Designer Crush: Rocky Rochon


After a successful 30-year design career in Seattle and in San Francisco, Rocky Rochon expanded to the Los Angeles market. With a West Hollywood studio that encompasses Rocky Rochon Studio, Rocky Rochon Design, and the highly specialized Rocky Rochon Paint Laboratory, Rachon exhibits his approach to design to clients from a variety of industries. Learn more in our Q+A below.

How did you get your start in design?

I got my start in design in 1980 when I was accepted into the University of Washington School of Interior Design.  During the later year of my program, I worked part time as an assistant to a local interior designer and after graduation moved to San Francisco where I officially launched my career working with a variety of corporate architectural / interior design firms.

Steve Jobs hired you to design the Apple executive offices — an incredible resume addition. Tell us about that experience and what it was like working with Steve has left such a legacy in technology and design.

Apple Computer hired a firm I was working with (HED, now defunct) in the mid/late 1980’s. We did many projects for Apple, including the first Company Store, Library and Training facility.  Steve Jobs was still at the helm of Apple, but he had brought John Scully on board as a new CEO. Near the completion of the Store project, we were hired to do Apple’s new Executive Offices, which, in the end, was really for Scully, as Jobs went underground.  But the prior work won multiple local AIA awards and a national award. One of the things Jobs mentioned in his ribbon cutting speech was his admiration for our innovation in the expression of our design, especially the use of materials in new ways. My experience with him was that he valued innovation above all and certainly applauded it in our work for him.

Side note: Jobs had also met with the design partner of our firm and had him go to his Spanish colonial home to look at designing it, but after his split from Apple, we never heard back from him on his home, which is a disappointment to me to this day.

How do you define “California style”?

I’ve lived many years in San Francisco, Palm Springs, Seattle, and most recently Los Angeles and I don’t personally think there is a ‘California Style.’ San Francisco is vastly different from Los Angeles, as is Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Orange County and certainly Palm Springs. If there is a 

‘California Style’, possibly I would call it diversely regional.   I also believe that the explosion of the internet has connected people, cultures and consequently aesthetics into a global framework.  You can find cross fertilization of iconic regional styles crossing into other regions of the state, no less the world, over and over again.

Tell us about your new Body Parts furniture line of interchangeable high-end furnishings.

‘Body Parts’ is an upholstered line of furniture that is based on the premise that each type of seating has basic footprints for its ‘seat’.  For instance, a dining chair will have a seat that is from 15’’x15’’ up to 18’’x18’’, a loveseat 30’’x 60’’, a sofa 78’’x30’’. That seat can be tightly upholstered, have a loose cushion, it can be tufted, welted, etc, etc.  I refer to these seats as ‘base units.’ Now these base units can have attachments added to them, such as a particular type of leg, arm, back, etc. Each of the base units have universal mounting locations at the underside of them, which allows for a variety of ‘add-ons’ that are invisibly attached without compromising the upholstery of the unit.  This allows the pieces to morph into other styles or change functions. For example, a love seat sofa back can be detached from its base seat and be interchanged with a queen bed base and become a queen bed, or a cushion back of a chair can become a framed photo, creating a completely different seating experience! Hence…”Body Parts.”

What is truly distinctive about the Paint Laboratory and what inspired you to create it?

The Paint Laboratory has been, and will continue to be, a process of exploration, innovation and analytical response to the market.  When I first founded the company, as Rocky Rochon Paint, it was simply to be a line of usable colors, saturated with colorant to create complex, dynamic colors. I also wanted to have a line with stepped values of hues that were consistent as they moved from dark to light. I wanted to use paint as the sample chip, instead of ink, so that a user could actually see the color they were going to purchase. It was after developing the color line and working with the scientist in our partner labs that I became aware of the concept of metamerism, the science of how color is reflected through its interaction to light. It was through that realization that I became aware of the infinite ways the same color can be ‘built’. The construction or formula of a color can be built in many different color(ant) combinations and in many different emulsions and appear to be the same to the naked eye in natural daylight. However, when those same colors are moved to an artificial light condition they can look completely different. It was at this point that I realized we cannot duplicate a color, nor can our competitors duplicate ours; but what we CAN DO, is build a color under the artificial light that a color will be seen under and control its behavior.  We actually went back to our ‘stepped’ value color system and reengineered our colors so that they would always behave consistently with each other under variable lighting. I actually also realized that the RRP was much larger than its colors, it needed a ‘Laboratory’ where Colorists could engineer colors for our customers.

What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday?

Well since this is Saturday as I’m responding to these questions, I’ll take a moment to ponder the perfect Sunday tomorrow. 🙂  I’m a man of complexity, so there is going to be more than one answer, I’m afraid. One common theme would be sleeping in, a cup of coffee in bed, a brunch at a sunny outdoor cafe with a Bloody Mary and deep conversation with someone close to me.  The uncommon themes are a walk down a foreign street of shops, a day on a sunny sandy beach, boating, a great movie, a great book, going back to bed with either or both, or more and more, simply doing NOTHING.

Lightning round!

Must-watch TV show?

TV show….hmmm. I plug the TV in to unplug me! Therefore, my TV musts range from reality TV (shamefully) to a good documentary….oh, and I love those European gardening shows!

First celebrity crush? 

First celebrity crush…a young boy, not named ‘boy,’ admiring Tarzan.

Best concert ever?

Brandi Carlile with the Seattle Symphony.

Favorite ice cream flavor?

Again I’m complex, so I like two together…scoop of lemon and a scoop of chocolate fudge.

Go-to karaoke song?

Oh God, don’t make me sing! Since you’ll never get me on stage to sing (nor do you want me too), I’ll tell you the favorite karaoke song sung to me. “Stand by your Man” by an ex-boyfriend, in the straightest karaoke bar I’ve ever been in!

More news: