" He recommended a tour if I had a minute.  The first thing he showed me was the restroom.  In addition to being pretty enough to put into one of my interiors, it ran on solar power, had a grey water system. The floor, sink and low flow faucets were all green products. I couldn't believe I was standing in a gas station bathroom.  When then walked around the station and he pointed out all of the green features: solar panels to power the LED lights, sustainable planting, recycled content decorative metal sheathing. There is even cool, ambient lounge music playing while you pump.  Ok, even if it was a few cents more, I was sold on using this stations gas. On Sunday I was on my way to a cooking class on Robertson and I see that my station is fenced off (with recycled milk carton picket fence sold through Livingreen in Culver City) and people and booths have filled the space where my hybrid normally fuels.  I was really in shock. They closed the station in honor of Earth Day and filled it with everything green and a live band. They even featured my new dream car, the Smart Car. I've been in love with it for years when I've seen it on European holidays, but now it's a reality on our streets. BP promoting this car ultimately means less fuel sales for them.  The entire experience was surreal. A greedy fuel company forfeited a day of business to give back to community? Is this really happening? I guess things are changing.


What to do With Those Empty Water Bottles

The first time I saw this gorgeous Voss water bottle I was in the Four Seasons Hotel in New York. I think only because the bottle was so pretty I was compelled to pay seven dollars for water. There was no way I was going to just toss it!  There are flower vendors on almost every corner in Manhattan. So I bought some Gerber Daisies, went back to the room and used that sexy bottle as a vase.  I was delighted to the see what Michelle Kauffman had come up with on her blog. I guess she must have been seduced by that Voss bottle too. To help keep a west wall cool in the warmer months of the year, you can drink all the Voss you like and use the bottles to construct a water wall. The water in the bottles acts as a thermal mass absorbing and storing the heat which can be released later in the evening when it might be needed. Any type of bottle can be used, but the entire point is that is should be a bottle you would have otherwise thrown away. The wall is not only resourceful, but it's beautiful. While it provides protection from the heat and privacy from the outside world, the light beams pass through the windows and bounce all over your walls. You can customize the look by adding flowers, leaves or even food coloring. Please check out Michelle's DIY Water Wall Guide for more information. AND ENJOY!!


New Guidelines Make It Easier To Go Green

Before After Green living is about the whole enchilada. It's about doing a lot of little things, and maybe even a few big ones, that improve our lives, the environment and our economy. Our homes play a crucial role in the equation. New-home buyers are finding an increasing number of communities built in varying shades of green, and that's a great trend. But what about the rest of us living in our existing, not-quite-so-green homes? Most people want a greener home. Who wouldn't want to reduce their power bill, be more comfortable and provide a healthier place for their family? Home remodeling is a $200 billion-a-year industry and is expected to double during the next five years as our housing stock ages. Every remodel, repair or upgrade represents an opportunity to go green. What options do we have and just how do we go about deciding what to do first? Green building programs and guidelines have traditionally focused on new construction, not remodeling. The American Society of Interior Designers Foundation and the U.S. Green Building Council recently launched the nation's first green residential remodeling guidelines. This excellent resource is available online at www.greenhomeguide.org.   Organized into the 10 most common remodeling projects, the Regreen Residential Guidelines are designed to provide professionals and homeowners with resources and tools to green existing homes. The guidelines can be applied to a variety of projects, from remodeling a kitchen to executing a full-scale renovation. Even if you aren't thinking of greening your home at the moment, browsing through the Regreen Residential Guidelines will undoubtedly result in some light bulb moments and flashes of inspiration. The well-illustrated 182-page document is chock-full of examples and case studies. It is not a technical how-to manual but strikes a good balance between detail and readability. The Regreen Residential Guidelines will provide useful information to contractors, homeowners, elected officials and other policy-makers. As we tackle the issues of our time, such as climate change, growth, energy and economics, having the right tools is essential. This one should be in everyone's toolbox. It's a compendium of best practice guidelines and educational resources for sustainable residential improvement projects. The thing about tools is that even the best of them serve no purpose if they are not used wisely. We now have a resource that can quite literally help us transform our community, but we must use it. Don't wait for the other guy -- it's about you and me. We have a job to do, so let's get to work! Regardless of your budget or your home's age, size or condition, there is something in the Regreen Residential Guidelines that makes sense for your situation. The cool thing about greening an existing home is that you can do it in small, incremental steps. Each improvement can build on previous ones and they are often complementary. For example, adding extra insulation might be a good initial investment to make a home more energy efficient. Getting ductwork tested and properly sealed can eliminate costly leaks, a common problem. Changing out some windows might also lower energy costs. If the time comes to install a new air-conditioning unit, perhaps it can be downsized due to the home's improved efficiency, a result of the previous improvements. At this point, adding a solar electric system would be much more cost-effective due to the home's reduced electrical needs. Putting some thought into the process is much better than implementing haphazard projects with no plan. Taking a holistic, integrated approach is the best way to go and the Regreen Residential Guidelines do a good job explaining how.


Architectural Digest’s Westweek 08 at the PDC ASID Green Building Panel

Last week I moderated a green building panel at West week.  We discussed strategies for using green materials and building processes.  The audience was comprised mostly of interior designers, so I decided to keep it light and show some pretty pictures of recent green projects and devulge information about where to find the green materials. Sarah Rich, an editor from Dwell shared some of the projects being featured in Dwell's Off the Grid section. Kris Kimble revealed his plans for edu-retailer Greenhive, 40,000 square foot green market places built around a green library. Greg Loosvelt from Earth Pledge shed light on the methods and benefits of green roofs.  I'm a big fan of green roofs. In addition to preventing some of the nasty runoff into oceans, lakes and rivers, they help heat and cool the interiors of buildings. They're also some of the most peaceful and private places you can be. While we're all so busy thinking about the health of the planet in regards to being green, Mary Cordaro reminded us of something equally important, our individual health.  That's when it hit me.  This is how I deal with objections to cost when trying to make clients understand about why to go green.  Most of my clients have no problem throwing down $150 for a 3 ounce bottle of face cream but they look at me funny when I tell them to finish the walls with Earth Plaster for an extra $2.00 per square foot. (Love the Earth Plaster! Looks beautiful and absorbs and releases moisture as needed.) Using less toxic materials which don't offgass poisonous chemicals might be good for more than just the face- your entire epidermis will thank you. Check out Mary Cordaro's website www.h3environmental.com for more scientific information.  The panel was packed, standing room only, and I think most people walked away thinking, "this makes sense and it's easier to do than I thought." That was my big goal for the day, that and having a great time at Westweek- mission accomplished!


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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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