Fashionable Living: C Magazine features Designer Blake Kuwahara

C Magazine celebrates it's 5th Anniversary Issue with all things "fashion".  Designer Blake Kuwahara gets a chance to chat with the publication about his home in Sausalito, California.  


Something new this way comes!

Focus Group West has some exciting news.  Check in next week for details!!


Who Is: John Lum

Next up in our continuing series, Dana Palmer chats with resident architect for Focus Group West: John Lum.  Learn how he turned a company that made industrial size washing machines into his studio space and the ins and outs of his design philosophy:

DP: What first inspired you to become an architect?

JL: I loved playing with blocks in the first and second grades, and had a great time imagining different buildings and houses.  I thought it would be a lot of fun to be able to create buildings for a job, and I still love it!

DP:  I know that you started off designing Elementary schools. How did you go from schools to optometry offices?

JL:  The firm I worked for had a specialty in institutional work, and I landed a position as a junior designer.  Over the next 7 years, I managed to become the main designer on several elementary schools as well as head up their interiors projects.  When a couple of friends of mine, who happened to be optometrists approached me about doing a new practice, I was well positioned to design something spectacular, which happened to win a design award from  Interiors Magazine.  From there, I was contacted by other optometrists, and now I am currently designing my 19th practice.

DP: What specific challenges do optometry offices present?

JL:  There are a few things I always need to consider when designing optometry offices:  showcasing many small objects while having overall design coherence, providing enough back-of-the-house space, laying out the office so the flow works correctly, and balancing merchandise security while allowing client access. If I can balance those things, the office will be a success. The only other challenges is the fact that many of my clients are sole practitioners and starting new practices, so I often work with small spaces and tight budgets. 

DP:  Since then, what other types of businesses/spaces have you designed?

JL:  I’ve done many restaurants, night clubs, and office spaces.  Currently I just finished a plastic surgery consult office with an illuminated tunnel/ramp that leads from the lobby to the exam rooms. The idea was to create an allegory for transformation.  I’m currently working on the new welcome center for the Bayview/ Hunter’s Point Shipyard development by Lennar.  I also have a thriving residential practice mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area.

DP:  From reading about your studio, it sounds like an amazing place.  Explain the process of transforming a company that made industrial size washing machines to your studio space.

JL:  I was lucky to get the building 10 years ago and was almost in an abandoned state, with 7 people living in the building illegally.  I ended up gutting the building and created a studio space that takes advantage of the 5 large skylights in the back of the building.  For me, this was one of the most difficult projects to do, as there were too many options for me to consider.  Clearly it is much easier for me to do projects for my clients than myself.  We’ve just installed solar, and our electric meter is going backwards!

DP: Explain a little bit about the design process you take when starting a new project.


John Varvatos Eyewear - Milan Spring/Summer 2011

Blake Kuwahara of Focus Group West collaborated with John Varvatos for the design and direction of a few eyewear pieces that were recently scene on the runways in Milan.  

close up images available after the jump


Blake Kuwahara featured in Marin Magazine

From A to Z- this year, [the] editors combed the county to identify the unique people, businesses and experiences that make Marin County special.  

Visit Marin Magazine for more