Michael Bates: West Coast USA

Tee pees, heated concrete lovers seats and concrete-moulded pots were all the rage at the recent Dwell on Design show I went to in LA. I wanted to check out the latest fashions and products happening in West Coast USA and get a sense of the contemporary design scene.

The colourful, funky, lightweight look seemed to be on demand – hippy without the grunge. I have always loved the tee pee thing, but somehow using it commercially left me cold. Paving products and green walls were like we have here – I even spotted an Australian green wall company showing their wares.


I was quite taken with the ethanol fired brassieres or fire bowls. They create movement and interest but without the wood and smoke. I can see a big future for this here in Australia.

The Getty Museum was also on my itinerary, though I never made it inside – the grounds held enough interest.

It’s been 14 years since my last visit to the Getty, and the outdoor gallery rooms are now dripping in sculptures, including Henry Moore’s Draped Reclining Mother and Baby.


The desert gardens put in a triumphant performance in a town that hasn’t seen rain for four years.


Water runs through the azalea maze, where a waterfall intersects the zig-zag path.


The new flower gardens and connecting crepe myrtle walk replete with beautiful curved corten walls are spectacular. They are up there with the Chelsea Physic Garden in my mind, though I can hear garden gurus calling blasphemy!

MB_WCT_1‘Enjoy being overwhelmed’ is the catch cry of the Huntington Gardens, boasting a collection of 15,000 plant varieties. They have European gardens, Japanese Gardens, Australian gardens and Chinese gardens.

I think the desert garden stole the show. What better place to feature some of the most beautiful and striking succulents under cultivation.


MB_WCT_7Thanks for your hospitality LA – I’ll be back.