04/14/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Your Green LA Weekend: The Evo Designer Showcase

I've always been skeptical about the push for people to move to downtown Los Angeles. The sheer joy of living in LA is the California lifestyle -- ocean breezes, long alfresco dinners at home with friends -- why would anyone want to trade that in for a high rise in the smog? I guess if you've lived in California your whole life, then a truly urban existence might have some appeal, but as far as I'm concerned, I left that all behind when I moved out of Manhattan.

I formed all these notions, typical me, without actually ever having stepped foot inside a residential building in LA's now-burgeoning downtown district. So when I was offered a sneak preview of the Evo Designer Showcase before it opens to the public this Saturday, I decided to put my preconceived notions aside. The showcase features five apartments custom-decorated by five amazing designers, including eco-designer Daniel Vandenbark, in LA's only LEED Silver-certified high-rise. How could I in good green conscience say no?

Besides, I'd get a chance to see how five of LA's hottest designers are incorporating environmentally friendly materials into their work. And I wasn't disappointed: Sustainability is very much on the minds of all the designers involved in the showcase, even the ones who weren't specifically tasked with creating a green dwelling (that was left to Daniel Vandenbark). Renown interior designer David Desmond and I chatted about the importance of investing in pieces that will last for generations; but he emphasized that those classics don't have to cost a pretty penny. Check out the gorgeous coffee tables in his showcase (shh, they're Ikea!):


Australian-born Mark Cutler, named one of the Robb Report's top 40 designers in the US, talked about incorporating the "50-mile rule" (embracing local materials and craftsmen) into his work. And while his taste is undoubtedly sophisticated, Cutler told me that the raw materials don't necessarily have to be, especially if they're eco-friendly: He used old-fashioned burlap to construct elegant table skirts and window shades for his showcase's muted, earthy bedroom.


Take your own sneak peek at more of the eco-conscious designer showcases:

From Room & Board:


From Daniel Vandenbark:


I'm still not convinced that living downtown is the ideal way to experience Los Angeles, though I will admit that the view from the 20th floor of the Evo was pretty glorious -- unobstructed views of the city and snow capped mountains, and nary a streak of smog in sight. But more importantly, the showcases reminded me that green living isn't only for people who are lucky enough to have beachfront property or trees in their backyard. A whopping 3 billion people -- a majority of the world's population -- now live in cities, and we need to find ways to make those areas more sustainable as well.