Hutton Wilkinson on Elsie de Wolfe at Remains Lighting Los Angeles

Hutton Wilkinson will give an illustrated talk about the legendary Elsie de Wolfe: First Lady of American Design at Remains Lighting LA on May 9th as part of the La Cienega Design Quarter’s annual Legends of La Cienega.

Wilkinson, an interior designer, jewelry designer and author, President and Creative Director of Tony Duquette, Inc. and President of the Elsie de Wolfe Foundation, will include a preview of his soon to be published book, “The Walk to Elsie’s”, a rip-roaring tale of the last ten years of the great designer’s life, as told to him and his co-author Flynn Kuhnert by Tony Duquette.

Elsie de Wolfe’s long and rich life spanned for eighty five years from her birth in 1865. She was a true American original…from her rise in turn of the century New York society, her stint on Broadway and her many firsts including being the first woman to fly with Wilbur Wright, the first woman to sue the IRS, and the first woman to charge for taste, thereby inventing the multi billion dollar business of professional interior decorator.

Prominent in New York society and later in Europe, Elsie de Wolfe married Sir Charles Mendl and designed her storied home the Villa Trianon at Versailles, where she hosted her coterie of international society friends. Among her many friends and business associates were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Stanford White, Cole Porter, the dress designer Mainbocher, Elsa Maxwell, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Elizabeth Arden.

After her World War II escape by Rolls Royce, Elsie de Wolfe ended up in Hollywood with the likes of Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford and Tony Duquette, creating an entire new world for herself on the west coast towards the end of her long life.



Elsie de Wolfe with her blue-dyed hair and blue-dyed poodle (named Blu-Blu, of course) dressed by Mainbocher, wearing her sapphire and diamond bib necklace by Madame Belperon, seated in front of the secretary desk that she commissioned from Tony Duquette, c. 1944.

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New and Native

Los Angeles classicists converged recently beneath the sturdy beams of the Spanish colonial clubhouse of the Beverly Hills Women’s Club to hear Gamble House Director Ted Bosley talk about the Craftsman architecture of Southern California.

BHWC façade

The Gamble House in Pasadena, a National Historic Landmark, is an outstanding example of American Arts and Crafts style architecture. Both the house and furnishings were designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company.

The AIA awarded Greene and Greene honors in 1952, calling their work a “new and native architecture”. From its roots in the late 19th century British movement, to the mastery of expression Charles and Henry Greene achieved in Southern California classics like the Gamble and Blacker houses, to the evolution of a native California modernism, Ted showed us something new about buildings quite literally in our own backyards. The style, the color pallet, the Japanese influences are familiar. Perhaps we didn’t know the influence of the California rancho, or the clumsy early commissions, or the uniquely American opalescent art glass the Greenes employed that had no equivalent in Europe.

BHWC lecture room

An arts and crafts home I’m currently lighting provided me with the perfect segue from my workday into Ted’s talk. Aside from breathtaking imagery of architectural gems like Seaward, the D.L. James house in Carmel by the Sea – sensitive siting was a Greene strongsuit – one of the most stunning points of the presentation was that craft is not what makes Craftsman architecture inimitable. Good craftsmanship most certainly exists in the world today. Rather it’s the limitations of natural materials artisans can draw on. Most of our 800 year old trees have been harvested, or are now quietly growing strong in protected forestland. With any luck we will not see another bowling lane made of a single redwood trunk, nor will we see the almost endless length of precious wood panel like those the Greenes routinely for many years to come.

Seaward House, Carmel

So thank you, Ted, for a great night, and 24 years of loving care at the Gamble House. We’ll see you there soon.

More about the Gamble House:

For more talks and programming by the Institute of Classical Architecture Southern California:

Valerie Thomas, Remains Lighting Los Angeles



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Remains Lighting joins Jim Thompson showroom in ADAC

Remains Lighting has established a beachhead in Atlanta.

I found the Jim Thompson Thai Silk company through Hutton Wilkinson of Tony Duquette, Inc.  Hutton had released a large collection of Duquette designs with Jim Thompson and when we launched our line of Duquette fixtures they graciously lent us the gorgeous fabrics which we used to turn the garden of our 59th St. showroom into a wild fantasy tent for the opening party. I think I might even have a yard or two that I’ve yet to return… hmm.

Well, now Jim Thompson is having their own launch party. Spearheaded by Chad Holman, they took a massive space in the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center, designed for them by the Rockwell Group, asked a few key makers to join them, and have just opened their doors. The official launch is March 27.

We are over the moon with the opportunity to join them, and particularly, to join them in their home turf of Atlanta. When Chad called about his plans, the location, and the other companies involved,  we said unhesitatingly “Yes”. I think we made the deal on that first phone call.

You can see more about the fascinating history of Jim Thompson silks here:

When you next visit ADAC, drop into the new showroom to see our fixtures elegantly displayed amidst Jim Thompson silks, Holly Hunt furniture, Phillip Jeffries textiles, Pierre Frey fabrics, the Caperton Collection and Cambodge’s handwoven ikats.

The Jim Thompson showroom is in Suite 304 of the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center,  351 Peachtree Hills Ave NE, T: 404.709.2050.

-David Calligeros

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It’s a good time to be a classicist in Los Angeles

It’s a good time to be a classicist in Los Angeles. Especially next week.

The Institute of Classical Architecture & Arts So Cal has two great programs in the Los Angeles area next week. On Tuesday evening the studious amongst us will be slicing and dicing the Corinthian Order with instructor, architect and geometrician Dom Forte.

The Beverly Hills Women's Club 80 years ago

The rest of us will be relaxing over dinner in Benedict Canyon Thursday night with architectural expert Edward Bosley. Director of Pasadena’s landmark Gamble House, Mr. Bosley will trace the origins of the Craftsman style, one of Southern California’s most distinctive regional expressions. What’s more, our dinner and talk will be at the Spanish Colonial clubhouse of the Beverly Hills Women’s Club in Benedict Canyon. Built in 1925 by architects Gable and Lyons, the location itself is an architectural treat.

We are excited. We hope you can make it!

See the ICA&A website for information and tickets to Craftsman Architecture: Inspirations and Legacies.

-Valerie Thomas, Remains Lighting Los Angeles

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Alan Wanzenberg at Remains…

Remains’ LA showroom hosted a book signing with Alan Wanzenberg for his: Journey The Life and Times of an American Architect. About 50 people, a bunch of the local design community and some old friends of Alan’s gathered to chat a moment with Alan, hear some stories, and to snack on tasty snacks.

-David Calligeros


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Alan Wanzenberg at LACMA and at Remains Lighting Los Angeles

Alan Wanzenberg came to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) yesterday evening to speak about a few of his projects through the lens of regional responses in materials, furniture and art.  Mr. Wanzenberg, who is an engaging and comfortably erudite speaker illustrated his working process with 3 projects, one on the beach in Florida, one right over the Atlantic in Maine (you wouldn’t call it “on the beach”), and the last was the New York apartment he shared with his late partner, the designer Jed Johnson. In the two houses, the designs develop from a response to the local topography and materials: mossy monoliths and weathered cedar in Maine and worn stone, wrought iron, clay tile, and stucco in Florida. The decorative programs on the interiors grow from the owners’ art collecting and the history of the sites. In the New York apartment, I feel like the kernel is less about site than about the joy of discovery and learning through collecting and arranging; more of an intellectual response to being in a place at a moment in history than a visceral response to rocks, wind and water.
All of those projects and many more are detailed in depth in Wanzenberg’s new book Journey The Life and Times of an American Architect. You can come and meet the author this afternoon at our La Cienega showroom where he will be signing books from 4:30-6:30. Perhaps he will spin a tale or two for you if you ask.

-David Calligeros

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Reception and book signing with architect Alan Wanzenberg at Remains Los Angeles

Remains Lighting Los Angeles will host a book signing and reception on February 11 from 4:30-6:30 pm to celebrate Journey: the Life and Times of an American Architect, the new book by architect Alan Wanzenberg.

Alan Wanzenberg is an internationally recognized architect at the head of a multidisciplinary architectural and interior design firm and he designs a line of fixtures and lamps for Remains. His firm handles a select volume of meticulously detailed and carefully constructed projects for a range of clients including individuals, families, and developers.

The award-winning firm has been recognized nationally for design excellence in The New York Times, in shelter publications that include Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, World of Interiors; and in style publications such as Vogue and Modernism Magazine. Numerous times, Mr. Wanzenberg has been named in the annual Architectural Digest’s Top 100 Designers and Architects.


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The LA Conservancy’s Interactive Historic Places Map

The LA Conservancy does amazing work to preserve the architectural history of this youth-obsessed metropolis. They recently launched a fantastic interactive map on their website that guides the curious to over 500 historically significant buildings in the greater Los Angeles area.

You can search by geographical area or decade, or filter the map by the style of architecture you fancy: Mid Century Modern, Moorish or Mayan Revival to name a few. What a great way to explore history and to refresh your perspective on the city of Angels.

Many of my favorite buildings are Spanish Colonial revival, a classic California vernacular rooted in the state’s missionary past. Built in the early 20th century, these warm red-roofed structures dot the landscape I see daily, their shadowy porches inviting you for a break from the California sun. While a 100 year old building may be laughably junior in another city, LA will never have street cred if we don’t appreciate and preserve what we have that’s unique.

A few of my favorites are below. With so many buildings on the map, why not choose your own adventure?

Plummer Park

Plummer Park in West Hollywood was home to the 1874 ranch of Colonel Eugenio Plummer, whose home was situated on 160 acres of open land. West Hollywood recently decided this would make a good spot for a parking structure. Dios mio!

Beverly Hills Civic Center

A few months ago I attended a meeting of the Institute of Classical Architecture at the Beverly Hills Civic Center. It was my first time inside William Gage’s 1930s buildings: the dark wood ceiling’s original painted decoration is stunning and the lofty proportions of the room like a breath of fresh air.

Beverly Hills Waterworks

I drive by the Beverly Hills Waterworks / Center for Motion Picture Study on La Cienega at least once a week. The lighting design picks out the details of the grand façade beautifully on an evening. As it happens, the Moorish styled bell tower actually housed part of the water purification system. What a great example of function and purpose in harmony.

Astrophysics Lab at Caltech

Reading over the Conservancy map I was reminded of the 1932 Astrophysics Lab at Caltech in Pasadena. It’s been recommended to me by a number of friends not only as a fantastic example of Spanish revival, but because the star themed lighting fixtures originally designed for the lab are still there. A visit to the lab is on the top of my list. Consider it a new year’s resolution.

-Valerie Thomas, Remains Lighting Los Angeles

PS – the oldest buildings on the map are from the 1840s, when California was still Mexican ranch land.



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