But How's the Food?: Alexis Readinger of Preen Design
UCLA trained architect and designer Alexis Readinger worked for local stars including Kanner Architects, Dodd Mitchell, and Thomas Schoos before branching out on her own with Preen Design. Readinger has since created an eclectic portfolio of hospitality, retail, residential, and commercial projects. She's currently re-envisioning the expansive former Citrus/Meson G/Red Pearl Kitchen space on Melrose for its new occupant, Hatfield's. (See Squid Ink's recent walk-through here.)
Squid Ink: Why is Los Angeles a great city to be a designer?
Alexis Readinger: Some people are of the opinion that there's this superficiality in Los Angeles. I think there are a lot of spaces that are just not comfortable and pretentious. I like challenging those things. It's an interesting blend of smart people who have something to say.
S.I.: What do you think L.A. design could use more of?
A.R.: I'm glad the chandelier thing is going out. I've been noticing gastropubs cropping up, and by nature the gastropub is not really designed, or it's really simple. I'd like playfulness rather than people knocking off concepts they've seen someplace else just to make a buck.
S.I.: So how does a place like Akasha fit into the L.A. -- or technically Culver City -- of now?
A.R.: One of the intentions behind them doing that was creating a difference in the food culture. It was my first green project. I felt like there had been this aesthetic of "green" that had already been created and I wanted to change that.
S.I. And yet you did Madame Chocolat, which feels almost opposite from Akasha.
A.R.: That was a project where she [owner Hasty Torres] directed [the vision]. And seven days after meeting each other she and I were in angel outfits out on Halloween together. I've been really lucky with the people I work with.
S.I.: What most excites you about taking on the new Hatfield's space?
A.R.: They're such awesome foodie chefs to begin with, and have such an interesting palate. Some of the way it's happening is the narrative play with food, and the array of the bounty of the land. We're doing these textured plaster panels, that are in a way seasonal panels. And in the center of the room there's a big light fixture that looks like a honeycomb and [incorporates] the molecular components of honey.
S.I.: How is the project most challenging?
A.R.: Citrus was so well loved, and it was a Bernard Zimmerman project. It needs to be its own little happy mecca again. There's this articulated fa├žade, so there weren't a lot of ways to elaborate on the architecture. It was already done. I'm trying to reuse as much of the bones as possible. We're reopening the bar back up so there's the carrera, and peeling back some of that stuff.
S.I.: What are some of your favorite, best-designed restaurants in L.A.?
S.I.: How do you see designer vs. architect titles being different?
A.R.: I think they play out really differently depending on what your education is. Designers sometimes need someone who has architectural experience. For me it's one and the same.