All original work © Jason W. Wong. Please ask for permission to reproduce any work.

All original work © Jason W. Wong. Please ask for permission to reproduce any work.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Make your own kind of music, sing your own special song...

How important is music to your creative process? The past few weeks I've fallen into a nice little routine: I walk my partner part of the way to the station each morning (weather permitting), then I jog to the gym, come home, make a proper breakfast, and then settle into my workday with "Morning Becomes Eclectic" streaming on KCRW.

I've noticed that since my design style is eclectic, it helps to have a similar music source. There's something about musical repetition and rhythm, soaring or sentimental lyrics, and conjured emotions that can keep me going through a long day. Outside of home, I've been lucky to work in places where I can stream my own radio stations or (even luckier) have colleagues with similar musical tastes. At FIDM, I was caught rocking out in the studio more than once, headphones firmly planted over my ears.

(Bonus points to any reader who's guessed that the title of each of my blog posts comes from a song. Can you guess who sang each one?)

The Style Council, in particular, would always transport me back to the '80s, a time when anything seemed possible if you had a great idea and a witty sidekick, or lived in a cheap artistic loft. Cue the montage sequence...

"A Solid Bond In Your Heart" is a little obscure, but the video for my first choice, "Long Hot Summer" featured a young Paul Weller writhing in the grass and summer sun...not entirely appropriate, I thought.

The jingly-jangly guitars and melodies of the Trashcan Sinatras always take me back to my (original) college days, when I seemed to care more about music and art and the latest trends. I guess one must care in this industry, but for me it kind of ebbs and flows. I depend on KCRW to keep me apprised of the latest music as well as old classics, the same way I look at interior/shelter magazines and blogs for design trends. In my interiors, I find there are some timeless pieces I'll always gravitate toward, like a good trusted song.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ça plane pour moi...

Last week I had the chance to meet with a very distinguished and formidible teacher at FIDM, Yves Ghiaï. This was a special meeting--and my first with him--because due to scheduling, I never had the chance to take a class with him. My (now former) program director helped arrange a meeting after one of his classes so he could take a look at my work, knowing he'd have a fresh eye and lots of constructive criticism to give. (Knowing how easily swayed I can be by others' opinions, the director also reminded me they were his opinions and that in the end I had to decide what I wanted to incorporate into my portfolio.)

He liked this opening layout for my retail project, a comic book store located in the Gastown district of Vancouver, B.C.:

Monsieur Ghiaï said this one layout had a good flow and hierarchy; I started with an inspirational image ("BOOM!") that set the tone of the project (thanks for the suggestion, Charles de Lisle) and then showed how, from sketches to final floor plan, it all came together.

He looked at my other projects (two residential, one other commercial) and noticed that none of them followed a pattern, and that each one looked a little haphazard because of it. So going with this inspiration-sketches-final product "formula," I took a crack at reorganizing the layout for Boomerang, my hotel project. Here's the "before" opening spread:

And here's the "after" spread, using the idea of chronological flow:

I like it. I admit, it may not work precisely on all of my projects (as is, I had to lose one of my lobby elevations for this hotel project) but I've come to realize this portfolio is an ever-evolving piece.

Sometimes it feels like it'll never be done...sigh.

Thoughts? Comments?

Monday, January 18, 2010

O Canada, our home and native land...

For those who don't know, my father was a Canadian and I still have close relatives up in Alberta and British Columbia. (Best Story Ever:  On one of his last trips to Canada, my father was being questioned at the border due to a couple of "indescretions" on his record. Emboldened by a few in-flight cocktails, he said to the guards, "Ya gotta let me in...I'm a f**king Canadian!")

This was the man who encouraged me to seek out new experiences and follow my passion.

As previously mentioned, my cousin Vickey and her husband Alvy are having a new home built in Alberta (not too far from Calgary.) She asked me for some advice on cabinets, flooring, and other finishes that the builders and developers were putting in. The choices were limited, and she sent me some exterior photos:

The dark blue siding and stone exterior set the tone for my inspiration. From talking to Vickey, I knew she liked traditional interiors with a few modern touches, and I learned that although Alvy is pretty hands-off about this process, his favorite color is purple. Not being entirely sure of their flooring and cabinet choices, I threw together this collage:

Once again, I started with a palette of light and dark grays, black cabinets, limed oak, and purple accents. I figured that any developer would at least give some basic black and white choices for their new homes in addition to the standard "contractor's specials" of golden oak and beige tiles.

I was wrong.

Vickey called me the day she had to make her cabinet selection and told me her choices were incredibly limited. She ended up choosing reddish-stained kitchen cabinets and more contemporary brushed steel pendant lights. This didn't seem to match her traditional style at all, so I looked for some color choices that might be able to tie in these elements with her sizeable collection of antique wooden furniture (which I glimpsed in storage last time I went up to visit her):

The Sherwin-Williams color "Iron Ore" seemed to work well with the reddish cabinets, and I knew Vickey's antique armoires and other blonde wood pieces would contrast it nicely. The collage above shows three different sections, the kitchen (left), dining room (center), and living room (right.) All three spaces are fairly open to each other, so I wanted them to coordinate somewhat. Here's a floorplan so you can see what I'm talking about:

Later, I had a long chat with Vickey, trying to convince her that the gray was a sophisticated choice that worked well not only with her existing pieces but also with her traditional, French provincial style. I even sent her old renderings and elevations I had done on other projects to show how warm accent colors popped against dark backgrounds. But in the end, she decided she couldn't spend the harsh winter months with "Iron Ore."

Now I'm back at square one. Or maybe 1.5. If she likes that French country look, I can suggest white instead of dark gray. She wants something "warmer," but I'm not sure what other colors might work with those cabinets as well as her mix of wooden furniture without making her home look "country" in a totally different way. I'm researching it.

I've got time, right?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

All the single ladies! All the single ladies!

Well, it's a semi-ironic title for a blog posting, since most of the ladies in these photos are happily partnered or married. What "single" implies is that they're all free for work. Interior design work.

That's right, those are a few of my now-former classmates from FIDM: Jolene Lindner, Caroline Myers, Lauren Ranes, Adele Dalby, Samie Goodman, Michele Mathiesen, Kendra Nicholas, Lily Hanna, Alicia Cheung, Ericka Johnson, and Brooke Latham.

Take note of those names--they're going to be the interior designers of tomorrow.

We met up last night at Ottimista, an Italian wine bar on Union Street, to catch up one month after we all finished our studies at FIDM. It was great, hearing each other's holiday stories and seeing how various internships, jobs, and job hunts were going.

After spending so much time together in a compressed and extremely fast-paced program (learn AutoCAD in 10 weeks: GO!) it's been weird not seeing them every day, comparing notes, having lunch, and seeing their work. So a reunion was in order. As one of them put it, "after this kind of shared experience, it's like we all have the same post-traumatic stress disorder."

Personally, I thought our reunion was a lot of fun, not at all like The Deer Hunter. (Yeah, I guess you really can't compare interior design to the Vietnam War...or can you?) We all left at different times, and somewhat abruptly last month after our final class, so this was a nice way to transition between school and the real world.

Despite the crazy pace and close quarters of school, I think we're all looking forward to finding a similar atmosphere of collegiality and camraderie in whatever new jobs we land. At school, the diversity of our tastes and backgrounds somehow meshed well. We were all open to new ideas and welcomed the feedback and opinions of our classmates. We encouraged and challenged each other.

Aren't those ideal qualities in any workplace?

Let's meet again, ladies. Next month?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Can you meet me halfway, right at the borderline...

Last month I had the chance to talk to one of my design idols, Charles de Lisle, who happens to be based in San Francisco. It was great to meet someone who had a similar career trajectory (fine art to interior design) and whose style is a wonderful mix of high and low. (I love his use of industrial lights as a chandelier in a formal dining room.)

When he took a look at some of my student work, he encouraged me to stand out, take risks, and create lush stories with each project. He looked at my work from a client's perspective, which was a first for me. Up until then I had been obsessed about how my work looked to architecture or design firm (potential employers.) He said I needed photos of work, to get out there and photograph my own home or borrow pieces and stage vignettes in other locations.

That's the next step after all these nice hand- and computer-drawn student projects.

So...I've decided to start with my friends and family. (For some reason, I know three couples that are in need of some inventive interior design help.) I've decided to start here with Emily and Chris.

Let's start with a little background information on these new clients. This young married couple lives in the Central Valley, close to both of their families, but have both spent time in Southern California. They're about to purchase a new home--a tract home--but want this place to reflect their personalities. Emily is an actress/writer/director (and teacher!) and Chris is a musician, so there's a lot of artistic personality in their household. I knew a little about the stuff they had and about the styles that each of them liked, so I took a first crack at some inspiration images that I thought described them (this was my interpretation of them, remember):

Click on the image for full-sized pic.

Because they're young and creative, I thought they would like really graphic pieces and a mix of organic materials with modern touches, like dark paint and cabinets and a few bright, colorful highlights.

But my understanding of them shifted as we continued talking and they kept sending me photos of things they liked and/or already had. Their mix of thift store finds and cinema-inspired style gave me a better idea of their tastes. Because they're young and creative, they want a place that's colorful, vibrant, and full of love.

So I revised my vision, and came up with this:

Click on the image for full-sized pic.

Of course, this is just one of the first steps of an ongoing process. They'll continue to send me images, and I'll keep sending back ideas. This is one of the reasons why I like residential design--you get to know your clients on a deeply personal level. My instructors at school always pegged me as a commercial designer, but I think it's a natural progression to go from conceptual art to residential design: both involve sensitivity and a substantial dialogue.

So what do you think, Emily and Chris? Talk to me.

(Special thanks to Caroline Myers for showing me how to use the groovy collage software!)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I'm about to lose control and I think I like it...

One of the last little conceptual touches of the interior of 2146 Pine was the front living room. Some of you may have been wondering what the little orange and green flowery things on either side of the fireplace were. Well, in trying to play with convention I was inspired by the work of New York architecture firm Hollwich Kushner, who took conventional crown molding and turned it into wall sculpture:

When I first saw this in the New York Times last summer, I nearly went crazy (in a good way.) I knew I had to incorporate this into one of my projects. Luckily my clients had an impressive collection of modern conceptual art and would appreciate such an innovative wall treatment. So I used it in the front living room of their Victorian home:

The stark whiteness of the room put the focus on the sculptures of British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, whose work comments on colonialism and Victorian imperiliasm themselves. I personally loved how this room became like a gallery. Here's a close-up of the sculptures:

I love this particular piece. Part of studying art in London was learning to provoke thought and give audiences that "aha" moment. As an interior designer I want to do the same, but mostly by assembling those pieces and ideas as a curator, of sorts.

There were times during this project when I thought my classmates were looking at me like I was crazy. But one of my design heroes, Matthew Leverone, looked at my sketches and encouraged me, telling me to not give up on my vision. In the end, I felt proud handing in this thesis project.

Next post I move on to the real world. Even though I'm still looking for work, I also need some more experience, whether it's commercial or residential. So my friends Emily and Chris, Gil and Debra, and my cousin Vickey all need help with their new homes. I might not be knocking down any walls or doing major renovations, but I still consider them worthwhile projects.

I'm sometimes concerned about being pigeonholed as a "decorator" instead of a "designer," but right now, in this economy, I think most of us (if not all of us) need to make due with what we've got (as both homeowners and renters.) So if that means I have to stick to space planning, color choices, and procuring artwork, fixtures, flooring, and furnishings, then so be it! I want to show my versatility as a designer, so I'm more than happy to do residential work. It's still work, after all...


(I think I'll still post some retail and hospitality projects along the way to remind you that I can do it all...)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Our house...was our castle and our keep

Happy New Year to anyone out there reading this. I wanted to continue posting work from my big residential project and keep the momentum going into the new year. Let's hope for even bigger accomplishments!

Anyhow, here's the first floor of 2146 Pine Street, BEFORE (click on image for full view):

In my redesign of this house, I wanted to move the Master Suite down to the first floor, since my "clients" were both in their 50s. Their children were of varying ages, but eventually I thought they'd all move out and the parents would want to just live on one main level with the kitchen, library, laundry room, etc. (Click on image for full view.)

Here's the second floor BEFORE (click on image for full view):

By giving the kids (aged 15, 12, and 5--what a range!) reign of the second floor, I made it completely family-centered, with an office specifically for the kids to do homework or crafts. I wish I had had something like this when I was a kid...(Click on image for full view.)

I have to admit, I was dreading the hand-rendering for this project (in fact, this entire project was done by hand--even the construction documents!) but in the end I loved it. I really honed in on my style and perfected my technique.

Total time: approx. 2 hours per floor.