It’s Not A Rave, It’s A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

A Designer’s Take on the Ultimate Desert Wedding: A Rave

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalDiscovering Beauty in Diversity and Design at My Daughter’s Palm Springs Wedding

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

Scarlett and Sam Wedding in Palm Springs

In the sprawling, serene deserts of Palm Springs, a location known for its picturesque landscapes and tranquil ambiance, my daughter Scarlett’s wedding unfolded as a vibrant celebration of love, culture, people and design. It’s Not A Rave, It’s A Desert Wedding where the theme embraced the unconventional. As a professional designer accustomed to the nuances of aesthetics and style, I found myself completely captivated by the beauty and originality of this unconventional wedding. This was a day that not only celebrated the union of two souls but also the fusion of diverse cultures, modern design, and electronic music, all set against the stunning backdrop of the Californian desert.

A Canvas of Natural Beauty

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

Parents of the Bride

The choice of Palm Springs as the venue was nothing short of inspired. Known for its serene desert landscapes and clear skies, it offered an idyllic setting for an outdoor wedding. The natural beauty of the area provided a perfect canvas, allowing the couple’s unique vision to come to life.

A Melting Pot of Cultures

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

photo by Molly O’Keefe @what_molly_sees

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalWhat struck me the most was the beautiful blend of cultural traditions. Scarlett, embracing her South Asian heritage, dazzled in a traditional Indian lengha, vibrant with Palm Springs colors. Her husband complemented her in a coordinated suit, adding a personal touch with his grandfather’s Tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl. This blend of cultural elements, from attire to ceremony, reflected a deep respect and appreciation for their diverse backgrounds.It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional


It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

Bride and Dad

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

Design and Aesthetics: Bold Simplicity in the Desert

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

Photo by Molly O’Keefe

As a designer whose style voice resonates with bold simplicity, I found Scarlett’s wedding to be a perfect embodiment of this aesthetic. The setting itself, amidst the sweeping vistas of the Palm Springs desert, became a focal point, with its natural beauty setting a serene yet striking backdrop. The outfits of the bride and the guests, were vibrant and culturally rich, stood out against this backdrop, becoming highlights of the visual experience.

The decor of the wedding was kept intentionally simple, allowing the natural setting and the people themselves to shine. The colour scheme on the tables was thoughtfully chosen to complement the desert environment, creating a harmonious blend that was both elegant and understated.

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

From table decor to crowns

To add a touch of vibrancy, banners were strategically placed to mark walkways and various areas. These banners were eye-catching, designed with vivid colours that stood out in the desert landscape, guiding guests through the celebration and adding an element of playful discovery to the event.It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

Interestingly, while I admired every detail, I cannot claim credit for any of the design choices. Perhaps, my personal aesthetic has subtly influenced Scarlett over the years, but this event was entirely a reflection of her and her husband’s vision and taste. This approach to design created an atmosphere that was both inviting and impactful. The simplicity of the decor did not compete with the natural beauty of the setting or the personal styles of the attendees, but rather enhanced them, making the wedding a true celebration of bold simplicity.It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional

Scarlett and Sam’s Wedding in Palm Springs

As a designer, I was particularly attuned to the aesthetics of the wedding. The décor was a riot of colours, echoing the joy and vibrancy of the occasion. It was a delightful contrast to the desert’s earthy tones, creating a lively and inviting atmosphere.

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalIt's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the UnconventionalThe eclectic mix, including an abundance of tattoos among guests, which I struggled with but what the hell its not my body, added a modern and personal touch that was both refreshing and visually stimulating.

The Unifying Power of Music: A Rave in the Desert

It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional Central to the festivities was the electrifying pulse of electronic music, setting a tone that was more akin to a desert rave than a traditional wedding reception. The groom, a DJ himself, and his circle of DJ friends took turns at the equipment, each adding their unique flair to the musical landscape. It was an exhilarating ‘music-off’, where they playfully competed in spinning the wheel, infusing the night with a dynamic and vibrant energy. It's Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding: Embracing the Unconventional This aspect of the celebration not only highlighted the universal appeal of electronic music but also its power to transform a conventional gathering into an extraordinary, shared experience of euphoria and unity. The dance floor was alive with movement, with guests of all ages letting loose in a celebration that blurred the lines between a wedding and a festival, embodying the spirit of a true rave.Not A Rave, It's A Desert WeddingNot A Rave, It's A Desert WeddingNot A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding

Not A Rave, It's A Desert WeddingInclusivity and Joy

The guest list was as diverse as the event itself, featuring family members from different generations and a wide circle of friends. This blend of ages and backgrounds added to the richness of the celebration, creating a tapestry of stories and relationships that underscored the inclusive nature of the event.

The Spirit of the Celebration: Ageless Revelry

As the night progressed into the early hours of the morning, a remarkable aspect of the celebration became vividly apparent: age was simply a number at this desert rave. The energy and joy of the party defied generational boundaries, creating an atmosphere where everyone, regardless of age, was immersed in the spirit of the celebration.

Even at 5 am, as moms, including myself, looked for their Ubers down the hill to head home, there was a palpable sense of exhilaration in the air. The surrounding darkness of the desert, with the vast sky above barely lit by the stars and the early hints of dawn, added an element of mystique to our departure. This was not just a wedding; it was a testament to the timeless and universal appeal of music, dance, and joy. The very essence of the event echoed the sentiment that when it comes to celebrating love and life, age truly is thrown out the window, leaving only the pure, unadulterated enjoyment of the moment.

Conclusion: Celebrating Individuality and Love

Scarlett’s wedding was more than just a beautiful day; it was a bold statement about the beauty of embracing individuality and breaking free from traditional norms. The fusion of different cultures, the eclectic design elements, and the inclusion of contemporary music created an unforgettable experience that was as unique as the couple themselves. As a parent and a designer, witnessing this celebration was not just a source of immense pride but also an inspiration. It was a vivid reminder that when it comes to celebrating love, stepping out of the norm can lead to the most extraordinary and meaningful experiences. The best photos are by Molly O’Keefe (@what_molly_sees)

Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding

Photo by Molly O’Keefe

Not A Rave, It's A Desert Wedding

10 Fabulous 2023 Holiday Gift Ideas, Silver Style

Let’s Embrace Quality, Minimalism and Experiences

Welcome to our “10 Fabulous 2023 Holiday Gift Ideas: Silver Style” guide, meticulously curated for those aspiring to live a life filled with intention and style. This guide is specially designed for those who appreciate the art of downsizing and embrace the freedom of minimalism. Our philosophy is simple: less clutter, more memorable experiences. We believe in choosing gifts that enhance life’s pleasures rather than add to its complexities. Join us as we explore a selection of thoughtfully chosen gifts that perfectly embody this minimalist, yet deeply fulfilling approach to life. Let’s embark on this journey of discovery, where each gift is not just an item, but a step towards a more joyful and intentional way of living

1. Bespoke Handbags from ‘Lover Fighter’

Lover fighter bespoke bag. Black with pink stripe

Louche Tote – Black pony with pink stripe

Flat Slouch - Pink Lamb Shearling

Flat Slouch – Pink Lamb Shearling

1/2 Moon Wallet - Manta Ray print

1/2 Moon Wallet – Manta-Ray print

When seeking a gift that’s both practical and a statement of style, consider the exceptional handbags from ‘Lover Fighter‘. These aren’t just mere accessories; they are unique, thoughtful creations that not only support a small business but also stand out as a central feature of any wardrobe. The craftsmanship of Lover Fighter handbags is unparalleled, with hardware that’s second to none and designs that draw admiring glances and inquiries from passersby. As someone who has personally collected several of these exquisite bags, I can attest to their allure and distinctive presence. They bring an elevated sense of style to any outfit, setting you apart from the crowd. In my experience, a ‘Lover Fighter‘ handbag is a treasured possession, far surpassing any identifiable branded bag that might blend you into the masses.

2. Tickets to Local Shows or Concerts

The true essence of a memorable gift lies in the experiences it brings, far outweighing the value of physical items. Gifting tickets to a local theatrical production or a concert is more than just a present; it’s an opportunity to create unforgettable memories. These events offer a chance for meaningful bonding, sharing the joy of live performances, and experiencing the magic of art and music together.

Reflecting on my own experiences, I fondly recall the time I took my daughters to a Justin Timberlake concert in Vancouver. It wasn’t just about the music or the performance; it was about the laughter, the singing along, the shared excitement, and the togetherness that made that evening so special. That concert became more than just an event; it turned into a cherished memory, a story we often reminisce about with smiles and fondness. I still remember the Led Zepplin concert my dad took me to almost 50 years ago. My parents thought i was too young to go with just my friend so my dad offered to take us. I was horrified at the time but I think back to that concert with such fondness for my father. In the end my friend couldn’t make it so my little brother came instead and he never stopped talking about our date with dad.

Giving the gift of an experience like this means offering someone a story they’ll tell for years to come. Whether it’s the thrill of a live concert, the emotional depth of a theatre performance, or the awe of a spectacular show, these experiences forge bonds and create moments that are treasured long after the final curtain call or encore.

3. Timeless Scarves

Scarves, in their elegant simplicity, transcend mere fashion accessory status; they are indeed foldable, portable works of art. Each scarf, with its unique design and fabric, tells a story, making it a versatile and clutter-free addition to any wardrobe. They are perfect for adding a touch of sophistication to outfits or for bringing a familiar comfort while traveling.

Hermès Dress Code scarf

Hermès Dress Code scarf

Opting for timeless pieces such as Hermes scarves transcends mere style; it’s an investment in art. These scarves, celebrated for their enduring value and charm, are more than just fashion accessories—they are potential heirlooms, poised to be cherished and passed down through generations, each imbued with its own unique history and sentiment. However, the world of scarves is vast and varied, with many stunning options available, both branded and unbranded. The key is to keep an eye out for that special scarf that captivates your attention, one that speaks to your personal style and the stories you wish to tell. Whether it’s a renowned Hermes piece or a hidden gem discovered in a quaint boutique, each scarf has the potential to become a cherished part of your wardrobe and a beautiful expression of your individuality.

Alexander McQueen Scarf

Iconic Alexander McQueen scarf with sculls in a great colour way.

On a personal note, my vacation souvenirs are often scarves, whether from a quaint vintage store or a boutique selling new designs. Every scarf in my collection is tied to a memory, a specific place, and a moment in time. Wearing them is like wrapping myself in those memories, a constant reminder of my travels and experiences. Each scarf becomes a narrative thread in the tapestry of my life, making them the best kind of souvenirs. They are not just objects I’ve acquired; they are stories I wear, each with its own origins and emotions, making them treasured and timeless pieces in my collection.

Hermes Scarf: Homage to Charles Garnier

Hermes Scarf from a vintage market in Rome: Homage to Charles Garnier

A poignant example of this is a vintage Hermes scarf I stumbled upon in a market in Rome. The scarf featured Charles Garnier, the architect of the Paris Opera House. This building is one of my favourites, and I had the chance to admire it on that very trip.Its significance was immediate and profound; it was as if the scarf was calling out to me, a serendipitous find that I was destined to own. The acquisition of this scarf was not just a purchase; it was the encapsulation of a moment, a journey, and a personal affinity, all woven into a beautiful piece of art.

Charles Garnier, Architect of the Paris Opera House

Close-up of Charles Garnier


4. Digital Photo Frames

In today’s digital age, our phones have become the primary tool for capturing countless memories in the form of photos. However, these precious moments often remain hidden in the digital realm, forgotten or lost amidst the vast sea of our photo libraries. While printing them out or creating photo books is a lovely way to preserve these memories, there’s another innovative and dynamic option: digital photo frames.

Digital photo frames offer a modern solution to showcase and relive our cherished memories. They are not just frames; they are windows into our past adventures, special occasions, and everyday moments that bring us joy. These frames serve as a continuous slideshow of our lives, cycling through photographs that might otherwise remain unseen.

Imagine a frame somewhere near where you regularly sit, displaying a rolling collection of images: a family vacation, a candid laugh, a serene sunset, or a child’s first steps. Each picture tells a story, bringing a smile or a moment of nostalgia. It’s a way to keep our memories alive and visible in our daily lives.

Furthermore, digital photo frames can be an especially heartwarming gift for those who may not be as tech-savvy. For parents or grandparents, it’s a way to stay connected with the family’s latest adventures, even if they’re not on social media or adept at navigating digital photo albums. You can easily set up the frame to display a curated selection of images that update automatically, ensuring they always have something new and delightful to see. My daughter gave my mother a digital frame for her birthday and I find myself yearning for one too.

In essence, a digital photo frame is more than just a gadget; it’s a living, evolving album of life’s precious moments, perfectly blending nostalgia with the convenience of modern technology.

5. Apple AirTag

In the realm of practical and innovative gifts, the Apple AirTag stands out as a true game-changer. This compact, yet powerful device is perfect for anyone who values peace of mind in their daily lives and during their travels. Its primary function is to keep track of important items like keys, ensuring they are never lost. But its utility extends far beyond just locating misplaced items at home.

For travellers, the AirTag transforms into an indispensable tool. Putting it in your luggage makes it effortlessly simple to monitor your bags’ whereabouts, adding a layer of security and convenience to your journeys. Whether navigating through busy airports or waiting at baggage claims, knowing the precise location of your luggage relieves a significant amount of travel-related stress.

A personal experience further highlights the AirTag’s practicality. My daughter, during a dance class, unfortunately had her fanny pack stolen. However, thanks to an AirTag attached to her keys inside the bag, she was able to track its location in real-time. In a bold move, she followed the signal, confronted the thief, and successfully retrieved her belongings. While it’s not advisable to confront thieves directly, this incident showcases the effectiveness of the AirTag in a stressful situation.

The AirTag is more than just a tracker; it’s a small beacon of security in our often chaotic and unpredictable world. Its ability to seamlessly integrate into our lives, providing both comfort and practical assistance, makes it an ideal gift for anyone, especially for those who cherish their adventures and peace of mind while on the go.

6. Other Experiences: Travel

When considering gifts that fall under the category of experiences, travel holds a special place. It’s an opportunity to explore new places, create lasting memories, and bond in unique settings. A family vacation, for instance, is a fantastic holiday gift idea. Our family recently returned from a trip to Palm Springs. All 10 of us! We rented a large vacation property and had an absolute blast. It’s experiences like these, where you can gather everyone together in one place, that truly enrich the holiday spirit and leave lasting impressions.

For a more intimate setting, why not plan a special weekend getaway with a loved one, like a trip with mom? It’s a wonderful way to spend quality time together and experience something new, away from the daily routine. On a broader scale, consider booking a fun trip to an exciting destination like Baja Mexico where the arts, culture, food and music are next to none. This location offers a perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and cultural exploration. And don’t forget to pick up our guide to San Jose Del Cabo before you get there. Our guide is designed to enhance your journey, highlighting the best spots, the architecture, history and experiences in the area, ensuring your trip is both enriching and enjoyable.

Travel is about more than just visiting new places; it’s about the memories we create and the bonds we strengthen along the way. Whether it’s a large family gathering in a vacation home or a cozy weekend escape, these travel experiences are gifts that go beyond the ordinary, offering joy and connection that lasts far beyond the holiday season.

7. Other Experiences: A Lovely Dinner Out 

Another exceptional experience to consider as a gift is the simple yet profound joy of a lovely dinner out. Whether it’s with your partner, a parent, or one of your children, dining out creates a special atmosphere conducive to conversation and connection.

Yaletown restaurants

Having dinner with Graham at the Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown

I’ve personally found that sharing a meal in a new environment, away from the distractions of home, encourages more openness and dialogue, especially with my kids who seem to be more talkative in this setting.

Lunch With Paisley In London at the rooftop restaurant at John Lewis

Lunch With Paisley In London at the rooftop restaurant at John Lewis

A dinner out is not just about the food; it’s about the experience – the ambiance, the service, and the pleasure of sitting down together without the usual responsibilities like cooking and cleaning. It’s a break from the norm that allows everyone to relax and engage more deeply, making it a memorable and cherished experience. This thoughtful gesture of spending time together over a meal is a beautiful way to show appreciation and strengthen bonds with your loved ones.

8. Audible Membership as a Gift

Consider the gift of endless storytelling with a one-year membership to Audible. This gift is perfect for anyone who loves books but might not have the time or inclination to sit down and read in the traditional sense. Audible offers the flexibility to ‘read’ while doing other activities, like walking or exercising, making it an excellent choice for multitaskers or those in their silver years who prefer listening to reading.

As we age, our reading habits and preferences often change. Audible caters to this transition beautifully by bringing stories to life through narration. Listening to a book can be a more engaging and immersive experience, especially for those who find traditional reading less appealing than they once did. With an Audible membership, the recipient gets a new book each month at no additional cost, starting with two books initially. After the initial period, the service is available at a reasonable $14.95 per month.

This service is particularly great for delving into genres like non-fiction, which can sometimes be challenging to sit down and read through. For example, I’ve enjoyed ‘reading’ books like “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” by Jane Jacobs on Audible – a book I’ve always wanted to finish since my university days in urban planning. Audible makes it easy and enjoyable to catch up on those long-intended reads or explore new genres without the commitment of sitting down with a physical book. It’s a thoughtful gift that keeps on giving, offering a world of knowledge and stories to anyone eager to learn and listen.

9.  Travel Like a Designer Curated City Guides

If you’re looking for a truly unique and insightful gift, why not consider our own bespoke Travel Like a Designer Curated City Guides? Crafted with the expertise and eye for detail of two architects – myself and my husband – these guides are far more than just travel companions; they are gateways to experiencing cities in a wholly original and exciting way. The beauty is you can explore these cities from the comfort of your own home with these image rich guides.

Our guides stand apart by taking you off the beaten path, leading you to extraordinary places often overlooked in conventional travel guides. They are rich with insights, offering not just directions but stories, historical context, architectural details, and even local gossip. Imagine walking through a city and not just seeing, but understanding the why and how of its landmarks and hidden gems.

Each guide is meticulously organized into zones, simplifying navigation and reducing travel stress, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or an armchair explorer, our guides serve as a portal to the world of art, design, and architecture. They are a celebration of urban landscapes, filled with vivid photographs, detailed maps, and curated routes for exploring.

Convenience is key with our guides. They are digitally available, ready to be downloaded onto your smartphone or computer, providing easy access whenever and wherever you need. For those who prefer a tactile experience, the guides are also printable, allowing for a hands-on approach to planning and exploring.

In essence, our Travel Like a Designer Curated City Guides are more than just travel aids; they are a labor of love, designed to enrich your understanding of urban spaces and transform the way you experience cities. They are the perfect gift for anyone who cherishes the blend of travel, learning, and aesthetic appreciation. Buy Guides HERE

10. ‘Silver Style On the Go. Master Your Style Voice: Travel Light and Look Great’ Course

If you’re seeking a transformative life boost, consider treating yourself to “Silver Style On the Go: Master Your Style Voice.” My new course, drawn from personal experiences, is designed for those eager to fully embrace their silver years, rather than passively experiencing them. It’s about beginning a fresh chapter, not merely concluding an old one. Mastering your Style Voice is key to living a life marked by intention, confidence, and contentment, rather than a constant pursuit of more.

This program is especially relevant for those at a pivotal stage in life, perhaps with grown-up children and newfound freedom, and looking to redefine their identity and style. “Silver Style On the Go” offers a route to self-discovery and renewal, encouraging you to live authentically and vibrantly in these remarkable years. Define. Discover. Design. Do

Our philosophy centres on the concept of the carry-on bag, representing the idea of carrying only what is essential and meaningful. This symbolizes more than just travel efficiency; it reflects a mindset of feeling confident and looking great in your style choices, embodying a life of authenticity and proactive decision-making.

Join us in “Silver Style On the Go” and let your Style Voice lead you towards an empowered, stylish renaissance, where learning, discovery, and savouring every moment become your new way of life. Oh and you get to learn how to pose for the camera to show off your new found fabulousness! More Info HERE


This holiday season, let’s focus on gifts that enhance experiences, not clutter. Whether it’s a unique handbag, a night at the theatre a stylish scarf, reliving memories through photos, or a practical gadget, each gift is thoughtfully chosen to enrich the lives of our loved ones. Happy Holidays, and here’s to a season filled with joy and memorable experiences!

Building A Home – A Long, Layered Approach.

Room designed by Lassel Fragtrup. The focus is on the entire space. The furniture melts into the room so that the fireplace and coffee table take centre stage.

“Ornament is Crime” Adolph Loos

Architects are not decorative. Our focus is on the spatial. That is, how can we make our spaces better. How can we make them appealing without any decoration at all. While part of an architect’s practice absolutely focuses on dressing interiors and adding finishing touches for clients (myself included!) there is always an eye fixed on the bigger picture. The form, the function, the relationship of built areas and voids, each space as it relates to and works with the other spaces– it’s always there in the back of my mind. The dip into some HGTV buzz words, the bones of the house are equally important (and influential on the space) as the finishing touches to make a space feel yours, feel authentic. And, any decoration that is added to a space has a reason to be there. It is meaningful.

A ‘decorated’ room by Sarah Richardson. The symmetrical end tables, lamps and pictures and the matchy-matchy accessories make the room feel decorated rather than evolved. The carpet is the most spectacular thing in the room and gives some hints about the owner’s personality. I’d like to see more personal items in the space to make it feel more authentic.
This room feel more authentic. There is no symmetry or matchy-matchy in the space. The neutral backdrop allows the owner’s of objects of art to speak on behalf of the owner.

Speaking of HGTV– I’ve been thinking a lot about the many, many, interior design shows that have been on in the last 10 or 20 years. For a lot of people, either design lovers, the design curious, and (before Netflix and Hulu… HGTV is vintage!) those stuck watching TV on the couch at 2pm when sick and nothing else in on… these design shows are the first taste of ‘interior design’. 

The shows typically all work the same. You get a tour of a home that the owners love, but it needs a ‘refresh’. The TV design team comes in and whirls around with tape measures, fabric samples, a carpenter with a pencil behind their ear, and an interior designer with fantastic hair. Then, the house is a construction zone and everyone wears a hardhat (can it even be done in time?!). When the paint is dry (our first glimpse into the “makeover”) we get a lot of short and quick shots of people bringing in furniture, a pillow gets fluffed and placed just so, maybe some new candlesticks are tastefully added to a mantel or bookcase (perfectly styled), and usually a photo of the couple/family is placed somewhere with a wink and the host exclaiming ‘time to show the homeowners!’. Then we have the REVEAL. The home owners see their new home and often it’s a lot of ‘oh wow!’.

From Youtube to exemplify the idea of the ‘reveal’

I really dislike the reveal. Also called the ‘install’ by Interior Designers.

Think of it this way: It’s difficult to smooth a layer of textiles and trendy furniture (we cannot forget the ultimate trendy Matisse print!, framed or unframed, you know the one) over a room and expect it to work. It’s like trying to ice a cake in delicious home-made buttercream when the cake itself is half-cooked or tastes like cardboard. It just won’t taste the way you want it to, nor will it last (will you think back and say, hey– that cake worked great last time, let’s do it again with a bigger budget?). 

The ‘install’ feels a little like this cake. Homes feel staged. Inauthentic. Devoid of personality. The owners are presented with an ‘instant’ room. Over time I have come to learn to treat interiors with as much consideration and thought for the occupants/owners as we do the structure. It is difficult to go down a checklist of what is popular now and build a room that both feels like you and will still look good and still feel authentic in 5 or 10 years. There is a focus to make this transformation instant and exciting (which makes for good TV…) rather than considered and layered. How many people really fit and love the current trends of shiplap, a sheepskin throw, muted neutrals, and an abstract painting that a consultant selected without input? You deserve a home beyond trendy and decorative.

A room we have seen over and over. Shaker cabinets with sheepskin and lemons. Styled to offend no one.

Your home should feel relevant. Truly, the only way to make your home more authentically you and different from everyone else’s is to have your home evolve from your experiences, history, culture etc… The most interesting and exciting homes are those that display these unique aspects and spark questions and interests and can be the basis for a great story.

As I said, architects are not decorative. Certainly, one thing may be chosen over another for aesthetics or great lines (we all have our weaknesses), but the idea of pure decoration is a classic architectural no-go. I love homes where people have a really good foundation (great space, good colour palette, wonderful furniture– think a great cake recipe) and over time layer it with all those finishing touches a la HGTV that come from family, travels, art that you picked because you loved it– not the closest Ikea or Target (a good icing).

Everything has a connection and a story. The lamp was found next to a garbage bin in New Delhi. The sculpture is by an Indian artist found in a gallery in Varanasi.

In my own home, things are a bit idiosyncratic. But it works. We have a mix of collected ceramics, art, family photos that blend with a modern home because we made space to highlight the things that are important to us. Our personal touches get pride of place and everything has a story and a connection to my family.

Slow collecting over years from our travels. Put collections on trays to frame them.

Consider the Eames Case Study house in the Pacific Palisades– a completely modern home, an absolute machine for living. And yet, it feels lived in and loved because it is filled with personal items and things from the Eames’ travels. A classic modern box dressed with absolute personality.

Outside of the Eames Case Study House
Inside the Eames Case Study House in Pacific Palisades
A great example of how this couple has added their personality to their home.

Another family friend has an equally striking home– lots of white and neutrals and softness that complement the taste of the owners, but the entire space is punctuated with objects they find beautiful.They set a strong foundation that showcase the things they love.

It bears repeating, architects are not decorative. We can’t help but see the relationship between everything in a space, it’s what we’re trained to do! To really build a space that works, it is a slow and involved process that should feel like you each step of the way. 

The obsession with instant fixes and trendy makeovers that build up to a ‘big reveal’ might make a space feel fresh, but does it really work? Do you really love it? Do you feel like you’re living in a magazine shoot that wasn’t built for you?

In summary, your home does not need to be perfect from the get-go. There is no downside to taking your time and layering yourself into a space with colours you like and things you love. It may not happen over a weekend, or make for great TV– but you will slowly build a space that reflects your taste, your experiences, your story. 

Local Is the New Black: ADDRESS for a Fine Home

Sorry I’ve been MIA, but I’ve been busy working on a number of different projects that I hope to share with you soon.

Today I did some design sleuthing. The Chinatown Experiment showed up on my Instagram feed so I headed down to 434 Columbia street to see ‘ADDRESS’ an assembly of fine furniture and home accessories put together by Kate Duncan. ADDRESS is a carefully curated display of locally designed and crafted furniture, lighting, textiles, artwork, as well as natural and sculptural home accents.

business cards

I met Kate and was very impressed by the wood furniture and accents which she personally designed and made. There were beds, coffee tables, cutting boards, dressers, and an amazing bathroom cabinet made from a number of different maple finishes.

chinatown expirement bed

The lighting here by made by Alex Kyriazis out of plumbing pipe, wood and a very good looking bulb. Ceramics are by Golem Designs. The knit blankets are by Hendrik Lou, Painting by Derek Dix

bathroom cabinet

Maple bathroom vanity by Kate Duncan. Terrarium by Green with Envy.


Cutting board by Kate Duncan, owls on cutting board by Amanda Parker, ceramics by Golem Design, Terrarium by Green with Envy. Textiles by Le Fil Rouge. Hanging sculpture is by Justina Yang of Fiber Lab. Justina is a one-time structural engineer who “uses math and science to create beautiful things.”

pillows plusThe watercolour effect pillows are by  Le Fil Rouge Textiles, terrarium by Green with Envy, ceramics by by Golem Designs.

coffee tables

Kate showing me the quality of the metal work on the maple coffee tables she has made. Painting below is by Derek Dix and is a collage of evocative outdoor images.

painting by Derek Dix

artist namesADDRESS is at the Chinatown Experiment until June 3. Come down, have a look and support our local artisans and craftspeople. The work is so impressive!

Designing the Gingerbread House

Got an invitation to make gingerbread houses at a friend’s. What fun! So many decorating options and so much pressure being the only Architect in the room. So I decided to just let my instincts and fingers do the designing and not think about the result at all. So here it is:

Constructing the house:

gingerbread collage 1

gingerbread 2

Decorating my ‘house.’  A fun and original way to express yourself, and have some holiday fun!

What’s Behind the Sticky Fingers Zipper?

What’s behind the Sticky Fingers zipper?

Everyone from my generation remembers the original Rolling Stones ‘Sticky Fingers’ album. The photograph is of a male in tight jeans with a working real zipper that you could unzip to reveal a mystery.

(photo from

Meet designer, Junie Osaki. Junie lives in a charming, and oh-so-fascinating cottage in the LA area.  It’s the kind of place you want to spend some time snooping because everything she has collected, and has hanging on her walls, has incredible music history attached to it. Her place really resonated with me because I remember being a 14 year old obsessed with ‘rock and roll’ and Rolling Stone Magazine. Junie shared with me the story of the Rolling  Stones, Stickey Fingers record Album.

Junie is a graphic designer who worked in the music industry in its heyday. She is an award-winning designer for the work she did on Art Direction and Design for TARANTELLA By Chuck Mangione for A&M Records. I met Junie through our mutual friend, Ann, and had an opportunity to connect with her on my last trip to Los Angeles. I have never met anyone like Junie. She has so much energy and has an incredible memory that can recount every detail of an event that happened years ago. Junie’s involvement in the recording industry enriches her stories as well her personal spaces as you will see. Before we take a tour of Junie’s place I wanted to share a very interesting piece of history I learned from Junie.

Junie is a close friend of Craig Braun, the Art Director who was involved in the design of the iconic Rolling Stones ‘lips and tongue’ logo and the famous album cover art of Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers in 1971. Craig Braun, Inc, created and produced an exclusive line of jewelry, and promotional items, that he named “LICKS” based on the album’s logo and was the official licensee for Musidor, the licensing company for the Rolling Stones. To coincide with the record’s release, an entire package of “Lips & Tongue”-based merchandise hit the stores.

Junie told me the story of the design behind the Rolling stones Sticky Fingers album. This is my interpretation of her story. I hope I have it right!.

The album’s artwork shows a close-up of a jeans-clad male crotch. The cover of the original (vinyl) release featured a working zipper and mock belt buckle that opened to reveal cotton briefs. Behind the zipper, the white briefs were rubber-stamped in gold with the name of American pop artist Andy Warhol. Junie informed me that while Warhol conceived the artwork, the design and concept was by Craig Braun, an Art Director in the music industry. Craig also developed the concept behind Alice Cooper’s School’s Out album, and a number of other concept albums.

The crotch shot was not Mick Jagger, but an artist from Andy Warhol’s Factory. The album was the first time the Rolling Stone’s used their new “tongue & lips” logo. There is some controversy as to who actually designed the logo but according to Wikipedia the logo was originally designed by Ernie Cefalu and it was this version that was used for much of the merchandising, and  the design that was originally shown to the band by Craig Braun. The design used for the album was a further refinement, and was done by John Pasche, who Craig Braun actually credits for designing the logo. Craig does not endorse the idea that Cefalu was the logo’s designer.  What is interesting is the coming together of talents in the production of one rock n roll artifact. Like rock n roll itself, it is not a one person proposition, it takes a team.  The same can be said for ‘design.’

Junie’s design sensibility goes further than the recording industry. Her cottage is charming and so full of iconic American rock and roll history. Have a look for yourself.

Limited edition print of ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ hand written out by Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Limited edition print of ‘Our House’ hand written out by Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Junie’s cottage is small so she has moved her ‘living space’ outdoors. Her outdoor room is beautiful and totally appropriate for the warm weather of California.

Junie’s cottage is an example of one of those hidden gems that are tucked in amongst conventional suburban landscapes all over North America, and especially in artistic communities like Los Angeles. I have learned that many of us have remarkable stories under seemingly conventional facades.

Vintage Love: Vancouver

If you read my last blog you will know that I love buying vintage.  This includes clothing, jewelry, home furnishings or interesting chachkas. These two items came from a great shop on the west side of Vancouver. The punchbowl, made of turquoise milk glass, is probably from the 30s but I have been told it could be a late as the 40’s or 50s.   The punch bowl has a grapevine pattern and comes with 10 matching cups. Although I am very drawn to the colour and shape of the bowl, I can’t justify paying the hefty $750 price tag.  When I shop vintage I am looking for really good deals!

The chandelier has hanging crystal golf balls mixed with circular chrome details giving the light a modernist look. This light would definitely add some sparkle to any modern room.  What do you think?

Had any interesting vintage buys lately?  I’d love to hear about them!

Vintage Love: The Tourist

One of Graham’s and my favourite things to do when we travel is to visit flea markets, vintage shops and thrift stores.  We have visited these in Santa Barbara, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Seattle as well as many Canadian cities.  In Europe, we have been to the famous Amsterdam flea market, the seemingly endless Portobello Road in London and riverside markets by the Seine in Paris, to name a few.  You may well wonder WHY do we do this.  Well, I think it is part of our tourist curiosity. It is part of really exploring a place in that it tells us something about the city we are visiting.  There is something intimate and unique about looking through peoples discarded treasures. You learn something about the place and the people who live there that conventional retail just doesn’t offer.  The Good Will in Santa Barbara was full of designer clothes and wet suits.  I bought my favourite vase for $5.00 from here.  Graham was not keen on traveling with glass but I told him I would put it in my carry on and would not leave the store without it.  I use that vase regularly and always think about Santa Barbara and how I must get back to that Good Will soon. 

We also bought a pair of beautiful oriental figurines from an antique store in Berkeley, California. They were $25.00 and I had to have them.  I love these Kitschy Chinoiserie figurines from the late 50’s with their incredible verdigris green and gold colour combination. In Paris we bought vintage keys in a used building supply yard and old pocket watch faces in the riverside market in London.

Of course, the main reason we love vintage shopping is the treasure hunt. We secretly hope we are smarter than the average local and will cleverly discover an unrecognized, unappreciated treasure. Or, we imagine that others may find the activity unsavory yet we will sally forth and heroically find the treasure. At any rate, travel is not about consuming generic, prefab souvenirs (Did I get this at the Chicago or San Francisco Macy’s?) Authentic tourist-vintage-love is about bringing home a unique item that is specific to its place.  Let’s face it, a chain store item can be found almost anywhere but a vintage piece from a quirky, backstreet shop is a one-of-a-kind memento.

It’s also a great way to meet interesting people, either shoppers or shopkeepers who share your interest in the unusual, esoteric world of vintage.  They often have a sophisticated appreciation of a piece’s history and origins and this inevitably leads to a bit of local lore – sometimes even a touch of celebrity – like when we happened upon Leonard Cohen’s daughter’s shop in L.A.  So next time you travel be bold and venture off the main drag.  Look for that charming down-market area, with that dowdy/funky little shop to discover something unexpected, fun and most likely affordable.  You’ll find yourself with a cool souvenir plus a great story to go with it.

Those with ‘It’: Pati’s House


Pati and her husband live in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles.  The empty nesters have a modern home with a fabulous art collection.  We met Pati, an interior designer, in Vancouver and had the opportunity to see her wonderful home in L.A. when we were invited to attend her annual Hanukkah celebration. Click on images to enlarge.

Pati asked me if I knew what the metal art piece on the left was. She felt because I was an Architect  I would know. I spend a good deal of time trying to figure it out. I saw it as a series of city blocks and streets but I apparently was wrong. What do you think?  Any ideas?