Boom heard ‘round L.A.

Times Staff Writer

Charles Trotter won’t go so far as to say his inspiration was a divine moment, although the words have somehow slipped into the details of his story. More like a kaboom, then? he’s asked. Exactly! How funny! Why hadn’t he thought of it that way?

Next week, Trotter will debut “CA Boom: A Festival of Contemporary Design” at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and it will be the first of its kind in L.A. -- a “reinvented trade show,” he says, an event “for everyone who has a passion for design” and a celebration of independent designers.

Here’s how it happened, more or less: Trotter, who spent 15 years as an events planner, was a consultant for last year’s Venice Art Walk. He wondered, as he was traipsing through the gardens, whether there had ever been a festival about landscaping. No, there hadn’t.


The next day, he walked in Santa Monica, browsed the windows of the modern interiors store Design Within Reach, came to Hennessey + Ingalls Arts + Architecture Books, stopped in, and went through 25 shelter magazines. He was astounded by all these home-oriented publications that existed. There was a revolution of some sort going on, an explosion of interest in design and the home

CA Boom! California Boom! All the pieces of the last two days came together -- festival, modern design, home -- so clearly, Trotter’s idea felt formed even before it began: He would bring architects, designers and landscapers to one place, in an accessible way for the public.

Before long, he realized something else: The independent design community in L.A. was being underserved, a puzzling phenomenon given our long, strong, pioneering history of avant-garde designs. A zealous interest in design on every level, particuarly in architecture and interiors, is part of the L.A. vernacular, not at all the lingo of the elitist. He set about looking for unheralded designers, the ones who didn’t -- couldn’t, wouldn’t -- fit into the typical design center or afford the rents on home design-laden Robertson and Beverly boulevards.

“It’s all very easy for the big manufacturers to hook up, but not independents,” says designer Katarina Tana. She will be one of the more than 50 exhibitors at CA Boom, and her Venice house will be one of the 18 included on the home tours during the three-day event, which also will feature speakers on topics such as living-working spaces and environmentally sound building practices.

There are a slew of showrooms in L.A., “but not many carry a lot of L.A. design,” says furniture designer Jonas Hauptman, a former sculptor and craftsman. The only one, he says, is at the Pacific Design Center.

“A place like PDC is for the trade only, and it also caters to the traditionalists,” says Trotter.


But he was more interested in the cutting-edge design entrepreneurs trying to figure out different ways to get their products to market. “The show we’re focusing on is for the upstarts on La Brea and 3rd, the ones at the Brewery downtown, or [those] working out of their homes.”

They don’t have the big names and big budgets, he points out, but they’re doing the highest quality work and producing superior products.

“I don’t know, I like the underdog.” Trotter says. “I’m the underdog.”

And a rebel. CA Boom is breaking just about every rule there ever has been for a design show: staying open until midnight is just one of them. Having exhibitors mingle with the public after they’ve closed shop at 9 p.m. is another. Letting the public sit on a furniture designer’s chairs while they eat and drink and listen to the rotation of DJs playing music -- yet another.

Architect Lorcan O’Herlihy, whose three-story, cement board Vertical House will be on the tours, says people think architecture is a luxury. CA Boom will give them “an opportunity to see that design enhances our lives. It’s very important to engage people, to give them ways in which they can become more knowledgeable about design -- people not in the design world, I mean.”

David A. Keeps contributed to this report.


Design time

CA Boom 04 will be held Aug. 12-15 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (1855 Main St.). Tickets and information are available online at www.caboom -- three-day admission is $57.50, one-day admission is $22. At the door, tickets are $27 to $69. For more information, call (310) 306-6677.