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Fred Hayman, Rodeo Drive, image courtesy of MADE in Beverly Hills

Dear DNA friends,

I hope you are doing well. 

I'm going to set up today’s Design Things to Do with a powerful reason for attending them: staying close to your peeps.

Loneliness, we are learning, is eating away at the soul of America. The Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy just declared that, “at any moment, one out of every two Americans is experiencing measurable levels of loneliness.” He says this is a huge threat to our mental and physical health and collective well-being. 

Dr. Murthy wrote about his own struggle with loneliness and reflected on that of a patient of his who had lived a modest life surrounded by co-workers and neighbors. Then the patient won the lottery, quit his job and moved into a large house in a gated community. He lost touch with his old friends, and developed high blood pressure and diabetes. He told Dr. Murthy, “Winning the lottery was one of the worst things that ever happened to me.” 

Now Dr. Murthy proposes a “national framework to rebuild social connection and community in America.” His recommendations include strengthening social infrastructure (building healthy relationships through workplace design and community programs); renegotiating our relationship with technology (less time spent on social media, especially in hostile exchanges); and rebuilding our connection to one another (staying in touch with friends, reaching out to people going through struggles).

A Tale of Two Mothers

There is one strategy he does not propose, however, which is to reconsider our individualistic lifestyle and transactional relationship with people, and their connection to housing and land-use. His patient suffered when he got rich, dropped his friends, and moved into a gated community. In this KCRW report on the Treehouse Hollywood coliving building, Joe Green, the co-developer, told us he and business partner Prophet Walker were consciously trying to repair a social fabric frayed by suburban living. “It’s a sad thing about America, and in many ways, even more particularly about Los Angeles, that wealth buys you isolation,” he said.  

I witnessed this in action when both my mother and mother-in-law became single — one through bereavement, the other through divorce. 

My mother wound up living in a studio apartment in a complex for senior singles, housed in a four-sided, medieval building around a paved court. All the residents could look out of their little flats into the courtyard area with rose-beds and tables and chairs for gathering over beers and cups of tea. The congeniality of the place utterly transformed my mother's life from painful seclusion to pleasant coexistence with her neighbors. 

Meanwhile, my mother-in-law bought a condo in a gated community that was only reachable by car. The condos themselves were designed in such a way that residents could not look on to each other or directly onto any shared space. She became cut off from humanity and isolated within her home for many years.

Their experiences helped fuel my desire to research LA’s socially oriented housing for my book Common Ground, and then, this month, to join the board of the nonprofit housing developer Community Corporation of Santa Monica, which has spent forty years creating attractive, affordable complexes designed to create a sense of cohesion (as shown in this film I co-produced last year).

Of course, one of the simple ways to keep connected is by taking advantage of things going on in the big city. So read on for the following Design Things To Do; I hope to see you at some of these events!

IMAGE 2, Arroyo, 2018, Community Corporation of Santa Monica, by Koning Eizenberg, photo by Eric StaudenmaierArroyo, designed by KEA for Community Corporation of Santa Monica, photo by Eric Staudenmaier
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Design Things To Do

MADE in Beverly Hills
May 3 - 7
Starting this Wednesday, with an opening party at the legendary Greystone Mansion, is a four-day, ticketed bonanza in Beverly Hills, MADE in Beverly Hills. You can visit landmarks by Paul Revere Williams, drive around Trousdale Estates and tour Edelweiss Chocolates, “the oldest chocolate shop in Los Angeles and the one that inspired the famous chocolate-factory scene from I Love Lucy.” 

The line-up of great speakers includes Janna Ireland, photographer and author of Regarding Paul R. Williams; Alan Hess, on “Googie Modern: Union 76 and Beyond,” and Rose Apodaca, co-owner of A+R design store and author of a book about Fred Hayman, founder of Giorgio Beverly Hills. Apodaca will talk about "The Rodeo Drive Revolution 1960-1981," and how the onetime bridle path morphed into three blocks of high fashion. (You can get a taste of her story on this episode of Rodeo Drive: The Podcast, hosted by fashion connoisseur Bronwyn Cosgrave, a series I helped edit.)

Click here for more details (and read more about MADE in Beverly Hills in my previous newsletter.)

Whiff in the Air
Scent Fair LA, Craft Contemporary, May 5 - 7
Smell plays a huge part in our designed environment. Walt Disney Imagineers create emotion through appealing to the five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Realtors add atmospherics in homes for sale in the form of just-brewed coffee and fresh-baked cookies on the granite countertop. Right now our post-rain spring blooms scent the air, sometimes so strongly that we are less aware of the urban smells of asphalt and gasoline. 

So now comes an event devoted to tickling the nosebuds: Scent Fair LA, a weekend fair at the always interesting Craft Contemporary, showcasing “artisan, independent, and experimental scent practices.” Presented by The Institute for Art and Olfaction and Darin Klein & Friends, they aim “to introduce new audiences to the world of highly conceptual scents,” by cutting-edge fragrance makers who will exhibit and sell their work, and give hands-on workshops.

Who knows if “conceptual scents” will delight or repel, but I’d love to give them a sniff.

Click here for details.

IMAGE 7, Art and Olfaction workshop, image courtesy of Scent Fair LAArt and Olfaction workshop, image courtesy Scent Fair LA

The Fashion of Home
Legends 2023, LCDQ, May 9 to 11
If you like Hollywood glam, then you will probably like Legends 2023, the annual gathering for the denizens and designers of the La Cienega Design Quarter at La Cienega and Melrose. This year the theme is “The Fashion of Home,” meaning fashion’s influence on home design and architecture. 

To that end, one of the storefront window displays – that are a staple of Legends – promises to be an imaginary dressing room for Sarah Jessica Parker in the window of Mecox on La Cienega Blvd. It will showcase the wallpaper line that she created for Wallshoppe with designer Eric Hughes, which bursts with color, patterns and florals. One of the designs, featuring oversize teal-carnations, already got its moment in primetime. It embellished the walls of Carrie's apartment in the recent And Just Like That…, the revival and a sequel of the famed HBO television series Sex and the City.   

At a Keynote at Una Malan, Jill Sieracki, managing editor of Galerie magazine, and designers Jeremiah Brent, Noz Nozawa, Adam Bram Straus and Scott Richler will chew over how the runway provides endless ideas, expressed in the homes and stores of fashion design legends like Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, and Yves Saint Laurent. 

Offsite attractions include the launch of a lighting collection by Cesar Giraldo at a luxury home in Bel Air. Having recently been on a panel with Cesar, I can attest that he’s an extremely entertaining person to be around so this will probably be a hot ticket. 

The events at Legends are mostly ticketed, but you can find free booksignings and product launches while walking along La Cienega and enjoying its windows.

Click here for details.

IMAGE 3, Townhouse Mural Wallpaper by Sarah Jessica Parker for WallshoppeWallshoppe paper with teal carnations

It’s a (W)rapper!
AIA/LA ArchFest, May 17 - 21
If you’ve been following this newsletter closely, you will know that I’ve been quite taken with (W)rapper, the new office tower with an abundance of devilish personality, designed by architect Eric Owen Moss and situated south of the Expo line in the Jefferson/La Cienega area. The building elicited quite a heated response, and now AIA/LA will host a tour of the building, during which I will sit down with Eric and debate aspects of the design that came under scrutiny, such as it’s mighty exoskeletal structure, whether the building is a sustainable as it claims, and what is its point in an age of declining need for creative office space. It’s going to take place on a Saturday morning and should be a bracing way to start the weekend. 

Better yet, this is not the only building opening its doors to the public. The (W)rapper tour is just one of several hosted by AIA/LA over the course of five days. Sign up also to visit sites including EOM’s new A+M house, the Goldstein Estate, La Plaza Village, and the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village designed by NAC architects, and providing 132 units of interim housing made from repurposed shipping containers and 100 units in temporary portable trailers.  

Click here for tickets.

May 12
Also on the AIA/LA docket, designers and planners including Leslie Sydnor, Michael Anderson and Seleta Reynolds, will come together on May 12 to discuss the upcoming 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. While the planning for the games moves ahead with little public discussion, these designers want to make sure noone gets left out of the decision-making and the benefits. Talks will focus on how best to “elevate best-practices in community outreach and empowerment to ensure more equitable, healthy, and inclusive outcomes for the big events.”

Click here for details.

IMAGE 4. Hilda L. Solis First Care Village, photo by Paul VuHilda Solis Care First Village, by NAC Architects, photo by Paul Vu

Conversing in Clay
LACMA, Closes May 21
Speaking of buildings that elicit a strong reaction….

Go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art right now and you can see change in process. Amidst a forest of scaffolding the new building is emerging, an amoebic form in concrete and glass designed by Peter Zumthor. Its non-linear plan and organization is intended to break from the traditional encyclopedic museum. Instead of permanent, chronological and typological displays of the museum’s collections, the concept is that curators will pluck objects and artworks from different collections and juxtapose them in ways that tell a new story, or illustrate a theme. 

It is possible right now to get a little taste of what this means in a small show currently in the Resnick Pavilion called Conversing in Clay: Ceramics from the LACMA Collection, curated by Rosie Mills and Staci Steinberger, both in LACMA’s department of Decorative Arts and Design.

The idea was to place contemporary ceramics in the museum's collection alongside antique pieces, demonstrating the ways in which potters and artists “converse” with each other, whether it be through form and material or symbolic meanings. 

This didactic but interesting approach is exemplified in the Century Vase, produced for the 1876 Centenary of the founding of America, and decorated with the tropes of the time: “George Washington, buffaloes, happy Native Americans,” in the words of Wendy Kaplan, head of Decorative Arts and Design. This vessel is counterpointed by a similarly shaped vase commissioned by LACMA from Roberto Lugo, a contemporary Puerto Rican-American potter and ceramicist. “He interrogates the history portrayed in the nineteenth-century vase, highlighting the ongoing violence of American colonialism and its legacy,” explain the curatorial team. “His depiction of iconic Black cultural figures on porcelain challenges assumptions about which historical figures deserve commemoration.”

This show closes on May 21 but others have opened at LACMA, and one that looks especially interesting is Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond. I’ll report back after I see it.  

IMAGE 5, Conversing in Clay_ Ceramics from the LACMA Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, photo courtesy of Museum Associates_LACMA Conversing in Clay: Ceramics from the LACMA Collection, photo ©Museum Associates/LACMA

The Future of Design 

SCI-Arc: Spring Show 2023
Through May 10
‘Tis the season for design schools to let the world witness the work of their hardworking grads and undergrads. It’s always interesting to see what tomorrow’s designers have in mind. At the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in the Arts District, you can check out the digitally conceived, laser cut models, immersive multimedia installations, and interactive experiences that have become synonymous with an architecture education at the experimental school.

O-Launch: Otis College of Art and Design
May 12-14, Public opening: Saturday, May 13
Otis College of Art and Design opens its doors to the public to view works across the design disciplines, including product, graphics, toys and fine art. What made last year’s show especially good was the fashion grads’ show, out on a catwalk in the central quadrangle. Hopefully, they will do the same this year.


What I'm Digging

Watch: The Diplomat
Love the geopolitics-meets-screwball Netflix series The Diplomat, in which Kate Wyler (Keri Russell, The Americans) grudgingly takes up a post as US Ambassador to London (when she wanted to be sent to Afghanistan) and finds herself troubleshooting international crises, while handling duplicitous characters including her smooth husband Hal (Rufus Sewell), the British Prime Minister (Rory Kinnear) and the US Secretary of State (Miguel Sandoval). The writing, by Debora Cahn, is as razor-sharp as, say, Succession, but where Succession is light on the inner workings of a Fox-like media company, The Diplomat is all about the inner workings of government and the arts of statesmanship, which, as portrayed by Cahn and Russell, come enmeshed with the realities of life including messy relationships, messy hair and plenty of absurdity.

Read: Birnam Wood
There are times when insomnia is actually welcome – such as when you have a novel that you have to devour and the wee hours are the only time to do so. One such book is Birnam Wood, by New Zealand-born Eleanor Catton, about a group of veggie-growing, eco-activists, named Birnam Wood (after Macbeth) whose lives intersect perilously with an American billionaire at a property on which he will purportedly build himself an end-of-times bunker. As the publishers say in their summary of this epic story about survival that also manages to be comedic and blisteringly sharp about human behavior, “Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its drama, Austenian in its wit, and, like both influences, fascinated by what makes us who we are.”  

I will conclude by noting that Catton’s acknowledgments included a nod to her cats, so I’ll take a leaf out of her book and wrap this newsletter with a shoutout to my favorite fluffball Twinkle, seen here presiding over her cabinet.

Thank you for reading. Keep sharing your reactions and pitches with me, at



IMAGE 6, Twinkle under bedcover, photo by Robin Bennett Stein, IMG_4753

"I will not be ignored," Twinkle under bedcover, photo by Robin Bennett Stein

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