California Home + Design March 2007

By: admin  |  Date: December 27th, 2011  |  Category: Press  |  Comments: Say Something »

In Rancho Mirage-just outside of Palm Springs-there is no shortage of elaborate fountains, infinity pools and manmade palm oases.  But at the eco-friendly home of Bobby Greenbaum, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist, water is much more than a mere decorative feature.

The concrete-block home’s entrance is marked by sand-blasted glass doors that emanate a faint blue glow, offering the first hint of the house’s most distinctive element.  Inside, aquamarine light shimmers behind a large window.  It’s an underwater portal, with a view of a 75-foot lap pool that runs the length of the first floor.  The eye moves nest to the home’s main panorama, a sweeping view of Coachella Valley.  It’s a dazzling contrast in perspectives: One moment, visitors are in an aquarium; the nest, they’re surveying the flinty desert landscape.

This unusual juxtaposition of water and land was created by Palm Springs architect Ana Escalante.  Recognized as an emerging talent in L.A.’s Architecture + Design Museum’s “New Blood: Next Gen” show in 2006, Escalante has built a thriving solo practice with her brand of modern desert architecture.  In line with the classic midcentury designs that the area is known for, her concrete-and steel aesthetic brought her to a client who needed o convincing of the merits of modernist style.

Growing up in Palm Springs, Bobby Greenbaum was a fan of local midcentury architect Don Wexler.  In the 1970s, Greenbaum’s parents lived in the 1964 house that Wexler designer for Dinah Shore.

“I wanted Don to do the house,” recalls Greenbaum.  “When I called him up, he said he no longer took an active role, but he did tell me who he was consulting for.”  Wexler has worked with Escalante when she was designing a steel-and-glass studio as an addition to one of his original homes, and he passed along her name.

Greenbaum had an unusual challenge for Escalante.  Dedicated to his daily swim, he wanted a swimming pool if substantial length-and he had an irregular lot with limited buildable space.  “I thought, There’s no way in hell that I’m going to build a house that is dwarfed by the pool,” says Escalante.  She responded with a design that literally place the pool at the center of the home and uses it for maximum architectural impact.

“Since Bobby lives here year-round, I wanted to provide some shade for him during his swim,” says Escalante.  A second-story bridge spans the pool, shading a 25-foot section.  “The upper-floor span also creates a more interesting experience, since lap swimming can get boring.  As you swim, there is the feeling of moving from a small enclosed area into an expansive space, something that Frank Lloyd Wright was a proponent of.”  The underwater window, meanwhile, was an idea born of a visit to SeaWorld with her two young daughters.  “I could say that is was inspired by Johan Lautner and his Goldstein house, but really it was Shamu,” laughs Escalante.

Greenbaum’s desire to make the house a showcase of sustainability was the other driving force behind the design.  Working with Escalante, Palm Springs interior designer Mark Nichols chose vertical-grain bamboo for the cabinetry and stair treads, recycled glass terrazzo for the kitchen countertops and recycled glass tiles for the bathroom walls and pool tiling.  Landscape designer Marcello Villano surrounded the house with the native desert plants-brittlebush, ocotillo and palo verde-that would require minimal irrigation.

For his part, Greenbaum worked on coaxing the neighborhood development association to let him cover his roof with solar panels.  “The association was worried that they would be too reflective.” Says Greenbaum, who had the California Solar Rights Acts on his side.  “I think it’s inexcusable that people are not using solar panels every a new home goes up.”  Solar power now supplies the lion’s share of the house’s electricity and hot water.

The home also conserves energy, primarily by leveraging the natural insulating properties of the earth.  Escalante created a cool summer lounge by sinking the first floor four feet beneath grade.  “It’s like a cave downstairs,” says Greenbaum.  It really feels nice when the sun is pounding and it’s125 degrees outside.”  For the second floor, Escalante designed a system of aluminum shutters, which can be pulled across the wall of windows during the hottest times of the year.

“After living in the desert for a while, you start to understand the environment and its demands.” Says Escalante, who has lived in Palm Springs for over 20 years.  “It gets pretty extreme out here.”

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LEEDing the Way: Mark Nichols

By: admin  |  Date: September 15th, 2011  |  Category: Press  |  Comments: Say Something »

Using products that are natural, organic, reclaimed or made with sustainable materials, Mark Nichols is redefining “environmental style” with impressive results. Furthermore, Nichols’ work challenges desert residents and municipalities to rethink what it really means to “go green.”

Nichols arrived in the desert in 2003. The vast, startling beauty of the desert and impact of the mid-century modern architecture inspired Nichols. To this, Nichols adds his growing awareness that nature’s resources are finite and need to be respected and conserved.

“Being in the desert inspired my sustainability consciousness,” says Nichols. “Getting involved with the local design community helped educate me and created a design niche that spoke to my passion. Part of my work has been retooling older homes such as the highly prized Alexander homes. We look at insulation, glazing, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, plumbing fixtures to reduce water usage, Energy-Star appliances and xeriscape landscaping using indigenous plants that use little or no water.”

The designer was recently featured in Metropolitan Home as one of the newest nationally emerging interior designers not only for his style, but his “abiding commitment to the environment.”

“Up until now, environmental design had a more rustic image,” explains Nichols. “New sustainable products, the desert’s wonderful mid-century designs, a growing architectural community committed to sustainability, and environmental technology all came together to open up new concepts for interiors. Today we create settings that are beautiful and functional with specifications that are ecologically sound at the same time.”

Known as an architect’s designer, Nichols works closely with the architect from the ground up, giving his input on energy-efficient appliances and high efficacy lighting, pulling from his vast knowledge of natural and sustainable fixtures and finishes. He often designs custom cabinetry and casework specifying rapidly renewable materials and FSC-certified woods.

“All of our work is designed to reduce the human impact on the environment without sacrificing beauty or functionality,” describes Nichols. “Going ‘eco’ doesn’t mean going without. It just means going smarter. A core mission of my practice has been to demonstrate that ecologically sensitive design can be luxurious, comfortable and contemporary by using sustainable products. Every element from fabrics, furnishings, cabinets, floors, lighting, appliances, low-e windows, non-VOC emitting sealants and paints, natural and organic fabric or materials all contribute to a healthy indoor space. I prefer clean geometric forms for their clarity and functionality, always letting them take a back seat to our spectacular natural environment.”

Nichols is actively engaged in his community’s evolution towards sustainability as well and sits on the City of Palm Springs’ Office of Sustainability commission. His goal is to help local leaders rethink their priorities towards a more measured approach to growth and to harness the community’s already thriving commitment to maintaining the beauty of our natural environment.

Source: Design it Greener

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Generation Next – Metropolitan Home Nov 2007

By: admin  |  Date: November 15th, 2007  |  Category: Press  |  Comments: Say Something »

Generation Next - MArk Nichols Interiors


Who’s Next!

“Who are the new designers?” It’s a question we hear frequently. In fact, Met Home showcases the work of newcomers all the time, just not in a cohesive group. For this special issue, however, we searched the in¬dustry for the best of a new generation. Most of these interior and product designers and/or architects are in their thirties. Some have recently graduated from school or started their own firms after working for an established professional. Most have never been published and are making their print debut on the following pages, although one was the winner of a certain design-centered reality-TV competition. All have reached the moment of critical artistic mass when what they have to say comes together with the means of saying it in a fresh and stylish manner. Of course, the measure of inclusion here is not only youth or novelty but ex¬cellence. Looking deep into our Swarovski crystal ball, we predict that you will see their work and hear their names many times in the future. Enjoy getting acquainted and being among the first to know! —The Elle Decor Editors

The new interior designers on the block not only have style to spare, they have an abiding commitment to the environment.

Face it: All global warming altruism aside, the thought of eco-friendly design still conjures the bamboo-and-river-stone pastiche of countless spa-treatment rooms the world over. But Nichols, who studied interior design at UCLA, is the practitioner of a different kind of earth-friendly style: glamorous, modern, sophisticated. “There is a crunchy, Birkenstock-y sort of image that comes with the idea of a green interior,” explains the Palm Springs–based designer, who trumps that notion in the dining room shown here.

Created in a model for Contempo Homes, a developer in the desert city, it sleekly blends a work by artist Gabriel Rivera and dining table and chairs from the Ambiente Collection with recycled-glass-flecked terrazzo floors and a chandelier from Artemide fitted with a dimmable fluorescent bulb. “If you do your homework you can find finishes and fixtures with a high level of refinement,” says Nichols—like the dining chairs’ fabric, which looks like a rich suede but is recycled polyester. Nichols designs with a rigorous thoughtfulness. “Everything must have a purpose,” he says, typifying the sensible approach of his two-year-old firm, which places environmentally aware practicality at the forefront and promises to help pave the path for a new kind of eco-decorating—with nary a Birkenstock in sight.

—Mario López-Cordero
Source: Elle Decor

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