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Stahl House LA tour: Iconic mid-century modern home! Los Angeles architecture, Beetle House Tim Burton restaurant.

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Pinch me… I’m traveling somewhere fun in a few days!

This will be my first trip since Portland in late February… and 100% in accordance with the B.C. government’s travel and social distancing guidelines. (I’m forever on the cautious side, when it comes to Covid… and I wish more people were.)

Can you guess where I’m going? Take a peek at my social media —@lacarmina Instagram, Twitter, Facebook — to be part of my journey.

(This Tokyo photo by Said Karlsson is unrelated, but expresses my excitement… and how much I miss Japan. Never thought the country would be cut off from me like this. Can’t wait to go back).

stahl house los angeles fashion blogger girl

But this eagle’s nest wouldn’t be a bad spot to spend quarantine, am I right? Seated in an Eames Lounge Chair, overlooking the Hollywood Hills…

Architecture fans, this one’s for you. When I was in Los Angeles last January, I got to tour Stahl House —  glass masterpiece of mid-century modern architecture.

To top off this fabulous day, I had dinner at Beetle House: a Gothic Halloween theme restaurant that honors the world of Tim Burton. Read til the end, to see me hanging with Jack Skellington and Edwards Scissorhands!

recreate julius shulman famous stahl house la photo

I couldn’t visit Stahl House without re-creating the famous black and white photo, taken by Julius Shulman in 1960 (there’s a shot of it further down).  Architect Pierre Koenig’s glass house has fascinated me for years, and I jumped at the chance to finally see it in person.

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Don’t just drive to Stahl House (1635 Woods Drive), as this is a private property and you won’t be able to see anything from outside. To properly visit, you must book a guided tour well in advance, through Stahl House’s website. (Of course, this isn’t possible with Covid right now — but bookmark this for the future.)

Stahl House only offers a limited number of small-group tours, and they sell out extremely quickly (often months in advance). I messaged them to find out when the next month’s slots would be released, and got tickets on that exact day.

C.S.H. #22. case study house 22 stahl house

The narrow, winding streets have limited parking space, so you’re encouraged to carpool or ride-share, and arrive early.

I parked in the carport, and waited with anticipation in front of the C.S.H. #22 glass door. (This refers to Case Study House No. 22, one of the experimental residential homes commissioned by Arts & Architecture Magazine from 1945-1966.)

stahl house swimming pool, hollywood architecture

As soon as the guide lets you in, you’ll understand why Stahl House is an icon of American mid-century design. 

Built in 1960, this dreamy residence wasn’t a party pad for a celebrity. It was the beloved home of an ordinary family with three kids! Imagine spending your childhood waking up to these views, and plunging into the pool.

view from stahl house, famous mansion laurel canyon

In 1954, Bruce Stahl (Buck) and his wife Carlotta bought the undeveloped land for $13,500. They brought their vision to young architect Pierre Koenig, and he made this modernist fairytale home come to life. 

Much of the construction was DIY — Buck gathered discarded concrete from around the city, and pieced it together to make the foundation. (It would be impossible to build Stahl House today, as it would violate current zoning and safety laws!)

guided tour stahl house, booking tickets visits reservations

The afternoon tour lasts an hour. Our guide first let us wander and take photos. Then, we gathered in the living room to hear how Stahl House came to be.

Did I adopt a barefoot lifestyle in LA? Not quite. All guests must take off their shoes to avoid damaging the property. In addition, you can only take photos with a smartphone, so leave your DSLR and video cameras at home. (Good thing I had upgraded to an iPhone 11.)

julius shulman famous modern architecture photo, stahl house bathroom

Photographer Julius Shulman visited Stahl House in 1960, and snapped this well-known image of two women chatting in the corner at night.

Lauren and I had fun sitting in the exact spot as these ladies. But we also got a kick out of seeing the parts of Stahl House that are never photographed… like the tiny wallpapered bathroom! 

glass house overlooking los angeles, perre koenig case study architecture

Here’s my tribute to Shulman’s Stahl House photo. The angle captures the magic of lounging in the living room, which seems to float over Laurel Canyon. Clean lines and panoramic views… modernist perfection.

stahl house la renovation furniture bedroom

We got to explore most of the 2200 square foot house at our leisure. (One of the two bedrooms was off-limits, as well as one of the bathrooms. But we got full access to the kitchen, dining and living rooms).

Stahl House was furnished in collaboration with Design Within Reach, purveyors of modern furniture. If you’ve seen photos of my apartment, then you’ll know I adore these types of interiors.

design within reach dwr stahl house interior design decor

Every room has floor-to-ceiling glass windows, for mesmerizing views over Laurel Canyon LA.

We learned there were downsides to living in a”glass house” — the constant UV coming through the windows quickly faded the furniture and finishings. Stahl House had to be constantly maintained by the family to keep it true to its original incarnation. (The property is owned and managed by the three children who grew up here.)

stahl house kitchen fireplace interior home

Stahl House was an “open concept” pioneer. The stone fireplace divides the living room from the cooking and dining areas.

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This Eames lounge chair and ottoman fits in perfectly with the glass, steel and concrete.

mid century modern architecture kitchen la hollywood

The minimalist furniture from Design Within Reach complements the white-oak kitchen cabinets. Stahl House is photogenic from every perspective; no wonder it has been featured in many movies and fashion shoots.

los angeles iconic modernism architecture homes midcentury

Watch your step, and don’t get distracted by the views… There’s a steep drop off the balcony landing, and no safety net.

Talk about “living on the edge!”

private visit tours stahl house pool

We learned that the Stahl children would roller-skate around the concrete decking, and jump from the rooftop into the pool… Ah, the carefree 1960s and 1970s.

visiting stahl house la design travel guide

When Stahl House’s reservations open up again, be sure to book tickets as far in advance as possible. There are limited time slots and each tour has maximum 20 people.

Our guide wasn’t sure how long the family would be running these tours for the public, or if the home may be sold in the future. If you get the chance to see Stahl House, jump at it!

outside beetle house la restaurant exterior sign logo

This inspiring day wasn’t over yet. We headed to Hollywood for dinner and drinks at Beetle House LA.

This theme restaurant tips its hat to the Beetlejuice movie, Halloween and Tim Burton’s cinematic oeuvre (but it’s not owned or officially associated with the Gothic director). Beetle House has locations in both Los Angeles and New York, as you can gleam from the grinning pumpkin logo.

jack skellington tim burton theme restaurant la

For fans of Tim Burton movies, Beetle House is a dream (or should I say nightmare!). A giant Jack Skellington in a Santa hat welcomes you to the neon-lit bar.

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At Beetle House LA, every day is Halloween. Prepare yourself for an immersive dinner theater, featuring live performances by this spooky crew.

(Could there be a better haunt to wear my “A Tim Burton Film dress” from Forest Ink?”)

Here lies Betelgeuse halloween decor lights

Every corner of the themed restaurant is filled with cheeky references to Tim Burton movies.

Here lies Betelgeuse. Dare to mutter his name three times in front of the tombstone, and see what happens!

Oogie Boogie statue, beetle house bar restaurant

And here rises Oogie Boogie, and Sally and Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas. (The purple lights and Gothic windows with bats add to the Burton feeling.)

all genders bathroom, unisex restroom sign

I spot skeletons on the wall, and an All Gender bathroom. Beetle House proclaims, “We are a safe place where every goth, punk, freak, weirdo, artist, and visitor is welcomed and celebrated.”

devil costume, beetle house dinner theater show

Quite fittingly, your host for the evening… is the devil himself.

Beetle House accepts dinner walk-ins, but tables tend to fill up especially on weekends — so I recommend that you make an advance reservation. 

beetle house menu, appetizers food

The $50 experience includes a tasty three course meal, and a theater show with rotating acts (who perform while you dine).

The menu includes cocktails with names like This Is Halloween (with pumpkin liquor), The Beetle’s Juice, and Alice’s Cup O’ Tea.

beetle house la nyc horror theme restaurant dinner

At Beetle House, the food is excellent, and presented with dramatic flair. We dined on Sweeney Beef (steak on a cloud of potatoes, with a drizzle of “blood” and topped with a razor!) The seared salmon with red pepper puree and sweet corn succotash is named Big Fish.

dante's interno bar, hollywood la theme bars goth

Head to the outdoor patio, and get swallowed by Dante’s Inferno Room. (It looks exactly like the Satanic hangout in Beetlejuice, where red-faced devil ladies entice the main character, played by Michael Keaton!)

The bar serves standalone drinks, with a focus on craft cocktails. You can also dare to drink the Hellfire Bowl, or take the 3 From Hell fiery shot challenge.

goth gothic theme restaurants performances los angeles

While we drank and ate, we watched immersive sideshow acts throughout the entire restaurant space. The performances are constantly changing; you may encounter magic tricks, contortionists, impersonators…

That night, we heard a song from Mrs. Lovett (played by Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.) Edward Scissorhands appears to be looking on in horror, at the balloon swallower!

bearded lady la performer

‘Twas an evening of frightful delights. (This bearded lady hammered nails into her nose, and then stuck scissors inside!)

mars attacks mask costume halloween burton costumes

It’s been a weird year… I’d welcome the brainy aliens from Mars Attacks will return to Earth, and take matters into their own hands.

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A last look at Tim Burton’s swirling visual aesthetic. Thanks Beetle House LA for an evening to remember.

Where would you prefer to spend your lockdown — at the modernist Stahl House, or a Halloween themed eatery?

Happy that I get to spread my wings a little, and do some travel this week… Add me on @lacarmina Instagram, Twitter, Facebook to see where I end up!

The Hippest Restaurants & Architecture in Mexico City! Edible insects in Condesa & Roma, futuristic buildings.

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Well, here we are at June 2020. What a year of change and reckoning…

Over the past week, you may have seen my thoughts and resources on #blacklivesmatter on social media (@lacarmina). Before I continue with my travel stories, I thought I’d say something here as well.

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These words by Oren Jay Sofer (reflecting on the George Floyd homicide and resulting protests) resonated with me:

“Stay with the discomfort. It’s in the crucible of that pain that transformation happens. That’s when we can start making real changes in our lives and say — I’m not going to be a part of this anymore. I’m going to educate myself, I’m going to speak out. I’m going to do something.”

(Spoken in a Ten Percent Happier live meditation. Illustration via @witchesofatlanta Instagram.)

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Black lives matter, and there are so many ways we can show our support. Donate (here’s a list of suggested funds). Amplify BIPOC voices and creators. Lobby for changes within your industry and community. Truly inform yourself, speak out, and put in the lifelong work to be anti-racist.

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Nobody has a rule-book for going forward, but I’m determined to do my best to be an ally for life. 

In that vein, it feels right to keep sharing meaningful stories about travel and culture around the world. I feel travel is one of the most powerful tools we have to wake up from prejudices, and realize there is no true separation between any of us. 

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As Anthony Bourdain (RIP) put it: “The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”

(I’m including these photos, as they mark a turning point. They were taken by Joey Wong at Joshua Tree, January 2020. We barely knew about coronavirus at the time… Now, we’re in a whole new world, and it’s up to us to make it a better one.)

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International travel may not be feasible for some time. But from home, we can still be curious and open to different ways of being.

As Anthony Bourdain also said: “To be treated well in places where you don’t expect to be treated well, to find things in common with people you thought previously you had very, very little in common with — that can’t be a bad thing.”

In that spirit, here’s a new cultural dispatch from Mexico City one of the best destinations out there for foodies and art-lovers! I got to eat insects (they were delicious!) and gaze at space-age architecture… Grateful that CDMX got to be one of my final trips for now.

azul condesa tortilla lady making handmade tortillas

You may remember that I went to Mexico to celebrate Day of the Dead 2019. During the journey, my friends and I dined at three of the hippest restaurants in Mexico City.

We began with a bang at Azul Condesa, which specializes in Oaxacan dishes (Oaxaca is considered one of the best food regions in the country). As soon as we saw this lady making fresh traditional tortillas, we knew we were in for a meal to remember.

eating crickets guacamole mexican bugs dishes food

The eatery is located in La Condesa, considered the hipster area of CDMX. Azul’s sleek decor and presentation matched the chic feel of the neighborhood.

I was excited to eat bugs in Mexico City! This isn’t a novelty — insects are traditionally eaten by locals, and prepared in unexpectedly delicious ways. The gooey ant larva (escamole) and crispy grasshoppers paired crazily well with the fresh corn tortillas and guacamole.

azul restaurant mexico city fine dining review menuu

We sampled juicy pork tacos wrapped in banana leaves, and a perfectly grilled Yucatecan fish with avocado and plantain.

Be sure to order one of the moles from Azul’s extensive selection. The mole negro, or “king of the moles,” was the best I’ve ever had. This dark, velvety sauce is made from over 30 spices and ingredients, resulting in a complex mix of spice, smokiness, sweetness, and heat. You can also try moles from different regions of Mexico; some are made with yellow chilhuacle or red guajillo chiles.

mexican hot chocolate restaurant azul condesa cdmx

The Aztec adored xocōlātl, or hot cocoa. For dessert, the chef came over with a hot chocolate station. Choose from various flavors such as vanilla, spicy, or the chef’s selection, which he then mixes by hand in a traditional pot.

(All Azul Restaurant photos by Luke Walter.)

Meroma mexico city cocktails hipster bar

On our second night, we made our way to the Roma neighborhood. As depicted in the Alfonso Cuarón film, this is an elegant area with plenty of parks and restaurants.

We had an artful meal at the local hotspot, Meroma. The ground floor houses a craft cocktail bar. Guests access the restaurant through a concealed staircase in the back corner.

meroma menu review cdmx

Meroma specializes in flavorful small plates, served on fine colorful tableware. I enjoyed the handcrafted Mezcal sour (lime, egg whites and bitters) so much that I ordered a second one.

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Meroma’s chefs focus on sustainable Mexican ingredients, while drawing upon techniques from all over the world. The fresh daily catch is a must. Loved the yellowtail ceviche, elegantly draped with leaves.

roma coolest restaurants meroma cdmx

We ate up every bite of the grilled quail with vegetables, and agnolotti filled with fresh cheese, mushrooms, sage, and thyme.

The contemporary desserts are a must. We recommend the goat milk tart with rice cream and chamomile, and cacao pot de creme with parssion fruit caramel, cacao crumble and coconut sorbet. Treat yourself at Meroma — you won’t regret it.

el cardenal restaurant mexico city

For a fine and traditional Mexican meal, book a table at the charming El Cardenal. The restaurant has several locations, each with classic decor and recipes that were handed down throughout the centuries.

edible insects weird food dining mexico city

El Cardenal’s classic menu includes mole with chicken, and ceviche. My favorite dish was the Gusanos de Maguey (Maguey Worms) — be adventurous, and you may be amazed at how tasty bugs can be!

The mezcal worms are lightly fried or toasted, for a pleasing slightly crunchy texture. I ate them wrapped in a tortilla, with a smear of guacamole and salsa verde (green chile hot sauce). So. Good.

el cardenal review menu cdmx

What do bugs go well with? For any Mexican meal, you can’t beat a fresh fruit margarita. El Cardenal makes a fab lemon one with a salt rim; I asked for mine with no sugar.

weirdest mexican food where eat bugs insects mexico city

I’m officially a fan of eating creepy-crawlies. I’d come back to El Cardenal any time for more of these wrigglers.

Don’t forget that “bizarre foods” depends on cultural context. Bugs are historically eaten in Mexico, and they’re a cheap and sustainable source of protein. Give them a try, and you’ll discover a whole new phylum of dining!

teleport portal mexico city art

Now, let’s appreciate the futuristic architecture found throughout Mexico City. You’ll find space-y design in the most unexpected places, such as this old library we stumbled into. (Beam me up, aliens… I’m ready to leave this planet!)

Camino Real Polanco México fountain pool

CDMX is home to many works by Luis Barrigan, the Pritzker-winning Mexican architect inspired by Le Corbusier. His mid-century designs are recognizable for their clean lines and bright colors.

I was keen to visit Luis Barrigan’s Casa — but they don’t permit photography, so I couldn’t share the experience with you. Instead, I went to Camino Real Polanco, and was mesmerized by the swirling whirlpool fountain at the entrance.

luix barrigan hotel Camino Real Polanco design

Camino Real Polanco Hotel was built in the late 1960s by Ricardo Legorreta, a modernist architect and student of Luis Barragan. A psychedelic pink and yellow cow looks over the swimming pool and garden.

modern mexico city design art hotels winding staircase

Poke around the hotel, and you’ll come across glorious corners like this twisting white staircase. Talk about synthwave architecture…

mexico city architecture Camino Real Polanco hotel

Anyone can hang out at Camino Real Polanco’s bar, which has blue geometric planes and shallow water elements. Groovy, baby.

soumaya museum space futuristic building mexico city

Another architectural must-see is Museo Soumaya. This space disco structure opened in 2011, and was named after Soumaya Domit (late wife of Carlos Slim, the Mexican business billionaire).

interior museo soumaya winding ramp

Soumaya is an art museum that offers free admission for everyone. The  curving white ramp reminds me of the Guggenheim in NYC, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (The Soumaya Museum is the vision of architect Fernando Romero’s firm Fr·ee.)

soumaya museum architect, art sculptures collection free

Soumaya’s select collection includes Mexican artists and European old masters. A bronze of Auguste Rodin’s The Three Shades (Les Trois Ombres) sits beneath the apex. (It’s part of his 1886 group, The Gates of Hell.)

silver modern mexico city museum, soumaya architect

Close up on Soumaya’s futuristic silver exterior. It’s like a sequin purse, or spaceship, or snakeskin… no wonder I’m into it.

exterior Biblioteca Vasconcelos building library

Last stop: Mexico City’s Biblioteca Vasconcelos, which opened in 2006. The highly Instagrammable library includes lush gardens, creating a green oasis within the metropolis.

Biblioteca Vasconcelos architecture interior Mexico City

Look up, as you enter Vasconcelos Library… Wow!

The trippy design layers concrete and glass walkways with stacks and reading areas. It’s fun to randomly go up staircases and look out from the balconies.

 whale skeleton beautiful mexico city library Vasconcelos

Artist Gabriel Orozco’s Ballena (Whale), a painted whale skeleton, hangs from the center of Biblioteca Vasconcelos,

Museo Nacional de Antropología courtyard entrance architecture

Here’s a last look at the imaginative design of the Museum of Anthropology (I featured the Museo in depth, in this post). Did you know there was such epic contemporary architecture in CDMX?

If you missed my article about Mexico City’s human sacrifices, green alien masks, elongated skulls and other bloody artifacts, check it out here.

day of the dead art exhibit history museum mexico city

I still have a Mexico City Goth shopping / bars / clubs guide to share with you. And more Day of the Dead coverage to come… You can see all my alternative stories so far in my Mexico travel category.

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Two final notes before we go. It was an honor to be interviewed for “Learn From The Pros: How To Become A Successful Blogger.” I shared tips on blogging and monetization, and how to gauge one’s success. I hope you find the article helpful.

Also, friends in France: you can catch me on Canal Plus TV on June 10, at 9pm! I appear in the bagelheads body modification segment of “La Gaule d’Antoine,” a new program with Antoine des Caunes. (I did a Tokyo TV show with him a few years ago.)

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Let’s end with more words from Anthony Bourdain, as I’ve been thinking of him… (He’s been gone two years now).

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.”

 Take care of yourselves, my friends.