Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why are liberals so romantic about small business?

There is a protest today in Los Angeles against the construction of a new Wal-mart in Chinatown.  The store would be part of a mixed use development near a transit station on a lot that has sat vacant for some time.

I am no fan of Wal-mart.  Among other things, I wish that those who attempt to bring a class action suit against Wal-mart pay discrimination had prevailed in the Supreme Court case of Wal-mart vs Dukes.   Nevertheless, it also concerns me that Los Angeles has had essentially no job growth in two decades, and that urban redevelopment is very difficult to do here.  According to the leading scholar on the economics of Wal-mart, Emek Besker, Wal-mart creates more jobs than it destroys (BTW, I don't think Emek is a particular fan of Wal-mart either).  It also allows households to buy goods at low prices. On balance, I think the construction of the Wal-mart in Chinatown will be good for that particular neighborhood and the city.

One of the arguments advanced against Wal-mart is that it hurts small business.  I particularly hear this from fellow liberals, who love to extol the virtue of small business.  Yet, according to Kelly Edminston at the KC Fed, job quality is much worse at small business than large firms. The average wage at a small firm (< 100 workers)was $15.69 an hour in 2004; for large firms (>500 workers) it was $27.05. Moreover, small businesses paid 1/4 of their labor force less than $8 per hour; for large businesses it was 3 percent of their labor force.

Meanwhile, no one lobbies harder against the minimum wage than small business trade associations. The National Federation of Independent Business was also the lead plaintiff against the Affordable Care Act.  So to those liberals who extol small business: what's the deal?

Shoko - Rue de Turenne - Paris

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    Shoko - Etudiante en Philosophie à la Sorbonne
    Rue de Turenne - Paris
    Photo by Easy Fashion Fred

Friday, June 29, 2012

How life has gotten better

I am in the middle of editing a paper that is due to a funder on Monday. 

I am also thinking about how miserable it was back when cutting and pasting literally meant cutting and pasting.

Hat Trick Girl - FW - Paris

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    Hat Trick - FW - Paris
    Photo by easy Fashion Farid


At LW Show - FW - Paris

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    At LW Show - FW - Paris
    Photo by Easy fashion Fred

Simon - at Rick Owens - Paris

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    Simon Nygard - Model and Jewels Designer
    at Rick Owens Show
    Photo by Easy Fashion Fred

Shinsuke - FW - Paris

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    Shinsuke - Art Director - LVuitton - Fashion Week - Paris
    Check Shinsuke Web Site "here"
    Photo by Easy Fashion Fred

Nathalie - Rue Tiquetonne - Paris

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    Nathalie - Rue Tiquetonne - Paris 
    Student in Communication School
    Jacket by Zara
    Silk Shirt by Thierry Armand
    Jeans by Bershka
    Shoes by Minelli
    Scarf Belt by Zadig et Voltaire
    Bag by Best Mountain
    Photos by Easy Fashion Fred
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Pierre - Passage du Grand Cerf - Paris

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    Pierre - Passage du Grand Cerf - Paris
    Furniture 1960 design Gallerist
    Jacket and Pants vintage 70's customised
    Shoes by Church
    Bow Tie by Diesel
    Silk Scarf and Shirt no data
    Socks by Burlington
    Photos by Easy Fashion Fred
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Spring Summer 2013 - FW - Paris

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    Fashion Week Spring Summer 2013 - Vuitton - Paris
    Photo by Easy Fashion Fred

Thursday, June 28, 2012

New Study: Is a Calorie a Calorie?

A new study in JAMA led by Dr. Cara B. Ebbeling and colleagues purports to challenge the idea that all calories are equally fattening (1).  Let's have a look.  When thinking about the role of calorie intake in body fatness, there are basically three camps:

1.    Calories don’t matter at all, only diet composition matters.
2.    Calories are the only thing that matters, and diet composition is irrelevant.
3.    Calories matter, but diet composition may also play a role.

The first one is an odd position that is not very well populated.  The second one has a lot of adherents in the research world, and there’s enough evidence to make a good case for it.  It’s represented by the phrase ‘a calorie is a calorie’, i.e. all calories are equally fattening.  #1 and #2 are both extreme positions, and as such they get a lot of attention.  But the third group, although less vocal, may be closest to the truth. 
Read more »

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm Shopping for... Spool Chairs

When I shared sneak peeks of a client's project about a month or so ago,  I received a few emails asking about the spool chairs.

{Spool Chair in my client's home...  Custom LL Textiles "Squircles" in fresh blue & oatmeal}

I loooove spool chairs.  They're deceivingly comfortable and just have this relaxed & carefree vibe.  You'd never see them in a stuffy room.  My clients grew up together in the Northeast and we wanted to bring that feeling of "home" into their new house, which is here in the DC area, so I proposed a pair of spool chairs.  I was thrilled when my client loved the chairs too & we decided on one of my fabrics printed on an oatmeal-colored groundcloth. 

Spool or "bobbin" chairs, also called "Carver chairs were named after John Carver (c. 1576–1621), founder and first governor of the Plymouth colony in America. A chair of this design, reportedly owned by the governor, was displayed in Plymouth, Mass., in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."(source-  ...Which explains why we they have that Northeastern / coastal vibe :)
We looked at a lot of different options before presenting two options (a lower end option and a higher end option) to our clients...

We ended up going with Vanguard's spool chair, shown here in white:

..And here in a dark stain:

{Vanguard Furniture}

...But I did fall in love with some others during our search:

{Hickory Chair}

It has box cushions so it's a bit more structured-looking.  It also has casters like the version we selected.


{Noir Furniture...  this was our other option, available in black.}

I saw this one, below, a couple of Markets ago, and it felt very rustic with their fabric selections & showroom design:

It's by the Penisula Home Collection Company & here it is in white:

I sat in it & while comfy, I have to say, the spool chairs with the arm cushions are much more comfortable.  I would use if it were a spot for shorter sits, vs. comfy, cozy long ones.

Here's a beautfy by Motif Designs:

..And I loooove the little cushion detail in this one by Julian Chichester:

...Anyway, as you can see, they're available at a number or pricepoints & there are so many to choose from.  (If you google it, you'll see even more options.)  

If I ever have a lakehouse, I'd love one or two of these for their laid-back days-gone-by feeling...

Where would you put yours?

xoxo, Lauren

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Also---  I need a HUGE favor for a friend of mine, Elise, who recently opened the Design Center of NOVA.  She is applying to win a business grant and needs 250 votes by Friday in order to be considered.  If you have a spare moment, please vote here!!

Just enter in "Design Center of NOVA" to vote!! THANK YOU!!

Germany leaves the Euro?

The idea, crazy as it sounds, makes a lot of sense. The current hope -- in discussion today in Brussels -- is to consider ways for some central European finance minister to exert veto power over national budgets. That sounds to me like a recipe for disaster and ultimately real vicious conflict between European nations. Do we really want to experiment with that? As an alternative, consider a unilateral German exit from the Euro:
A better, bolder and, until now, almost inconceivable solution is for Germany to reintroduce the mark, which would cause the euro to immediately decline in value. Such a devaluation would give troubled economies, especially those of Greece, Italy and Spain, the financial flexibility they need to stabilize themselves.

Although repeated currency devaluations are not the path to prosperity, a weaker euro would give a boost in competitiveness to all members of the monetary union, including France and the Netherlands, which is why they might very well choose to remain in it even if Germany were to gradually leave. A resurgence of manufacturing would also allow the vast unemployment rolls of Spain, Portugal, Greece and other countries to begin to decline. The tremendous loss of human capital and human dignity we are witnessing would ease.

Reintroducing the mark would not solve the debt burdens of southern European countries, but it would give them needed breathing room to restructure their economies, reform labor markets, collect more taxes and reassure investors. The ability of the southern European countries to service their sovereign debt would immediately improve, helping to end the slow-burning debt and banking crises that have engulfed the Continent since 2008.
Read the whole proposal here. Sadly I suspect this is a little too bold and creative to actually be considered seriously. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

What Puts Fat Into Fat Cells, and What Takes it Out?

Body fatness at its most basic level is determined by the rate of fat going into vs. out of fat cells. This in/out cycle occurs regardless of conditions outside the cell, but the balance between in and out is influenced by a variety of external factors.  One of the arguments that has been made in the popular media about obesity goes something like this:  

A number of factors can promote the release of fat from fat cells, including:
Epinephrine, norepinephrine, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), glucagon, thyroid-stimulating hormone, melanocyte-stimulating hormone, vasopressin, and growth hormone
 But only two promote fat storage:
Insulin, and acylation-stimulating protein (ASP)*
Therefore if we want to understand body fat accumulation, we should focus on the latter category, because that's what puts fat inside fat cells.  Simple, right?

Can you spot the logical error in this argument?

Read more »

Downtown Los Angeles' population is growing at a rapid clip, but.... is still is a small fraction of the city, let alone the metropolitan area.  According to the census, zip codes 90012, 90013, 90014, 90015, 90017, 90021 and 90071 grew between 2000 and 2010 from 82,000 to 97,000, a gain of 18 percent.  This compares with a gain of less than three percent for the city.

Nevertheless, the residential share of downtown remains only 2.6 percent.

Laurence Ball provides an explanation for why Ben Bernanke is pursuing (non)policies that disappoint Ryan Avent

Ryan Avent writes:

Fed members claim to care equally about the employment and inflation sides of their mandate, yet the unemployment rate has been at least 2 percentage points above the FOMC's estimated natural unemployment rate for nearly 4 straight years while inflation has scarcely wandered more than a half percentage point away from target since late 2009. Fed members claim that the 2% target is not a ceiling, but inflation has been below 2% much more often than it has been above it over the past 4 years, inflation is projected to be at most 2% in 2013 and 2014, and inflation is projected to be substantiallybelow 2% in 2012. In other words, the Fed is actively pursuing a policy of disinflation despite the fact that annual inflation is roughly at target while unemployment is well above its structural rate. That is, the Fed has gone from merely failing at its job toaggressively failing at its job.
Second, it is difficult to pin blame for this on anyone other than Chairman Ben Bernanke. The June policy vote ran 11-1, suggesting that Mr Bernanke is not getting the most expansionary policy for which he can find a majority. One is forced to conclude that this is the policy, and by extension the recovery, that Mr Bernanke wants.
All of this is particularly discouraging given that Bernanke's own magnificent scholarly work calls for the Fed to be more aggressive at the zero-bound, if necessary.  Lawrence Ball perhaps has some insights into what is going on:

"There is no doubt that Ben Bernanke's views on zero-bound policy have changed over time.  Once, he called for targets for long-term interest rates a "policy I personally prefer"; later, he "agreed 100%" with opposition to that policy.  Bernanke once advocated a 3-4% inflation target for Japan; as Fed chair, he says "that's not a direction we're interested in pursuing."...he no longer argues that a central bank can easily overcome the zero-bound problem "if the will to do so exists." 
At one level, the primary reason for these changes is also clear: Bernanke was influenced by the work of the Fed staff... 
...The puzzle about this history is why Bernanke so quickly and completely dropped his previous views and adopted those of Fed Staff.  We cannot be sure, but social psychology suggests two possible factors: groupthink and Bernanke's shy personality."
I am a big fan of Bernanke's scholarly work, and as a result was thrilled when he was appointed Fed Chair.  My understanding, however, is that he hasn't a whiff of arrogance about him, a characteristic that makes him a wonderful scholar and, from all I can tell, a wonderful human being.  But Chairman Bernanke really is the smartest guy in the room, and it would be nice if he remembered that. If the views he (along with Mark Gertler) developed over many years informed monetary policy, we would all be better off.

London Calling - FW - Paris

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    London Calling - FW - Paris
    Photo by Easy Fashion Farid

Elena Perminova - FW - Paris

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    Elena Perminova - FW - Paris
    Photo by Easy Fashion Farid

Julie - Rue Tiquetonne - Paris

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    Julie - Law Student
    Jeans by NAF-NAF
    All the rest from USA
    Bag by Gil Holsters
    Shoes no idea
    Sunnies by RayBan

    Photos by Easy Fashion Fred

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Pink Vika - FW - Paris

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    Pink Vika - FW - Paris
    Photo by Easy Fashion Farid

Gaëlle - Rue Tiquetonne - Paris

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    Gaëlle - Rue Tiquetonne - Paris
    Couturière - check her blog at Sweet.Ko
    Perfecto by La Halle
    Tunique by Voodoo
    Tights from Shop at Châtelet
    Vintage shoes
    Jewels from Burkina Faso

    Photo by Easy Fashion Fred

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Arnaud - Rue Tiquetonne - Paris

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   Arnaud - Rue Tiquetonne - Paris
   Assistant at "CITIZEN K" Magazine
   Jacket by BALENCIAGA
   Pants by YSL
   Shoes no idea
   T-Shirt don't know
   Sunnies by GUCCI

    Photo by Easy Fashion Fred hebergeur image

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A thought for Amazon

If you buy a real book, you get the Kindle version for a nominal cost beyond the real book. This would encourage people to continue to buy real books, while at the same time allowing people not to lug them around while travelling. Given that the marginal cost of an e-book is near zero, this should be a profitable strategy. The margin on the real book remains, and a small margin is added for the e-book.  The bundling should encourage more sales.  The losses are from those who currently buy both versions, but I am guessing such buyers are small in number.

No charge, Jeff Bezos. And you're welcome. [Update: my friend Frank Yellin tells me this idea is often expressed in Kindle forums.]

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The frustration of following "affordable housing" policy in California

The United States is sufficiently rich that all people should have decent housing they can afford.  Decent means sanitary, safe, and, if not spacious, not overcrowded either.  This housing should be available such that when households pay for it, they have money left over for other things, like food and education.

In Los Angeles, this is not the case.  Absent housing assistance, a renter at the 25th percentile of the income distribution must pay more than 45 percent of income in order to rent a unit at the 25th percentile of the rent distribution.

The vast majority of those eligible for housing assistance do not get it, because housing is not an entitlement, and budgets for housing assistance are, in the overall scheme of things, small.

Yet we can do far better in Los Angeles than we do.  For starters, even though we are the second largest and second densest metropolitan area in the United States, the impediments to building dense housing here are enormous.  I just judged a case competition for our RMPIRE executive program here at USC, and was impressed at the creativity of a team that wanted to use a particular lot's floor area ratio allowance of 6 to build densely packed units on a site no more than one mile from downtown Los Angeles.  The residential use would require a zoning change, however, and many judges felt that getting such zoning approved would be next to impossible.  It depresses me to say so, but I happen to agree with them.

But there is another problem as well.  While I have little doubt that allowing denser housing would lower rents in LA, it still wouldn't solve the problem--there would still be a "gap" between the present value of rents lower income households could afford to pay and the cost of building units.  This gap would need to be filled by government financing.

And so we come to the next problem--when we build "affordable housing" here, we do so in a remarkably inefficient fashion.  Government financing rarely comes from a single source, but rather comes in layers of financing from various local, state, and federal agencies.  Each slice of financing involves fees that go to consultants who arrange for the financing.  All of this adds to the amount of time and expense that are required to get financing, which ultimately pushes up the cost of bringing a project to market.  At the same time, communities require "affordable" units to have design amenities and, worse, covered parking.  This can drive the cost of production of an affordable unit to $400,000 and more.

Meanwhile, the median sales price of a house in Los Angeles County is $287,000.  See the problem here?  To provide "affordable housing," it would actually be cheaper to purchase the median priced home (hardly a bad house) than it would be to build something new.  But of course, there are many people who gain when $400,000 is spent to bring an affordable unit to market--just not taxpayers or low income users of houses.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A New Addition to our Team

I am SO EXCITED to announce that my husband David (or Dave/ Dav) is coming to work for our design business!!  Today's his first day at Lauren Liess Interiors (which I now feel like I should have named "Liess Interiors")  and we are seriously giddy.  (Or at least I am.)

{I also just found out about Instagram pictures and am addicted.  Thanks Eddie!}

He'll be managing the implementation phase of our clients' projects / timelines etc., handling the accounting and working on product development (you know, all the fun stuff ;) ;)   For a while now, we've enjoyed going to Market together & meeting & making friends with others in the design industry, but now we'll be really freed up (schedule-wise) to travel when we need to & to get more accomplished.

Our goal is to not only have our business running smoother than ever before, but to free me up a bit more to spend more time with clients, more time designing (vs. paperworking & coordinating) and more time working on the fabric line. We've also been reading your emails about our online decorating services and are planning on bringing them back as soon as I get a bit more adjusted to the new baby/ being back at work/ etc.  (I'll be sure to post as soon as the service is available...  and thank you so much to those of you who've shown an interest!!) 

{The living room of a very stylish long-distance client of ours, Anne.  Her home was featured by Jenny on the Little Green Notebook .  Anne took with the suggestions I gave her and seriously ran with them to create a gorgeous very personal home for her family.  She's one talented mama!!!  Photo by Amy Majors Photography.)

Bringing Dave into the company is a HUGE change for our family & for our business.  I'm both nervous & excited.  It's always been a dream of ours to work together.  (We're sort of one of those annoying couples that likes to spend a ton of time together & never gets sick of being together...  But we aren't PDA-ish, I swear!!!)  It's a big step & we're hoping & praying that it works out.  (And will be working like crazy so that it does.) 

I know Dave will miss working at the highschool (where he was teaching English & was the English Department Chair) and  I've been so proud of him & all that he's accomplished there.  I hope that he loves this as much as that.

okay.. Did I say I was excited already?!!!!!  Because I am TOTALLY FREAKING OUT I'm so excited-  eeeeeek!!!  :)  
(That's me squeeling...  and yes, I really do say "eeeeeek")

So anyway, things will be changing a bit around here, but definitely for the better!!  Keep your fingers crossed for us!!

xoxo, Lauren

To view our e-design client, Anne's whole home tour, visit Little Green Notebook, here!  Thank you so much to Jenny & Anne!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.  We are booking for early August for traditional (in-person) full-service projects.

Bromley Pageant of Motoring 2012 Report

Bromley Pagent of motoring is a huge static car show held in the south of London. A huge range of vehicles turn up every year. More information on the show can be found here:

I had a great time sketching and looking at the amazing range of cars in attendance, here are the sketches and photos from the day.

1930 Le Salle, Model 328
(digitally painted ink sketch)

Only 1500 of these were produced in 1930 by Le Salle, the high end division of Cadillac. For a 1930 car this was the height of luxury with an electric self starter that was reliable, along with a synchromesh gearbox. With a flat head 4.6 litre V8 engine and a turning circle of 20 feet this truly is an American car. This restoration is immaculate with an incredible paint job. It is for sale for £42,000 ONO (contact

 This mascot caught a lot of cameras lenses over the day.

1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer
(digitally painted ink sketch)

Fantastically low and long this was my first challenge of the day. I always enjoy drawing these incredible american cars, lots of chrome and a real challenge to fit on the page.

I think the back is about the same length as the front!
 The Chrome continues on the inside with this impressive dash.

1960 Messerschmitt KR200
(digitally painted ink sketch)

After 2 large american cars I thought I'd balance out the day with this classic Messerschmitt. Made of course by the famous aeroplane manufacturer, it has elements of aeroplane design giving it some very nice curves, and great all round visibility provided by the cockpit.

Heinkel, Kabine / Trojan 200

Heinkel was a leading aeroplane manufacturer before WW2, after which they were banned from making planes. They went on to produce a scooter, followed by the Kabine or Cabin Scooter. Croydon's Trojan company took over manufacture in the 50s and 60s.

I was encouraged to come and have a look at the rear view of this Heinkel, so I braved the patriotic bunting and I'm glad I did.

To complete the trio of red bubble cars on display was this lovely Isetta.
I love the bumper configuration on this car.


Ford V8 Tipper

International Truck

Airborne motorised Caravan & Thames 15 CWT


Wolseley in Army paint with its enthusiast owner (sorry forgot your name)

A very Smart Austin Van

Another Austin with American inspired chrome work.

 Armstrong Siddeley


1965 Chevrolet pick up 
Torino Squire

Ford Model T
(I think the owner was a bit tired after the journey)

1966 Pontiac White Cloud

Buick Silver Lady


 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis
22.5 feet of pure american luxury, powered by a 6.6 litre V8. I love the covers over the headlights.

1930 Buick Master

6 Cylinder Over Head Valve.


 Sun Trials, with Villiers engine.

1929 Alcyon A2 Touriste, 175cc