Thursday, March 30th, 2006

CA Boom 3–500 Kilotons of Fresh Design

Jeff, Copywriter

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Jeff and yellow skateboard sculptureThis past weekend, Santa Monica dropped a bomb on the design world (and that’s the last of the bomb jokes, I promise. Unless I come up with a really good one later). Yes, gentle readers, it was the third annual CA Boom, "the West Coast independent design show." We brought you a slide show last year, but this year we’ve gone all out and written actual words for you as well. Check our Flickr group for the photos.

The show was better this year, I think, than last year. For one thing, it was bigger. Even accounting for having to move last year’s outdoor exhibition spaces indoors, the show took up something like twice as much room in the auditorium. And there were two–count ’em, two!–bars, one of them only four steps from the Media Lounge. Also, there were Segways. No GOB Bluth, unfortunately, but lots of fun watching people crash into walls and then proclaim their ineptitude at driving a Segway. Like the crashing didn’t give it away.

Ah, the exhibitors, you ask? What about the exhibitors? The exhibitors were awesome. Some highlights:

Silent Revolution, by Andrea Toyias (very cool lady), makes bags for modern lifestyles. There are different models available, from hardcore tech gear to ladylike clutches, all designed with an almost electronic sensibility. And that’s not just a comment on how they look–they also have pockets for iPods, BlackBerries, just about any kind of handheld devices, and many of them have rubber headphone ports. Best of all, they’re all made in America, with sweatshop-free labor. One of the things we love best is when ethics and aesthetics converge.

Yglesias Woodwork had a really interesting selection of very thoughtful wooden furniture. My favorite was the Fancy table, which is made of lacquered wood–I thought it was some fantastic plastic. A lot of these pieces show a careful and fascinating concern for the various strengths and possibilities of wood.

Garo Hachigian of Garoform brought a line of gorgeous, angular furniture made of black walnut and polyurethane resin. The resin is solid but slightly flexible, so it makes perfectly functional surfaces that give at the corners if you need them to (it’s some the most child-friendly high-modernism-inspired furniture I’ve ever seen). The resin is also heat-resistant, which makes the tabletops even more useful.

The Dutch Consulate set up a booth showing off some of the best in Dutch design. We were particularly pleased to see a bright orange Senseo coffee machine (seriously, Dutch brand Douwe Egberts is the reason I drink coffee) and a special-edition Bugaboo stroller, from a program called Bugaboo By. This one is Bugaboo By Bas Kosters. And maybe it’s just that I haven’t had much reason to notice strollers before we picked up Bugaboo here on the site, but it seemed to me like suddenly every child was cruising in a fantastic Bugaboo stroller. They were all over, and it was great.

Modern Convenience, run by Didi Dunphy (that’s Didi in the middle back, with the reddish hair), makes playground furniture for adults. Didi says she was struck by how little free time adults often end up with. Her daughter’s in school, and she gets recess every day–why can’t grown-ups have that kind of break? The pieces are all sized for adults, but have a kind of graphic-arts fairy-tale quality to them that is really, really enchanting and fun. I don’t skateboard, and we’ve got stairs here at the apartment, but I’d love to have that yellow-striped board.

I also talked with Michelle Berlin, who–with her sister Dee Dee Ploog–makes the goods at Spin Mobiles. These are great modern-style decorations that make a super-easy way to spruce up your place. And I can’t even tell you how great they look when they start to spin.

John Caldwell (in the short-sleeved shirt) at the Artcoustic booth showed us how to turn speakers into art–really a nice solution for those of you who love your sound systems and the look of your home. Apparently they’ve got a deal with Getty Images, where they can put any photo from their archives on your speaker. You can even get your own images printed, as long as you’ve got a good electronic file and a matchprint for color. Great stuff, and the booth was awesome–loud, crowded, and exciting.

Last thing I want to point out about the show is the Fabprefab marketplace, which brought design fans and consumers face to face with prefab stars like Marmol Radziner Prefab and Michelle Kaufmann Designs. To judge by the crowds, it was a hugely popular part of the show. It’s encouraging to see so many people interested in modern prefab, if for no other reason than that it means they’re looking at their options, considering new ways of living.

So CA Boom 3 was, to my eye, very successful. I didn’t get to go on any home tours, but I got to see a lot of great, new, exciting (see how many times I’ve used that word?) design, and meet some wonderful folks with really interesting ideas about the future of modern design–folks who are actually steering it in the direction they think it should go. If the show organizers keep going on the track they’re on, the West Coast will finally have the major design show it so richly deserves.

[photos by Eric Anderson, Anderson Creative Photography]

(In the interest of full disclosure and honesty to our readers, I should mention that I didn’t get a chance to measure the actual explosive force of the design at the show. But I’m sure it was a lot. And Santa Monica’s public art agreed with me prospectively in 1991: this here is the actual permanent sculpture on the lawn outside the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, where the show was. [Okay, that’s the last of the bomb jokes.])

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  1. Sue says:

    April 5th, 2006 at 6:49 pm (#)

    Wonderful site. Very informative. Pictures are awesome and the write-up is terrific !! Didn’t get to go, but you made me feel like I was there. Great job !! Great stuff !!

  2. Todd patterson says:

    April 7th, 2006 at 12:38 pm (#)

    I attended the event. It cost me $50 total to attend the opening night event. $40 for the admission ticket and $8.00 to park my car. I also tipped the bartender $2.00 for a drink.

    I was at the show for less than an hour. It wasn’t that great. Most of the products featured were in poor taste and not that interesting. I have attended better shows in the past.

    On the weekend, they were offering tours of homes for $75.00 a day. Instead, I went shopping and bought some nice accesories and furniture for my home.

    If your firm is paying your way – then this is worthwhile – otherwise – the ca|boom is a bomb and a total waste of money and time.

    Ask any of the local shop owners in LA about the show. They’ll all say the same thing…

    Furthermore, the show itself was in a tiny civic center in Santa Monica. A real show would be at the LA Convention center.

    If you’re serious about furniture – go to the IFCC show or the big show in Milano. This show is a hack.

    +Todd

  3. Becky says:

    July 31st, 2007 at 7:29 am (#)

    Todd, do you mean ICFF? We never miss it. Wish we could get to Milan!

    Becky

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