Grow Your Own Fresh Air

If you follow me on Twitter, then you may know I recently started back up in UCLA’s interior design program. I’m easing into it with a light schedule this quarter, and one of the classes I’m taking is all about ecological and sustainable design. Fun!

Our professor mentioned this building in Milan, which is currently being built. Apparently Milan has terrible air quality, so the goal in building this high rise is for all of the air that comes into the building to pass through a series of plants first, naturally filtering the air. Because as they taught us in elementary school science class, plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen! Brilliant! (I’m hoping for a trip to Italy sometime in the near future, and hoping even more that this will be built by then so I can go see it in real life!)

Many plants also have a natural ability to filter out toxins that travel through the air, such as those nasty fumes from VOC’s used in paints, glues, and even carpeting. SOM designed a living air filter that could cut down VOC’s in a typical office building by 80%. That’s a whole lot more fresh air at work!

So I got to thinking. What other ways are people using plants and vertical gardens to improve their quality of life and the quality of the air they breath? Well for one, there has been a significant movement in vertical gardening lately, and Patrick Blanc seems to be at the head of it.

Blanc had the record for the world’s largest living wall (located in Madrid), until Francesco Bollani one-up’ed him with this one in Milan.

Patrick Blanc is also responsible for this overpass in New Zealand. Wouldn’t it be magical if all of Los Angeles’ overpasses looked like this? Less concrete, more plants!

What about underused indoor spaces, you say? Well last time my husband and I traveled to the East coast we had a layover at Chicago O’Hare and discovered this incredible vertical garden (video). And it’s not just for show! It’s a fully functioning hydroponic vegetable garden, and the restaurants in the airport are welcome to use these fresh veggies and herbs in the meals they prepare for you while you wait for your next flight. (This was probably my favorite discovery in an airport, ever… so much more exciting than realizing an airport has not one but TWO Dunkin’ Donuts…)

If you want to bring more fresh air into your own home (and especially if simply opening a window is more like inviting smog in and letting oxygen out), Kamal Meattle suggests the Areca Palm, Mother-in-law’s Tongue, and the Money Plant in this video. I’ll admit this is not the most entertaining Ted Talk I’ve ever seen, but he talks about his involvement in a huge project in India where they have brought a veritable forest of these plants inside to vastly improve the air quality in some huge office buildings in Delhi. Adding a few of these plants to your house seems a simple way to boost your oxygen levels at home in the same way.

Do you have indoor plants in your house? Will you be adding any to your indoor environment now?

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Historical Downtown Los Angeles

When people think of Los Angeles, they think of glitz and glamour, expensive cars, palatial McMansions, beaches and sunshine. But rarely do they think “historical.” In fact, there’s a surprising amount of history here in LA. The city was being built up quite rapidly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the result is a city of hidden Beaux Arts, Modern, and Art Deco treasures.

This past weekend the hubby joined me on an LA Conservancy tour I have been meaning to take for quite some time, and I’m so glad we finally went. It was a walking tour, close to two and a half hours, that took us through some of LA’s greatest architectural achievements, ending in a finale of sorts at the Bradbury building, considered LA’s single most important work of architecture.

Here are my favorite highlights of the tour. If you are in the LA area, I highly recommend you take one of the conservancy’s tours on your own. They have a bunch to choose from. I personally plan to hit as many as I can over the coming year.

The Biltmore Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel (not actually associated with the national Biltmore you may have heard of, but using the same name nonetheless) is a pretty perfect example of Beaux Arts architecture. With it’s columns and ornamentation at the base floors of the building and ornamentation at the very top, the architects left the majority of the center of the structure relatively simple, as is typical for Beaux Arts design. To me, this looks just like buildings you might see in a city like New York or Chicago. The Biltmore is a gorgeous hotel, and they even offer a traditional afternoon tea for a truly Victorian experience.

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exterior Biltmore Hotel

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ornamentation at the top level of the building, typical of Beaux Arts architecture

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original front entrance
(today, you would likely enter from the other side, an addition to the building from the 1980’s with a covered drive-up area and parking garage)

Pacmutual Center

This building was originally built when Pacmutual was still the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company. Also in the Beaux Arts style, the ornamentation pattern is similar to the Biltmore. The building still holds most of it’s original charm and decorative detailing, making you feel like you have stepped into another time altogether while you wander through the lobby.

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front entrance to the Pacmutual Building

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this was the original Pacific Life Mutual Insurance Company crest, which still sits atop the entrance

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ceiling ornamentation in the main lobby area

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the building still has it’s original marble staircases

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this is also the original mailbox put into the lobby when it was built in 1908

Los Angeles Central Library

The library is one of those places I have always loved and appreciated. Sadly, we’re no longer technically City of Los Angeles residents, so no more checking out books from this magical place! But it’s still a public building, so anyone can visit. Although the architect refused to admit to building in any particular style, the library was built during the beginnings of the popularity of Art Deco, and it shows. He had also just returned from a trip to Turkey, and the tile work and murals throughout clearly reflect that influence.

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the library sits amongst the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles

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tile detail on the library’s pyramid-shaped top

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the US Bank Tower behind the library was once called “Library Tower” because it was built by purchasing air rights from the library; the library would have been torn down were it not for the money generated by this transaction
(Library Tower’s sunburst-shaped top mimics the sunburst on the library’s tile top)

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on the other side of the building, philosophers welcome the library’s patrons as they enter

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this mural has been cleaned, but never restored , so it remains in it’s original (albeit a little faded) form

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the mural on the ceiling of the rotunda is a near perfect replica of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque

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more details mimicking the Blue Mosque in Turkey

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this globe hangs from the center of the rotunda

The Edison Building (now called One Bunker Hill)

This is another Art Deco treasure that makes you feel as though you have entered another era when you walk inside. The lobby boasts an incredible amount of beautiful marble work and lots of original details including carved wood elevator interiors and inset ornamentations on the ceiling. Plus, there is a mural painted by Hugo Ballin, the same artists who painted the amazing murals in the rotunda at the Griffith Observatory.

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the Edison Building has had a few additions and updates, but mostly remains in it’s original form

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gorgeous marble work and decorative details in the lobby

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mural by artist Hugo Ballin

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the original wood detail still remains in the elevator interiors

Angel’s Flight and Grand Central Market

Angel’s Flight was recently re-opened to the public, and is a treasured piece of Los Angeles history. It was originally intended as transportation for the residents of the exclusive Bunker Hill (now populated by skyscrapers and performance theaters, and no longer residential) so that they could easily go from the top of the hill to the bottom. At the base of Angel’s Flight is Grand Central Market, which was bustling with activity just like I imagine it has since it opened in 1917!

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Angel’s Flight

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Angel’s Flight in action

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the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Market

Bradbury Building

This was the building we all had been anxiously awaiting our arrival to. You may recognize this one from movies such as Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer, among many others. The Bradbury Building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but is an incredible feat of architecture on the inside! No one actually knows exactly who the architect was, but Lewis L Bradbury commissioned it at the end of his life so that he may leave a legacy to Los Angeles. He never saw it in it’s finished form, but it certainly is a legacy. The glass ceiling allows light to travel into nearly every corner of the building, and incredible iron work and wood panelling details cover the space unlike any other place I’ve ever seen.

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exterior of the Bradbury Building

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interior Bradbury Building

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incredible detail in the iron work throughout the building

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one angle of the open elevator shafts

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the glass ceiling allows plenty of light to flood into the building

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a front view of one of the elevator hafts

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beautiful wood panelling details covers the walls and ceilings

I’m hoping to jump on LA Conservancy’s Art Deco tour next, but there are so many to choose from!

Do you have a favorite LA architecture gem? Or a favorite from your own city?

Art Deco Meets Science at the Griffith Observatory

Last weekend, a dear friend was visiting from out of town. She used to live in the LA area, and when asked what she wanted to do with her short time here she didn’t hesitate to answer that she wanted to visit the Griffith Observatory!

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

One of the many great things about it is that it’s located in Griffith Park, which some call the Central Park of Los Angeles. Lots of trails for hiking and running, one of which goes directly up to the observatory. (You can also drive right up to it from the other side, but there’s something satisfying about hiking up that steep hill to the reveal of this nugget of Los Angeles history.)

Hiking in Griffith Park

A little backstory of the observatory from the official site:

Exploring the Observatory’s past starts with namesake Griffith J. Griffith, whose plan for a public observatory was as visionary as it was audacious. From Griffith’s bequest in 1919 to the Observatory’s dedication on May 14, 1935, the story shifts to the astronomers, architects, and public leaders who made his vision to reality. From there, the Observatory welcomed 70 million visitors and became the world’s leader in public astronomy, a story told in the context of the building’s four Directors.

In 2002 they closed it down for a few years for some major renovations, and when it opened back up people were so excited that you had to make arrangements in advance just to get in. (Don’t you just love it when people get so excited about science?) Now that the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, it’s easy to go, although still crowded on the weekends.

the front entrance to the observatory

Designed by John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley, the building acts as a science museum and planetarium, hugged by art deco perfection! Geometric art deco design details are everywhere, and the beautiful restoration has left the building crisp and pristine so you can clearly see all of the careful work that was put into designing it. And since art deco was all about honoring the classic themes in architecture while also celebrating the age of the machine, it’s the perfect backdrop for the history of the world as viewed with new, ever developing technologies.

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art deco dentals

These art deco styled dentals frame the front entry way into the building. And radiating horizontally outward are geometric S-like embellishments, familiar in many deco designs of the time.

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art deco detail

This detailing follows the building all the way around to the back side, where you can see more of the familiar embellishments and tapered lines so familiar to the style.

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art deco design and detail

The observation dome atop the building fits with the age of the machine.

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a view of the observatory from behind

The first thing you see when you walk through the front door is this incredible Foucault Pendulum. “The 240-pound brass ball, suspended by a cable 40 feet long, swings in a constant direction while the Earth turns beneath it.”

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Foucault Pendulum

Gradually it will knock over each of these pegs, in demonstration that Earth is indeed moving all the time.

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pegs demonstrating Earth’s rotation

And then when you look up, an incredible mural of astronomy, philosophy, myth, exploration, and art.

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mural on the ceiling above the pendulum

Inside, they have an entire wall dedicated to the periodic table of elements.

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periodic table of elements

Each glass square contains the actual element. So if you were ever wondering Scandium looks like, now you know.

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actual elements on display

They also have an actual working Tesla coil.

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Tesla Coil

It is VERY loud when it fires off, but it’s still super cool to be able to see and hear the power of electricity.

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Tesla Coil in action

And for the amateur astronomers out there, wouldn’t you just love to take home this you? Pretty!

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an astronomer’s dream telescope

There is so much more to see than just these little nuggets. There are exhibits demonstrating the earth’s rotation, the solar system, geological phenomenons, and even a live image of the sun on which you can see solar storms happening in real time! What more can I say except that you must see this place for yourself.

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deco design and astronomy symbols in the main lobby

On your way out, one more nod to the art deco design of the building, a back lit display of symbols of astronomy.

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Hollywood sign right next door

I always like to take a moment before I leave to enjoy the views. The observatory sits a top a hill with views in almost all directions, and the famous Hollywood sign is right next door!

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the view of downtown Los Angeles

In the other direction you can see downtown LA.

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the view of the ocean

And on a really clear day, you can even see the ocean from here! It seems so close by!

Have you been to the Griffith Observatory? What was your favorite thing about it?

Going Back in Time at Gayle’s Pasadena Architectural Salvage

Over the weekend, the hubby and I ventured out to Pasadena to visit Gayle’s Pasadena Architectural Salvage. We want to put a door into an existing doorway between our kitchen and dining room, which is easier said than done. In the process of measuring the doorway and then searching the more obvious places to buy a door like Home Depot or Lowes, I learned that the doors used in the 1920’s are actually ever so slightly smaller than today’s standard door sizes (by fractions of an inch!) So I began a search for an antique door of the proper size (29 ¾” x 78 ½ “) and came across this veritable treasure trove of salvaged goodies from the 19th and 20th centuries.

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They have everything! From fireplace mantles, to old butler pantries, to lighting fixtures, to furniture and hardware galore! I was in heaven walking through the store and trying to imagine from what type of home each of these unique pieces may have originated.

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And there were rows upon rows of old doors. We found the perfect one! We really wanted a glass door, so as to be able to separate the two rooms without cutting completely cutting off the flow of the house. We found this 10-light french door, which will be the perfect entry into our kitchen (which has white cabinets and siding, and grey walls). All it needs is a coat of white paint to match the white we used in the kitchen. I can’t wait to ave it delivered and start working on mounting it!

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Here are a few of my favorite things that we saw in the store. I can’t wait to go back again and see what else appears there!

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I found this chair charming, with it’s leather seat and brass buttons. While it may not be the most comfortable seat for a house guest, it could make a great conversation piece for the antique furniture lover.
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This is just one of many fireplace mantels they had. With it’s it’s natural wood grain proudly displayed and the beautiful carved wood detail, this one take me back in time!

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I have mentioned my love for the Arts and Crafts movement before, and this gorgeous buffet is no exception! It’s wood is in beautiful condition, and it’s natural red tones make for an exceptionally elegant addition for a formal dining room.

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I just adore these kitchen canisters!

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This cabinet just begs to be taken home! (And we almost did… who knows, there’s still time!) I am absolutely in love with the wood inlay, which is almost a bit more Art Nouveau than Arts and Crafts. And the velvet lining inside seems to be original, and in fabulous shape! I can just imagine some mustached gentlemen pulling out his favorite Brandy snifter while puffing on a delicious cigar.

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There is a butler pantry in the Gamble House that looks just like this! If I had a great big kitchen, I would slide this right into it!!

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There were beautiful displays of stain glass hanging throughout the store, all saved for someone (maybe you!) to take home and put in their own window.

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There was also a plethora of hardware! Door knobs, hinges, cabinet hardware, keys… you name it!

Have you ever been unexpectedly led to such treasures? Where do you look for antiques in your town?