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Modern home design becomes art

By Jenae Cohn

May 13, 2009 9:37 p.m.

There is absolutely no way to miss the big blue whale, otherwise known as the Pacific Design Center, on Melrose Avenue.

Slanted blue glass walls that form a rectangular-shaped building are surrounded by a manicured lawn, molded into a wave formation.

Pink flowers peek up under the “Pacific Design Center” sign while bowls of red flowers overflow from wide-lipped, bowl-shaped planters out front. Everything looks planned and spaced meticulously; the flowers may grow wildly and the building may be on a quaint city street, but crisp lines define the center’s structure, and from the outside, it appears nothing more than a Goliath piece of street art.

Yet I knew there was obviously something more inside the whale. After all, this is a design center. Sure, Los Angeles’ buildings sprawl out, but this building doesn’t just sprawl; it imposes itself.

The Pacific Design Center is actually not just one big blue building but rather tucked behind it are two equally bright buildings: the green and the red building. The red is currently under construction, but the green and blue buildings house showrooms, small art exhibitions, casual Wolfgang Puck cafes and restaurants.

The inside of the center is as much a feast for the eyes as the outside. Electronic music pulses through the linoleum flooring as visitors enter into the wide-spaced showroom area.

I almost expected runway models to saunter down the linoleum aisleways, with photographers in their wake and Heidi Klum not far behind. Either that or I would magically become part of the design show, walking in time with my tres chic Converse sneakers. Yet, a few steps past the entryway, I soon realized that the design center was less like a runway and more like a mall or an art gallery.

Every wall inside is made of glass, so one can peer inside every showroom, office and gallery space from the outside. Designers or vendors each have their own showroom spaces with different wares on display like advertisements beckoning visitors to come in.

Yet the items on display are not just simple tables and chairs; they are works of art in and of themselves.

Take the Euroconcepts store, for example. In the window are rows of square-shaped bathtubs and a wall filled from floor to ceiling with an array of different shaped and wacky-colored faucets.

Walk down the hallway, and at J.H. Minassian and Company there are wall-length carpets stacked one on top of the other up to the ceiling like fortress columns. Dozens of tapestries, too, are rolled into bundles like sleeping bags, lassoed together into different parts of the showroom for carpet enthusiasts to admire.

Another store, Janus et Cie, is dotted by fake square trees, and behind the displays of black wooden tables and chairs are cloud wall-hangings as backdrops. The space is airy and light as if recreating a backyard patio.

Then some showrooms had absolutely nothing on display at all. Wolf-Gordon Inc., a wall-finishing and trim company, has a stark white showroom with white bowl-shaped chairs adorned only by hot-pink pillows. A trim of hot pink, gray and turquoise wall samples line the perimeter of the room, but otherwise only a stark white front desk with some hot-pink finishes greets visitors from the outside.

Of course, these are the kinds of spaces that can seem simultaneously intimidating and inspiring. Every showroom felt untouchable, pristine and completely out of the price range of a college student looking for artistic furnishings.

Yet the innovative appearance of the furniture on display and the way in which the artists could elevate tables and chairs into art in and of themselves shows an appreciation for the everyday objects that one normally takes for granted. Finding ways to make everyday life more beautiful seems an endeavor worth striving for.

Knowing what’s inside the belly of the blue whale satiated my curiosity, but I find myself now itching to find some artistic furnishings for my Westwood apartment and yearning to appreciate and find beauty in the normally mundane.

If you want to know what’s inside the blue whale’s belly, e-mail Cohn at [email protected].

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Jenae Cohn
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