Designer Crush: Summer Jensen

1.       Who is your biggest role model?
The only role model I have is my father. He came from a small, poor town in Hawaii and worked his way up as an entertainer from the '60s through '80s performing with the Rat Pack, the Doors, and Jimi Hendrix. He later dedicated his life to helping others through his ministry. He taught me to always aim high and work diligently to get there but with kindness and humility. Never sacrifice who you are for where you want to get to.

2.       Which movie or play do you wish you could have designed the set for?
I’m a child of the '80s and have always found myself using references from sci-fi movies. In particular, Dune was a beautiful movie with a luxe minimalist approach to decoration. The proportions are lean and elegant with an idea of magnitude. On the flip side of that, anything by Wes Anderson…seeing the world through his eyes would be a unique experience.

3.       What is the best way to gauge a client’s personality before starting a project?
Some of the best questions to ask a client to understand their aesthetic is to ask what their favorite fashion brands are and what hotels they like to stay in. Both give very strong visual references to what they like to surround themselves with; both intimately and in their peripheral. Their actual personality? That’s just the gift of intuition.

4.       What new design trends are you excited to integrate into your work?
We use a lot of cutting edge technology in our design to help the client “live better." Instead of simple lighting automation, we treat lighting scenes cinematographically for dramatic sequencing and impact of their surroundings. Automated and hidden doors, robotics to deliver wine bottles, trick hardware that seamlessly goes away. A large premise of our work also hinges on the idea of permanence. To design with timelessness, not trend, and to build with longevity.

5.       How do you completely unwind?
My idea of unwinding is enjoying an afternoon with my family and friends. Nothing is more important than the people that you love (but I also do enjoy a day of pampering at the spa).

6.       If you hadn't become a designer, which career would you have pursued?
I would have probably been a chef. I still surround myself with people that love food. Food, passion, love, beauty…the cornerstones to my life.

7.       What’s the worst pre-designer job you’ve ever had and why?
My first job when I was 13 years old was selling cooking knives door to door. Besides that, I’ve been pretty fortunate to always do what I love.

8.       What’s your favorite recipe?
I do make some excellent Hawaiian food! I’m known for my Poisson Cru (Tahitian Raw Fish) which is excellent on a hot summer day.

Poisson Cru, The Tahitian “Poke”

1 lb raw albacore tuna (sashimi grade)

2 lemons

1/2 maui onion, sliced fine

1 basket cherub tomatoes, quartered

1 hot house or English cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise and deseeded

Kosher Salt

1/2 can of coconut milk, stirred well

1 stalk of green onion (for garnish), finely minced


1 coconut, meat removed and grated

-Fill a large mixing bowl with 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. 

-Cube the fish into bite-size pieces about ½” x ½” and toss in the salt water to clean. (Tip: keep your knife blade wet when cutting and the fish will cut cleaner and not tear). 

-When all of the fish has been cut, properly toss the fish in the water then discard the salt water and rinse in cool, fresh water. 

-Add the juice of ½ of a lemon and 1 teaspoon of salt; mix. 

-The outside of the fish will start to cook from the acid and salt and become white. 

-Taste to see that the balance of salt to lemon is correct (neither should overpower each other; if one is stronger than the other, adjust with each step to taste). Add the finely sliced onion and mix. 

-Then repeat the process again; ½ lemon, 1 teaspoon of salt and mix. 

-Add the tomatoes then ½ lemon and salt in the same ratio as before. 

-Lastly and right before serving, add the cucumber. They will get soggy if you add them too soon (Tip: keep the sliced cucumbers in an ice water bath until ready to serve). 

-Repeat the salt and lemon mixture once the cucumbers are added. 

-Finally at serving, add the coconut milk over the top of the veggie and fish mixture.  Sprinkle with green onion and if you have fresh grated coconut meat, add to the mixture. Keep chilled until serving.

In Tahiti, the usual accompaniment is French bread.      

9.       Create your perfect playlist for us.
I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, but this this my working mix…melodic, sexy, something to inspire the types of spaces I like to design.

Lightning round!

10.       Would you rather shop new or vintage?
Vintage then refinished and refurbished to be something new.

11.       First celebrity crush?
River Phoenix.

12.       What’s your hidden talent?
I’m a master hula hooper.

13.       Best restaurant in your area? Where is it?
My new favorite is Gjusta, the bakery by the owners of Gjelina.

14.       SF or LA?
How about someplace in between…Big Sur.