Designer Anita Lang of IMI Design creates custom designs for her clients across the country and internationally. She remarks on the contrasts between East coast and West coast style, how she approaches design on each coast, and what commonalities are consistent throughout her luxury interior design projects. ICONIC LIFE has partnered with Lang to share her perspectives on global design, sustainable interiors, and designing with intention in this three-part series.
“I am blessed to have clients across the country and in the most beautiful places from metropolitan hubs to nature’s retreats of coast, mountain and desert,” says Lang, who travels regularly and has a diverse client following. When we think about design and how it differs from coast to coast, let’s take a look at the contrast between two current projects, one in Manhattan—the Big Apple—and one in Manhattan Beach, just south of Los Angeles. What is different and what thread remains constant?
THE DESIGN PROCESS
Lang says every client is different. “What they all share in common is that each client gets my focused attention and a design solution that is unique to them: based on how they live, what they love and really who they are,” says Lang. When she begins the design process with a client, first there is an in-depth interview with the goal of understanding all the hard and soft components of the design program. From the function of such things as how they cook to how they organize a closet, to the soft items that evoke good emotions for them, such as how colors or textures can be connected to memories.
Then she has her own specific process to begin the creative process for each project. “I begin with a meditative moment which allows me to tap into a creative zone, revealing unique solutions specific for this client… no client is the same, so each solution is unique. Even I am fascinated to see which ideas come through this creative process” she says.
"They are the client who likes the hustle and bustle of one of the biggest, most energized cities in the world with everything you could need within walking distance. So, my design is a bit more formalized, layered and sophisticated."
A consideration for place drives design decisions, too, hence Manhattan v. Manhattan Beach. The “why” of how her client selects a location drives her, and it has proved true in these two particular cases. The New York client did not buy a city penthouse to experience fresh breezes and natural sounds. “They are the client who likes the hustle and bustle of one of the biggest, most energized cities in the world with everything you could need within walking distance. So, my design is a bit more formalized, layered and sophisticated to reflect the location appropriateness and the client’s aesthetic,” she says. On the other hand, her clients with beach homes crave a relaxed lifestyle where they can kick off their shoes. Peaceful settings with the sounds of the wind and of waves are more their vibe. “So, my design inspiration begins with natural materials and simplicity of forms to create a relaxed space.”
MATERIALS AND PALETTE
For the Manhattan Beach client, she selected organic materials and natural woods to bring the energy of nature. “Natural materials with truth to the surroundings were appropriate in that space; think of sand, driftwood and water,” she says. Connection from indoor to outdoor is important to the design, such as the cerused white fir ceiling, which is used on the interiors and patios. “We’re using a limestone for flooring and slab work; it feels like the sand of the beach. I’m keeping things very open with architectural massing in raked white plaster and rifted oak for a natural environment,” says Lang, who also emphasized the use of locally-sourced materials when possible for a relationship to the local vernacular and a more environmentally friendly approach.
Lang’s Manhattan client has a different feel altogether. This design includes more contrived and man-made materials—New York is the concrete jungle of high-rise construction and paved streets. She selected more curated, high-end artwork, objets d’art, and accessories with harder finishes and metals. “As New York is a major, global city, the selections are curated from around the world. My Manhattan design is architecturally detailed elements with much consideration of millwork and moldings, fireplace facades, complicated built-ins; it has more sophisticated layering taking into account the history of the city with references to Regency and Art Deco inspiration.”
As for colors, Lang uses the tool of contrast and harmony to steer the design towards the desired goal. “If you like a Zen feel you go for harmony. If you want to make a bold statement, use the design principle of contrast,” she says. In the beach house, the goal was to create an atmosphere that is harmonious, soothing and calming. There, soft cerused light oak is blended with white ivory stone. The blended neutral backgrounds keep the flow of the interior space calm and subdued with interest through textures and materials.
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Lang’s goal with the Manhattan penthouse highlights deliberate contrast, using a palette with black cabinetry and white marble on dark French oak floors to create drama. The vibrant colors of New York are loud and bold—yellow taxi cabs, red lights, steely buildings, vibrant signage and black streets. And no color is more Manhattan than black, so I have mixed this throughout the home often with off-white, brass, aged oak floors, and historical patterned tiles. “When you think of New York City, it is full of movement and energy. The materials have the character and strength to raise to this vernacular.”
GLOBALLY INSPIRED FURNISHINGS
“When I’m sourcing products like furnishings, lighting and textiles, when possible this would be sourced regionally. It is more sustainable and keeps the design connected to local vernacular,” says Lang. “However, the world is smaller, and cross-pollination of materials can add much interest to designing.” Because she travels so much, often times resources for designs come from likely and sometimes unlikely places. “One of my design inspirations is the Salone in Milano each Spring. The Italian furniture makers and designers have new and exciting ways to see design every year. And then my travels in general expose me to many cultures for interesting materials and graphics, which influences my design,” says Lang. She puts all this into her mental library, drawing from global inspirations to individualize each design for her clients.
Lang designed a fun twist on sourcing with her penthouse project in Manhattan, where she and her team are designing the rooftop pool terrace that will have a Balinese influence. A special connection to these New Yorkers, hence a deviation is justified. It’s interesting that I found the perfect carved Balinese architectural panels in Tulum, Mexico, where they were imported from Bali. Go figure! The world is getting smaller and more connected,” she says. “The design process takes you literally and virtually everywhere, finding the solution where you may not expect, and I anticipate there shall be more blended influences and cross-over resourcing as the world continues to be connected.”
"I love them both. Sometimes you want the excitement of the hustle and bustle in New York, and sometimes you need to be nurtured next to the sea."
As for Anita herself, which coast most matches her personal style? “There are different energies of both experiences—New York and beach cities. I love them both. Sometimes you want the excitement of the hustle and bustle in New York, and sometimes you need to be nurtured next to the sea. My clients give me an avenue to experience and create for both,” says Lang.
No matter where in the world a space is being created, Lang says there are a few things to keep in mind; finding a connection to the local vernacular, architectural context and staying true to your voice. And in this blend is a unique and timeless solution.
This story was produced in partnership with our friends at IMI Design. For more information about luxury interior design for your home or commercial space, click here.