Behind the Scenes

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Three Orange County interior decorators open up about their sources of  inspiration, latest Design Trends and what they love about their own homes.

By Suzette Lipscomb

After graduating from college with a fashion merchandising degree, Robin Strickler worked in the fashion industry for several years. When she moved from Los Angeles to Orange County, she attended the Interior Designers Institute and soon began working in model homes. With her builder contacts, she was able to transition to high-end residential homes and created her own firm, Design Works, in 1991.

Pacific Coast Magazine: What inspired you to enter this field? 

Robin Strickler: I am fortunate to have built a very successful design firm and attribute it to my fashion background, which allotted me the talent to seek out new trends, as well as current colors and fabrics to incorporate into our timeless style.

Robyn Strickler
Robin Strickler

PCM: What is one of your favorite rooms in your house?

RS: The great room because it is the heart of the entire home. It is warm and inviting and flows comfortably from the kitchen, entry and bedrooms.

PCM: What is a trend you incorporate into designs whenever possible?

RS: One of our favorite trends that really completes a room is to drape a Hermes throw over a chair or at the end of the bed. It adds warmth and sophistication to any room. Something more affordable is to add decorative pillows. We mix and match patterns and solids from West Elm, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma, which can transcend any space.

PCM: Where is your favorite travel destination to explore? 

RS: Paris. Many of our fabric companies have showrooms there and follow the latest fashion trends. I love the flea markets and beautiful architecture.

PCM: What would you be if you weren’t an interior designer?

RS: If I ever retire from design, I would love to be a consultant for a furniture company or start my own fabric line. As long as I am connected to beautiful things, I feel alive.

Brooke Schneiders Santa Ana–based Source Recruiting + Design Inc., was incorporated in 1999 and is both a residential interior design business and a recruiter for the interior design and architecture industries. Schneider enjoys both sides of his business because the thread between them is “people.” Recruiting, he says, “is about finding the right candidates for the right company—we are like matchmakers. With interior design, it is all about the client and finding the right selections to make it the right match for them, too.”

Brooke Schneider
Brooke Schneider

Pacific Coast Magazine: What inspired you to enter this field?

Brooke Schneider: Again, for me it is about the people. It is so interesting to get to know a client and find out what they are looking for. This is a field that deals in aspirations—how people want to live or see themselves living.

PCM: What is one of your favorite rooms in your house? 

BS: The bedroom, because it is my refuge. After a long busy day dealing with people (yes, they can be inspiring and exhausting) I love to be by myself in my bedroom. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom because I really want it to be the place that is peaceful, calm and away from everything. I also love my office, which is on the first floor and faces the street. I love working and having people walk by—it feels very urban for Orange County.

PCM: What is a trend that you incorporate into designs whenever possible?

BS: I see two big trends in residential design right now: outdoor areas becoming more comfortable, a true extension of the indoor space, and the concept of a “manacle,” or area devoted to a more casual living style. I am fortunate to be working on a project currently that incorporates both of these in one area.

PCM: When you travel, what is your favorite hotel to stay at?

BS: The NoMad [Hotel] in New York is one of my favorites because it feels Old World, but with all the modern conveniences. Having cocktails in the library in the afternoon is one the best things to do there.

PCM: What would you be if you weren’t an interior designer?

BS: I think I would have liked to do something in the travel industry. I have such a travel bug.

From his home base in Laguna Beach, John Arnold Garcia, whose full-service interior design firm specializes in bespoke lifestyle designs of new homes and estates, has worked on homes from Hawaii to Manhattan. Projects have ranged from apartment duplexes in Soho to up to 20,000-square-foot homes on multiple acres in California. As a former American Society of Interior Designers chairman for the Orange County Philharmonic House of Design, he has completed more than 12 rooms for that project in recent years.

Pacific Coast Magazine: What inspired you to enter the interior design field?

John Arnold Garcia: My late father was a well-known custom homebuilder and developer in Orange County during the 1960s and 1970s. My parents were both modernists and I grew up in a large, midcentury modern, flat roof, glass box home, designed and built by my father, decorated by my mother and inspired by [architects Richard] Neutra, [Rudolph] Schindler and [Ricardo] Legoretta, which I still own. Art, design and construction were a part of my daily life, conversation and experience. My father gave me my own set of drafting tools and table when I was 6. It’s who I am to my core.

John Garcia

PCM: What is your favorite room in your house?

JAG: In the new home my wife and I are building in Emerald Bay, my favorite room is the lanai. It has an up-close relationship with the adjacent tide pools. It’s located on a lawn and pool terrace level with walls of glass that lift and slide. Weiland doors open it completely to the outdoors. [It is] my favorite place to be.

PCM: What is a trend that you incorporate into designs whenever possible?

JAG: This may sound mundane, but having a second laundry area in your master suite is incredibly convenient. I hide a stacking washer and dryer inside cabinetry within the bathroom or closet area. After all, what is more luxurious than something that makes a basic part of your life easier? On a more expensive note, integrated appliances make today’s open kitchens look more like furniture than work areas. These new refrigerators and freezers can be hidden behind wood or glass panels in a completely seamless manner with the rest of the cabinetry.

PCM: What is a trend everyone can afford?

JAG: Practiced minimalism. Simplifying your surroundings is one of the quickest way to achieve luxury of space. Fewer larger things are more rewarding than many small things.

PCM: When you travel, what is your favorite hotel?

JAG: Hands down it’s the Villa d’Este in Lake Como, Italy. It has the most amazing gardens. This past September, my wife and I drove there from Venice, stopping along the way in Vicenza to see the Villa Rotonda. We spent our days on the deck of the floating pool, and piloted ourselves across the lake on one of the hotel’s motorboats to Bellagio.

PCM: What would you be if you weren’t a designer?

JAG: I’ve been working on a series of humorist essays about home design, construction and planning based on my 30 years in the interior design and home building industry.