Tichenor & Thorp Architects

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Design à Deux

Los Angeles architects Tichenor & Thorp — partners in life and in business — are united in design

Architects M. Brian Tichenor and Raun Thorp are the quintessential team—reciprocal thinkers, simpatico in intelligences and appreciations, and nothing if not prolific, having completed more than 350 residential and commercial projects nationwide since launching their eponymous L.A. practice Tichenor & Thorp in 1990.

“We have a kind of way of working together; we collaborate on everything,” says Tichenor. Which explains the simultaneity, the seamlessness, the suggestion of exchange and interchangeability in their work. Each has a primary sphere of influence—Tichenor, exteriors; Thorp, interiors—but neither is shy about “playing professor,” a kind of big-picture shakedown between principals, a “what’s the story?” moment.

Story, they say, is everything—the ne plus ultra of good design and a principal tenet of their practice. Views are an absolute too, harmony and cohesiveness, light and palette, the cultivation of a whole, dimensional environment with interacting elements and a well-ordered elegance specific to the architect’s lens.

“It’s all really the architecture,” explains Thorp. “Because everything has a concept; everything has to perform a function, everything has to hopefully be pretty, and everything has to be detailed in a way that’s possible to actually create it. Design is a set of instructions for how to create something, but it comes together in the architecture.”

With work published in shelter magazines from Architectural Digest to World of Interiors, Tichenor and Thorp are deft in all architectural styles and have carved a particular niche in historic restoration, contributing to what they call the “big, beautiful narrative continuum” in Los Angeles, where they completed a series of projects at Capitol Records (executive office space; a commissary; lobby; new rear entrance, and more) and spent two decades restoring Cecil B. DeMille’s house with a clarified, simple version of what was appropriate to make it feel fresh and of this era. Clearly they were successful—Angelina Jolie is the current owner.

Tichenor and Thorp work coast to coast but have flourished in their native California, which they appreciate for its cultural legacy and accumulation of styles, from early Spanish to Mid-century Modernism. It’s the land of architects and dreamers; and in a sense, they’re both.

“The degree of richness and nuance and inclusivity and freedom to try things here is really quite different than anywhere else,” says Tichenor. “There’s a kind of willingness to go into something with more thoroughness here, there is more support for odder ideas.”

Adds Thorp: “Everyone was coming out here to find a dream or to try an experiment. People weren’t constrained by the kind of conservative trappings and expectations of older cities. There are a lot of factors that make L.A. special.”

Their recently released monograph Outside In: The Garden and Houses of Tichenor & Thorp (Vendome) showcases some of the duo’s finest designs, each an elaboration of their ideas, illustrating the depths of their architectural fluency. There are examples of rich, historic buildings; more modern structures; and gardens so lush they are hardly to be believed.

It’s a testament to Tichenor and Thorp that when asked about some of their current projects, they take a long, nearly paralytic pause, as if catching their breath. The abridged version would be an entire career for a lot of folks: eight beach houses from Laguna Beach to Pebble Beach, master landscape planning for three hospitals (one in Downtown Los Angeles) and, in a solid measurement of their métier, design architects of the new Los Angeles Times building. Expect headlines.

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