Monday, March 25, 2013

The Other L.A.: The Historic Homes of Gerard Colcord

THE OTHER L.A.: THE HISTORIC HOMES OF GERARD COLCORD -- When one thinks of L.A. architecture, of course the mind automatically conjures up visions of Mid-Century Modern, Googie architecture, the Brady Bunch house and so many other 1950s and '60s-inspired structures -- and rightfully so, as the media has consistently brought such imagery repeatedly to the world. But before all of that came about, there were a handful of architects practicing in Los Angeles who created the built residential landscape in the 1920s through through the 1940s leading up the Mid-Century era -- architects such as Paul Williams (see home in the Gary Drake story shown below), Wallace Neff, Richard Neutra and many others with their grand designs of massive Georgian, Mediterranean and modern homes that were definitely designed to impress. Among this mix of early-to-mid 20th century architects was Gerard R. Colcord who -- from 1924 to 1984 -- created a staggering 300+ residential estates all throughout Southern California in styles ranging from Tudor to Country French, Hollywood Regency, Spanish Hacienda and his signature style: the Country Colonial farmhouse. Keep in mind that Mid-Century Modern was still to be realized and that the most popular reigning style of home at that time was based on the English Georgian aesthetic, both inside and out. And in L.A., the wealth created by folks in and around the film industry which was at its peak during those decades meant that a lot of big homes needed to be built for entertaining the Hollywood crowd in a grand manner. What author Bret Parsons did in the form of his book Colcord Home was to bring together the best of Colcord's projects (17 in all for this book) spanning the 1930s to the 1970s, using period architectural plans, photos (both old and new) and insightful quotes from those who've lived in these very homes -- check out the brick-festooned baronial English Tudor (center right photo) that was most recently owned by actor Nicolas Cage. For those interested in period interiors (albeit filtered through a Hollywood eye), this book is a mini-treasure trove of visuals showing furniture, wallcoverings, fabrics, architectural details and more. For those wondering what grand homes of pre-Mid-Century Modern L.A. looked like, then this cozy book (and we mean that in the best possible way) which debuted in 2008 will be a perfect companion to books on other L.A. architects practicing in the same time period. The majority of photos in the Colcord book are in black and white due to the fact that these are images taken at the time the homes were finished, but this lovely fact only adds to the Hollywood cinematic effect (oh, you can see one of the Colcord homes featured in this book in color in the 1998 film Gods and Monsters if you want a sense of its front and back exteriors and pool). We at Studio of Style anxiously await Parsons' next book!
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Getting the Job Done in L.A.: Gary Drake is in the House -- Part I

GETTING THE JOB DONE IN L.A.: GARY DRAKE IS IN THE HOUSE -- The sound of jackhammer drills blasting away, Skil saws cutting wood, hammers pounding nails incessantly and large trucks coming and going all day long can drive some people to the breaking point -- but for Los Angeles general contractor Gary Drake of Gary Drake Construction, it's music to his ears. In fact, it's more like a symphony that tells him that things are getting done. And that is why Drake has been in demand as a GC for high-profile projects in and around Los Angeles for decades -- racking up a list of celebrity clientele and a host of powerful people who need construction work done for both new and renovated homes and commercial residential projects. But just ask the person on the street to name a general contractor and they might be stumped to come up with even one name -- but a person could easily name a well-known architect or interior designer on the other hand. What the lay person doesn't see is the process that happens in-between the architect designing a project and the interior designer decorating it's rooms -- and that is the realm of Drake who is most content to be in the midst of it all. "I basically do what the architects and interior designers ask," says Drake in a simple, straightforward manner, "but what happens on most every job are situations -- especially in renovations -- where new technology is being installed into older construction which would involve having to figure out where and when to remove or replace soffits, doors, walls and drop ceilings for example without sacrificing the aesthetics of the new space and integrity of the existing structure. This is where I can make suggestions and find solutions for both the architect and interior designer when such situations arise." For the 5,000-square-foot Brentwood, Los Angeles Colonial-style home shown here (designed by famed architect Paul Revere Williams in 1925),  Drake was part of a team that completely renovated the interiors to include a new kitchen and dining room, a second floor master suite, an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven and an amazing glass-covered atrium that was previously left open to the elements over the decades. "Among the challenges of working on such prestigious historical properties as this one," notes Drake, "is to make them look as though we didn't touch them, but instead improve upon what made them great in the first place and make them enjoyable for future generations."  (Story continues below)
Images courtesy Gary Drake Construction
Architecture: Perry Hill / Photography: Michael McCreary, Todd Young

Getting the Job Done in L.A.: Gary Drake is in the House (Part II)

GETTING THE JOB DONE IN L.A.: GARY DRAKE IS IN THE HOUSE -- One thing you can count on in Los Angeles: that something old will always be reinvented into something shiny and new. And that was exactly the fate of a modest ranch house (shown above) built in the 1950s in a picturesque section of town -- Runyon Canyon in the famed Hollywood Hills with its 160 acres of hiking trails complete with hills abundant in sage, scrub oaks, hawks, coyotes and snakes. The house had rather dark interiors, a burdensome steep roof line and mere uninspired glimpses of the dramatic scenery -- which was completely opposite of what the architect had in mind for the owner. The renovation team which included general contractor Gary Drake of Gary Drake Construction set about to give the owner and his guests stunning views at every turn. "We're bringing more of the outdoors in with our projects," says Drake. "The climate here is conducive to the indoor/outdoor lifestyle and entertainment areas are integrated extensions of the living and dining rooms. Complete walls of window doors retract and disappear into soffits -- and now this fifties-era house is modern once again." Everything about this house is streamline, including the furnishings, sitelines and pool area. "Los Angeles has a great architectural legacy, but most people aren't aware of it," notes Drake. "On many restoration and renovation projects, I've been asked to match vintage tiles, or wood moldings or other period design features, rather than remove them altogether because that is what gives a home its character. Sometimes I don't give myself enough credit for the role my firm plays in restoring L.A.'s historic properties -- like the 1926 Holmby Hills mansion originally designed by architect George Washington Smith that I worked on with architect Marc Appleton that was the setting for a fundraiser for President Obama." But that is why Drake truly enjoys his job -- because it provides the perfect opportunity to take an active role in the building and preservation of the L.A. landscape, albeit a role that most people will never know about except, that is, for his children. "I love to drive by a construction site and say to my children 'Daddy did that' which gives me a lot of satisfaction," says Drake. And don't forget the symphony of saws, hammers and drills to accompany all of it!
Images courtesy Gary Drake Construction
Architecture: M. Scott Carty / Photography: Michael McCreary

Pink Peonies & Benjamin Moore Paints: Blooming with Spring Color!

PINK PEONIES & BENJAMIN MOORE PAINTS: BLOOMING WITH SPRING COLOR!  Although the blooming season for peonies is but a short one, we at Studio of Style anticipate their arrival with such excitement! These magnificent showy flowers with their very delicate (and to us, intoxicating!) fragrance make for the most luscious floral arrangement that is sure to impress anyone (and why not keep a picturesque bouquet on your nightstand??) -- and we love the amazing range of colors as well, from pure whites to the absolute palest of pinks to crimson, ruby and even chocolate (yes, it's true!). And you probably know that peonies are very symbolic in both Chinese and Japanese cultures -- in fact, peonies were known as far back as 1000 BC in China and were put under imperial protection, commanding such huge prices that they were often part of a dowry settlement. And when these flowers reached Japan around the 8th century AD, horticulturists there began experimenting with both the look of the petal arrangement and grafting techniques for tree peonies (they grow on bushes and trees). Interestingly the word peony is neither Chinese nor Japanese in origin, but derived from Paeon (or Paean) -- Paeon was a student of the Ancient Greek god of medicine and healing Asclepius. You see, Asclepius became jealous of Paeon -- but master god Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into a peony! Oh, and did you know that there are more than 260 chemical compounds found in this species -- which explains why it has been used for medicinal and healing purposes by both Eastern and Western cultures.  But even though we are sad when peony blooming season goes, there is something we all can do to enjoy the idea of peonies surrounding us all year long: color your world with beautiful shades of peonies and other flowers using Benjamin Moore paint -- how simple and fabulous is that? Studio of Style began delving into all the wonderful variations of pinks that Benjamin Moore currently offers and we wanted to bring you just some of them. The company has been bringing us color upon color since 1883 when Mr. Benjamin Moore (yes, he was an actual person) and his brother Robert opened their first shop in Brooklyn, New York. The two men began with $2,000 and a product called "Moore's Prepared Calsom Finish" and a vision of excellence and quality in manufacturing. Fast-forward to the 20th century when Benjamin Moore was the first company to introduce a computer color matching system in 1982 which was actually a milestone in the paint world that until that time relied on paint chips for matching color! Ok -- so here are the peony-inspired colors (among so many) that we picked from the current palette at Benjamin Moore: (A) Pink Peony; (B) Pink Begonia; (C) Twilight Magenta; (D) Lilac Pink; (E) Bunny Nose Pink; (F) Exotic Fuchsia; (G) Rhododendron; (H) Raspberry Mousse; and (I) Easter Pink. Great, huh? You can get a 16-ounce can of paint for sampling which is enough to cover approximately two 4-foot x 4-foot areas -- or eight 2-foot x 2-foot areas with two coats of paint -- which means that you can try out Bunny Nose Pink in one room and, of course, Pink Peony in another...and Twilight Magenta in another. With so many floral shades to choose from at Benjamin Moore, it will always be Spring in every room of your house!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fabulous Style at a Fabulous Price: Meet Lulu & Georgia!

FABULOUS STYLE AT A FABULOUS PRICE: MEET LULU & GEORGIA! here's the story: Lulu is a globe-trotting romantic who feels most at home when she's jet-setting to exotic hideaways (sounds great to us!) and she appreciates vibrant hues and never leaves home without her five-inch heels. And then there's Georgia who's an extravagant hostess who loves browsing home decor shops and always has a vase of pink peonies on her bedside table (that sounds great too!!). Together, Lulu & Georgia offer a wonderful and colorful array of rugs, accessories, lighting, furniture, wall decor and one-of-a-kind items that are guaranteed to transform whatever area in your home or office that need a touch of style. And the online shopping experience is made easier by finding items sorted into categories of Bohemian, Coastal, Color Crush, Glamour Girl, Organic, Regency, Romantic, Vintage Eclectic and Girl on a Budget. So that means there's something for everyone! Lulu & Georgia is the chic brainchild of Los Angeles native Sara Sugarman who named the site after her grandfather Lou and her father George who have been a part of the L.A. design scene for decades and who have always served as inspirational role models to her. Ms. Sugarman's design saavy and her own globe-trotting adventures always turn up lots of great finds in interior furnishings, so it was a natural to share these finds with everyone else who loves all things fun and fabulous. So let's start shopping, okay? Here are just some of the many, many things at Lulu & Georgia that caught our eye: (1) Oversized Paisley Rug in aquamarine; (2) Copenhagen Tray in tangerine; (3) Quinlyn Rug in espresso bean; (4) Starlight Vases (5) Bangkok Pillow; (6) Ethel Armchair; (7) Capri Round Vase; (8) Sunkist Reversible Rug in papaya; (9) Cool Baishali Pillows; (10) Zigzag Pouf; (11) Cerulean Circle Lamp; and (12) Un Fuego Rug. Now that felt good, didn't it? We love shopping therapy!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice: Modern Bite Takes the Cake (and more!) in L.A.

SUGAR, SPICE & EVERYTHING NICE: MODERN BITE TAKES THE CAKE (AND MORE!) IN L.A. -- Cakes, cookies, bars, cupcakes and bites -- oh my! How can you resist these modern gems shown here created by the dynamic duo of Daniel Shapiro and Greg Roth of Modern Bite in Los Angeles? You shouldn't! And we must say that we at Studio of Style have seen and tasted lots of confections here in the City of Angels...and nothing quite compares to the artful offerings this pair of fun-loving guys conjure up. They don't have a storefront, but they do have a nifty mail order service and they do lots of special events and holiday-themed items and gift packages (you gotta check out their blog to see the wide range of things they can create). Shapiro has been in love with baking since the age of 14 and Roth draws upon his fine art and architectural background -- and together they come up with interesting shapes, designs and colorways that are just a bit more interesting than what you'd find at your corner bakery. For cookies, the finished design is printed via a computer using edible inks on edible paper that then is applied via icing. The fondant cake designs are made using the company's specially-designed cutters and the finished product is certainly a labor of love, both visually and taste-wise: standard cake flavors include chocolate, vanilla, carrot, red velvet and salted caramel; and the frostings include chocolate, chocolate buttercream, cream cheese and vanilla buttercream. The cookies shown above are shortbread (yum!) and gourmet classics are offered as well: chocolate truffle, toffee peanut pretzel, pecan shortbread and much more! Numerous "bites" (lemon, cheesecake, mint brownies, etc) are available, plus cupcakes and bars such as blondies, raspberry struesel, Martha's Magic Bars (!!) and others round out the company's selections. As the saying goes, you eat with your eyes first -- which makes Modern Bite confections a visual feast! Did you know that the company was asked by the American Film Institute to create 3,300 cookies topped with edible posters of the most memorable films of Shirley MacLaine (we love her!) when she was bestowed AFI's Lifetime Achievement Award last June in Hollywood? Now, you gotta love that! Of course, custom creations are available and their gift box packaging is just as colorful as its delectable contents -- so satisfy that sweet tooth and your design sensibilities at the same time with treats from Modern Bite, okay?
Images courtesy Modern Bite / montage by Greg Firlotte

Monday, March 4, 2013

Your Invitation to the Dance: The Red Shoes with Moira Shearer

YOUR INVITATION TO THE DANCE: THE RED SHOES WITH MOIRA SHEARER -- Yes, it's all so Old School -- and it drips with luscious Technicolor from start to finish! But if there was one movie that we at Studio of Style could sit down with you and watch together, it would be this one from 1948: The Red Shoes. Arguably the best dance movie (ballet, that is) ever made, it has never had an equal, try as some have done recently to bring classical dance to the big screen (and, of course, we always applaud and encourage that).  Though based on Danish author Hans Christian Anderson's popular story, the film is really more of a thinly-disguised story of the real-life relationship between Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev (founder of the Ballets Russes) and British ballerina Diana Gould (who would later become the wife of violinist Yehudi Menuhin). It's rather quite easy to connect all the dots to see just how The Red Shoes and Diaghilev's worlds intersect. All this aside, one cannot -- and we repeat, cannot -- take their eyes off the enchanting Moira Shearer (i.e. Diana Gould) in the lead role as the determined Victoria Page who comes under the spell (or clutches) of Russian impresario Boris Lermontov (i.e. Diaghilev) -- played by the truly underrated Austrian Anton Walbrook who delivers the pitch-perfect performance of a cruel taskmaster with every deliberate spoken syllable and hand gesture (just watch him!).  Sumptuous color, scenery and costumes throughout, glimpes of vintange London, Paris and particularly Monte Carlo (that scene of Shearer in the blue gown ascending the staircase of the mansion high above the Mediterranean will send cinematic shivers up your spine).  The centerpiece of the film is the fantasy title dance sequence that transcends mere dance to become another art form altogether. It will spellbind you with Shearer's dancing as well as that of supporting cast members Leonide Massine and Robert Helpmann (who were both big stars in ballet at the time) and so many more talents -- all under the immaculate direction and production of the team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A restored version of The Red Shoes (seven years in the making) made its debut at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival -- and it has been cited by many a filmmaker -- such as Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma -- as an all-time favorite. Oh, and it was ranked #9 on the British Film Institute's Top 100 British films of the 20th century. So, go on, just lose yourself some night in the colorful world of ballet from yesteryear -- accompanied by lots of ice cold champagne -- and let your spirits dance!