Tichenor & Thorp Architects

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Q&A with Husband-And-Wife, Multidisciplinary Firm, Tichenor & Thorp

NYS: Why and when did you decide to found your namesake firm?

Tichenor & Thorp: We founded T&T in 1990—after we decided to also get married that year….. the namesake part was easy—partnerships all around!

NYS: What are the advantages and disadvantages of working as a husband-and-wife team?

Our personal offices are on different levels, connected by a spiral staircase, which allows us to operate quite separately, though we often convene for a quick coffee or lunch in our communal spaces. Joint meetings with our architects, landscape architects and clients during the week bring us together, but for the most part we are handling different aspects of our projects and are quite independent under the same roof! For us, it’s all advantage.

NYS: What kind of services does Tichenor & Thorp offer?

We are architects and landscape architects, and we also do select interiors. Our practice, which now integrates all three studios, began with residential renovations, restorations, and gardens and expanded to include everything from newly built homes and gardens to sourcing artwork, antiques, rugs and furnishings. We’re also currently working on multiple commercial projects ranging from bio-tech research facilities to a ground-breaking cancer treatment center[RT1] .

NYS: We love the idea of building into the surrounding landscapes. What are aspects you always taking into consideration when drawing up plans?

When drawing up plans we always put, at the forefront, the needs and wishes of our clients, reinforced by careful attention to the relationship between landscape and architecture. Given that most of our work involves some pretty serious land for potential gardens, our general approach is to work from the outside in. We develop a basic landscape plan in conjunction with the building plans. So often, the view to the outside and the quality of light are what makes a room great, and by developing the layout of the garden simultaneously with the layout of the rooms, it allows for the best of both.

NYS: How do you approach a landscape and garden design project vs. a historic preservation and restoration project? What elements change?

These are more alike than you might think: the most important aspect is the client’s point of view. If you own an historic property, and you’ve decided to hire us, you likely already have hopes and expectations about its renovation or preservation. The same could be said for the approach to a property on which a new house and garden are to be designed and built, particularly when it comes to the landscape. Inevitably, the existing land and landscape gives strong clues as to what the best design solution will be.

We believe that inclusivity is at the core of creating rich and meaningful environments. Our role is to find a logic, vocabulary and a narrative that encompasses the clients wishes and the optimal design solution—and then edit until it is clear.

Historic renovations and adaptive re-use projects are a great joy for us: the problem-solving and contextual invention required can be truly exhilarating (although the “to be expected” remodel “surprises” are not).

NYS: What are some of the historically significant houses and landmark structures you are known for working on?

That actually is a pretty long list…..Just to mention a few: we worked for a long time on the iconic Capitol Records building in Hollywood, as well as the Zasu Pitts (later owned by Linda Ronstadt) house which was originally designed by Paul R. Williams. We’ve also worked on the Cecile B. DeMille estate, which included the Charlie Chaplin house (that became Cecile DeMille’s screening room), and the former William Powell estate, later owned by Cubby Broccoli, who produced numerous iconic James Bond films, and more recently owned by Kelly Wearstler and her husband Brad Korzen. Our own house, which is kind of our R & D lab, is a Harwell Hamilton Harris house, which has its own set of mid-century modern challenges.

NYS: What have been one of your most favorite projects to date and why?

Good question! Our favorite projects are the ones where we’ve had a chance to work on them over time, and have refined, re-defined and reinvented the houses and gardens for clients’ evolving needs and lifestyles have been the most rewarding. Part of this is because of the clients themselves, though working, over time, on gardens we’ve designed is very compelling. We recently were able, after nearly 20 years, to redesign a large French-style large estate—from outside to inside: our clients’ directive was that they wanted to fall in love with their house all over again: and they did.

NYS: We read that you recently completed a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with an 8,000 bottle wine cellar! What was that experience like? When can we visit?

Let’s just say this one had some excellent perks.

Wyoming’s striking natural beauty makes for an incredible place to go, and the house in which this two-story wine cellar was built is just the kind of house we’d really wanted to design: modern and rustic with the sophistication of the city, and the comfort and natural materials one might find in a ranch house. The clients are passionate outdoors-people, and equally passionate about good food and wine.

There were definitely challenges involved in working in such a remote area: workmen disappearing for hunting and fishing and skiing seasons. Installing the interiors involved some interesting logistics, as virtually everything needed for the house had to be brought in from out-of-state. A well-stocked wine cellar and generous clients helped with that.

NYS: Your firm has received numerous awards by major publications. What was one of the most meaningful to you both and why?

This spring, Tichenor & Thorp Architects is being honored by Big Sunday, a fantastic, non-denominational organization which connects people through helping those in need. Over the years we’ve worked hands-on on some wonderful projects with Big Sunday: including installing several gardens for shelters and transitional housing projects—so this is a proud moment for us.

NYS: What are you working on now?

Apart from our various ongoing building and garden projects, we’re working on a monograph of our body of work that is due to be released towards the end of this year. It’s been a massive undertaking while simultaneously running a busy practice. It is also gratifying to reflect on our work to date, and to showcase some of the wonderful projects we’ve been involved in and the incredible clients we’ve had the privilege to know over the years.

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