Designer Crush: Valeria Lassalle of Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA)

1. How did you get your start in design?
 
Just like anyone who's naturally interested in design and spaces, it started when I was young. I would just think of how I could make the spaces surrounding me better. Growing up I had an inclination towards art, but I also liked problem solving. I liked the parameters that design placed upon me. Art as a form can be so broad, not to say that design isn’t, but in design certain solutions are more suitable. This led me to Architecture. I went through five years of architecture at the University of Southern California (USC) and by the last year I started to miss the meaningfulness that interior spaces possessed. I finished my studies and jumped right into interiors. My education in architecture has allowed me to see interior design uniquely. To me, the interior environment is created by planes, materiality and spaces. Furniture is a complimentary layer, but the design language of ceilings, walls and floors must be strong on its own.
 
2. Tell us about your experience studying architecture and hand sketching in Italy.
 
Italy is a country very close to my heart. I have an infinite appreciation for many facets of their culture. A lot of it may be a result of me being born in Argentina and growing up there until my early teens. The cultures are very similar. Another appreciation may be the challenge of the language - I can understand Italian but have difficulty speaking it! But certainly it’s their architecture, their streets, their everyday life. A meaningful simplicity can be felt when you are in Italy. The act of sketching the cities in Italy also provides a relaxing form of expression. When one thinks of simplicity we think straight lines but it’s the organic and romantic architecture that allows one to almost flow through the page and express oneself without much effort.
 
3. What brought you to Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA)?
 
My start with hospitality was at a small firm where I got to wear many hats but I had a thirst for a bustling environment rich with design. HBA had been a global player and a driving force in hospitality. That appealed to me. I have really appreciated the platform HBA has created to allow me to express myself. HBA has gone through a shift in the last number of years and along those great designers doing your luxurious 5 star hotels, it has introduced talent that has brought a younger and more boutique approach to design. I have been happy to be part of it. We have reinvented ourselves as a company and have enjoyed the success we have had in the domestic market.
 
4. Describe your work on the Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown - how did you choose to make the custom furniture pieces in the bar resemble menswear patterns and cufflinks?
 
I was the lead designer for the Hotel Indigo DTLA. My intent was to create an upscale feel that related to our neighborhood story in an understated way. My team is a very concept driven group. We researched our neighborhood's history and its surroundings to have a strong relatable concept for our design. Hotel Indigo DTLA is the largest Hotel Indigo to date so we created a number of story pillars to keep the hotel design engaging throughout. We were heavily influenced by the time period of the early 20th century. The Fiesta de las Flores, the fashion of the galas, the theaters, the jewelry district, prohibition and speakeasies are all underlying influences. We really enjoyed using historical images but transforming them to a modern design and application.

For example, the wall by the bar that is layered with graphics of flowers and with drapes is created from a collage of real images from the Fiesta de las Flores Parade. If you look closely enough you can make out the people on the stands as part of the tonal blue background. The black and white sofas by the registration desk are upholstered with real newspaper articles about the parade. We selected a few articles and created a custom graphic on fabric. Not all fabrics could be custom, so we opted to be inspired by patterns found in clothing during that period. Our end goal was to have a final product that did not feel dated but also honored the history of the project's neighborhood and furthered our guests interest in LA.

 
5. Who has been your biggest professional inspiration?
 
I truly enjoy the work of Joseph Dinard. All his work has an upscale aesthetic that is achieved with an unapologetic simplicity. Going back to finding that successful solution to interior spaces. The ones that feel effortless are, to me, the more successfully designed. That, however, does not necessarily mean the design process was effortless. A meaningful simplicity is the toughest to achieve. His clean environments do not lack warmth or care but they feel resolved without being over embellished.

Another very successful designer with this approach is the Architect Peter Zumthor. While studying abroad I had the opportunity to visit his Therme Vals in Switzerland. I found myself admiring the location of each wall, the visual connection between the spaces, and the experiences of compression and release he created. The materials utilized were few but they were rich, the stone was local and provided the appropriate feel for the use of the space.
 
6. Which design trends are you most excited about and which ones are you done with?
 
I'm excited by the new wave of furniture design. I see a change to softer shapes and minimal exposed structure. Metal seems to be the main material used complemented by upholstery in dusty tones. For a long while we have been in this mid-century modern mindset. Historically, the possibility of mass production allowed everyone to bring design into their homes. Machinery allowed us to do such amazing things with wood and steel, no one can deny the sensuality found in the wood shapes and finishes. But because the originals have been so over-reproduced and easy to attain, it's been everywhere. I think a unique look is coming our way.
 
7. Name an artist who has inspired you and tell us why.
 
Like my interiors, I enjoy contemporary art that expresses simplicity yet its complex. Recently I have been admiring the sculptures by Jacques Lipchitz. I really like his most geometric work. His sculptures of embracing human bodies project an unquestionable humanity, but the sculptures are very geometric and rigid. Sharp lines and flat planes artistically create an abstract human form.
Lightning round!
 
8. Heels or sneakers?

Heels.

9. Beach or mountains?

Beach.

10. Romance or action movie?

Action.

11. Chocolate or vanilla?

Vanilla.

12. Classic rock or classical?

Classical.