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  • Lighting for a More Livable City

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    Vancouver Skyline at Night

    Exactly what makes a city "livable" and what can you do to help your own?

    Annual surveys, such as those conducted by The Economist, Mercer and Monocle, look at a range of criteria from infrastructure to environment, culture to climate, to determine the most liveable cities in the world. Each year, the perennial front-runners - cities like Melbourne, Helsinki, Honolulu, and Vancouver (pictured above) eagerly await the results, while other vibrant yet perennially congested places such as Los Angeles and Houston seek ways to slice, dice and spin their lower livabilty metrics.

    Obviously, building a new subway system or converting 400 acres of prime downtown real estate into public parkland is out of the question for most of us, but there is one low-cost, high-impact area in which anyone can enhance their surroundings: lighting.

    A 2009 design guide by the City of Los Angeles' Urban Design Studio recommends that new and old urban developments "develop a system or family of lighting with layers that contribute to the night-time experience, including facade uplighting, sign and display window illumination, landscape, and streetscape lighting...of a character and scale that relates to the pedestrian and highlights special landscape features."

    Urban lighting design

    Any photographer will tell you that a beautiful picture begins with good light and clearly the same is true for cities. Done well, modern outdoor lighting can enhance a business or residence by adding depth and vitality to your surroundings.

    Modern outdoor light

    Matte Silver Outdoor LED Up and Down Wall Light

    Classically inspired lighting fixtures can restore a sense of provenance to historic properties, exposing long-forgotten architectural details, and even evoking the contemporary interiors within.

    Biscuit Lofts, downtown Los Angeles

    Outdoor lighting and Mission Style Outdoor Light

    Mission Hills Textured Black Outdoor Wall Light

    Enhancing sidewalk appeal is one thing. However, by increasing pedestrian visibility and reducing crime, well-executed outdoor lighting is critical for the positive effect it has on the most important livability index of them all: safety.

    Images: National Geographic, Design Intelligence, House Design Decorating, LA Condo Domain

  • Design Icon: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

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    S. R. Crown Hall, 1956

    This week we celebrate the birthday of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, "father of modern architecture." In observance of his brilliance, let's take a look at his most notable accomplishments.

    Crown Hall (above), located in Chicago, was completed in 1956 during Mies's tenure as director of Illionois Institute of Technology's Department of Architecture. This design features industrial simplicity with exposed steel frame construction.

    Famous modern architecture

    Farnsworth House is a one-room weekend retreat built in Plano, Illinois. It is brilliantly designed to be one with the landscape. The glass panels and white painted steel construction are so simple and elegant, it's the perfect design aesthetic for a weekend home.

    Famous modern architecture

    The Barcelona Pavilion was completed in 1929 for the International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain. Seamlessly merging structure with water, Mies selected marble, red onyx and travertine to create this stunning structure. Such extravagant materials contrasts this beautifully simple structure.

    In addition to Mies's profound accomplishments in architecture, he also designed modern furniture and his furniture is just as well known. For example, the Barcelona chair and ottoman (below). This noteworthy pair, inspired by ancient campaign and folding chairs, is made of steel with a chrome finish and leather upholstery. Like the Barcelona Pavilion, it was also designed for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain. Mies designed much more sleek furniture which has been inspiring furniture design ever since, such as stylish ergonomic office chairs.

    Modern lounge chair and ottoman

    Tuesday would have been Mies's 126th birthday.

    Images: Wikipedia, Paul J. White

  • Acrylic Elements in Interior Design

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    Hotel Lobby Glass Roof Hardwood Floors

    My love for acrylic in interior design started with a stay at the Hudson Hotel in New York a few years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. I think acrylic is the perfect contrast against natural materials. It adds life and light without being too heavy or dominating. It's a perfect element of the unexpected whether it be clear or colored. It mixes perfectly with modern interiors and contrasts beautifully with traditional. Here are some amazing interiors to prove it!

    Concrete Porcelain Tile Floors Wood Table with Acrylic Chairs

    The clear acrylic chairs work well with the natural elements of this kitchen and breakfast room. By being visually unobtrusive they make the space feel larger and the modern lighting make a statement.

    Slab wood dining table acrylic chairs slat wood on fireplace with red laquer surroung

    The fireplace is the main focus of this space and the acrylic chairs do a great job of complimenting that. I love how the fireplace can be seen through the chair at the end of the table. Mixing transparent orange chairs and clear chairs is also a nice touch in this modern organic space.

    Modern Living Room shades of gray with acrylic sofa table and silver lamps with black shades

    This table let's the chrome lighting make the statement and let's the floors shine through. It really brings light into this rich setting.  

    Smoky Gray Acrylic armchairs on stone floor leading outside to patio

    The sleek and smoky outdoor dining chairs are perfect in this slightly rustic setting that opens up to the exterior.

    Black Acrylic Chair on Gray hardwood floors and white walls

    This black acrylic chair can stand all on it's own. It is the perfect accent in any space.  

     

    Images: Hudson Hotel, DecorPad, Arkimom, Design Indulgences

  • Urban Style Living: Concrete Products

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    Concrete style wall covering

    Concrete is the trendy product for home building if you want that modern urban-style aesthetic. It's a very raw material that provides clean lines and an open canvas for any home decor and furniture you decide to pair it with. Would you be surprised to learn that this living room wall (above) is not concrete but a wall covering? This image below is another style in the same Tom Haga Concrete Collection.

    Concrete style wall covering

    If you do have the option of selecting the architectural materials for your home or condo during the building stages, this super modern bathroom is a great design idea. The typographical screening concept paired with the concrete is also a really cool idea.

    Coccrete bathroom

    These tiles from Daniel Ogassian are a great option whether you're designing from scratch or just re-designing a single room. They can help you add concrete in a big way or just a little corner.

    Concrete style tile

    This ottoman gives the appearance of concrete without the heaviness. It's constructed out of clay with a slate finish made to look like concrete... perfect near a side chair in an urban-style loft.

    Concrete style furnishing

    Slate Finish Round Clay Ottoman

    This floor lamp has a super fun and modern style, but also has a chic detail... the base is finished with a concrete paint to give it the effect without the extra weight.

    Concrete style lighting

    Rico Espinet Brushed Nickel Floor Lamp


    So, whether you're building your home from scratch and you have input on the architectural materials.... or you just want to add a little detail, there's lots of fun ways to incorporate concrete into your urban-style decor.

    Images: Tom Haga, Daniel Ogassian, Apartment Therapy

  • The Allure of Cranberry Red: Hot Color in Architecture and Design

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    Cranberry Red Light Fixtures and Home Decor

    Products (from left to right): Artemis High Pure Red Ceiling Fan, Jonathan Adler Capri Red Accent Lamp, Sao Paulo Ribbed Metallic Red Round Wall Mirror, Lights Up! Woody Pickled Red Dupioni Silk Shade Floor Lamp, Set of 4 Zuo Juju Red Outdoor Dining Chairs

    The allure of cranberry red can be coughed up to its association with excitement. Red is daring, bold, and just plain fun. My favorite use of red in interiors is when it is used as a stand alone color against a very neutral or white background (as shown in the bathroom picture below). Cranberry red also mixes well with other colors such as teals, violets, and light yellows. If you want to just dip your toe in the red color scheme, go for red light fixtures and home decor versus painting an entire wall.

    The bright red ceiling fan would look awesome over a modern bed. The red table lamp adds a pop of color and excitement to living room decor. I would love to see the Sao Paulo metallic red mirror used over a side table in an entryway. I have major tripod floor lamp envy and would die to purchase the red floor lamp for my home office. Jazz up your outdoor dining experience with bright red dining chairs. Which cranberry red home accent are you craving?

    Red Bathtub and Minimalist Bathroom Design

    Image: housetohome

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