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!