FAME | Luxury Architecture & Interior Design
"Our heightened connectivity has made us all part of a community much larger than any single physical neighborhood and broadened our understanding of aesthetics. Today, the concept of beauty is defined by a multi-cultural perspective. The established styles of the ‘enclave’ are less relevant. if modern life has changed dramatically, then so should residential design." FAME |
I was privileged last week to sit down and meet with the co-founder of FAME, American architect David Bruce Lee and ask him a range of questions from; what the key is to building special homes, what the FAME kickstarting projects are, and what one of the most rewarding projects throughout his career has been so far.
FAME a luxury residential architecture and interior design office co-founded by French Architect and Interior Designer Marina Bourderonnet designs custom modern homes in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and greater California. Their website is a fluid journey that elevates one’s imagination, drawing both from the cerebral and holistic realms. Their process and projects mirror the sentience and lifestyle of their clients brought to the forefront by the elements of the home.
FAME was founded to create homes that push the boundaries of luxury residential design. Both David & Marina accomplish this by designing every home to be unique, beautiful, smart, cinematic, and extraordinary. Like the five senses of the human body, each of these principles represents a different quality of a home and creates a greater living experience which is embodied into their trademarked phrase Enhanced Luxury Living™.
Q | When should someone thinking about retaining the services of a designer/architect engage?
Early! We actually suggest speaking with an architect before purchasing a property. Architects can see things that clients might not necessarily know to look out for; recently, a client almost bought a house that had been remodeled by the previous owner that was move-in ready but missing that special something; they weren’t sure if they could actually live their best lives in this house. So we did a pre-purchase walk-through with the clients, carefully listened to what they wanted, went back to our office, and came up with three proposals: low- medium- and high-intervention. That allowed the client to make an informed decision about investing in the house and gave us time to give useful design suggestions. Once they closed, we designed and curated the interior architecture, finishes, fixtures, and furnishings, and a number of custom pieces. A year after the first walk-through, the client has what feels like a brand-new custom home. Us being involved before they bought meant that we could realistically tell her what was possible, protect her investment, and be her solid guides throughout what can be such an overwhelming experience.
Q | What is your key to creating special homes?
We use often the phrase ‘design dexterity’. We believe that a diversity of design experiences is important for creating custom homes.
My co-founder Marina and I are very different and bring different perspectives. I’m an Asian-American who grew up in SoCal. Marina is French, from the countryside, and was educated in Paris. Independently, we’ve designed lots of different kinds of spaces, from houses to art installations, restaurants, condos, and high-rises. Now that we focus on single-family homes in California, we draw on all of these experiences. They give us more colors to paint with and more sounds to compose with.
We also both have a rebellious streak and the desire never to repeat ourselves; we’re always looking to do something a little bit unexpected.
Los Angeles Luxury Home Builders
Q | What are your kickstarting projects?
Our signature offering is the Project Starter Service, a fixed-fee (and fast) service that gives clients a vision for their home and the chance to work with us before signing up to do a whole project. We believe that hiring the right architect is the most important decision a client can make, and it’s hard to know from just one meeting if it’s the right fit. Project Starter Service lets us all go on a few dates before committing.
If clients leave it at the service, they have sketches, materials, and ideas to take to someone else. And if they decide to go with us, we know that we can jump right in. I’ll say that ten out of ten times, the clients want to stick with us.
Q | When did your design philosophy begin and how has it evolved?
We’ve always seen design as fundamentally about improving people’s lives. We see the home as a framework for elevating living; more than just providing shelter, a custom home should express and enhance the lives of its inhabitants.
FAME Luxury Architecture & Interior Design
Q | You mention your philosophy creates homes that are unique, beautiful, smart, cinematic, and extraordinary, like our five senses. How do you gather more clues about your potential client to gauge their own self awareness or sentience, to mirror or replicate that thoughtfulness into physical tangible spaces?
There’s a joke that being a designer or architect often means also being a part-time therapist. It’s funny, but it’s also true: listening and communicating are a big part of what we do.
Design is problem-solving, and good design requires information to work from. We start every project by asking clients tailored questions to understand their goals and preferences and doing a walk-through of the client’s current residence to see how they live, the things they collect, etc. Long before we ever put pen to paper, we’re observing, absorbing, listening.
It works best when clients have a level of self-awareness and can be honest with themselves. Designing a home is all about creating something that supports who someone is, on a deep and profound level. It’s less about the colors they like or the sofas they prefer, and more about who they really are. On the most rewarding projects, the client learns something about themselves they didn’t already know.
Q | What was one of the most rewarding projects throughout your career that you have worked on?
We did a really sweet renovation for an older couple who lived in Venice, California and initially wanted to trade their house for a condo. After talking with us, they decided to stay in their current house but reconfigure it to support their evolving lifestyle. They wanted a “new home” feeling, but in their forever building. From a design perspective, this presented an exciting challenge for us: how to have a big impact, with a relatively small scope? We’re proud to say that we brought our A-game and managed to transform the space completely. The clients say it feels like a brand-new place, one that they continue to love and care for. We stay in touch and visit them frequently, and they’ll still show off how well the design decisions support their lives.
"Your home is a sculpture to be admired from a distance and loved from within." FAME |
Los Angeles Luxury Architects & Interior Design
Q |You state in your beautifully-crafted website that a home is actually experienced, that it is a cumulation of its many different elements working together. That design influences lead to a more efficient and better living experience. Can you elaborate on this? Share a project that brought this to life?
We believe that we create holistic experiences. This means that we like to design, curate, and oversee the installation of every single element in the home—interior and exterior—which includes the layout, details, materials, and finishes of the built-in items (walls, doors, ceilings, lighting, fixtures, cabinetry) and the loose items (furniture, decorative fixtures, appliances). In common terms we provide site-planning, architecture, interior design, and furnishing services.
We work this way because it reflects how a home is actually felt. In our view, each of these focal points become the ingredients of a single experiential recipe. It’s best when they are all done in concert instead of being broken apart as many designers do – they’ll outsource architecture, or interior design. When we keep everything together, we can for example reduce the need for lots of interior lighting fixtures by maximizing daylight, or creating a smart layout that creates privacy without needing to build more walls.
Of course, we also love collaborating with other designers. In these cases, we work together to establish a comprehensive design vision.
Q | The services you render are from site planning, and architecture to interiors and furnishing, this reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright. When did you see the evolution of your purpose beyond designing buildings?
I grew up making music and small objects out of wood and other materials in my dad’s garage. At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where I received my Bachelor’s of Architecture, we designed furniture, interiors, buildings, and even masterplans. I’ve always loved designing a variety of kinds of things.
A home is made up of different scales of design, but those scales are all related. For example, a piece of furniture has the potential to define a room as much as the room’s walls. That’s why furniture and the walls must work together to co-define the space. The same thinking applies to multiple rooms in a home. How one room feels is dependent on the spaces next to it. For instance, how a foyer feels depends on the home’s exterior design and landscaping. Why? Because we experience things sequentially and in relationship to each other, much like a story.
Creating environments to better peoples’ lives means thinking beyond just the building.
One of the coolest things I heard during a KCRW interview was this gentleman who said that he doesn’t separate life from art. What is something cool that you have heard or picked up along the way that you would like to share with our readers and future clients?
A home is like an article of clothing. It’s protective, expressive, and makes the person wearing it feel a certain way. It can be that missing piece of confidence, or joy. It can change someone’s day - and life. Life’s too short to live in a home you don’t love!
David Bruce Lee
David is a Founding Partner of FAME, a Designer, and a Registered Architect in the States of California and New York. He has a Master of Urban Design from the City College of New York under the directorship of Michael Sorkin; a Bachelor of Architecture and a Minor in Sustainable Environments with Honors from one of the highest-ranked architecture Universities in the United States, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; and a diploma in music and architecture from Les Ecoles d'Art Américaines de Fontainebleau, France.