May 16, 2019 08:42PM
● By Dawn Garcia
Design is personal, intimate, expressive, and, when done well, can tell a story that connects you to something real, something magical, that can completely transform your personal or commercial space. As the weather transitions into the rays of sunshine we’ve been craving, time to start reinvigorating your indoor and outdoor space to gear up for outdoor Southern California living. Whether you’re starting from scratch or simply embracing your backyard’s terrain, a few tips and tricks can make designing for summer a breeze.
Orange County designer Raad Ghantous’ portfolio extends throughout Southern California and reaches back to 1998. Ghantous’ ability to turn private homes, spas, restaurants, and whatever he’s asked to work on into spaces that emit emotion, passion, and refinement is beyond impressive. Based in San Clemente, Ghantous creates design that takes any space he’s working with and curates design that is entirely unique. Whether he’s working on a high-end day spa within hotels like the Four Seasons or Monarch Beach Resort; working on eateries like the Long Beach Taco Company; or working with homeowners on maximizing and personalizing their spaces, he’s the man to go to when you need to liven up your space.
Wearing an apropos canary yellow button-up shirt with a Bespoke pin-striped blazer and upscale jeans, he sits back in the bright orange chair at the Long Beach Taco Company a restaurant he designed to discuss the joy of outdoor living. We begin by talking about color. According to Psychology of Color, “Color psychology is a well-known yet less explored branch of the study of how our brain perceives what it visualizes. Color is, simply stated, broken-down white light, and yet we feel color. Color perception is subjective, and certain colors have a very universal significance.” Ghantous agrees, explaining that while there are tons of brands to choose from, with the breadth of work he does, he uses Pantone colors most often. “Some of my staples and all-time favorites to use, especially on California projects, are rich urban Jester Red, Enlivening Turmeric, Radiant Fiesta, and Happy Aspen Gold. More recently, though, I have had an interest in also experimenting with softer colors like coral, Pepper Stem, and Mango Mojito. What works so well with these colors is that they pair very well with the line’s base neutrals, which makes designing far more endearing.”
That said, being outside in our yards, on the beach, or on a quick escape to the mountains make living in SoCal something to be grateful for. Our options seem limitless, and nothing quite makes us feel that tinge of summer like bright, happy colors and giving our yards and spaces a little summer update. With so many incredible local consignment, home décor, and furniture stores to choose from, Ghantous has a few suggestions for redecorating your outdoors or bringing the outdoors inside. “I am very into oversized teak modern/minimalist styled furniture. Adding oversized cushions in neutral shades paired with retro 1950s colorful accent pieces, combined with contrasting color scalloped umbrellas, makes outdoor spaces glossy ready and great for entertaining.” Throwing in subtle accents like putting unique tablecloths over an umbrella offers character and provides ample shade, he says. “Getting creative with something as simple as an umbrella cover can personalize outdoor living spaces, lending to fun conversation starters and bringing life into an existing space.”
When it comes to where to shop for interesting pieces, it takes curiosity and exploration to find what you’re looking for. “I like what Restoration Hardware, Brown Jordan, Weatherend, and other commercial-grade vendors offer because in areas like California, we really use our outdoor furniture extensively throughout the year. Most of that time, we leave our cushions and seating uncovered due to inconvenience of constantly covering to protect them and have them last longer and uncovering them to use. So, to me, it’s an important investment that should last as many seasons as possible. Other more pricey European brands used in resorts and high-end properties such as Tribu and Roche Bobois are still nice options, but on a budget, you can find some quality pieces at affordable prices at Pier One or World Market. One can and I have done so in the past pair those commercial/hospitality brands with fun accent pieces and decorations from some of the big box stores I mentioned. It keeps costs more reasonable.”
Another great aspect of living where the sun regularly shines and brisk winters rarely come (this year excluded), planting edible gardens is second nature for Californians, and repurposing some of what you have laying around can prove cost effective and visually interesting. “I have installed repurposed rain gutters on walls, turning them into edible wall gardens growing anything from strawberries to herbs. Also, you can repurpose a shipping pallet and turn it into a standing garden where miniature vegetables or succulents can be grown.” Keep in mind that in addition to planting vegetables, herbs, and fruit, it’s also a great time to try your hand at growing cannabis at home. (See “GreenHouse” on page 18 for wonderful resources that will give you the ins and outs of home cultivation).
Creating blissful outdoor spaces at home can be the difference between sanity and chaos. There is something lovely about turning your backyard into your very own serenity space or taking that room you’ve been wanting to redecorate and making it yours. Ghantous is well-versed in creating ambient, soothing spaces. His very first design gig happened in the Indian Ocean, designing the Givenchy Spa on the island of Mauritius, and he’s continued to design elevated spaces ever since. He offers great ideas for creating tranquility. “In order to create a blissful environment, we try to always infuse some element of nature, bringing the outdoors in. We do this with the use of custom wall backgrounds such as scenic murals, or unique water features, or even green walls. In a recent installation at the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, we installed a mural of breaking waves that spanned three walls and used a commissioned professional photograph of a nearby beach to anchor the scene to the locale. We then also set up a two-tiered L-shaped trough that hugged the base of two of the walls and were filled with beach sand as if the continuation of the sandy beach from the mural projected forward in 3D into the space. We also set up meditative, artistically placed stone stacks. This not only worked for the aesthetics at Monarch Beach’s Miraval Spa, but it’s a great idea to try at home. Blending the elements gives a sense of calm, creativity, and is immensely inviting.”
In today’s world of more eco-conscious consumers, home decorators have quality, environmentally responsible choices, many of which are certified sustainable. “A great sustainable product to play with is acacia wood, which is becoming more and more of a must-have material for outdoor furniture. This sensitivity to the environment also extends to toxin-free materials being used in all-weather wicker type furnishings. Additionally, when it comes to fabrics, Sunbrella, for example, recycles all fiber and fabric remnants generated in their process to be used for alternative applications. Their unique, sustainable manufacturing process also avoids harmful liquid and solid waste associated with conventional methods.”
With the belief that design should be multifaceted and accommodate different uses from sitting outside with a freshly brewed cup of coffee in hand, yards abundant in adventurous options for kids to enjoy, to picturesque spaces that fuel inspiration, creative, lively outdoor spaces can offer you the literal staycation you’ve dreamt of.
“I would say the one rule of thumb to always remember is that in the end it is your home, your space. It has to be meaningful and functional for you. So, regardless of what it may say in a magazine or is championed by experts, the bottom line is, there is no right or wrong way to do it. If an item is meaningful to you or something you like, then any qualified professional should be able to build you a personalized space around it in your specifications. And if you do it on your own, above all, have fun!”