The Bird House

One of the things I love most about my neighborhood is the tree lined streets filled with homes that have the bird house.  You can tell they were part of a grouping from years past as most of them were built in the 1950’s.  I came to learn years ago that the developer was a man named Robert Mellenthin and this article is a great read about him and his approach.  He took pride in making sure that each dwelling had a slightly different character to it.  Maybe he knew that after a few Martinis on a Saturday night, it would be helpful for the residents in a particular pocket of these homes to be able to know which one was their own!

Let us know at Elle Ryan Design if you live in a Mellenthin or have one in your neighborhood.  We’d love to see a picture of how it looks today! Read more about these bird houses  HERE


Lighting School 101

When we last discussed lighting, we left off on the various options available today with advancements in lumen technology.  Gone are the days when you could go to the hardware store and just pick out a 60 watt bulb.  Today, it behooves you to familiarize yourself with some of the terminology of lighting.  Additionally, if you are requesting help in selecting types of bulbs, you might be prepared to discuss the type of application you need the lighting for such as task, ambient or mood lighting.  There won’t be a test on this information but let me give you a little terminology lesson.

Color temperature: this describes how a lamp appears when it is lit.  We measure color temperature in kelvin (K) which is a scale that starts at zero and go upwards of 60,000 K.  To give you some perspective, a warm, yellowish “white” (your typical incandescent bulb) is around 2800 K whereas daylight “white” (a fluorescent light) is around 5000 K.  Now, a bluish, daylight “white” will be around 8000 K and a brilliant blue will be 60000 K.  So you see there is quite a variance in color temperature.  For most people in their homes or offices and depending on the application, a temperature of anything between 2700-5000 K is just right.

Lumens: that has to do with the actual brightness of the bulb.  If the lumen value is higher, then the bulb will be brighter and provide more light.

Wattage: this is not a measure of the light rather a measure of the power that is consumed.  So with an electric light source, the wattage defines how much electricity the lamp uses during the operation of it.  Therefore, for a lightbulb to be most efficient, it must produce the greatest number of lumens per watt of energy.  At the end of the day, unless you want to give more money to your energy provider, alternative bulbs are the ticket to annual savings on your electric bill, not to mention the good it does for our collective energy grid.

We know that lighting impacts the way we feel and the mood it creates within a space.  So depending upon how you use a space will determine the kind of lighting you’ll need.  If you are curled up in a chair reading a book, you’ll need a task light that is different from that which you’ll want in front of your bathroom mirror or when you’re cooking food.  Let’s take a look at an incandescent bulb next to a halogen bulb below.  I’ll try to go easy on the science lesson!

Incandescent vs Halogen:
When standard argon-filled bulbs (incandescent) glow, there are trace amounts of tungsten that evaporate from the filament and are deposited as “soot” on the inner shell of the bulb. This burned-off tungsten has two drawbacks: the “soot” gradually reduces light output, and it slowly weakens the filament until it becomes thin and breaks and the bulb burns out.

the cost: roughly 50¢ for a 75-watt bulb
the life span: about 750 to 1,250 hours
the light output: approximately 1,180 lumens for a 75-watt bulb

We know that it is the most affordable all-purpose bulb around. We have enjoyed its utility as good general lighting in bedrooms and other living spaces where we want soft light and for fixtures with bulbs that are in the line of sight.

Now, when high-tech halogen-filled bulbs glow, small amounts of tungsten also burn off the filament, but instead of being deposited on the bulb shell, they combine with argon, which re-deposits the tungsten back onto the filament. The advantages are that the globe isn’t darkened by soot and the filament lasts longer since it’s continuously being rebuilt.

The cost: roughly $4.00 for a 75-watt bulb
the life span: about 2,000 to 2,500 hours
the light output: approximately 1,300 lumens for a 75-watt bulb

Incandescent_Light_BulbThe best utility of halogen lighting is in track and recessed light fixtures in which you want to focus or concentrate light on a particular area or object.  It is also terrific for desktop, reading or other work-area lights that require bright, focused light.  It is also great in fixtures that are tough to reach where you would want long-lasting bulbs or in banks of light where you want all the bulbs (new or old) to glow at the same intensity. Next time, we’ll discuss LED and CFL light bulb options.

I’d love to hear from you on your lighting questions so feel free to leave me a note.  If you’d like to receive my blog automatically, please subscribe and it will arrive to your inbox each and every time we have something interesting to share with you.

Spring is Here!

Spring has sprung in Southern California so let’s enjoy it before it quickly becomes summer. I love traveling through different neighborhoods and admiring people’s gardens. We are so fortunate in this area to have a climate that allows for incredible foliage and beautiful flowers practically year round. However, for me, the best time for incredible gardens is March through May. Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 9.14.16 PM

To that end, I’ve taken some pictures of gardens that are blooming locally. Now is a great time to walk through your local nursery and see what they have in stock. One of my favorite nurseries in Los Angeles is Vineland Nursery in North Hollywood. The guys there have great knowledge about plants and are quite helpful when it comes to building a garden. I go to them for many of my client’s gardens as they have a wonderful array of perennials, water-wise plants and great prices. Say hello to Adolfo if you pay them a visit and tell him Cheryl sent you!

When selecting a color palette for one’s garden, I like to know what are some of my client’s favorite colors. In this situation, orange was the hands down choice for the pop of contrast to go with a medley of greens, whites and purples. Below, you see amongst the Calla Lilies and white Iceberg Roses, a bevy of Kangaroo Paw.

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Another favorite orange expression is from none other than the Leonotis Leonurus or Lion’s Tail.  It is a wonderful perennial that loves the sun. Lamb’s Ear, which originally hailed from Turkey and Iran, is member of the Stachys family.A perennial plant, it has a very soft grey or white coating of silky hairs. In some countries, it is used for medicinal purposes and in others, a nice border or edging.  It grows profusely in all my gardens and I use it as a staple whenever I can.  When it gets quite spread out, it can be separated and transplanted to other area of the garden that needs lush foliage.

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In Los Angeles, it is commonplace to find rows and rows of white Iceberg Roses blooming throughout the Spring and well into the Fall.  While it is a shrub, it can be trained as a standard tree form too.  The Iceberg Rose comes from Germany and likes to be watered deeply and regularly. The three primary nutrients that these roses need are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

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Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 2.36.36 PMHot Lips is part of the Salvia family and usually has two toned flowers. Hummingbirds and butterflies are quite attracted to the blooms that will appear continuously throughout even the hottest of summers. It is truly a carefree shrub for a water-wise garden.

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In addition to fantastic perennials, I’m always on the lookout for great annual color to spruce up a garden in the Fall and then again in the Spring.


Lantana is another standard in many of the gardens I create for clients. I prefer the miniature version which grows low and spreads beautifully. Purple is my Lantana color of choice although I do like the white too!  Here’s Adolfo picking out some nice one gallons for a recent backyard garden. Adolfo, left and the Boss Man on the right!

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This particular yard has it all….big sun, filtered sun and total shade. Ferns for the shade and purple Veronica for the sun!



As much as I would love to downsize my car, I am always hauling plants, furniture or materials for projects. Just how much did I fit in this particular day? Let’s just say thank goodness for the middle row and the front seats and open sunroof too!

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What about Art?

As a designer, one of the enjoyable parts of my work is encouraging clients to include a budget for art in their renovations. Sometimes, we may forget or even take for granted the amount of art that surrounds us every day; art in the public sphere such as museums, corporate board rooms or sculptures in a park. It may also be in our private spaces as photographs, children’s drawings attached to the refrigerator or an antique quilt you bought at a flea market.

Art is a very powerful entity. It has influenced the design of the cars we drive, our cell phones and the plates from which we ate breakfast this morning. Art is in everything we see even though we might not think about it right away. It too is a part of our collective culture and a key element in finishing our homes and offices with pieces that articulates to us on a variety of levels. I’m not speaking of obligatory art…that which is placed on a wall to take up space or impress a visitor. I mean the rhythm and harmony of the way furniture is placed in a room and how collectables and artifacts are displayed in that space. Art belongs in our homes and where we work because it’s beautiful. There are no alternative reasons for having art other than for its beauty and the way it makes us feel. However, it isn’t a bad thing if it fits well in a room, enhances the mood and the overall symmetry too.

So speaking of taking your breath away, I want to share someone amazing with you today. Not only is she among the most talented artists I personally know, she is a wonderful human being that lights up a room when she enters.

Shula Singer Arbel is a Los Angeles artist working in acrylic and mixed media. Her work is an exuberant fusion of abstract and representational images; a flattening of form mixed with painterly surfaces. Using bold colors and patterns, she is constantly exploring new territory in her work, evoking the imagination and creating multiple meanings for the viewer. Using a variety of techniques and materials, she creates rich, multi-layered images that evoke landscapes and cityscapes. She has been studying and making art throughout her life, winning accolades and awards along the way.

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1. You & Me (warm), 30″x24″ acrylic on canvas
2. Jardin de Joi #9, 24″x18″ acrylic on canvas
3. New Dawn in the City of Angles, 40″x30″ acrylic on canvas
4. Atitlan, 40″x30″ acrylic on canvas
5. City of Angels #2, 48″x36″ acrylic on canvas
6. Jardin de Joi #5, 24″x36 acrylic on canvas

We have several of Shula’s pieces in our personal collection as do a few of my clients. Her work is an inspiring addition to any space and she is available for commissioned pieces for your home or place of work. For additional information about Shula or to see more of her artwork, visit her at: She is available by appointment and may be contacted in her studio.