Southern Accents/ASID awarded us the best GREEN DESIGNER in the nation. The January/February 2009 issue is on newsstands now. And then California Homes/ASID awarded us the best GREEN DESIGN in California. What a year it's been!
Most often when people think of eco-friendly products, they think about what a certain product is made of. This is one of the elements, but there are many more. A product that is manufactured locally, and contains 75% eco-friendly materials should be considered more “green” than an item of the same size containing 100% eco-friendly materials that is shipped from China fully assembled. According to treehugger.com , a green product is one “that is both environmentally and socially responsible.” Here are some criteria they give to determine an items’ “green-ness”: Demonstrate care for the people who make, supply and use the product Demonstrate care for the ecological community in manufacturing Use materials which are reused, recycled, renewable or organic Products that address the use of energy in their production.Could the energy saved by their use be greater than the energy it took to create the item? Serve a useful purpose Use materials that can be recycled or are biodegradable. I’m seeing more and more businesses implement or continue the green practices that make products more appealing to those that care about the environment. Our firm loves Ikea. The fact that Ikea flat-packs their furniture means that costs are reduced because more of that item can be shipped to the store at one time. Also, consumers are able to order most items online. This means than rather than making a trip to the physical store, the items can be shipped directly to the home from the place of manufacture.If you do have to make a trip, the flat-pack concept allows a few rooms of furniture to fit inside your back seat! One trip! In other news, Wal-Mart is attempting some of its own packaging improvements. They have reshaped their milk cartons to be taller and rectangular-shaped for greater efficiency in shipping, which keeps consumer costs down about 20 cents a gallon. The new shape allows cartons to be stacked on top of one another, rather than packaged with lots of material separating rows of cartons. While some consumers love the new body shape, some are not so amused. Jo from Ohio said, “It is an utterly stupid design. You can’t use a paper towel, water and wipe it up every time you pour milk. They would need to give away a mini roll of paper towels or wet wipes to wipe up the old stinking milk on counters, coffer cups, bowls.... How green is the new design if we are wasting paper towels and running water after every use?” Hmmm, something to think about. A nice attempt though, I think.
Dennis Design Group wishes you and yours the best the New Year has to offer! Thanks for making our firm such a success in 2008 and we look forward to working together in 2009.
I’ve driven by the Santa Monica Civic Center about a million times on the way to our design studio. This weekend, walking around while waiting for my car to be serviced, I got a closer look at what is arguably the hardest to miss piece of architecture this side of the 405. It will be the country’s first LEED-certified parking structure, a rating based on a green point system given by the US Green Building Council. You’ve never parked so eco-friendly until now, even in a Prius. If you’re wondering what could make a parking structure “green”, read on. For one, the structure’s roof is clad with Photovoltaic (solar) panels to generate electricity. These panels, in turn, provide shade for the vehicles parked beneath, reducing the amount of air conditioning a driver might use when they leave for their next destination. The steel used to build the structure is made of 68% recycled material. Electrical charging outlets are provided in 14 of the spaces for electric vehicles. The list goes on…. The only thing that could make this structure greener is to require locals to ride their bikes rather than drive to the Civic Center! In fact, the facility actually provides “mini garages” for bicycles to encourage a fuel-free ride to the center.
I’m often haunted by the images you see of tower-like piles of water bottles, soda cans etc. Sometimes it seems like it’s not enough if you were to do without. I still feel bad every time I’m forced to buy bottled water because of the circumstance, even if I’m the only one watching. The other alternative is the infamous Nalgene-eque water bottles which are often made out of Polycarbonate. This material contains Bisphenol-A (BPA’s), which research links to reproductive and developmental damage and several types of cancers. Even worse, ¼ of all bottled water is shipped internationally before it is sold, NOT GREEN! So where can a girl get a drink on the run? All these years I thought I was being good running around with my dishwasher-safe Nalgene…... Last weekend my husband and I were taking a yoga class at our neighborhood studio, Yoga Works. As we were waiting for our class to start, we noticed these statement-making water bottles by Sigg being sold right there in the studio store. Made out of aluminum, these water bottles let you sip in style while living light on the earth. They come with a $25 price tag, but think of it this way: the same price tag gets you 4 packs of plastic bottled water, which might last for about 3-4 months. American’s are still horrified of “tap water.” Though yearly studies show that the water in LA is more than drinkable and being responsibly treated for our health (this process is strenuously monitored), people still have tap-anxiety. Grab a filter, they don’t cost much but can do a lot to alleviate anxiety at the tap. The design is fun (other styles are available), they last forever, and I can refill it almost anywhere. I took mine with me to a client meeting today, and needless to say it wasn’t the Gucci sunglasses they were asking about.
The only thing better than the original Phillipe Starck Louis Ghost Chair was the introduction of its much more petite version, the Lou Lou Chair. Available in Kartell retail stores the Summer of 2008, the release party for the Mini Ghost Chair drew quite a crowd at the showroom on Robertson Blvd in Beverly Hills. Our gang had a great time. (from left: Galina, Brook, Lori and Jessica). The party was awesome and the showroom was filled to the brim with curious (and thirsty) Angelenos. Some even brought their kids, and it was quite fun to see them squeal as they tried the miniature chairs on for size. Philippe Starck, who never fails to thrill us with his elegant yet simple-minded furniture, has done it again. His furniture, known to be of “indestructible” quality, will last for many many years without having to be replaced (which expends new resources and puts old ones into our already-overflowing landfills). Available in a variety of colors like green, lilac and glossy black, these new chairs are a true crowd-pleaser.
I was excited to read about LA’s latest landscaping partnership.LADWP (LA Department of Water and Power) and Million Trees LA are teaming up this month in an effort to get more water-wise trees into our Angeleno soil.Million Trees LA will donate up to 7 free trees (delivered right to your door) to residents willing to plant the trees themselves.A free online tutorial is available, and it takes less than 30 minutes to learn how. There are 30 varieties of LA climate-friendly plants and trees to choose from, take your pick.This includes the beautiful Pink Trumpet tree, seen above.The trees, planted thoughtfully, will shade a home and result in lower energy and cooling bills and less use of water.Don’t forget the joy of watching the beauties leaves change colors this fall.Not sure yet?Here are some cool facts about just how much you can benefit by planting: -AC use and associated costs reduced up to 20% -Shade outside AC units, helping them to operate 10-15% more efficiently -Create barriers to the wind to keep winter heating costs down -Act as a sponge by removing the carbon from CO2 (a greenhouse gas) -Providing shade to the lawn, whichin turn will require less watering -Increase property values by 5-20% (compared to non-landscaped homes) -Add color and character to our community (not to mention the free fruit if you choose a species of fruit tree!) Though our city is already very abundant with foliage, it never hurts to plant more, especially if it will selfishly lower a personal bill and make the façade more attractive. This sounds like a fun Sunday afternoon project to me!Shovel not included. http://www.milliontreesla.org http://www.ladwp.com/ladwp/cms/ladwp009614.pdf
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.
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.
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!
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!!!
Check out this little video of some of the Dennis Design Group and our antics in the last few days. Fun fun fun!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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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