Debra Prinzing

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Preview: CA|Boom Design Show 2009

Friday, June 19th, 2009

UPDATE: All four sets of FREE tickets have been claimed, compliments of Charles Trotter, show producer.

caboom001The 6th annual CA Boom Show takes place Friday, June 26th through Sunday, June 28th  in the former Robinsons flagship department store on the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards in Beverly Hills.

I originally learned of CA|Boom when I was still living in Seattle. My friend Ryan Grey Smith, creator of Modern Shed, exhibited at the first CA|Boom Show. He had a great response — from the public and the press – to his simply designed, prefabricated sheds. Little did I know then that I would move to LA in 2006! I attended CA|Boom in 2007 to find an exciting, inspiring and comprehensive introduction to contemporary design from A to Z.

A favorite place for incubating companies and products making their debuts, the show draws both the design trade and design savvy consumer. CA|Boom has grown exponentially in its complexity and hipness, combining everything relating to modern design under one roof. This season’s lineup features domestic and international designers, furniture and home manufacturers and architects.

You can also sign up for shuttle tours to never-before-seen LA architecture, including the Sunset Plaza residence designed by Assembledge+, an LA-based architecture, development and sustainability design firm. (PS, I toured it today and – WOW – what an amazing project. Read on for details . . . ). You can also visit Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #22, aka The Stahl House, as part of special shuttle tours on Friday and Saturday.

One of the 5 homes on the June 27-28 CA Boom Show's LA architecture tour, designed by Assembledge

One of the 5 homes on the June 27-28 CA Boom Show's LA architecture tour, designed by Assembledge

Today, the press was invited to tour the Sunset Plaza house and meet its designers, Kevin Southerland and David Thompson of Assembledge+. I headed to LA with my friend Jennifer Gilbert Asher, garden designer, artist, and co-creator of TerraSculpture (check her out in the July issue of Garden Design!).

We walked into the house and were assaulted – in a good way – with the breathtaking view of a gorgeous infinity pool that drew our eyes to the LA skyline. We met owner Brad Blumenthal, who graciously opened his home for CA|Boom tours.

I said, “oh, I understand you worked with the design firm Assembledge (which I pronounced with my 11th grade French accent as “aah-sim-BLAAGE”).

Jennifer Gilbert Asher and me in Brad Blumenthal's "Hideaway Lounge"

Jennifer Gilbert Asher and me in Brad Blumenthal's "Hideaway Lounge"

Obviously, that was too funny to Brad, who just started laughing and speaking to me in French.

Duh. I guess the firm’s name is pronounced “a-SEMM-blidj,” with hard vowels, Americanized. 

That was the funniest moment of the day, but it kind of endeared us to Brad (I hope) and to his awesome architects, Kevin and David. The three of them actually gave Jennifer and me a personal, guided tour of the home – upstairs and down.

Owner and actor Brad Blumenthal (center), with his architects Kevin Southerland and David Thompson

Owner and actor Brad Blumenthal (center), with his architects Kevin Southerland and David Thompson

Theirs is an unparalleled design project that defines modern architecture for the 21st century. I’m still marveling at the sleek lines and forms that incorporate rich, organic materials. In true California Living style, the outdoors is invited into every room. The dramatic, 180-degree view is a sight to behold.

We were drawn to the terrace, where the interior terrazzo continues to the pool’s edge, completely extending the notion of “room” to an open-air setting. When viewed at a certain angle, the two lounge chairs, aka “Wave Chaises,” in cast fiberglass (from Float, a Philadelphia design studio), look as if they’re floating on the water’s surface.

charlestrotterI sat down with Charles Trotter (right), founder and producer of CA|Boom, and asked him how things were shaping up for next weekend’s show:

Q. Tell me about this year’s new venue, in the vintage Beverly Hills building that once housed Robinson’s flagship department store:

A. We had an opportunity to reintroduce a building of that style and design from the 1950s. We will feature beautiful Julius Schulman photographs of the building, lent by the Getty. People may forget how stylish the design of this building was in the context of its 1950s architecture.

Q. How big is the show space?

A. It’s abound 30,000-square-feet, which is the same as the Barker Hanger (CA|Boom’s former home at the Santa Monica Airport). But there is more exterior space.

Q. CA|Boom is more than a trade show. It seems like a “happening.” How do you make that work?

A. Many of our exhibitors use the show to debut products. We’ve definitely reinvented the idea of a “trade show.” We’re attracting a new generation of audiences and it’s giving exhibitors an opportunity to influence a design-savvy end user.

Q. You also draw professionals, right?

A. The architects feel this is their show.

Q. Charles, you know I am particularly interested and excited in outdoor living design. What new and innovative design can you tell me about? 

The warm, inviting interior of an IC Green Container House

The warm, inviting interior of an IC Green Container House

A. I.C. Green’s Container Houses are a new pre-fabricated project. Of all the modernist pre-fab we’ve seen, this is hitting the right price point. They will be debuting a 600-square-foot studio, like a  “Granny Flat,” using portions of a shipping container. It’s the most sophisticated durable good that’s been made. You can even put multiple ones together. This has a lot of promise

[Note: This is a description from CA|Boom’s web site: I.C. Green’s Container Houses follow the “principles of modularity with a high degree of flexibility within the system.” The used shipping containers reappropriated as homes provide a frame that is structurally strong, facile to transport and a rectangularity that suits the modern aesthetic of an “open plan” home. Off-site prefabrication/adaptive reuse greatly reduces construction costs and time. Material finishes and energy systems can be used to create additional clean energy performance of the Container Home.]

Architect Kevin Southerland, Assembledge, enjoying his Coolhaus ice cream sandwich

Architect Kevin Southerland, Assembledge, enjoying his Coolhaus ice cream sandwich

We ended our tour and interview with an afternoon snack, a hip Coolhaus ice cream sandwich!

Coolhaus is a modern take on the traditional ice cream truck that is all the Twitter-rage around LA. Oh, P.S., Coolhaus will be selling these mouthwatering archi-treats at CA|Boom next weekend.

High concept ice cream sandwiches are named for modern design icons: Frank Behry, Mintimalism, Oatmeal Cinnamoneo (Jen had this one, but it was melting fast in today’s 80-plus temps), Mies Vanilla Rhoe and IM Peinut Butter (my choice).

Yummy. Sweet.

And stylish!

Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show

Monday, February 23rd, 2009
Stylish Sheds, a featured book at University Bookstore's display

Stylish Sheds, a featured book at University Bookstore's display

I’ve just returned from spending three days at the fabulous-but-possibly-final Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle where I saw many, many gardening friends, hung out with my Hortus Posse pals and enjoyed a week of Seattle Sunshine (Seriously, folks. It was raining in Burbank when we flew outta here on Feb. 16th and sunny when we landed in Seattle!).

Of course, I was preaching the message of Stylish Sheds, and I’m happy to say, my “Shedar” (that’s like Radar, but it’s my own version of being alert to shed-spotting all around me) zoomed in on several fantastic garden structures, sheds, arbors, pavilions, shelters and enclosures.

It seemed as if every display garden at the show featured a fanciful structure in the garden. That goes to show you how important it is to design with not just plants, but architecture in mind.

Bill Wright, my collaborator on Stylish Sheds, and I kicked off the week with a Tuesday lecture for his peers in the Seattle chapter of American Society of Media Photographers. We participated in “The Odyssey of a Book,” a panel with two other book-savvy photographers, Dick Busher, of Cosgrove Editions, and Rosanne Olson, creator of a beautiful new book called “this is who I am — our beauty in all shapes and sizes”. The audience included fellow photographers, some of whom are also members of Garden Writers Association (David Perry, Mark Turner), friends Marcia Gamble Hadley and writer Robyn Cannon, as well as my former cohort from Seattle Post-Intelligencer days, Steve Shelton (what a treat to see him in the audience!). While we writers were definitely in the minority in the crowded room at Seattle Central Community College’s photography studio, it was a great experience talking books with kindred spirits.

Rosanne Olson, Bill Wright, Debra Prinzing and Dick Busher

Rosanne Olson, Bill Wright, Debra Prinzing and Dick Busher

On Wednesday, I took a tour through the Flower Show and snapped a bevy of shots to document the veritable bevy of sheds and shed-like structures featured in the show (see below). I was particularly gratified to see two Modern Shed structures by the talented Ryan Grey Smith and his team. Ryan adapted his awesome prefabricated shed architecture for two display gardens, including Michael Hancock’s “Serene Scapes” garden and Tony Fajarillo’s “Collaborating with Nature” garden.

Bill and Debra at their book signing

Bill and Debra at their book signing

On Thursday, I was back on my soapbox, speaking about backyard architecture in “Your Personal Escape,” my lecture illustrated by many of Bill’s awesome photos from our book. Bill joined me for a booksigning afterwards and we’re pleased to say that University Bookstore sold out of copies of Stylish Sheds. Hopefully, they’ll order MORE books next time!

The week went by way too quickly, but upon reflection, it was a perfect moment in time; a perfect experience to savor for months to come.  I’ll close by sharing some of my favorite structures: A Gallery of Garden Architecture from the 2009 Northwest Flower & Garden Show’s designers.

In Praise of the Modern Shed

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Irv and Shira Cramer created a backyard destination in an otherwise unused section of their hillside property. They bought and personalized a prefabricated shed-studio from Seattle-based Modern Shed.

[All photographs by William Wright]

There’s a huge media spotlight on prefabricated sheds these days, and much of it is shining on Ryan Grey Smith and Modern Shed of Seattle. While I would prefer to have a bit of those bright rays focus on Shed Style and our book, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, I can’t help but be pleased to have media outlets participate in the conversation we began. As more stories rave about Modern Shed’s innovative and affordable design solutions for people in search of stylish space, I think everyone in the shed world will benefit. “The Shed,” an online magazine published by Alex Johnson in the UK, ran my story about Ryan earlier this year, called “Shedquarters.”

One of Ryan’s projects is featured in our book, a chapter called “Rec Room” that profiles a young Los Angeles artist and designer named Lin Su (seen at left, in front of her Modern Shed). But originally, a second Modern Shed structure was also slated for Stylish Sheds. It’s the sad reality that books have space limitations. Ours did, and in the end, that meant we had to cut seven chapters out of the final version of Stylish Sheds. It was P-A-I-N-F-U-L to say the least!


So many sheds, so few pages. Now it’s time to share one of those “lost” chapters. It includes the story and photographs of a bright green structure perched on a Berkeley hillside. Designed and built by Modern Shed, the haven is owned and used by a warm, artistic and fascinating couple named Irv and Shira Cramer.

Here’s their story, illustrated by a gallery of Bill Wright’s wonderful photographs:

Hillside Hideaway

A couple descends twenty-five steps to a garden far below their home to enjoy this separate and soulful place for music, books, and conversation. 

Irv Cramer doesn’t take the gift of sanctuary lightly. While some might consider the 13-by-14 foot shed installed at the foot of their garden to be a modest, humble structure, to Irv and his wife Shira, it is an oasis, for both body and mind.