Monday, September 17, 2012

On the street where you live . . .

I live further north on this very street, so I was very happy that this YouTube user caught the City of Los Angeles Parking Department in their usual scams.

This has also happened to me, not with metered parking but with street cleaning, and on a street just a few blocks from this location. I arrived at my car at 7:58 a.m. (by my satellite-synched cell phone) to find a ticket already on my windshield for 8:00-10:00 a.m. street cleaning.

If this ever happens to you, I would suggest a quick and strongly worded letter to the Parking Department, with a cc: to your council person.

Very smart of this person to get the badge number of the meter "maid" but one wonders whether this kind of behavior is not encouraged at the Parking Department. The City is broke, after all.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Cleaning," redefined

Our neighborhood association recently requested that the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services (rather brashly known as BOSS) clean the hillside of Vine Street north of Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.

There is no regularly scheduled mechanical street cleaning on this block, which leads to its being used as a dumping ground, attracting vermin and creating a health and safety issue. The rampant growth of weeds both in the fenceline and in the sidewalk is also a concern.


Here are some "before" pictures:

After some prompting from the office of councilman Tom LaBonge, BOSS did show up to to "spot cleaning" and "motor sweep" on Thursday, August 30.

To their credit, BOSS did clean up the seed-pod debris from the tree in the photo above, but they hardly put a dent in the trash.


Here are just a few of the "after" pictures:

 For the complete story, visit this web page.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Stop, indeed.

I was on Mount Washington today for a holiday barbecue and couldn't resist snapping this pitiable example of DIY building.

The attempts at embellishment—the staircase window and the tiny fan-light—only make it all the more wrenching.

But it's only wrenching for me. It's likely that the family or families who live here are quite happy, even amid the paucity of style and dearth of imagination. Let's hope they never read Ugly Angel.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Something beautiful . . .

I've been to Piano Bar in Hollywood nearly every Wednesday for the past 2 months years to see West Coast Get Down, featuring the unbelievable Kamasi Washington on sax and several other stellar regulars, including Ryan Porter (trombone), Cameron Graves (piano), Zane Musa (sax) and Tony "Two Fist" Austin (drums). The bassist position is a revolving door that see Miles Mosley (shown in this video), Hadrien Feraud and Carlitos del Puerto show up.

If you live in L.A. and have not ventured out to see these world-class guys (and very frequent guest appearances by stunning visiting artists such as Sheila E.), you are not taking advantage of this amazing city.

See you there.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weapons of mass germination

I just ordered one of these puppies from Lands' End.

It's not exactly the time of year to do guerrilla planting in Los Angeles, but I'll save the device until the rainy season.

There are several barren patches around here—parkways, median strips, freeway on- and off-ramps, unsuspecting neighbors' front yards—that desperately need an explosive dose of grasses and flowers.

Stay tuned for the photo follow-up. And order your own. Makes a great gift.

PS: If you're wondering, as I was, about why the company is curiously called Lands' End instead of the more correct Land's End: "The misplaced apostrophe in the company name was a typographical error that the founder, Gary Comer, could not afford to change, as promotional materials had already been printed." Thanks, Wikipedia!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Same NIMBYs. Different century.

I recently ran across an old rail industry promotional film called "Railroadin'" that perfectly captures the attitude of those who oppose the California High-Speed Rail project on NIMBY grounds. The costumes have changes, but the grumbling is identical.

As the film points out, those nineteenth-century NIMBYs were swept away by progress, as their contemporary counterparts will be. The full video can be found here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Still obsessed

I've been obsessed with The Talmadge on Wilshire for a decade now.

I may never live on Park Avenue, but I'm still holding out hope for an apartment at The Talmadge, together with a complete upscale revival of Mid-Wilshire from MacArthur Park to Western. (I can't bring myself to call this corridor "Koreatown," in spite of the city's signage, although I'm willing to concede that moniker to the area just a couple of blocks south and north of Wilshire.)

There's certainly no dearth of Talmadge apartments to be had (they are rentals) and the regularity of vacancies appearing on makes me wonder whether there's not something drastically wrong with the management.

The building is not in the best of shape (how will you look at 90?) , but I would far prefer leaving it as is to giving it over to a conscience-challenged developer to gut and turn into "lofts."

Thank Zeus this hasn't happened yet. Each apartment has a formal dining room, and the galley-style kitchens still have their swinging doors, through which the "help" (some apartments have rooms for live-in maids) might once have bustled out pheasant under glass for a dinner party for six bon-vivants. There are some good things to be said about benign neglect, I suppose. 

I've looked at several one-bedrooms in this building at various points, usually on weekends when the security desk will give "prospective tenants" free access to spend a leisurely hour pretending to live in the Los Angeles of Norma Talmadge, whose husband, producer Joseph Schenk, gave this building to her as a gift.

I snapped a few photos on the last visit, and used that amazing tool Photoshop to whip up a nice little pad for myself along what was once (and still should be) Los Angeles' chicest boulevard.

The renditions are far from perfect, but a guy's gotta dream . . .

 Shall we say dinner at 8?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Antigua del Mar Tile

In my previous post, I visited the home of Lorna Auerbach, owner of Antigua del Mar Tile, based in Santa Monica. As promised, here's a look at the artisanal Spanish tiles that she deals in.

A sample board with several patterns.

Antigua del Mar is a consortium of ceramic tile artists with studios throughout Spain—artists that Lorna has sought out on many trips to Andalucia and other regions of Spain.

These are handcrafted tiles, made in the same manner as those created from the 12th through 18th centuries, and using patterns that are historically authentic. Unlike industrially produced high-fire tiles, they exhibit slight variations in pattern from tile to tile, the sign of true hand-craftsmanship.

Many of the tiles she offers are documented in definitive reference books on the topic, such as Alun Graves'
Tile and Tilework, published by London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

Lorna used many of the handmade tiles in the design of her Pacific Palisades residence. They are especially effective in the exterior cladding of the Moorish arch windows shown in my previous post.

The tiles used in the photo above.

Spain's seven centuries of Moorish rule, from 711 until 1492 AD, resulted in an abundance of intricate geometric patterns, both rigorous and playful, figurative decoration being forbidden under Islamic law.

But aside from abstract Moorish-influenced designs, Antigua del Mar's Spanish artisans also re-create later figurative works in ceramic, such as this multi-tile plaque. Custom work is also welcome.

Followers of interior design may have noticed Lorna's recent ad in the current March-April issue of Veranda.

While the majority of the artists that Lorna works with are traditionalists, their ranks include some who are using cutting-edge technology to re-create the past. The exquisite marble tile below is cut using a computer-guided laser. The pattern is sharply defined, but variations in the material itself assure that each tile will be absolutely unique.
Contact Lorna at Antigua del Mar at 310-315-9870 or

Many thanks again to Lorna Auerbach for her generous hospitality in producing this and the previous post.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Andalucia in the Palisades

When I blogged about workmanship in this previous post, I used an Andalucian-style house in Pacific Palisades as an example. Although the architect of record was Richard Landry, the house was largely designed by its owner, Lorna Auerbach, who worked with Landry on every aspect of the planning.

Recently, Lorna graciously invited me into her very private but also very welcoming world.

Lorna Auerbach at the outer door of her house on Amalfi Drive.
The 18th-century gates were sourced in Ronda, and the surrounding tiles are
reproductions from Seville, based on a wainscot from a 16th-century palace.

Tile is considered a sign of wealth in southern Europe. Trying to source authentic tile for this project was an impetus for Lorna to found her own import tile company, Antigua del Mar. (More about this Santa Monica-based company in my next post.)

The house has no doorbell: "Use the knockerit's authentic!"

The entry courtyard, with tower.

The entry courtyard from above.

"What I love about walking down the streets of Córdoba or Sevilla, is the sense of mystery," says Lorna, who is an avid Hispanophile and an authority of the history of tile. "The gates are always closed, and you wonder what's going on behind them."

Lorna, who grew up in Santa Monica Canyon, where all the streets were at one time cobbled, retains a romantic vision of the atmosphere of this erstwhile Spanish land grant area.

"There was something very magical about growing up in that environment," she says. "When I met Richard Landry, he asked me a very leading question: 'What are your strongest childhood memories of home?'" The ensuing dialogue between the designer and the architect led to the eventual look and feel of the house.

A reproduction of a 16th-century tile plaque in a house in Sevilla—a map of the city—graces the entry hall.

Lorna avoided down-lights in the house. Lighting fixtures are Moroccan, Spanish, and Mexican, some original and some replicated by local artisans. The owner also has no qualms about purchasing fixtures from retailers such as Lamps Plusif they work in the space.

Every room has at least three window walls for cross-ventilation (air-conditioning was installed only on the second level), as well as its own private patio or outdoor space, most of them decorated with artisanal ceramic ware.

A colorful patio off the home office.

Lorna acted as her own interior decorator, sourcing from flea markets and even becoming a dealer in order to have "insider" access to the best merchandise.

The living room viewed from the kitchen.

The dining room also serves as a library.

One of my favorite features of the house is the media room, with generous fenestration of steel-frame windows below Moorish arches, which are covered with tile on the exterior. The motif was copied from a 1920s house in Santa Barbara.

The gorgeous landscaping is by Mark David Levine.

The tiles used on the arches are available from Lorna's company, Antigua del Mar.

Even the undersides of the balconies are tiled. "You see that all over Spain. It's the idea of surprise," Lorna explains. "The idea that everywhere you look there's something interesting to catch the eye."

The design of the wrought iron is taken from a Spanish original.

"The idea of surprise." The undersides of the balconies are covered in tile.

The house is centered around the light-filled double-height central hall, where a skylight allows the California sun to pour in and find its way throughout the house.

Bringing the outdoors in.

A sitting area outside the master suite.

Lorna selected the artwork throughout the residence according to her personal taste and its appropriateness to the mood of the house. The mix includes classic California plein air paintings, work by local artists, collectible posters, fine art photographs and ceramic art.

A landscape of Ronda, Spain, in the master suite sitting room.

A naïviste painting by Los Angeles artist Antonio Rael.

A study for a mural by Sam Hyde Harris.

The house was built by Tyler Development.

This photo by Erhard Pfeiffer.

Many thanks to Lorna Auerbach for her generosity in showing me the house. Watch for my next post about her tile company, Antigua del Mar.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

From Belgium with style

I got a nice note recently from David Manrique, the Stateside account manager for the Belgian luxury hardware manufacturer Vervloet, founded in Brussels in 1905.

I'm posting below a few pages from the Vervloet catalogs (which can be downloaded from the Vervloet website). The products range from Louis XIV (who is due for a revival any time now) to Beaux Arts to Art Déco to contemporary classics.

Very impressive design and workmanship, on a par with P. E. Guerin, I'd say. I've always wanted Cremone bolts on my French windows. I'm keeping this web address handy . . . but first I need the windows.

Interested parties can reach David Manrique at