Written by Jenn Thornton
L.A. tastemaker Wanda Wen is a case study in following your bliss. Armed with a background in fashion, an eye for artistry and a mind for business, she opened her classily curated West Hollywood paper-arts boutique, Soolip, in the midst of the Digital Revolution—a gutsy move that proved visionary, with a boldface following and spinoffs, from A Soolip Wedding to the Wen-penned The Art of Gift Wrapping. Now, in her first foray to attain luxury brand status for Soolip, Wen turns her exquisite touch on developing a new line of scented candles to bring a little more allure to the home.
The beauty and intelligence of nature has always inspired me, paper too. Ever since I was young, I loved exchanging and embellishing Valentine’s cards and family photo albums. It was always in my blood.
As a businesswoman and an aesthete, how can paper inspire the way home and office space is utilized?
Today, we live in a world fraught with email, E-vites and E-cards, Facebook messaging and digital technology. While there’s no doubt about the great benefits of electronic messaging, nothing captures a moment better than putting pen to paper. The handwritten note is making a comeback in the business world as the single-most effective way to engage a client, as it indicates investment.
Did Soolip’s other ventures spin off organically from the boutique?
Yes. Soolip Weddings came out of what I felt was a need in the wedding
industry to curate a collection of the best of Los Angeles, along with a certain aesthetic level, and an inspired way of doing business. From this luxury showcase grew client interest in my styling [for] actual weddings and adding the
What are you working on now?
A new line of candles—my first step into the lifestyle world, outside of paper. I’ve formulated the scents, concept and the packaging, and the line will be available on our website, Soolip.com, by this fall, as well as at select retailers.
I’m attracted to scent and how it transports people, and am naturally responsive to sensory and tactile elements, as all humans are. That’s the reason why people gravitate toward paper, because it is tactile and touches our senses. It’s also a way to package the Soolip brand into something that is accessible to many.
There’s a romantic, time-honored quality to everything you touch. How do you keep it all modern?
For me, it’s about staying true to my aesthetic with always a nod to nature. I’m a modern woman living in a modern time, so the burning of a candle, writing a letter, taking time for oneself—to me that’s the new luxury. Soolip is a luxury brand, but not what many may still be hanging onto, where it’s about flash and bigger is better. The new luxury I refer to is about time-honored experiences and quality. That’s my vision.
How do you balance art and commerce so beautifully and successfully?
I grew up within a family of entrepreneurs, which taught me about work ethic. And I knew that business would take me where I needed to go. Being passionate about what I do has always been most important to me. Now that Soolip is 20 years old, I’m ready to leverage the value of the brand.
What do you hope Soolip’s legacy will be?
I want to see Soolip as a premier luxury brand, moving the luxury consumer to
see luxury in a way—time-honored and mindful. I see it as aspirational and touching many facets of design. The gift that I want to leave is to inspire others to see beauty in the simple and the unexpected, connect people back to nature and to themselves, and to foster the celebration of those who work with their hands and hearts.
Written by Constance Dunn
Photography by Paul Jonason
The creative roots of Artistic Habitat reach deep into Mexico, where owners Monica and Carlos Muller were born and raised, and from where much of their standout collection of home decor originates. A display of eye-grabbing wood tables handcrafted in Mexico City—some 20-feet in length and all bursting with sculpted, organic character—meet you when you stroll into the couple’s new South Bay showroom. Then come colorful pillows, hand-loomed by women in a Yucatan Peninsula co-op, and bold glasswork from Orfeo Quagliata, the Mexico City-based son of famed artist Narcissus Quagliata.
“In Mexico, we were constantly exposed to the artisanship that is an innate part of the culture,” explains Monica Muller. “We are preserving this workmanship through a modern interpretation of traditional techniques. We have always felt that there’s a certain dignity in preserving handmade products. It’s nice knowing you own something that’s completely unique.”
Lest you think this design team, which includes daughter Katja, son Alexis and daughter-in-law Andrea, are stylistically wed to one part of the world, a look around their roomy two-story showroom—steps from the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Catalina Avenue, near the border of Hermosa and Redondo Beach—reveals an aesthetic fed from many corners of the globe. “We’re made in Mexico with foreign parts,” says Carlos Muller with a laugh. “Our family comes from a long line of nomads and pioneers, traveling from Europe, United States, Cuba and Argentina, and back around.”
It makes sense, then, that Artistic Habitat offers European antiquities and super-mod French kitchens, along with velvet pouf chairs and smartly upholstered couches by sustainable, LA furniture makers Cisco Brothers. My eye flits to vintage Hollywood studio lights affixed to the ceiling. Below them is a tapestry bench, custom-upholstered with an antique Middle Eastern rug.
“We have friends and family that have been in the business for over thirty years,” notes Monica. “Perfecting and keeping alive old trades, and employing master artisans who meticulously handcraft every piece we bring to you.” Items at Artistic Habitat are distinct, yet the collection is so well-honed that words like “eclectic”
or “funky” never come to mind. The showroom feels thoughtfully individualistic and of-the-moment, or perhaps a few moments beforehand.
The second floor is home to a design studio, “a creative environment where projects can be developed,” says Monica. There’s plenty to stoke your creativity, starting with a wall of hand-distressed wood flooring. “The Sun-Bleached is the most popular in this area,” says Carlos, pointing to a creamy vanilla slab with subtle graining.
The Muller’s, longtime Palos Verdes residents, tell me they select items with the local area in mind. “Many of the homes in the South Bay are walking distance to the ocean,” notes Monica. “The culture is very beach and nature-oriented. We know there is great pride of ownership in this area, and people have an understanding of what it means to have a table made from the slab of a hurricane-tumbled log that’s 100 years old, or floors made from wood that’s hand-aged and finished.”
Wood plays a central theme at Artistic Habitat. “All of our woods are recovered, reclaimed or originate from reforested plantations across Latin America,” says Carlos. “And sourced from Taracea, the factory of our Mexico City partners.” Notable pieces include a grand mirror inlaid with six types of wood, including deep-hued rosewood and orange-tinged Bubinga, and Parquet floors inlaid with regal European patterns that take a master artisan two hours per square foot to complete. I sink into a mod lounging chair that looks as if it were sculpted from a hunk of driftwood, yet feels as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy.
The Muller’s emphasize Artistic Habitat as a place where folks can get a shot of design inspiration or start moving on a project. This open-door policy extends from architects, designers and project managers to homeowners who casually pop in for advice. “We invite people to use our facilities, interact with our products and samples and just be creative,” says Monica. “Remodeling can be overwhelming and stressful, but creating a place to live in is like curating your personal museum. It’s important to find pieces that make you feel something, and create spaces that give you the feeling you’re right where you belong.”
705 N Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, CA 90277 | 310.937.2000 | ArtisticHabitat.com
From small shelter to loft living, add these innovation-inspired titles to your library.
WRITTEN BY JENN THORNTON
SMALL ARCHITECTURE NOW!
by Philip Jodidio
This collection of smaller-dimensioned dwellings from architects worldwide represents a new wave in architectural thinking—dream big, build small. Examining the trend toward creating structures with a minimal footprint for seemingly every occasion—along with a playhouse and pavilion, there’s a tipi-type fireplace for kids—the innovations in this multilingual volume are prototypes of a growing movement from those at the forefront of their field. $59, Taschen.com.
by Mimi Zeiger
Occupants of the homes in this book have mastered the art of doing more with less, much less — in this case, under 1,000 square feet. All 30 of the book’s modular and prefab homes probe the possibilities of sustainable living by documenting not only how these ingenious builds are lessening their carbon footprint, but the enthusiasms of their micro homeowners too. Also featuring high-concept building plans and bold photos for a style-meets-utility mix. $29.95, RizzoliUSA.com
THE URBAN HOUSE: TOWNHOUSES, APARTMENTS, LOFTS, AND OTHER SPACES FOR CITY LIVING
by Ron Broadhurst
Signifying a new frontier in residential design, the 25 spaces in this book, featuring a written contribution from Pritzker Architecture Prize-winner Richard Meier (whose work — an apartment on Fifth Avenue — is also represented), surveys international city living. And, as a case study in reuse, materials and sustainability, the volume shows how these spaces challenge, and change, this very idea. The addition of blueprints alongside illustrations adds interest and dimension. $45, RizzoliUSA.com
Walking up to a heady fleet of Aston Martin automobiles, it’s hard not to immediately start channeling your inner James Bond. For there is no other vehicle on the planet that is so readily identified with a fictional character—and with epitomizing cool.
When British super spy 007 drove his first Aston Martin, it was as the main character in Ian Fleming’s famous novels. But when Bond hit the big screen—behind the wheel of the DB5 in Goldfinger—it was history in the making, the first of many cinematic moments featuring 007 and Aston Martin. Although partial to the DB5, Bond’s also been in the cockpit of the brand’s DBS; the V8 Vantage (both the Volante convertible and Coupe variations); the Vanquish; and, most recently, the DB10, which will appear in Spectre, the newest, in-production film in the James Bond franchise.
The DB10s are bespoke models; 10 have been specially made for Mr. Bond and will never be produced by the company; look for these wheels November 6, when the latest film installment lands in theaters. There are plenty of other sleekly gorgeous Aston Martin sports cars that you can pull into your own garage, though.
We tested four of the British marque’s best for 2015, ranging from the entry level V8 Vantage GT ($99,900 MSRP) to a top-of-the-line beauty, the V12 Vanquish Volante convertible ($301,295 MSRP). In between, the muscular V12 Vantage S Roadster convertible ($196,495 MSRP) and the V12 Rapide S sedan ($203,295 MSRP).
Traditionalists will love the sporty V8 Vantage GT with its 6-speed manual transmission, tight clutch and all, while 21st-century purists may prefer the 7-speed Sportshift II automated manual transmission, which offers the same quick-shift control, with no need to push a floor clutch. Either way, the two-seater Vantage GT is a gas to drive, roaring down straightaways and taking sharp curves with nary a slip.
Easing into the two-seater V12 Vantage S Roadster convertible and hitting the start button is a car lover’s dream moment, as the 565 bhp, 6.0-liter engine roars to life, then settles into a quiet hum. This pinnacle of powerful goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds; in a blink, find yourself traveling at well over 100 mph on the freeway, without feeling it for a moment. You will, however, hear it, as the engine, built with racecar technology, gives off a strong growl, especially when driven in Sport or Track mode.
The V12 Rapide S is something of a family sports car, with four doors and four seats and even the option of putting in a twin-screen rear-seat DVD entertainment system. But don’t be fooled, this swift 8-speed ride can hit 200 mph or higher.
The ultimate Aston Martin is the luxurious two-door V12 Vanquish Volante convertible, with its gorgeously appointed leather seats, spacious interior (offering added comfort for taller drivers), stunning extruded-aluminum and carbon-fiber exterior, and an overall elegant look. When driving, it’s hard to not swoon over the car’s precision handling, outrageous acceleration (0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, the quickest accelerating series production vehicle in Aston Martin’s 101-year history), and lightening-quick gear changes.
If the price one must pay to feel like James Bond is owning an Aston Martin, then we’d say it’s more than worth it.
The fact that Guido Rietdyk set out to find a place to suit his sports-loving family to a T makes perfect sense. As founder and president of EVS Sports—the innovative company specializing in protective gear for extreme athletes and weekend jocks alike—he’s beset with athletics.
“When we saw the house on Pine Tree Lane, it was a little on the rustic side for our taste,” Rietdyk, a Netherlands native, recalls. “But the pool table down in the bar area was a pretty epic fixture that I really liked—it’s an authentic competition table. I had also played a lot of squash on a competitive level in Europe, so was really excited by the built-in racquetball court. And I was pretty amazed by the view, too.”
And so Rietdyk and his wife, Sophie, (president of international and licensing for BCBG Max Azria), having determined that the hilltop estate in Rolling Hills was the perfect spot for their growing family of three, purchased the property in 2007, then, with the aid of architect Criss C. Gunderson, spent a year changing it completely.
“It really was obvious that we could do a lot of surgery to this thing and make it really, really trendy and modern, which is what we like,” says Rietdyk.
Said “surgery” was extreme. “We removed every bit of drywall, all the plumbing, all the electrical, all the flooring, all the ceilings; we put in all new doors and windows. Everything,” Rietdyk remembers. “Most of the framing is the same, but we even replaced some of that.”
Given the scope of the overhaul, deciding just exactly how to revitalize its 12,500 square feet required a meeting of the minds, as Gunderson tells it. “I was given a building shell of [about] 7,000 square feet on the top and 5,500 on the bottom, and, basically, working with Guido and Sophie, we designed it,” he says. “The house is dramatically different than what it was, and for the better, I hope. I’m very proud of how the house feels now. I think we captured more of the views than the house ever had before.”
While the views really are spectacular, especially on a clear day, when, Rietdyk relays, “You can see from Malibu to almost Big Bear … 80 miles,” they weren’t always. “The focal point of the house, the place where people spend the most time, is the kitchen and family room. That area was actually horrible when we bought the house,” he continues. “Originally, the room was divided in half by a wall of kitchen cabinets, so if you were in the kitchen, you really didn’t get any of the view, which we thought was really odd. So we just gutted that whole room and threw it all out.”
“Now,” Rietdyk notes, “the most dramatic part of that room are the wide-open sliding glass doors,” added to where previously existed fixed windows forbidding outdoor entry. “We also built the patio,” as there wasn’t one, “so now the amount of light that comes into that room and the incredible views are just awesome. And when the doors are open, you just feel the flow from inside to outside.”
The Rietdyks also reconfigured the entrance to the home, removing all walls here for a “wide-open” space that, when entered, acts as “a TV room and a reading room,” Rietdyk says. And they created a master bedroom suite fit for a king and queen. “Along with Criss Gunderson, we designed our bedroom with massive walk-in closets and sauna and steam showers in the bath. It’s really comfortable,” he shares.
Interiors complete, the Rietdyks and Gunderson looked to the property’s exterior, where their vision of a sports playland encompasses the addition of an indoor-size soccer field, a paddle tennis court, basketball hoops, and a completely redone swimming pool and huge Jacuzzi—a heaven on Earth for sports enthusiasts, with crowds forming accordingly.
“We love to have parties, and when we do there are people in every room, indoor and outdoors, on all levels—people playing soccer, tennis, whatever. And then everyone gets into the Jacuzzi. It’s massive…Our requirement was that [it could fit] at least one soccer team,” chuckles Rietdyk.
But, despite having fashioned what by all accounts is a true dream house, the couple is ready to move on. “I love working with Criss, he’s going to work on my next house as well,” says Rietdyk. Next house? Why would anyone want to leave this sprawling hilltopper encompassing 2.63 acres and its own movie theater?
“For us, now is a good time to start thinking about selling. It’s a great place for a family, but my family is shrinking,” explains Rietdyk with a son already in college, and growing daughters ages 15 and 9. And yet, he adds, “If we don’t sell the house, we’ll gladly stay there for another 10 years. We don’t have a need to sell it. I’m just thinking that at this point, I’m in the mood for something new. And I really also have a seven-year itch to go and build another house!” laughs Rietdyk, who, on the precipice of turning 50 this year, eludes to a residence where he and Sophie will settle for good.
But don’t expect to go far to find the family in their new digs; if Rietdyk’s plans work out, they’ll put down roots on the same street. “I love it here!” he says.
Veteran designer Kathy Entessar tackles a ranch house in need of a refresh. The result of her year-long overhaul is a contemporary property that retains the best of its roots while being amply ready for its 21st-century close-up.
Perched on a leafy hilltop in Rolling Hills Estates is a meandering ranch house with a low-pitched roof and rambling facade, not unlike the legions of others that dot the horsey, north side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
This one, however, had changed hands and its new owners felt it was time for a remodel, particularly since the house was riddled with the most tell-tale signs of its 1970’s vintage. Decorative wagon wheels. Copious amounts of knotty pine and faux stone. There was even a clawfoot bathtub inexplicably marooned in a stray outdoor nook.
“It looked like a saloon,” says Kathy Entessar with a laugh. Her interior and architectural firm, EIA & Company, was selected for the job after she showed off her 20-plus-year design chops in the master bathroom, where she smoothed a fussy jumble of veiny travertine into a sleek room of African Wenge wood and softly iridescent tile.
It’s arguably easier to create perfect design from scratch than to go in and surgically reconfigure what already—often stubbornly—exists.
“It can be a challenge to work within a given space, especially when a lot of it doesn’t have a good flow,” notes Entessar. “And you might think, ‘Ah, I wish that corridor wasn’t there’ or ‘I wish such-and-such was here.’ But in the end you have to make it work with whatever is existing.”
A few areas, including a front swath of the house, were born anew. Pre-remodel, guests were greeted by a jumble of stacked stone, stray greenery and competing walkways, along with a dated picture window and tiny, cloistered-in porch. This was replaced by a low wall, smoothly stuccoed, that hems in a fresh-air patio with separate dining and conversation areas.
“The client wanted a front area where he could sit down, drink his morning coffee and read the paper,” explains Entessar. Heat lamps were tucked into the ceiling and slate tiles were arranged in a tidy Versailles pattern. A wall of French doors was created to connect the patio with the house, effectively carving out a spacious indoor/outdoor entertainment area while increasing the stores of natural light streaming through the house.
Worn, stamped-concrete walkways were replaced with neat landscaping and a welcome path of stone pavers. Entessar confesses to directing the workers to lay tiles in specific patterns, owing to the curvy visual flow that comes from a well-orchestrated contrast of shades and angles.
I chuckle, imagining the scene. “The entrance is so important,” she insists with a smile. “It sets the entire tone for the house.”
Stepping through the front door, it’s easy to see her point.
Rich hickory floors—handworked with a chisel and planer—establish a polished, earthy elegance that’s light years away from the generic terra cotta tiles that previously lined the floors. “Hickory is the toughest wood you can get,” Entessar points out. “They make baseball bats with it, and it’s hard to ding or scratch.”
Throughout the house, wood dominates, but carefully. From custom cabinetry to the dining room table—a walnut slab with curved edges sourced from Alabama artist Robin Wade—there’s al-ways an ebb and flow of lines to make it compelling. A chunky rosewood console and triangular floor pattern in the foyer create plenty of eye-pleasing dimension in this pivotal space, as does the starburst ceiling fixture designed by Entessar that casts a golden glow over the entrance, “as if it were a stage.”
“When I entertain, I always see three people over here, four people over there,” says Entessar. “So I’ve created little conversation vignettes, and eating vignettes.” These thematic spaces effectively carve out islands for people to converge on, and are a great idea in today’s Age of the Open Floor Plan.
Another way Entessar distinguishes this ranch house? “Conversation pieces that are slightly unexpected and enhance the integrity of the house,” she says.
Perhaps the most high-profile of these are twin walls of custom art glass perched on opposite ends of the central hallway. Replacing a pair of wagon wheels that look like they may have been snatched off a Ponderosa set, the idea of decorative glass was Entessar’s, who designed the tasteful harmony of vibrant, geometric shapes that subtly correspond to sunrise and sunset.
For Some Things, a Second Life
This remodel not being of the unlimited-budget variety (Entessar recounts a Texas project that had her making multiple trips to Paris), the designer was careful to earmark items that could be refreshed and reused. Among them were over 100 doors that were re-finished to an up-to-date taupe that effectively dialed down the Western knotty pine to the right level of rustic.
“I don’t like waste,” explains Entessar. “If I can reuse, I definitely will.”
In the kitchen, existing wood cabinets were refinished a dusty white, their edges glazed a bit darker to enrich depth. Throughout the room, tone on tone is used to distinguish spaces, create dimension and modernize. The medium-hued wood floor visually plays against a vaulted honey ceiling, and the central island sports a light sage finish that neatly twines together the room’s dominant colors.
When asked about architectural styles she favors, Entessar answers without skipping a beat: “My style is every style.”
Attention to light, lines and balance are fundamentals for any designer, yet Entessar’s training reaches back to a past in classical ballet. This exacting art shares a designer’s focus with visual absolutes, and it’s these she enjoys bringing into perfect harmony above all, no matter the genre.
“Design is like ballet in that there’s no room for error,” remarks Entessar. “There’s no such thing as ‘a little off.’ A ‘little off’ is ‘completely off.’
“When I see a house or a space, immediately in my head I see it complete. Perfect,” she pauses. “It’s a weird thing.”
Her approach makes sense, given that re-writing color and spatial composition figured so centrally in the skillful update of this peaceful hilltop ranch. Where there were wagon wheels and cramped rooms of terra cotta, the designer saw—and subsequently choreographed—a dance of glossy woods, ornamental art and soaring, open spaces.
The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is known for debuting revolutionary products in the field of technology. From the VCR in 1970 to the 3DTV in 2009, CES has been host to the unveiling of endless products that have redefined the world. Last week’s CES in Las Vegas may have set the bar for life-changing tech thanks to Mercedes-Benz.
The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle stunned those on the trade show floor with more than trend-leading technology. This vehicle provided a glimpse into the future with the advent of the autonomous vehicle. It is a self-navigating private luxury space containing a myriad of technological advancements that will not only change people’s relationship to the automobile but also lead the way in restructuring the transportation infrastructure.
Beyond the high-end finish of open-pore walnut wood and ice-white nappa leather, the command center of the F 015 Luxury in Motion is largely comprised of touch-sensitive displays throughout the vehicle which dynamically reconfigure the onscreen controls to the orientation and body position of each passenger in the cabin. Accompanying the interactive interior panels are gestural recognition and eye tracking technologies to make continuous communication with the vehicle an effortless task. In a trend sure to be seen by all autonomous vehicles of the future, the interior of the cabin is evenly spaced with four rotating lounge chairs allowing all passengers to swivel and face each other while the car is in motion. Facilitating the entrance into this reimagined interior are two doors which open in a suicide configuration, which Mercedes-Benz is calling their “saloon-style” doors.
The exterior design goes beyond the expectation of what a futuristic vehicle should be. Carbon fiber, aluminum, and high-strength steel provide smooth, flowing curves that sweep over the low nose and wrap tightly in the tail. LED lighting panels in the front and rear not only signal to the outside environment with varying color but also use pattern and digital text to indicate current operating conditions. A high-precision laser projection system adds an unprecedented level of interaction with the outside world, displaying information directly on the road ahead. Rounding out the vehicle, an F-CELL PLUG-IN HYBRID drive system is powering the drivetrain.
While reviewing any of the futuristic features of this concept car, Mercedes-Benz representatives are quick to point out that the F 015 Luxury in Motion is more than the compilation of its components. It is a glimpse into a redefined society where the automobile is not just a mode of transportation, but an extension of one’s living space.
WHY WE DIG IT:
>> Self-driving car lets you kick back & relax
>> Luxury club-inspired lighting
>> Interior screensaver-style animations
>> HD color touch screen door panels
>> Decent speed for a green car
>> Face-to-face seat configuration
>> Rear saloon-style doors
>> Talks to you like KITT