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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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....
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.
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'!
Hotel DeVille Paris Two weeks ago I returned from a lovely holiday in France. The SoCal Contractor and I were invited to a lady friend's 80th birthday celebration in Lyon, and there was no way we were going to miss that! We began in Paris- where else?- and were wowed by the beauty that surprises me every time I step foot in the city. What also surprised me and made me a bit sick were the hundreds of piles of empty, plastic, water bottles in trash heaps all over the city. It was hot and there were TONS of tourists. In California and many places I've visited there is a 5 or 10 cent value placed on these plastic bottles, so even when lazy people use them and chuck em, you have an army of people who collect them right out of the trash to redeem for cash. It's a system that has always left me wondering how the beaches of Indonesia (have you seen those photos???) can be filled with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of empty, plastic, water bottles. My thinking: they're worth money, if for no other reason, how can they be discarded on the beaches that way? Well, there they were, all over Paris, on their way to land fills, streams and oceans. Not so green. What was green and one of the best ways to see the city was the 10Pm-12AM bike ridethrough every arrondisement in the city, protesting Saudi oil. There we were minding our business, eating chocolate and drinking wine in front of Notre Dame when we saw about 200 bicycles cruise by us. We weren't sure what was going on and thought possibly France had just won the World Cup. I had seen a similar scene when France won in 1998. (Funny thing, is that France had been long gone from the games at that point.) We grabbed our city bikes and caught up with the parade. A few blocks later we learned we were part of an oil protest, holding up traffic, waving banners and honking our horns at every cafe in the city. I saw parts of Paris, I never knew existed during that two hours, cheered and exchanged greetings with every type of Parisian. Very Green. Pantheon Notre Dame Luxemborg Gardens We stayed in a great hotel a few steps from Musee D'Orsay and right across from the Louvre called Hotel Bellechasse. Christian LaCroix just renovated it--super funky and right next to a public, bike station. Not too expensive, it's a great place to stay on a couple's trip. Hotel Bellechasse Lori Dennis Biking around Paris on an Anti Saudi Oil Protest Musee D'Orsay Loved Paris, but it was hot, dirty, crowded and we were ready to head to the culinary capital of the country- Lyon. We weren't sure what to expect and after seeing the hotels on line, didn't expect much. There were only three nice ones. We booked one of them and hoped it would be ok. After recovering from the shock of a $100 cab ride into the city from the airport, we fell in love with the place. Our hotel, La Tour Rose, was in the Vieux Lyon-the old city, every room in the hotel decorated in a different fabric of the prominent 18th century silk houses of Lyon. I can not describe how luxurious and simply beautiful our room was with red velvet, silk covered walls, matching bedspread and floor to ceiling curtains. It was a room befitting writer Alexandre Dumas and he actually stayed there when he wrote the Three Musketeers. The town lived up to its reputation for cuisine (much more fairly priced than Paris food of lesser quality) and had two sparkling green rivers running through it: the Rhone and the Soane. People were actually swimming in these rivers and the entire experience was all too civilized. What was unexpected was that the majority of chefs, like Alain Aleaxnian, were green food advocates, dedicated to promoting and supporting local producers and organic food and wine. (Read the next three words in a French accent) But of course... it makes total sense in a clean environment, surrounded by pristine waters and forests. For a day, we ventured deeper into the countryside and visited Chamber, witnessing the fields of pure, white cows famous for so much of the region's delicious cheese. I am so happy to have been exposed to the fantastic wines of the Rhone, earthy and full bodied- yum! La Tour Rose Hotel So Cal Contractor Roi Yerushalmi and Lori Dennis Rhone River, Lyon France Cooling our feet at the Soane Beautiful Lyon Lyon City Square Chambery France We wrapped up the trip with a two day layover in London- unfortunately most of it was in the airport due to faulty British Airways planes. In Heathrow airport, terminal 5, green is alive and well. On one of our last eating and drinking extravaganzas, we were served a bottle of Belu Water. This company donates ALL of their profits to clean water in places where people don't have any. Belu has successfully created the world’s first carbon neutral bottled water, launched the UK’s first plastic bottle made from corn not oil, promotes PVC-free bottle caps and provides over 40,000 people overseas with access to clean water. So we wrapped up the trip with a nice green, ribbon and came home to see our sweet little Elle Bell.
This works well if you're single and don't like to entertain. For the rest of us, it's an example about how to downsize and do more with less.
Unlike 2009, this year's DOD had a pulse, jam packed with people and product. The producers and participants turned up the heat with every booth more stylish than the next. This year I was asked to speak on two panels: ASID Glamorous Green Secrets and the joint project of the USGBC and ASID- ReGreen. Paired up for the third or fourth time with world renown Bau Biologist, Mary Cordaro, it was invigorating to see both audiences with plenty of interested folks standing all the way in the back. My daughter and I loved the Paul Frank sponsored kid's play area and the gumball dispensed SEED BOMBS. The idea behind the green ammo is to throw them at abandoned urban lots, wait for rain and watch the wild flowers grow. It reminded me of being a bad little girl who always had a good heart. The show was a huge success and more evidence that green power continues to gain strength.
Last week we were invited to a private event with Marcus Samuelsson and Blue Star Appliances. The two have recently joined forces to promote restaurant style cooking at home. It couldn't have been better timing because we're designing a kitchen for a client who loves to cook and entertain so much that she takes it to a professional level. Forget about the usual bangs and whistles, her must have in the kitchen is a salamander. I do love to cook, but to be honest, before her request I had never even heard of a salamander. That's because they're generally reserved for commercial cooking, giving meat and fish that sizzling, finishing touch. After our meeting I got on the Internet and started my search only to find that A) THEY'RE HUGE (not ideal for pretty designs) and B) they're not approved for residential use. Finally I spotted the Blue Star salamander, the only professional quality device approved for residential use and found the invite to their event in my in box the same day. In addition to being a total sweetheart, Marcus can cook. He is a Top Chef Master, has competed against Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, stars on a few of his own tv shows and prepared a state dinner at Obama's White House honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. We were walked through the preparation of a four course meal and given invaluable tips along the way. Two of my favorites were: when shopping for fish, tell the vendor you're making sushi and they will walk to back and come out with an entirely different grade than what's on display- without an additional charge. Since "we" don't cook with non stick coating because it's toxic, to prevent food from sticking, make the pan as hot as possible so you hear a serious, sizzle sound when the two make contact. We've tried this one on our Viking stainless and it does work. The food was fab (surprisingly large portions) and I really enjoyed his green message: stay home and cook to enjoy fresh, well made and happy food.
This weekend the fine shops of La Cienega opened their doors for the Legends of La Cienega Design Walk sponsered by Elle Decor. This year they upped the ante, displaying film and TV inspired window vignettes up and down the boulevard. Eat your heart out Simon Doonan! The window at upscale, vintage retailer Dragonette , designed by Melissa Levander, was my favorite. Truth is that the entire store looks like a perfected, larger than life, 60s musical, set design. It's divine and totally defines glamorous green . Some of the other eco friendly features were Mary Cordaro's living green lecture at Bausman and the living wall at bookstore-bistro combo, Assouline. Prosper Assouline chatted with me about how to curate a modern library. According to him you must have a point of view and make it come to life. He and his wife are charming folks and I highly suggest you pay the West Hollywood shop a visit the next time you need to purchase a present. Their books are really something else and who else has candles that smell like leather, old paper and cigars? Other star studded events included the Catherine Malandrino fashion show and an Elle Decor party at Baker to close the three day extravaganza. I brought Elle to meet Margaret Russell. She fell in love with my daughter and offered her an internship at the magazine. Nothing like securing a position early. Viva Legends of Design Quarter! I can't wait to see what they do next year. To top this one, I'm expecting the Harlem Choir and elephants!
For years I've been getting calls and emails from around the world asking..."where can I buy this (lamp, rug, throw, pillow, chair, sofa, etc) that I saw in your design. I've also received thousands of inquiries from people asking how they can make their rooms look like the ones I've designed. When I tell someone what is involved (especially the fees) in putting these rooms together, the average person, understandably, is less than willing to commit. So after decades of reading fashion magazines', "get the look" sections, a light went off. I'll offer "get the look" for people who love high design without the high end fees. In the Lori Dennis Shop you can instantly find the treasures that took me an entire career to locate. Everyone who has seen the shop, loves it and People magazine recently featured our sheep throw. Some of my favorite items are the beeswax candles, which are eco-friendly, 100% beeswax, long burning candles that contain no artificial dyes or fragrances and are made in the USA. Sweet, light honey smells fill the air and the wicks contain no metal or lead. Since the weather is so nice, I am also loving the outdoor furniture, especially the Maui Bed. There is nothing like getting some fresh air and lounging while returning work emails! If you have some time, check it out, I'm sure there's something you'll love.
A good friend of ours came for the weekend and graciously brought flowers --in addition to croissants, chocolates and a lilac lamby for our little one. She's fabulous, French, in her eighth decade and cares tremendously for our environment and animals. It didn't surprise me that she showed up with Earth friendly flowers. In case you don't know, most cut flowers are generally grown with toxic chemicals, preserved with even more toxic chemicals and then shipped half way around world. Not these simple, but beautiful, store bought babies- they came from less than 500 miles away and were grown with nothing that would make us sick. Even the packaging was recycled and recyclable, with a little triple R message reminding us to REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. I popped them into a Baccarat Vase (that I'm sure will be passed to my grandchildren one day) and placed them next to my homegrown oranges. There you have it, simple, green elegant.
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.