Thursday, March 3, 2011

Another Time & Space :: Welcome To Harvard & Stone

Another Time & Space :: Welcome To Harvard & Stone
By LA’s Key

The interesting thing about the L.A. nightlife landscape is its wealth of options but lack of great bar lounges. There is a real demand for a“hang out”, somewhere to sit and soak up the scene without being forced to buy five bottles. What about the people who want to absorb the atmosphere and wander around? And perhaps be able to talk to the company they are with??

It seems that, especially in Hollywood, there are either seedy dive bars or dramatic top-40 raging nightclubs; neither of which really do it for me. What's truly missing is a concept that about a year ago I deemed “experiential nightlife.” In the past year, a few talented Angeleno nightlife entrepreneurs have started to develop just that. Fighting the norm of another black box with 4 walls, a cheap interior re-design, and Hollywood's hottest (or at this time, youngest) promoters coupled with most expensive bottle service, sadly nightlife patrons grew accustomed to this lack of true experience. But really, how much are these club patrons being affected or feeling from this? Not much, honestly.

To me, the grandest feat for a owner/designer is creating an experience that transports people to an alternate world, another place and time. Coming from a dance and theater background, (with an obsession for great architecture and design) I have a natural appreciation for an immersive experience that a well-designed space can bring. When these elements are combined perfectly, it is left to the imagination of the patron to escape to that time and space. I feel this is really where “it's at”. With nightlife's over-saturated and well frankly, boring super club standard, this is what LA (and anyone say over 25 with some taste, class, and artistry) needs.

I'd say the first great example of experiential nightlife was The Edison (1920s Thomas Edison power plant meets silent film star styled speakeasy), however Downtown L.A. lends itself to more edge and creativity than other districts. In the recent year and a half, other examples include Voyeur (think vintage-era Paris brothel with risque beautiful dancers) and my favorite to date, La Descarga (1930s Havana, Cuba/Castro-ish Cigar Lounge). Hemingway's took a stab at this too, while their design is impeccably vintage-faithful, the service, staff, and music did not complete the experience, I still felt like I was in Hollywood in 2010-ish.

There are two particular young gentlemen (twins actually!) who have played a significant role in creating a new nightlife landscape. They are Mark & Johnny Houston. Don't let their age fool you; at 32 they have proved to be two of the most design savvy nightlife entrepreneurs in town. They literally were exposed to the nightlife as soon as they came out of the womb! Mark & Johnny’s mother owned nightclub venues from when they were little babies and they’d often times be hanging around the business. They have already several successful bars under their belt: The Piano Bar, the Bronson Bar, La Descarga (my favorite), Temporary Spaces 1/2/3 (being temporary they are no longer), their newest creation Harvard & Stone, and many more new creations in the works including the former spaces of 40 Deuce, Jane’s House, Crane’s Tavern, & Falcon.

Their development process is brilliant, they simply have what most people don't: The courage and creativity to execute their ideas. In most cases, they find seedy dive bars off the beaten path, though not too far from bustling areas. Unlike most club renovations, which either are cheap, ugly, and tasteless OR require hiring a big name designer who will pour hundreds of thousands upon millions of dollars into re-doing former hotspots; the Houstons are doing something totally off the mark, and it works. Just take the success of La Descarga for example. It's not successful because Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton poured down some El Presidentes or Sweet Ginger Cocktails there, or the fact that the Alliance or Bolthouse Productions were involved – No, genuine honestly earned success because their concept, service, design, entertainment, staff, and everything are just that good and really are unique and affecting! Their bars are probably the most successful of any nightlife group without having promoters or a publicist, which to me, a 9+ year hospitality industry veteran, is crazy, but amazing!

Which brings me to the their newest project, the once neighbored Thai Town dive, “The Stone Bar” has been transformed, and like backtracking time machine, we arrive at Harvard & Stone, or H&S for short. Call it ‘vintage industrial’, it pays homage to the machine era รก la 1930s & 40s and early industrialist workers such as Rosie the Riveter (she represented American women working in factories during WWII in ads such as J. Howard Miller's “We Can Do it!”). Not the average bar theme right? Seeing the space before and after is a jaw-dropping experience, it’s hardly recognizable. So many hidden areas of the venue were “discovered” and opened up that no one would ever know it previously existed. My favorite part of their renovation was how they uncovered many layers, exposing beautiful original elements from this 1926 brownstone style building, like beautiful beams and weathered exposed brick. As a finishing touch, they added their signature flair of cracking weathered paint where it may have been missing; the old and the new are mixed seamlessly.

The Harvard & Stone space is the perfect size; it accommodates about 300-350 guests and has that fun maze-like floor plan. Think WWII industrial factory meets steam-punk/rock n' roll warehouse. Not expecting what you are about to see, you enter through a gorgeous warehouse steel-track door into a large main room complete with a huge center bar and a small stage to its left, which is rumored to host some big name rock acts, secret shows, & special performances in the future. The bar and rim of the ceilings are outfitted with rigging and bars to support a thematic dance show, said to kick- off in three weeks (I can’t wait!). Musically, the venue will feature DJs, but also has a jukebox filled with various rock albums and even some specially made compilations from friends and family! Everything about this room is “worn out” vintage industrial in the most perfect way. Mark Houston says to expect some big performances that won’t be yet publicized; you may just have to be there to get lucky! From exposed beams, distressed paint, aged hanging metal baskets shelving liquor, custom crafted chesterfield style banquettes, gorgeous wire lighting complete with Edison bulbs, hand-made cocktail tables constructed on vintage steel parts, and even a working fireplace, all are original to this venue. Similar to La Descarga, there are also shadow box display cabinets filled with antiques and era/theme specific trinkets, this room undoubtedly takes you to that other place and time.

One can venture upstairs to a more “broiler room” theme. It has a small office as well as a green room for performing talent; of course all defined by killer burnished steel railings & detailing. The upstairs balcony space overlooks the main room festivities and connects thru with a small catwalk overlooking the back private bar/ indoor smoking room. This intimate back room complete with its own bar is my absolute favorite. It has amazing 20’ foot ceilings and a huge roll-up door with original stained glass and window bars, making it a legal indoor open-air smoking space. The bar itself is beautifully adorned with a prop-like antique scale garnished with fresh produce used for drink mixology, and tractor seat barstools made of burnished steel. Behind this there is an actual outdoor smoking patio, a narrow and hidden corridor if one wants some real fresh air, or merely to escape the debauchery.

Another staple of any Houston bar is their attention to mixology matched with having unique, local (or imported), rare spirits and ingredients. The art of mixology has been a trend for the past few years and really brings a culinary edge to drinking, which I think is appreciated by many. As opposed to being a one “spirit-centric” establishment, H&S plans to focus on all popular American Spirits.

With an impressive mixology menu created by industry veterans Steve Livigni & Pablo Moix, some of my Harvard & Stone favorites included; the welcome shot of 103 proof ‘Fighting Cock’ bourbon, the Trinidad Sour (Angostura bitters, St. Vincent’s Orgeat Syrup, lemon juice, root liqueur), and the Fernet Cocktail (Fernet Branca, Canton Ginger, Carpano Antica, lime juice, Begatta ginger beer) . They are intricately concocted to include either ice hand-crushed in a burlap sack, or those delightfully large ice cubes we all love to hate, served in alluring, yet small vintage replicated glassware. Drink prices are around $10, a bit more affordable then most bars' $14 specialty drinks, plus…I guarantee you they are stiffer! The main bar has a delectable menu of custom crafted mixology cocktails, while the liquor is ever eloquently displayed in vintage metal baskets suspended from the ceiling on steel chains. The back bar will spotlight notable guest bartenders and featured local made brands, and will have its own specialty cocktail menu that will rotate monthly, featuring a new spirit. Gin is next up for March! I am also a fan of their beer taps, which were crafted out of silver fire extinguishers, and are quite eye-catching! The theme is carried out through every minute detail; even as far as the menu on aged cardstock with typewriter font on a tiny distressed looking clipboard, a very period-worthy antique!

The Houston twins have the Midas Touch; everything they touch turns to gold, and it’s their genius talent, unparalleled creativity, and a killer general manger Mr. Livigni that transforms a dream into a reality. Harvard & Stone has an enchanting vibe that will seduce your imagination and sense of time. If you want to imagine you're a 1940s factory worker on break in need of a killer cocktail, you can do just that. Amen to “experiential nightlife”, and until I am able to create the long plotted restaurant/bar/lounge of my own, visit theirs and save the date to experience H&S for yourself, my birthday party is set there for Monday March 28th! Cheers!

*photos by : Odessy Barbu (

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pretty Things to Inspire You During This Holiday Gloom...

Sorry friends, for not writing for so long. But today, I have for you...BEAUTY! It is one of my main forms of inspiration & affection. Please feel what these visual treasures have to give you....let it take you....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Lust Affair vol II : Unrequited Crush" the new RedLight mix

FREE DOWNLOAD :: Feel free to share with your music minded friend!

Enjoy your FREE holiday gift from REDLIGHT
"Lust Affair vol II : Unrequited Crush" the new RedLight mix
Start your holiday season off right with a mood that will move & inspire

Produced & mixed by : Audiomoe

Song compilation & concept by : Jenn Laskey & Audiomoe

*Music has always been a huge part of my life and my #1 driving force and inspiration. I am so excited to be able to collaborate
with my dear friend and amazingly talented DJ/producer Audiomoe (Moses Truzman) to bring you the 3rd installment of the
REDLIGHT mix. After the success of 'Lust Affair : In the Red Room" I decided I wanted to make another similarly branded/themed
soundtrack for you guys. Its like a part II to to last year's "Lust Affair" (if you missed it, here LUST AFFAIR in the red room). I can't
begin to tell you how amazing and sexy the chillout vibe it creates is, but you will hear & feel for yourself. Please enjoy this gift I really hope it affects you!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Casa Laguna Takes Your Breath Away (a history of a 1928 spanish colonial revival)

I'm gonna give you a little history on one of my favorite historic buildings in LA, if you know me you know there are many, but most designed by my favorite architect Arthur Zwebell, I will one day live in an apartment or condo designed by him, moreover an entire building, there are six, so the odds are in my favor with some serious luck....

Casa Laguna Takes Your Breath Away

Architecture from the 1920s and 1930s in Los Angeles is museum-esque; a remarkable work of art that has been well preserved and is appreciated still today. With ornate detail and comprised of beautiful materials such as; spacious courtyards, unique water fountains, red tile roofs, two-story soaring living rooms, hand painted Spanish tiles, perfect plank hardwood floors, meticulously crafted fireplaces, perfect wrought iron detail, and immaculate windows; these historic Spanish buildings of the golden age will take one’s breath away! Angelenos are superbly lucky to have many remarkable representations of such history still standing! One such husband wife architecture/design team that made a strong imprint of this rich Spanish influenced style and pioneered the courtyard style architecture are Arthur & Nina Zwebell, who created six landmark courtyard buildings in Los Angeles in the 1920s. The Casa Laguna, built in 1928 by unmatchable architects Arthur & Nina Zwebell, located in Hollywood, CA, is a magnificent building in the Spanish Colonial revival style.

Zwebell’s Casa Laguna is a strong example of the Spanish Colonial Revival Style of Los Angeles architecture. This breathtaking 18-unit courtyard structure is particularly of the Andalusian influence, strongly influenced by the region of Spain. Built in 1928, the last of the Zwebell’s esteemed courtyard projects, the Casa Laguna shows strong elements of the 1920s Spanish movement in California. Their work in Los Angeles was limited to the decade of the 1920s, and in that time period they created six remarkable creations, most of which are cultural historical monuments today.

The Zwebell pair came to Los Angeles from the Midwest, first to visit in 1917. Then four years later in 1921, they moved to LA permanently bringing along their nest egg of $35,000. Remarkably, they lacked formal architectural training, but in 1923 built their first courtyard apartment building, the Primavera in West Hollywood. Over the course of the next five years the Zwebells embarked on a prolific careers as developers of unwaveringly exquisite courtyard apartments. To Follow the Primavera were; the Patio del Moro in 1925, the couple’s crowning achievement the Andalusia in 1926, the Rhonda in 1927, and completed their portfolio in 1928 with the El Cabrillo and finally the Casa Laguna.

The materials used in the construction of Casa Laguna, seemingly rare today; they were perfectly combined to create a rich and awe-striking art piece of incredible detail. In the 20s it also seemed Los Angeles had the most talented artisans and craftsman, which utilized such materials to their fullest potential. A grand hallmark noticed in this Spanish Revival style was the ornate hand painted tiles work, used on interior and exterior staircases, as well as interior courtyard fountains, in kitchens, bathrooms, fireplaces, etc. Additionally the use of arches was very prominent in both the courtyards and the interior architecture. The Zwebell’s also utilized immaculate windows, both round-ached and floor to ceiling pained French windows and doors, traditionally in a turquoise green hue. The use of ironwork was another hallmark of the Zwebell’s, the Spanish architecture, and of course, the Casa Laguna. The building made lavish use of such decorative ironwork via its; railings, window grills, hinges, door and gate locksets, weathervanes, and most notably the lighting fixtures, as immaculate sconces and chandeliers abound! The use of wood is also profound, from the perfect hardwood floors, to the beautiful beamed wood ceilings, and even the intricate carvings on interior and closet doors. Another beautiful feature of many interior units in Casa Laguna are the fireplaces, with gorgeous stonework, brick decorations, and / or perfectly arranged Spanish tiling. The Zwebell trademarks of an exterior fireplace and water fountain are also eminent in this historic building! Another interesting construction feature is double-storied roofed gallery, utilizing stone columns and a heavy beam. My favorite feature of five of the building’s unit’s interiors is the two-story townhouse utilizing both the hand-painted Spanish tiles along with the ironwork along the staircase rail and second story balcony! Some of these units have ceilings up to 20 feet high, with the gorgeous staircase and balcony overlooking, coupled with fireplace down below- a truly betaking sight that is seldom replicated today!

The interior and exterior of Casa Laguna are gorgeous, crafted with exquisite attention to detail. The notable materials used on this remarkable courtyard building include; hand painted Spanish tiles, pristine hardwood floors, timber beamed ceilings, certain red tiles, ornate iron work, and original beautifully sculptured lighting fixtures etc. The exterior colors of the building as well as its phenomenal courtyard are very bold, in a mustard yellow tone! The accents are green. It is possible that in its original incarnation the buildings paint was a lighter yellow or possibly a white or tan tone. All many of these elements were brought over to California from the influence of the Spaniards, most specifically of the area of Andalusia. There was as also much Moorish influence in this time, reminiscent in the Casa Laguna and even more so, other Zwebell buildings.

This building is very ornate, attentive to detail, and an exquisite showpiece. Due to its time of being built, 1928, prior to the Second World War and the great depression, Angelenos were still into this type of showcasing architecture. Similarly, after World War I many people had money to spend, and wanted to enjoy and live life to the fullest, hence the immaculate designs that came out in the decade following. The design of the courtyard building was also very appropriate to southern California with its warm climate; utilizing much creative outdoor space to create as a huge community courtyard, outdoor fireplace, common fountain area, many private balconies, decks, and patios. The late 1920’s in Los Angeles were a very glamorous time, with the film industry growing and many of such buildings were original built for studios to house silent films stars during film production. Arts & architecture were still very decorative and clearly separated the have’s from the have not’s. Unfortunately the Casa Laguna was the Zwebell’s last masterpiece, for after the complete crash of the private housing market in 1929, they turned to other occupations. Then came the Great Depression and such styles faded while the mechanistic modernist aesthetic was on the rise. Similarly with rising land value, such spacious courtyard utilizes much land, for a decorative realizing interior space became unrealistic and therefore were seldom made again. Shortly after this style changed and was toned down slightly with the art deco period. But until then, the Spanish Colonial revival period spared no details and turned out some of the most fascinating architecture and design Los Angeles has ever seen!

In closing, one can see the great beauty, unique architectural design, incredible craftsmanship, and finest material and attention to detail used in this Spanish colonial revival architectural style. The Casa Laguna was the last great masterpiece by husband and wife architect/ designer pair Arthur & Nina Zwebell. They made a huge imprint on Los Angeles’ architectural history and were the primary innovators of the Andalusian courtyard style that became so popular and thank Goodness, well preserved. Their talents and creativity go beyond measure as exemplified in this remarkable 18 unit apartment building / courtyard dwelling!

Additional information available on building website :

*photos via my iphone 4 on a dark rainy nite, sorry they're not the best...worth taking a look - and to be honest there are two openings there now - of course I'm friends with the owner, so if you'd like a link, you can go live out one of my dreams, I'm living out another here too :0