I love LA. Isn’t there a somewhat satirical song to that effect? I was born in Los Angeles, studied at UCLA and worked in LA, and I do love LA – this city is part of me. I love the rich Hollywood history, the beautiful beaches and the temperate weather. And, of course, I am partial to the shopping and dining in this City of Angels.
For drinks and great food, a longtime hot spot is Trader Vic’s Lounge at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. With a decidedly Polynesian theme, Trader Vic’s is “Home of the Original Mai Tai” and a great place to relax and enjoy a drink. Part of the historic chain founded by Victor Bergeron in 1944, it is known for exotic cocktails and lively ambiance.
Another not-to-be-missed eatery is The Ivy Restaurant in West Hollywood. This popular spot is a longtime hub for Hollywood elite with its cozy French country-style interior, sunny patio and regional American classics.
The La Cienega district is, of course, also a favorite haunt of mine, especially since our firm was on Melrose Ave. for years. The district – located on La Cienega between Sunset Blvd. and Melrose – has attracted top interior designers for decades. In more recent years, the area has gained fame as a top destination for great products and design inspiration.
With its outdoorsy, walkable allure, this creatively influenced district is booming with dozens of design stores recently opened – the majority selling high-end furniture and accessories.
Especially appealing in this district is Melrose Place, a charming tree-lined street home to fabulous antiques stores and designer boutiques.
Another lively spot is the Melrose Design District in West Hollywood between Robertson and San Vicente boulevards. One of my preferred places to shop here is Formations, which for years has produced collections of historically inspired items such as lighting, furniture, planters and accessories. All items are beautifully handcrafted in Southern California.
I love David Jones Custom Florist – around the corner from Formations on Robertson Boulevard – recognized for its creative and original floral arrangements. This high-end studio has catered to clients from presidents to Hollywood stars to royalty.
And what’s a visit to LA without stopping by one of its storied hotels? My favorite property is the luxurious Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, a beautiful oasis in the heart of Beverly Hills. With a classic renaissance inspired motif, the hotel has the warmth and appeal of a private residence.
The Beverly Hills Hotel – with its distinctive pink stucco façade – is a vibrant slice of history on Sunset Blvd. Dating back to 1912, this venerable spot is home to the legendary Polo Lounge, a top power-dining venue for decades. A famed retreat for movies stars ranging from Marlene Dietrich to Marilyn Monroe, this iconic property oozes old Hollywood glamour, style and romance – and to me offers the quintessence of LA.
What do you love about LA? Please share your thoughts. I always love to read your comments below.
One of our most recent projects, Amaya La Jolla is housed in a former art gallery encompassing 10,000 square feet. We designed it to complement the distinctive European style of The Grand Del Mar, looking to decorative Italian palazzos for inspiration.
Palazzo style refers to an architectural style of the 19th and 20th centuries based upon the palazzi (palaces) built by wealthy families of the Italian Renaissance. The architects of these buildings at times, however, drew details from sources other than the Italian Renaissance, such as Italian Romanesque or the French Beaux Arts movement, Empire and Venetian styles. For example, the hand-carved arched lunettes above the outside windows exemplify the Beaux Arts movement, as do the decorative ironwork at the entry doors and the gates into the wine cellar. The hand-troweled plaster throughout replicates finishes found in Venice, as do the mosaic tiled floors in the front veranda.
The restaurant encompasses an airy, light-filled front veranda with an indoor/outdoor feel; an adjacent wine room and wine cellar; a main dining room; a private dining room; and a bar/lounge area featuring nightly entertainment.
Two of the most notably similar design elements found at both The Grand Del Mar and Amaya La Jolla are the abundant use of hand-carved stone and polished marble. The restaurant’s exterior features stone-carved arched pediments, and the interior entry vestibule features hand-carved stone columns. We worked with the same four-generation family of Italian artisans – used exclusively by Warren Sheets Design, Inc. – that we collaborated with for The Grand Del Mar.
Other design elements common to both entities include elaborate coffered ceilings, hand-painted frescoes, wrought iron doors, stenciled accents, custom iron and crystal chandeliers, mosaic stone flooring, hand-troweled Venetian plaster walls, hand-applied 18 karat gold leaf finishes from Germany, intricate hand-woven carpets and detailed millwork. Additional highlights include doors paneled with oil paintings of St. Mark’s Square in Venice and a hammered tin ceiling with hand applied bronze finishes in the wine room all constructed by personally selected top artisans with years of experience and stellar portfolios, as well as the very finest products and materials.
To further the restaurant’s warm, residential ambiance, we used an array of rich hues, including gold, ochre and aubergine, contrasted against rich cardamom rose and French plum colors – colors seen in vibrant and beautiful sunsets of the Umbria region of southern Italy.
Since Amaya La Jolla is located in a seaside village, we added coastal-inspired elements including oil paintings imported from Western Europe. The artwork has an airy, impressionistic feel and vibrant colors that tie into the restaurant’s beachfront locale.
If you’re in La Jolla, stop at Amaya La Jolla for a delicious meal or simply pause in front to enjoy its detailed exterior. And then let us know which dining area, piece of artwork or design detail is your favorite.
This month much of the country is returning from summer travels, which makes me realize while I love to travel, staying home can be just as much fun. With this in mind, I’d like to share some of my favorite spots to shop and dine in my home city, San Francisco.
Start the perfect San Francisco day with a walk down Hayes Street, beginning at Franklin, then heading west. Don’t miss the wonderful boutiques and shops in the area, including some intriguing home décor shops as well as great restaurants and coffee shops. Highlights include:
- PLANTATION – Distinctive home décor, including numerous accessories and tabletop accessories. 336 Hayes (415) 565-0888.
- THE PAINTERS PLACE – Finely crafted custom framing – offering both classic and modern designs. 371 Hayes Street (415) 431-9827.
- PROPELLER – A fabulous array of modern furnishings and hand built accessories for the home. 555 Hayes Street (415) 701-7767.
After touring the many shops on both sides of the street, unwind with an espresso, a special treat or brunch at:
- LA BOULANGE – Famed French-style bakery and café. 500 Hayes Street (415) 863-3376.
- STACKS – Fresh, simple and delicious American classics. 501 Hayes Street (415) 241-9011.
- MIETTE – Fine cookies and other sweet confections. 449 Octavia Street (415) 626-6221.
Another favorite place of mine to stroll and shop is a small shopping district San Franciscans refer to as “Sacramento Street.” Located at the base of Pacific Heights, this area is a bit more upscale than Hayes Street. Here you’ll find:
- SUE FISHER KING – A sumptuous store filled with rich textures and colors as well as the very finest in home furnishings. 3067 Sacramento Street (415) 922-7276.
- ANTHEM – One of a kind antiques, as well as eye-catching furniture, lighting solutions and tabletop accessories. 3274 San Francisco Street (415) 440-6500.
- POETICA ART & ANTIQUES – Rare antiques, accessories and vintage furniture. 3461 Sacramento Street (415) 637-5837.
- THE DESK SET – A full-service fine stationery and custom invitation boutique. 3252 Sacramento Street (415) 921-9575
- HENRY BENGUELIN – Handcrafted fine leather. 3091 Sacramento Street (415) 292-7559.
For a late lunch or dinner, I recommend GARIBALDIS – the quintessential neighborhood spot. 347 Presidio Avenue (415) 563-8841.
No matter what part of the city you frequent – from the upscale stores at Union Square or San Francisco Street to the thrift stores in the Mission District – San Francisco is a shopper’s paradise.
Each neighborhood has its own unique flavor – and treasures – so the next time you are in the city, do some serious exploring. And please stop by our design studio at 155 Connecticut Street and pay us a visit. We’re quite sure it will become one of your San Francisco favorites.
Kootenai Estates, a breathtaking summer getaway in the heart of the Flathead Valley in Montana, welcomed such venerable guests as Will Rogers, John D. Rockefeller, Jane Wyatt and Charles Lindbergh during its heyday as a turn-of-the-century retreat for wealthy mining barons.
We have been closely involved in restoring this idyllic Bigfork, Montana, community, and a standout of our work here has been the transformation of the legendary Lindbergh Cabin, rumored to have housed the famous aviator when he visited the grounds in the 1920s.
In addition to the renovation of the historic 1906 Kootenai Lodge we described in our last blog, we helped refurbish and expand three original log cabins and built three new homes from the ground up. We are especially proud of our work on the expansive 6,500-square-foot Lindbergh Cabin, now a meticulously restored waterfront home.
This cabin was originally built in the 1880s and in definite need of some modernization when we embarked on rebuilding it in 2007. We restored the original residence and expanded it to include two new two-story wings. All the original hand-hewn logs were restored to their original beauty. To maximize the stunning lake views, we enlarged all the windows and doors. The original maple flooring was carefully refinished, and a massive exterior fireplace – comprised of indigenous chief cliff rock – was dismantled and relocated to adorn an accent wall and three interior fireplaces. The residence today includes a gourmet kitchen and breakfast room, formal dining room, elegant great room, walk-in bar, office, outdoor dining deck, a master suite with a private patio and a full ensuite bathroom for each of its five bedrooms.
Fully furnished with custom finishes, this one-of-a-kind residence now features a lovely entry courtyard and fountain, as well as a full-view lakeside terrace with a commanding vista of both Swan Lake and Swan River stretching all the way to Crane Mountain. The home is accented with beamed vaulted ceilings, rustic timbers and rugged stone throughout. The other homes at Kootenai Estates are similar in style, with traditional log architectural accents that pay homage to the Old Montana West.
The project is still a work in progress and marks the dramatic transformation of “The Kootenai Camp,” a former destination for Anaconda Copper executives and their families into a collection of custom, multi-million dollar homes.
When complete, all the homes – both old and new – will masterfully echo the traditional Adirondack Camp style architecture of this original turn-of-the-century retreat.
Summertime brings to mind one of our most intriguing projects: Kootenai Estates in Bigfork, Montana. Situated on 42 pristine acres on the majestic Swan Lake, this is an idyllic summer getaway in the heart of the Flathead Valley surrounded by a national forest.
This project, now underway, marks the transformation of a once turn-of-the-century retreat for wealthy mining barons into a collection of custom, multi-million dollar homes, and currently consists of the renovated historic lodge, three restored and expanded log cabins, three new homes and an expansive swimming pool and Jacuzzi area, complete with a pool house and open decks. When complete, the property will encompass 42 custom luxury homes (25 of which will be located on Swan Lake, Swan River or Johnson Creek), a fitness center, a small museum and more. Ten of the homes will be masterfully refurbished and enlarged original log cabins; 32 will be brand new.
The story of Kootenai began in 1906 when a pair of Anaconda Copper Company executives – Lewis Orvis Evans and Cornelius “Con” Kelley – acquired 2,700 acres of wilderness in northwestern Montana. Between 1914 and 1928, they created a sprawling vacation resort for friends and family, business associates and company executives.
We embarked upon this project in 2005 with the initial task of restoring the main lodge, built by the Anaconda Copper Company as a hunting lodge. Originally designed by architectural pioneer Kirtland Cutter in the iconic Adirondack camp style of the early 20th century, the storied 14,000-square-foot log lodge had welcomed such venerable guests as Will Rogers, John D. Rockefeller and Charles Lindbergh over the years. Famous Western artist Charles Russell etched playful images into the concrete of the lodge’s ample courtyard.
When we undertook the lodge restoration, each original log had to be restored and stained. The charming original waved glass windows were removed, then carefully repaired and painted. Since some of the building’s original river rock foundation was deteriorating, it had to be carefully rebuilt on the same footprint, using Cutter’s original blueprints to ensure accuracy. In addition, we reconstructed the main staircase, repurposed the original rock maple flooring, refinished the massive central fireplace and installed all new lighting fixtures. The lodge is a gathering spot for residents, and also used for special events and parties, so the interiors had to be comfortable yet appealing. With this in mind, we carefully furnished the lodge with custom window treatment, area rugs, plush furnishings and fine accessories – all carefully selected to reflect the era and style of the lodge.
Now an anchor of the Kootenai Estates community, the lodge is U-shaped and wrapped by refurbished 10-foot deep covered porches with sweeping lakefront views. The interior of the sprawling main hall is characterized by exposed cedar and timbers, soaring 30-foot-ceilings, a restored original billiards table and a grand piano. An adjoining media room – equipped with a 60-inch flat screen television – transports guests to a more modern day era. In the adjacent lounge, a gorgeous bar features glistening copper counter tops.
Our overall approach was to gently blend the past with the present, remaining sensitive to the building’s history, while updating it with the comforts of today.
The lodge has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and offers a beautiful example of turn-of-the-last century rustic log architecture.
Summer has arrived which is a great excuse to freshen up the décor.
With colorful palettes and natural materials, summer interiors evoke a more casual, inviting feel. Warm summer nights and longer sunny days make entertaining more appealing as well.
For these and many other reasons, we recommend a few simple summer decorating ideas:
- Add brighter colors to your color scheme, such as lemon yellow, apple green or tangerine orange. Softer pastels work as well. Instead of repainting all the walls, try some accents such as painting your ceiling a bright color.
- Have two sets of decorative pillows – one for summer; one for winter. Summer pillows should be fresh and fun, with light florals and other patterns.
- Stow away heavy, dark tablecloths. Add a bright table runner for either your coffee or dining room table.
- Reframe personal photos in painted white frames with bright, colorful mats.
- Use slipcovers or decorative throws to bring out more pops of color and brightness.
- Flowers, plants and fresh fruit bring the outdoors in and make your home smell good – and look beautiful. Fill a simple glass bowl with apples or lemons or place fresh flowers in a sparkling vase every few days.
- Create a summer-inspired centerpiece by filling a tray with white sand and seashells.
- For a natural ambiance, try eco-friendly materials like bamboo, hemp and jute area rugs.
- Replace heavy drapes with sheers or bamboo shades for an open, airy look.
- Clean your fireplace well and then place a plant or floral display inside for a decorative touch.
- Cover your existing comforter with a fresh new duvet. Or better yet, store your comforter and use a colorful cotton coverlet instead.
- Rearrange your furniture. It’s surprising just how spacious a room looks after doing so.
- Purchase new and colorful area rugs, which can alter the look of your room by setting the tone and color palette.
- Change out simple things like place mats, candles and other accessories.
- Less is best. Regardless of the season, it’s always nice to come home to a clean, clutter free house.
Most importantly, get outside and experience the playfulness of summer.
As always, feel free to email me or post to our Facebook page with questions, comments and pictures of your design updates.