House Tour and Interview With Eco Designer Lori Dennis
December 3, 2011 | By Elka Karl
LA designer Lori Dennis’s aesthetic embraces the best of California style. From her client-pleasing designs to her eco cred (she’s a LEED accredited professional), Lori has a laid-back, gorgeous, and green aesthetic that I can definitely appreciate. Now, with her new book, Green Interior Design, she’s also provided an accessible and fun read for homeowners looking to add some green features to their home’s style or future renovations.
You may have seen Lori’s projects in The New York Times, People, LUXE, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Dwell, Coastal Living, or the Los Angeles Times. A senior editor of LA Design magazine, Lori will soon play a starring role in the upcoming new HGTV showThe Real Designing Women. Given this impressive list of credentials, you may expect Lori to live in an opulent and expansive home. Not so — this eco designer shares a cozy home with her husband and 2-year-old daughter that emphasizes clean design, outdoor living, and a refreshing lack of visual clutter. Let’s take a tour and hear what Lori has to say about her home and aesthetic!
CasaSugar: How did you go about changing the look of your home from a ’70s ranch to more of a mid-century modern aesthetic?
Lori Dennis: Mostly with big windows to open the space.
CS: Did you use your home’s design as a laboratory of sorts for your book Green Interior Design? Have you always embraced a green aesthetic?
LD: I’ve lived green my entire life, first as necessity due to being the daughter of a broke, single mom. I don’t waste anything and always figure out how to make something out of nothing. I didn’t like living that way when I had no choice — but now that I have the means to live a rich life, I know that my beginnings have added immense value to my quality of life that money can’t buy.
CS: I love how clean and uncluttered your home is. What do you think clutter does to a home’s feel and functionality?
LD: Clutter slows you down, it stifles your productivity, makes cleaning more work, can be a fire hazard, and is simply unnecessary. If you’re not using something, figure out who can love it and give it a good home or sell it and get something you love or better donate the money from the sale to people who need help.
CS: Tell me about the artwork in your home. Did you source it from local artists or friends? How do you go about looking for artwork for your home, as well as clients’ homes?
LD: I have a big fun mural in my living room. It’s by Jill Crawford, she’s a LA muralist who specializes in fun, unexpected graphics.The rest of my art has been collected over my 41 years.
CS: I love your philosophy of using what you have when designing your home. Your reworked ottoman is great — what other examples of “using what you have” are employed in your home’s design?
LD: Truth is that I don’t have a lot of extras around. I donate, sell, or give away most things I’m not using. However, recently on the street in my neighborhood I picked up an elaborate, carved wood, king headboard. (My neighborhood is going through a transition, where older people are passing and leaving their homes to grown children. Many times, the new owners just throw things out, on the curb, in their renovations.)
CS: Orange is such a hot color this year, and your home has several orange accents in it. How do you recommend working an edgy color into a home?
LD: It’s your home, go for it. There’s no right or wrong way. If it resonates with you and makes you happy to see it — it’s right.
CS: Your home is modestly sized (as is mine!). Do you think small homes are the next big trend in home design?
LD: Who the heck wants to finance, clean, and heat a large home — not me. I’m a neat freak. I’m always putting things back where they belong. If my house was too big, I’d be walking around all day wasting my time with my crazy organizing.
CS: What are some of the most economical ways you’ve greened your home’s interiors?
LD: I do the absolute minimum always and save myself thousands of dollars and millions of chemicals every year by cleaning with baking soda, peroxide, lemon, white vinegar, and some rags.
CS: You have a great selection of furniture, accents, art, and more in your online shop. Are any of these items featured in your home?
LD: I have about 50 percent of the items in my shop in my house. Other items are old things I’ve had for years that I will pass on to my daughter.
Here’s another view of the spacious, uncluttered feel of Lori’s home.
CS: What do you think is most important in a well-designed and happy home?
LD: A hot husband, a cute baby, and a cuddly cat. Ha ha. Seriously, a good place to sit and relax, outdoor areas you go to every day, a comfy bed, and keeping things clean, clean, clean. Other than that, it’s just personal choices.
CS: I adore your home’s outdoor space! The hotel vibe from the deckspace is so cool, and it also reduces the amount of groundcover you need to water as well. What are some ways that readers can re-create this look at their own homes?
LD: I really think folks should focus on outdoor spaces. Getting outside is good for the body and soul. Plus it creates more square footage. If you don’t have a back yard, work on the front. It’s really nice to have a bench to sit on, have a glass of lemonade or wine, and say howdy to your neighbors. In that vein, I’m a big front yard, edible garden girl too.
Beans grow up a trellis on the side of Lori’s house.
CS: What’s one of your favorite eco places to shop in the LA area?
LD: Craigslist. It’s affordable recycling at its best and you get to meet your community.
Lori’s tomato cages are some of the most attractive I’ve ever seen. “I saw them and fell in love,” reports Lori. You can find them at Anawalt Lumber in LA.
Lori and her daughter relax on the front steps of the family’s home.
A beautiful and productive fig tree is a boon to the property.
Arugula, herbs, and beets grow in Lori’s front yard. In the background, you can see the home composter. Want to try composting at your home? Check out a few options here.