Staff Spotlight: Jeff Wheeler...

Q: Where are you from?

I was born in Jefferson, Iowa when my Dad was in the Air Force, but moved to Spirit Lake, Iowa in the fourth grade.  It’s located in the northwest part of the state near the Minnesota border in the midst of three large natural lakes and is a major tourist location for boating, camping, fishing and golf.  The Sioux name for the area is Okoboji and it is infamous for a Santee Sioux raiding party led by chief Inkpaduta and the resulting massacre of white settlers in the winter of 1857.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Iowa state University in Ames.  It was a very solid and practical program and not particularly weighted toward theory – it’s primarily an engineering school which probably has something to do with it.  I particularly enjoyed architecture history, which continues to influence and inform my design aesthetic.

Q: Who is in your family?

We’re a pretty small family.  I have one younger brother ten years my junior.  Mom (Karen)and Dad (Danny) were high school sweethearts and married when they were 18, but tragically, we lost my Dad when I was 12.  Mom remarried and her husband, Roger, has three kids of his own, their ages equally ranged between mine and my brother’s.  Roger has a son named Jeff too, which was pretty funny and quite confusing to callers who had to specify which Jeff they wanted to talk to.  Mom and Roger are still in Spirit Lake and most of my relatives live in central Iowa in and around Des Moines, but my brother eventually moved to California as well and lives in Belmont with his wife Cyndi and their two dogs.

Megan and I have been married for 18 years and our only son Cole is 15.  Stella is our third Bernese Mountain Dog – she comes to the office with me on occasion.  Meg is the Director of Special Events at Marin Academy High School in San Rafael and Cole is a sophomore at Sir Francis Drake High School in Marin.  We live in funky little Fairfax in Marin County.  Meg’s family is quite small as well and she is sixth generation Californian.  Her Mom comes from a family of grape farmers in Lodi and her Dad is originally from West Virginia.  Her older sister’s family lives in Fairfax too.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

I used to deliver newspapers all around the Lakes in the summer and got to know all the cool, big houses of affluent families on West Okoboji – very much like Lake Tahoe, but with expanses of corn and soybean fields instead of pine trees and mountains – but there were also a lot of run down properties too, which I always wanted to rebuild.  A high school aptitude test signaled architecture as a potential career path, even though I really had no idea at the time exactly what that entailed.  But I managed to make it through calculus and physics to graduate in the Spring of 1986.  After a short stint drafting log houses in Wisconsin post-graduation, I packed up my Firebird and headed West for California.  I consider myself lucky that I always pretty much knew what I wanted to do and was intrepid enough to leave the Midwest and pursue life on the Left Coast.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

My background is quite varied, with early experiences on Victorian remodels in San Francisco, which eventually led to managing predominantly large scale commercial and retail projects during the DotCom days for reputable mid-size firms, but I tired of navigating the politics (and the too frequent economic downturns) that come with larger firms.  Custom homes provide a lot of hands-on opportunity for unique structural and technical solutions.  We’re blessed with fabulous clients, beautiful sites and healthy budgets, so it’s a great feeling to be challenged each and every day to create wonderful and enduring architecture.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

It will be three years in February.  Before FA I was at at Swatt Miers Architects for six years.  Steve Stept was a partner there and hired me after six years at Sutton Suzuki Architects in Mill Valley.  It wasn’t too long after Steve came over to FA from SMA that he recruited me to come over as well.

Q: What makes our office unique?

Everyone here is just so normal, nice and smart.  It’s a fairly young office, which creates many opportunities to share knowledge and experiences and be a resource to help others grow as architects.  Modern project delivery is very complex and technology continues to advance at a rapid clip, so the group sense of comradery and teamwork here is something special.

Q: If you have to give up one of your 5 senses, which would you choose?

My hearing is so bad it’s like I don’t have it anyway, but music is too important to give up.  I’m primarily visual and it’s essential to what I do.  The same goes for touch – I’m constantly touching different textures of materials.  I love to cook and eat every sort of cuisine so taste isn’t really an option either.  So I’d have to say smell, which would help when I’m picking up after Stella…

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

Every day is a new opportunity to solve another set of challenges, which are rarely the same one day to the next.  Plus I love the new Firehouse spaces – it’s wonderfully conducive to thinking about and producing great architecture.  I also get to spend a fair amount of time on numerous job sites, which is still as much fun now as it was the first time I set foot on one – there’s just nothing better.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

There have always been many, not just one.  Each past office experience taught me specific lessons that molded me into the architect I am today.  Famous architects whose work I gravitate toward all have a special way with elemental materials (stone, wood, glass, steel/aluminum and concrete) and how they go together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts, which is what makes architecture so unique and incredibly satisfying as a profession.

Tom Kundig, Peter Bohlin, James Cutler, Glenn Murcutt, David Samella and Lake/Flato are living examples that I admire.  Other modern masters such as Lou Kahn, Jean Prouve, Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra are equally inspiring.  They all demonstrate a great respect for the integrity of materials and how a building ages in place.  I try to emulate their examples and think about how every material can be assembled in a lasting and pleasing way.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I try to break complex problems into smaller pieces first and then focus on fundamentals (insert any sports metaphor here) and how those fundamentals then inform the appropriate technical solution – all the while with an eye toward nurturing and improving the intended design direction.  I try to achieve elemental and rational compositions that tame the inherent complexity of modern building materials and assemblies, while maintaining a sensitivity to the building trades that actually interpret and then construct our designs.

Q: What is your equivalent animal? (looks or personality)

I’ve always been a chameleon that quickly blends in and adapts to any situation.

Staff Spotlight: Nick Polansky...

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up between Fairfax in west Marin County and North Beach here in the city. I spent most of my time growing up in the woods, exploring creeks, mountain biking, and playing on rope swings we put up.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Berkeley for undergrad and MIT for Graduate work. I actually was in an engineering academy in high school where I learned to use CAD to design robots, gizmos and bridges. The CAD skill landed me an internship with a landscape architect doing cad plans and helping design a wetland revitalization plan. I ended up getting a BA in architecture and a minor in Landscape architecture when I was at Berkeley. I guess you could say I came to architecture from the outside. A systems based approach. Architecture to me is an object in the landscape and part are part of a larger ecosystem. MIT expanded on this working at the scale of the city to the scale of the electron. MIT was intense and amazing. It’s like I was in the future; an optimistic future.

Q: Tell me about your family?

My mom met my dad at a non-profit ad agency where she was the art director/graphic designer and my dad was the creative director. They both still work in the non-profit sector. My dad grew up in North Carolina, my mom in Southern California. I have an older brother who lives in Oakland with his wife, who’s a floral artist, and their six month old daughter Ellia. He works for a non-profit travel agency that takes kids from inner city neighborhoods and schools to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The program is called Global Glimpse. Most students return having gotten their first glimpse of a global identity and they go on to use that story in application essays for college. I love my family. I love being an uncle. They keep me in the Bay Area.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

I came to architecture through landscape architecture and honestly I came to landscape architecture through skateboarding. This was the urban side. When I was young, I was looking for every opportunity; nooks, crannies, rails, gaps, ledges, ramps; every details of the environment to interact with. It taught me about transition and continuity; fluidity and freedom in space. This same choreography translates into my interiors and how the human body moves.  I discovered Lawrence Halprin while skating the Justin Herman Plaza and his studies with dance were really inspiring. It really got me interested in landscapes and later the social and political aspects of public space. That, in conjunction with engineering projects in high school helped set me up to see how design works across all scales. Architecture seemed like a perfect place to view that range from, from the technical, social and environmental.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

Good projects are really dependent on the people and the way we communicate, the expectations of the clients and how comfortable we are in the unknown. In the end, what we are doing has never been done before. The better understanding of the forces shaping the project, the easier it is to listen and respond with what is appropriate and natural, elegant and effortless. The project itself can be anything from the design of a fork to a whole city block. I love experimental art projects as well that test perception and experience. These act as tests for larger architecture environments. Those can get really interesting. I also like making sculptures our or wood, steel, and concrete, exploring the unknown purely through intuition.

In this office I’ve worked on a range of projects, everything from offices, restaurants, and residential remodels and ground up homes. Each of them is different and I like that diversity. The office is about the process of creative production; the evolution of an idea. The restaurant is about performance, acting as a stage like a theater. The residential projects are my favorite because they will last and be loved. Love to me is the essential element of sustainability. That is what makes it last for generations.

 Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I started June 15th of 2015. 3 years.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I think it’s the collaborative atmosphere, the ethics behind the type of work we do, the type of clients we get to work with, the dogs, and the positive and diverse perspectives. We truly value each other.

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

The vibe.

Q: If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do?

I already live everyday like it’s my last. LOL. Gather my loved ones, climb a mountain, meditate and prepare for the afterlife.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

Alonzo King. Charles and Ray Eames. MLK.

Q: What’s your design process like?

It’s intuitive and rational simultaneously. I really like to set up frameworks that allow flexibility and the spontaneity of life to occur within. The initial design problem is defining the problem and the constraints. There is a system that governs the structural, infrastructural, and formal language of the architecture while the social space is organic, soft and flexible. I need to set up rules that give me freedom. It is a harmony of materials, space and time, structure, climate, air and light and the unexpected experience of discovery. Every story is different and it’s constantly evolving.

Q: What question would you not want to be asked in an interview?

If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do?

Staff Spotlight: Matt Lindsay...

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up in Maine in a pretty small town outside of Portland (which I think of as the primary Portland). The town is called North Yarmouth and is a rural area outside of the surrounding suburbs. We never moved around when I was younger, my parents still live in the same house that I grew up in. I would say I had a pretty typical childhood in terms of activities. My friends and I played a lot outside and played sports in school. I left home after my sophomore year in high school to attend boarding school in Massachusetts for my last two years. Boarding school was hard, but I loved it. Most of my closest friends in San Francisco (and in life) are from my time there.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I went to Cornell and studied in the five-year architecture program. I chose Cornell because I got in and enjoyed my accepted student visit to the campus. I don’t think that I quite knew what to expect studying architecture and found the program really challenging. I was always a good student in high school, but architecture was like nothing I had ever done before and I initially struggled with the creative process.

Q: Who is in your family?

I’m the oldest of two; I have a younger sister who’s five years younger. Starting in the spring, she’ll be going to graduate school for occupational therapy. My parents moved to Maine in the late 70s after both growing up out-of-state — my mom is from New Jersey and Illinois and my dad is from New York. They’re both great — super nice people who were incredibly supportive and never really had an agenda for me growing up. They always wanted me to be my own person and maintained a very low-pressure household. I think I put way more pressure on myself growing up than they did.

My wife Abby I met in San Francisco, but she’s also from the east coast—Philadelphia. She’s a medical sales rep and is way more organized and perhaps even more type A than I am (we’re both kind of type A…). Plus, she’s hilarious and fun. We took a trip to Europe a few months ago where we did some hiking and spent time with her family — her parents were celebrating their 65th birthdays and retirement.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

It was in high school that I first identified an interest in architecture. It was an implied interest—I was good at math and enjoyed art, and I never felt like I was very strong in humanities. I also knew that I loved building and making things; I got really into wood shop at kid at summer camp. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to study in college I kind of looked at all the interests that I had and architecture was at the intersection of all of them.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I’m very detail oriented so I love working on projects with a high level of craft and an imbedded logic. I enjoy the projects that have a kind of governing system that guides the design — the Santa Cruz House is a good example. Along with that, every architect always wants a good client who knows when to provide input and when to step back and trust their designer. I also like projects that have unique constraints—like site or program—because they provide some complexity to the project and give us the opportunity to be creative.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Almost three years. I started in September of 2015 right before I got married. I moved out to SF in October of 2010, so I have been here about 8 years ago. Before starting at Feldman, I worked for a smaller firm in San Francisco for a little over 4 years.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I would say the lack of ego and diversity of interests. I also find it funny that several people in our office care about sports! I’ve never worked in an architecture firm where anyone has ever cared about sports. Here, at least 40-50% have an invested interest and everyone else is just ‘forced’ to participate in things like March Madness.

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

Besides just being around my coworkers, I really enjoy the opportunity to learn from them. There is an enormous collective knowledge about building and design in the office and I really love sharing, collaborating, and learning from everyone around me.

Q: What are five features you would include in your dream home?

It’s funny because I don’t have a clear answer, but it’s something I think about probably way too much. It comes up a lot, especially in conversations with my wife. I think I would have a similar answer to many people in the office in that I like modern design.

I want something that has an indoor outdoor connection, something that is beautiful and livable without being stark. Also, I would love to have a wood shop and social kitchen space—my wife and I cook a lot and we inevitably spend parties crammed into our small kitchen with friends. The last thing I’d like is a garden.  Something that looks pretty but is also functional; where we can grow vegetables.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

I really admire an architect I worked for in Maine—Carol Wilson. Her practice is small and her process is pretty old school but she does beautiful modern projects in a state that is not known for progressive architecture.

I also think I have been influenced by living in Bay Area in that I have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs, especially in the design field. I’m interested in people who studied architecture or design and went on to build a business/passion outside of or adjacent to the industry.  For example, one of the founders of WeWork started as an architect.  I’m always up for a good origin story.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I have a tendency to be quite linear in my process. I have to constantly force myself to step back and question my assumptions. I’m a very logical person by nature so I like identifying problems and creating rule or parameters for myself. I think I’m happiest designing once I have a guiding concept and I can dive into the details to execute the design.

Q: What time period would you choose to live in (past or potential future)

Can I go back to the eight years that Obama was in office?

Staff Spotlight: Liza Karimova...

Q: Where are you from?

I’m from Moscow, Russia, but I was born in Austria. I moved here about five years ago to attend university and before that I was living in Switzerland for a few years. I’ve lived in four different countries so far.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I went to UC Berkeley for architecture. In addition to the standard undergraduate curriculum I took some material science engineering classes.

Before attending university here, I visited California only once, but I really liked it. UC Berkeley was actually the only school I applied to in California and when I decided to come here my parents had a bit of a shock. They didn’t want me to move so far away from my family after already being in boarding school for 4 years. It took a bit of convincing but here I am!

Q: Who is in your family?

My parents, two dogs, and a twin brother who looks nothing like me! He’s much taller and blonde. I also have a tiny parrot who I haven’t seen in ages. Technically he’s a replacement parrot since they don’t live very long… I don’t know what he’s called anymore!

Q: What is one talent you wish you had?

I wish I could do a backflip… my goal is to learn how to do one before I die.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

In high school I always enjoyed art, physics, and English and I thought architecture was a good way to combine all three. I also attended after-school art classes for four years, where we created for hours every day after regular school.

Honestly though, at first I really didn’t want to do it because my parents were pressuring me into it. Until one summer I took an architecture course at USC. It was the first time I stayed up all night working on a project, which I weirdly found really fun and fulfilling.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I really enjoy projects that have some room for the unknown, where the design process can be like an experiment. It fascinates me to design living and working spaces, because it reveals so much about human nature. I have always enjoyed the sciences, so this is that part of me speaking.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Just over a year! Not counting my internship.

Q: What makes our office unique?

A lot of people say that it feels like a family – which is true, minus the drama. Everyone is so laid back! I love how comfortable we feel around each other.

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

There’s so much positivity and laughter! People really care about staying happy and making beautiful architecture. I also love our roof deck, I go there quite a lot.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

I wouldn’t say that I have a role model, but I do have people I’m inspired by. Most of them are on the conceptual side of architecture. For example I like the work of John Hejduk and Martin Heidegger. They think outside the box and outside constraints of reality. I guess their work is more concerned with the human condition, temporality, and symbolism.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I try to stick to one simple idea but I almost always get side-tracked. And that often ends up being the best part- happy accidents! Although when I overthink things, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether an idea is good or just absurd. I always fluctuate between a logical and scientific approach, and a more intuitive one – sometimes, it’s hard to find the right balance of both!

Q: If someone designed a drink after you, what would be in it/what would it taste like?

A caramel latte, sometimes with a few shots of whiskey.

 

Staff Spotlight: Ben Welty...

Q: Where are you from?

Summerville, South Carolina. It’s a suburb of Charleston that had a small town feel while I was growing up but has gotten much bigger as urban sprawl has taken hold. Regardless, I have no plans of going back.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I received a BA in Architecture from Clemson University before heading to the University of Kansas to get my Masters. I chose KU to participate in their renowned Studio 804 design/build program.

Q: Who is in your family?

My parents are both retired and still live in the house I grew up in. My brother lives in my hometown as well and I’ve got two nieces and nephews.

My wife is an interior designer. We met at the University of Kansas and both moved out here after graduating. We got married in June of last year and had our reception in our current office back when it was an event space. We held the last event here before it became our design studio. Jonathan and Steven now sit where we had our first dance.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

As a kid I was always playing with Legos and exploring houses under construction in my neighborhood. I just walked onto the construction sites on the weekends when no one was around; we didn’t ask. My aunt was a builder so I would spend some time as a kid with her on job sites.

I also took some architecture classes in high school, mostly drafting classes, before formally studying it in college.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I mostly enjoy working on custom residential projects, specifically single family residential. I like doing new houses and new construction as well as remodels in the city. There are different aspects and challenges to both that I enjoy.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Four years this past May. Before starting here I was working at a small firm in SOMA.

Q: What makes our office unique?

Our collaborative design process and the fact that it’s not a top down approach. Everyone gets involved, has a voice, and contributes. And that’s encouraged.

Plus, it’s only a ten minute walk from my house!

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

It’s so close!

I just enjoy the work that I do and the people I work with. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by such talented individuals who have a passion for what they do. They make me a better architect and designer.

Q: If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

SOUTH Carolina style BBQ pulled pork dressed in Carolina gold, a mustard based BBQ sauce. Not to be confused with the more colloquial Carolina style pulled pork from eastern North Carolina, an amalgamation of poorly cooked meat and an astringent vinegar-based sauce that is masked with a scoop of coleslaw. If you have to put coleslaw on your BBQ, it’s not good BBQ.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

Not really. I admire different aspects of a lot of people that I try to emulate and learn from, including everyone I’ve ever worked for or with.  I take notice of the qualities in others that I admire. Whatever characteristics I spot in them that make them successful and effective leaders are ones I try to adopt as well.

Q: What’s your design process like?

When assigned a project, I first like to dive into the history behind a site or building as well as its context. A lot can be learned by studying the nuances of a place, and more often than not those studies lead to design inspiration. From there it’s about creating spaces that are appropriate in their surroundings and functional in their purpose.

I like to work in section early on to apply a three dimensional perspective to the conceptual and schematic processes. Otherwise you run the risk of the tail wagging the dog if you try to force this perspective to conform to the two dimensional plan. However, that is not the only thing to be considered as architecture is actually experienced in four dimensions, time being the fourth, so an understanding of how a space will be experienced throughout the course of the day and year is also crucial.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents?

Not really. I co-host a podcast that covers Clemson athletics but I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon.

Staff Spotlight: Lindsey Theobald...

Q: Where are you from?

I’m from Napa, California, not far from here. The place I grew up has a small town feel, everybody knew everybody and everybody’s parents were friends. My house growing up was next to a creek and my sister and I used to explore it all the time. I remember my parents always going with their friends to the surrounding wineries and I would hate it and refuse to leave the car. But now it’s nice that it’s close by since I can visit often as a getaway.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Cal poly, where I studied architecture. The school is unique in that you have to declare a major when you apply, so I decided to become an architect at 17. Luckily it stuck. In my first year, I joined an optional class that was pretty computer heavy. It got into InDesign and modeling, before the advent of all the super cool modeling we use today.

I really started to enjoy my major in my 3rd year. The studios got more competitive and we all started vying for certain teachers, as it really mattered what teacher you got. In my 4th year everyone went abroad; I went to Denmark, which was amazing. Even though the school was all American, I lived in student housing with Danes. The dorms weren’t connected to the school, they were just housing for a multitude of students nearby. 5th year was thesis year and I ended up getting my favorite professor, which was great.

CalPoly always felt like a quintessential “California” school.  We biked everywhere, had big backyard BBQ house parties, hit up reggae night downtown on Wednesdays, and really enjoyed the small-town feel of SLO.  That said, studying a whole year in Europe and traveling practically everywhere throughout the continent was a welcome reprieve to the small town life I’d lived so far.  Best of both worlds.

Q: Tell me about your family.

I have a mom, dad, and sister all close by. I have two kids, eight and five with the younger one turning six in august. My husband, who’s a landscape architect, I met at Cal Poly. I’m super fortunate to have my mom drive all the way from Napa three days a week to watch my kids after school.  My family is super close, so it feels natural to have my mom and dad be a big part of my kids’ lives.  I have a big extended family too and we try to get together as much as possible, whether it’s big trips to Kauai or quick weekend trips to celebrate graduations.  We all just got back from my sister’s ranch near the Sequoia National Forest.  My kids are obsessed with my cousins’ kids, so it’s constant fun whenever we all get together.  The rest of my family is very musical, so there is always a lot of playing instruments and singing when we all get together.  I’m hoping the gift of musical talent rubs off on my kids.  Or at least singing on key.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

I guess my interest started in high school since I declared that as my major on my Cal Poly application. I applied for biology in all other schools except that one. I don’t remember what I thought I was going to do with biology, but I think I went for architecture because it was pretty specific and it seemed to be more exciting and defined. There wasn’t the typical “I love lego” phase or anything like that. I just liked design. I never took any art classes, so I wasn’t hugely artistic but I remember my mom and I designing my room all the time; rearranging the furniture, choosing the colors, and I found that to be super fun. I was into coloring and mixing patterns, just general childlike creativity.

What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I’m not specifically interested in the size or budget necessarily, but I really enjoy working with people who are willing to take more risks and or try some cool designs rather than play it safe. I love it when clients get excited about some crazy light fixture, finish, or piece of furniture that I’ve found. It comes down to the clients, not the project type or budget, but whether or not the homeowners are going to join me in taking them down this wild path to a unique project at the end.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Since 2006. I was practicing architecture in San Diego before I moved here. That company has since moved to Colorado as they weren’t into SoCal politics. Besides that brief stint after college this is basically my one and done career.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I think it’s the lack of ego, which drives Jonathan to always pay close attention to who he hires. He bases a large part of his decision on personality and making sure our office culture stays collaborative, fun, and humble. He’s always done a good job of doing that. It’s more fluid now that we’re bigger than it was back then. For five years I worked with the same five people, so it’s nice to see some new faces and learn from all the new experiences and varied backgrounds they bring.

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

I’m never too bummed about the tasks I have to do or the projects I’m working on, plus the people are fun to be around. I fundamentally agree with the way we approach design and work and I don’t feel like I’m coming to some place where I have to battle against others’ opinions. The office feels like a good nurturing community. Every day I’m always finding different ways to grow that I wasn’t expecting, whether it’s focusing on helping colleagues, learning from them, or collaborating with team members.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

Well, Patricia Urquiola kicks butt.  I took notice of her after I realized that every furniture piece or tile I was liking was of her design.  I appreciate her celebration of colors and texture.  She can be modern without having the negative connotations that occasionally go with  the term: like sleek, cold, and sterile.  She can use a huge range of colors, a multi-hued palette, and still have her pieces feel neutral and timeless.  Same with textures – her textures can be so outrageous, but on her specific pieces, they feel just right.  I also appreciate that she took her design sensibilities from architecture into product design and interiors.  She must have fun getting to design every little thing.

Another favorite of mine is John Pawson.  Quite on the other end of the spectrum from Patricia Urquiola.  His interiors are the epitome of minimal, but a minimalism that is so appealing because of the strong emphasis on materiality.  A room of his design can be empty, but it still feel inviting because of the rich materials he uses –textured concrete; smooth wood with tight detailing; and natural light softening white walls and ceilings.  The combination of pretty natural materials with crisp detailing is effective.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I’m visual, so I love looking at images of things on Pinterest or other websites. I find a lot of inspiration in images first and often ask for reference images from the client.  Then I know what look and feel we are trying to achieve.  Images are pretty effective for interior projects, which make up a large part of my work.  It’s an effective way for the client to share their vision or ideal aesthetic with me and vice versa.  Once I have a clear idea of the look and feel, I try to figure out the material palette.  I get the physical materials in front of me before moving forward. We’re constantly getting new materials for our office library that I (try to!) organize and keep up to date.  The new library is so lovely and I feel like a kid in a candy store here!

Q: What’s the nicest compliment you’ve ever been given?

My husband just told me that I’m emotionally mature.  Meaning that I am thoughtful in my reactions to others. That kind of blew me away, especially since I’m not always mature in my reactions towards him!  But, I do tend to see the best in others and that leads to more positive interactions.  I think it’s really important to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I’m an optimist!

Q: Where is your favorite spot to go in the city?

It’s different to think about because my experiences right now are through my kids. I love taking them on the ferry here and then going exploring around the city. It’s stress free! I can get a drink on the ferry and relax, plus the kids love the thrill of the ride. We are members of the Exploratorium, so we’ve spent many a weekend there.  For restaurants, I’m partial to the Presidio Social Club, especially if you get to sit on the back patio.  A glass of wine plus their fries and aioli and I’m set!

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