Friendly, Fun and Warm? LEGENDS — this week in La Cienega Design Quarter

Editor in Chief of California Home+Design Erin Feher sits with a designer panel at Galerie XX during LEGENDS 2012

As many designers get ready to head to ICFF at the vast Javits Convention Center next week, others are getting their design fix with friends in the patios of showrooms in the La Cienega Design Quarter (the design district on and around La Cienega, between Beverly and Santa Monica Boulevard), which will play host to LEGENDS, a two-event blast of store displays and discussions starting this Wednesday, May 8. This year’s theme is “Time Capsule: The Past, Present and Future of Design.” Caroline Chamberlain interviewed Sean Yashar, content creator for the event. 

Chamberlain: Why is the event called LEGENDS?

Yashar: It’s called legends because the La Cienega Design Quarter is actually a very historic district in Los Angeles. Pre-Pacific Design Center it is where a lot of great designers shopped. So Legends of La Cienega honors the legends of the past and the future. It’s really great that this district has been able to keep its identity and be nimble enough to change and become a force in the design scene.

C: What is LEGENDS?

Y: It is a two day design event — one part design fair, one part symposium, one part continued education for the industry, and one very strong part is community building. It’s an annual coming-together for the design community. It’s become part of the calendar. (Shown above Editor in Chief of California Home+Design Erin Feher sits with a designer panel at Galerie XX during LEGENDS 2012)

C: What are the main events?

Y: One of the largest LEGENDS event is the window display program in the district. Every year LEGENDS has a theme, and they engage a group of designers on an international level to design windows to reflect the theme. The theme this year is time capsule: past, present, future design. What does a time capsule mean to you? Kelly Wearstler, Woodson and Rummerfield, Jeff Andrews, and Chris Barrett are expected to participate.

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C: What are some of the presentations we can expect?

Y: There are two days of programming starting in the morning. There is programming that is educational, business driven, entertaining, but the common theme is design. There are people that are here from around the world doing book signings. All the magazines are coming to do presentations. They are going to explore issues such as what luxury is today and how it is changing. The line between decorative and fine art is blurring. There are provocative presentations as well. There’s going to be a presentation called “Go West Young Man” that explores why West Hollywood has become a creative city. I don’t think I’ve heard another discussion to “why” it is.

Southern California seduced creatives from all around the nation during the golden age of Hollywood, in particular many gay men came to the West to work on Hollywood sets.  Once they came here, they influenced the design landscape in a way that is still evident, especially in West Hollywood where many came to live. As if they were stage sets, these men transformed their own homes into cinematic, visual statements.  John Chase, West Hollywood’s late Urban Planner called this style “Exterior Decoration,” because these men treated the exteriors of their houses as interiors, creating a lively, whimsical, architectural vernacular specific to West Hollywood and the neighboring communities such as Beverly Hills.  The result, residential streets that are composed of Tudors, Spanish, Deco, French Normandy, Italianate and Regency style homes living harmoniously next to each other.

C: Are you doing anything different or unexpected this year?

Y: The first program of the two day event is a bloggers breakfast. We are engaging bloggers in a way we never have before. I think early on bloggers were ‘echo-chambers,’ because they were just echoing what was already out there. You would see a blogger scan a photo from Elle Decor, and create a second life for what is out there, and now they’ve become an important player in these events. They are just as important as print media and they are design enthusiasts who articulate and put their opinion out there.

C: It is happening a week before New York’s ICFF; is there any similarity between the events?

Y:  LEGENDS of La Cienega to me is a combination of all the best of design events brought together. It’s a little bit of everything. It’s a design salad, there are so many different ingredients. There is something unique about LEGENDS too, I constantly hear from designers all around the world how much they appreciate the Los Angeles design community because they are a very supportive, warm community– and we work together and not against each other. And let’s face it, it’s in May, it’s open air and it’s nice outside. In New York, it’s in a building. There’s something very democratic about it. It just feels good. And that’s something that I think is very unique. It’s LA, it’s friendly, it’s fun, it’s warm. Just the fact that it’s outside. What else is outside?

leeC: What does LEGENDS offer to people who are not a part of the design community?

Y: There is programming that is geared toward the design trade and there is programming for design enthusiasts. I would say that in Los Angeles, we are a city of design enthusiasts. This is a design city, we are known for our mid-century architecture and design. We are known for our perception of design through Hollywood. You have someone like Nancy Meyers whose designs are known iconically in films and her designs have become the new definition of the American dream. We live and breathe design. If you are an Angeleno, this is all very relevant. (Pictured right, Lee Stanton, President of La Cienega Design Quarter; above left, Jean de Merry’s ‘Ramo Mirror’).

C: How does it differ from Westweek, which took place in March?

Y: I would say that Westweek is an important annual event; it is a tradition. I would say that anyone that goes to the LEGENDS event also goes to Westweek. There’s room for so many types of things.

C: Are you expecting any recognizable names from TV decorating shows?

Y: Thom Filicia is speaking on the Traditional Home panel on Thursday. He was in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and has become a well known design personality and author; also Bravo’s “Million Dollar DecoratorsMary McDonald and Kathryn M. Ireland are likely to be spotted during the course of this two-day event.