design-build - project profile
an interview with Troy Adams, the force behind this stunning Beverly Hills project.
BY Douglas Weinstein
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANTHONY BARCELO | MRBARCELO.COM
GREAT DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT consider not only your taste but how you like to live. Troy Adams’ work explores all the functional elements of a space and then finds the most beautiful ways and premium materials to bring them to life. This uniquely holistic approach to design and development results in beautiful, functional and aspirational spaces. In this way his design works in harmony with sophisticated materials and aesthetics to create elevated spaces that will be enjoyed for years.
His practice, Troy Adams Design & Development, encompasses architecture, interior design, and real estate development. Troy’s approach is sophisticated, considered, and thoughtful — no detail is spared, and there’s always a marriage of beauty and function in the materials he chooses. It’s this mastery in his work, which has seen him in demand internationally for projects in Guam, Hawaii, London and many other destinations.
I recently sat down with Troy to talk about his roots, the evolution from interior design to project development, and how Colorbeam's lighting technology played a vital role in The Summitridge project.
"On any high-end project their needs to be a technology designer, a lighting consultant, acoustic consultant and engineering consultant at the very beginning."Troy Adams
DOUG: Troy, nice to catch up with you. Let’s start in Alaska and then circle the globe and end up in Beverly Hills. Tell us about your journey.
TROY: Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the incredible Summitridge estate and not only my personal journey, but the six-year journey I was on for this one incredible project. So let’s begin in Alaska!
My grandfather was a cabinet maker and my father had a cabinet shop, and I grew up learning millwork fabrication and working in the field doing all sorts of construction jobs. Pouring concrete, wiring homes for electricity, and other trade work in small homes up in Alaska. I started my own cabinet installation business when I was 18. From the age of 18 to 25 I continued to expand, including getting my start in kitchen design.
Then I got a job in Hawaii where I was brought in initially as a trainer on millwork fabrication, cabinetry and kitchen installation, then began visiting our project work. Hawaii was a real eye-opener for me, as I gained a lot of experience in all types of indoor/outdoor spaces – I was amazed at how it all fused together with pocket doors disappearing into the walls. I worked on projects in Guam and Bali and Indonesia as I gained more confidence and where I began to think about elevating concepts and designs. I think this period is where I fell in love with incorporating nature and natural materials into the design process.
Eventually, I formed my own company. In 1988 I opened an exclusive Studio Becker showroom in Honolulu and experienced tremendous success in both residential and multi-unit markets, providing kitchens and baths for many Hawaii residences and projects. In 2000 I expanded across the ocean to Los Angeles, opening an exclusive showroom – Troy Adams Design for Studio Becker – in West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center.
Working with architects I traveled extensively in Europe and found different designs and different design philosophies. From Germany to Italy I absorbed the different influences and started to envision them meeting and accentuating each other. And also Asian cultures where I learned about Zen and calming influences and natural materials and how they can be intertwined in the world of design.
And as I gained more and more perspective on different cultures and different design concepts, it led me to create my own vision, which is called FusionDesign™ which blends European standards of sophistication, technologically minimalist design with American principles of functionality and Zen qualities of Asian cultures. Open-space concepts, hidden-compartment hideaways, and extensive use of indirect lighting are all part of my design ethos.
So over the years, with project work in far flung places like Norway, Saudi Arabia and London, it evolved into an emergence of both architectural and interior/exterior design. I was being hired to be the lead on projects and responsible for bringing in the architect and builder and landscape artist and others who could contribute to the project.
DOUG: And this has all culminated in the formation of Troy Adams Design & Development. What’s this new chapter of your life all about?
TROY: So with all of this experience I’ve gotten over the years, I decided to fully execute my vision. From the purchase of a property, whether an existing structure or just the land, we will be developing real estate. We will do all of the design, even going as far as furnishing the residence, hire the builders and before any buyer enters the picture we will create works of art and functionality. At that point, we will turn the project over to the real estate agent and market the property.
This concept not only pertains to new builds, but also major remodels. We’ll retain what works and re-design the rest as we transform the old into the new. It’s all about taking anything we’re presented with and creating a vision for what to preserve and what to change.
This concept allows me to design without any restraints imposed on me by a buyer or client who naturally wants me to design to their vision. So TADD will be developing and designing exclusive, bespoke residences and multi-dwelling properties across the globe.
DOUG: Let’s talk about design itself. How do you approach design?
TROY: I think first of all, when I take a look at a piece of property, I get an emotional reaction to it. Whether it’s the view, the placement on the landscape, or the nature around it. I eventually come up with a theme for the property and try to stay true to that. I write down notes and make bullet points which reference the topology of the land and where the sun will move through the space. I jot down primary design elements and what materials will resonate So I go to my bullet points and then I adhere to them. I don’t like to take every single trick I’ve learned over the years and cram it all into any given project. So as I progress on the project design, I keep asking myself if I am adhering to the guidelines I’ve set down for myself to follow.
Another key element to my design is the consideration of space. One of the things I’ve learned is that there are different ways to approach spatial dimensions. I’ve learned that people can set limitations in their mind going into the design phase, perhaps because of height restrictions or local codes or just what’s common. For me, I completely separate my mind from that way of thinking – I come up with scale and proportion based on the natural surroundings and then I go for it. I don’t think about the limitations. Because if I get stuck on the limitations, it ends up hindering the design process. Then later on I’m not happy with the results.
And then, of course, there is designing with light. Part of my experience in working in Hawaii is I got to see a lot of high-end resorts. They had a real impact on me as far as lighting. Less is more. I love the idea of having less in order to create the highs and lows in spaces, using natural light as much as possible. And then with new lighting technologies, we now have the ability to create moods. That’s my favorite part of designing lighting. Indirect lighting, cove lighting. Moving through the space without actually seeing the light source – with back lighting and bringing shelves away from the wall and bouncing the light off the back wall to create depth.
Then we also have the ability to do task lighting and the ability to dim any given light source. With all of the advances in lighting we can create endless scenes, although I like to limit things to as few as possible so the homeowner isn’t overwhelmed.
And finally, acoustics is an important design feature. Whether I’m using fabrics on the walls or sound-resistant dry wall, I’m interested in being able to control the level of noise to accentuate and enhance the overall design.
DOUG: Let’s talk about the Summitridge estate and how you were able to create such unique settings utilizing the latest in lighting and automation technologies.
TROY: About seven years ago a client wanted to hire me to do interiors on a project in Beverly Hills. Just the interior space. As soon as he hired me, he fired the original architect. So I came on board at the slab foundation stage and took on the role of bringing in and working with landscape architects, plus taking over for the exterior designs. Then the owner bought an adjacent property and combined them and the project took on a much larger dimension.
Let me start off by saying that the theme of this project from a design standpoint is meant to evoke a high-end, luxury boutique hotel. That became the theme. We designed a lot of individual spaces with multiple decks and a rooftop bar and a cigar bar and fire features in addition to a pool and lounge area that opens to the family room. So it’s as if you are staying at the most expensive hotel in the world and you can go find your little area to hang out in. Keep in mind that this is a private residence.
We see a lot of homes in Los Angeles that are box-like, minimalist, with all white walls. We didn’t see that working for this space. Most of the walls are leather or fabric or incorporate millwork. We sourced product and materials from all over the world. Now that it is completed, it doesn’t in any way feel like a typical mega-mansion.
When I was brought on board, the owner had already hired GAV MGMT as his low-voltage team. And so our teams got together on a regular basis to discuss lighting and how to automate the residence. It was a great collaborative experience. And that’s where I was introduced to Colorbeam and their range of solutions which play a major role in the overall design.
The team at Colorbeam, especially their chief technologist Maurizio Gaudio, was highly educated and sophisticated and up to date with the latest technologies. Anything I threw at them they were able to accommodate without any problems. And remember that when we started on the project, a lot of the lighting technology we have today wasn’t even available.
As the project progressed, I learned that on any high-end project their needs to be a technology designer, a lighting consultant, acoustic consultant and engineering consultant at the very beginning of the project.
We did extensive indirect lighting with the Colorbeam products. We used tape lighting in a track to create linear lighting effects for pathways, and the Giulia product line to highlight paintings with a side wall or ceiling wall wash. All of the Colorbeam lights are tunable by the homeowner, so walls can be transformed by altering the luminosity and as you move from space to space one rarely actually sees any given light source.
Another key component was the Crestron whole-house automation, because we did tons of customization and that required a robust platform.
For instance, in the master closet we took the center island and created a bio-metric safe. An entire safe that lifts up and as it rises the lights illuminating it slowly come on revealing the self-winding watches and jewelry. We did a similar presentation in the cigar bar, where the glass partition slowly gives way to the cigars which begin to become back-lit. And again, for the bar a motorized lift reveals liquor bottles and stemware.
Closets as they open begin to light up depending on which door you enter, along with the closet rods lighting up, and motion sensors that control how the lights turn on and off. A lot of these features, including custom relays, were supplied by the team at Colorbeam and programmed by the team GAV MGMT which gives you an idea on the level of collaboration and execution between the teams.
And finally, you’ll appreciate a noticeable lack of wall clutter. With the use of strategic keypads and touchscreens and the ability to control the house with an iPhone, the integration of technology was seamless and took nothing away from the various design concepts.
DOUG: Amazing. When we saw the primary photography we knew we wanted to feature it in the magazine. Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
TROY: Summitridge morphed into the largest project I have ever done and it was a great experience. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect and learned so much from all of the disciplines, including the newest technologies in lighting and automation. For me, I’m grateful to have been a part of this and to be granted full license from the owner to pursue my vision.
TROY ADAMS DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
625 S. Barrington Avenue #410
Los Angeles, CA 90049