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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

  • Stunning Modern Designs From Emerging Architects

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    Modern residential architecture

     Modern residential interior archtecture

    SsD Architecture / Braver House in Newton, Massachusetts

    Jinhee Park and John Hong of SsD Architecture develop their designs by exploring aspects of architecture, landscape, history, and social systems taking an interdisciplinary approach to design. One of their completed projects is Braver house in Newton, Massachusetts (above). Their goal with this project was to create a small, efficient residence that minimizes its actual footprint, while at the same time maximizing the perceived sense of interior space through smart design. In addition to the architecture, minimal furniture and home decor accessories help keep the interiors simple and open.

    Modern architecture design

    Arquitectura 911sc / Social Housing Project in Mexico City, Mexico

    Arquitectura 911sc / Performing Arts Center in Guadalajara, Mexico

    Jose Castillo and Saidee Springall from Arquitectura 911sc strive for a “dual commitment to an architecture that connects the physical with the social and architecture that is grounded and informed by the city.” Recently completed projects include a low-income housing development (above), bookstores, offices, and commercial spaces in Mexico City. Their social housing project is a successful case study to prove that urban, high density housing sells faster than traditional housing projects. The firm's Performing Arts Center in Guadalajara (second image above) is currently under construction. With this project, they hope to create an environment where the interiors interact with the exterior. 

    Jinhee Park, John Hong, Jose Castillo and Saidee Springall are four out of a handful of winners of the 2012 "Emerging Voices" award from The Architectural League.

    Modern residential architecture rendering

    Modern architecture section perspective images

    Yonatan Pressman and Courtney Benzon / Habitat for Humanity Student Project Winner

    Two very young architects who no doubt have big futures are Yonatan Pressman and Courtney Benzon, both graduate architecture students from Rice University. They designed an award winning house (above) that Habitat for Humanity selected to build. The house, set to be built in Spring of 2012 will use prefabricated roof trusses to speed and simplify construction. Yonatan Pressman comments on the inverting of the roof trusses, “It allowed us to give the house a distinct aesthetic presence and create dynamic spaces full of natural light.”

    Be sure to follow all of these emerging architects, both locally and abroad. It is so inspiring to witness their extraordinary creativity and dedication.

    Images: SsD Architecture, Arquitectura 911scInternational Business Times

  • Urban Gardens: Designed for the City

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    Rooftop Garden Terrace Planters

    Spring has sprung and for some of you so has your green thumb! For many urban planners, rooftop gardens are a high priority. Not only for their decorative impact, but for their environmental impact as well. Roof gardens can reduce the overall heat absorption of the builiding drastically which in turn could reduce smog and energy consumption. They are also beautiful places to relax and escape from the daily chaos. Like your own little oasis perched high above the city. Even if it's not the rooftop, many condos and apartments in urban settings are creating gorgeous backyard gardens so you don't feel like you're missing out on the green. Here's a few of my favorite rooftop and urban gardens.

    Rooftop Garden with brick wall, green roof and bamboo

    This one is truly picture perfect and I can just hear the water running. The bamboo against the exposed brick wall keeps the urban element alive. 

    Vertical Green Wall with built in benches and firepit

    So lush and so green. The vertical green wall really wraps around you to seclude you and leaves the sky open for you.  I would definitely be gazing at the stars as I lie on those soft cushions and feel the warmth of the outdoor firepit.

    Vertical Green Wall large plantars with trees modern outdoor furniture

    The vertical green wall layered with the large potted trees is a great play on scale. The low outdoor seating make this a perfect place to relax with your friends and family.

    Built-in Planters Modern wood outdoor furniture rooftop garden

    This is the garden for the one with the green thumb. The built-in planters do a great job of dividing this large rooftop into smaller, more intimate sections.

    Built In Rooftop Garden with Integrated Seating and Plush Cushions Wood decking

    Modern Rooftop Garden with Concrete Plantars and wood benches

    The wood benches built into the perimeter planters make these rooftops very cozy and the gardening very accessible. I can just imagine the aromas of the fresh herbs and flowers. I'm ready for the rooftop garden parties to begin!

    Modern Outdoor Lamp Outdoor Daybed Outdoor Dining Chairs Concrete Slate Ottoman, Souzani Outdoor Rugh

    Here's a few great pieces to start furnishing your urban garden with. The natural colors of this palette will really contrast nicely with the bold greens, bright flowers, and natural woods.  

    1. Outdoor Floor Lamp  2. Outdoor Daybed  3. Zuo Delight Outdoor Dining Chair  4. Slate Fiberclay Ottoman  5. Souzani Circles Outdoor Rug 

    Images: Home-Designing, Curbed, Urban Style Vibes,  Better Homes and GardensRemodelista

  • Avenue Interior Design: A Study On Collaborative Design Pedigree

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    Interior design office

    Welcome to the workspace of Andrea DeRosa and Ashley Manhan, the two stylish interior designers behind Avenue Interior Design. Individually they have worked at some of the top international design firms, but in 2009 they decided to join forces and build a design firm known for luxury interiors, attention to detail and on-trend style.

    I sat down with the ladies of Avenue and we talked about their design upbringing, how they came together and what inspires them. They even gave us some great modern lighting ideas, which is often times one of the hardest stages in a design project. Here's how our conversation went.

    Cori:  When and how did you fall in love with design?

    Andrea:  My love of design started with a love of clothes, accessories and fashion in general. I was dressing myself by age six and soon after I started ‘borrowing’ my mom’s accessories….  Eventually this evolved into a love of (what I would later understand to be) interior design.

    Ashley:  My love for design definitely stemmed from my creative parents. My dad is a set decorator and my mom is a costumer for motion pictures, so I grew up on movie sets, watching creative visions come to life for the big screen. Its hard to not fall in love with design when that’s your childhood.

    Cori:  What is your design background, school, first design jobs, etc.

    Andrea:  I studied interior design at UW-Madison and my first design internship was at a firm specializing in (residential) kitchen and bathroom design and eventually I interned at a high end, full service residential design firm for a number of years. Once I moved to LA, I did a brief stint at a couple hospitality firms before landing at Dougall Design Associates in Pasadena.

    Ashley: I had always taken art classes growing up and focused on painting and design in high school and college. It was always a goal of mine to get into the field of design as quickly as possible, so I started interning for a hospitality design firm during the day while doing the UCLA interiors program at night. From there I fell in love with designing hotels and worked at Cheryl Rowley Design and finally SBE.

    Cori:  How did you meet?

    Andrea/Ashley:   We met at a design firm in Santa Monica back in early 2006.

    Portrait photography at the beach

    Cori: What triggered the desire to start your own firm?

    Andrea/Ashley:   We've both always been interested in having our own firms - something I quickly realized most people don’t want!  When the economy slowed and our industry took a dive, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the leap. We didn't have too much to lose at that point, so we thought we might as well start building our own brand.

    Cori:  Where do you find inspiration?

    Andrea/Ashley:  Fashion continues to be a huge source of inspiration for us. We find inspiration in it all - current and past collections. Historical places and travel in general are also huge sources of inspiration.

    Cori:  Avenue's list of completed projects is an exciting range, which was your favorite (hotel, nightclub, office space, restaurant) and why?

    Andrea/Ashley:  That’s so hard! We’re fortunate our portfolio showcases so many styles. Borgata is a great client who often gives us creative carte blanche and we love the VIP dining lounge. The Society Club, that we designed for them (opened in June of last year). The Sayer’s Club, a nightclub we designed with SBE here in LA, was also really fun and it has a completely different feel.

    Cori: Your current projects are in different locations (like New York for example), since you guys are based in Venice, California how do you balance travel, work and the creative process?

    Andrea/Ashley:  Last year was an insane year. We were traveling, on average, one week per month. At the time, the majority of our clients were based in Atlantic City or Manhattan so it worked out well. Constant access to the internet really allowed us to continue work as usual. The creative process is always interesting... you really have to nurture that aspect of the business. It’s so easy to get tied down to the administrative aspects of the job. Luckily, staying creative is the part of the job that comes most naturally.

    Interior design office materials

    Cori:  Can you tell me a little about your super cool I Heart Design blog?

    Andrea/Ashley:  I Heart Design is a bit of a blog/designer resource hybrid where we really make home furniture, accessories and lighting the focus of the site. Through IHD we're providing an accessible and immediate service based on our background as design professionals. It starts with an inspiration image, typically a picture of an interior or a mood/fashion image, identify the core elements that make that image intriguing like color, texture, pattern and scale, and select furnishings around that image/mood to create a unique room. Our marketplace acts as a basic search engine where you can view everything we've ever posted (don’t blame us if it’s no longer available. Just click on a piece you like and we directly route you to a retailer's site so you can view the product details and purchase the pieces instantly.

    Cori:  Now for some design insight. For each project, at what stage do you select lighting?

    Andrea/Ashley:  Along with the other furnishings, the lighting for a project is selected in the beginning after we establish the client’s programming needs. Lighting can be so dynamic and such a focal feature, it sometimes sets the mood for the entire space.

    Cori:  What are a couple of your favorites from Eurostyle Lighting?

    Andrea:  The Vienna Manhattan Wall Sconce from Eurostyle is such a little gem of a piece with just the right amount of glamour.

    Chrome wall sconce


    Vienna Full Spectrum Manhattan Wall Sconce

    Andrea:  We designed a fixture similar to this Crystal Cloud Suspension Halogen Chandelier, but much larger in scale for one of our projects. Suspension fixtures like this are stunning and have a little bit of a magical feel to them.

    Crystal chandelier

    Crystal Cloud Suspension Halogen Chandelier

    Ashely: The brass and wood accents make this fixture feel very upscale and stylized. We love the mid-century modern feel.

    Modern glam sconce

    Jonathan Adler Ventana Brass Wall Lamp

    Ashley: The classic industrial style of this pendant is perfect for any office space or kitchen.

    Industrial modern pendant light

    Hudson Valley Haverhill Polished Nickel Pendant

    Stay tuned for Part II of this interview where we'll take a look at some of Avenue's wide range of fun projects.

    Image credit: Avenue Interior Design

  • Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with Green Apple Lights and Decor

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    Green Home Decor and Green Light Fixtures

    (Products (left to right): Vivid Green Stripes Giclee Pendant Chandelier, George Kovacs Apple Green Glass Pendant Light, Lite Source Kito Green Table Lamp, Zuo Tickle Green Adjustable Height Bar or Counter Stool, Zuo Set of 4 Trafico Side Green Chair, Zuo Lider Plus Green Office Chair, Set of Two Green S Chairs, Set of 6 Zuo Marzipan Green Chairs)

    Even though St. Patrick's Day is not a bank holiday in the United States (sure wish it was), I still like to get in the spirit and sport green in my home. Green apple is such a fun color for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or just about any time of the year. Its bright color commands attention in any space and mixes well with neutrals such as gray. Want to bring a little Miami flair into your home, the green apple decor can add just the right amount of style.

    Green apple hues are great as a accent or if you want to go bold try using the color in a big way! The bright green chairs would look fantastic around a white outdoor table to spice up your outdoor design. I love the pendant lights over a kitchen island. The green desk chair is also a really fun accent for a home office or bring it to work and be unique. What is your favorite green apple furnishing or light fixture?

    Green Accents and Green Interiors

    Images: Coastal Living, Honestly...WTF, Desire to Inspire

March, 2012