Friday, April 30, 2010

Cerno Group

An architect, engineer and business analyst, best buddies from Laguna Beach CA, get together and make furniture together.
Keep posted!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mother's Day Flowers

By themselves or paired with the perfect gift, flowers are still the best at expressing our devotion, love and appreciation. There's a bouquet out there to suit every personality. Ordering flowers online allows us to do it in a pinch, and there's a different kind of thrill associated with receiving a delivery of flowers at your door. On the other hand, if you're delivering them yourself, you can buy a pre-made bouquet or make one yourself. The best prices are at stores like Costco and Trader Joe's, they carry a good variety ranging from bunches of daisies to roses to lilacs, as well as mixed bouquets and even potted blooms. If you have access to a farmer's market, the prices are even better. 
Flowers shown below from:

Warm and Cheerful and Down-to-Earth
Sunflowers are symbolic of adoration.
These unpretentious, joyous and flamboyant yellow flowers bring sunshine and cheer in large doses.

Classy and Traditional
As one of the most enduring symbols for love and appreciation, it's no surprise that roses are among the most admired and evocative of flowers.
Different colors of roses mean different things ranging from love, respect, admiration and gratitude. The punches of color in a mixed bouquet is delightful, while a multi-tonal arrangement in a favorite color is elegant and understated.

Fresh and Modern
Orchids and irises are exotic and lovely.
Gathered by themselves in a big bunch has an easy kind of simplicity that is also very classy, like you just cut them from your garden.
The delicate, exotic and graceful orchid represents love, luxury, beauty and strength while the meanings of the irises include faith, hope, and wisdom.

Hip and Sophisticated
Arrangements take on a sculptural, sleek and clean-lined appeal.
These bouquets exude pure urban luxury.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

She's Got The Look

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
                                --Henry David Thoreau

There are people who are gifted when it comes to this. Children, for instance, seem to be able to see beyond the here and now, past the other less important things that usually befuddle the rest of us. Perhaps the reason why they always complain of being ‘bored,’ is because to them, time stretches on forever. Time just goes on and on because they don’t exactly keep track of all that went on before and don’t necessarily look that far ahead either. They are mostly concerned with the present. They can look at a situation, or a particular moment in time and really see it for what it is; a fleeting moment to be savored and enjoyed for it will never come their way again. Today my daughter’s ballet class got to try on their recital costumes for the first time. It was a very vivid aqua, a vision in velvet, sparkly jersey and tulle. For weeks I have been hearing about this costume for, as she would go on and on about how fabulous it was going to be. Finally today, at ballet class, she, along with a dozen other girls finally got to try the costume on. Oh boy, it was a delightful time; a bunch of eight-year olds, so ecstatic and excited about this frilly concoction of a dress. It was quite possibly the best time of their lives to date, and nothing was ever going to take it away from them. Only precious children like that can look past a costume that would otherwise be described as too gaudy by others, and see a brief moment in time in their girlhood lives, that will never come again.

Thoreau’s quote can be applied in many ways, certainly in the way we regard our lives and our homes. It is quite true in almost everything, that looks can be deceiving. People and lives are so complex, that merely looking at the surface never tells us the whole story. We have to probe deeper to really see. When we look at our homes, what do we see? There are a lot of ways that a space can be colored, arranged and decorated in order to achieve a certain ‘look,’ but what we see when we are in the room is also important. In model home design and in home staging, spaces are arranged in a way so that potential buyers are able to ‘see themselves’ living there. The ‘look’ is important, but what a person ‘sees’ supersedes everything. It may be the look of the moment, but if we can’t see ourselves living there and actually using the space, it does not work. A space should adapt and suit the people who occupy it and not the other way around. Amazing too, are artisans and humanitarians who look beyond the surface and see new possibilities. ( created by a person named Ed Mead, is an online outlet for the sale of artwork and craft created by prisoners. He was a former prisoner himself, and he started this non-profit service as a way of helping political prisoners and POWS raise money. In South Beach, Florida, a woman named Tessie deFelice ( picks up garbage on the beach and turns them into works of art. She is hoping her work will inspire conservation and bring attention to the growing problem plaguing many of the world’s water systems.Above: "Beached" Oil Painting by Judie Guglio, from

Amazing too, are artisans and humanitarians who look beyond the surface and see new possibilities. ( created by a person named Ed Mead, is an online outlet for the sale of artwork and craft created by prisoners. He was a former prisoner himself, and he started this non-profit service as a way of helping political prisoners and POWS raise money. In South Beach, Florida, a woman named Tessie deFelice ( picks up garbage on the beach and turns them into works of art. She is hoping her work will inspire conservation and bring attention to the growing problem plaguing many of the world’s water systems.

They say seeing is believing. Today my daughter showed me exactly the way she sees life: bright, colorful, frothy and very sparkly. She and those girls danced like there was no tomorrow. It was an unforgettable scene, one where she twirled and danced and made me see, that life is indeed a stage, and we should play our parts to the hilt. It was the past, the present and the future coming together, in one quick dance; nostalgic, wonderful and promising, and I saw it with my own eyes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Age-Defying Beauty

Common sense, good taste and general consensus tells us the that the real secret to looking great at any age is to look good for your age. If you are 25, you should look like 25 in a good way, not 15 and not 40. If you are 45, you should look great at 45, not 21 and not 55 either. The people who are masters at this have been known to employ a regimen of clean and healthy living, a flourishing social and spiritual life, and a timeless, as opposed to a trendy personal style. I saw model Paulina Porizkova on TV yesterday and she looked amazing of course, but that's not the lesson here. She's 45, and no one will mistake her for 25, but that's good because she looks as good as she can be at 45. She says she's never had any work done, and there's nothing on her face that she 'wasn't born with.' If all of that were really true, then at face value, that's real age-defying beauty for you. Beauty that changes, evolves, becomes richer and more substantial over the passing of time.

It's like this: Something made entirely out of plastic, like a Crocs shoe, can be classified as 'ageless' for the sake of words. I own a three-year old pair and it looks exactly the same as it did when it was brand new. The color never fades, it keeps it's shape and it's virtually indestructible. It's plastic of course! In contrast, a great leather shoe, while incurring a few scratches, creases and minor scuffs along the road to life, never looks the same with each passing day. Like our faces, it bears the marks of time. If it's well made and taken cared of, the ever-growing creases and variations in tone only make it more beautiful. It ages, but it ages well.

The same is true for furnishings. There are things that are meant to be 'aged,' like wine and cheese. Buy them new and in good quality, and it will last with you forever, ever-changing and bearing the marks that tell the story of their lives with you.

Unlike people, teak gets its beauty from being out in the sun and the elements. The more aged and weathered it gets, the more attractive it becomes. Give it a couple of years outside, and it loses its brand-new Costco sheen and instead looks like something from an centuries old garden. Teak wood, when left outdoors, will turn a handsome silver-gray. It will even have a few cracks, which is perfectly natural, as wood expands and contracts slightly when left outdoors. What's even better is that all this weathering has no effect on the stability of the furniture in any way, which makes it great for outdoor furniture. Teak requires little to no care, and maintains its incredible strength and timeless elegance for decades. Green Note: Be certain that the teak wood you are purchasing are from sustainably harvested forests. Always check your sources!

Above: Spirit Song Teak Collection,,
Below: Cassara Dining Collection,

Leather sofas as probably one of the very few that actually looks better after having been sat on for about five years. Like a great jacket or bag, it gains a patina over time. If you are okay with that kind of look, all the little scratches and creases add to its beauty and allure. It is for the reason that stores carry leather sofas that are already 'pre-patina-d' for you. Note that not all leathers are created equal and 'genuine leather' does not always mean top quality. A sofa that says 'genuine leather' can still have vinyl panels on the back and sides. Top grain is the highest quality and most expensive grade. It's the topmost layer of the hide, and retains all the original scarring and markings. It's also the most durable and supple. Green Note: Eco-conscious citizens, animal lovers and vegans shun leather, but if you're just overall environmentally concerned, leather from ecologically responsible and reputable sources can be better than man-made materials that don't last.

Above: Maxwell Leather Sofa,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Safety In Numbers

My parents' house where I grew up in defied all sorts of feng shui principles. It was built by my father who was an architect, and one time he brought a Chinese client who was familiar with feng shui and no more than 5 minutes in she highly recommended an extensive feng shui renovation. First of all, the house number is 4, which is considered inauspicious in traditional Chinese feng shui because sounds like "death" in Cantonese. Aside from this, the house had rooms that had 2 doors facing each other, also "bad luck." Apparently, "chi" enters one door and leaves through the other. We never believed any of that stuff of course, and there was never any reason to fear the feng shui "mistakes" of the house because through the years we were lucky enough to have nothing except happiness and stability. 

The Chinese are very superstitious when it comes to numbers, they choose telephone numbers, house number, business numbers, car number plates and anything that has numbers in very carefully. They believe it is possible to change your life by using numbers.

Let's take that last sentence into more careful consideration. When arranging elements in our home, numbers do make a difference, not in a superstitious kind of way, but rather, from a part aesthetic, part mathematical and part scientific point of view. There are basic numbers and proportions that are present in all things that beautifully drawn, well-constructed and aesthetically pleasing. In art, there is something called the "Golden Section," or "The Divine Proportion." This number is also said to be present in the perfection of nature. Artists use it in composing a painting; these numbers tell them things such as where to start the horizon and where to place the other elements such as trees and people. The key dimensions of the room and table in Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper was based on this very same principle.

Simplified for our purposes we will use something called "The Rule of Thirds." For example, in photography, we are taught to divide the scene and place the horizon line either in the upper third or the lower third of the composition and not in the middle. The same applies to hanging pictures. They should be hung at eye level and somewhere along the upper third of the wall.

Convinced? Here are some other important numbers to remember. 

--2 or a pair, such as a pair of lamps and a pair of end tables provide symmetry and balance
--3 and other odd numbers, is better for arranging other decorative items such as a set of vases, or picture frames. Remember, when creating a vignette of objects on a table or a shelf, odd numbers are better. 3 is better than 2 and 5 is better than 4.
--18 inches is the ideal minimum distance from the edge of the table to the edge of a sofa for proper circulation.
--2/3 the length of the sofa, is the ideal width of the coffee table. It should be about the same height or about 1 to 2 inches lower than the seat height of the sofa.
--38 inches of space must be provided between the edge of the dining table and the wall to provide adequate room for chairs and the passage of a dining room.
--36 inches must be provided in living and family rooms for main trafficways.
--10 feet is the ideal distance between seating areas for stimulating conversation.
--30 inches between the bottom of the light fixture and the surface of the table is the rule for hanging dining room pendants or chandeliers.
--6 feet from the floor is the height at which we should hang pendants above a kitchen island.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Catch of the Day

For the be-gadgeted people that we are. (I don't know about you, but sometimes I have to charge my phone in the bathroom vanity). 

Found! A mini table that multi-tasks. 

The Multipot Table Lamp and Charger
A table lamp that has a 5-way socket to use as a recharger
for you PDA, Cell Phone or Camera. Above it is a soft touch tray.
Design by Dante Donegani and Giovanni Lauda, 2005 
Imported from Italy.

Built-in on/off switch with illuminated indicator of "Power On".
Chargers and LED lights separately switched.
5 outlets for your charging needs.
6 foot grounded cord and plug.
LED consumption 4.2W; 60,000 hours lamp life.
2000W maximum power output.

$89.99, free shipping at

Oldies But Goodies

These iconic furnishings look just as good as they did then.

Starting in the late 1940s Charles and Ray Eames created furniture that featured revolutionary use of materials and a distinctive shape, making their chairs icons of the period. Eames chairs have become synonymous with a distinct, upscale, and thoroughly urban modern design style that still endures today.

Hans Wegner created this Papa Bear chair in 1951, a testament to his principle of not taking things too seriously. He employed a 'serious playful' approach that still resonates today.
Introduced in 1947, George Nelson's sculptural bubble pendant lamps are instant mid-century modernism icons that still hang around today. 
Furniture designer Mark Goetz wanted furniture that had a "reserved, quiet expression so they're appropriate in a variety of environments." The Goetz sofa, is resembles a 1950s version shown above.
Photo credits:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Outer Space

Somewhere in between the manicured perfection of a cactus rock garden and tranquil appeal of a Japanese Zen garden is a garden out there for the modernista, far, far away from the traditional combination of geraniums and wrought-iron garden benches.
Photo credit above: VKG Terrace Collection from Design Within Reach

An exciting trend in gardening and landscape design is the selection of plants that are colorful, structural and unique but are hardy enough and require minimal watering. They look great integrated together in a landscape, planted together in mass or groups or in pots and planters. Tilandsias (below), or 'air plants' are bromeliads that do not need soil to grow. They are hardy and have an otherwordly, architectural look. Other great examples are the yucca plant (below, center) and the agave plant (below, bottom).

Planters raised at varying heights make plant groupings look more dynamic and interesting.

Above: Bullet planter medium, $140,, Left: Quadrant plant stand, $199,, Below: Sun Yellow Egg Planter, $95,

Keep color palette to a minimum, even in seating. Black and white are great options. Look for unique yet streamlined forms. Modern forms are very light, and use very little material. This set looks like a topiary form. 
 Above: Emu Ivy Collection by Paula Navone for Coalesse, starts at $425,

Seating that double-duties as side table and sculptural accent.
Left: Frank Gehry Left Twist Cube, $250,

Think out of the box when it comes to lighting. Solar and LED are the obvious choices. These lighting are geometric, functional and understatedly ornamental.
Right: Freestanding LED orbs, $140-$169,, Below: Solar LED yardlight, $20,

Invite the wildlife. Feeders attract fluttering, feathery creatures into your space. 
Top to bottom: Left: Egg Bird Feeder, $135,, Top-feeding Mobile See-saw Birdfeeder, $195,, Peanut Birdfeeder, $98,

Nix the kitschy (tiki torch) and take accessories out of the ordinary. 
Top to bottom:  Lighthouse Outdoor Torch, $90-$230, Nikko Fountain, $25, , Chameleon Solar Light Stick, $29,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Welcome Home

Past the threshold, the pace of life shifts. Light softens and the soothing quiet whispers to you to relax your shoulders and kick off your shoes. The faint spicy scent from a previous meal lingers in the air yet, and you realize you are famished. Interestingly, you are just beginning to realize how tired you are and yet the moment you walked in all the weariness and exhaustion has been lifted away. Reality is suspended or is faced. Welcome, you are home.
One of the best ways to describe home is that it's that shining beacon of light at the end of a long tunnel. The promise of returning to it makes up a lot of what keeps us going through the day. Mental pictures--of a couch and an unfinished book, a bed, a nice warm bath, a gently simmering crock pot of stew in the kitchen--keep us alive and kicking and able to go about our jobs and all other chores away from home. Even after a great vacation spent in fabulous places and elegant hotels, nothing compares to that precious moment when you set your bags down and throw yourself down on your own bed. 
 It's familiarity. Over time our home becomes imbued with its signature scents and aromas, variations and distributions of light and shadows, its own distinct areas of jumble and arrangements, and even a 'color' apart from what's on the walls. If you're very sensitive, you will notice these qualities present in a home, is so personal and characteristic, as to be found nowhere else. My parents' home where I grew up in has its own smell, a mixture of different things from in and out of the house that seems to linger in every single item in the house and heavily in air. So much so that when they send me packages and gifts, I only have to lift it to my nose, take a whiff and instantly recognize that familiar smell. If I close my eyes and let my imagination soar, I am at my parents' home, all over again.
There is a great song by country singer Martina McBride called "House of a Thousand Dreams." It's a bittersweet poem, a sad tale that I think, summarizes what a home is all about. Here are the words:

He says, “I’m just a man, I work with my hands
But lately no work has been around
I wish that I could put more on the table
Provide the life I’m sure my family dreams about”
“But there’s cracks in all the walls and all the windows
And the flies, they find their way in through the screen
I just pray that hope will go on living
In this house of a thousand dreams”

She says, “my husband’s a good man
Gives all that he can
I know he thinks he’s let me down
I just want him and the children to be happy
It’s not always easy, but it’s all I dream about”
“So I’ll find some yard-sale curtains for the windows
And I’ll sew some yellow trim along the seams
And I’ll keep praying hope will go on living
In this house of a thousand dreams”

The boy says, “my daddy’s a strong man
My momma, she loves him
And they love my brother and sister and me
Sometimes at night we lay out in the backyard
And take turns wishing on the first star we see”
“And the crickets always sing outside the windows
And I love to feel the wind blow through the screen
And I sure hope that we can live forever
In this house of a thousand dreams”
“Yeah I sure hope that we can live forever
In this house of a thousand dreams”
Home is that wonderful miracle of a place that is the keeper of everything that we are. Though imperfect, broken in some parts, unfinished, or a work in progress, it the place where we lay down all of ourselves along with everything else that is also broken and unfinished within us. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Cleaning

"The whole year's work depends on a good start in the spring."
                                                      --Chinese Proverb
Last Sunday at church the deacon had some very interesting things to say. He talked about 'pulling back.' Pulling back from the things that weigh us down, like, negative thoughts about other people and about ourselves. Essentially, I thought that it was all about spring cleaning for the mind. Spring is an excellent time to get rid of hang-ups and habits that don't really work, put on a fresh face, a fresh outlook and set new goals. It's a great time to let go of negative emotions and energies to make room for new possibilities. 

There is something thoroughly satisfying about this and other certain kinds of ritualistic cleaning. In the spring, we clean those places and hard to reach corners that we leave out during the regular cleaning--places that no one sees anyway, but nevertheless gather dust and grime, in ourselves and in our home. The invigorating bursts of sunshine-y days, brisk cool air and longer days fill us with vim and vigor to go about these tasks. 

For spring cleaning, here are some new products, new ideas, and old ideas that still work.  

Green = Clean: New! Martha Stewart Clean 
I went to The Home Depot yesterday and saw that this new line of eco-friendly cleaning products had made their debut.  These household cleansers are effective, responsible, safe, non-toxic and come in recyclable packaging. Martha Stewart Clean products are tough on dirt and give you all the cleaning power you need to tackle every room in your home quickly and effectively without any harmful side effects. Shown here is the Marthe Stewart Clean All-Purpose Cleaner, available at The Home Depot for $4 for a 32 oz. bottle (roughly the same price for a bottle of toxic 409!)

Change your air filters.
These trap the airborne allergens like dust, dirt and pollen in our homes. It is ideal to change them every 90 days, and now's a great time to start! Inexpensive ones cost as little as $3 each.

Change your shower head.
Aside from the fact that if we don't regularly clean and disinfect our shower heads, bacteria gather in them over time, making a switch means saving water and money. 
A low flow shower head spits out 1.5 gallons of water per minute, while an older one can run at about 2.5. For two people taking 15-minute showers every day for a year, this means saving 10,000 gallons of heated water and roughly $300 per year in savings (at an estimated 3 cents per gallong for the cost of water and heating). It is easy to install yourself, and the initial investment pays for itself in as little as 1-2 months. 
One to try: Waterpik EcoFlow Handheld Chrome Showerhead, $25. Available at Target and home improvement stores.

Get a pot of basil.
If you like to cook with basil, you know that buying for just 1 recipe amounts to anywhere from $1 - $2. At Trader Joe's the other day, I found a big pot for $3. This one big pot looked like it had enough leaves for about 5 recipes or one cup of pesto! What a smart investment as it's about the same price as cut basil and will keep growing back. They are incredibly easy to care for, just place them by a windowsill or anywhere in the kitchen that gets light. As needed, snip of the top most leaves, making sure to leave at least two rows of leaves. The stem will keep growing back. Eco-bonus: No more plastic boxes to throw away.

Clean your lightbulbs.
The bulbs in our lamps get coated with grime and dust over time, resulting in less light. Unscrew them and gently wipe with a damp towel. Still using incandescents? Switch to compact flourescent. They are now available in a variety of sizes for different uses.

Re-caulk in the bathroom.
The caulk lining where the edge of the hanging sink or counter meets the wall and the rim surrounding the foot of the toilet and the aread surrounding the tub, can get chipped over time. Loose caulking lets water out, creating a mildew-prone environment. Check out this how-to:
All you need is a caulk remover and a new tube of caulk, a cost of less than $10.

Re-seal your home.
There is a product called Great Stuff Gaps & Cracks Insulating Foam Sealant that's supposed to help heating and cooling by helping keep warm air in and cold air out. According to their website, when applied to spaces like the basement/attic, it seals the gaps and holes and a homeowner can save up to 20% in heating and cooling costs. What's more, like new windows, it's tax credit eligible! Check out their website:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Outdoor Modernista

There's a garden out there for the non-frilly, modern type. I'm on the hunt, keep posted.
PS: Scroll down for patio umbrellas.