Architect Jeffrey Dungan Past and Present

In painstakingly documenting, disassembling and then reconstructing a century-old Pennsylvania barn on Alabama soil for a client whose affinity for the character of old barns matched his own, architect Jeffrey Dungan merged past and present in a way that transcends time.

This isn’t irony—it’s a cornerstone of his award-winning practice, Jeffrey Dungan Architects, which has completed a series of beautiful buildings that can be seen in his book The Nature of Home that are rich in natural materials, highlight a visceral understanding of their environments, and express a simplicity that always stems from complexity.

To Dungan, not only are barns majestic structures, they are “the warrior poets of architecture.” This particular project is absolutely part of that fraternity, but with the openness of something decidedly contemporary, a building that breathes and brings freshness to a historically muscular profile. “There is a difference between having respect for history and replicating it,” explains Dungan. “I always want to honor classical ways, but also be in touch with how we live now.”

To this end, Dungan opened the space to feel large and welcoming, while adding charms that nod to the past. “I find the little cupola that we added to be a delightful piece, and I love the way the light filters inside up high through the timbers; and the wide-open glass entryway is also a favorite piece,” says Dungan, as if he might be touring the house in his mind—a detail here, another there.

“Maybe best,” he concludes, “is the Swedish firebox that heats the house through a ductwork tied into it.” Along with these elements one finds a number of artifacts from the barn’s original site, including the dramatic frame of an old wagon that hangs overhead in the kitchen.

Dungan then throws open the doors to the landscape, which the barn embraces via open porches that allow light to pour into interior spaces, which includes a bedroom suite designed as a discrete loft space.

 “We picked the spot for the house based on the movement of the topography and the proximity to the river as well as the central location on the land that created the most privacy,” says Dungan.

“The farm ideas continued to imbue the property with other smaller structures like sheds and chicken coops, so it became a compound of sorts—like these little dots sprinkled out over the rolling landscape.”

The materials used in the Pennsylvania Barn echo the natural environment. The palette is earthy; the mix of wood, stone and glass express endurance; and exposed beams offers the rusticity and effortless imperfection of an earlier time that people of this era pay handsomely for. Life really is good down on the farm.


Tichenor & Thorp

Design à Deux: Tichenor & Thorp

Los Angeles architects Tichenor & Thorp — partners in life and in business — are united in design

[cs_dropcap column_size=”1/1″ dropcap_style=”box” dropcap_size=”0″ dropcap_color=”#fff” dropcap_bg_color=”#d7df21″]Architects M. Brian Tichenor and Raun Thorp are the quintessential team—reciprocal thinkers, simpatico in intelligences and appreciations, and nothing if not prolific, having completed more than 350 residential and commercial projects nationwide since launching their eponymous L.A. practice Tichenor & Thorp in 1990.[/cs_dropcap]

“We have a kind of way of working together; we collaborate on everything,” says Tichenor. Which explains the simultaneity, the seamlessness, the suggestion of exchange and interchangeability in their work. Each has a primary sphere of influence—Tichenor, exteriors; Thorp, interiors—but neither is shy about “playing professor,” a kind of big-picture shakedown between principals, a “what’s the story?” moment.

Story, they say, is everything—the ne plus ultra of good design and a principal tenet of their practice. Views are an absolute too, harmony and cohesiveness, light and palette, the cultivation of a whole, dimensional environment with interacting elements and a well-ordered elegance specific to the architect’s lens.

“It’s all really the architecture,” explains Thorp. “Because everything has a concept; everything has to perform a function, everything has to hopefully be pretty, and everything has to be detailed in a way that’s possible to actually create it. Design is a set of instructions for how to create something, but it comes together in the architecture.”

With work published in shelter magazines from Architectural Digest to World of Interiors, Tichenor and Thorp are deft in all architectural styles and have carved a particular niche in historic restoration, contributing to what they call the “big, beautiful narrative continuum” in Los Angeles, where they completed a series of projects at Capitol Records (executive office space; a commissary; lobby; new rear entrance, and more) and spent two decades restoring Cecil B. DeMille’s house with a clarified, simple version of what was appropriate to make it feel fresh and of this era. Clearly they were successful—Angelina Jolie is the current owner.


Tichenor and Thorp work coast to coast but have flourished in their native California, which they appreciate for its cultural legacy and accumulation of styles, from early Spanish to Mid-century Modernism. It’s the land of architects and dreamers; and in a sense, they’re both.

“The degree of richness and nuance and inclusivity and freedom to try things here is really quite different than anywhere else,” says Tichenor. “There’s a kind of willingness to go into something with more thoroughness here, there is more support for odder ideas.”

Adds Thorp: “Everyone was coming out here to find a dream or to try an experiment. People weren’t constrained by the kind of conservative trappings and expectations of older cities. There are a lot of factors that make L.A. special.”


Their recently released monograph Outside In: The Garden and Houses of Tichenor & Thorp (Vendome) showcases some of the duo’s finest designs, each an elaboration of their ideas, illustrating the depths of their architectural fluency. There are examples of rich, historic buildings; more modern structures; and gardens so lush they are hardly to be believed.

It’s a testament to Tichenor and Thorp that when asked about some of their current projects, they take a long, nearly paralytic pause, as if catching their breath. The abridged version would be an entire career for a lot of folks: eight beach houses from Laguna Beach to Pebble Beach, master landscape planning for three hospitals (one in Downtown Los Angeles) and, in a solid measurement of their métier, design architects of the new Los Angeles Times building. Expect headlines.

Written by Jenn Thornton
Exterior Photography Courtesy of Roger Davies for Outside
Exterior PhotographyCourtesy of The Gardens / Houses of Tichenor & Thorp / Vendome Press

A Weekend Immersed in Re-Imagining Modern

Dwell on Design, America’s largest design convention, comes to Los Angeles

Written by Joclene Davey

Dwell on Design, the ultimate modern design convention for interior designers, architects, builders and enthusiasts alike, is headed to Los Angeles June 24-26. Carefully curated by trendsetting editors from Dwell magazine, this exhibition and conference, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, will feature world-class speakers, product demonstrations, cutting-edge technology, plus classes and seminars for consumers and pros; one can even sit down with a professional designer, architect or landscape architect for a free consultation.

EVP Amanda Dameron built the show on what Dwell has coined the four pillars: the Smart Home and Emerging Technology, the Business of Design, the Nice Modernist and Healthy Architecture. Dameron explains, “Our content pillars for the Dwell on Design Los Angeles conference are inspired by the narratives we constantly pursue through all of our channels—namely, how to be at home in the modern world. As our founder, Lara Deam, stated: ‘We owe it to ourselves as a culture to define an architecture that is distinctly progressive, optimistic and timeless—one that helps us connect in a deeper way to ourselves and to our community.’” Correspondingly, the Dwell editors meticulously select their design program to create an optimum personal experience for those attending, showcasing over 350 exhibitors and more than 2,000 innovative products and services, plus four full-scale pre-fab homes.

The opportunities for inspiration are endless. “The show itself is a true  proponent of value added content,” shares Chela Piacentini, Marketing Manager of the parent company Informa. This is evident for the trade and DIY enthusiasts, with three days of carefully orchestrated educational speakers presenting every hour. Become an expert on design trends, smart tech media and targeting the right customers for your design business, or hear Dwell CEO Michela O’Connor Abrams discuss ‘the new affluent’ who, through their studies, have been defined as well informed, tech-savvy, and discerning consumers. According to Abrams, “the new affluent” consumer represents a time of transitional change coupled with creativity, a design-conscious and personal style.

Whether spectator or aficionado, Dwell on Design has something for everyone, from exquisite designer brand exhibits showcasing the latest and greatest concepts to the famous LA Home Tours. Be the first to preview fresh and innovative designs from hundreds of vendors like Graff Faucet’s Dressage Free-standing Vanity, a groundbreaking new bath collection, or Koncept’s LED, wireless and travel friendly modern GoLamp. Because the Dwell Home Tour intermingles with the LA Design Festival, it makes Dwell on Design unique to other design shows in LA, confers Piacentini. The tour is a must-see for those covetous of celebrity digs and famous architects, including a list of hits like Diane Keaton’s former home built by Frank Lloyd Wright, which has never been shown to the public before, according to Informa.

The tour includes 20 homes over the course of three days: June 19, Mar Vista/Culver City; June 25, East Side/ Hills; and June 26, Santa Monica/Venice. Tickets are available at

Not-to-be-missed at the show is the 34,000-square foot Dwell Outdoor Pavilion designed by famed Australian landscape artist, Jamie Durie. Children will get a warm welcome in the Modern Family Pavilion, where they can ‘Re-imagine Modern,’ referring to the brand’s well-known motto ‘Re-imagine.’ Partnering with IMM Cologne, Germany’s premier design show, the Dwell on Design’s brand will gain international recognition, as IMM brings with it more than 50 international brands combined with on-stage presentations to the tune of global perspectives.

“We hope our content programming will deliver insight and inspiration, provoking yet more discourse in how good design thinking can shape the world in which we inhabit,” concludes Dameron.

With a resounding philosophy set on informing, educating, improving and connecting the dots in the realm of modern design, the Dwell on Design convention will be a thought provoking weekend of great modern design, healthy building and life-improving strategies.


Designs on Dining

In the ultra-competitive realm of restaurant architecture— where culinary concepts come and go—atmosphere always makes the menu

Written by Jenn Thornton | Cassia Photos Courtesy of John Linden | Milo & Olive Photos Courtesy of Montalba Architects

Montalba Architects may be based in LA, but it boasts an international profile as an award-winning practice known for its thoughtfully considered architectural solutions in a range of arenas, from residential to retail to restaurants. In the latter category, the firm is responsible for some of the city’s hottest culinary concepts, including Santa Monica star Cassia and the memorably modern Nobu Malibu, in collaboration with Scott Mitchell and Studio PCH.

Here, a conversation with David Montalba, FAIA, SIA, LEED AP, proves that when it comes to restaurant design, presentation is not just about the plate. It’s an absolutely crucial component of the dining experience as a whole—and the restaurant itself.

Explain how architecture influences the dining experience.

There are a lot of similarities in the way we experience food and architecture; they both share a unique role in our lives as a cumulative experience, so I do think they are very much connected in how they evoke strong emotions or feelings. The layout of a kitchen within a restaurant affects how and when we see or smell the cuisine. In some cases, the guest is part of the preparation, in others it is completely concealed. Much like we associate certain holidays with different dishes, the ephemeral qualities of light, scent, texture and materiality round out the experience and recollection of dining in a specific setting.

How fundamental is the aesthetic of a space to the longevity of a restaurant—can good design offset areas where a concept might otherwise be challenged?

Absolutely. This brings to mind restaurants we visit because of their location or historic value. The chefs and menu have changed over the years, but the desirability of and demand for the restaurant prevails because of its design.

Using the design for Cassia as an example, what role does emotion play in the overall restaurant experience?

Emotions can certainly impact the overall vibe or feeling of a restaurant and help to set the tone. At Cassia, we created a small bar dubbed ‘Baby Spice,’ which faces its own antique steel-hood wood-fire grill. Reminiscent of the chef’s own kitchen, this six-person bar is meant to create an intimate experience for guests who can watch the preparation of their food while observing with the other diners.

Describe your approach in creating emotional architecture. What are the architectural qualities that define an emotional space?

What is great about architecture is that we all have our own experience and understanding of what works for us. Some of us have spent more time analyzing it and studying how its impact truly affects us. Over the years, we have found our design values are driven by context, materiality, natural light and expansion of space.

How do you strike the balance between infusing a space with architectural character that complements the dining experience but doesn’t overwhelm the food?

It is a combination of architectural elements, thoughtful furniture and other features including art, landscape and unique details that fold in the spirit of the chef or narrative of the cuisine. Understanding the objectives of the client and really balancing the elements that lead [versus] support is really important. It’s also perhaps something that may be influenced by the simplicity or complexity of the food itself. I’d say simple food can handle a complex experience, but with a complex food experience, a more minimal approach to the design can strike a nice balance. It’s important to listen to the space and complement the cuisine.

Similarly, can the design of a restaurant’s key components, like the placement of the bar, for example, contribute to its success as a business?

Space planning is one of the first steps in restaurant design. Defining circulation paths and visibility of various areas, including the bar, the maître d’ stand and the wash closet can significantly affect the experience of a restaurant.

How does your work in Southern California, specifically, reflect local aesthetic leanings?

Well it’s interesting, as many of us that have been in SoCal over the past 10 to 15 years have seen the food and restaurant culture rapidly evolve. The environment in Southern California is very unique, and hence encourages the use of outdoor space as usable square footage. This means operable glass walls, atriums and skylights that are used year-round. We also like to incorporate native plantings into the footprint of a space, further softening the threshold between indoor and outdoor areas.

What are a few of your restaurant projects that you feel best represent this approach?

Nobu [Malibu] is a great example of working contextually with the coastline and using light and materials to create an environment that is truly immersive and complementary of the food. Cassia is an example of how an existing space can be appropriated in a way that doesn’t negate the bones of the building, but still transforms the environment into something totally unique and new.

What do you consider as the main design elements of every successful restaurant?

Flow is really important—understanding how people want to move, rest, gather, and relax. Realizing the effect of architecture and design on the culture of a restaurant, we design unique details and elements for every space.

Montalba Architects
2525 Michigan Avenue, Building T4
Santa Monica, CA 90404
310.828.1100 |