Designer Crush: Medium Plenty


Oakland-based design firm, Medium Plenty, is a full-service architecture and design firm who is helping shape the modern landscape of the Bay Area. Recognized for their minimal designs full of masterful craftsmanship, they are transforming both residential and commercial spaces with their thoughtful, collaborative approach. Here, the firm’s founders Gretchen Krebs and Ian Read give a glimpse into their wonderful world of design.

Where does the name Medium Plenty come from? (Read) Medium Plenty was coined during a conversation between the both of us over drinks at a bar years ago. The name reflects our approach to design: Medium Plenty is about a search for balance and the beauty that arises from not over designing, while celebrating the uniqueness of every client and project. We also like that it feels playful and isn’t pretentious (and sounds like a candy!). Gretchen loves candy. 

Which other design firms inspired your firm the most and why? (Krebs) Our inspiration has always been rooted in mid-century modern design, and similarly Danish and Japanese design. All share a focus on simple, honest materials, play of light and shadow, and attention to craft and custom detail which we really strive for in our projects. There are so many firms that inspire us for different reasons: 

-Joseph Dirand for his minimalist, old world/Euro aesthetic that feels timeless and sculptural.

-Vincent Van Duysen for the minimalist with a blend of old and new. 

-Patricia Urquiola and Neri & Hu for their innovative, versatile designs. 

-Ilse Crawford and Gachot Studios for their refined and beautiful work.

-Commune for their style that is more eclectic than ours, but we appreciate their lo-tech, layered and textural approach and embrace of the project locale

-Any brands or furniture/decorative artists you are obsessed with? (Krebs) Too many to mention! Again, Patricia Urquiola is an inspiration as a woman who is constantly creating innovative, beautiful furniture that is both luxurious and comfortable. Rosemary Halgarten’s fabrics are a particular favorite for their beauty, tactility and sustainability. We also turn to Allied Maker and Douglas & Bec for frequent inspiration and their workmanship is exceptional. Some local artists we love include Lisa Kairos (paintings/collage), Earthen Ceramics, Fireclay and Heath and Alice Techany, as well as Tabarka Studios, Nickey Kehoe, Egg Collective, Sawkille and Radnor, to name just a few.

-How have you shifted your business during the pandemic that is proving a success still today? (Read) Zoomland—as we call it—has worked fairly well for our team as we’ve become more acclimated to the process. We’ve also implemented several organizational softwares to keep us all in touch and our projects cohesive, in lieu of being together in an office. 

While we are operating pretty efficiently as a remote office we do miss the in person collaboration with our people and our clients. They are such a big part of the work and not being together means the spontaneous conversations that inform our process aren’t happening as readily. With most communication arising from a calendar invite we are always looking for ways to keep folks engaged in ideas that aren’t just about projects. Luckily we have roof access above our studio so monthly outdoor happy hours can give everyone some time together and a break from the home office.

-You recently made a move to Sonoma though will maintain your Oakland office. What does this mean for your practice? (Krebs) We have always loved and been inspired by the varied landscape and small town feel up north and have frequently enjoyed exploring and taking weekend respites over the years (from Guerneville to Calistoga to Hopland). We’re excited to be in the community now and looking forward to expanding our work type and range into Sonoma and surrounding areas. 

We will always maintain our office in Oakland, it’s a great hub and we look forward to being able to be there more with our team some day. Like many, we have realized our proximity to the office could be extended a bit. We used to live a few blocks away, which was amazing, but as time has gone by we’ve seen our priorities evolve and a new landscape and lifestyle was a perfect shift.

Lightning round!

-Favorite restaurant design in Oakland? Bar Shiru – it’s more of a watering hole and listening bar but the vibe and atmosphere makes us keep coming back. (It is also a block from our office.)

-Last concert? Our office is a block from the Fox Theater in Oakland so we’ve been a bit spoiled on the live music front. Christine & the Queens was an amazing show, high energy with a really relevant message. We were going to see Kraftwerk this summer but the show was canceled due to COVID!

-Favorite design book for office inspiration? Vincent van Duysen – Works 2009 – 2018 : visually sumptuous

-Favorite place to travel to in California? Northern California (now our home!) there are so many amazing places to explore including the Sierras for the endless outdoor activity, and Santa Cruz because it’s Gretchen’s home town.

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