Artificial grass: not always greener!



There are many reasons to consider a synthetic lawn. “California is in a drought!” likely tops the list and the rationale blooms from there: Fake grass won’t develop unsightly brown patches no matter how many times Mr. Foo Foo tinkles on it. It will thrive under the canopy of your large shade tree where no other plants can survive. It can be installed around the perimeter of a swimming pool–splashes of chlorinated or saline water be damned! Best of all, it will look amazing. Amazing like you spend every weekend weeding and mowing and fertilizing–except you won’t have to, for the life of the lawn.




Fake grass pool modern paversSource: Greener Better Lawns



Sounds intriguing, right? A perfect green lawn? Bring it on! Curb appeal can be yours no matter how black your thumb. But not so fast. While there are copious reasons to go faux, there are some equally compelling reasons not to. Here’s what you need to know before you start thinking artificial grass is always greener.



fake-grass-with-stones-2  Source: Greener Better Lawns




Why you might like it: If we’re going to talk pros and cons, to be fair, I should add synthetic grass is a nice alternative when you’re allergic to the real stuff. It reduces the potential of dirt and mud tracked into your home and will appear lush all year long. And, by reducing water use and eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides and mowers, it can seem like a green solution–but more on that later.



Lawn and swimming pool with sand stone borderSource: Greener Better Lawns




The cost: This is a case of you get what you pay for and get ready to pay a lot. The cheap stuff goes for $2-$3 a square foot and will look cheap, whereas quality turf can cost upwards of $7 per square foot. Factor in supplies and labor and artificial turf can run up to $22 per square foot, installed.




modern fake lawn built in bench modern landscapeSource: Unknown



The look: The short, flat, monochromatic faux grass of yesteryear has been replaced with thick, long blades that come complete with built-in “dead” pieces that make it, at least in the high-end varieties, read as very natural.





Longevity: A good synthetic grass is made of polypropylene or polyethylene. Avoid those made of nylon, which can curl and turn crunchy when exposed to the sun.



Synthetic lawn patio modern chairs Source: Lonny





Maintenance: Hey, isn’t it supposed to be maintenance-free? Not exactly. Weeds can grow in areas where dust or dead leaves accumulate. And that claim of never having to water is a bit off the meter. You’ll still need to periodically rinse the faux lawn to remove dust and, if you own animals, this rinsing becomes imperative to remove the stinky (although invisible) scent of urine. The infill or top-dressing will also break down and can require replacement in as few as three years.





The sound: There is an unexpected rustle, underfoot.





Dirtier than dirt: Unlike real grass, synthetic grass doesn’t harbor the helpful microorganisms that break down the bacteria found in bird droppings, animal waste and dust, which means that faux grass can easily become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. (Some sport teams have had to disinfect their Astroturf to prevent athletes from catching MRSA and Staph.)


 Harold Leidner Landscape faux lawn giant chess piecesSource: Harold Leidner Landscape Architects





The scent: There are complaints of unpleasant odors as the plastic grass heats in the sun. Add pets to the mix and you do the olfactory math. Some volcanic ash infills (such as ZeoFill) help absorb the moisture of pet urine, but do nothing regarding the bacteria. You may need an additional product–made by the same company, and, notably, available in a “fresh grass” fragrance–to add good bacteria to break down the urine, and yet another product to disinfect the grass and kill the bad bacteria.




 Margie Grace landscape design fake grass contemporary landscape pod chairsSource: Margie Grace Landscape Design





Feeling hot, hot, hot: Synthetic grass can become dangerously hot in the direct sun. A 2012 study by Penn State sites surface temps reaching up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Other studies have shown the soil 2 inches below the grass registering an additional 20 degrees hotter. When Penn State concludes that athletes should avoid Astroturf during the sun’s peak hours, for their safety, consider your bare feet and/or your pet’s bare paws.




Black pug artificial turn lawnSource: Chenango Contracting




Is it green?: Artificial grass is touted as Eco-friendly, but many brands cannot be recycled and will wind up in the landfill. If you frequently wash your faux lawn to rid it of feces and urine, your water use could actually be greater than with a live lawn. Living grass provides a habitat for the bugs that birds eat, absorbs our carbon monoxide and gives us oxygen. In contrast, there is a real concern that when a petroleum-based product like faux grass is set out in the sun, it can off-gas, raise the ambient temperature and increase the soil temperature, affecting the root system of your surrounding, live, plants.






What are your thoughts? Are you considering faux grass? Or, more to the point, are you STILL considering faux grass?



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What is Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year and Should We Care?



Pantone, the PR juggernaut famed for annually dreaming up a single new color to dazzle our design senses, has announced that this year’s winner is…Marsala. (Sit down, Kanye!) This reddish brown hue that has been described by the folks at Pantone as “brown leather meets rust” is a calm step away from last year’s vivid, bold, and, some would argue, hard to imagine as anything other than a shade of lipstick: Radiant Orchid.





Pantone Color of the Year Marsala throw blanketMind those shoes on the chair, young lady. Other young lady:  if you stopped caressing that fabric for a moment, you’d notice there is a delicious looking fruit tart on the coffee table, just north of your Marsala-hued clutch. Source: Pantone





Each year, Pantone hosts a two-day summit replete with presentations, discussions, and surely a few rounds of “I don’t think so!” before selecting their IT color which they predict we’ll spot everywhere from the catwalk to the pages of the next Pottery Barn catalog. Funny how I can’t actually recall seeing Radiant Orchid anywhere last year, nor the previous year’s pick, a bright green shade tagged–what else?–Emerald.  How about you? I’m counting on your head turning from side to side, at this very moment, as proof that perhaps these colors don’t have as much influence as they’re purported to.






Pantone Color of Year 2015 Marsala aprons The apron, the tie, the lip color, we get it. Source: Pantone.






Now you see it: Okay, fine, I’ve noticed Marsala in a few fashion features (it’s well-suited to winter wear), but on throws, pillows, or an upholstered pouf? Not a one. Even Pantone’s website seems stumped on how to incorporate this color, as it limits its use to images of aprons, a tablecloth, a man’s tie, a woman’s top, a single settee and the nail polish and lipstick color of the models.




Pantone suggests incorporating Marsala into the home through accessory pieces, paint, linens and small appliances (I’m still befuddled by this last one–is KitchenAid about to reveal a wine-colored mixer?) but stops short of showing us how. Of course, they do add, Marsala is “a subtly seductive shade which embodies the satisfying richness of a fulling meal. ” Well then.





Pantone Color of Year 2015 Marsala nail polishSource: Pantone.




Now you don’t: Sure, rugs, carpets, upholstered furniture, and throw blankets (not to mention your winter jacket) in Marsala will hide a multitude of spills and sins–any brown will achieve that–but I can’t imagine this color used outside of homes with an architectural inclination towards Tuscan, Moroccan or Spanish–and certainly not Santa Barbara Spanish, where we are wont to keep our look light and summery all year round. Then again, Pantone begs to differ, reminding us, “Naturally robust and earth wine red, Marsala enriches our minds, bodies and souls.” Lofty claim, I’d say. Or is it?






Pantone Color of the Year 2015 Marsala clothing Art director: “Man on the right, I need more snarl.” Source: Pantone.






How to use it: You got me.






 Pantone Color of Year 2015 Marsala Fox MaskThis is the point where the art director must have said, “Hell, we’ve shown aprons, and fabrics, ties, and nail polish. What else comes in this color? A fox mask? Of course!” Source: Pantone.








Benjamin Moore’s pick: On the other hand, I offer you Benjamin Moore’s crowned 2015 Color of the Year, Guilford Green (HC-116). I’ve never been one to gravitate towards green, but this neutral, silvery interpretation has me reconsidering. With undertones of yellow and grey, it would pair well with cream, white, and dark stained woods. I can imagine it used in a serene dining room, or as the color of kitchen cabinets offering an unexpected respite from the preponderance of white or grey.









 Guildord Green Benjamin Moore Color of Year 2105Ahh.










Guildord Green Benjamin Moore bedroomApplause! Source: Benjamin Moore.









Guildord Green Benjamin Moore wall detailSource: Benjamin Moore.







Sherwin-Williams’ Selection: Far, far away on the color spectrum from BM’s soft, subtle green is Sherwin-Williams’ Color of the Year for 2015, Coral Reef (SW 6606). Called upbeat, and the perfect melange of pink, orange and red (by guess who? SW), they suggest this color for an accent wall, a piece of furniture or your front door. All I have to say is, yikes, somebody warn the neighbors! Perhaps it would be cheery for a kid’s room, but, even at that, I imagine a year from now your eyes would be buzzing from it and it would be time to buy a new color and start over. Of course, these companies are no fools. I’m sure that is exactly the outcome they predicted.






Sherwin Williams Coral Reef bedroomIt this color doesn’t scare you, surely the tarantula-esque photo mobile will. Source: Sherwin-Willams.




What about you? Do you have plans to use any of the 2015 Colors of the Year in your decor?




Note: This post has been adapted from my column, Design Intervention, which runs every other Saturday in the Santa Barbara News-Press.



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Make way for modern: Interior Design Predictions for 2015



There’s something to be said for choosing classic decor: it’s timeless, aesthetically pleasing, and when you get it right the first time, you gain the peace of mind that you’ll likely avoid a redo.





 Laura Ashley 80s bedroom floral bedspread floral wallpaperThe opposite of timeless.






But if everyone shirked trendy in favor of longevity, can you imagine what would happen to our economy? Sure, it’s a bummer that sponge painted walls and popcorn ceilings didn’t stand the test of time. That those height of haute, circa 1995, Laura Ashley floral curtains don’t have a single taker in your garage sale’s Free box today.



Perhaps we can think of it as our civic duty to cycle through the phases of In/Out; Hot/Not; “I hate brass/I need more brass!” (Economic stability, we’ve got your back!)




So for those on the precipice of a renovation, for others who are due to entertain a new look for the New Year, and for the rest of us who just like to keep a finger on the pulse of relevancy, I offer you some of the top home decor trends of 2015!







EDC100113_212Source: Elle Decor, Cameron Diaz’s kitchen. Design by Kelly Wearstler.





Illuminating: “See ya!” Schoolhouse lights and bare Edison bulbs. This year, the trend will be to decorate kitchens and dining rooms with a single, and strange, light fixture. Looking “found” and “Where did you find that?” is in. In fact, the odder, the better. The traditional look of a conventional chandelier suspended over the dining room table has been replaced by oddity and eclecticism is reigning supreme.






Bubble glass chandelier dining room Source: Gorgeous Home Decor. com






Feels right: You’ll see cowhides and lambskin rugs either placed alone or layered over natural-fiber rugs. Pet a Mongolian lamb pillow and you may decide your sofa needs two or three.






Hand chair hair on hide Emily Henderson office blue walls Hair-on-hide in  Emily Henderson’s office







Mongolian lamb pillow black leather sofa unusual chandelierMongolian Lamb Pillows available at Ava Home Design If this isn’t the strangest light fixture, ever, I don’t know what is.







Hot in the kitchen: The style pendulum has swung and white cabinets will be swapped for darker colors such as light and dark grey–even black cabinets are back en vogue! These moodier tones will be paired, in striking contrast, with brass hardware. Shaker cabinets, I’ll always love you, but the market is also making way for glossy-front cabinets that offer a sleek, modern look with their Jetson-esque invisible hardware.





All that glitters: You’ll be spotting gold, brass, and copper accents on lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware and curios. If it’s shiny, it’s all the rage.





 Black cabinets white subway tileSource: Homedit Interior Design and Architecture Magazine







Glossy white kitchen Italian cabinets modern kitchenSource: Magzmagz Hardware? What hardware. Space age is what it is.






Step on it: White washed, wide-plank European White Oak was the It floor for 2014, and will likely work its way into the new year. But for those who want the look of wood with the ease of tile maintenance, Tileco, in Santa Barbara, says tile planks that mimic rustic wood are hotter than ever. “Bigger is better,” they add. Standard 12″ x 12″ tile? So passe! The more modern 12″ x 24″ rectangle has superseded the square (unless we’re talking 24″ x 24″ squares). Even tiles as gargantuan as 24″ x 48″ are having their moment. Textural tile (imagine large, monochromatic rectangles with wavy rides running through them) are trending, as well as vein cut stone or porcelain made to mimic stone. Meanwhile, heavy contrast, such as dark stained cabinets set against white quartz counters, is in high demand.






Source: Houzz: Beach Style Powder Room by Boston Architects & Building Designers ZeroEnergy Design







Source: Houzz, Modern Living Room by Victoria Interior Designers & Decorators The Sky is the Limit Design





As the color wheel turns: Newsflash: grey is the new beige. All right, we knew that last year, but it’s still in. For those not ready to covert from its predecessor, tan, to the new go-to neutral for walls, I offer you: greige. (Not kidding.)




For the bold and daring rest of us, we’ll be loving grey stained floors and furniture, painted cabinets and walls, and upholstery fabric. However, we’ll also see more splashes of color introduced to liven up the grey (e.g., modern art, vibrant prints, indigo blue sofas). The year of “the color of oatmeal” may just be usurped by saturated and bright.





Indigo blue sofa modern art Emily HendersonSource: Emily Henderson






So abstract: Have you noticed the sudden surplus of modern art in catalogs and design magazines? When Pottery Barn, monger of the traditional, displayed graphic prints in their room scenes, I knew it was official; we’re being primed for anti-realism. Brace yourself for an onslaught of bright and blobby colors and smeary streaks; modern art has gone mainstream.





 Pottery Barn Modern Art PaintingSource: Pottery Barn





Modern everything: Faucets included! The other day I was searching for faucets at Ferguson’s and had a hard time finding something that wasn’t modern. Yesteryear’s darling, oil rubbed bronze, has been pushed out by brushed nickel and polished chrome. For the super trendsetters, you know brass is back–with a vengeance! These finishes are the new shining stars of the primarily minimalist, square-edged, sleek and clean design lines. It looks like this year we may be saying goodbye to flourishes, and hello to minimalism.





Modern bathroom floating vanity modern faucetSource: Creative Interiors Solutions





And to you I say, happy decorating!





Note: This blog post has been adapted from my newspaper column, Design Intervention, which runs every other Saturday in The Santa Barbara News-Press.


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Purchasing a new mattress? What you need to know!


If you’ve ever spent the night on an uncomfortable mattress and awakened to find yourself sore, sleep-deprived and short-tempered, you know mattress quality matters. However, finding the right one can be daunting. It’s an investment of a few hundred to several thousand dollars and, as any salesperson is sure to remind you, we spend a third of our life asleep, so you want to choose wisely. But don’t lose any sleep over this. Here are some tips to help you find the mattress of your dreams!





Grey bedroom Elle Decor ItaliaImage source: Elle Decor Italia





Like Goldilocks: Purchase your mattress in person, not online, and seek local stores specializing in mattresses over department stores that just happen to sell them. Now get ready to spend a few minutes on each one. You many not need to go as firm as you think. Many people overcompensate with a firm mattress because they imagine it will soften over time, but with a good quality mattress, medium may provide more than enough support.





Pottery Barn BedroomImage source: Pottery Barn




Smaller may be better: In days past, the big names in mattresses (often starting with an “S) used to be family-run; however, many have now been purchased by large conglomerates focusing more on quantity than quality, meaning those high prices often reflect the cost of major marketing, not a superior product. On the other hand, mattresses from smaller, lesser-known companies can run around 35% less in price, yet last significantly longer.





 Grey bedroomImage source: Architectural Digest





Choose your core: Innerspring mattresses: the gauge of the coils and placement of said coils will determine the firmness of the mattress. Memory foam mattresses: think Tempur-Pedic. This petroleum-based product offers a very sinkable surface which is great if you’re a side sleeper and want to cushion your hips and shoulders; however, its squishiness can impede flipping your body from your back to your side and vise versa. Other complaints are the foam can become too stiff when the room temperature is cold and become too heated as you lie upon it. (Not ideal for those who tend to run warm!)  Latex mattresses: latex contours to your body and is more bouncy than memory foam, making it easier for you to flip yourself over; 100% natural varieties, sourced from the sap of the rubber tree, are available. Note: Natural rubber latex is also breathable and won’t harbor dust mites which makes it a healthier alternative to petroleum-based foam. Air chamber mattresses: think Sleep Number. These mattresses contain air chambers which can be adjusted via remote control to vary their firmness; one bed can be divided into, ideal for partners whose weights and preference for firmness differ.






All white bedding 2Image source: HouseBeautiful





Sleep on it: You won’t really know if a mattress is right for you until you spend the night on it. Ask if your local retailer offers a Comfort Guarantee, which is a period of time for you to try a mattress at home and still exchange it for free.





All white bedImage source: Harper’s Bazaar





Delve deeper: A mattress labeled “organic” may contain organic cotton (yay!) that has been dyed and softened with chemicals (boo!), be constructed with chemical-laden adhesives used to attach its layers of foam, and be doused with fire-retardant chemicals. You owe it to yourself, and your health, to press beyond labels that read “natural” and “organic” and ask for explanations and sources.




 Jeff Andrews Kourtney Kardashian bedroomImage source: Architectural Digest Mexico, Jeff Andrews Design, Bedroom of Kourtney Kardashian (eh hem!)





Sleeping safe: By law, mattresses must be fire retardant. The cheapest way to achieve this is with chemicals and, unfortunately, companies do not have to label which ones are used. Worse, these often include a combination of boric acid (used as roach killer), formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), antimony (chemically similar to arsenic) and the list goes on. Fire-retardant chemicals are associated with reproductive, thyroid, and neurological disorders, hyperactivity and cancer. They can be transferred transdermally and stored in our fatty tissue–they’ve even been found in breast milk! Ask your salesperson about wool-coated mattresses which are naturally flame resistant. Tip: Wool has the added benefit of absorbing moisture and regulating your temperature as you sleep. However, some wools are additionally treated with flame-retardant chemicals to make them even more fire resistant so do not be satisfied with a label that reads “wool”; inquire further!




Abstract paintingsImage source: unknown




Don’t take it lying down: Warranties generally cover manufacturing defects, not wear and tear or comfort. Stains and soil will void warranties, so you may want to add a waterproof guard beneath your mattress pad. Resist the urge to remove the mattress label lest you ruin your chance of a return. If your bed’s foundation is in good shape, you may consider replacing only the mattress or paying for a higher priced mattress with a lower priced foundation, but proceed with caution as, in some cases, this can negate a mattress warranty altogether. Tip: Many pillow-top mattress cannot be flipped, but their longevity can be extended by rotating the mattress at lease twice a year.





 Hastens BedImage source: Hastens





Counting zeros, not sleep: For literally the best mattress money can buy, visit a Hasten’s showroom. (Fun fact: the first American Hasten’s showroom opened here in Santa Barbara.) Since 1852, this Swedish company has been making custom, handmade mattresses comprised of horse hair, (tubular so air circulates and you don’t overheat), flax (to dissipate static electricity), wool (a natural fire retardant and insulator), natural cotton, metal coils, and slow-growing pine. Nothing they make is artificial–or inexpensive. Running $6,000 to $100,000, Hasten’s mattresses are designed for you to sink into, not sleep on top of yet, as Tracy Jackson of Santa Barbara Mattress says, “No bed is more supportive!” In a world where most products are made by machine, these mattresses are handmade, customized to your body and made to last.



Consider this: A poorly made mattress will last 1-2 years, a good mattress 9-12 years, a Hasten’s mattress up to 60 years. However, as each Hasten’s mattress is a custom creation, they do not offer a Comfort Guarantee.




 Note: This post has been adapted from my newspaper column, Design Intervention, which runs in the Santa Barbara News-Press.

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New year, new RH!

RH (“Restoration Hardware” for those of you not hip to their recent push to brand themselves as an acronym) has replaced its former space on Beverly Boulevard (which was a whopping 24,000 s/f) with new digs on Melrose Avenue that is…wait for it…a mouth-gaping 40,000 s/f!



The new RH features rugs and room vignettes and an organic tea atelier–(atelier: Fancy French word for a workshop or studio, especially one used by a designer. How many eyes would roll if I start referring to my home office as my “design atelier”? One pair at least: mine.)–and more chandeliers than you can shake an electric bill at.



Seriously, this place was chandelier-centric.



Exhibit A:




This display seems to say, “Energy bills be forsaken!”





RH Chandelier cluster Melrose





But look closer and there’s a pretty neat coffee table with a propeller base.






Propeller coffee table RH





This next vignette was interesting if “interesting” is my euphemism for “Don’t these chandeliers look like sparkly floating donuts?”






Floating donut chandeliers





There were chandeliers in the bedrooms…






RH Bedroom Scene Melrose





down the numerous halls…






RH Melrose Chandeliers





down even more halls….






RH Melrose Arched doorIs that an urn or a vase or a vase/urn?





And yet, there were still more chandeliers to witness.






More chandeliers RH Melrose





On the way to view more-ways-to-incorporate-four-or-more-chandeliers-into-one-room was this intriguing table.





RH Twisty table





Behold The Wall of Gilded Mirrors–strangely fitted with art lights which adds some design gravitas to the fact that they are just mirrors, or does it? I’m still undecided.






Mirror gallery wall RH





Then onwards and upwards to the 10,000 s/f (!!!) rooftop garden…





RH patio Melrose50 shades of indigo.





This park-like setting was complete with olive trees, DG pathways, views of the Hollywood Hills…and this dramatically long–I guess no one will be saying, “Load that into my trunk, please,”–coffee table.






RH long table MelroseAnd me, squinting into the sun.





Before the day was over, there was a quick jaunt to Formations, the store where design dreams come true, and one could say goodbye to his or her life savings in a matter of, “I’ll take that bed.”





Formations Los Angeles





It’s To the Trade and I was “oohing” and “ahhing” over just about everything.





See what I mean? Everything was kind of “Wow!”






Formations 2





Even their poured cement floor with its bands of inlaid metal was so clever.






Concrete floor metal strips





But this cement stack of “pillows” for the garden took the Cuteness award for the day. (Note: I sat on them and they were surprisingly comfortable!)






Concrete cushions Formations




How about you, have you discovered a store that sheds light on some new designs (pun intended)?

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Los Angeles: A design field trip


Did you have a wonderful Thanksgiving? I hope so!




And now, back to interior design…but first, a few ramblings.




While it’s nice to call Santa Barbara home (the beaches, the hiking, the shared zip code with Oprah) when it comes to finding furniture, it’s fairly fallow.  LA, on the other hand, may be sprawling and smoggy and traffic-y, but when it comes to furniture stores, its style cup runneth over.




So even though driving to LA from SB feels a lot like leaving a quiet little hamlet only to arrive in Gotham City–albeit with more daylight and no real-life comic book characters lurking about–my design partner and I were in need of a few wow factor pieces for a house we were finishing (spoiler alert: upcoming blog post!) so we sucked it up and headed out.





LA Mart chairOh the time it would take to polish that chair!







The first stop was the LA Mart.





Plant wallNifty succulent wall just outside the LA Mart.





The Mart offered some items of interest, such as this strangely shaggy chandelier. I think it falls into the Love it/Hate it category. Personally, I’m leaning towards loving it, but we knew our client wouldn’t so we left it for someone else with amazing taste to snatch up.






Sea Urchin ChandelierNote the snobby note.







Mongolian lamb pillows were here, there, and everywhere…







Lambskin pillowsSo far, the best prices I’ve found on Mongolian Lamb pillows have been not at a wholesale source, but at West Elm!







There were some bling-encrusted items that our clients could live without (as could most people, right?)…







Bling sofa





that had us wondering, “Who buys this stuff?”







Glitter bedFrill Fest 2014.





We decided not us and promptly headed to the Pacific Design Center. You know, the Blue Whale, or as its website so chest-thumpingly proclaims:  LA’s “elite design district.” This used to be the place, all 750,000 square feet of it, where you were likely to bump handbags with the designers who specialized in second homes, spot something you’d just seen in Architectural Digest, and experience selection saturation: they offered everything from frame-worthy fabric to appliances so advanced, even the Jetsons would be jonesing.






PDC outside





But that was then. Now it was, in fact, so deserted, I had no trouble taking this shot below without a single person walking by–on either floor. Note the vacant storefronts to the left and right. Or rather, don’t. It’s all quite sad to see how much the industry has changed with the boom of online shopping.










While the PDC was low on patrons and high on vacancy, it was not without interesting (interesting = euphemism for, “What is that an installation of spider snot!?”) installations of “art” in their, otherwise, echo-filled halls.





PDC ArtMucous themed “art”.






To be fair, there were a few remaining showrooms with some neat stuff…







PDC roomLike this hanging lamp. I am always saying you can’t go wrong when you merge the concepts of space, metal, and Swiss cheese.







And this Rorschach-esque wallpaper and the tables with the Flintstones feet? Adore is too weak a word.








Rorschach wallpaperNeat, cute!





But nothing really said, “Your client needs this!”






PDC room lightingDefinitely nothing here!






So we moseyed away wondering if the Big Blue Whale had actually become a dinosaur and headed to Beverly Blvd., hoping for something better.







Rifle floor lampsNot better.





Rifle lighting, while good for a guffaw, was not really our design aesthetic. Not this year, anyway.





Umbrella chandelierRihanna needs one of these, right?






The Birdie Chandelier by Ingo Maurer has been around for a while now, but it’s so silly, it still makes me smile.





Lightbulb chandelierUntil I see the $2,390.00 price tag.






The next stop, ddc, (too cool for caps), was filled with “If you have to ask….” items. I had to try not to sputter when I found out the glass waterfall coffee table we inquired about was over $4k!






Modern chairThis chair was eye-catching sure, but seems to say, “Go away,” more than it does, “Sit, stay, relax.”





This next chair scored no better on the relax-the-back scale, but we were fascinated with the glue-only construction.






Wood particle chairThe ultimate blogger craft project.






Hanging with Jane would be novel and all, (pun so intended), but we were unanimous in nixing this wallpaper.





Glass coffee tableBehold the $4,000 coffee table.





I loved this lamp. I really did. You could have a terrible house and terrible furniture, but if you owned this lamp, people would say, “But she has the coolest lamp.” Alas, it was something like three trillion dollars (give or take) so we high-tailed it out of there with out budget still firmly intact.





Gooseneck floor lamp





And headed back to the world of retail. You’ll know this one…Restoration Hardware!  Of course since this trip, this RH on Beverly Blvd., has been replaced by the one on Melrose Ave., which makes the next few shots like an RH time capsule.





RH BeverlyFancy, no? Seriously, it’s hard to imagine how the new one could be better, but I have heard great things, one of them being that it is 40,000 square feet compared to the 24,000 square feet of the one we were about to enter.






There was an olive garden entrance. (New one boasts a 10,000 square foot rooftop garden, also with olive trees and DG.)






RH Gardens 2






But does the new one have a crazy graffiti wall? So hip. So LA. So…(“Fearless and Hopeless”? What were they thinking? Suicidal thoughts, I suppose)…depressing!






Fearless and HopelessAll it needs is a soundtrack of sirens to accompany this mood-dulling maxim.





Instead they had tea–a tea atelier–just below the delightful display of birdcage chandeliers and a floral boutique. Does the new one? Yes to the tea. The floral boutique? I can only hope so.





RH Birdcage chandeliers




We liked a lot of things, but we were in a Godilocks sort of mood so nothing was quite right.





RH Chainmetal chandelier




So we tucked our memo sheets and price lists away, headed to the car and sped home, trying to beat all that traffic, and get back to our much tinier, smog-free town that we get to share with Oprah.



How about you, where do you like to shop in LA? Have you been to the new RH?



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Before the guests arrive: It’s cleaning time!

It’s almost Thanksgiving…





Give ThanksSource: Elle Decor




And you might think it’s enough that your home is decorated with attractive furniture positioned just so atop beautiful rugs, while great art hangs on the walls and collected curios adorn the appropriate surfaces.





But it’s not.





If there’s a smudge on the wall, a ring on the table, and a dent in your fancy painting, all eyes will be drawn there.





Living room with labSource: Elle Decor




Sure blemishes happen–because life happens–but they can make your carefully designed rooms look worse for wear.




The good news is there are tricks to remedy such things. Designer trade secrets, if you will.





Here are some of the best of them.






Abstract paintingsSource: Unknown



Dented canvases: I have fixed two canvases I thought were surely dented and wrinkled for life with this method. The remedy is as simple as using a wet sponge to saturate the back of your canvas in the area of the dent. Important: wet only the back of the canvas, never the front! Set the canvas outside to dry with the moistened back facing the sun. As the canvas dries, it will shrink and tighten. As a result, the dent will (almost magically!) disappear.





Scratches on wood:  A scratch on dark wood floors or furniture appears light and draws attention to itself. In order to blend it into obscurity, we need to make it dark again. This can be done with a felt-tipped furniture marker in the right shade (available at your local home improvement store). Make sure to draw only on the scratch, not the surrounding area. Brown shoe polish also works wonders.




Recently, I tried a new remedy mixing 1 tablespoon coffee with 2 teaspoons of hot water.





Coffee mixtureAnd I got this.






Using a cotton swab, I applied the solution to the scratched leg of a chair that our new puppy has recently discovered.






Teeth marks chair legAh, puppies. Gotta love ’em, or at least keep reminding yourself, “This is just a stage!”






Apply coffee mixtureApplying the solution, like so.





After letting the solution soak in a moment, I wiped away the excess. While the indentation is still there (oh, puppy teeth) now that it’s the same color as the wood, it’s barely noticeable.






Chair leg afterSo much better!







For light, all-over scratches on hardwood floors, I use a product called Wood Floor Refresher by Bona. You apply it the same as you would a hardwood floor cleaner and it can make an old hardwood floor look new again.




Scuffs and smudges: Who doesn’t have scuffs and smudges on their baseboards, doors, and walls? Not you if you use Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. True to its name, it lifts marks like magic and with ease. A word of caution: because it can dull an otherwise high-gloss surface, test it in an inconspicuous spot, first.




Rings on wood: True story: My Ostrich egg-esque ceramic vase that I loved so much from West Elm (the one on the far left if you click on this link) leaked and left behind crusty mineral deposits on our wood buffet.  To fix it, I made a solution of equal parts olive oil and white vinegar. Using a paper towel, I rubbed the liquid into the ring, making sure to rub with the grain, until the ring disappeared. I feathered out any extra liquid and used a clean paper towel to wipe the entire surface clean.





Remove furniture ringsThe solution (in both senses of the word).






Ring on tableThe Before. Bad ring, bad.






Wipe tableThe During. Action shot.







No more ringThe After! Ring, what ring?





Holes in walls: Stop. Are you using picture hangers to hang your artwork? If not, you should. They make the tiniest of holes and are sold by the weight they can handle so you’ll never risk hanging a piece that won’t be properly supported. But what if you hung it wrong the first time and need to make the evidence disappear? While wall spackle is best, in a pinch white toothpaste will fill holes 1/4″ and smaller. Squeeze it into the hole and use a credit card to remove the surplus. Allow to dry. If there is any shrinkage, repeat as necessary. Touch up with a spot of paint, if needed.





Black and white gallery wallSource: Unknown, Cat: adorable.




Keep it straight: So you found the perfect spot to hang your art and then you walked back into the room and it had shifted. Breezes, sinking holes, poltergeists, whatever the cause, hung art can move and you can keep it straight with QuakeHold Museum Putty. It comes in a shade of buff and with the consistency of previously chewed bubble gum–but with none of the gross-out factor. Pinch off a small amount and roll it into a ball. Place a ball behind each corner of your wall-mounted art and press the art into place.





Gallery wall gold framesThese don’t actually look straight to me. And it’s not my photo so I’m happy to point that out. Do they to you? Source: Charlotte Moss (what’s up Charlotte, no scale handy?), Lonny Magazine





Streak-free: For streak-less mirrors and windows and glass on framed pieces, make your own natural cleaner. You’ll avoid the cost and chemicals of the store bought stuff and have a superior product. Pour equal pats white vinegar and warm water into a spray bottle; mist your surface and wipe clean with newspaper. Undiluted vinegar can be used to remove the sticky price tag residue off the glossy surface of a newly purchased mirror.





Mirrored globe in kitchenIsn’t that a neat (and very streak-free) kitchen pendant? Source: Cristina Cleveland



This post is an adaptation of my column Design Intervention and originally appeared in the Santa Barbara News-Press.




Happy (it’s almost here) Thanksgiving!


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Don’t be bilked by bonded leather!

You know what’s crummy? Like really, really crummy? The fact that “leather” doesn’t always mean what one would assume it should.





 Black leather sofaDesign by Paul Barbera.





So this is my decorating public service announcement to you–so you may never be duped by the (often misleading) words “100% Genuine Leather”!





When JB and I pooled our furniture in anticipation of cohabitation, I was thrilled that he came with a leather sofa that was only two years old. I equated leather with luxury, longevity, and that Ralph Lauren style I had long coveted. But, a year later, what had once been the star of our living room started shedding like a molting snake.




Peeling leather sofaI wasn’t kidding, huh?




First, a tiny strip threatened to peel off the seat. Within a month, there were more wispy flakes of sofa “skin” littering our living room than on the actual sofa. Eventually we banished the blistered behemoth to the curb and cashed in our garbage service’s once-a-year heavy item haul-away. Flummoxed–since when does leather furniture shed?–and suddenly minus a sofa–I was determined to figure out what had happened.




Brown Leather Sofa 2See the patina on the sofa above? It’s an indication that the leather is real.





Have you noticed how inexpensive leather sofas have become? This is your first clue! If a sofa labeled “real leather” is a smoking deal, it is likely a hot potato and you should walk out of that store right now!





While technological advances have often changed life for the better, sometimes they give us bunk. Witness: two cheap materials that have flooded the market, look a lot like leather, are often tagged “real leather”–but are anything but. If you’re considering purchasing a leather sofa, please arm yourself with this information, first.






Brown leather sofa gallery wall




Bonded, reconstituted, or blended leather: Culprit number one goes by any of the aforementioned names. It’s made from scrap leather that is shredded into pulp, dyed, combined with a synthetic bonding agent, then sprayed onto sheets of fiber or paper backing. These sheets are then embossed with a leather pattern and, presto, you have bonded leather.





Buyer beware: While the percentage of pulverized leather fibers in this finished product can run anywhere from 10-70% , since the portion that is leather is 100% real, bonded leather products often claim to be “100% genuine leather”. Like adding a drop of fresh squeezed orange juice into a bottle of water and labeling the bottle “100% real orange juice” in reference to the single drop, it’s semantics and it’s shady advertising.






Modern leather sofa




Bicast, bycast, split or PU (referring to its polyurethane coating) leather: A single intact hide can be split into as many as four usable layers. Split leather takes one of these center layers (the top-grain goes to a higher-end product) to create, not a top surface, but a lowly backing. Sadly the one portion of this “leather” that is real is rendered invisible as it is laminated in colored polyurethane and embossed to fool you.





Chesterfield Sofa and Stag HeadCote de Texas





Why not?: I admit, faux leather sofas look good at first, cost far less than top-grain leather (until you factor in replacing them after a couple of years), and clean up like a dream (because they are made with plastic polymer or sprayed with plastic!) so why wouldn’t you want to own one? Uh, did you miss my intro? They are synthetic–as such, they can off-gas–and they make a mess on your floor. Unlike real leather which improves with age as it softens, becomes more supple, and develops a patina, faux leather can blister, crack and peel as soon as within the first year–especially when placed near a window with direct sun exposure. In contrast to real leather which can be repaired or passed on as a family heirloom or resold, when faux leather starts to fail, there’s no saving it. Congratulations, you just added a sofa to the landfill.







Black leather sofa 2Digs and design belong to the über talented Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi. I’m going to go out on a short limb here and say I bet theirs is real.





How to detect the difference: Consider price, reputation of the company you’re buying from, (avoid the often less-than-scrupulous discount furniture emporiums) and feel: real leather has less give and is stiffer than either bonded or bicast leather. Beyond that, demand that your salesperson tell you the truth!





Chesterfield and bookshelves




If you already have faux leather sofa: The good news is you likely got it for a song and it wipes clean. So while you have it, let’s keep it looking good. Place it in a dimly lit room where it will hardly be used and you’ll have a rich look for a bargain price. Prolong its life by avoiding positioning it in direct sunlight (such as under a window) or near a radiator or fireplace where the heat will accelerate its decomposition.




Restoration Hardware ChesterfieldRestoration Hardware’s chesterfield sofa.





Maintaining the real deal: If you have a real leather sofa, wipe up spots and spills immediately: blot don’t rub. Do not use soap. Period. Use minimal water and only distilled, at that, since water can cause more damage to leather than the stain you want to remove. Wipe grease or oil spots, then leave them and hopefully they will dissipate. (Baking soda helps wick up oil stains. ) Avoid placing leather furniture near air conditioners, radiators, fireplaces, or in areas of prolonged sunshine (think skylights), or, over time, your leather will crack and fade. Reputable purveyors of leather, such as Restoration Hardware, also sell their own products to both clean and condition the leather. Don’t skip this: maintenance is a must!





Brown leather sofa





In other words, don’t let this happen to you…






Bonded leather sofaBye, bye beast: our bonded leather sofa waiting to be hauled away where it will live the rest of its days surrounded by banana peels and soiled synthetic diapers. 🙁







Brown leather sofa 3Note the tear on the sofa arm, above. The front panels are stained enough to make me think this one is real since the plastic element of bonded or bicast leather generally repels moisture and, thus, prevents staining.




Okay, we need to go out on a happy note; otherwise, my design public service announcement seems a bit depressing. So here’s a bit of good news. Jack in the Box is now selling their own version of a cronut (croissant doughnut). And while I’m sure there is no comparison between their cronut and the real ones (that come with filling) that people wait in line for for hours at Dominique Ansel’s bakery in New York City, this thing hit the spot for 89 cents each versus the $5 per at Dominque’s (not to mention the price of airfare!). One might argue this would be the equivalent of eating a bonded or bicast cronut, but with this good deal, the only thing that littered my floor was the tasty cinnamon sugar coating that fell from the doughy goodness as I ripped it apart and shoved it into my mouth. Just sayin’, you might want to try one.





Note: this post was adapted from my column Design Intervention which runs in the Santa Barbara News-Press.





The Newlyweds have landed and other news

PineapplesStrap your pineapples in. The trip is about to begin.





When we last “spoke”, I was showcasing the “ooh” and “ahh” elements I’d spotted while shopping for clients at the La Jolla Design Center.





That was so a month and a half ago.





Since then, things have happened. Big things like I was given a bridal shower; JB and I were married–and we had a honeymoon!  Yep, all that went down in the last forty days. So, I assume I get a pass for not posting every “Now take a look at this!” moment…




Wedding PhotoOh happy day. 9/13/14.





Except I wanted to. I missed blogging the ENTIRE TIME! However, time didn’t care. Time seemed to speed up and, here in Santa Barbara, where we were sweating every glass of water we drank out through our pores in our 90 degrees plus heatwave, I was slowing down–while a whole lotta stuff needed attending to. So blogging took a back burner. And yet, there was so much to say.




Pie is for loversCoral “graffiti” (the best, removable kind, right?) placed against lava rock along the highway, on the Big Island, Hawaii.






So much to SHOW you!





Hilo PalaceA hotel, I’m guessing, in Hilo, Hawaii. It has seen better days, I’m sure, but the good architecture still shines through.





So I captured the fun stuff in photos and wrote little mental notes to you. And came up with a plan…






Chairs at Marriott MauiTwo chairs just whispering, “Take a load off,” at the Marriott, Maui.





I’m going to roll back time (Note: my powers only extend to this blog) in the next few posts so you don’t miss a thing. But, while you’re here, let’s talk honeymoon.





This was the scene immediately after leaving the airport and pulling onto the highway.  And in between a cluster of buildings here and there, it carried on, interrupted only by the subtle switch to more lava rock, fewer grasses, more coral graffiti, for the twenty minute drive to our condo destination in Waikoloa.






Big Island driveMauna Kea Volcano in background. Lava rock covered with grasses, grasses and more grasses in foreground.





The land was big, so we felt small and as we shrank, so did any troubles or tethers to back home and we could, at least try to, relax.




This pool helped…





Hali'i Kai PoolSalt water pool with the neatest lounging leaves positioned just above the water’s surface. The “leaves” were stationary, built into a raised platform of concrete that summited just before the “deep end” (alas, all of 4 1/2′ of a so-called deep end). If it got too hot (which was almost always; the Big Island was also suffering their own Hello, Climate-Change! record temps), you could dip your toes or lean your legs into the water for a luke-warm water cool down.




So did eating our meals from our terrace with THIS VIEW!






LanaiHali’i Kai, Big Island.





And dips in this ocean certainly assisted in a water-lapping-against-your-floating-body, Problems, what problems? sort of way.






Kua BayKua Bay, Big Island.





While we did play tourist…






PanioloHanging out with this cowboy for a Paniolo (“cowboy”) moment in the Parker Ranch shopping center. (Do you see the almost photo-bomb, by Security, in the background?)








Happy couple South PointSouth Point selfies.







Drive to South PointThe drive to South Point: the southern most tip of the United States.





South Point TurbinesAnd more driving to South Point. Good thing we had almost a full tank. This road is lonnnng.





Unlike our trip to Kauai (Forgot already? You can refresh your memory, here) the best design I saw wasn’t man-made, but nature-made.





South Point endFinally, we made it to the wind-blown coast known as South Point where except for a natural pool of still water that made the perfect place to douse the flames we imagined rising up from our roasting, sandaled feet, the water looked choppy enough to crush a skull against the lava-rock-lined shore. Unless conditions are usually smoother, this was a Look, But Don’t Swim beach destination.






There were patterns to study. (Don’t miss the gecko, below, who was popping out his head and giving the “And you are?” stare down to the photo-end of my cell phone and me.)







Palm leaf gecko.





Yes, technically this sidewalk is man-made, but I thought the pattern was still worth noting. I’d love to see that mottled design turned into fabric and sewn into a sofa pillow!






Interesting sidewalkA sidewalk trying to emulate lava–and doing a darn good job! Big Island.






Okay, so maybe real lava looks a little different. But again, notice the neat pattern as the lava pressed upon itself and dried in Shar Pei esque folds.







Lava RockThe real deal. Lava rock, Volcano National Park, Hawaii.





More lava rock, plus feet.





Feet on lava rockVolcano National Park, Hawaii.








Flowers Hali'i KaiFlower power at Hali’i Kai, Hawaii.







Kalopa Forest 2Kalopa Forest, Hawaii. Doesn’t it look like the trees’ roots are holding hands or are my honeymoon-colored-glasses still on?





There were black sand beaches.






Punalu'u BeachOuchie. Ouchie. Ouchie. Hottest sand, ever! Punalu’u, Hawaii.






Black sand feetWe could only brave this photo because our feet had just been in the ocean–hence the sand clinging to our toesies. Note: As the posted signs will tell you, it is illegal to remove the sand from the beach. But what if you have a mom at home who wants to see what said black sand looks like in real life and not just a photo of our sand-sullied feet? Answer: You carefully insert your sandy digits into your sandals and run like hell to your rental car!






Nature just popped her pretty head up everywhere.





Even when it couldn’t have been easy.







Fern and door 2I previously posted this photo on Instagram with the caption “Tenacity”. JB thought that was the hokiest thing he’d heard all day and volunteered the counter caption: “Don’t Tread On Me.” (Stair tread humor.) Yuk (and I do mean “yuck”) yuk.






Lily padsA proliferation of bloomin’ lily pads.







Marriott MauiLily pad central: the Koi pond at the Marriott, Maui.





But alas, while the honeymoon doesn’t have to end, the vacation did.




We had to head home.





Drive from Punalu'uRoad from the black sand beach at Punalu’u heading to Volcano National Park.




We said goodbye to our condo with it’s oil rubbed bronze this and dark wood that tropical decor.




Hali'i Kai Bedroom




Goodbye pretty verdigris gate…




Gate at Hali'i Kai




So long wandering without deadlines, hearing the roar of water…it was nice knowing you.




Hilto Hawaii WaterfallOne of my favorite shots JB took on the trip: the waterfall at the Hilton, Hawaii.




Or driving for hours to see a landscape that looked a lot like Mars (if Mars could support fern life).






Volcano National ParkJB calls this “Tenacity 6, 7, and 8.”




No more pretty flowers…




AnthuriumsAnthurium extravaganza at the Farmer’s Market in Kailua Kona.





But, you know what happens in life, one adventure ends and another begins. So, last week, our first official week home from our honeymoon, we decided we needed to add this guy to our lives.




Goodbye vacation. Hello puppy.





Mokie sleepingMeet Moke (“tough guy” in Hawaiian pidgin), but we call him Mokie.



Lilo (our Chiweenie) is less than thrilled. We are zombie-tired after back to back nights of puppy rumbling and ruckus (Mokie wakes up in the night to play with Lilo and Lilo would prefer to slumber–as would we!), stumbling outside–while it’s still dark out!–to make sure Mokie pees OUTSIDE, and speaking of pee, thank goodness these carpets are coming up soon because they, less than fantastically, have been doused in pee and other digestive waste.



So it’s back to realty. Albeit a new, puppy-love-filled, sleep-deprived one in which Lilo looks up at me imploringly with eyes that say, “Why did you do this?”



Welcome home, honeymooners.



Design Inspiration from La Jolla


My circumference is not that big. (No, I’m not talking about my waistline which, in preparation for fitting into a wedding dress in less than a month–yikes!–has been put on caloric restriction and is hopefully shrinking as we speak.) I mean, I tend to move in tiny circles.



Like a dog who’s chasing its tail….





MPLA doorDoor outside MPLA Associates in La Jolla, CA.



Like a professional hula hooper…




A hamster stuck on its wheel….





Kravet Monkey wallpaperMonkey wallpaper (and free Nespresso!) at Kravet Fabric in La Jolla, CA.




Or like a person who is comfortable in her own backyard (and by backyard, I mean a 20 mile radius, not my actual backyard).





Abstract painting two chairsAre you noticing modern art everywhere, too? I think the red glow of the single, dangling interrogation-style bulb just adds a little sumpthin-sumpthin, no?




For instance, I live in Santa Barbara which is only 1.5 hours from LA (times two if you hit rush hour traffic), yet I almost never go there.




I just circle and repeat.






Abstract art flowersAh modern art. Sometimes you work (see closeup agave leaf painting to the right) and sometimes you don’t (see–flowers?–scaling the wall to the left).





But not lately. Lately I have moved outside my maze and boy does it feel good. The other week I was lucky enough to attend the Las Vegas Design Market (for a refresher, please click here).  And I recently had the pleasure of traveling to La Jolla (5 hours away–woop woop!) with another designer to begin the interior design of a house we’re collaborating on.





Abstract flowers at MPLAWoo wee: more abstract flowers.






So, of course, I took pictures of everything interesting that we saw–so I could share it with you!




Side of flower sculptureWorkin’ the side angle.



The best thing, by far, was this store entrance that had the most whimsical and wacky wall treatment. (Note: somebody did this–so you could, too! It’s just grey paint with white loopy chalk circles drawn on top. I’d suggest sealing the swirls with a clear aerosol spray paint–unless you want them to rub off so you can adjust them from time to time.)




Chalkboard wallMPLA Design Associates, La Jolla, CA.




Here’s a closeup so you can see the design was kind of like a Calder mobile goes 2D. Note the actual mobile in the far right hand corner.





Chalkboard swirls





Kravet had this neat wallpaper in their entry.





Kravet Wallpaper




But MPLA had this terrazzo floor in their bathroom.





Terrazzo floorThis floor had me thinking this might be a neat alternative to tile for a residential bathroom.  No grout = kinda brilliant!






Bon Bon OttomanAnd we couldn’t leave before ordering one of these poufs for our clients. The poufs are 100% wool, they can roll across the floor and they’re named “Bon Bons”–we were defenseless.




How about you? Have you been discovering sometimes you have to go outside your own backyard to find the grass that’s greener?


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