Good afternoon, modern design fans! We're coming to you live today from Dwell on Design, our annual conference held in a very sunny Los Angeles, California.
Yes, those are Vitra Vegetal chairs courtesy of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec you're witnessing (some of us in the audience are even lucky enough to have our rears nestled into them—they're pretty comfy!). After a welcome from our editor-in-chief Sam Grawe (looking very SoCal in a white suit jacket) and a hello from publisher Michela O'Connor Abrams and founder Lara Deam, Dwell was presented with a certificate from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, thanks to the city's urban design and planning coordinator Krista Kline (who we know for a fact has every single issue of Dwell lined up beside her desk in City Hall).
Editor Aaron Britt, currently bow-tied and mustached, opens things up with his My House panel and introduces Los Angeles–based designer Jeremy Levine (whose house currently graces the front cover of Dwell and San Diego-based designer Christopher Puzio, whose house is adjacent to his very cool Spacecraft Gallery.
Six years ago Puzio and his wife, Emily, looked for a live/work site in San Diego. Puzio came from Cranbrook and was very inspired by the house of fellow alumni Charles and Ray Eames. When Christopher and Emily lived in Detroit, they lived in a Mies van der Rohe building, so their modernist roots are strong. They found a commercial stucco building, which they tore down to the studs, and rebuilt it up into a very simple metal box. Indoor-outdoor living was key, so they included an outdoor fireplace, and they even poured concrete for their own pool. And Puzio, who is also a metalworker, added plenty of his own custom flourishes.
After all that they decided to open a contemporary art space in the gallery, which Puzio says really became a nexus for the San Diego creative community, even within a residential neighborhood. But they'll never quite feel like it's finished. "Being an architect and a builder at the same time you have to constantly reconcile between being a perfectionist and wanting to get it done." Luckily, he and his wife were a good team as they keep making changes: She's a contractor. He notes they're still married, thank goodness.
Levine's own architectural practice revolves around three themes. 1) Sustainability: if there's something there, like the three trees on the property they purchased, you leave it. 2) Regional Modernism: finding the beauty in Southern California's historic forms like courtyards or deep set windows. 3) Harvesting: if a resource is there, use it. Levine stumbled upon another stucco box, a Spanish house. But also it had a stunning cypress tree out front. So instead of cutting down the tree, he enclosed it in a front courtyard. There's even a small tree inside a courtyard that acts as a thermal chimney, but is also adjacent to an outdoor shower—ingenious greywater irrigation!
Levine looked to harvest resources every chance he got. He plundered used lumberyards to make furniture, put recycled fly ash into the concrete, and stacked free rocks into the exterior walls to create a passive thermal feature. And this part's ingenious: They took the thick Spanish walls and carved shelving out of it, bringing character and light into every room. Another smart move was putting drawers into the custom bed platform, and even created storage inside the floor using shipping jacks operated by foot pedals. To find resources for how to do all these things, it was definitely an educational experience. Levine suggested not to be shy, and to reach out to the masters. "You can call these guys called the Greywater Guerrillas," Levine laughed. "And they'll call you back!"