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DESIGN DISPATCH

It's showtime

CA Boom II opens a door to contemporary style and invites everyone in. Ask its designers anything -- really.

July 28, 2005|Janet Eastman | Times Staff Writer

It's less than a week before the opening of CA Boom II, the contemporary architecture and home furnishings show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and across town, architect Glen Irani is hustling to prepare a house for tourgoers' arrival. Plum-leaf-colored plaster needs to go up on the exterior walls. Workers have to finish the 85-foot-long pool. Still to be installed: a single translucent panel that will open a long hallway onto the garden, like a shoji screen.

"Maybe I should lay some Astroturf here," Irani jokes as he walks the bumpy dirt path leading to the front door.

When CA Boom opens today for its four-day run, Irani's message will be even clearer: Come on in. Poke around. Ask questions.

After all, that's what makes the event different. Unlike trade shows such as this week's Las Vegas Furniture Market, CA Boom was conceived for anyone with an interest in sophisticated design -- a sort of thinking person's home show. Architects will be leading tours of houses, including a 1956 Richard Neutra-designed residence in Pacific Palisades that will be opened for the first time since its recent renovation and expansion. Prefabricated housing builders, landscape architects, furniture makers and craftspeople will be on hand to talk about their designs, some of which will be premiering at CA Boom.

"The show is user friendly," says architect Stephen Kanner, whose Pacific Palisades house -- a two-story, light-filled modern space with corrugated fiberglass doors and fiberboard cabinets -- is on tour Friday. "It's a show where people wander through, experience the products and concepts, and decide what they want to do. It's a big, fun educational program."

Charles Trotter, the producer who launched CA Boom last year, says he wanted to stage a design show that had a California emphasis and wasn't intimidating or boring to people who don't make a living looking at floor plans.

"We want the consumer to participate," he says.

So go ahead, check out the chic steel-framed trailer that Joe Sabel of Aero 11 Design hauled 362 miles south from Redwood City to premiere here. The 630-square-foot prefab home has 3-foot-wide clerestory windows, a vast sliding-glass door and a loft space for sleeping.

Or be hypnotized by water that looks like liquid metal in fountains to be shown for the first time by Water Studio of Venice.

Or stop to chat with Bannavis Andrew Sribyatta of Project Import Export, or PIE. He will be standing next to his line of handmade outdoor chairs and chaises woven with thin pieces of rattan, vines and water hyacinth -- natural materials juxtaposed with more futuristic pieces made of strips of aluminum.

CA Boom, he says, changed his life. Last year he circled through the exhibition floor, then went outside to see the landscaping displays.

"I was standing in the yard and vowed I would come back as a furniture exhibitor," says Sribyatta, an architect who has spent the last six months in Thailand preparing to premiere his line at the show.

CA Boom, says Stefan Lawrence of the L.A. interior design store Twentieth, is a quick lesson in contemporary design.

"Homeowners are seeing talented new designers' work that they don't get to see every day and they see it all in one place," says Lawrence, who will have Arne Quinze of Quinze & Milan at his booth. Quinze's squishy, interlocking grid seating was chosen for architect Rem Koolhaas' celebrated Central Library in Seattle.

Exhibitors say the interaction with the public lends the show a low-key bent well-suited to Southern California. When furniture designers talk to a showgoer, they don't know if they're talking to a specifier for Frank Gehry or a first-time homebuyer.

Access to creative talent also is a hallmark of CA Boom's home tours. Talking with architects inside their houses is a rare treat; being invited into a home still under construction can be even better. Irani will guide tourgoers through his latest project in Santa Monica, explaining the form, light and spatial qualities of the one-story house that fuses the clients' Asian heritage with a Southern California sensibility.

The home, on a street lined with mostly traditional dwellings, is laid out into four separate areas that Irani calls pavilions and has roofs set at various subtle angles with hardly a support column in sight. Bands of high windows allow diffused daylight to illuminate walls painted in sky blue, hot orange and chartreuse. Next year, Irani says, tourgoers will be able to see the completed house in polished form, down to flowers in the vases.

The house on the Venice canals that Irani shares with his wife, artist Edith Beaucage, also will be on the tour, as it was last year. He says people asked lots of questions about design particulars: the window system, the colors and the finishes. "It's a great way to learn," he says.

Participating in CA Boom didn't lead to new clients, he says, but that wasn't the point.

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