By Sarah Clarke
A Pennsylvania family wanted a contemporary retreat in California that maximized the locale's special features when it comes to lifestyle and weather.
They got just what they were looking for in this airy home designed by Loren Judaken, a partner with Danna Vest in HVJ Design and Interiors of Venice, CA. The home was featured on the recent Dwell on Design Home Tour.
This beach getaway in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica sits on a small hill with amazing views of the Santa Monica Mountains and Getty Center, and a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.
The design of the house capitalized on the environment by incorporating fully retractable glass walls on two sides, windows at every vantage point, as well as a roof deck where the family could unwind.
House Tipster talked to Judaken during its coverage of the Dwell on Design annual trade show in Los Angeles, and wanted pointers on how anyone can turn their home into a masterpiece.
Judaken says a good starting point is the philosophy of British Arts and Crafts Movement designer William Morris, who said, "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
“This philosophy guides the designs we create, but instead of ‘form over function’ or the opposite, we believe that function and form should evolve from and through one another, each propelling the other to greater heights,” said Judaken.
She explained that a space that only addresses the functional requirements, but not the aesthetics or vice versa, cannot elevate the people inside, or enrich how they work and live.
While not following any specific design trends, HVJ Design embraces new and advanced technology and products that improve how spaces look and function. The firm also favors materials that are more durable and sustainable, again advice that any homeowner can take to heart.
When HVJ Design tackles a project, Judaken said, the focus is on the architectural integrity and functionality of the custom residential and commercial interiors it creates.
“Instead of simply decorating the interior, we begin each project by analyzing the architectural details and space plan, and look for ways that we can complement and enhance them,” she said.
At times the task calls for reconfiguring interior spaces and refining the architectural details, but HVJ’s design team is up to the challenge because of its technical expertise in all aspects of the design process.
“This enables us to ensure that every aspect of the design and execution meets our high standards,” said Judaken.
In existence for over 20 years, HVJ Design and Interiors has completed a variety of projects from custom beach homes with expansive ocean vistas to high-rise condos and offices with views of Manhattan’s skyline.
“Each is like giving birth to a child, and for the time we are working on any given project, it is often ‘the favorite child’,” she said.
"What makes every project interesting is that it has its own set of creative challenges and opportunities,” Judaken said. “Remodels, having structural constraints, are like jigsaw puzzles and demand special space planning skills, while new construction, with open-ended possibilities, invites restraint and discernment to make the best choices,” she explained.
What clients like most is that HVJ Design is a full-service, boutique firm. Judaken and her business partner, Danna Vest, are intimately involved in every aspect of a project, steering it from conception to completion.
“Our clients really appreciate that we take time to listen, to explore their lifestyle, priorities, interests, and functional and budgetary requirements, so we can create an environment that truly reflects their individuality, and translate their vision into reality,” she said.
HVJ strives to make the design process both understandable and enjoyable, while still maintaining the quality and integrity of the project.
Sometimes it takes a leader to steer all the talent engaged in creating a new home or renovation project. HVJ Design will not only assemble a project team of talented and experienced architects, engineers, lighting designers, landscape architects, and contractors as needed, but it will then act as the team captain.
“This collaborative, unified approach ensures the timely completion of a fully integrated design, both inside and out, and prevents costly oversights,” said Judaken.
She said clients like HVJ Design’s common-sense approach, responsive service, and respect for their budgets, as well as their professionalism.
Judaken was raised in a family of real-estate developers, but came to a career in design through a round-about route.
It was only after exploring other arenas such as theater, communication, psychology, and jewelry design that she discovered how running an interior design firm synthesized many of her skills and passions. Her partner, Vest, trained as an architect but chose the broader horizons she saw in the interior design field.
“We truly believe we can change the way people think, feel, interact and live by transforming the places they spend most of their time, their homes and offices, Judaken said. “We love beauty in every form, and by creating and sharing it, we feel we are impacting people’s lives.”
Deciding on a career in design has brought many rewards for Judaken and Vest, such as numerous long-lasting relationships that HVJ Design has forged with clients and vendors over the years, which has led to working for multiple generations of the same families.
“The trust and friendships that have grown from these relationships are very gratifying. As a result, 95 percent of our practice is built on referrals,” said Judaken.
“We thrive on creating art and beauty, and sharing it with others,” she said. “As a sculptor sees the form inherent in a piece of stone, Danna and I see the potential of space. We create art through design, with interior space as our canvas.”