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Soicher-Marin and the world of Possibility…

July 28, 2009

Jennifer Balest, Ed Marin, Laurie March, and Tracy Hiner spend the day talking artFew feelings are as satisfying as seeing something beautiful in a full range of options. I’ll admit I felt this way for the first time in my life upon being given a 64 color box of Crayola crayons, and I can remember the shape of the carton, the way the crayons smelled, and my frank concern in getting all the crayons to stay in their original places.

Over time, I’ve felt that same feeling, in an American Apparel store, seeing a full range of T-shirt colors, with a set of samples from Ceasarstone, a rainbow pack of Sharpie markers, and most recently, with a fan deck of Farrow & Ball paint colors (yum).

What I think I am really responding to in each of these situations is the wide world of Possibility. Beautiful options stretched out before me, simply awaiting my whim to decide what direction I will venture in next…

I felt that same punch of adrenaline and the whirring wheels of my brain about halfway into my lovely visit with the gang at Soicher-Marin. Dirty little secret of interior designers large and small, Soicher-Marin makes designers look impossibly cultured, smart, and well-sourced. Similar to my company, Soicher-Marin has so many diverse abilities and resources, it takes a few minutes for the scope of their possibility to settle into your head. During a lengthy tour of their massive showroom and  factory, I tried to think of something to stump them with. Every request that I fired off was met with a smile and a story of the wonderful path they take to accomplish just about everything relating to art. Shesh!

CEO Ed Marin, is the personable, friendly and incredibly knowledgeable Captain of the SM ship. Yes, they woo you with coffee, chocolate bagels (Tracy!) and easy conversation, but I immediately felt at home talking with Ed about his team and what they can do for interior designers across the world. And it’s a lot…

Ed, Jennifer, and Tracy agreed to let me ask them some hard hitting questions while I guzzled their coffee. Here are some of my favorite parts of our energetic morning:

@EvangelistaLA: What role does a frame play in custom artwork?

@MarinCeo: Framing exists to let the art tell its’ story. It’s like a little black dress on a woman- sure it has to fit right, but its’ job is to show a woman in her best light, to frame her. In framing, less is actually harder to do than more.

@EvangelistaLA: What is your view of the future of art? (heavy, I know…)

@MarinCeo: There is a shakeout happening in the industry. Success means being more customer-minded. You can’t force feed junk into the market anymore, people want quality work at a good value. Value is the key, and you really have to do your due diligence to determine what kind of artwork you want. The consumer has to know going into it, if they are looking for a piece that they will outgrow in three years, or if they want something meaningful that their kids are going to fight over after they are gone.”

@EvangelistaLA: I know just what you mean. In my family we have a running joke about writing our names on the back of things we want when someone dies. It’s a little morbid, but we laugh hysterically over it, and who has scratched someone else’s name out, or beaten you to it. Speaking of family- your team here at Soicher Marin seems like a very tight knit crew. What does that feel like, knowing you fostered that?

@MarinCeo: It’s really gratifying. We all worked together recently on a project  that required everyone to collaborate and problem solve together. We created a collection of oversized canvasses that required custom stretchers to accommodate the really long span of walls in the building. Watching people I’ve trained for 14 years work together on a project like this is like being a proud parent of kids who are getting along in public.

@EvangelistaLA: I love that! Now that I’ve got you feeling all warm and reminiscent, I’m going to see if I can’t catch you off guard. Tell me a secret!

@MarinCeo: Hmmm…..(At this point, Ed seems to be sorting through several thoughts in his head, and several fascinating accompanying facial expressions) Want to know a good one?  I’m actually an introvert. I’m generally an anti-social person. I’ve found being on Twitter to be very cathartic, and enjoy the relationships that have grown there.

@EvangelistaLA: Uhm…. After spending the morning with you, I just don’t know if I believe that! I follow you on Twitter, too, and find you to be very friendly. What gives?

@MarinCeo: I promised my wife and staff that I’d learn how to be charming this year. We’ve also grown quite a bit in the past years- with over 30 people here, I’m really enjoying learning more about our team.

@EvangelistaLA: Ok… now I’m going to bug the Art girls. Tracy and Jennifer- what have been your favorite pieces lately?

@TracyHiner: I loved working on the big wallpapers…( I think a lot of people don’t understand the full range of possibilities when creating a custom wallpaper. You really can do ANYTHING and I love to try to push the boundaries of what can be done with fabric and wallpaper. I get excited just thinking about it!

@JenniferBalest: Definitely the collection for the Spa at the L’Auberge Del Mar Hotel. ( Working on that project we found a wonderful photographer and not only did we use her work there, we added her to our line this last season. It’s great when that kind of stuff happens!

@EvangelistaLA: Being a little excited about Twitter and social media myself, what does the online community mean to you guys?

@TracyHiner: Posting online is a wonderful way to explain all of your ideas, and to test things that you have on your mind. I get excited about new ideas, so having somewhere to share that is great. I also love seeing what other people are up to and what is inspiring them.

@JenniferBalest: It’s wonderful to show we can be anywhere and find anything.

@EvangelistaLA: After seeing some of the wide range of art in production today, I can believe that! One last good question. Where do you get your inspiration from?

@TracyHiner: I love listening to Requiem for a Dream soundtrack. Dark? Yes, but it always works and keeps me focused when I need to finish things. I also adore Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I can’t believe you’ve never seen it!

@EvangelistaLA: I’m putting it on my Netflix after I leave you…

@JenniferBalest: My best inspiration comes from the 405. Seriously. I’ve got more Post It notes on my dashboard with ideas I’ve gotten sitting in traffic… Thank goodness Tracy can translate it all. Oh, and you have to get the extra sticky kind so that they don’t fall off!

@EvangelistaLA: (laughing) I always trust hanging tips from an art gallery!

I loved spending time at Soicher-Marin, and know I’ll be using their deep collections of artwork for my clients.


Earthquake! Threats to Your Home, Safety, and your Biggest Investment

June 1, 2009

Living in Southern California has many incredible lifestyle perks. The weather, creative people, and a steady stream of new things to see and do surely top my list.  Unfortunately, as with most things, these are balanced out by earthquakes, fires, and in many places, a higher crime rate. As a recent victim of a break in at my home, I can attest to this.

With all the things going on in our lives, how can you truly protect your home on a daily basis from the darker side of life? I highly recommend all of my clients take steps like activating an alarm system on their doors and windows.  This is a major deterrent for most burglars- a blaring alarm or a barking dog can scare off all but the most determined. But what if the danger is more insidious? This week we will examine some of the worst threats to your home, your family’s safety, and your biggest investment.


Getting your home ready for an earthquake involves some effort. Recent rumblings have reminded me that it’s a sure thing to experience an earthquake if you live in Los Angeles. There are ways to be prepared for “the big one.” Find a corner or a closet in your home and begin to prep the most important elements of a survival kit, including a gallon of water, per family member, per day.  This is incredibly important!

Emergency organizations remind us that our water line from the tap could be contaminated from ruptured sewer lines, and undrinkable in the aftermath of an earthquake.  A two week supply is a great start.  You can use normal bottled water containers from the grocery store, but they tend to leak, so camping gear water containers are suggested for their size and true storage capacity.

Other important things to prepare include items for avoiding infection. A good First Aid kit, medicines, handy-wipes, and personal care items like shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, tampons, and toothpaste will go very far in the event of a serious disaster, and could mean the difference between your family surviving comfortably in rough conditions long enough to get medical attention. Also consider prepping a small toolkit and clothing for everyone in the family, as well as blankets, diapers, glasses, and anything necessary to life for children and elderly family members.

For homes built before 1935, making sure the house has been properly bolted will protect your investment through shaky times. This is a job for a contractor. Securing large furniture, artwork, and water heaters to the walls can keep things from falling on you.  Another thing that may save your life is learning how to shut off your gas valve, water line, and electricity in case the lines are damaged.  We can help with all of this!

During an earthquake, remember to move as quickly as possible to interior walls and doorways, protecting your head and avoiding glass windows.  If you have more than one child, consider making a plan regarding which parent will secure which children if possible to avoid confusion.

In the aftermath of an earthquake of some magnitude, you should be prepared for aftershocks.  Immediately check to see if anyone is injured and might need first aid.  For your safety, you should also check on your gas appliances, water lines, and electrical lines.  This is where it really helps to know where your shut off valves are! Shut off anything that might have a leak and DO NOT use matches, or appliances with electrical switches, or light a cigarette until you have been cleared by the gas company or emergency services to do so.  Stay away from damaged buildings and broken glass. Knowing the closest fire, police, and medical assistance locations could save your life!

This is a good time to check on your pets, neighbors, and anyone in your near vicinity.  Experts warn against using your phone for anything but emergency calls at this point. Select a family member out of town for everyone to contact, because long distance phone services are often the first to be returned to working order.  Get to know your neighbors, and consider sharing equipment like backup generators and large tents in case of long term emergency.  Who knows… one might be a doctor or a nurse!

The first 72 hours after an earthquake of magnitude are the most critical. Things you assume are readily available and safe for use may be compromised! Spend a few hours preparing your home and family for the worst, and you will weather the storm in better condition than most.

We work with our clients to safeguard their homes against damage in case of emergency, and educate them about some of the most confusing and obscure systems in their house.  Do you know where YOUR gas shut off valve is? Sprinkler shut off? Give us a call and we can empower you to properly protect your domain.

A wonderful resource for more information is this site:

LA Fire Department Earthquake Preparedness Handbook:

Southern California Earthquake Data Center:

Repair, and Remodeling Fun with Kids

May 15, 2009
Tools of the trade...         

Today’s post is inspired by my good friend Stephen, founder of Today Is Fun, a wonderfully idea-filled and witty site offering parents free daily adventures and tips making every day fun! Approaching a change in your life like a home remodel or update can be an interesting process for adults-imagine the excitement your child might have about a project in your home! Here are some fun ideas for involving your kids in your home improvement projects care of

Process, Please!

But, Why? How many times a day do you hear this question? Give your kids a detailed, interesting answer. Explain the process, from meeting a contractor, to picking materials and colors, to having someone working in your home. 

Tell your children why it’s time to make an update or repair and they will feel more comfortable with the coming change.  Parents could have fun “hiring” their kids to find things that might be broken around the house! 

Decision making-The Right Tool for the Job.

What a great opportunity to talk about using the right tool for a given job! For instance, if you need to hang a picture, then you need to first put a nail into the wall. Really, only one tool in the toolbox will work for this chore. It’s not the hacksaw, it’s not the screwdriver, it’s not the tape measure. It’s the hammer!

But if you need to open the battery compartment on a toy robot, the hammer is definitely not the tool to use! There’s one right tool for that job, too . . . Sometimes, more than one tool will work (for instance, one could sometimes use a drill or a screwdriver), but you still have to choose the right one.

Kids obviously need to make a decision as to the right tool to use for the job..

Kids playing with grown up tools.

If kids have toy tools, then they can bring their tools along as Mom or Dad makes minor repairs in the house.  Kids and parents can compare kid tools with grown-up tools.  How are they different?  How are they the same?

Also, of course, kids can play with tools and pretend to fix things.  These “things” in question could be a cardboard box, a chair, or any sturdy household item.  Parents could choose to talk about real steps with kids, such as, “Okay, you’ve got your tools and you’re going to hang a picture.  What’s the first thing you need to do?  What’s the first tool you need to use?”

Finally, kids can sometimes, occasionally handle real, grown-up tools.  The boys over at love to play with the family’s level — watching the bubbles move in the little, see-through tubes.  Stephen’s five-year-old can pretty much use a level, too, much to my absolute delight!

Thanks to for kid-friendly remodeling fun!




Realtors: Ten Renovations to Do Before your Clients Move In

May 8, 2009

A space in Carpenteria

One of the joys of my job is working with Realtors and their clients at the time of a home purchase.  Before the sale is complete we offer ideas, advice, and throw scads of creativity and problem solving at the spaces they are considering for their new home.  This can be an incredible help to homeowners who want to buy a house, but are overwhelmed at the idea of working on it, in conjunction with a life change like moving.
Leveraging the time it takes to close escrow, we complete a dream house list– everything my clients would add, change, or update about the property.   Given time (often as little as a week or up to a month) we can make incredible things happen!
Here are my top ten Rapid Renovations that can quickly change how your clients feel about their new home:
1. Refinish Floors– This is important! Trying to refinish floors after moving into a home is messy, costly, and uber-disruptive.  If  floors are in good condition but you are not fond of the stain color, do it before a move!  In most cases, this takes less than a week, and the results will be enjoyed for years to come.
2. Go Tankless Updating a home with a tankless hot water heater can seriously help your morning routine. Tankless water heaters never run out of hot water, and heat (instantly) only what you need.  They can save an average of 60% of water heating costs.  Replacing an aging hot water heater before you have a problem with it can also save you the sorrow and cost of cleanup after a leak.
3. Skim Coat Textured Walls Have ‘accoustic’ walls that scream a bygone era? If there are cracks and textures you don’t like on the walls of a home, skim coating the walls can provide a smooth, new surface for your coat of paint. It’s a big update on a home that has great bones but is showing its’ age- and very messy -this job is only for before you move in.
4. Paint Interior Walls Adding a coat of paint to a home allows homeowners to personalize their space. It can also cover up holes in walls created by art hung by previous owners, and permanently hides the bad color choices of owners past. Disco orange? Avocado green? Hot pink master bedroom? We’ve seen them all… Low and No VOC paints help you avoid the “Paint Headache” upon move in.
5. Change Hardware, Plumbing and Light Fixtures Changing out hardware on cabinetry can completely alter the feeling of a room. Overly stylized knobs and pulls may have suited the previous owner, but this simple update can make a room feel fresh and new. Dated and aging plumbing and light fixtures can be an easy way to make your mark on a home.  I’ve had clients change out toilets so that they were the only people to …err… grace their bathroom.  A licensed plumber and electrician are your friend!
6. Beef Up Crown and Base Moulding Crown and base moulding is like killer shoes and a matching handbag for your room. Skinny little base moulding gives a feeling of a lack of substance to your space.  Adding a thick crown or base moulding can dramatically improve the wow factor in any room. With teeny little painted crown mouldings, and some square base mouldings,  you can often add new ones right over them- less mess.  Viola!
7. Have Closets and Pantry Updated Giving everything a home in your closets? Priceless! Older closets, with a simple bar and shelf, just don’t cut it for the way we live. Closet companies can work wonders to house all of your clothing, clutter, and kitchen goods.  With the right designer, you can often work into their schedule for a fast install. Relationships, people…
8. Wire the House for AV, Security, Sound– While you’ve got painters handy to patch any holes created by your AV guy, it’s a great time to consider the locations of any TV’s, phone jacks, in-wall speaker systems, and security touch pads.  This saves you time and grime after you’ve moved in.
9. Vacuum Vents After several of the above renovations, including skim coating, and floor refinishing, you should seriously consider doing a vent vacuum. The dust that collects inside even well taped vents can stay there for months. Anyone with allergies or dust sensitivity can breathe a little easier with a fast HEPA vacuum on their ductwork.
10. Perform a True Construction Cleaning In conjunction with number 9 above, a true post-construction cleaning job is a must. This should include things like removing stickers from new windows, cleaning out all window sills, baseboards, and door thresholds, extensive bathroom, kitchen, and appliance cleanup, and cleaning out vent covers and washer/dryer.  Every surface can carry stubborn specks of dust that will plague you for months to come.  This is worth every penny!
Have a favorite remodel to add to the list? Please comment below, I’d love to hear from you. Want to do any of these ten renovations on your home? Give me a call!

True Confession: First one is the hardest…

April 20, 2009


Completely awesome designed notebook

Completely awesome designed notebook

So I figure the first blog post is the hardest. I’ve been thinking about blogging, talking about blogging, getting ready to write, setting things up… all in the hopes that something interesting will come of it. 


Hello!  I’m Laurie March.  I am a project manager, interior designer, problem solver for the home.  Working with homeowners, renters, and realtors, I am an organizer of projects, notebooks, rooms, life. Woohoo!

So I figure starting your blog with a good confession is just about right.

Here goes: I am obsessed with office supplies.  Binders. Clipboards. Clear plastic sheet covers. Rainbow colored dividers…File folders!  don’t get me started on stickers and labels. Sharpie pens could be my undoing. I have every color…

 What does this have to do with project management, you ask? 

My client notebooks are second to none 🙂

Thanks for reading my fledgling thoughts. Say hi below if you don’t mind?