Design comes from all directions, and we are inspired by what’s handcrafted. This is the first of a series of blogs called 'Meet the Designers'. We spoke with three designers whose work embodies the spirit of authenticity. Our first interview is with Chris and Peggy, the owners of a renowned Los Angeles architectural firm Hsu McCullough and creators of the authentic Boise Residence in California.
Hsu McCollough is an architectural firm, based in California, specialising in custom home design, rooted in comfort. Led by principals Peggy Hsu, AIA and Chris McCullough, they envision and create exceptional places through a collaborative process with their clients. With a love for all things handcrafted – modern or traditional – and building materials exuding textural authenticity and charm, a Hsu McCullough space reflects the personalities and lifestyles of their clients with a loyalty to natural light and an equal enjoyment of interior and exterior environments in all their forms.
Hsu McCullough and their work have been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Dwell magazine home tours and many architectural websites.
What attracts you to handcrafted materials and an organic aesthetic?
Handcrafted materials leave a story of the skill and problem solving of those who worked on them. Many, especially admirers, are attracted to this and will want to know more about how something was accomplished. For example, for the wood lath wall dividing the kitchen and dining room at the Boise Residence, we removed existing lath throughout the house and reassembled the gathered pieces at this location. We cleaned all four side of the lath with a wire wheel drill. This cleaning also accentuated the rough texture further highlighting the tiny “ridge and valleys” of the wood grain when natural light directly washes it’s surface. We further assembled the wood lath boards by mitering each piece with a 45 degree overlap which we found best hides the seam of two pieces coming together. We finally used tiny finishing nails so as to best obscure the fastening. Hsu McCullough has a particular affinity for wood because it can be forgiving. You can sand perceived imperfections if you like or you can leave them as part of the story of the material. We are always looking for new ways to incorporate wood and different wood species into all of our projects
How does nature inspire you?
The southern California outdoors is a true and constant inspiration for us. Specifically we are attracted to the seemingly boundless variety of plant species thriving all year round. Our constant goal is to connect our architecture and interior spaces to the exterior of our projects by blurring the threshold between the two spaces. We love to bring a plant’s form, color and shadows into the houses we design. At the Boise Residence, we were particularly attracted to existing mature trees on the property - especially the 80 year old Yuccas and large pine tree in the backyard. These trees create a canopy where we then added a raised two-level wood deck below to extend our living space outdoors while at the same time connected to the Master Bedroom. To us, this doubled our living space area and because of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, this exterior space is comfortable all year round while being private even with its close proximity to the Venice Boulevard.
Where do you like to go to stimulate yourself creatively?
We have a dog and we are of course walking her outside around the neighborhood daily - looking at houses, plants, cars. We also take her to various parks and hiking trails which opens the mind. When we can we try to travel a few times a year typically around California, as well as one trip outside the country. Buildings, building materials and plant life of other places offer inspiration and sometimes other solutions to the familiar order we live with in Los Angeles.
What does authenticity mean to you?
With architecture, we are bound to expressing the forms of our spaces with structure and material surfaces. Of course there are layers of each assembled with necessity - for comfort and efficiencies.
When we can, the finish building material will be kept raw - untreated, un-finished and not painted or stained - as was the case of the wood surfaces of the interior and exterior walls at the Boise Residence. We love the rough texture of the wood especially the shadows created by the surface texture and natural light. Also, the color of the untreated wood walls were the starting point of our material palette while the paint, tile, stone and floor color were selected after to best compliment the wood. We were dedicated to using a lot of wood.
We also love using cementitious materials where the sand and rock aggregate is exposed or selected for it’s inherent color.
How would you describe the environment of your favourite workspace?
A connection to the exterior with a view framing a garden and/or the sky: therefore having excellent natural light where no artificial light is necessary. Dynamic music playing - usually Jazz or Classical