Friday Five with Bells & Whistles

Ever since we covered their modern juice bar design, we’ve been dying to talk to the award-winning interior design duo, Barbara Rourke and Jason St. John, that make up Los Angeles-based Bells & Whistles. Their forte for commercial spaces can be seen throughout their eclectic portfolio of restaurants, boutiques, salons, and entertainment venues, each with the team’s modern aesthetic and signature use of repetitive patterns. The pair doesn’t shy away from the latest, and the most complicated, design techniques and ideas, like laser and water-jet cutting, 3D printing, bend wood lamination, welding, weaving and so on, and can be found figuring out ways to incorporate them into their visionary plans. Want to see what this creative team finds necessary to keep it going? Check out their picks in this week’s Friday Five.

1. “Research”… Which basically covers eating and traveling!
The most fun part of our work, outside of designing, is all the “research” we get to do. Since most of our projects revolve around the food industry we are always checking out the newest spots, eating lots of good food, and traveling to beautiful places – all for the sake of research, of course. When we started developing a business plan for an oyster bar we traveled from LA to Seattle to Atlanta to see what was happening in the world of oysters and to eat as many oysters as humanly possible.

2. Wood
There is no other material that can even come close to the beauty, strength, versatility, and just plain awesomeness of wood. It’s really just the best! We use it as much as possible and are constantly thinking of new ways to use it.

Photo by Ilker Metin Kursova

Latte rosetta photo by Ilker Metin Kursova

3. Good Coffee. Emphasis on GOOD.
Thankfully I live in Los Angeles (and Jason is in LA most of the time) so we have access to some of the best coffee in the country. Intelligentsia is, by far, our favorite on the east side but if we are over on the westside we get our fix at Primo Passo.

Photo by Lou Mora

Photo by Lou Mora

4. The Coast
We were both raised on the coast albeit opposite ones, Barbara on the East and Jason on the West. Neither of us have ever lived away from the ocean and although we don’t frequent the beach, we could never live far from it. There’s great comfort in just knowing it’s there, like a good ole friend when you need them.

Photo by Rita Willaert

Photo by Rita Willaert

5. Repetition & Pattern
I think the most obvious thread in all of our design is some sort of repetition that, in turn, becomes a texture or a pattern. We love creating a design by repeating a shape, reflecting it, turning it upside down, forming a pattern, turning it into a 3 dimensional shape and making a wall screen or installation out of it. I don’t think we could do an interior without repetition & pattern. No way!

A well-curated site for inspiration is Patternity.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.