A Light Makeover with Legrand

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Dear Detail-Obsessed People,

If you asked me the most pressing issues I faced while designing Orcondo, light switches and outlets would likely not be among them. However, after moving in, I started thinking it might be a good idea to add light switches and outlets that jive more with the condo’s modern vibe. So when I came across Legrand, a company that produces beautiful, modern switches and outlets, I was like “GET IN MY HOUSE.”

What I’ve noticed over the years designing is that it’s sometimes the smallest details that people notice. Most commonly, it’s things they touch. Like faucets in the guest bathroom, the door handle on the front door, and light switches. The wall could be made out of rotting plastic, but if you have a distinctive piece of hardware (or in this case, a light switch), your guest’s eyes will immediately divert to that. They’ll be all “Cute light switch!” not noticing that your ceiling literally just caved in as they walked in the door. JUST KIDDING.

So I decided to swap out the existing contractor-grade light switches and outlets for more exciting options from Legrand’s adorne collection. The change is subtle, but it’s one I appreciate daily when I turn on the lights or plug something in. The Whisper Switches I chose are smooth and silent, so if you’re trying to sneak up on your boyfriend in the dark of night and turn on the light to terrify him, the switch won’t ruin your prank.

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One of the things I like best about these new switches is they don’t have visible screws. I’m not sure why all switches don’t have hidden screws at this point, but I love how simple and elegant these are.

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The sharp lines and rectangular geometry of the new switches match well with my gleaming Fireclay Tiles. I chose to keep the switches white, but these come in a ton of colors to match whatever mood you’re in. If I chose today, I’d choose black, because I’ve been in a goth mood all week. I can’t tell if I’m sick or if I’m just really tired, but I just want to go in a room and cry while writing poems about how nobody understands me.

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The structure of the outlets is much more rectangular than the classic light switch. I also love the asymmetry of the individual outlets facing each other diagonally.

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I bought these bowls at the flea market. They’re French dough bowls (like for kneading dough) and they add a little warmth to the all white kitchen.

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When I was coming up with the color scheme of the condo, I decided on an all white kitchen because the previous kitchen was SO hideous. Everything was brown and formica and awful. I’d like the design of this place to last for a while, so I went pretty simple, expressing myself with small decisions like the wonderful tile and the Legrand outlets.

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For the wall plate covers, I chose the Powder White color from the Beyond Beige Collection. The color works perfectly with the backsplash tiles and the canisters I store my coffee, sugar, and oatmeal in (they’re old Ikea, I don’t think they sell them anymore).

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The kitchen is now bright and happy and I love cooking in there, listening to Terry Gross on NPR, drinking wine, fantasizing about running away with my new outlets to a small private island.

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The switches have been swapped out in the guest bathroom and now when people come over they’re like “CAN I LIVE IN HERE I LOVE THESE FANCY SWITCHES?”

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I found this watercolor painting at a thrift shop up near my parents in Northern California and had it framed by Framebridge. And now it has a new bestie, Lightswitch.

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I got new lamps yesterday and I’m so happy because the living room was very dark and scary at night. Thanks to these new lamps, we can be in here at night without feeling like we’re being haunted. And I can plug them into these Legrand outlets, which are as glamorous as they are.

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I’m pleased with the mini-transformation Orcondo underwent in getting new light switches and outlets. Every time I use the new switches it feels a little luxe. A small detail that makes me feel good. If you’re doing a renovation or are just looking to spice up your outlet/switch game, I’d recommend checking out Legrands adorne Collection. It’s the small things, you guys!

Love,
Orlando

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Mood Board Resources (clockwise): Fireclay Tile, Legrand Switch, Benjamin Moore Super White Paint, AllModern Side Table, St Frank Tray,  Crate & Barrel Vase, Snowe Home Serving Bowl.

This post was created in collaboration with Legrand. All opinions expressed are genuine and my own. 

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Spooky & Sophisticated Halloween Decorating

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Dear Guys and Ghouls,

I grew up in an area where Halloween was a pretty big deal. In the small community of Yosemite Village where I was raised, trick-or-treating was acceptable until you were well into your teenage years, locals built terrifying haunted houses and covered their yards in spooky corpses, witches, and spider webs. Every year, months before Halloween started, my sister and I would start figuring out what we wanted our costumes to be and start pestering my mother about making them (my older brother was less high-maintenance and always did some variation on the “scary-mask-with-regular-clothes” costume). We weren’t allowed to have the plastic costumes all our friends had, our mom made our costumes on her sewing machine, at night after work. If I were my own mom, I would have told myself to shut up. But luckily she was kind of into it, so weren’t punished for harassing her about making our costumes.

Yosemite was the ideal place for Halloween, with fall leaves blanketing the ground and that damp, leafy autumn scent everywhere you went. Being that I’ve never really been a summer person (I sunburn too easily and am really just not made to be in the sun, like, ever), fall was always a welcome and refreshing time of the year. You can see some images of my old neighborhood in fall in this old blog post. I think my love for Halloween stems from how incredibly magical that time of year was growing up. It was a time of year that meant being indoors, making things, and preparing for one night of fun and candy-hoarding.

I trick-or-treated until I was seventeen. And while I’ve finally given that up now, my desire to celebrate the season hasn’t ended. These days, I’m a big fan of the pumpkin carving party as a means for having an adult-friendly Halloween celebration. And I also like changing the decor around the house to reflect the changing season (Side note: it’s still like 90 degrees in LA, I wish the season were changing faster). It’s not always easy to find ways to decorate for Halloween that are sophisticated, so this year I teamed up with Architectural Digest to come up with some tips on decorating for the season (click here to see my piece on their site).

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TIP ONE: GO MONOCHROMATIC

One way to elevate your Halloween decor is to go monochromatic. Obviously, black is a great option for this. I repurposed a wreath from last year’s Christmas by spray painting it matte black and putting it on the front door. A word to the wise: if you’re spay painting something black, always go matte for an ultra chic look.

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TIP TWO: PUT A LEAF ON IT!

If, like me, you live in a big city and you miss seeing fall leaves all over the ground outside, bringing some colorful dried foliage inside will make you ceaselessly happy. I picked these up from the Downtown Los Angeles flower market. They’re soaked in glycerine so they’ll last forever and you can also find them at craft stores like Michael’s. The best part is they don’t lose that autumn leaf scent, so you’ll feel that fall atmosphere even if there’s not a deciduous tree in sight.

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TIP THREE: USE AN UNEXPECTED COLOR SCHEME

Blonde woods and white might not be the first thing you think of when you think of Halloween, but when it’s wooden skulls and white pumpkins, the seasonal mood reveals itself. I kept my living room color palette pretty much the same as it always is, adding in pumpkins in green and white as well as a spooky manzanita branch and some matte black candlesticks.

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TIP FOUR: PUMPKINS FOR EVERYONE!

Teeny, tiny, adorable pumpkins are available everywhere this time of year. I bought all the pumpkins featured here at Trader Joe’s. They’re  great mini-accessory to scatter throughout the house to remind everyone, “Hey, you over there. It’s Halloween. GET IT TOGETHER.”

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TIP FIVE: GO VINTAGE

Most of the Halloween decor you’ll find at big box stores is plastic and looks like garbage. But back in ye olden days, they used to make lovely decor out of non-plastic. I found this cute terra cotta Jack-O-Lantern at the filthiest garbage store in the Valley. Naturally, I painted it matte black and took it from nasty to rhinoplasty in just fifteen minutes!

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These gilded skulls, which are out all year, take on an especially ominous tone during the Halloween season. Woooooooooooo!

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TIP SIX: BRANCHES EVERYWHERE

Branches are the easiest accent to add to your home because they never go bad and don’t need water, unlike flowers that constantly need to be tended to. I bought these bundles for about $10 each and they’ll last until Christmas.

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TIP SEVEN: TAKE INSPO FROM DAY OF THE DEAD

Day of the Dead, the gorgeous Mexican holiday honoring the dead, has gotten more and more popular in the U.S. recently. Thus, you can find beautiful Day of the Dead decor much more easily than you could twenty years ago. And it tends to be much more sophisticated and intricate than the Halloween decor you’ll find, so adding a bit to your decor will make your home look WAY more chic.

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TIP EIGHT: PLAY AROUND

Halloween is supposed to be fun, so don’t get so caught up in creating a sophisticated home that you forget to keep it fun. My mother sent me this spooky ghost last year (DIY instructions upcoming) and he haunts anyone who sits in that Le Corbusier lounger.

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TIP NINE: KEEP IT WARM

My favorite color is blue, so during the summer months all my throws and accent pillows are various shades of blue. However, in fall I like to switch it up and bring in some warmer colors. This fall, I added in gold, ivory, and black accent pillows and an ivory throw. It’s a way to completely transform the space without swapping out any furniture. It’s also a way to indicate the change of season and make everything feel warm and cozy.

There you have it! Tips to make your house festive, spooky, and sophisticated for the Halloween season! May your celebration be chic and scary!

Love,
Orlando

 PS: A GHOST HAS BEEN STANDING RIGHT BEHIND YOU THE WHOLE TIME YOU’VE BEEN READING THIS POST!

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Orlando’s Obsessions: Wild for Wallpaper

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Dear Wanters of Wallcoverings,

Do you find yourself hating your naked walls, wish they were covered in glamorous, warm wallpaper? Do you feel like your life lacks meaning because your home isn’t interesting enough? Do you wish there was a material on your wall that took tons of labor to install? If so, you should think about adding some wallpaper to your life. I’ve gathered up some of my favorite wallpapers from Homepolish projects and shared some tips for installation on Homepolish Magazine. Check it out immediately!

CONTINUE READING >>>

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LA Needs to Stop Tearing Down Its History to Build Garbage

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Dear Architecture Lovers,

When I moved to Los Angeles eight years ago, I lived in the area of Hollywood very close to West Hollywood. I remained in that neighborhood for the next seven years, until last year when I moved to Silver Lake to live in a condo overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir with my boyfriend. Over the years I noticed West Hollywood started to explode with construction. That explosion has extended all over town, from the crazy expensive homes being built in Venice to the amazing (and insane) transformation of the Arts District downtown (which is literally nothing but bulldozers these days). Our city is transforming at an incredible speed, and I believe it’s on its way to finally being a world-class city and a worthy international destination (once we fix our terrible third-world airport).

All of this is great, but one thing I’ve been noticing over the years is how little regard city planners, developers, the general public, and even architects have for preserving any sense of the city’s rich architectural history. To drive around our city, you’d think that it was founded in the nineteen nineties (when in fact it’s officially been a city for over 160 years and obviously was populated way before that). We have a history as a city of tearing down buildings in favor of building something more contemporary. People here like “new.” And the problem with this is that it never allows our current architecture to gestate and become historic. With the danger of earthquakes present at all times here, it makes sense for people to be attracted to new construction (and thus buildings erected during stricter earthquake construction regulations), but there has to be a way to preserve buildings while renovating them to make them earthquake-safe.

To be honest, I kind of get it. My old building in Hollywood was from the nineteen fifties and I always felt like it would probably pancake me in an earthquake. Unfortunately, there is a huge incentive for the landlords that own many of the amazing mid-century apartment complexes scattered across the city to do as little as they possibly can to maintain them. To save money and do things cheaply, eventually leading the way to just tearing these buildings down and erecting something new and cheap, usually out of very inexpensive materials with a few bells and whistles (stainless steel, woohoo!) designed to trick buyers/renters into thinking the building is high end. A great example of this is the Dylan in West Hollywood, an apartment complex built from materials that are likely to age poorly in a style that was dated before construction ended.

If you ask people what their favorite cities are, most people will mention a city with a strong architectural history: Paris, San Francisco, New York, London, etcetera. I was lucky enough to visit Barcelona over the summer and the most amazing part of the whole trip was how well the city has preserved its amazing historic buildings. You can literally see history, decades and centuries, as you walk though the city and it’s an amazing feeling. It gives the city a sense of presence and importance. That people cared enough, over time, to preserve buildings and historic places. But for some reason people who love these historic cities have no problem tearing down fifty-year-old buildings in LA to make way for banal new constructions.

A great example of this disconnect comes with the new Gehry building being built on Sunset Boulevard (a block away from my old apartment):

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No, they’re not building a Mickey’s Toontown next to my old apartment. But the first thing I thought of when I saw the Gehry design (on the left) was that crazy cartoon land at Disneyland. I actually really like the Gehry design but the reason I’m likening it to Mickey’s Toontown is that it is very much in the same vernacular, and that vernacular is strongly related to the architectural sensibility of the early nineties (Toontown was built in 1993, a few years before Gehry’s most famous curvaceous building was erected, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 1997). That vernacular is dated. So basically my point is that this building quickly be dated once it’s built.

Which would be fine if developers weren’t tearing down a “dated” architectural gem to make way for the soon-to-be-dated Gehry erection. This is the building they will tear down for the Gehry development on Sunset:

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I had a hard time finding a lot of current images, but the vintage images of it actually are better at showing what it would look like if it were restored:

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I have a huge soft spot in my heart for zig-zag roofs (or really any distinctive architecture to be honest). So I might be a bit biased. But I believe this building is worth saving. Architectural styles can take a long time to come back, but I’m confident this building would (if allowed to stand) someday be cherished as an example of beautiful, archetypal mid-century architecture (it was built in 1960).

The site occupied by the zig-zag Chase Bank was previously the site of another lost piece of LA history, the Garden of Allah Hotel. I’m convinced if that hotel survived it would be as gorgeous as the much-treasured Chateau Marmont, which is just across the street and one of my favorite places to take out of towners to show them that, yes, Los Angeles does have some history. Maybe this site is cursed. Maybe Gehry will tear down this bank and then in twenty-five years another cocky architect will come along and tear down his Mickey’s Toontown. A better solution would be for Gehry to retool his design to include the bank (reports are they’ve already done this but haven’t released the renderings). My hope would be that in fifty years we can look at both buildings and see how they contrast with each other and showcase different periods of LA history.

Seeing the historical relevance of a building is more difficult the more recent it is. Such is the case with a building at 8500 Melrose Avenue. It’s one of the most hated buildings in LA and is one of my very favorites:

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I know what you’re thinking. It’s hideous. A lot of people (most people) hate this building. It’s been maligned (in a rather bourgeois way) by Curbed and the discontent with the building can be tracked back to an early oughts LA Times Story. My theory is that it’s just too soon for people to appreciate this building. It’s too fresh in our collective memory to actually be able to see the historical importance of a building erected in 1985. But that doesn’t mean we should, as is planned, rip off its facade to turn it into something very NOW, which will be equally maligned in twenty years. This era of fast-fashion, and disposable interior design (think of all the inexpensive and, hence, disposable home decor products available at big box retailers these days) has led to an addiction to tearing down and starting over when light renovation (or even just a paint job) could be the better answer. This has deep ramifications for our environment and our cities’ architectural-cultural heritage.

One of the things that can make working with design clients difficult is that I often see what something could be, not what it is and explaining that can be challenging. So I’ll propose a  tattered vintage sofa, knowing that I’ll get it recovered in sumptuous indigo velvet. And the client will see a tattered sofa. I, however, have the burden of seeing the sumptuous indigo velvet sofa and the responsibility to show the client what that would look like. The end result is always way better than if we’d just gone to a big box store and bought a ready-made, run-of-the-mill indigo sofa. I feel the same way about 8500 Melrose Avenue. When I look at this INSANE black-and-white building, I don’t see a building with faded red window frames, clunky typography on the signage, and a hideous entrance. I see what it could be. I see this:

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This is a render I made showing simple, quick edits that could be done to this building to preserve its eighties character while making it less offensive to our today-eyes. What I love about this building is that it is distinctive and that it uses a classic pattern in a way we never see. I love black-and-white stripes. How often do you see them used on architecture? It would save so much labor, material, and natural resources to do minor edits on this building. The upside is that in 50 years, when we’ve had the space to truly appreciate eighties design, we’ll have something to remember it (and our city’s history) by.

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Like with the Gehry complex, I actually like the design of the planned overhaul for this building. I do think, however, that it screams NOW and will thus be hated in twenty years. This type of boxy architecture has roots in high-end architecture, but has unfortunately been coopted by the mansionizing that has run rampant all over the city, but most pervasively in West Hollywood.

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This type of building is relatively cheap because of the materials involved and it doesn’t age well (over time stucco sags and cracks and unlike other materials that can look better with age, this really only looks good brand new). Also, because it’s become so readily-available and widespread, it’s destined to become something that is commonly hated for its ubiquity. Thus, it’s my belief that in twenty years, the public is going to look at the renovated 8500 Melrose and scream, yet again, for it to be torn down.

Another soon-to-be lost space in Los Angeles is the Ricardo Legorreta-designed Pershing Square, which has already chosen French architecture firm Agence Ter for an overhaul. I can see why people hate this park. Firstly, there aren’t plants and there’s little shade. Second, the actual design of the space, with its purple tower and nineties geometry, is very challenging to the contemporary brain. It’s too soon to see the coolness in this park’s retro design. The park opened in 1994.

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When I see the current design of Pershing Square, I don’t see a dated place. I see the type of Magritte-inspired surrealism that had a popular moment in the nineties, typified in the colorful (and insane) Robin Williams movie Toys:

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This was a wonderful, playful time for architecture that gave us architecture stars like Michael Graves (who I think is totally under appreciated and whose buildings for The Disney Company I love). Here, are some GIFs that show the playful aesthetic of Toys:

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I’m sure Legorretta’s Pershing Square felt very contemporary when it opened, but now it feels dated. And dated in a way that’s too close for us to actually appreciate.

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The main issue with this park is that it’s not green enough and there’s not enough shade. Ideally, they’d just rip out a lot of that stone and put some green space for people to relax. Additionally, the colors of the spire and surrounding architecture could be updated pretty easily (people forget the wonders of paint!) to reflect current color trends (primary and secondary colors were all the rage in 1994). Maybe the city could save some of the $50 million estimated budget for the overhaul and dedicate it to services for the homeless, whose presence in the park is the number one detractor for people who want to go there and hang out. I’ve been to the park numerous times and the design of the space has never bothered me. Being harassed and pestered by panhandlers while I’m trying to relax has. I know that sounds a bit insensitive, but seems weird to be spending so much money on a park makeover when the real issue with the area has to do with the fact that so many Angelenos don’t have anywhere to live and congregate in parks like this. It’s not comfortable to have a picnic in a place that is, essentially, somebody’s home. It is my belief that most of the current structures could be allowed to stand and they could be updated and greened up to make the park a much more lush, comfortable place to be.

The design of Pershing Square is kooky, but it’s not unsaveable.

I guess my main overarching point here is that appreciating design and architecture from previous generations can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort to create a city that will feel more dynamic and atmospheric. You have to separate yourself from so many parts of your own personal history to be able to truly see the beauty and history behind an old building or object. I’ve seen this even in dealing with my parents, who are much less interested in anything mid-century than I am because it reminds them of the stuff their parents thought was cool. Their relationship to that period of design is completely different than mine.

But that also shows that even a difference of 30 years can change someone’s perspective on a certain building, piece of furniture, etc. So instead of defaulting to tearing down buildings and replacing them with ones that feel “contemporary” and “now,”  I’d advocate for always erring on the side of giving buildings a chance to become classics. To restoring rather than ripping down. You might not understand the beauty and importance of a more-recent older building, but in 30 years you may regret living in a city that continuously tears down its history, a city that did nothing preserve buildings from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s because they didn’t seem historic at the time. In 50 years they could be a window into our history.

We seem to be in a cycle of mediocrity, where older buildings are being town down to build cheap new buildings that will not stand the test of time or durability. All this is doing is erasing any possibility we have of being a city with any sense of architectural history. Los Angeles, stop tearing down your history to erect buildings to erect buildings that will be torn down.

Love,
Orlando

If you’d like to learn more about preservation in Los Angeles, check out the Los Angeles Conservancy, which has a listing of current historic buildings in danger and ways you can help.

Images via: Curbed, Disney Pal, Skyscraper, LA Conservancy, Curbed, Ivan EstradaLA Weekly, Happening in DTLA, Screen Junkies, Shea Wong, Burrells, MishkaNYC.

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Hommemaker Guide to Nice, France

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Dear Travel Diary,

It’s kind of impossible to talk about my beautiful trip to Nice without talking about the mass murders on Bastille Day.

Edouard and I went to Nice only a few weeks after the tragic/disgusting/outraging attack on July 14th that killed eighty-six people. We went back and forth as to whether we should go to a place that so recently suffered such an overwhelming tragedy. Was it safe? Was it appropriate? But we ended up erring on the side of not allowing murderers to determine where we go and what we see. Edouard is from Paris, and I get the sense that, with the overwhelming number of attacks the have occurred in Europe in the past few years, nowhere there truly feels safe anymore. His hometown has changed.

We flew into Nice at night, on one of the most incredible flights I’ve ever been on. Nice is in the South of France, proximal to Cannes, Antibes, and the world’s most glamorous beach designation, Saint-Tropez. So as we descended, there were fireworks above Cannes, scattered ferris wheels and small seaside carnivals illuminated by blinking lights, and the cities’ reflections in the water. To be honest, I’m not a big traveler for two reasons. I’ve always preferred going to places where someone I know has a personal connection (where they grew up, where they used to visit grandma, etc). And in my twenties I could barely afford my rent, let alone to travel anywhere, so it was never a priority. So ending up traveling to one of the most luxurious coastal destinations on earth was never a goal of mine and never something I thought I’d do. Because of this, our trip felt like such a privilege and a treat. So in sharing it with you I’m not trying to be like “hey look what I did” but rather “these were some beautiful things I was lucky enough to encounter, and I’d like to share them with you.” Talking about travel can be fraught with classism and oneupsmanship so I’d like this to be more a discussion about the beautiful things I saw, less a “these are the see-and-be-seen-places to go” type thing.

Of the destinations in the South of France we visited, Nice was the most economical. So if you’re interested in visiting the Côte d’Azur, Nice is a good place to start because it’s far more approachable than Saint-Tropez or Cannes (Our flights were around $1000 and the hotel we stayed at in Nice was about $200 a night). We were in Nice in mid-August, which is the height of Europe’s tourist season, so it was actually quite crowded while we where there, even though locals told us the tourism was down about 30% (I can’t imagine how crowded it normally is if what we saw was the less crowded version).

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We stayed at the Hotel Suisse, which was by no means fancy and has the world’s tiniest elevator, but was absolutely lovely due to its proximity to the water. This was the view from our room’s window:

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Nice used to be part of Italy, so the city feels a bit un-French. We got in around eleven PM and the only thing we could find to eat was pizza. The world’s most delicious pizza. But seriously everywhere that was open only had pizza. It was at this moment that I knew I was destined to become enormous on this trip. European vacations are great for a lot of things. But mostly good for becoming the fattest person on earth. The food is delicious. AND LITERALLY NONE OF IT IS HEALTHY. I’m from California, the land of fresh salads, lean meats, and fresh squeezed juices. My body is used to those things, so it’s initial response to delicious, rich French/Italian food is to become obese immediately. It’s literally that scene from “The Little Mermaid” where Fake Ariel is marrying Eric and then she explodes and becomes Ursula and everyone is terrified.

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My favorite design discovery in Nice was the lovely shade of blush pink on so many buildings. It’s such a warm, beautiful color and perfect for a city on the coast, contrasting the incredibly vibrant color of the ocean waters.

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If you’re on the hunt for that lovely blush pink, the Plaza Masséna is a great place to start. The contrast of that soft pink with the beautiful, graphic black-and-white tiles makes for a totally sophisticated public square.

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But that’s not the only pink you’ll find in Nice. I love pink, so I had my eye out for it. But it felt like every block had a gorgeous pink building on it.

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The giant historic outdoor marketplace Cours Saleya was right next to our hotel and filled with delicious cafes (and, obviously, tons of pizza). They have an antiques/flea market here every Monday. We definitely ogled all the goods but I didn’t buy anything because I wasn’t sure how I’d get everything home (I tend to be too lazy to take things to the post office and mail them home so usually I’m just lugging huge bags with me through airports and hating myself for buying all that pottery).

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We went to Nice before we ventured to Saint-Tropez and Menorca (two very beach-centric places) so we decided to forgo the beach in there. However, there are a ton of very wonderful beach clubs all over the coast where you can rent a lounge chair for around $15. Europe seems to have the beach figured out better than the U.S. You can rent towels, order drinks, buy food pretty much everywhere. You don’t have to rent a chair if you don’t want to, but the option is there if you don’t feel like lugging your junk around with you all day (or you’re a tourist and you don’t have a chair). Also, they have way better umbrellas than we do. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? WHY CAN’T WE HAVE CUTE UMBRELLAS AND DRINK SERVICE ON THE BEACH???

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The water in the Côte d’Azur is the most insane color of aquamarine (which, duh, is where it gets it’s name). The water looked so delicious I wanted to drink it.

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Despite the recent horrors, Nice feels incredibly safe to walk around in at night. The city is one of the most romantic places I’ve ever been. Edouard and I took a walk up the (giant) hill behind our hotel to Parc de la Colline du Château, which was buzzing with people and had some of the most incredible views I’d ever seen. It’s maybe not the best place for a walk in the middle of the night, but at dusk it’s totally doable and not scary.nice_edit_7

One of the problems with our trip to Europe this year is that everywhere we went we were like “I definitely need to come back here.” So basically the more we travel the more we want to go back to everywhere we already went because we love it so much. Nice is very much a place I’d like to see again. I think if I returned I’d go in the early autumn or spring to avoid the (what I thought of as) hoards of people. There are some European holidays around the 15th of August, so we were visiting during the literal height of tourist season. So if you’re not a crowd person (i.e. you’re an old grandpa like me who hate yelling in restaurants), I’d avoid that time of year. Flights to Europe can range dramatically depending on time of year and how far you book in advance, so if you’re looking to do a South of France vacay on the cheap, I’d just keep checking sites like Kayak until a cheap flight comes available (that’s what we did). There are places to stay there that aren’t crazy expensive and since there are so many delicious casual dining opportunities there, you can get by not spending a ton on food. I’m not trying to pretend like traveling to Europe is doable for everyone, I know it’s a huge luxury, but I was a bit surprised at how accessible it was (I expected everything to cost a million dollars so was pleasantly surprised).

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Also, yes there has been a lot of terrorism in France over the past few years. I don’t wanna be all “If you don’t vacation the terrorists win.” But kinda yeah, if you don’t travel, the terrorists have impeded you from having a beautiful experience. An airplane could fall from the sky and kill you this very moment. Life is terrifying. You kinda just gotta do your thing and hope for the best.

The loss of those eighty-six people was definitely on my mind as Edouard and I wandered around Nice. I guess it felt a bit weird to be on vacation in a place where so many people had lost their lives. But being there was also affirmative. These people lost their lives at a festival in one of the most beautiful places on earth, while doing celebrating and being joyful. Appreciating a place these people knew and loved felt like a small way of honoring them and affirming that their lives matter. Knowing and loving something they knew and loved.

OH MY GOD I TOTALLY JUST LET THE TERRORISTS WIN BY JUST TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR SO LONG RIGHT NOW. Sorry.

So, yeah. This is kind of a weird travel guide. It feels weird to write it because I want to be respectful of those lost and mourn their lives. But I also want to encourage you to visit this incredible place and support the community that has already experienced so much loss.

Love,
Orlando

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Resources: (1) Benjamin Moore Love & Happiness, (2) Benjamin Moore Water Drops, (3) Turkish Bath Towel, (4) Shaun’s Tortoise Sunglasses, (5) Mar y Sol Tote, (6) Saint James Boat Neck, (7) Soludos, (8) Ghurka Bag, (9) Brass Lantern, (10) Henri Matisse, (11) Greek Key Umbrella, (12) Chaise Lounge Chair, (13) Charles Dudouyt Credenza

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In The Studio: Goula Figuera

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Dear Design Diary,

I’m not exactly sure how I came across the sublime work of Goula/Figuera. Maybe it was Instagram. Maybe it was somewhere online. But I remember immediately losing my mind over it. The Barcelona-based team of Álvaro Goula and Pablo Figuera are doing something that I think is unprecendented and unparalleled in today’s world of lighting. They’re making works of art that have a functional illuminating purpose. Their pieces are playful and sophisticated at once and it’s impossible for me to look at them without thinking of one of my favorite artists, Joan Miró. Their work isn’t derivative, it has a sensibility and physicality that has very much to do with contemporary life, but it’s undeniable that modern art had a huge influence on the distinctive geometry and color of these gorgeous lamps.n

I took my first trip to Barcelona in August (I’ll be doing a little write up about it in the coming weeks). The second I booked my flight, I knew I wanted to meet the creative geniuses behind Goula/Figuera. So, like the creepy weirdo I am, I reached out via Instagram direct messaging and got a response. Then I basically invited myself to their studio to check out their work in person and ask them about their process. Unfortunately Pablo Figuera was out of town, but Álvaro Goula showed me around and chatted with me about their process. It was the most exciting day in all of our lives.

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Each Goula/Figuera sculpture is handmade by craftsmen in Barcelona. The intersecting lines are hand-welded onto the pre-made hoops and then the whole thing is sanded and powder coated. The result is something that looks like an exquisite doodle come to life.

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I love nothing more than looking into artists’ sketchbooks to see what ideas lead to their final product. Álvaro was kind enough to let me peep around their studio like a nosy mom who smelled marijuana in her teenage son’s bedroom. COME ON MOM ALL THE KIDS ARE DOING IT!

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I’d buy each and every one of these concept sketches as a lamp. And then I’d take one of the lamps to the Academy Awards as my date when I win best actor and everyone on the red carpet will be all “Lamp! Lamp! Who are you wearing!”

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Goula/Figuera’s studio was under construction while we were there. They’ve just moved from a more warehousey part of Barcelona to a fancy district that is quiet where they were able to find a beautiful studio space for cheaper than in the more artist-dense area (I guess it’s getting too trendy or something).

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In addition to beautiful/magical/enthralling lighting, Goula/Figuera also design furniture. I loved leafing through their sketchbook, admiring their concepts for chairs, benches, and other furnishings.

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I had never been to Barcelona before and was in love with the adventurous spirit of design there. Unlike other older European cities like Paris, the architecture isn’t uniform and conformist. The buildings are all different and distinct, covered in architectural flourishes, pattern, and bizarre geometry. The innovation behind Goula/Figuera’s work seems directly linked to the city’s history of non-conformist creativity. This is, after all, the city where Gaudí got famous.

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These light sculptures can be hung individually or grouped together. I’m sourcing some for a client right now and we’re using a couple because we want to cover more horizontal space but they also look great by themselves in more contained spaces.

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You might be wondering where the bulbs are, but these are actually LED and the bulb is hidden within the black canopy at the bottom.

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Álvaro Goula, one half of Goula/Figuera.

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More sketches and inspiration. Every little scratch in this sketchbook reflected the strong perspective that comes through in the lighting. If I lived in a cartoon world, I’d definitely have Goula/Figuera draw all my furniture, accessories, and lighting.

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More of Goula/Figuera’s incredible work can be seen on their website and is available for purchase in their shop. To follow them obsessively on Instagram, click here. Bye now!

Love,
Orlando

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A Dining Room Makeover for Gray Malin

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Dear Lovers of Gorgeous Colorful Photography (i.e. Gray Malin’s gorgeous work),

I met Gray Malin a few years ago when we worked on his living room and outdoor space. He and his husband Jeff were a joy to work with, so I was excited when they called me up to re-imagine their dining room, which they’d never been stoked about. Previously, it was filled with furniture they had from their previous homes. As is often the case when adjusting old furnishings to a new space, the pieces in the room didn’t feel quite cohesive. The size, finish, and style of their furniture didn’t match with the traditional East Coast design of the rest of the house.

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Studio Tour: The Ethereal Paintings of Beth Winterburn

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Dear People With Naked Walls,

I was wandering around a big box store yesterday, eyeing all the new stuff they have, really enjoying myself, when I came across something that irked me a little bit. Giant, gross photographic prints stretched onto canvases and sold as filler art. You see this type of filler art everywhere, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. There are definitely great online resources for beautiful reproductions by real artists (Minted Art is one of my favorites). But there’s also a lot of junk out there. So when I saw these nasty fake art reproductions yesterday all I could think to myself was “JUST GO OUT AND MEET AN ARTIST AND ASK THEM TO MAKE YOU SOMETHING INSTEAD OF BUYING THIS GARBAGEART.”

But it’s not always easy to meet artists. They’re aloof, they’re all off sitting somewhere wearing berets, smoking cigarettes, pondering their destinies. So I’m going to make a point to introduce you to as many artists as I can. Today, we’re waddling around in the Memphis, Tennessee studio of Beth Winterburn, who creates beautiful atmospheric paintings that’ll send you into a dream state. So put down that full-sized whole chicken you’re eating and follow me as we ogle some artwork.

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The Modern Furniture I Need for Fall

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Dear The End of Summer,

Even though it hasn’t rained in LA since 2007, it’s been cloudy and romantic here all week. Most people would find this depressing. For me, it’s the greatest blessing I could ever hope for. Since I live in a land that hasn’t had weather in years, where it feels like we’ve been living on the edge of apocalypse as long as I can remember, I love anything even remotely resembling atmospheric drama. What’s so great about cold, rainy weather, you ask? Well mostly I like it because it forces you to stay indoors. And what’s so great about staying inside? YOU GET TO STARE AT FURNITURE ALL DAY.

Speaking of staring at furniture, I’ve been having a moment with modern furnishings lately. AND BEFORE ANYONE STARTS YELLING AT ME THAT I’M CONFUSING ‘MODERN’ WITH ‘CONTEMPORARY’ LET ME EXPLAIN MYSELF. So yes, “modern” technically means furniture designed in the first half of the twentieth century. And “contemporary” means what is being designed right now. But when I think of contemporary it makes me want to barf. I think it probably has something to do with coming into consciousness in the 90s, when contemporary design was at its worst (think big fluffy chairs and beige walls). So sometimes when I am describing a contemporary piece I’ll call it modern. You might consider this using language wrong. I consider this using language in a way that prevents me from creating a barf river that would end the California drought.

I can’t believe we’re STILL talking about this. The whole reason I brought all of you together today is to chat about a new site/resource/shopping situation I happened upon recently called Tictail. It’s a super fun app/site that allows you to follow makers and designers and create your own profile (you can see mine here). They have clothes, accessories, art, and homewares (today is all about furniture). It’s kind of like Pinterest, kind of a like a fun registry of things you can buy for yourself or guilt other people into buying for you. And they have a huge selection of modern (contemporary) furniture. The following are a selection of some pieces that made me want to claw my eyeballs out (in a good way).

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Orlando’s Obsessions: Grand Dining Tables

Photo by Ana Kamin courtesy Homepolish

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Dear Dinner Partiers,

Dinner at home with friends is one of my very favorite things on earth. I just love the intimacy, the laughter, and not having to compete to get a table in an excruciatingly loud restaurant where I can’t hear anything and spend the whole dinner just nodding and smiling so it looks like I know what is going on. For this reason, the first place I look in a home tour is the dining room. I just love an inviting dining room with a big table that seats at least 8. Because I’ve decided 8 is the perfect number.

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