Tichenor & Thorp Architects

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Ask the Experts: Tichenor & Thorp

The Los Angeles-based architects share their secrets to a beautiful home, inside and out.

When they set out to design the open, airy, light-filled Jackson Hole retreat we featured in our July 2018 issue, M. Brian Tichenor and Raun Thorp knew they needed to dive deep into the styles of classic American farmhouses and ranches. However, knowing their clients preferred a certain sense of simplicity, they restrained from bolder statements like shoulder-mount taxidermy or horseshoe embellishments.

“As the family’s taste tends toward the more pared down, we kept things understated but added warmth and texture with paneled ceilings, wide-plank wood floors, and light fixtures that had some relevance both to their modern aesthetic and to the broader context of the West,” Tichenor and Thorp explain in their book, Outside In: The Gardens and Houses of Tichenor & Thorp. “Specific furnishings and accent pieces clearly refer to the locale without tilting the décor toward the slavishly Western.”

Curious to know more, we asked the design duo about their design philosophy, trends worth trying, and a few more of their favorite things.

How might a homeowner truly bring the outdoors inside?
Aside from the obvious—such by populating indoor spaces with container plantings so one has a view through to something green and living—use of materials and textures that evoke life outside the windows, such as bark skin wall coverings, wood, and textures that one might think of as exterior all help evoke a sense of the outside. There’s also the “they did it with mirrors” approach: employ the centuries-old trick of installing a mirror opposite a window to bring in the outside and the light. This is such an easy way of adding a window to a wall that doesn’t have one—and it’s much cheaper than doing construction (especially useful in an urban environment). Framing views to the outside and bringing in the palette of the landscape or view outside the window is also key in connecting the outside with the inside.

If someone doesn’t have a place in Jackson Hole, how can they still incorporate that Western style at home?
There are so many ways to incorporate a feeling of the West both inside and out. Using natural materials, in a rustic way, but without being too precious: woods that aren’t overly polished, iron hardware, leather, and stone. Wool Pendleton blankets, for example, make great bedcoverings—they evoke the feeling of the National Parks and the open West, but without being overly thematic. Using natural grasses in the landscape is another way to evoke the feeling of the West. Iron hardware—simply used, and keeping materials natural, simple, and without pretense. And, an antler here and there always helps.

What is your favorite element of classic Western design?
The celebration of natural materials and the way in which the architecture connects with the outdoors—the deep overhangs and wooden porches and walkways outside the buildings connect them into the landscape but also offer enough protection and sense of enclosure to give both a sense of security and creating an outdoor living space.

What trend is worth trying this year?
Scandinavian furniture—because it’s not a trend. Red—it’s bold and it’s back.

What trend are you ready to say bye to?
Decorating with houseplants in round glass containers, and anything that says “requires assembly” in the product description.

What is your style mantra?
Timeless design should evoke a sense of place and meaning.

Generally, what is your favorite room in the house?
The library. Though we did a pretty amazing gym for a project in Jackson Hole.

When it comes to home improvements and design, where do you tell homeowners to save their money?
Avoid gratuitous use of technology: Don’t spend money on systems that are overly complex and expensive for their intended purpose. Don’t go wild with overly precious finishes: Sometimes something simple can be more elegant for much less money. In the garden, it’s often better to plant smaller, so the plants grow with the garden rather than overplanting with large-scale plant material.

Similarly, where do you tell homeowners to splurge?
Good paint, good hardware, and good detailing; and curated, special pieces.

Where do you look for design inspiration?
We look for inspiration everywhere: outside and in. Travel is always a source of inspiration for us, as is our rather large design library—we have amassed around 6,000 books.

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