Small Room Decorating December 2007
Apartment Living: Lean and Green
By Marta Alexandra Rainer | Photographs by Mark Tanner | Sylist Kelly Lloyd
The challenge: Bring efficiency and style to a boo-square-foot condo apartment.
THERE COULD BE NO BETTER muse than the ocean itself, says interior designer Lori Dennis, describing her inspiration, for the vivid design of avid environmentalist Brian Wendel’s California apartment. Dennis Design Group—Lori’s green/sustainable-oriented firm based in Beverly Hills (dennisdesigngroup.com)—relished the challenge to transform this once-drab dwelling into an earth-friendly homage to the neighboring Santa Monica beach. The result is a success of harmonic conception, combining the owner’s easygoing energy with the natural dynamism of the Pacific. Unity of design allowed Lori to incorporate bold elements of color and pattern into Brian’s small space without overwhelming it. Her use of stripes in both the bedroom and the terrace calls to mind luxurious cabanas of a Palm Beach resort. The new hue of Brian’s old sofa, reupholstered.
What is sustainable “thinking” ? A Native American proverb states: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors we borrow it from our children. A commitment to sustainability means choosing a lifestyle (including transport, energy, diet, and housing and design choices) that doesn’t exhaust or needlessly waste any natural resources, eliminating our individual “ecological footprints” on the environment. Calculate your own household’s carbon emissions at The Nature Conservancy Web site (nature.org) and start investigating all the ways to wield your local purchasing power for global good! Get started at greenpages.org, eatwellguide.org and sustainablebusiness,com.
COLORS FROM NATURE Alt hues in the cozy beach condo were plucked directly from nature. Lori’s choice of vibrant yellow walls (milkpaint .corn) adds warmth, perfect for the sustainable fabrics, is reminiscent of sand. Coral-colored pillows in the living room pop, and “small items make a big impact,” assures Lori. The blue ripple of Bonnie Price drapery and matching custom lampshades, with their splash of orange accent, captures sunset over the waves. A fan of “giving old things new life” (and keeping them out of landfills!), Lori seeks any opportunity to customize or reposition lost treasures. “She was masterful at spending smartly,” praises Brian. Some examples: The living room mirror, with its priceless reflection of the ever-changing ocean, was reframed and spruced-up with synthetic white leather (left over from another project of Lori’s) using nail heads. No hard-wiring in the ceiling was no hassle: The local hardware store easily rewired the glass chandelier (an eBay salvage) to plug into the wall. The dining room chairs were scooped up one by one from nationwide showroom closeout sales=–at an 80% overall savings. What did Lori splurge on? Linens. Brian’s 100% organic Indian cotton covers and cases from suitesleep.com are both lustrous and robust. (Organic linens keep pesticides out of the ecosystem and chemicals out of the body.) Best of all: The sheets can be passed down through generations—the happiest kind of recycling.
Efficiency need never negate style. “Everything is cohesive… and peaceful,” says Brian of Lori’s transformation. “It’s a work of art.”
Not sure about which hues will work in your small space? Designer Lori Dennis suggests you lay down swatches and live with them for a few days, substituting shades and patterns until the balance is right for you. As soon as you love it, “Go for it!” she encourages. The bolder the better for Lori, who is eager to alter the opinion that small spaces can’t sustain color.
Taking inspiration from Louis XIV’s bedchamber, is canopy was created thanks to a simple, elegant drape of tic. Along with the full-length curtains, it adds a sense of grandeur to the intimate space.
FENG SHUI HARMONY
Combining elements is an important balancing principle Of feng shui (one of Lori’s primary inspirations). Fire, earth, metal, wood and water all have a place in this cozy space.
RUGS AS BOUNDARIES
This rich chocolate brown carpet from Interior Illusions was laid to create a room within a room and designate space without building new walls. The ocean (seen from the terrace, top right) was designer Lori Dennis’s inspiration.
Our Santa Monica condo renovation project is showcased in this article about how to use space efficiently with luxury surface materials.