After last week’s visit to Fearon Hay, we retain Meet your next employer Series this week in Los Angeles to meet architecture, interior and furniture designers Laun.
The studio, founded in 2018 by friends Rachel Bullock and Molly Purnell, has grown from its customized furniture roots to a team of four people who deliver architecture and interior projects through a design process based on “curiosity and exploration.”
From their new office and showroom in Downtown LA, the firm is currently renting at Archinect Jobs. For candidates interested in applying for a post, or anyone interested in knowing more about life at an architectural studio, we talked to Laun Founding Partner Molly Purnell for a look behind the scenes of the firm.
How did Laun start?
Rachel and I both grew up in colder climates (Michigan and Colorado) and we love the Los Angeles’ inner outside lifestyle. We noticed there was a real lack of and limited width in contemporary outdoor furniture. In 2018, we decided to introduce Laun that brings together our backgrounds in woodworking, metalwork and architecture, to create sculpture, heirloom-quality pieces that can live both inside and out. My grandfather had a beautiful set of Walter Lamb pieces at his home in Pasadena that we always admired and it was a great inspiration when we compiled some of our first collections.
Over the past year, we have also expanded our residential architecture practice and worked on projects of all scales, from ground houses to renovations to the outside and inside.
Is there a specific meaning/message behind the name “Laun”?
When we started brainstorming names for the studio, we thought there was a pretty parallel between Lawn Furniture and Laun. So there you have it: It’s a pun!
How big is your team?
When we started the business, it was just me and Rachel who worked from my house. We have grown the studio over the past four years and we are currently a team of four.
Describe the area of Los Angeles in which your office is located.
We opened our new office and showroom in Downtown LA this summer. It is a neighborhood with such unique energy and a concentration of wonderful buildings, especially the marquee tents along the Broadway Theater District, many of which are preserved and used for retail and as concert rooms.
There is a wonderful mix of industry and dynamic urban life – rare for a city like LA. Our space is in the fashion district in the Neo-Gothic Trade Lofts building dating from the 1920s. Today it is still a pivot for entrepreneurs across the fields of fashion, design and manufacturing. We are so excited to be part of this community.
What is your favorite thing to work in Los Angeles?
As architects, we tend to look at our environment a lot. The incredible diversity of LA’s built environment and landscape was one of our greatest influences. We did pieces inspired by everything from the Art Deco Streamline modern buildings to the Waves of the Pacific. In LA, we also have the opportunity to work with some talented manufacturers about our furniture production and for custom pieces for our residential projects.
If you held a movie night for the team, which movie will you show and why?
No idea. It’s such a fun story and the city of LA is a well -known star. It was also written and directed by Amy Heckerling. I’m not sure why it’s rare to have a woman at the helm of a play film!
If you could work with one well -known architect from another era, who would it be and why?
Eileen Gray. When we first started our company, before we had a name, we kept all our business and design inspiration in a guide called Jean Desert. It was the name of her Paris gallery, a male-sounding pseudonym she gave herself so that she would be taken seriously in the architecture and design community. E-1027, the house she built for herself on the coast of France and for which she produced her own furniture is a true architectural gem.
Is your office one open-plan space, or subdivided?
We share an open-plan space of 4,500 square meters with our friends at the Multilyn Agency Denvir Enterprises. There are two different showrooms for Laun and Denvir, but we come together in our common spaces and meeting rooms. Laun has an extensive research and material library next to our design studio. Although our sensitivities differ in some way, the space really works and has a great vitality we love.
How does’ your office sound? Do you listen to music or radio at work? Can you hear the city life outside, or is it a place of quiet work?
We like good vibes while we work. We play all kinds of music and we like it when people have an interest in specific genres or artists. Mostly it is quite soft music during the day, but you can definitely find that we are shooting Beyonce on a Friday afternoon. Oh, and yes, you can hear the city life outside. Because we are in the city center, we hear the sounds of the city, we love the energy to be in an busy urban environment.
Where is the most popular lunch in or around the office?
We have so many wonderful lunches around us, and fortunately you don’t have to be in the city center to get in your car to get good coffee or food. Here are some of our favorites: Sonoratown, Basil and Cheese Cafe, Holy Basil, Civil Coffee and Yuko Kitchen. We are also very close to many wonderful hotels such as the Proper and the ACE for a meal with our team or a customer.
What is the most popular design instrument in the office?
Probably track paper and pins. We do a lot of repetition, so drawing outside the computer is the most important design instrument. But we also use Rhino a lot for furniture and of course Autocad and Revit for Architecture Projects.
How do your approaches to the design of ‘spaces’ and ‘objects’ cut each other? Or are you approaching them in different ways?
In the design of ‘spaces’, we have so many restrictions from the site to consent to the client that we really have a lot to oppose. This is a fun challenge and it is critical to have something to respond. For material palettes, we draw from historical precedent and what our clients are interested in.
‘Objects’ on the other hand do not have many restrictions beyond material and production restrictions. So, we have to give ourselves incentives to work with. For a new collection we develop, we found inspiration in the Hollywood Adventist Church. Not because we are particularly religious, but because the building has this wonderful presence just along the 101 highway in Hollywood.
It feels like a very La moment to drive to Hollywood and see this incredible building with soft purple mosaic tiles that cover a ronchamp-inspired facade with small windows. We like those kinds of moments. Here the church is a starting point and we branch with inspirations ranging from Hieronymus Bosch to Japanese lanterns.
Tell us about a completed project you are proud of.
We recently completed an inner renovation and addition for a 1930s bungalow in Silverlake. Located in a neighborhood known for its spectacular views on the hill, we opened the space to maximize the vast views of the center of Los Angeles and the home’s gardens.
The visual center of home is its dramatic copper kitchen surrounded by a pink marble island and green lacquer “box” that functions as an independent architectural object within the space subdividing the open space and a pantry, coat cache and art display wall accommodate. The client’s love for daring color and pattern is very present in the material palette of the project.
What position (s) are you currently appointing?
We appoint a project manager. We need someone who is both subject to architecture and interiors and who likes to get things done!
To which project (s) are the new team members likely to work?
Although we do a lot of residential work, we are currently working on a campus for a production company in Lincoln Heights. It’s a perennial project and a lot of fun. The customer is adventurous and the website is incredible.
In three words, how would you describe Laun’s design ethos?
Connection, curiosity, thoughtfulness, integrity, accessibility. These are five words, but it is the studio values that influence all the decisions we make.