Pro Tip / Our Favorite L.A. Design Shops

Last month, we took a trip to Los Angeles for a glorious week of art and design inspiration. In addition to checking off the Broad, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House (perhaps his most stunning living room) from our bucket list, we made the rounds at Los Angeles’ design shops. Here’s a handful of our favorites for your next trip to L.A.:

The dining room at Casa Perfect

The dining room at Casa Perfect

Casa Perfect is the Los Angeles outpost of The Future Perfect, one of the nation’s foremost contemporary design galleries with locations in San Francisco and New York City. It’s housed in a former residence of Elvis Presley, and has stunning views inside and out.

Galerie Half’s Belgian-esque aesthetic

Galerie Half’s Belgian-esque aesthetic

Galerie Half is a beautifully curated showroom of 20th century design, primitive furniture, and European antiques, and features stand-out pieces such as a complete George Nakashima dining set. The spare, minimalist set-up puts all the emphasis on the furnishings.

Unique wood pieces at Reform Gallery

Unique wood pieces at Reform Gallery

Reform Gallery is full of unique wood furniture and sculpture, and beautiful ceramics with an emphasis on California Modernism. Go here for pieces that showcase the handiwork of lesser known designer craftsmen such as J.B. Blunk and Sam Maloof.

Vintage lighting at Gallery L7

Vintage lighting at Gallery L7

While Gallery L7 carries furniture and objects, what we loved most was their stunning selection of vintage 20th century European lighting from diverse French, Italian, Scandinavian, etc. designers.

Object’s beautiful display of cutting board

Object’s beautiful display of cutting board

Object is retail at its finest, showcasing a beautiful collection of mid-century European and American objects for the home. Wood pieces, ceramics, and glassware are all on display.

Any shops we missed that are at the top of your list? Share with us in the comments below!

Site Visit / Oliver Ranch

The starting point for the Oliver Ranch tour

The starting point for the Oliver Ranch tour

It’s no secret we love art, but what you may not know is that we especially love installation art. Earlier this year we had the privilege of visiting Oliver Ranch in Sonoma County, located about a 1.5 hour drive north of San Francisco (sans traffic).

Steve Oliver of the Oliver and Company construction firm and former president of the board at SFMOMA commissioned the first piece for his ranch in 1985. Since then, the stunning 100-acre property has seen 17 more installations built. Fun fact: Oliver Ranch was the first site-specific sculpture park of its kind preceding the more well-known Storm King Art Center in New York.

Now for a few of our favorite installations from the tour:

Roger Berry’s  Darwin  made of corten steel, and a feat of engineering

Roger Berry’s Darwin made of corten steel, and a feat of engineering

Terry Allen’s  humannature , a pair of delightful bronze sculptures

Terry Allen’s humannature, a pair of delightful bronze sculptures

Robert Stackhouse’s  Russion River Bones  replicates the land below

Robert Stackhouse’s Russion River Bones replicates the land below

Ann Hamilton’s cast concrete performance tower, our personal favorite

Ann Hamilton’s cast concrete performance tower, our personal favorite

We were lucky to have Mr. Oliver as our tour guide who shared the crazy stories and feats of engineering behind the art, including being investigated by the CIA! You can sign up for your own tour whose proceeds go directly to the non-profit organizations sponsoring the tour.

What are some of your favorite site-specific art installations? Share with us in the comments below!

All photography by Christine Lin.

Before + After / Sunset Kitchen

Not gonna lie, this was one major transformation in one very small, windowless space. Our clients were avid cooks and frustrated with their cramped kitchen and its dysfunctional layout. We opened up a wall to create room for friends and family to gather, and even though we removed a few upper cabinets, the kitchen ended up being more space efficient in the end. Check it out:

BEFORE: What you’re seeing is the length of the kitchen.

BEFORE: What you’re seeing is the length of the kitchen.

AFTER: There used to be a wall and a fridge where the peninsula is.

AFTER: There used to be a wall and a fridge where the peninsula is.

BEFORE: Fluorescent lighting, need I say more?

BEFORE: Fluorescent lighting, need I say more?

AFTER: Recessed lighting keeps the small space clutter free, while the pendant adds some interest.

AFTER: Recessed lighting keeps the small space clutter free, while the pendant adds some interest.

BEFORE: Induced claustrophobia

BEFORE: Induced claustrophobia

AFTER: Room to breathe

AFTER: Room to breathe

What’s your favorite part of the new kitchen? Tell us in the comments below!

Behind the Scenes / 10 Questions with Brave Matter

Despite being based in Oakland, it was in Manhattan at WantedDesign where we first crossed paths with design atelier Brave Matter.

We were immediately intrigued by each design's exquisite craftsmanship and composition.

The couple behind the designs is equally impressive: master ceramicist Christina Zamora and visual artist Cathy Lo.

Christina Zamora (left) and Cathy Lo (right)

Christina Zamora (left) and Cathy Lo (right)

Sender One   , floor and table lamp

Sender One, floor and table lamp

Together, the duo designs with intention and pushes boundaries — not just in an object’s visual appeal but also in materiality.

In two of their lighting designs, they use pink Himalayan salt and brass to diffuse light. It took several iterations to find the right treatment to counter the salt’s absorbency.

In their ceramics designs, Christina forgoes commercial glazes and mixes each and every one of her own by hand. If a glaze isn’t holding up to its task or visual expectations, she experiments until she finds one that does.

Vessel O   , N/O Vessels

Vessel O, N/O Vessels

Vessel O   , N/O Vessels

Vessel O, N/O Vessels

Nearly every stage of their design process, from prototyping to production to assembly, is done in-house, and you can see that intimacy in the craftsmanship. To go inside the minds behind the design, we asked Christina some of our favorite questions.
 

10 Questions with Christina Zamora

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Q: What is the common thread, if any, that can be seen throughout your designs?
A: I’m looking for a balance between utility and desire; qualities that make an object both enduring and ephemeral, resolute and reflective, grounded yet ethereal. I use material properties and juxtaposition, for example ceramic and salt, to communicate these qualities.

Q: What is the effect you hope your designs will have on people?
A: I’m hoping to create objects that make you feel something. If it communicates your intention, the right audience will resonate with it.

Q: We know you love to push boundaries when creating and designing objects. How do you recognize the moment to stop — the moment when your design is just right?
A: I tend to keep resolving a design until the feeling in my gut that tells me something’s not quite right, goes away. At some point you have to trust your instinct.

Q: Which book or film has changed your way of thinking and how?
A: Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge, by Edward O. Wilson - He makes the argument for a unified theory of knowledge across disciplines – that they cannot exist independent of one another. You cannot reconcile science without art, art without culture.…

Geek Love, a novel by Katherine Dunn - About a carny family whose parents set out to breed their own exhibit of human oddities with the help of arsenic and radioisotopes, challenging our notions of the freakish and the normal, the beautiful and the ugly.

They both challenged my own sense of self and my relationship to everything else.

Q: What is the most treasured object in your own home?
A: A painting made by my wife, Cathy Lo, titled Mysteriously Ambiguous. It’s inspired by one of my favorite novels, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. I have a signed copy that reads “for christina, best feathers.” The portrait depicts myself as a whimsical creature with a giant plume of feathers. A reminder to be my best self.

Q: Which living person do you most admire and why?
A: E. O. Wilson. Most of his work revolves around his study of ants and his discoveries involving ant communication and the the social organization of ant communities. His work inspired the field of sociobiology and the importance of biodiversity research. His work is so fascinating and so inspiring to me. I want a t-shirt that reads, “E. O. Wilson is god.”

Q: If you were a piece of art what would you be?
A: A red polka dot in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors installation.

Q: If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
A: A myrmecologist, studying ants. Growing up in New Mexico, my backyard was literally the desert. A mega colony of carpenter ants lived in my grandmother’s yard. Every summer they would swarm and march on some imaginary pathway through our living room and out the back door. We would watch them for hours. Within a few days they would suddenly be gone. I’ve been fascinated with ants ever since.

Q: What are your aspirations for the next 3-5 years?
A: Keep creating. Be brave.

Q: What motto do you try to live by?
A: Knowledge is power. Imagination is more important than knowledge.

See more from Brave Matter.

Before + After / Pacific Heights Vintage Modern

It's time for everyone's favorite: Before + After! Our Pacific Heights Vintage Modern project was truly transformative. The condo hadn't been updated in years and needed some major upgrades for the paint, laminate flooring, and outdated light fixtures. We also turned this bachelor pad into a proper home for two. 

Let's start with the main living and dining area. What a difference fresh paint and custom hardwood floors can make! Not to mention all that new lighting and furniture...

BEFORE: The living and dining area

BEFORE: The living and dining area

AFTER: The dining area

AFTER: The dining area

AFTER: The living area

AFTER: The living area

Now moving onto the adjacent kitchen. Previously there was a partial wall separating the kitchen from the living and dining areas. To create the open floor plan, our team came up with a creative way to remove the wall without affecting plumbing. A new concrete bar countertop was added after the wall was removed. 

BEFORE: View of the kitchen from the living area

BEFORE: View of the kitchen from the living area

AFTER: The kitchen

AFTER: The kitchen

Lastly, we have the master bedroom where we rearranged the furniture layout to create a cozy lounge area. 

BEFORE: Master bedroom

BEFORE: Master bedroom

AFTER: Master bedroom lounge area

AFTER: Master bedroom lounge area

What's your favorite transformed space? Let us know in the comments below!