Nestled amongst Little Italy's designer fashion shops, modish art galleries, and hearty Italian cuisine stands a window-shop must-stop: Christian Arthur Designs.
There is no boundary between inside and out. Wide open glass doors introduce a neat jungle of lush botanicals, bright pots, and twisted green trees. In the front window, a "creative corner" displays a patio set-up: three hanging green "plant poles", two red vases, and a steel bench.
For the chief designer of Christian Arthur Designs, Christian Arthur, this ambiance is perfection.
From the Outside In
As San Diego expands upward to accommodate more apartment dwellers and condo owners, backyards are becoming a luxury. Recognizing this dilemma, Arthur decided to specialize in interior and exterior design and installations. Using ceramics, travertine, marble, glass, wood, silk, and preserved and live botanicals, Arthur' designs offer the gamut, from traditional, to Spanish style, to high-end contemporary.
Imagine this daunting task: fitting a waterfall, custom-built furniture, plants, and an original coffee table with a fire strip into a tight 6' by 18' patio.
A quiet, traditional artist on the surface, Arthur immediately lights up when discussing the intricacies and creativity involved in such an installation. According to Arthur, it's all about depth, comfort, and adhering to the client's needs.
"We'll have a consultation and we'll get a feel for what they'd like and then build around what' important to them," Arthur explains. "Some people want water, some people don't. Some people want fire, some people don't. Some people wonder why they can't attract birds, so we'll have areas with bird baths."
Incorporating a high-end urban look with sharp accent colors is Arthur' signature. For example, bright red pots dot the entry way, softened by modest greenery. Pottery, fountains, and iron designs, all part of Arthur' specialty, also accentuate the store. Throwing in the unusual is the norm in his "little vignette area," as he calls it.
Designer to the Stars
Previous to Christian Arthur Designs, Arthur lived in tiny Malibu, California where the "sidewalks roll up at seven." Heading up his own design studio, Romancing the Stone Fine Garden Accessories,Arthur acquired a solid clientele, reigning as the sole installation designer in town. In January 2007, drawn to the art scene and social atmosphere, Arthur moved to Little Italy and launched Christian Arthur Designs. Accommodating to all, he welcomes the builders, interior designers, and the many tourists who wander into his studio.
With more than 30 years of design experience, Arthur's repertoire includes taking on larger projects. Celebrities such as Olivia Newton John and Dustin Hoffman have hired Arthur to decorate their front entryways.
Arthur glamorized the white tents of the Malibu Film Festival. He turned the event into a little jungle, providing colorful floral arrangements, lighting, garlands of roses, bright pottery and horn blowers to announce guest arrivals.
Preserved and live botanicals are also a large part of Arthur Design' expertise. The Las Vegas McCarran airport showcases the designer' plant arrangements, featuring towering preserved palm trees which took 10 days each to complete.
Practicality is emphasized in all of Arthur' work, especially when it comes to urban San Diego living spaces.
With crazy work schedules and shrinking properties, Arthur maximizes space and time with his innovative "living wall". Modeling the motto, "if you can't go out, go up," this mini garden is a fully self-contained planter which attaches to a garden wall. The planter comes pre-packed with budding herbs or flowers, which Arthur reasons is perfect for quick cooking or manageable gardening.
For Arthur, it all comes back to creativity and originality.
"Our artwork is constantly changing, and we're always finding something new," Arthur says. "We go from traditional terracotta, to Italian hand-pressed, to contemporary, to fiberglass box. I have to constantly reinvent myself and build around one or two pieces and then go from there."
Stevie Lundi, Arthur's snow-white parrot perched somewhere behind a palm frond, squawks in agreement.