Designer Visit: Q & A with Commune in LA

January 30, 2011 5:20 PM


If you've visited the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, or the Farmshop in Brentwood, or Heath Ceramics in Los Angeles, or the retail shop at the Standard Hotel in New York, you've experienced the eclectic, edgy work of LA design firm Commune. Commune was founded in 2004 by four partners—Roman Alonso, Steven Johanknecht, Pamela Shamshiri, and Ramin Shamshiri—with varied backgrounds, who are focused on enhancing life through design. The designers come from all over the world but share a common vision and aesthetic sensibility; their interests range from chocolate (they designed a special edition of chocolates modeled after Byzantine tiles for Valerie Confections) to the work of Donald Judd. We recently had the opportunity to ask the partners a few design questions; go to Commune to see more of the firm's work.

RM: What are the most important lessons you've learned as designers?
Commune: Ask the right questions, listen carefully, and collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.

RM: When you're embarking on a project, what do you keep in mind?
Commune: The client (above, residential projects by Commune).

RM: What do you collect?
Commune: Books, ceramics, and textiles (Commune-designed linen napkins for Farmshop, shown above).

RM: What are your favorite restaurants?
Commune: The Old Axe in Venice Beach, Farmshop in Brentwood (shown above), AMMO in LA, and Asanebo in Studio City.

RM: Who are your design idols?
Commune: Peter Zumthor, Billy Haines, Rei Kawakubo, and Steve Jobs.

RM: Who would you like to have a drink with?
Commune: Never drink with your heroes.

RM: What is your dream bicycle?
Commune: A Free City Classic by Mission Bicycle Company. This bike (shown above) has the partners at Commune green with envy.

RM: Where have you traveled recently?
Commune: Collectively, we've been to Miami Beach, Paris; Portland, OR; Stockholm; Tehran; and Vals, Switzerland (above, the Therme Vals by Peter Zumthor).

RM: What do you never leave home without?
Commune: Our iPhones.

RM: What's on your wish list?
Commune: A vegetable garden and an in-house cook for our studio.

RM: Who are your favorite artists?
Commune: Donald Judd, Josef Albers, Cy Twombly, Patti Smith, Andy Warhol, Pina Bausch.

RM: What inspires you?
Commune: Travel, music, great food—the smallest detail and the greatest gesture (above, the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, CA, by Commune).

RM: What piece of furniture do you covet?
Commune: A Frits Henningsen wingback armchair, designed in the 1930s.

RM: What are your favorite hardware items?
Commune: Wood pegs as hooks, ceramic light bulb sockets, anything by E. R. Butler (above, Totem Candle Holders in bronze or nickel, by Commune for E. R. Butler).