Design Inspirer // Patrick Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty is an American sculptor whose medium is saplings! My obsession with his work began back in 2007, when he did an installation on the facade of the former Max Azria store on Melrose, titled “Just for Looks”.

 Daugherty’s installation made me imagine a landscape of neatly rolled-up hay bales, let loose by a crazy windstorm! And like a lot of people, I looked at the swirling movement he gave the saplings and thought of the clouds in Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

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Although this gorgeous sheathing of willow branches is no longer there, in my memory this remains the most fantastic storefront of all time. Thankfully, Daugherty is always hard at work, installing huge, elaborate sculptures made out of sticks all over the world.


Call of the Wild at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, 2002-2003

Each work takes about three weeks to install, and involves a whole team of local volunteers, who all seem to have an incredible experience working quietly alongside the artist.

Running In Circles at the TICKON Sculpture Park in Denmark, 1996-1998

One of the things I love about Patrick Dougherty’s story is that although he had a life-long love of nature and building things, it wasn’t until he was a grad student in his late thirties that he started sculpting out of saplings. In the thirty or so years since, he has completed over 200 installations. How is that for inspiration?

Paradise Gate at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, 2001

  The installations are sturdy, but being organic, they might change with the seasons and are ultimately ephemeral.

Holy Rope  at the Rinjyo-in Temple in Chiba,  Japan, 1992-1994

Fascinating, right? If you would like to know more about Patrick Dougherty and his work, visit his web-sitebuy his monograph, Stickwork, and read this wonderful 2010 profile of him from the New York Times.  Bending Sticks is a recent feature-length documentary about the artist that I can’t wait to see for more inspiration.

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Show Me 3 // Brass Drum Tables

For Living Rooms, Family Rooms and Bedrooms, I am always on the lookout for small tables to fill out my furniture arrangements. Sometimes I even use a grouping as a coffee table. A sculptural drum table shape is timeless, and brass makes it of-the-moment. There is a friendly price-point here for everyone.

HIGH // Drum Side Table // Design Within Reach // $2,200

MID // Trauma Side Table // Anthroplogy // $400

LOW // Gold Cala Hammered Drum Accent Table // World Market // $150

Join me on Pinterest for more things I’m thinking about using sometime.

Take Me Away // Norton Simon Museum

 The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena is an overlooked L.A. treasure.  It is large enough to have some really varied and impressive collections, and small enough to be a low-key outing. Admittedly, the architecture is a bit on the Brutal side for my taste.


But there is magic within these walls!

2011-07-26-basel_muralAbove: Basel Mural I, 1956-58 by Sam Francis

I always feel inspired by a wander through the Modern and Contemporary Art gallery, ending in a stroll through the peaceful sculpture garden, designed by Nancy Goslee Powers .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis Maillol lady, La Montagne, is an old friend.


I love to get a little lost in a piece of art, so my favorite spot is a bench in front of this huge painting called Autumn: The Chestnut Gatherers by Georges Lacombe. The scale of the piece and its depth of color make me feel like I’m watching a play. It is mesmerizing.

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Photos: and

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!

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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

Design Detail // Spiral Staircases

A staircase is almost always an opportunity to do something special in a design. These spiral staircases are beautiful examples of how space-saving function can meet exquisitely sculptural form. Each is a work of art that could be the highlight of an interior.

This one looks like a cerused wood wave.

88d2296d19eae1e2e408fa51e365549fMost spiral staircases look like they would kind of sweep you along. The one below looks like it would throw you from side to side! I can’t really see a building inspector signing off on the high, open part of the stairway that the guy in the picture is about to descend, but I am inspired by this as a concept anyway. I like the way that the warmth of the polished wood softens all the sharp angles.
d925064ab7ae0956c0372856f09dcffbThe pristine white banister of the staircase below reminds me of wedding cake fondant, and I love its contrast with the natural wood stairs.

6cb702dac958bfa3caba61e7860f4913Yet another unusual material: this looks like metal that has been given an acid treatment to give it the look of a time-worn patina.457b3e236b424b7122942b28fcce4f12As you might guess from my Pinterest board on the topic, I have a thing about staircases!


Photos: 1, 2, 34

Design Inspirers // Jonathan Partridge

A friend of mine who keeps up with the Australian art scene recently introduced me to the work of Tasmanian artist Jonathan Partridge.


His beautiful multi-plate etchings would be right at home in a Minimalist Contemporary interior, and I can really imagine them giving life to such a space.


I would also love to see one of his landscapes bring an unexpected edge to an antique-filled Traditional interior.

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It is so hard to narrow down my favorites! Look for more of Jonathan Partridge’s work that caught my eye on my Pinterest. And read about Jonathan Partridge here.

Show Me 3 // Woven Lounge Chairs

I am in love with this kind of occasional chair. It is light-weight and a bit organic, with woven details and a Mid-Century Scandinavian vibe. Here is the chair at 3 price points.

HIGH // Easy Chair // DWR // $3500Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.05.34 AM

MID // Knoll Risom Lounge Chair // AllModern // $1015


LOW // Moda Chair // Urban Outfitters // $559

The graceful lines and eye-catching texture of these pieces make them perfect on their own, but I’d definitely want to try a lumbar pillow with each, to lend it more comfort and warmth. I would use one chair to fill out a corner of a Bedroom or Office, or a pair to balance a tailored but comfy sofa in a Living Room seating arrangement.