Beautiful LA Lifestyle

LA OF THOSE SPARKLING BEACHES, EPIC MOUNTAINS, 300 DAYS OF SUNSHINE. LA OF WORK LIFE BALANCE (A REAL THING). LA OF STILL SEMI AFFORDABLE HOUSING. A PHOTOGRAPHER FRIEND AND HIS WIFE WHO WENT LEFT EARLIER THIS YEAR TRADED A DODGY GROUND FLOOR ONE BEDROOM IN BROOKLYN FOR A THREE BEDROOM HOUSE IN HIGHLAND PARK. THEIR RENT? LESS.

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“Does it ever stop feeling like a vacation here?” I ask an old friend from New York. He has moved to Los Angeles, and I am visiting. We are sitting in front of the blob of buildings at Sunset Junction in Silverlake. The red paint glows in the sunlight. To our right is coffee temple Intelligentsia, where creative types queue seemingly all day long for a caffeine fix, or set up shop at a grouping of shaded outside tables, laptops clicking. Most people wear sunglasses, most are attractive. To our left, a shop specializes in succulents.

What began with a few souls quietly packing their cars in the night has grown into a full blown westward demonstration. People are leaving New York for LA. And really, why wouldn’t they? LA of those sparkling beaches, epic mountains, 300 days of sunshine. LA of work life balance (a real thing). LA of still semi affordable housing. A photographer friend and his wife who went West earlier this year traded a dodgy ground floor one bedroom in Brooklyn for a three bedroom house in Highland Park. Their rent? Less.

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What happened to the strikes that out of towners used to hold against this place? Of plasticity, of vapidity, of a lack of museums, and mediocre at best celebrity chef piloted restaurants. Those have changed, or are in the process of being obliterated altogether. The revitalization of Downtown LA (DTLA if you speak in acronyms) with its booming Grand Central market, scores of hip hotels, eateries, stores, lofts, and apartments has helped shepherd a young creative class to a city sorely lacking one. There are clothing designers cutting denim at Downtown factories, graphic designers tweaking websites in light filled Culver City studios, and the musicians – everyone young and influential in the music industry is camped out here. Artists, too. The average age of guests who line up to get into buzzy, contemporary mecca The Broad? Just 32.

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At the opposite end of the LA spectrum, the unflappable and bubbled Hollywood neighborhoods have been altered forever. Beverly Hills, with its Ferrari dealerships and 500 USD dinners, has been left to rot in the hands of the blue hairs. And a recent spin through West Hollywood on a Monday evening found every venue but the venerable Chateau Marmont stone dead. While just around the corner, on West Sunset, the dining room at millennial friendly Thai street food spot Night + Market was packed. (I ate my Pad Thai at the counter.)
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“I can’t wrap my head around LA,” my New York fashion friend has said when I’ve brought it up. “Everyone’s eyes are glassed over and they’re telling you: ‘It’s so amazing here!’ Major Kool-Aid vibes.”  Admittedly, I’ve loved LA for some time now. In 2009 I visited a friend who had a whitewashed bungalow set back from Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice. We sat swapping stories over kale in the backyard of Gjelina, rode our cruiser bikes to the post office to get her mail, and fell asleep in hammocks watching the waves. Everything we did seemed vastly superior to my New York life, which at the time, included twice a day AA meetings and sharing a glorified dormitory on the Upper East Side with not one, but three roommates. “I can’t believe this is your life,” I told her, probably too many times.
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It took me seven years, but I finally started sending emails one fall day, harassing the friends who had found their way out to California, asking for a place to crash for the winter months. There was my friend the antique rug dealer over in Eagle Rock, the adventure journalist in Echo Park, the comedian in Santa Monica. The first bite I got back was from the asset manager in Manhattan Beach. “My wife and I have a spare bedroom,” he said on the phone one afternoon. “It’s yours as long as you need it.”

When I pulled into the driveway on a January night, a few days after New Year, I couldn’t believe my luck. Their little house was a block from the crashing water. The spare bedroom was slightly damp in that pleasant way that rooms by the beach are. In the mornings, little slices of sunlight bounced off the stucco ceiling and landed on my face, my forearms. The absence of city noise was alarming at first, but became blissful soon enough. The flinching anxiety took a week or two to melt off. I hiked through the hills. I jogged through town. I wrote. A lot. I lived.

And the asset manager seemed to be living, too. In New York, he’d worn suits, his skin tinted a yellowy grey color. Now he was brown, wore rumpled polo shirts, arrived home by three or four o’clock each afternoon, usually with a heaping bag of fish tacos for dinner. We walked his drooling golden retriever along the beach under the fading orange sun. “We just love it here,” he said, his eyes glowing.

In the LA evenings, I drove and drove. To a house party in Mar Vista. To a bonfire in Glendale. The jaded, that’s too far mentality of any permanent Angelino hadn’t affected me yet, so I drove. During rush hours, and in the middle of the night. To Palm Springs to spend a weekend writing by the pool. To Joshua Tree to watch the sun come up. By the time February rolled around and I was due back in New York, I had a completed manuscript, one I hoped would become a novel. I also had a quandary: Could this place be for me?

Every morning in that guest bedroom, I woke up to three extra hours of emails fired off from the East Coast. Potentially coronary inducing to my New York temperament, right? Not here. No, I’m convinced those several thousand miles did something to shield me from the urgency. Those frantic pleas for revisions and the do or die deadlines seemed like less of a squeeze from out here, like more of a suggestion.

Now, I have no doubt a certain breed of West Coaster would argue, wave their arms in objection. “LA is fast living, man,” they might say. And yeah, relativity is everything – for some, maybe the pace here is less than relaxed. Maybe if you come from Sacramento, or Sausalito. Or maybe the lack of seasons will sterilize you beyond recognition and maybe your eyes will glow, Spicoli-like forever with the vaguely distant tint of a Malibu resident, whose only decision each morning is this: Surf or smoothie? Maybe, just maybe, the 405 will drive you batty.

But I never told you what my old friend said, that morning outside the coffee shop in Silverlake. The friend who had moved to Los Angeles from New York, the friend who said he couldn’t wait to go back East to visit, to flinch, to feel frantic again. He smiled and shook his head when I asked the question: “Does it ever stop feeling like a vacation here?” He said, “No.”

First published in Cereal Magazine
By Sean Hotchkiss
PHOTOS: Rick Poon

Beautiful Stahl House

Stahl House, completed in 13 months and costing $37,500, further demonstrated Pierre Koenig’s flair for working with industrial materials, particularly steel, glass and concrete.

Stahl-Landscape1-The image is instantly familiar; the house, all dramatic angles, concrete, steel and glass, perched indelibly above Los Angeles, with Hollywood’s lights resembling a circuit board below it. Inside, two women sit, stylish and relaxed, talking casually behind the monumental floor to ceiling glass walls. One of the world’s most iconic photographs, Julius Schulman’s Case Study 22 beautifully captures the optimism of 1950s Los Angeles, and the striking beauty of architect Pierre Koenig’s masterpiece, Stahl House. The classic L shaped pavilion, cantilevered above Hollywood on Woods Drive, was built in 1959 after being adopted into the Case Study Program, an experimental residential design initiative that commissioned architects to create model homes in the wake of the 1950s housing boom. Stahl House, also known as No. 22, was the wild one, conjured up by the man who purchased the plot of land at 1635 Woods Drive in 1954 for $13,500 and sealed the deal with a handshake. C H ‘Buck’ Stahl was a dreamer, who, along with his wife Carlotta, set about finding the right person to bring his vision for an innovative and thoroughly modern home to life.

Stahl-portrait1-chairstahl_portrait2-pool.jpgBuck was a former professional footballer who worked as a graphic designer and sign painter. He spent his first few years as a landowner hauling broken blocks of concrete to the site in attempt to improve its precarious foundation. He and Carlotta ferried their finds, load by load, back to Woods Drive in the back of Buck’s Cadillac, hopeful the reinforcements would prevent the land from sliding. Buck’s dreams for the house began to take shape over the following two years, and eventually, he made a model of the future Stahl House. His grand designs, however, were promptly rejected by several notable architects.

Stahl-Landscape2-view.jpgCarlotta recalled Buck continually telling prospective architects “I don’t care how you do it, there’s not going to be any walls in this wing.” Until they hired Pierre Koenig in 1957, an ambitious young architect determined to build on a site nobody would touch, it seemed unlikely the house would ever exist. Pierre described the process of building Stahl House as “trying to solve a problem – the client had champagne tastes and a beer budget.” He was interested in working with steel, and despite being warned away from it by his architecture instructors, possessed great aptitude for it. He’d experimented with a number of exposed glass and steel homes before he created Case Study 21, or The Bailey House in 1958 and 1959, and his skill for designing functional spaces with simplicity of form, abundant natural light, and elegant lines would eventually make him a master of modernism. Stahl House, completed in 13 months and costing 37,500 USD, further demonstrated Pierre’s flair for working with industrial materials, particularly steel, glass, and concrete. The project put him on the map as an architect with an incredible eye for balance, symmetry, and restraint. The 2,040 m² house was, as Buck insisted, built without walls in the main wing to allow for sweeping 270º views. Three sides of the building were made of plate glass, unheard of in the late 1950s, and deemed dangerous by engineers and architects. This design feature required Pierre to source the largest pieces of glass available for residential use at the time. With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, polished concrete floors, and a very famous swimming pool (a fixture in countless films and fashion editorials) Stahl House was an immediate mid century icon.

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Although there has been some dispute over Buck’s influence on the design in the years since he died in 2005 and Pierre Koenig’s death in 2004, some experts who have seen Buck’s original model agree that his concept informed the direction the Stahl House would finally take.

“I dismissed it as typical owner hubris at the time,” architect and writer Joseph Giovannini told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. “The gesture of the house cantilevering over the side of the hill into the distant view is clearly here in this model. But it is Pierre’s skill that elevated the idea into a masterpiece. This is one of the rare cases it seems that there is a shared authorship.”

Today, Stahl House is still owned by the Stahl family. Though it remains a magnet for film crews and photographers the world over, for Bruce Stahl, Buck and Carlotta’s son, who grew up there with his siblings, it was simply part of a typical, happy childhood. “We were a blue collar family living in a white collar house,” he said. “Nobody famous ever lived here.”

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Credits: Lucy Brook
Photos: Rick Poon

Beautiful Art Exhibits

Cool Events taking place around the world.

Tatsuo Mayajima’s “Connect with Everything” installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia

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Few contemporary artists grapple with what it means to be human as profoundly as Japanese-born Tatsuo Miyajima, whose signature works are high-tech, immersive light installations that border on the mystical. “Tatsuo Miyajima―Connect with Everything,” the artist’s first solo show in the Southern Hemisphere, is on view at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and is as comprehensive a retrospective as the works deserve.

Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Sydney, Australia; mca.com.au/miyajima. Through March 5.  

A Robert Rauschenberg Retrospective at the Tate Modern Switch House, London

Your excuse for a visit across the pond to inaugurate the Switch House – the Tate Modern’s new brick pyramid-tower extension designed by the same Swiss firm, Herzog & de Meuron, that transformed the massive Bankside Power Station into the enormously popular hub of modern and contemporary art – has arrived in the form of the first major retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg since the American artist’s death in 2008.

Organized chronologically and in collaboration with New York’s MoMA, where it heads next spring, the show unfolds as a riveting narrative, journeying through the maverick’s many seminal creative moments, from his striking blue monoprints and his extraordinary Combines.

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Tate Modern, Bankside, London; tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/robert-rauschenberg. Through April 2.

Cy Twombly’s Retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Cy Twombly, an artist who was born in Lexington, Virginia in 1928 and moved to Italy in the 1950s, is in many ways very French. In the Salle des Bronzes Antiques at the Louvre museum in Paris, where ancient Greek armour waits silently for wars that will never come again, the room’s vast ceilingis painted by Twombly with a bright expanse of blue, its intensity illuminated by silver and gold suns and moons as if the light of the Mediterranean were infusing the museum with desire and danger. So it is fitting that France is staging the first Cy Twomblyretrospective since his death. On the top floor of the Centre Pompidou, the helmeted Greek heroes have returned. Gore, love and revenge stain the walls.

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Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, Paris; centrepompidou.fr/en. Through April 24.

R.H. Quaytman’s “Morning: Chapter 30″ exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

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MOCA presents R. H. Quaytman, Morning: Chapter 30, the first major museum survey of work by New York–based artist R. H. Quaytman. The poetic, hypnotic, and singular work of R.H. Quaytman is on display in full splendor at “R.H. Quaytman, Morning: Chapter 30” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the first major museum survey of the NYC-based artist. Made up of 22 gesso-and-silkscreen paintings, the series “30 Chapters” is, like the 29 “chapters” that preceded it, a site-specific project that in this case takes inspiration from another site-specific work, Michael Heizer’s earthwork Double Negative, an excavation on the eastern side of Mormon Mesa in southern Nevada that resulted in two massive trenches. Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles; moca.org/exhibition/r-h-quaytman-morning. Through February 6. 

The Opening of the Sumida Hokusai Museum, Tokyo

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Despite the rich history of art in Japan, it is ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) — woodblock prints from the 18th and 19th centuries depicting everything from kimono-clad courtesans and kabuki actors to animals, plants, and dramatic, often romantic landscapes — that first comes to mind when one thinks of Japanese art, and that has had the most lasting influence on artists of every nationality (including 19th-century masters James Whistler, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, among others).

Now there’s a museum devoted entirely to the country’s best-known practitioner, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose formal, masterfully composed works have, alongside those of rival Hiroshige (1797-1858), come to define the genre. Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Kazuyo Sejima, the angular Sumida Hokusai Museum just opened in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, where the legendary master lived and produced the bulk of his work in the mid 19th century. Don’t miss Great Wave off Kanazawa from his seminal “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” series.

Sumida Hokusai Museum, 2-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo; hokusai-museum.jp

Louise Bourgeois’s “Structures of Existence: The Cells” at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen

Louisiana’s big autumn exhibition Louise Bourgeois. Structures of Existence: The Cells, presents one of the most striking and influential visual artists of the twentieth century. Over a period of some 70 years Louise Bourgeois (1911, Paris – 2010, New York) created a comprehensive oeuvre spanning a wide range of materials and forms, emotions and moods.

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Beautiful Architecture Meets Color

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What do you get when you mix Architecture, Symmetry, Minimalism, Fashion, Friendship and the most Perfect Color Palettes? An ongoing image series titled Other On, produced by two talented photographers – June Kim and Michelle Cho.

There is a strong sense of duality at play in all of these images – although perfectly composed and deliciously captivating, a heightened sense of intrigue and drama is achieved thanks to the subjects who almost always have their faces turned away from the camera. Add to the mix some pretty epic architecture and you’ve got yourself a killer photography series that will stay in my mind long after the ongoing internet vortex sucks it away from my screen.

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Yellowtrace

Beautiful Reupholstery Project

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In a recent post
I gushed about my obsession with blue velvet and it just wasn’t going away so I decided to do something about it. Enter an old worn out but very comfortable chair that has been the favorite lounging spot for no less than 3 dogs along with numerous humanoids. Not one to let it go to waste, I decided to reupholster it in none other than a vintage blue velvet. Seattle has many wonderful places to shop but is very lackluster when it comes to fabric stores. Somebody please open a fabric warehouse, but I digress. This minor hitch gave me the perfect reason to visit MOOD in LA and lucky me I got there 15 minutes before they closed knowing exactly what I was looking for. Not realizing how huge it was I could have spent an entire day perusing the place if it weren’t for my single-mined journey to find the perfect blue velvet; albeit an affordable one.

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These images are before photos. A couple of things I discovered about the reupholstery business is; as a profession they are in decline but the flip side to that is the ones who are still in it have a long backlog of work to do and it’s not something you can “speed up”. My chair is at least 8-10 out before I can post after photos unless I get lucky and find someone who can do it sooner than later. I am so excited to see the end result.

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Beautiful Hollywood Cabin

Mad Men‘s Vincent Kartheiser used to live in
a small one-room bungalow on a nondescript
Hollywood street”. But he had big plans for the little
580 SF house. Evoking a Japanese industrial feel,
it has a beautiful giant boulder sink. Local studio
Funn Roberts designed the space with a suspended
bed that drops from ceiling and a headboard made of
a huge slab of redwood fastened to the wall on hinges
so that, when the bed is raised, the piece of wood can
flip down to double as a desk.  Love the cleverly
designed bed; it works on a pulley-system
with a 300-pound counterweight hidden in the closet.
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