1. Design talent to watch
Our money’s on Ryan Grey Smith of Seattle’s Grey Design Studio. The 33-year-old prodigy―former head of Dale Chihuly’s architecture department―made a splash at last year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair with his massive Timeline coffee table, an 8-inch thick, 4- by 4-foot slab of wind-felled 600-year-old fir. His architectural passion is unmistakable, from the pronounced wood grain and solid lines of his freestanding credenzas to the dramatic lighting fixtures composed of thermally manipulated polycarbonate. Best of all: his utilitarian Modern Shed, a smooth little prefab box that elevates a backyard home office or storage area to high-design status. 206/524-2223.2. Freshest spring color
Color trendspotter Laura Guido-Clark (www.lgcdesign.com) makes her living by predicting our emotional reactions to certain hues. Her two picks to brighten an accent wall for spring: Praying Mantis and Curvaceous Coral, both part of the Healthy Wall Finishes collection from Anna Sova Luxury Organics (from $49 a gallon; www.annasova.com or 877/326-7682).
3. Best new chair
For those who still doubt green can be gorgeous, Portland’s IF Green should set the record straight with its timeless furniture crafted from recycled and sustainable materials. Our favorite: the Sling Back chair ($475) in red leather and alder―simple, stylish, and eco-conscious all at the same time. 503/771-5730.
4. Object of desire
We’re not afraid of color in the West, so we love when humble household appliances reappear in vibrant new hues. In addition to the lime green Dirt Devil Broom Vac ($50; www.dirtdevil.com) and the turquoise Hamilton Beach Eclectrics blender ($70; available from Amazon.com), we’re craving this delectable red two-slice toaster from KitchenAid ($50; available from Target.).
5. Liquid assets
Catch the wave: The ocean is the latest force of nature to inspire interior design. The rippling textures, light-catching translucence, ultramarine hues, and fluid lines of the pieces in this slideshow are sure to invoke tranquility in any environment. At left, a hand-painted custom wall mural by artist Jason Gaillard is like an indoor water-world. Price upon request from Natura Design Solutions (415) 640-0431.
Pioneers have always pushed and shaped the boundaries of the West, carving out homes in hostile and challenging environments. Bryan Beaulieu is the latest such innovator. His visionary desert dwelling, built in four hexagons that stairstep up Troon Mountain in north Scottsdale, Arizona, integrates time-proven methods of passive solar design with gee-whiz technology: the ability to run on hydrogen created when a photovoltaic-powered “electrolyzer” splits water molecules.
“The house began because my wife is environmentally sensitive,” explains Beaulieu, a mechanical engineer. As a result, there are no synthetic fibers, glues, or chemicals anywhere. Hot air is evaporatively cooled in tall towers of falling water; windows are shaded from the sun by photovoltaic wafers embedded in glass and by vines trained on eave extensions. The 4,000-square-foot home (whose estimated cost is $2.5 million) creates almost no pollution.
But despite all the futuristic innovations, it is also a comfortable family home. Woven into the scientific fabric are breathtaking outdoor living spaces: a sunset-viewing pavilion, a sheltered spa grotto that’s captured between two massive boulders, even a pond where Beaulieu will raise his own tilapia. “There’s a euphoria of being out in the day,” he says. “What could be better than fresh air?”