Tag Archives: LINEA

ARCHITECTS AND INTERIOR DESIGNERS: WHAT TO KNOW

September 4, 2020

Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design. Left: sushi counter with lights by Tom Dixon; upper right: bar with chandelier by Stuart Haygarth; lower right, dining room with mural by Ajioka (photos by Gregg Segal)

When architects and interior designers work together, there are four things to know. (This article is an excerpt from my lectures at UCLA Extension, architecture and interior design department with professor Eleanor Schrader.

This is the perception, but how large is the overlap? (diagram by Poon Design)

1. WHO IS DOING WHAT?

When creating buildings, there is a big arc from envisioning spaces and volumes, to working on details like lighting, and furniture—from the shape of the ceiling and angle of the wall, to bedding and wallcovering.

Many mistakenly believe that the overlap between the work of architects and that of interior designers is small. In reality, the overlap can be small, medium, or large—or even huge. For a successful project, this overlap must be acknowledged, and when agreed upon, we have collaboration. If not, the result is confusion, alongside battles of ego and territory.

(diagram by Poon Design)

With our design for Chaya Downtown (top photo), there was no overlap at all, since Poon Design was the architect AND interior designer. We also designed everything else—landscape, lighting, furniture, graphics, etc.—even curating art and programming music. And we got to collaborate with some famous artists.

In contrast, Poon Design teamed with the talented West Hollywood studio, Interior Illusions, for our successful design and construction of four communities totaling over 200 homes in and around Palm Springs. Poon Design created the architecture, crafted the spatial experience, designed the cabinetry, and specified materials, kitchen appliances, and lighting. Interior Illusions selected all the furniture, art, accessories, window treatments, and overall styling.

Linea Residence L, Palm Springs, California, architecture and interiors by Andrew Adler/AVG, Interior Illusions, and Poon Design. (photos by Mark Ballogg)

2. IT TAKES A TEAM

A successful design takes more than just the talents of the architect and interior designer. Most don’t realize the extent of experts necessary to create a restaurant or school, hotel or museum. Even for a house, the team could include a soils geologist, civil engineer, structural engineer, AV/technology consultant, electrical engineer, energy compliance expert, and security advisor—just to name a few.

 

(diagrams by Poon Design)Every design decision has a ripple effect. No one should design in a vacuum. For example, the shape of a roof impacts structural and mechanical engineering, and the selection of a chandelier tests the allowable energy usage or the weight that the roof truss can support. Or, does the chosen porcelain tile for the floor meet the non-slip coefficient?

Architects, designers, consultants, and clients at work (photos by Poon Design and AVG)

3. WHAT IS THE BIG IDEA?

What is the design concept? All participants of the entire team must have consensus on the project’s creative agenda—as in the artistic philosophy, the story. Think critically and avoid clichés, because they only show limited thinking. Cliches such as: warm and welcoming, eclectic, timeless, transitional, or the overused, “modern YET traditional.”

Grapes, by Ai Weiwei (photo by Cathy Carver, Hirshhorn Museum)

For this home, we wanted to design a contemporary house, but zoning required a Tuscan style. We called our approach, Mission Modern. Meaning, it would be a blend of the California Mission / Spanish Revival styles with Modernist architecture. More importantly, it was our “mission” to make the design “modern.”

Modern Villa at Monte Sereno, Palm Springs, California, architecture and interiors by Andrew Adler/AVG, Interior Illusions, and Poon Design. (photos by Lance Gerber and AVG)

The owners of Din Tai Fung sought an Asian restaurant, but not an Asian theme-park. They had no interest in red silk curtains, lanterns and golden dragons. We offered ideas we entitled, Contemporary Chinese. As just one example of many, traditional Chinese wood screens and patterns were reinterpreted in new materials, executed with modern technology like water jet- or laser-cutting.

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, California (photos by Gregg Segal)

4. DO THE WORK?

Whether architect, interior designer, or engineer, please avoid the ubiquitous hand waving. This ridiculous gesture signals the so-called genius idea from a pretentious design diva, who has little concern for the development, implementation, or even success of said genius idea. If a pompous designer envisions a wall of mirrors, his idea shouldn’t stop there. What kind of mirrors—clear, tinted, colored? What size—large panels, vertical tiles, mosaics? How are the mirrors attached? What kind of adhesive or fasteners?

Shop drawings for the sushi counter at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design

Know how things work, not just how things look.

Drawing by Anders Nilsen for The New York Times

And know the parameters. Some architects like Italian Carlo Scarpa, or as Poon Design does with most of our projects, design every last detail, every last screw, as both architect and interior designer. Other architects stop their creative thinking at the face of the drywall and look to the interior designer to fit out the rest of the space. This approach bothers me. If an architect has created the most exciting ideas for the overall composition of the house, why can’t he continue his thinking as the design moves inside?

Left: project with only drywall completed (photo from homerepairninja.com); right: Olivetti Showroom, Venice, Italy, by Carlo Scarpa (photo from archlovers.com / Yellowtrace)

LIVE LEARN EAT: A NEW BOOK ON THE WORK OF POON DESIGN INC.

July 24, 2020

Edited by Michael Webb and internationally published by ORO Editions

So many books with so many beautiful photos of architecture; so many coffee-table books of extraordinary designs, heroic forms, and exquisite details. When approached about creating a book on our work, I hesitated. I did not want to propose yet another catalog of glossy pictures. If I were to offer a monograph (as this type of book is often called) to a broad audience of design enthusiasts, I wanted this book to tell a story, to display our creative journey and hopefully prove a thesis or two.

WV Mixed-Use Project, Manhattan Beach (photo by Gregg Segal)
Linea Modern, Palm Springs, California (photo by James Butchart)

Spearheaded and edited by acclaimed architectural critic, Michael Webb, and entitled Live Learn Eat: Architecture by Anthony Poon, the “triple-threat” publication features our work in three areas: homes, schools, and restaurants. With all three, we not only strive to make our architecture handsome and striking, but we also communicate ideas, expressing everything from our culture and the community we live in, to the specific needs of each client. We call this content; each and every client of ours has ambitions for their existence, memories of past successes, and lessons learned. This is the basis for our design process.

Greenman Elementary School, School District 129, Aurora, Illinois (drawing by Anthony Poon w/ A4E)
STEM lab, under construction, Berkeley Hall School, Los Angeles, California

I enjoy looking at how ideas are conceived. How did the architect get here? What are the hundred steps, missteps, and side steps—from the very first sketch on the back of a napkin to the finished project? A monograph should dedicate some of the graphic real estate of the pages to the journey, showing the roses that are noticed along the path, as well as the thorns.

Din Tai Fung, The Americana at Brand, Glendale, California (sketch by Anthony Poon, photo by Gregg Segal)
Mendocino Farms, Fig at 7th, Los Angeles, California (photo by Poon Design)

For a recent podcast, the interviewer asked me, “Of your various activities, what creative pursuit do you like best?” Akin to the challenges of identifying one’s favorite rock band or flavor of ice cream, there is no reasonable answer. Do I like playing a Brahms Intermezzo more than writing a position article on the design industry? Do I enjoy working on a large mixed-media art piece more than designing a Buddhist temple? I don’t see any such exercises as separate, or, in any way, independent from each other. Artistic endeavors are not discrete. All my investigations, experiments, tests, and failures fall under the shelter of a single umbrella, a simultaneous effort—that of a creative voyage with no starting point, and, excitingly, no end in sight.

226 pages, 9 1/2″ by 9 1/2″, hard cover, fully illustrated

Internationally published by ORO Editions. Receive a 20% discount when ordering directly from the publisher through August. This book is also available now on Amazon and your local retailers.

Stay tuned for our next two books. One is the second volume, Work Shop Pray. This monograph will feature our designs for offices and work places, retail projects, and sacred structures. For the other book, I have authored an architectural novel. Taking place in present day San Francisco, architects are being murdered as they compete for a new museum at the infamous Alcatraz Island. The 350-page tale of murder and intrigue examines ego and arrogance within the creative process

SHIFTING GROUNDS IN ARCHITECTURE

May 1, 2020

Fires at the 405 freeway, near where I previously resided. (photo from abcnews.go.com)

(Original feature editorial published in California Homes: The Essential Guide, Architects & Builders 2020)

As earthquakes and fires challenge our complacency, as a decade concludes, the design industry confronts transitions and shifting grounds. No, not trends in popular paint colors. And not faux-Cape-Cod homes on the west side. Architecture is one of the few remaining noble fields where those who choose to participate do so because architecture has the capacity to change the world.

Yet another trendy faux-Cape-Cod inspired home—an architectural style that has little relevance to our Southern California context and climate. (photo from Pinterest)
Poon Design is honored to be one of the few green architecture businesses, acknowledged as a Certified Innovator, Sustainable Business Certification Program.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESILIENCE

Sustainability is not a fad, no longer just a movement. It is mission critical. Being green does not simply comprise solar panels on the roof with recycled materials in the kitchen. Being an advocate for the environment has evolved into a lifelong commitment to our global community.

Last year as Poon Design Inc. received its certification as a sustainable business from the California Green Business Network, our pledge went beyond saving on paper and electricity. Our calling involves educating clients, participating in community service, and thinking beyond the physical environment, to include our economic and social circumstances.

Add the recent interests in biophilia and the instinctive association to nature and all forms of life. More crucial is what is known today as resilient design. How does architecture recover from disaster, whether fire or flood—even terrorism or a school shooting?

EC Kids fitness center and ninja gym, Culver City, by Poon Design (sketch by Anthony Poon)

TECHNOLOGY AND PROCESS

I embrace the old school tools of my trade that include a pencil, triangle and drafting table. A quantum leap for design arrived with digital technology. Computers and algorithms are not just powerful tools for the creative process, but also for construction. But I argue that our clients have been saturated with this promising call of a technological future.

For the design process, hands-on, rolling-up-one’s-sleeves, real-time methods replace clicks of the mouse. Expressive hand drawings far outshine the heavily-Photoshopped computer rendering. A 3D-rendering captures what the house might look like. But a hand-drawn sketch captures the emotion. When in construction, Poon Design challenges the machine-made and the factory-produced output. We embrace the hand-crafted that expresses the human touch.

Buddhist Temple, The 14th Shamarpa Reliquary Building, Natural Bridge, Virginia. One of four completed buildings by Poon Design for a 400-acre international Buddhist retreat. Universally sacred, this design expresses a crafted and quiet architecture of both human and spiritual hands. (Photo by Mark Ballogg)

BLURRING THE LINES

Where advantageous, architects became design-builders. Where necessary, lines between architects and interiors designers became fuzzy. Where strategic, architects designed furniture and interior designers designed bedding and kitchenware. Though the business model of single-minded specialization is an expedient method to market one’s brand, such as being the expert of Spanish Colonial estates in Beverly Hills, the current industry reveres the design companies of greater depth and complexity. As Frank Lloyd Wright promoted decades ago, ambitious design studios offer an array of services under one roof, from architecture to interiors, from furniture to graphics, from landscape to product design. With the right client, Poon Design adds branding, fashion, art/music curation, and certified feng shui services.

Living room of an estate in Beverly Hills, California, architecture by Martin/Poon Architects, interiors by Timothy Corrigan. (Photo by Anthony Poon)

For each designer focusing exclusively on luxury single-family residences, there are architects embracing tract homes, prefabricated ADUs, affordable housing, and co-living mixed-use projects. Why can’t the architect of homes design a Buddhist temple?

Linea Residence G, Palm Springs, California. This production house design and similar others by designer/developer, Andrew Adler, and Poon Design have been built and sold, totaling 230 completed projects in and around Palm Springs. 2018 Winner of Best in Housing Design for North America, The American Institute of Architects. (Photo by Hunter Kerhart)

CONSTANT CHANGE

Practically a cliché these days, Heraclitus proclaimed, “The only constant in life is change.” The truism still applies.

I don’t have a crystal ball, nor do my fellow classmates. But we are somewhat Futurists and we encounter the patterns. 1) The significance of community outweighs the consequence of self. 2) Face-to-face, hands-on interaction prevails over phone texts and posting on Instagram. 3) There are no limits to what a designer can design, what a creative mind can create.

Conference room wall at Poon Design, Los Angeles, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

THE ARCH PODCAST, FORM MAGAZINE, 2 OF 3: SACRED WORKS AND COLOR

December 6, 2019

My sketches for the chapel of the Air Force Village, a retirement community, San Antonio, Texas

Please enjoy more excerpts from the podcast The Arch with Form magazine, and the acclaimed author and artist, Carol Bishop. Previous excerpt is here.

Carol Bishop: Many of your projects touch communities. You do churches for various different kinds of religious groups. You do educational structures. You do libraries. Can you elaborate on these?

Oklahoma History Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Foaad Farah)

Anthony Poon: The community aspect is very important to us. As much as we enjoy doing projects like designing homes or the one-off projects, we feel that our skills and talents should serve a much broader community. One of the things we enjoy doing most are our schools, serving teachers, administrators, and children. We enjoy doing projects that bring communities together. We enjoy building out communities, which is one of the aspects of our residential work, not just doing one house at a time, but doing a hundred homes at one time and envisioning what an entire neighborhood could be.

Alta Verde Escena, a 130-production-home community by Poon Design, Palm Springs, California (photos by Anthony Poon)

Carol: Are there any particular challenges, whether with the codes or concepts or clients when you are designing these types of buildings? For example, when you were asked to do the Air Force Chapel, how did you marry the military and the spiritual layers?

Chapel for the Air Force Village, a retirement community, San Antonio, Texas (rendering by Mike Amaya)
The triangular floor plan for the chapel

Anthony: That’s a complicated question, so I’ll answer in two parts. The first: You bring up what is one of the most challenging parts of architecture and maybe the most tedious. We’re talking about things like city codes, the permit process, and the science and engineering of making sure a building doesn’t fall down. We’re talking about client wishes, building program, square footage, and of course on top of all of this is the budget and the schedule. There are all sorts of these kind of technical aspects that we have to problem solve. Once we get those taken care of, we then, on top of all of that, have to add the artistry. We have to then add our creativity.

It’s kind of like learning a piece of music. Say you’re learning a Mozart sonata and there are literally 10,000 notes to learn to play correctly—to get each note perfect as it was written by the composer. But once you do that, it’s not considered music yet. That’s just painting by numbers. That’s just getting each note correct. After you’ve done that, and that can take years, you then have to add your interpretation. You have to add your story, your style, your idea of what that Mozart sonata really is about.

Chapel exterior (rendering by Mike Amaya)

To jump to your second part of the question, we did a proposal for a chapel at a retirement village for the Air Force in San Antonio, Texas. You talked about marrying the practical and the spiritual, and that’s exactly how we viewed it. We studied sanctuary spaces and gathering spaces, assembly halls, and considered what would be the most effective kind of floor plan. We came up with a triangular floor plan that allows all of the attention to focus to the front of the chapel. But it was more than just a geometric exercise. We added to our composition metaphors of the Air Force, of heroicism, of strength, a majestic character. And we took that triangular form and gave it a presence on the outside where the building reaches for the sky. In that sense, it became a metaphor for the Air Force and how strength and heroic actions can lead to good things.

Contraband & Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial

Carol: Well, I have to ask you about this project because of the name, the Contraband & Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial.  Could you tell us something about that?

Anthony: That’s a proposal for a project in Virginia. And it’s haunting and extraordinary. There was a development in Alexandria where developers started to excavate the land to build commercial buildings. They came upon graves, coffins and bodies of the freed slaves. Obviously, construction stopped. The city asked for proposals of what to do, how to develop this. If it should be developed, what would be the right thing to do?

Contraband & Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial (rendering by Olek Zemplinski)

We designed a memorial park where half of area left all the burials as they were found. They were all given grave markers of stone. We created a path of wood that floated over the graves so that you can look upon and honor those who have been lost. We envision that the brass handrail of this wooden path would have names etched on the metal. The path lands in the other portion of the city block, where we designed a park as a gift back to the community.

Contraband & Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial (rendering by Olek Zemplinski)

Carol: More and more, we see that there are two camps. One is no color, just white, white, white.  The other camp is: Let’s just pour on the most hideous colors so that my building shines. What is your take on color for your projects?

Anthony: Color is a whole philosophy. You’ll have architects like Richard Meier who primarily uses white. He’ll explain that through the color white, we see all the colors of the rainbow. You’ll have all of the Post-Modernists from the ’70s and ’80s using a lot of colors as a reaction to modernism and abstract art. Post-Modernists used pastels and bright colors. Michael Graves used burgundy and peach and orange and ochre.

Linea, a 14-production-home community by Poon Design, Palm Springs, California (photos by Anthony Poon)

Our view is that color is a specific analysis and study for every project. There are projects where we believe the project should have a neutral palette. There are projects that we believe color should be used. For example, we’ve done a community in Palm Springs called Linea . It’s 14 homes. All the homes are white, intentionally so. They’re white inside. They’re white outside. The cabinets are white. The flooring is white. The countertops are white. Some might argue that this is very clinical or very sterile. We see it as being tranquil and peaceful. We see it as reflecting the maximum amount of sunlight coming in through the windows.
We also see it, importantly so, as a blank canvas for the owner of this house to add their own personality, to bring in their own colors of their life, whether it’s in the furniture, the art on the wall, a throw, the window treatment, or the colors they wear as clothing, as they move through this very calming environment.

Greenman Elementary School, School District 129, Aurora, Illinois (by Anthony Poon w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates)

On the other hand, we’ve done projects for schools where we think for an elementary school, there should be some vibrant colors to energize the space. In one elementary school that we did in Chicago, in the hallway for the windows we used red, green and yellow glass set in as accent pieces within the regular clear glass window system. In this way, kids can look back out at the world and see it through the lens of red, see it through the lens of yellow, to see what the world looks like. Colors becomes an educational device, something to alter your perception, to have their mind wonder.

Colorful glass tile shower, Encino, California (photo by Poon Design)

THE ARCH PODCAST, FORM MAGAZINE, 1 OF 3: STORYTELLING THROUGH ART

October 4, 2019

Skull Painting, 44” x 52”, by Anthony Poon (2018)

Carol Bishop: Hi, this is Carol Bishop with Form: Pioneering Design. Thank you for joining The Arch, connecting and supporting the arts and design community. Today, we are fortunate to have Anthony Poon of Poon Design Inc. Poon Design is a multi-disciplinary studio in architecture, interiors, and place making. In addition, Anthony is a noted artist, musician, and author. To begin, I’d like to welcome you, Anthony, and ask you to give us an introduction.

Recording session for The Arch Podcast with Carol Bishop (photo by The Arch)

Anthony Poon: Thank you and good morning, Carol. I’m excited to be here. My professional focus is Poon Design Inc. We are an architecture company in Los Angeles, and we focus on a diversity of projects from residential to commercial, from mixed-use to sacred projects, educational projects as well as hospitality, restaurants and retail. I would say that’s my job. It’s what I do when I go to work. But my passion is actually any form of creative expression, whether it is architecture, music, writing, or painting.

The annual tuning of my 1957 Lindeman spinet piano (photo by Anthony Poon)

Carol: Well, let’s take that a little bit further because I’d like to know what led you to become an architect, musician, artist, writer, and how you balance these and what the connections are between them.

Anthony: It’s all about creative expression. It’s about communication. It’s about having ideas about the world, about culture, about society, and finding ways in which I can express that, that I can communicate that to an audience. It could be through the design of a library, it could be through the design of a park, it could be through performing music or composing. It could be through writing an essay, or painting a painting, or making a sculpture. In all forms of these artistic expressions, they’re all communicating something that I want to say.

Carol: Let’s take that as a starting point. Often, when you’re doing music or art, it’s a solitary experience. You’re honing your skills, you’re problem-solving what media to use. How do you marry idea and communication with that part of the structures of working in the arts?

Anthony: I would disagree that it is a solitary exercise. In every form of artistic experimentation, there is an audience. If I’m designing a building, if it’s a house, the audience or the client, is a family. If I’m designing a performing arts center, theater, or a concert hall, the audience would be the people that come to visit—to hear an event. If I am playing a piece of music, it could be for an audience of one, it could be for some friends or family, or it could be for hundreds of people at a recital. When I paint, when I do some mixed-media explorations, I’m thinking that this is not a piece just for me, that this is a piece to share with the world that could end up in someone’s living room. Even though I may be at my piano by myself, or at my studio with a canvas by myself, or with my sketchbook sitting at the gas station, the circumstances may be that I am in a solo mode, but the goal is to share something with a larger audience.

The audience (photo from business2community.com)

Carol: When you say that your designs have ideas, are you talking about stories or narratives? How do you integrate that into your work?

Anthony: Design is storytelling. What we do when we start a project is to learn as much as we can about the client, whether the client is a family or a corporation. It could be a restaurant or a hotel. We want to hear their stories. We want to hear their ambitions, their agendas, their success stories as well as maybe some battle scars. We want to know what they dream of and what they envision for their future.

If it’s a house, someone might tell us about some Thanksgiving dinner they envision throwing in a wonderful dining room—or a child sitting at a bay window reading a book and the way the sun comes through the leaves on the nearby tree. If it’s a restaurant, the client might tell us a story about the cuisine, how they approach getting their ingredients and how they prepare their meals. If it’s a school, there’s definitely an educational manifesto, what the curriculum is and what the methodology is for teaching.

We listen to all of this, and it becomes the story. It becomes what we call content. It is such pieces of information, facts, and stories that become the basis for how we design a building.

Live Learn Eat: Architecture by Anthony Poon, a soon-to-be-published book by ORO Publishers, edited by Michael Webb, available early 2020

Carol: I know your second book (first one here ) is coming out called, Live Learn Eat: Architecture by Anthony Poon, and so I’m very interested in it. Can you tell me something about it?

Anthony: This book is coming out hopefully the end of the year. It’s being published by ORO Publishers, a very prestigious international publishing group. This book is spearheaded by Michael Webb, the well-known architectural writer and critic. We’re honored that he has decided to lead this project. Michael came up with this incredible theme for us, Live, Learn, Eat—to suggest that this book covers three different categories of our work. “Live” obviously means our residential work, and that’s both custom design as well as tract housing. “Learn” is our educational work, our schools. “Eat” would be our bars and restaurants. As far as we know, we don’t think a book like this exists. There are plenty of books on architects designing homes. That’s the majority of books you’ll find at Barnes & Noble. There are many architects who specialize in restaurants, and there are the K-12 / higher education big firms that specialize in such.

Our monograph is a unique triple-threat book that shows how we operate at all scales and for many different kinds of clients. It makes me think with our increasing body of work and interest in many different project types, this theme can become an ongoing series of books about us over the years. We can do a book called something like, Play Work Pray, for example. “Play” could be our recreational projects. “Work” is our office buildings, and “Pray” would be our religious projects. And so on.

Linea Residence V, by Poon Design, Palm Springs (photo by David Blank)

Carol: In the end, do you have a manifesto?

Anthony: I don’t have a manifesto. I think there are daily goals and there are things that I want to achieve. But I think back to one of my employers, the late Hugh Hardy. He had always said that mission statements and manifestos are dangerous things, because once you put it out there, people will accuse you of not supporting your own mission statement or accuse you of being in contradiction to what you’ve set out to do.

A manifesto is quite ambitious. I could also be accused of being naïve to think that I could write a manifesto, whether it’s a paragraph or 100 pages. I think I prefer the jazz-like approach in which I get up each morning and wonder what the day will bring, and approach it more organically—and see how I can just come up with ideas for whatever I’m to confront each and every day of my life.

(The full podcast is here.)

 

PODCAST PART 2: MODERN FOR THE MASSES, REVISITED

March 8, 2019

Escena Residence I-3, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Chris Miller)

Continuing with my interview for Josh Cooperman’s podcast, Convo By Design, we discussed how affordable Modern homes were created for the general home buying audience. With 225 built (and sold) homes by Poon Design within only the past few years, I think I know what I am talking about.

Excerpts below. YouTube clip here. Audio podcast here. Also, please read this recent feature by Michael Webb, Anthony Poon Delivers Modernism to Tract Housing.

Residences at Alta Verde Escena, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo from Google Earth)
Linea Residence T, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Josh Cooperman: What is “Modern for the Masses”? Modern is an idea that you have embraced wholeheartedly and the idea of creating it for the masses is simply a . . . How do you jive those two and what’s the idea behind it?

Escena Garden Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Interior Illusions (photo by Lance Gerber)

Anthony Poon: Our thesis, Modern for the Masses came out of a study of a lot of homes in LA—the ones that we see in the magazines, the glossy pictures, the websites, the homes that we love in the Hollywood Hills that sell for 10 million dollars. The challenge was this: How can we create these beautiful modern homes for a fraction of the price? Build them at production level, a mass production level, and sell them.

We teamed with a developer/designer, Andrew Adler, who found distressed properties in Palm Springs. We designed a few prototypes, very Modern, not at all what you see in tract housing. Not the cheap Spanish style homes with the small windows, the fat trim, the fake tile roofs, and the wedding cake décor.

Our Modern homes are very strictly Modern. Lots of glass, open space, very sleek. To date, in the last four years, we’ve completed over 200 homes. And they’ve all been built, they’re all sold, they’ve been published extensively, and we’ve been awarded over two dozen national and regional design awards. It’s a program that has not been accomplished, as far as I know, by any other architecture studio other than Mid-Century Modern, and we’re talking about going back over 60 years.

Linea Residence G, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by James Butchart)

 

Linea Residence L, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by James Butchart)

Josh: Your theory has been tested and it appears to have passed. Why?

Anthony: Because there is a demographic out there that has not been served. These tract housing companies that build communities of 100 homes—they rubber stamp these homes out. They’re not selling. People aren’t interested in these homes.

Our imagined home buyer is someone that wants the modern lifestyle, someone that believes in technology, iPhone, iPad, completely connected all the time. Also, someone who has a concern for sustainability, for being green. Those three things were critical to us and of course, all of these things needed to be done on a budget that was about one-fourth what you would see most homes in California being built for. That was our perfect storm. Our homes have outsold all competing developers in Palm Springs because we have a product that everyone’s been dying for.

Escena Arcadia Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)
Escena Arcadia Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

Josh: There has to be some things that are limited or cut out. There has to be. What is it? What is being removed?

Anthony: There is nothing being removed. In fact, what we’re adding is a certain kind of value that makes a home better and happens to save money in construction dollars. I wouldn’t say we’re cutting or reducing anything. It’s just the way we’re rethinking architecture.

For a typical traditional house in Beverly Hills, there’s the entry, there’s the foyer, the hallway, the powder room, the niches. What do we need all that for? It’s not even what people want, and it’s what’s driving up construction costs, like framing 20 different ceilings heights throughout a house.

Escena Panorama Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Interior Illusions (photo by Lance Gerber)
Linea Residence T, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design, Andrew Adler and Interior Illusions (photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Josh: In fact, you’re just using what you have for the greatest effect.

Anthony: It’s similar to the approach that Minimal art can have a few brush strokes and still be dramatic and impactful for the composition. In that way, you could say that we’ve cut out pieces of architecture. I’m saying we actually added to the essence of a house.

Coral Mountain Residence Z, La Quinta, California, by Poon Design (photo by George Guttenberg)

Josh: The concept of the traditional tract home—I’m wondering why it doesn’t work. What is it going to take for your idea to expand to a general market?

Anthony: I think tract housing is failing because these companies are large. They’re money-driven. They’re stuck in old ideas. It takes a lot to turn a company around and look towards the future.

I think of the example of Tower Records. If you recall, a decade ago, MP3 players came out, iPods. Tower Records claimed that it was just a fad that they would hold onto their LPs and their albums. And look what happened to them. Tower Records is gone. iTunes has taken over the world.

So, these tract home companies that we compete with and that we beat out month to month, they’re stuck in these old ideas, these weird big Mediterranean homes, these things I call ‘Taco Bell Homes’—no one wants them anymore.

The community of Alta Verde Escena, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Anthony Poon)

© Poon Design Inc.