After working for Gaetano Pesce and Frank Gehry, Matt Gagnon established his studio in 2002 to pursue a broad-based design practice. Whether in the realm of product, architecture, or installation, his work combines an obsession with material and process, old craft and new technology with a desire to question and improve the built environment. His work has been published internationally and clients have included W Resorts, Four Seasons Hotel, Ogilvy, and the Los Angeles Fire Department. Here the LA-based architect discusses the importance of boundaries in his ideal live/work space.
How would you define your aesthetic? My design work has tended toward sculptural constructions. But my workspace is more on the overly practical side. I organize and re-organize my space to be as functional and efficient as possible. Lately, I have begun to struggle with that difference. I am developing new projects with a keener awareness of utility, but still with the intent to obscure that function somehow. I think it enables furniture or spaces to accommodate dual purposes such as live-work more easily. It is not as simple to categorize an object or a space if the purpose is not obvious on first glance. One example in my work is an extra long cabinet I designed for a loft in New York that hid a mini home office inside a long, random pattern. When closed, the cabinet did not suggest workspace. Hidden in the slat pattern were operable levers that opened the doors adding a child proofing layer to the project as well.
How do you keep your home workspace organized? It is important for me keep work and home space separate. When work is busy it inevitably gets messy. Papers pile up and model parts are everywhere. I like the energy of that and finding unexpected ideas in the chaos. But I do not want to live inside that mess, though. So it is helpful for me to have some boundaries.
Is there any piece of home-office furniture you covet right now? While not exactly a home-office piece of furniture, I think the Stoa Modular Rail System is an elegant way to transform any type of surface into a work surface. Because I abuse my worktables by building models and painting on them, I use heavy-duty doors. I rearrange the desks based on different projects, so the portability of the Stoa would be useful.
What would you change about your workspace? Are there any home/work spaces that you would consider ideal? I think living above the store would be an ideal scenario. It is necessary to create boundaries when living and working in close proximity. The ability to lock up work and go “home” would make the distinctions between work and play easier to communicate to oneself as well as to the rest of the family.
You live in Los Angeles. Tell us what drove that decision. I choose to return to Los Angeles in 2010 after multiple moves back and forth between LA and New York. Having worked in both places for other architects and on my own in Brooklyn since 2002, I had a longing to return to Los Angeles. I like the messiness of southern California. Architects, designers, and even non-design folks are always trying to envision ways to improve this place. There is a sense of opportunity and perhaps optimism in that type of thinking that feels very similar to how I approach design in general. And, of course, the classic indoor/outdoor living is a huge plus. I like being able to work in different settings.
How does working from home impact your work? Having workspace at home allows me to see my kids. I like to be able to work at all hours. I can be more productive late at night than during the day perhaps because I stop reading email or because something about the night is good for focusing. I can pop into the studio after having dinner with my family and the kids go to sleep. It allows me to work late if necessary without feeling like I am working all the time. Having kids has forced me to be better about not letting work take over my life.
Photos: Courtesy of Matt Gagnon