Recently, a client asked me why her chairs restained wouldn’t look like the ones she liked in a photo. Based on this conversation, I realized that a discussion about wood species was timely. At the risk of sounding like a lumberjack, here is a little intro to woods with some show and tell of a variety of species.


Wood has always been the basic material of furniture and has never really had a serious, non-trendy competitor. Its strength as a material has innumerable virtues with too many to extol. Wherever people have lived, wood has generally been available and it is certainly amongst the strongest of organic materials and sturdiest for its weight. It has so much variety for both structural and decorative uses. Wood as a material is pretty easy to work with and cuts with many tools. That is not to say that woodworking is an easy craft. The best wood workers have been at it for years and may have learned from seasoned people before them. I am forever in awe of much of the handcrafted work I see in furniture, flooring and décor pieces. Wood can be joined together in several fashions including glue, nails or (fancy) joinery. One of many examples of brilliant artistry are the exquisite Windsor Chairs above, created by hand from the Thos Moser company of craftsmen. I can walk through their showroom for hours, admiring each piece of furniture and wanting to take home many of them too.

strength-and-stabilityWood feels so good to the touch.  As it is a poor conductor of heat, it happens to be less startling to the touch than other types of materials.  From our aesthetic point of view, wood has intrinsic beauty unlike no other in terms of color, texture and pattern with its splendor easy to enhance through a variety of methods of finishing and polishing.  The grain of wood  appears different depending upon how it is cut through the log.  Most wood structure consists of long fibers which are placed differently in various species but always in concentric rings from the center of the tree.


To the left is an image of quarter sawn wood. It is highly sought after not only because of its beauty but its strength and durability.

Below are some images of a few of the hardwoods that I have had the privilege to work with through the years.  Some are more common than others but no less extraordinary if treated properly by talented craftspeople. Exotic options are less common and more expensive but absolutely amazing to use in a variety of applications. When it comes to working with wood, I endeavor to be as conscious as possible with regard to deforestation and extinction.  I have been able to source reclaimed wood for many projects and use local purveyors to minimize my own contribution of our collective carbon footprint.


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Bird’s Eye Maple

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African Zebra Wood

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Black Walnut grain varieties


Buckeye Burl

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Wood is exciting to work with and its magnificence can last a lifetime.  One of the areas I enjoy when working with clients is selecting wood species for furniture, casings and windows.  I love to help identify wood and finishes for pieces that clients already have in their possession and to re-purpose pieces for a new and exciting application in their home, garden or office.

The Adamson House, Malibu

Nothing screams Los Angeles more than a beautiful day at the beach!  However, the sun and sand aren’t the only amazing visuals to enjoy if you are going coastal.  Run…don’t walk to The Adamson House in Malibu which, is adjacent to Surfrider Beach, the Malibu Lagoon and the Bird Sanctuary.  Find someone who loves gardens, architecture and amazing tile work as much as you and take them along as I did my friend Alice for some amazing sensory overload.

The Adamson House was built by Rhoda Rindge Adamson and her husband Merritt Adamson in 1930.  It is a Spanish Colonial Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 11.05.51 PMstyle home that has a very interesting place in Southern California history as Mrs. Adamson was the daughter of the last owners of the Malibu Spanish land grant. The full history of the property and how it passed throughout the generations is actually quite interesting but I’ll leave the details to your tour when you visit.  However, to bring it to modern day, the State of California purchased the property in 1968, intending to raze the buildings to make way for additional parking for beach goers.  But, in 1971, the Chancellor of Pepperdine University moved in to Adamson House as part of an effort to maintain the home until it could be properly restored. The Malibu Historical Society was formed to preserve the house, which became a California Historical Landmark in 1985. The Malibu Lagoon Interpretive Association, now known as Malibu Adamson House Foundation, was formed in 1981 and presided over the opening of the house as a museum in 1983.

The stunning display of decorative tiles dates from ancient history and continues today. It’s hard to imagine a more brilliant pageant than can be enjoyed at Adamson House.

image002California was awash with tile-producing companies in the 1920s. Malibu Potteries, the company founded by May Rindge stands apart as producing the most beautiful work of that era.

May Rindge started the firm after discovering her land was rich in the natural resources needed to manufacture ceramic tile. She hired a ceramist and draftsman named Rufus Keeler whom many considered a ceramic genius for his secret glazes known for their color and clarity as her plant manager. The factory, spanning 1,500 feet of beach just east of the Malibu Pier, opened in 1926. At its height, 125 employees worked there producing up to 30,000 square feet of tile a month, sold mainly to contractors, architects and designers.

I don’t want to spoil your visit but for those of you that may not make it so soon, let me share some photos I took and others that I’ve collected so you too can enjoy the splendor of The Adamson House.


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Indigo May Be My New Black

SDNY0SYD-3GARl_largeFrom the time I was little, red was my favorite color.  Now, not any color of red but a wonderful garnet or cranberry red with just enough purple in it so as not to confuse it with fire engine or tomato red.  I probably derived my adoration for red from my Mom, who to this day, still loves it more than any other color…except for yellow…most specifically yellow roses.  But I digress…………..while red remains a true love, I have learned through my years as a designer that there is room in my heart….and within my design palette… for many other colors.

Most of my clients will tell you that I like to begin a design of any space with an inspiration that ultimately leads to at least one thematic color. Through the years, I’ve developed a deep fondness for several other pigments not the least of which include grey, taupe and brown.  But recently, I have become excited about a new neutral that is one of the seven colors of the rainbow.  We all learned about the color in elementary school….red, orange, yellow, green, blue, INDIGO and violet.  Indigo…that’s it…my new paramour!


Indigo is actually the forgotten color of the rainbow because it isn’t visible to the human eye.  While it is always present when there is a rainbow, it gets sandwiched in between blue and violet.  Indigo was named after the indigo dye which is derived from the plant Indigofera tinctoria.  Egyptians used indigo striped cloth to wrap the mummies.  It has been used in painting since the Middle Ages and its exotic flair comes from its long tradition as a dye from India.  From a symbolic realm, indigo conveys trust, truthfulness, and stability. It also may have some of the authority and royalty of purple as indigo was considered a royal blue. Back in the day, blue dyes were quite rare so indigo had great value in many civilizations.  Today, the primary use for indigo is as a dye for cotton yarn for which the major utility is blue jeans.  Indigo has presence as a mainstay in the fashion world and that doesn’t look like it will be changing anytime too soon.  In the world of design, indigo’s versatility runs for being a neutral to creating a vibrant accent.  We see indigo in nature and in its artificial form as well.


dec-rugs-indigo1-435I love to pair indigo with ivory or taupe, greys or pinks, reds or orange. Who doesn’t love the look of a navy blue suit with a pop of color as an accent. Classic, clean and mysterious all at the same time! So too is it in a room…take a look below at just a few ways indigo is a show stopper.

One of my favorite indigo inspired paint colors is Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy.  Currently, I have used it on the walls in my office, in a client’s guest bedroom and on a kitchen island.

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Photos Courtesy of Houzz
I love it for a sofa…although I would be careful to not have it near sunlight or it will fade rather quickly.

il_340x270.524281775_90mfI’m finishing a beautiful home here in Southern California where we’ve used indigo throughout the home. Soon, I’ll post photos of its application and you’ll see just how rich and sumptuous it can look in so many treatments. To see some of my favorite things that are indigo, please check out the Elle Ryan Design board Indigo is My New Black! at www.pinterest.com.

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