Design + Decor

Beautiful Outdoor Spaces

Happy July 4th! It's truly the season of outdoor living, barbecues and entertaining and we've been working to spruce up our backyard to make it more inviting and a place we actually want to hang out in!

We've lived in our current home for 18 years, and over time, our backyard has been through a few refurbishments. None of them big until this past fall, when we decided a major overhaul was necessary. My husband & I have gone back and forth on what our goals for the space were, and we had some major differences to work out. He wanted a lawn, while I wanted to go drought tolerant and low maintenance.

Considering the size of most Southern California yards, ours is large by most standards. We live on a street that curves uphill at the side of our property, so we have one of the largest lots in our neighborhood, just under 10,000 square feet, which affords us a nice sized backyard and a bit of side yard. The previous owner had put in a large cement patio which would be a fortune to rip out, so we've had to work with it. 

I'm in love with the idea of "garden rooms", where there are different areas and spaces for entertaining or chasing the shade on a lazy day. Since I've been dreaming of a beautiful backyard space for years, I set up a Pinterest board long ago that has since come in very handy. A few of my favorites that I used to draw inspiration from are below.

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I love the idea of a Pergola, and this space designed by Chip & Joanna Gaines is beautifully laid out with separate conversation areas as well as dining.

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This is so simple & organic, and I love the natural elements. It isn't clear how much sun this space would get, but in the evening it would be a lovely place to entertain, especially with the string of lights and a few well placed lanterns.

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I would have never thought to tile a patio, but holy cow this is gorgeous! Emily Henderson is a design hero of mine and she knocked it out of the park on this one. Seriously, click through on the image above to see the entire reveal, as well as the before photos, it's truly breathtaking. Through her use of color, texture, and layers she has truly created a beautiful and welcoming space that begs to be used for cocktail parties and entertaining every. single. day. (I would!)

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I'm super into this natural and boho design, and love that they didn't need a lawn to create a beautiful outdoor area. Gorgeousness aside, and as simple as it looks, those leather chairs and cloth poufs would need to be brought inside every night, especially here on the coast where the fog rolls in almost nightly.

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This is probably one of my favorite backyard redesigns. I like that they did the majority of the work themselves (we're huge DIYers) and worked with what they had in terms of size, climate and grass area. I love the pergola (which isn't in the cards for us) and the cute separate conversation areas. I probably got the most inspiration from this, adapting our space to fit our needs and budget. 

Today we will have a simple barbecue with a few people and I'm looking forward to using our new space fully. I'll try to snap some photos when everything is set and share a little before and after so you can see the progression. Enjoy your holiday and stay safe!

Crushing on the Black Farmhouse

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I think I first encountered a black-sided home last year while we road tripped through New Zealand. We were there in March, which is their autumn, so the leaves were beginning to change and some of the grasses in the fields had gone brown. In that early dormant state, you’d think the landscape would be barren and cold. But no, it was organic and beautiful. And every once in a while, we’d be driving (and we’d be the only car on the road for miles) and we’d drive through a tiny little town. In fact, the only way you’d know it was town would be the lone post office or feed store that would be on the highway. Other than that, nothing! It was surreal and quaint and felt like such a throwback. We loved it.

Driving through those small towns on the South Island, we passed many farmhouses – some old, some new, some restored. But never had I seen so many painted black with steel roofs. They looked so utilitarian, yet so modern and contemporary.

We are now in our mid-50’s, and retirement is so close we can taste it. What’s been happening is that every little trip we go on, we begin to imagine what it would be like to retire to that place. Certainly, New Zealand gave us that fantasy, but it’s so far away, it really is unrealistic. This past weekend we were in Paso Robles, and I was thrilled when Scott mentioned that he would consider that region for our next chapter (add it to Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Palm Springs, San Diego & Amsterdam).

Of course, my mind started immediately wandering, and I started fantasizing about building a dream farmhouse, on a small plot of 10 acres with an established vineyard (ha!). I think a black farmhouse would be the perfect structure to stand out on the rolling hills and majestic fields of Central California. A girl can dream

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Architectural Tour: Schindler House Los Angeles

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I love going into the city when time permits, not just for the urban adventure that it is, but there’s such an amazing concentration of cultural icons around almost every corner. Being a design junkie, I especially love stumbling upon something special.

This happened recently when my husband & I were in the city visiting my son & his friend in West Hollywood. We were walking to brunch, down Kings Road just north of Melrose Boulevard, when I saw a tiny little sign for Schindler House. I was not hugely familiar with R.M. Schindler, but I did know the name as a pioneer in the modernism era. After brunch, on our way back, we stopped in and toured this historic house.

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What  struck me first was that you would never know a historic home is located on this quiet and beautiful tree-lined street in bustling West Hollywood. The street is mainly apartment houses and condominiums, and Schindler House is set back from the street behind a fully mature bamboo hedge. There is just a small sign proclaiming its’ existence.

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Schindler House Los Angeles, or the Kings Road House, as it is commonly known, was built in 1922 and was actually considered to be one of Schindler’s most important works. It is considered by many to be the first house built in the modern style, and was experimentally built for communal living, housing another couple besides the Schindlers.

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The lot was divided into seven sections; four of them were assigned to each of the four inhabitants of the home to express their own individuality and there was a shared kitchen and outdoor sleeping areas (on the rooftop deck!). The structure draws upon European modern architecture (Schindler was Austrian) and, like many European buildings of that time, incorporated concrete, glass and wood in the construction of the home. This had become a popular trend in Europe thanks to Mies van der Rohe’s work in experimental concrete buildings in the 1920’s.

The only reason I remotely know this is because this house reminded me of my husbands late uncle, architect William Alexander, who designed and built the Hangover House for Richard Halliburton in 1938.

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The residence was used for political, social and cultural events during the time they lived there, and was also used as housing for visiting artists, architects and writers (Frank Lloyd Wright and his son, Lloyd Wright, were frequent visitors). I can only imagine how astounding the guest list must have been during those days. The Schindlers eventually divorced, but the house continued to be a meeting place for left-wing political radicals in Los Angeles.

Today, the house is maintained and funded by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture Los Angeles at Schindler House. There are year-round events and exhibitions and programs geared toward the creative arts. When we were there, we were lucky to be treated to small Eames exhibit.

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Schindler House is located at 835 North Kings Road, West Hollywood, CA 90069. It is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm, and admission is $7.00.

It’s well worth the visit.

Top photo via The MAK Center for Art and Architecture L.A. All other photos my own.

Crushing on Frank Gehry

I was listening to NPR this morning at the gym, and there was a fantastic interview with Frank Gehry that really moved me. I am a total design junkie, and have been enamored with Mr. Gehry since the early 1990’s when he designed the Chiat/Day offices in Venice, California. The facade was shaped like a pair of binoculars, the center of which served as the entrance to the parking garage. At the time, I was working a couple of blocks away in Santa Monica, and would drive by everyday on my way to and from my office.

At the time, my obsession with design was new, and this eclecticism seemed so risky and different. I love it when people, designers and developers step outside the box. Since then, Gehry has gone on to design Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Louis Vuitton Foundation outside of Paris, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. At 86, he is still pushing the envelop – check out the Dancing House in Prague!

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All the (well-deserved) attention is culminating the release of Paul Goldberger’s biography of Gehry, coming out on September 15, 2015. Golderberger, a friend of Gehry’s for over 40 years, chronicles the life of Gehry (born Frank Goldberg!) and shows the full spectrum of his work and how he single-handily changed the architectural world with his ingenious use of materials and form. This is one volume I can make room for in my bookshelf, and have already pre-ordered the book.

If you would like to listen to the story, I’ve embedded it below. I hope you do. Frank Gehry is such a pioneer.

book jacket image via NPR.