DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT - Interview with Catrina Cooper

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Catrina Cooper

Senior Designer

Paige Loczi, founder and Creative Director, of the LOCZIdesign group sits down with some of the emblematic members of this avant-garde designers gild for a Designer Spotlight.

They discuss design, inspiration, family life and finding the BALANCE between them all. If you know this group of designers then you know they thrive on innovative designs and their drive to create unique interiors.

Balanced and driven, Catrina Cooper is a Senior Designer with the LOCZIdesign group who derives great satisfaction in handling the technical aspects of custom designs and ensuring every beautiful material is being installed as designed. You'll often find her with the tile guy, doing math.

Bathroom tile in Sausalito houseboat.

Bathroom tile in Sausalito houseboat.

Q

Tell us a little about your background, where you’re from and how you got your start in Interior design.

I grew up in Half Moon Bay and I still live there today. I love the coastside. I worked in the restaurant business for many years. Knowing I wished for a career I could be passionate about I put myself through design school. Upon graduating I worked several odd jobs. Fabric stores, a window coverings showroom, and a few high end kitchen showrooms where I learned the technical aspects of kitchen design. After that, I managed a few green showrooms selling sustainable products. It was at one of those showrooms that I met Paige.

I think those jobs helped me realize that there are several aspects to design – the creative and the technical. Personally, I am more interested in the technical side of design and being immersed in that.

Q

And why design? You could have taken any number of technical jobs in a related field?

Good question, Design was kind of random. I was always drawn to decorating, whether it was painting or wallpapering my room or designing for friends. I also drew, painted and made jewelry for years. My family and friends picked up on my skills and suggested Design school - so I just went for it.

The very first thing I learned, literally my first day of school was the difference between a designer and a decorator. The professor outlined the difference early, I think to ensure the students were enrolled in the right program. Designers have a more technical role in a construction project. It’s angles and architecture and three-dimensional space planning. That’s where I wanted to be.

Q

How did you end up at LOCZIdesign?

Well that’s a pretty interesting question. I met [Paige], when we both worked at a green showroom. We loosely kept in touch through social media, we tracked each other’s careers a bit. Five or six years passed by and we bumped into each other at West Coast Green. The first time we’d seen each other in years. I came to one of LOCZIdesign’s collective events, one featuring Paige’s father, who designed cars for Volvo. Shortly after that Paige posted a job for a Project Manager. I called, we had lunch and here we are 6 years later. Honestly, it was the biggest career leap for me and the most out of my comfort zone. All of my past positions were similar and felt…I don’t know…familiar. Also, they were all closer to my home in Half Moon Bay; I had never worked in San Francisco so, I took the leap.

Q

Now that you’ve been in this field for 12 years, how do you define success in your practice and more importantly, how has it shaped who you are in the world?

Well, I have learned so much about the business, how it works, the cadence. I think if I had to summarize why I love it I'd say it's because I get to learn something everyday. And although, for some people, that can be a heavy weight to carry, for me, it’s exciting. My approach to projects is linear, I think methodically when assessing problems. I tend to pull way back to see the bigger picture before delving into specific details. Because you're working in someone’s home and the stakes are very high, you have to be sure of your decisions. I think that’s one of my strongest attributes; looking at the big picture. And as a project manager, that serves me well.

I love this role. I get the chance to be creative, and be around creatives, and also play to my strengths. That is success to me, and it comes naturally to me.

 

Thank you for sharing that!

Can you tell us about your own personal style and has it evolved over the years?

I think about this a lot, actually. As I mentioned earlier, I was always drawn to design but mostly for myself. My spaces were uniquely mine, the craziest bedrooms you could imagine, including an entire room, covered floor to ceiling in pictures of Mötley Crüe. Yeah…I did that. I was 13 and it was…AMAZING! So, from that extreme it grew. I have always been a big Stevie Nicks fan. It was Bohemian, gypsy, shawls and candles for years. Once I entered design school, those styles changed drastically. I went through a period in school where I was just crazy about Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

My style now, as I get older? I want less and less ‘stuff’. I like open space, simplified design – less clutter.

There are styles that I gravitate towards. For example, the day I walked into the Hagia Sophia (a basilica, then a mosque and now a museum in Turkey) I just sobbed. Because of the architecture, yes but it was more so the history, the smells, the feeling, and the temperate. But most importantly, it was the layers of history inside that space.

Art Deco still gets me too and also ultra--modern, innovative design. I guess to sum it up, my style is simple yet eclectic.

Inside the Hagia Sophia (image courtesy of Michael Day via Wikimedia Commons)

Inside the Hagia Sophia (image courtesy of Michael Day via Wikimedia Commons)

Q

Speaking of architecture, I’m wondering if there are places in the city, buildings or places, that you’re drawn to, that speak to you or that you make a point to seek out?

Yes. Because I don’t live in San Francisco and it’s not my hub, the one place my family and I always return to is the Hyatt at the Embarcadero. I know it’s an "older" building now but I’ve always been attracted to that lobby. It’s pretty awe inspiring and i have so many great memories there. The view looking out over the brutalist/deconstructionist Vaillancourt Fountain is great. My family and I used to just come up to hang out there. That building brings me joy.

Q

Do you have a specific project you’ve worked on that’s equally inspiring?

Well, I love them all of course, and leave a bit of myself in each of them. I think the houseboat project in Sausalito that we recently completed was probably one of my favorites. The client is such an amazing person, she has her own creative style and, she trusted us to build upon it. That collaboration really allowed us to create some dynamic designs. It's a houseboat! How many people can say they’ve remodeled a houseboat? It was so unique and knowing how much she loves the boat and how important it is to her and her family; it was an honor, truly.

To add on to that, the feeling I carry when I finish a project has as much to do with the people as it does the space we created. Some of my favorite projects are owned by some of my favorite people.

Q

What about other designers, are there any other firms you look up to?

There are a few and it’s pretty easy to understand why. If someone asks me what my favorite showroom is in the city I say - Nido Living. The most obvious reason is that it’s a beautiful space. There’s a lot of light, it is well curated and I am completely in love with Daniel Killar - the owner. He is just an amazing human being. He is open, honest and welcoming. To be operating that caliber of showroom in San Francisco and, maintain that type of personality, is unique.

Heath Ceramics is another amazing place. Walking into Heath’s factory and showroom just takes my breath away. Their factory is in the center of their showroom. To watch them make the pieces and fire them in their kilns is such a unique experience. I love to go in there, it just feels good. I love the artists they bring in and that work pairs so well with their aesthetic. Definitely check it out.

Heath Ceramics - San Francisco

Heath Ceramics - San Francisco

Q

Let’s talk about clients. Describe your dream client and what perpetuates the best dynamic?

It’s a few simple traits, really. Someone with an understanding of who we are, what we do and why what we do is important. They don’t just want something pretty and aren’t trying to impress their friends but, they really get the importance of design and how it impacts their life. Trust is another important trait. As is someone who is engaged in the project.

Q

I think that it is safe to assume that you are LOCZIdesign’s kitchen and bath expert. Assuming a client is reading this and they are considering a remodel. What is the best advice you can offer to someone?

Am I (laughs)? Kitchen (and baths) are far more technical than most folks realize. Talk to friends or neighbors who have remodeled their home. Trust your gut when interviewing contractors and designers. It’s our job to inform the client and to make them feel comfortable. Think about how you want to use the space and ask questions! Get and stay involved.

I joke when I say this but it’s true, remodeling television shows make it seem like a remodel can be done over a long holiday weekend and that just isn’t the case. From your initial engagement with a designer, to picking a contractor, designing the space, purchasing the materials can take some time. Be prepared.

 

Tile math.

Tile math.

Q

For those of us on a tight budget (because this is San Francisco), tell us a one small way to make a big impact.

I think most designers would agree that the biggest impact you can make on a tight budget is with paint.  Walls are the biggest surfaces you have. Think of them as a canvas. You can change the feel of every space in your home by changing the color of a wall, by adding an interesting pattern or even by using mixed media – there are some really great removable wallpapers that are affordable. Wallpaper mixed with a fresh coat of paint can elevate your space and your soul.

Q

What is one idea that you want to impart to everyone in the world or leave as your legacy?

Everyone just needs to be kinder to one another. I recently shared, on social media, a post about equity and equality. Equality is giving everyone the same thing whereas equity is scaling what’s given because everyone’s needs are not the same.

Q

What is one thing that you have as a take away, that you’re really inspired by, working here, with these people?

The great thing about our team is that when we are all working in our element, we are the best versions of ourselves. The designs we create are endlessly inspiring. I'm inspired when I feel productive. I can't wait for the next one!

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