As one third of the trio who make up the design group Studio Collective, Christian Schulz has made a name for himself creating fresh, authentic and comfortably luxe designs inspired by a project’s locale rather than trends. A go-to for the hospitality trade, his projects include The Bungalow at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, The Landsby, a boutique hotel in the village of Solvang in Santa Barbara wine country, The Figueroa Hotel in DTLA and Westbound, an intimate cocktail lounge in DTLA’s Arts District. “We’re trying to create memorable spaces with very tactile experiences,” Schulz says. “Adding enough special moments to create a memory or touch point.”
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Explain your Flaneur bedding color selections:
I had summer on my mind when I started thinking of the collection and I wanted to come up with some design inspiration that was rooted in the neighborhood in which I live and work – Ocean Park, on the border of Venice and Santa Monica. The area has a lot of history of surf, skate and art culture, James Turrell had his studio here in the late ’70s, early ’80s and Robert Irwin was in the area, so strong design influences. On my street in Ocean Park there’s a collection of lovely 1920s bungalows all painted pastel shades of green, blue and teal. I drive past them on my bike every day as I go to work and they embody Ocean Park for me. One is also rumored to be the house of Jeff Ho, who started the Zephyr Surf Team, featured the film of Dogtown and Z-Boys.
What is your favorite color and why?
I don’t really have a favorite color but if I had to pick one, it would be a really deep navy blue, almost black, I don’t love super bright colors which why it’s kind of interesting that I picked these colors. I think it’s something to do with the freshness of the colors and, like I said, summer was approaching and it was their positivity and optimism that I drew from. Normally a bright pastel wouldn’t be my go-to choice but I just thought it felt right for bedding – just waking up fresh and feeling like summer’s here, you know?
Tell us about your journey to where you are today in your career?
I grew up by the beach in New Jersey, but it’s only an hour from the city, and I went to school in New York City for architecture. I always wanted to go to SCI-Arc, which is an architecture program in Los Angeles – a very well known school – but my parents wanted me to get my undergrad closer to home so I worked for a few years in New York and put myself through grad school. Then, when I was a little bit older, I came out here and I’ve been here ever since working with different firms, agencies and studios, on both sides, ownership and on the construction side and design.
Do you have a favorite designer or artist that you’re inspired by?
I have so many it’s hard to list and they cross different design genres. A few of my favorites would the artist Alison Van Pelt who does these really incredible almost dreamlike paintings – she’s a big inspiration for me. I’ve used her in some of our work and hopefully I’m going to commission a piece by her for me and my wife.
Architecturally, Peter Zumthor and Steven Holl are probably my two biggest influences because they’re incredible architects but they also have a sense of tactility and detail in their work. Everything from the building envelope down to the door handle is thoughtful.
How would you define your style?
It’s changed over the years. I think when I was younger I was very into modernism and cleaner lines. As I’ve aged and I’ve traveled more I’ve realized the importance of not just decoration but collection and curation and I enjoy mixing styles and cultures in my work, personally and with studio collective. That’s something that my partners and I, because we’re all so uniquely different, decided very early on – we didn’t want a specific style with Studio Collective. Take how Steven Holl works, he really looks at the location, at the context, the geography, the culture and where he’s working, and really does a lot of exploratory work and deep dives into that research, then he lets that influence his buildings. It doesn’t come out immediately, when you see the building you’re not making the leap initially, as a viewer, but as you learn about the process and the project it becomes more evident.
So, I think, for me, context, contextual design is really important. I’d say the other really big, important thing in my work is tactility and the handmade quality, not everything being perfect but seeing the sense of craft. Whether it’s a metal worker or a woodworker or a special finisher that works with plaster, really getting to see a little bit of the sense of the human hand in the work is something that I appreciate.
How does designing a room like a bedroom for a hospitality project differ from a residential one?
When you’re doing a residential project, whether you’re doing it for yourself or for a client, it’s, again, kind of a curated experience – at least for me, and the clients that I’ve worked with. It’s about really getting to understand them as people. The bedroom is a sacred place, it’s a place of comfort and rest. You want to reduce anxiety and you want it to be a real serene, lovely experience so I never put televisions in bedrooms because I don’t believe in that while I think art is important, especially pieces that are personally important, whether it’s a high end piece of art, or something which is meaningful to you like a drawing you got from a loved one or something. I think art is important for reflection. I think in the residential world it should really, really be a reflection of the person. People like different things -sometimes they want something very stripped down, so that their sleep and their process is really about letting go and not having too many things to think about. Myself, I like to have objects that transport me to places and bring joy or happiness.
For any project, whether it’s hospitality or residential, what’s one thing you that you always try to do, and one thing you avoid?
We talk a lot about this in the studio a lot, whether it’s a small project – we did a little 2000 square foot bar about a year ago in DTLA – or it’s on the opposite end of the spectrum – like the hundreds of thousands of square foot of hotel rooms and multiple venues we did at the Hotel Figueroa – what’s key is to create what we call memory touch points, moments that really stop you and make you think. It’s not just a cool finish, or a cool Instagrammable moment, it’s more of an impactful detail that leaves kind of a wrinkle in your brain. It may not hit you over the head initially, but it’s something that you take away with you.
For example, my wife Elizabeth and I got married in Todos Santos at Hotel San Cristobal. They did a couple of things really well like these beautiful, custom robes made in Oaxaca that were so incredible we both bought them. They also worked with a tile manufacturer out of Guadalajara (that we actually work with as well) on these beautiful floor tiles. In areas of the hotel, where it was more festive, they were really brightly colored, but in a modern way, and in other areas, like bedrooms and bathrooms, they were tone on tone, gray on gray, but in the same pattern. So it was this very kind of old world tradition, getting a very modern, new world feel. Whenever I think of that hotel, of this pattern and the colors so having those kind of details is really important.
What is the last thing you bought for yourself, for your home?
One thing I’m making, right now, with one of my vendors, is a custom bench for our front door so you come in you can sit down and take your shoes off. I’m buying these beautiful little leather baskets to go in a shelf underneath. And a bedspread from the hotel in Oaxaca that I’m going to remake it into a cushion for this beautiful bench.
Do you have a bedtime or morning ritual?
My preferred morning ritual is really to go for a surf, because it’s the best thing. Some people do yoga in the morning, or they go for a run. For me, I live close to the beach, so going and getting a surf in is like the best medicine because it clears my head and then I feel like I can deal with anything. My evening ritual, besides kissing my wife goodnight, is maybe reading a little bit or scrolling on Instagram.
Do you have a bedside table, and if so, what’s on it?
I do have bedside tables. What’s on it is a fragrant candle, a bottle of sparkling water and a book I’m reading right now called Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook which is incredible.
Do you have a dream travel destination?
I’m going to a wedding in the Cotswolds next week and then I’m heading to San Sebastian in Spain. I’ve never been, and I’m really excited. It’s just like a very foodie, beach destination. A dream destination that I haven’t been to that I’m really dying to go to is a boat trip through Indonesia with my mates, a surf trip. Maybe when I turn 50 with five, six friends. You’re at sea for 7 days to 10 days, and they take you through all the different islands around Sumatra like Nias with famous surf spots. So you’re basically surfing all day, then on the boat fishing, playing cards, playing guitar, eating, drinking beer, watching the sunset. It’s kind of perfect. It’s like the quintessential surf trip that I haven’t done yet.