Famed architect discusses his design process

(fer) Purchasing the lot next door, the Sherman Oaks, California, client more than doubled the size of his property. The expanded lot allowed a 2,700-square-foot new construction addition to the original home infilled with glass and large glass sliders.

When famed architect Christopher Mercier is retained to remodel or redesign a home, he wants to know the following from the homeowners: What is their lifestyle? How do they live? What do they expect from the home? Once these questions are answered, Mercier is able to develop plans that will meet the needs of how the homeowners want to live.

Mercier is the owner of (fer) studio in Inglewood, California, which stands for form, environment and research.

He was a speaker at “Architecture &Design — A Hand-in-Hand Approach,” one of many panel discussions at the Winter 2018 Las Vegas Market, held Jan. 28-Feb. 1 at the World Market Center.

“More people are responding to the idea of remodeling their home to meet their new lifestyle,” he said. “The majority are either trying to downsize or upsize for family reasons and, as part of that, they are looking for a new feel for the house. It’s kind of a fresh start if you will.

“The people downsizing have lived in their home for 20 years, and even though their lives have changed, their home hasn’t changed. They want better use of the space than what they’ve been living in for the past two decades. And that’s where I come in. I reimagine and repurpose the existing structure while preserving its history and character. It’s a trend of urban renewal and restoration that is occurring throughout the country.”

The trend is leaning toward modern contemporary remodeling. For instance, homeowners throughout the Southwest are making better use of the pleasant year-round weather by taking the dining room and expanding it into another room and then meeting that room up to the backyard.

The universal popularity of creating an open living space means that homeowners are looking for new and innovative ways to create a layout without using wall surfaces. This concept of the living space is liberating and entertaining and very often leads to unique spatial solutions, which in any other case would remain unnoticed.

“Clients want their home to have a larger experience,” Mercier said. “More are looking for the inside/outside design where it’s not the house and the yard but the house and yard merging into a single form of architecture. This is the world we’re living in today.

“With each project, no matter how large or small, I strive to combine environmental sensitivity and trend-setting vision and develop a dialogue between interior and exterior space that morphs through the facade.”

Mercier is from Detroit and remembers harsh, long winters and short summers.

“The trend I’m discussing is nationwide,” he said. “Detroit has only three to four months of summer, and I remember we always wanted to make the most of those warm months. By redesigning the interior and exterior spaces, we have linked the interior into an open condition and created a continuation of space for all the rooms. And more often than not, we sometimes have to tear down a wall or two to meet our design for the new shape of the home.”

It may seem easy to do once a preliminary plan is created, but Mercier has found, with any couple remodeling their home, there are different priorities.

“My job often leads me to helping a couple negotiate conflicts of design,” he said. “One wants more openness, while the other wants less. One agrees on the initial concept, while the other wants a complete revision. I seek a common ground from them.”

Some of that common ground includes a suggestion on new furniture to complement the new look of the home.

“It’s a matter of revitalizing the new space,” Mercier said. “We refocus on how the family really lives, and no matter where we go or what we do, it always remains the same: The most important room in the house is the kitchen. The kitchen is utilized 95 percent of the time, and that’s where people live and that’s where they gather. It’s where life occurs.

“Therefore, the kitchen should be linked to a television and, if possible, to some outdoor space. Again, it’s letting one room flow into another. While someone is cooking, someone nearby is watching television and someone else is outside. But no matter where they are, they are interacting with each other.”