Design Details

Design Details // Spiral Staircase // Part 2

A few months ago, I posted about some spiral staircases that made me giddy. Here are some more inspirations, each one as clever somehow as it is beautiful in its design details.

This one is called the Vertebrae Staircase!dba1e8160f5d865aea1e77d0051c270aThe combination of beautifully grained wood and pristine white plaster (below) gets me every time. This space is the epitome of Warm Minimalism to me, and the way the whole staircase just hovers there there above the floor but doesn’t touch it is unforgettable.

The above also reminds me of the Holy Rope installation by my favorite landscape weaver, Patrick Dougherty! The staircase in the 2 images below also remind me of vertebraeSo beautiful!8c55e168fd0fcb41fed76c9963e0f4f0 8cca9cd88354cc1ac02f77d71d056cf3Only the one on the left is an actual spiral, but either of the staircases below (with their built-in slides!), could be a dream to appeal to kids and grown-ups alike.

Endless fun….

IMAGES // 1, 2, 3, (4 unknown)

Recently Completed // Apartment Laundry Room Remodel

This is my final post about The Virg, a 12-unit apartment building in Hollywood that I remodeled with 3SC Capital Partners. In previous posts, I have talked about what we did with the building’s Exterior, a typical Living Room, typical Kitchen, and typical Bedroom and Bathroom. The last piece was the Laundry Room, shared by all the apartment-dwellers. Our design directive was to make it feel fresh and inviting -on a tight budget! I knew immediately that we could do something fun with the stair risers to make the space memorable.1

This is what the laundry room looked like after it had been cleaned up and painted white to look respectable, as soon as the developers purchased the property. (I think the guy in the picture below is an inspector!)



On the plus side, this was an apartment laundry room that was NOT in a scary basement! The space, though cramped, offered an abundance of natural light. My clients were ready to upgrade the laundry experience for their tenants by relocating the hot water tank elsewhere, adding a second set of washer and dryers, and putting in a little counter-space. They also needed some locked storage for cleaning supplies for this area. Here is what we did:2We painted all the railings and security “caging” the same light blue we used on the building’s exterior. (Far less prison-like than black!)  We laid new light grey linoleum on the floor. We located the washers side by side, and stacked the dryers opposite. And we added a small counter for folding clothes, with cupboards above and below.

3We gave the tenants some abstract art in soothing hues to set the tone. (Picked up this canvas for $35 at Target!. I styled it with some cute canvas laundry baskets from Target as well.)4Ilse and Anna, talented girls on my team, executed the bold “Laundry” sign and running stripe by hand, in a font and colors that were cohesive with the exterior of The Virg. The stripe gives the space energy, and connects the stairway and narrow mezzanine walkway to the actual laundry area for a more spacious overall feeling.
laundry-stairrailing I came up with the “laundry directions” to paint on the stair risers – wisdom gleaned from many years of doing apartment building laundry! Those dank, creepy laundry rooms were a far cry from this freshness.stair-overall

So fun to revisit this part of the project! Thanks, Anna and Ilse.IMG_0871“After” Photos by Caroline Froberg. Thanks, Caroline!

Design Details // Feature Stair Risers – Outdoor Edition

I always look at a set of stairs as an exciting design possibility. There are amazing things you can do with a stairway, from the baluster and handrail, to the wallpaper or paint or art on the surrounding walls. I really like it when stair treads and risers are articulated. Just highlighting the risers is one of the easiest ways to make a staircase a focal point. These are some of my favorite concept images from outdoor design and street art.

The gradient of blues on this staircase hits me in all the right places. Playful, yet calming. fa3a348135e8995072617162594aa8afThese next two are street art at its best- the kind that invites the viewer to be part of it.  Who wants to play Tetris?1b6b161dcb82aaf38c84aed77f9ac14cOr would you rather play a piano? Seriously delightful!56db6c6b26cd708b98887979a2e1d8d4Love the color and pattern of these Spanish tiles.(The architecture has to be right for this to work though – Spanish tile is often misused, and CAN look tacky on the wrong building!!)14d9b909eff66dd743fac6d478ce51d9

I M A G E S // 1, 2, 3, 4

I could go on and on about stairs – they are a favorite architectural feature of mine, as you can see from my Pinterest board on the topic.

Design Details // Unusual Balconies

“Thinking outside the box” is an idea that the architects of these buildings have taken to heart. Each is an example of how an unusual balcony can be just the design detail to really distinguish an otherwise standard structure. Unexpected shapes and volumes, contrasting materials, and playful uses of color make these balconies show-stoppers! 0d09f89969f0495e44f82fb1fb147dda 41b60868f73b45f38e462f458de74a67-1

34cd1841981033a5bc2833a4ab69cdb2 7862b6c7ed0c32023ede2838e2fcf361A quick Google search on this concept picture I pinned in 2012 makes me wonder if construction was ever completed on this luxury apartment building in Mumbai. It gives me vertigo just to think about it, but it COULD be the coolest balcony ever!


I M A G E S // 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Take Me Away // Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire

I hardly know where to start with Matisse. His colorful paintings captured my heart at a young age, and my affection for his work has never diminished. One place I absolutely want to visit one day is this chapel he designed in Vence, in the South of France. It was  completed in 1951, after Matisse spent four years working on every aspect of the design. He called the result his masterpiece. Who am I to argue? Take Me To Church!

bffdb4155f69a9e061322361a49684b0 Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 12.04.40 PM
e2f6fda2ea9866af148a3235b8242f1d 79f86481098fc9520a8ff1b4d2b48dae 377480c0c040bbc1e545b1863bc0214aI love this intricately carved confessional door! A concept for some special door or screen I may design one day.
416f1c1bfed005b92be9e74557e9736f 65cae743134a65821ac8393592e0dab7 Matisse even designed the vestments for the priests! How rad are these?80ad40bed8b1597214e91d9d3dcec1b0


Images // 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Design Details // Vertical Gardens

On a list of a few of my favorite things, let’s just put vertical gardens right up there. If you’re a city mouse who loves nature (that’s probably most humans) what could be better than swathing the side of a big urban building with lush plant-life?1

I am enthralled by the texture, color, pattern and movement of these living walls.2 3

Those walls look like awesome feats of landscape engineering.

The following vertical gardens look more like installations I can wrap my head around. They make my design wheels start turning as I imagine the possibilities for a commercial space, or even a residential project. I would love to collaborate with a landscape architect with these concept images in mind.
4 5And I definitely wouldn’t mind a small installation of succulents like this on my garden wall. A possible DIY project for the future!


Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Design Details // Herringbone & Chevron Floors

I have a client with a house that is a sensitively expanded California Traditional, with an airy-yet-cozy Pottery Barn-type of feeling. I recently finished up the design of a crisp white master bathroom for it, and hope to share it here later this year. For the floors, my client was interested in ceramic tile with the look of wood. I never want my white interiors to look too clinical, so I liked the idea for the warmth it would bring to the space.  I suggested a herringbone layout, to give the room a bit of an old-world feeling that would make it feel cohesive with the rest of the house. These are some of my favorite concept images.

1I like the way a herringbone pattern can give movement and energy to an otherwise very static interior.


Here is the difference between a chevron pattern and a herringbone.

5I love a chevron floor too! I know chevrons have had a long moment in the last few years and people have moved on, but to me, a chevron is quintessentially Art Deco, and therefore timelessly chic. These floors, for example, will never feel out of style to me.



Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Take Me Away // Watson’s Bay Beach Hotel

This time of year, I get a little homesick for Australia.  I miss Christmas dinners that look like this.

a9ffb676c1dabf5b01d7693ba981ecbcAnd the sight of a man awkwardly wearing a Santa suit on the beach makes me nostalgic.


I found these images on the blog of the Watson’s Bay Hotel in Sydney, after this gorgeous design by Jeremy Bull caught my eye on Pinterest.


I love the minty shade of the bar, so fresh! Looking at this picture, I can practically smell the sea air and taste a fruity cocktail.

Meanwhile, the indoor dining spaces at the Watson’s Bay Hotel make me think of a contemporary Swedish country house. I can’t resist the combination of white with wood tones, and the overall airiness of the design .


Everything appears so simple, but if you look at the details like the ceilings and the wood panels, you can see that this is a really thoughtful design.

Watson's Bay hotelI haven’t been to this hotel yet, but no trip to Sydney would be complete for me without time at the beach in Watson’s Bay. Now I know where I will be drinking afterwards.


Photos via Watson Bay Hotel Blog and

Design Details // Colorful Balconies

I have been working on the complete renovation of an apartment building in Hollywood this year (pictures and details on that coming soon!), and we made a big change to the exterior by simply using color to highlight parts of the existing architecture. On my mood-board for the project were these images: A couple of very minimalist, almost institutional-looking buildings, brought to life with color. I love the way it completely breaks up the repetition of the balconies in each one. The effect is playful and commands attention.

In this building, the walls and doors of the balcony spaces have been painted in the pastel colors of candy-coated Easter eggs. Or maybe it’s a box of fresh chalk…
68a003c5f06f16bb8b9fbd03b551dbbeIn the one below of the Hard Rock Hotel in Pattaya, Thailand, each balcony is bathed in colorful light.


These buildings remind me of the work of artists like Mondrian and Ellsworth Kelly and Sol LeWitt. The combination of austere line and exuberant color is very dear to my heart!

Photos: 1, 2,

Past Work // Family Room Reno

About two years ago, we bought a ranch-house in the Valley – a 1930s cottage with a 1970’s face-lift and addition. I immediately thought the sunken Family Room was fantastic because it was light-filled, connected to the yard through huge slider doors, and had a working fireplace. The hardwood floors were in great shape, and I loved the exposed beams.The problem was that the room felt like a giant sauna, with golden-brown knotty wood covering every surface!  Here is how I approached the transformation in the planning phase of the renovation.

MantelBeforePaintLR 13a New

I had originally planned to do a really smooth paint finish over the brick fireplace surround and hearth, but once the other clean details were put in place and the “country” feeling was gone, I came to appreciate the interesting color variations and subtle rawness of the antique brick. My change of heart was a convenient one – painting brick is tricky because of the pointing (“grout” in between the bricks). Adhesion is a challenge, and I happen to find a craggly paint finish very undesirable.

The most dramatic change in the room came with how we dealt with the walls and ceiling. Naturally, we looked at just lightening up the wood paneling with white paint. But the problem with painting knotty wood is that often, in a matter of months or years, the knots insist on showing up as unwelcome yellow blotches through the paint.

The next obvious option was to demo the panels. But the drywall underneath would probably have been a mess, and we knew it was likely that we were going to have to take the walls down to the studs and start over anyway.

detail bOur solution was to put the drywall OVER the existing panels on walls and ceiling. The wood was a good base for the drywall, and we avoided a lot of demolition time and expense and mess by doing it this way.The new drywall overlaps the structural beams a little, but it looks good. I was NOT about to cover up the best parts of the architecture, just because I couldn’t get the transition perfectly right. These beams are gorgeous, and it’s not common for people to build houses with materials like this anymore. So the beams were left revealed, and we had really good drywall guys who made the finish at the exposed edges look smooth – in a raw kind of way!

detail now

Notice the structural pillar between the pony wall and header beam in the foreground of the picture? The curved details of it made it too “country” for my more pared-down aesthetic, so we had it boxed in with plywood, and painted the same color as the cabinets and window trim. And we left the wood caps on the open ends of the walls as a throwback detail!

58 before IMG_7329

I love the clean look we got from going with drywall and paint – especially in the way that the exposed wood beams, which kind of disappeared before, became a wonderfully graphic feature in contrast.


Sauna no more! We really love spending time in this room. I am looking forward to getting into some other details about it (and showing you some updated pictures) in future posts about lighting, window coverings, furniture arrangements and styling.

Photos: “After” photos courtesy of Robert D. Gentry