How did you get into interior design? “I’m not a trained interior designer. I studied stone sculpting in [my home country of] Germany. Then I worked in fashion for more than 15 years, walking the runway, choreographing, curating. I moved to LA about 20 years ago. It was not easy and I fell on hard times.
One afternoon, I stood on a street corner wearing overalls and started painting. I sold that painting for thousands of dollars, right there. I kept doing that. Then I met somebody who was opening a store on Melrose Avenue and asked me to design it. That’s how it started. I still spend a lot of my time painting; my work has been featured in the National Museum of China, in Beijing.”
How would you describe your aesthetic? “It’s very worldly. I love anything that has to do with travel. We are not meant to live in a box. I put pieces from around the world together. Even if I think that atmospherically they don’t fit, hemispherically they do. Because I work with my five senses, I sometimes don’t care if something doesn’t look right. It’s about feeling right.”
How do you fuse the outdoors into your spaces? “I think it’s important to have inspiration from the outdoors and put it inside a space. It could be [placing] the texture of a stone onto a piece of leather. These are hints that are not immediately obvious. I do my best work when I can look out at nature. Everyone needs to have some aspect of that in their living space.”
What are the standout pieces in your design studio? “I have a lot of Buddhas, and other pieces from Indonesia, Israel, Morocco. There is a temple ceiling from Nepal and stones from India. I bought a 17th-century Ganesh [figurine] made of green granite that now marks the spot where my two beloved bulldogs are buried. I love plants and flowers, and have put in papaya and mango trees, orchids, frangipani.”
Name some of your memorable projects. “I designed Ellipsis in Mumbai, by restaurateur Rohan Talwar, one of the city’s best restaurants. When a space for a restaurant became available right next door to my studio here in LA, I told him to jump on it, that he would be crazy not to do it. It’s called Norah and opened this year. I designed it as a pure and clean space. It’s usually booked solid.”
And you’ve worked in Hong Kong as well. “We did the George’s restaurant at Parkview [in Tai Tam]. It’s very modern and eclectic. People don’t think that a residential building can have a world-class restaurant. We showed it could be done.”