Place // Landmarks

Beach-Minded Contemporary

A local design-build duo plants a hub of modern design in an up-and-coming arts and design neighborhood in Hermosa


“I think there are memories attached to products, and it’s nice to have a product that you could potentially hand down to your kids. I think that’s been lost to an extent recently, and it’s a shame.”

It’s contractor Steve Reneker, who is one half of Hermosa Design in Hermosa Beach, a home design showroom that he and architect wife, Farnaz, opened in March. A stone’s throw from Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue’s greenbelt, the fresh, airy space is staged with sleek furniture and lighting, streamlined kitchenware, home accessories and more.

The idea for Hermosa Design sprang from the Renekers’ community-minded desire to share a contemporary, clean-line aesthetic with fellow South Bay residents, their thinking being, “We have the space, so let’s turn it into a showroom slash gallery slash event space,’” says Farnaz, who is currently exhibiting the bold black-and-white documentary landscapes of Los Angeles photographer Eric J. Smith.

The aesthetically pleasing showroom is an eye-catching addition to the increasingly creative neighborhood. People slow down their cars for another look; pedestrians and bikers peer inside and pop in. Among the Renekers’ neighbors is an interior designer who has set up shop a few doors down. A surfboard shaper, a media production studio, and even a Buddhist center, are just steps away, and you can walk to the beach and Strand in less than 10 minutes.

Each item in the showroom has been carefully selected by the Renekers to meet their stringent, beach-conscious standards of longevity, performance and look. “I spend so much time looking for the right products for my projects,” says Farnaz. (She and Steve own design-build firm Studio Argente, where projects often focus on interior architecture, which involves “going into a gutted shell and re-building it from scratch,” and often includes interior design duties, too.) When Farnaz successfully finds a needle-in-a-haystack item after an exhaustive search, she’s all for sharing.

Take a sofa we sit on. Framed in teak and stainless steel, it looks so wholly designed for a sleek indoor setting that it’s surprising to learn that it’s actually an outdoor piece, right down to its waterproof fabric cushions. (Even if neglected, the teak will only become more beautiful over time.) Or the totable, flannel-top blankets rolled up on a nearby display; they are waterproof and perfect for the rigors of beach days and picnics. Unfurling a green blanket, Farnaz tells how she discovered the item on a trip to Sweden last summer. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we have these?’ They’re inexpensive. They’re totally functional. But I’ve never seen them before.”

The Reneker family, children included, test drive items through their own beach-centric South Bay lifestyle. “We spend a lot of time at the beach,” says Farnaz, who takes care to showcase items that will functionally and aesthetically suit those with a like-minded lifestyle. “If it’s not going to work here, we’re not going to carry it.”

Items are also chosen for their ability to stylishly conserve space, and in many cases, serve more than one purpose. Farnaz shows off wall-mounted contraptions from the UK that quickly stow away bikes, in addition to a wall-mounted credenza, plus a streamlined wine rack and chic magazine rack. “Functional but sculptural,” she points out. Many of the kitchen items stealthily offer multiple uses as well. A line of porcelain kitchenware, cheerfully striped and visually au courant, turns out to be a line that was designed in the 1950s, and can be used in the freezer, refrigerator, oven or table. “You can bake it and freeze it,” she says.

Then there’s the longevity factor; the Renekers support brands that instill this as a core characteristic of their design. Steve points to modish looking Danish pendant lamp. “That is the traditional light that was given to the bride when she got married,” he explains. “It was the Danish gift, and something she would have for her entire life.”

One of the most important filters for products carried in the Hermosa Design showroom is experiential; if, Steve explains, “an item makes an experience better—whether it be a bonfire or dinner with friends.”

Hermosa Design
618 Cypress Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

City Guide: Esters Wine Shop

Eat. Drink. Shop. 
The Rustic Canyon team turns out another Westside charmer 

Written by Michelle Lyn

Husband-and-wife duo Kathryn and Tug Coker are hoping to create the next go-to neighborhood spot for fine wine and great food with their integrated wine shop, marketplace and wine bar, Esters, which just opened in the heart of downtown Santa Monica. Housed in a 1937 Art Deco building, the space combines raw, modern design elements with an eclectic mix of new and vintage furnishings.

Tuck into the intimate space to enjoy a funky, biodynamic wine from a new Sicilian winemaker, or an affordable weeknight bottle from “Tug’s Picks.” With over 200 bottles from which to choose, the place easily appeals to any palate. On your way to a picnic? Stock up on pantry provisions and peruse bottles in the retail portion of the shop.

And we’d be remiss not to mention the seasonally inspired small plates, meats and cheeses (created and curated by chef Jeremy Fox of Rustic Canyon) that complement Grab-and-Go options like house made sandwiches, fresh baked bread and chocolate truffles.

1314 7th Street

Santa Monica, CA 90401


The Good Life: John Elgin Wool

Hollywood Icon

Architect to the stars John Elgin Woolf gets his close up with a new exhibit at Palos Verdes Art Center.

Written by JocLene Davey

The golden age of Hollywood ushered in new beginnings in film production and celebrity culture. During this time silent film became a thing of the past; production and sound quality improved greatly; and costume and set design became more elaborately detailed, yet always yielded the center of attention to the star. The growing industry paved the way for the dawning of the new Hollywood elite. The studios all but required the celebrities of the day to be seen socializing, hosting grand parties and living lavish lifestyles reflecting the characters they often portrayed on set. As the movement of the mega-star and the glamorous life ensued, so marked the beginning of a new era in architectural style called Hollywood Regency. 

The PV Art Center has been given the rare opportunity to share a large collection of works by one of the originators of Hollywood Regency style, John Elgin Woolf. Woolf’s works have never been released for travel from the University of California Santa Barbara until now; therefore this glimpse into the past right here in the South Bay is both temporary and a must-see for those who appreciate architecture and interior design.

When John Elgin Woolf, an architect from North Carolina, came to Los Angeles, the building trends at the time were modern, clean-lined and simplistic. Everything needed to be thought of as pure. “Woolf’s work was revolutionary, and he was considered to most to be the first postmodern architect on the west coast,” states Joe Baker, CEO and executive director of the PV Art Center. Woolf, who had a gift for theatrics, initially came to Hollywood in hopes of landing a movie role, and instead found himself in the midst of Hollywood’s A-list celebs, building homes for the likes of Joan Crawford, Bob Hope and Errol Flynn, to name a few. Woolf wanted to bring the theater and the love of theater into the homes of the celebrities for whom he built. His approach to architecture was completely fresh and contradictory to the era. He had an uncanny ability to blend perfectly 19th-century French, and Neoclassical Greek Revival, both with a modernist flair. The look was completely avant-garde and after the creation of the famous Pendleton house, everybody in Hollywood wanted one.


“Known for his attention to detail, Woolf was more like a French fine cabinet maker building homes that look like jewel boxes” says Scott Andrews, communications director for the PV Art Center. Mansard roofs with sky-high Pullman doors, columns and oval windows were signature styles in Woolf’s designs, not typical of the time. He and his partner, Robert Koch, filled the highly decorative homes with elaborate fabrics and color while keeping the furniture on a smaller than normal scale to accentuate the celebrity in the room. Rooms were built to stimulate conversation, with sitting areas and settees; rooms weren’t built around the TV, as they are often today. It was a time when people communicated face to face.

Within the exhibit, running at the PV Art Center through July 19, 2015, are original sketches and floor plans, photography, furniture and lighting designs, as well as some very interesting correspondence between Woolf and celebrities like the aforementioned Bob Hope and Joan Crawford as well as Robert Guggenheim.

Woolf-InteriorOne of the many highlights is the case study of Craig Ellwood’s ultra-modern experimental home of glass and steel that Woolf renovated to resemble an elaborate Greek Temple with Doric columns and a Hollywood Regency facade. Thus proving that “anything can be changed into anything,” as stated by John Chase in his book, Exterior Decoration: Hollywood’s Inside-Out Houses.

Another display to not miss is the well-known Pullman doors, a piece featuring some of Woolf’s more famous works with spectacular facades, such as the Pendleton and Menifee homes with the exaggerated Pullman doors reaching to the stars. 

All is, of course, a fitting tribute to a true luminary-one known as the “architect to the stars.”

Photos Courtesy Art, Architecture & Design Museum, UCSB.

City Guide: Harmony Yoga

City Guide_StrikeAPose

Strike a Pose

Slow breathing and deep stretching make for a mindful break from today’s busy world

Written By Constance Dunn
Illustration by Jay Brockman

Sunday evening yoga class at Harmony Yoga begins with a brief meditation, something calm to still pacing minds while setting up the next 90 minutes as a mini-retreat for weary bodies in need of a boost. What follows is a leisurely series of stretches, many seated and some held for five minutes—enough time to lengthen connective tissue and feel the body unfurl from a week spent hunched over a computer or a steering wheel.

Yin Yoga is a daydream of a class that’s ideal for those recuperating from illness or injury—or unaccustomed to the rigors of power yoga. Yet there’s plenty of benefit for athletic types keen to show their hamstrings some love in the form of the Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) or Pigeon Pose, which opens hard-to-reach hip flexor and rotator muscles, where resentment and other ill feelings tend to harbor. Class instructor Kitty Adams guides the group to breathe in deeply, and with the whoosh of an exhale, wipe their slates clean.

Yin Yoga Class
Sundays, 6:00-7:30 pm

Harmony Yoga
901A N Pacific Coast Hwy, Suite #100
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

The Good Life: Santa Fe

Desert in Bloom


Steeped in culture and class, Santa Fe promises Southwest sojourners a sophisticated weekend away.

By Jenn Thornton

Best Accommodations  Ideally situated mere blocks from Santa Fe’s buzzing central Plaza, the Fairmont Heritage Place, El Corazon de Santa Fe, is home away from home with a collection of Southwest-style residences offering hotel services, from an accessible concierge to a fitness center to easy parking. Residences sport generous gourmet kitchens, sizeable master suites with sumptuous beds, kiva fireplaces and bathrooms that could moonlight as spas.

posole_merriam-2Best Cuisine  Perched on the Plaza, all-day eatery Café Pasqual’s packs in patrons for all three mealtimes, but breakfast is most appetizing. Although not on the menu, Chorizo and eggs with green chile sauce is worth requesting. The pancakes, meanwhile, are too delicious to believe. For fast-casual fare, breeze in local favorite Tia Sophia’s for a breakfast burrito that will sustain you all day. Follow the lunch set to The Teahouse for a surprisingly good BLT and freshly made Strawberry Shortcake (one dessert is enough for two), along with about a million different teas. As for the abundant fine dining in town, many guidebooks crown Geronimo as the venue of choice, and while definitely a Santa Fe institution, much like  The Pink Adobe and its legendary Steak Dunigan, local foodies favor  The Compound (skip the wine list, savor the champagne) and The Shed—both James Beard Award winners. When it comes times for cocktails, the swoony La Fonda hotel stirs interest with its atmosphere, but carefree Cowgirl mixes a most delicious Mezcal margarita.

Best Culture  As an arts mecca, Santa Fe sanctions creatives of all stripes. Nowhere is this more apparent than Canyon Road, which paints the town with a half-mile of galleries galore. Of these, top honors go to Morning Star Gallery—a masterfully curated repository of Native American artifacts and turquoise trinkets. For ultra-contemporary works, the Railyard makes the move toward modern. In the astoundingly rich museum category, the undisputed headliner is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe’s high priestess of New Mexico Modernism, while the Palace of the Governors curates a maze of relics in a stunning example of 17th-century adobe architecture. Live performance hits a high note with Santa Fe’s world-renowned opera, which stages La Scala-caliber productions in an equally epic, open-air venue. And, in celebration of the city’s literary tradition, independent bookstores abound, like Collected Works, rife with local literature, and Downtown Subscription, with a sea of periodicals and the best espresso in town.

Best Shopping  The heart of Santa Fe is its bustling central Plaza—and everything, from haute-off-the-catwalk boutiques to custom boots and luxury leather goods, is here. Elsewhere, Double Take takes fine consign to the next level with vintage looks and high-end Western boots. The galleries, eateries and boutiques along Canyon Road can always be counted on for luxury wares, while taking the scenic High Road to Taos—Santa Fe’s rebel cousin just under an hour away—produces a slew of beautifully-rendered, locally-made finds in small interesting shops.

The Good Life: Alexandre Renoir

Artistic Inspiration

The Peninsula Beverly Hills paints the town—with artist Alexandre Renoir.



It’s not every day that an opportunity to take a private art lesson from an instructor with bona fide bloodlines to famed French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir presents itself. Then again, The Peninsula Beverly Hills, which dreamed up this very scenario for the Peninsula Academy—its experiential collection of curated excursions—is not exactly in the business of the “everyday.”

Dubbed “An Afternoon with Renoir in Beverly Hills: An Artful Immersion,” this crown jewel of Academy offerings features artist Alexandre Renoir, of the Renoirs, one of the most celebrated clans in all of France. As great-grandson of an art-world master, the contemporary Renoir is a master-in-the-making, having been born into the family business (film auteur Jean Renoir is also a relative), but not trading on its name to make his way. Now, through the Peninsula Academy experience he currently fronts, Renoir reveals his artistic side to the aspirational few.

The immersion begins at The Peninsula Beverly Hills, where the hotel’s  luxury car collects, then chauffeurs, guests to Ace Gallery for a private tour before the group saunters a short block to Revolver for another.  From there, it’s off  to Galerie Michael on Rodeo Drive, where Renoir shows his work in the gallery,  then applies his savoir-faire to a discussion of painting and drawing basics.

“In an art lesson with me, the number-one thing to take away is fun,” says Renoir,  remarking on his instructional style. “It’s more about exploring what piques your interest and how to convey that onto a canvas than it is about how well a guest takes instruction.” The aim, he says, is to “coax out” creativity and artistic  ability already present. Then, it’s back to the Peninsula for Afternoon Tea with  Renoir in The Living Room, which stirs conversation about art and the artist’s famous forebears.

Overall, “What I hope guests take away from an experience like this is that art, for all of its antiquity and noble expression, is still something that comes from within,” Renoir offers. “That it’s something that stems from life and from people… everyone with a creative spark has an expression to make.”

To art lovers innately curious but inevitably intimidated about expanding  their artistic horizons in the presence of an instructor with the last name Renoir,  he recommends taking the “do it for yourself” approach, citing the once criticized  now highly celebrated van Gogh as an example of gumption leading to glory.  “Just to be a little cliché—even a journey of 1000 miles starts with one step,” reminds Renoir. A good lesson, indeed.

$12,000 per person,

South Bay Guide: Wayfarers Chapel

Sanctuary by the Sea

Sculpted grounds and a tree-anked glass chapel oer a peaceful site to stop, breathe and dream.




A modest wood sign set along Palos Verdes Drive announces this tucked-away ode to nature, envisioned in the 1920s by local Swedenborgian Church member Elizabeth Schellenberg as a place where travelers could stop for spiritual refreshment.

Gently shaded by an umbrella of slender Italian Stone Pine trees and sturdy Coastal Redwoods, the glass chapel is an inspiring place of respite for anyone who wishes it. Afterwards, your mind refreshed, stroll the tidy flower garden, teeming with lavender and bright roses, or sit on a shaded bench and ponder the ocean.

Completed in 1949 by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank, Wayfarers Chapel is sponsored by the Swedenborgian Church and dedicated to its 18th-century founder, Emanuel Swedenborg. The chapel and grounds are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., though it’s best to plan your visit during odd hours, such as 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and so on, since weddings are booked on even hours, and the chapel is home to approximately 700 of them each year.

Wayfarers Chapel

5755 Palos Verde Drive South
Rancho Palos Verde, CA 90275

American Pastoral: The Farmhouse Inn, Sonoma


The Farmhouse Inn takes down-home upmarket with a full revitalization and a brand-new spa.

Written by Jenn Thornton

Spa Photography Courtesy of Cesar Rubio

Farmhouse General Photography Courtesy of Farmhouse Inn

With deep roots in Sonoma County, the woodsy, award-winning Farmhouse Inn sits on six acres of storybook surrounds. Emerging this spring from an $8 million property-wide expansion and redesign, stewarded by sibling owners Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, in partnership with SB Architects, Myra Hoefer Design and Valley Crest Landscape, the jewel of the Russian River Valley is now absolutely glistening.

A product of its wine-country wilds, Farmhouse’s new look befits the world-class roost with a 15-year reign as one of the finest offerings in the realm of luxury boutique hotels. Doling out farm-to-table hospitality long before there was the term, the Farmhouse’s modern pastoral approach to its overhaul has introduced a slew of new extravagances, including nine top-grade accommodations, a sumptuous spa, verdant gardens and a refreshed pool area.

Pervading all is a sense of casual elegance and warmth. To this end, Catherine Bartolomei says, “Hospitality at Farmhouse is all about making guests into friends, and introducing them to our fabulous wine country lifestyle. Our hope is that they leave feeling connected, relaxed and longing to come back.”  She, of course, never really left; the inheritance that Catherine and brother Joe now oversee has been in their family for more than a century. Thus, at the insistence of its fifth-generation farmers, winery and vineyard owners, Farmhouse emphasizes absolute sincerity—from gracious service to spoils in short order.

And do the “spoils” ever abound. In the culinary category, it starts with a decadent two-course, artisan country breakfast; moves to the Michelin-starred Farmhouse Restaurant, where Executive Chef Steve Litke churns out organic, sustainable, regionally influenced fare; and culminates in a sommelier-led wine and beverage program by estate Wine Director Allyson Gorsuch.


Beginning its own indulgent run is the Spa at Farmhouse Inn, a “farm-to-table” concept under the direction of internationally regarded spa consultants, Francis & Alexander, and a kind of 21st century homage to the site’s original 19th century barn. Melding simplicity with texture (rich woods, flashes of white, industrial touches), the spa oozes purity, right down to the double barn doors and open-air ceilings. Likewise, treatments, from massages to facials to aromatherapy, offer a similar air of naturalness, furthered by the presence of handmade artisan products and garden-fresh ingredients.

Bridging old and new elsewhere, farm hand housing of an earlier era is now cottage-style guest rooms constructed in historic style. These sophisticated examples of contemporary architecture and easy style offer earthy, unhurried allure. Featured are hand-woven textiles and country-soft trimmings; bathrooms awash in Italian marble gleaming alongside weathered wood; and a sea of glass luring in the lushness beyond.

Coinciding with the refreshed Farmhouse—and celebrating its official grand opening—
is the Spring into Sonoma package, which extends stays with a complimentary third evening. Those on a Monday through Thursday schedule will also receive a $160 spa credit or wine-country picnic with a bottle of wine. (Offer valid through May 31.)


Wine Country Curated

Catherine Bartolomei shares her ideal day in Sonoma County.

9 a.m. Espresso at Taylor Maid Coffee, Sebastopol

“A little pick me up before I start my day at the hippest spot in the Russian River Valley is always welcome—The Barlow is Sonoma County’s newest walk-around outdoor market, featuring local wineries, breweries, restaurants, artisans and more. The coffee drinks at Taylor Maid are so good we use their coffee in the restaurant.”

10:30 a.m. Light hike at Armstrong Redwoods, Guerneville

“I love to stretch my legs at one of Sonoma County’s most beautiful parks. This old-growth redwood forest is 15 minutes from the Farmhouse Inn and has many hiking trails for trekkers of all levels.”

11:30 a.m. Terrace Tasting at Gary Farrell Winery, Healdsburg

“This Russian River gem sits on top of a ridge overlooking much of the western edge of the valley. Enjoy winemaker Theresa Heredia’s fantastic chardonnays and pinot noirs while enjoying the views. I always ask for a cheese plate!”

1:00 p.m. Hang out by the Farmhouse pool

“Pool time epitomizes everything I love about going on vacation—sunshine, water, relaxation and indulgence. Ask our team for a poolside menu; you’ll enjoy delectable snacks from our estate chef… and a selection of wines by the glass.”

2:30 p.m. Experience the Spa at Farmhouse

“I can’t pass up a spa any time I travel. I love our new spa, particularly our indoor-outdoor treatments. My new favorite may be the Roll in the Hay—
it’s seasonal, but certainly one to try this spring.”

5:00 p.m. Silver Service pickup at Farmhouse

“A personal car service is oh-so decadent, and I highly recommend it. Our team of concierges has found the best services in the area, and they regularly work with Silver Service. Arrive in style in their Mercedes S-class.”

5:30 p.m. Drinks at Spoonbar in the H2 Hotel, Healdsburg

“This trendy bar is well-known for their tasty cocktails and hip bar scene. I love a good old-fashioned martini, but you’ll find their custom cocktails eye-opening.”

6:30 p.m. Stroll Healdsburg Square, Healdsburg

“Downtown Healdsburg went through a major change about a decade ago—some major sprucing up, the introduction of new restaurants and shops, and a revitalization of the green have all made this a must see on any visit to Sonoma County.”

7:00 p.m. Dinner at SCOPA, Healdsburg

Probably the most popular restaurant among locals and visitors alike, SCOPA is a fantastic Italian eatery right on Healdsburg square. Small and narrow, you get to know your neighbor as you enjoy arrancini and Nona’s chicken (one of my favorite dishes of all time!).”

9:00 p.m. Nightcap at Bergamot Alley, Healdsburg

“This hole-in-the-wall is hard to find, so ask a local. Their list of esoteric wines attracts all kinds of wine industry folks. Enjoy a glass of bubbles while listening to classic records on vinyl.”


City Guide: Exquisite at Age 89

Point Vicente Lighthouse



An arresting vision sits along a postcard stretch of Palos Verdes Drive

Recognizing that a lone buoy wasn’t adequately warding ships off Palos Verdes Peninsula, in 1926 the U.S. government constructed Point Vicente Lighthouse. Since then, the South Bay landmark has been visited by the likes of Lana Turner in 1941 and featured in films such as 2001’s Pearl Harbor.

Taking a shine to the lighthouse is easy. Linger in the adjacent grassy park for a closer look, or stop by the second Saturday of each month to climb to the top, where you’ll find an 1886 Fresnel Lens shooting light across a 20-plus mile span of blue Pacific. Brilliant.

31550 Palos Verdes Drive West,  Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90274


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