Though I always knew I would be an architect, it wasn’t until I was commissioned by a friend to design a tiny 500-square-foot apartment in a 12th century farmhouse in Prato, Italy (just outside of Florence) that I knew designing homes was my real love. I had just completed my master’s degree in Florence, from Syracuse University, and had landed a job working in the Pisa-based studio of internationally acclaimed architect Massimo Carmassi. It was in Italy that I learned to unravel the most complex and daunting of contexts, and introduce even the most gorgeously modern intervention quite comfortably within all those layers of history; a skill that all architects need, no matter the context.
After a few years, I headed back to my home town of Seattle. I worked for nearly ten years in a small studio dedicated to custom residential design, working my way from intern to Principal and learning everything I could about the craft of designing, detailing and constructing extremely high-quality residences for the exacting clients of Seattle’s tech boom.
With a growing family and a desire to see more of the world before our roots became too established, we jumped at a job offer and spent the next six years in Asia, living, traveling and working in Hong Kong and Beijing. I worked on residential projects with a French interior design studio in Hong Kong, learning new construction methods and cultural nuances unique to one of the most diverse and exciting cities in the world. After a couple of years we went deeper into Asia, moving to Beijing, ready to see and explore more. It was there I founded an eco-friendly textile design company. It was a challenge and a thrill learning an entirely new industry and craft. I used the study of traditional patterns in the art and the architecture and the folklore to learn and connect more with my new home. Diving deep into the art as well as the challenges of starting a business in China, along with the urgent and necessary language skills, was consuming and fascinating. Working and raising three small children in this new world tested and questioned everything I had learned and practiced as an architect.
Another job offer led my family back to the western hemisphere, and we spent the next five years in Buenos Aires. It was another dramatic change of architectural history and the polar opposite of the Chinese culture we had become accustomed to. I learned so much appreciating the natural beauty of Argentina and its traditional estancias, as well as the gorgeous architecture and urban design of the city, where we lived. It was in Argentina I partnered with a local artist and sculptor and we designed and tried our hand at general contracting, completely renovating apartments in the traditional neighborhoods of Palermo and Recoleta. The hands-on, deep dive into traditional crafts of the building trades as well as spending our days on a construction site managing the myriad problems that in decades-old buildings was an invaluable experience that informs all of my work today.
I am now finally settled with family back in the U.S., splitting time between Palm Springs and San Francisco. These two cities are like coming home - each very different and fitting the two personalities of my practice: a city-dweller who also like to get out and breathe the desert air now and then.
With each geographical change I have been thrilled and surprised by the differences, and touched by the elements that tie us all together as humans who need and desire a place to call home. I approach each project with the simple purpose of creating a home that expresses the spirit of the client and the place.
My work has been featured in national and international design publications in China (Elle Decor China, Architectural Digest China), Hong Kong (Home Journal, South China Morning Post), Argentina (Revista LIVING, La Nación) and the United States (Luxe Magazine, Gray Magazine, Palm Springs Life, The Seattle Times, Seattle Homes & LIfestyles). My own home in Palm Springs was honored with the Luxe Magazine RED People's Choice Award for Architecture upon completion in 2016.
Photo by Bess Friday