Q&A With David Lai of Hello Design
For over 15 years, he's worked with some of the most well-known brands and organizations—including MoMA, Herman Miller, and Sony—but one of his most recent challenges involved his green home designed by lee + mundwiler architects. The "L House," which boasts an array of sustainable landscaping, energy, and water features, was featured in our July/August issue a few years ago. During the same time, we also invited David to Dwell on Design, where he chatted about designing and living in a modern home tailor-made for his family.
But before all that happened, we sat down with David to ask him a few questions about design classics, his background, the best view in Los Angeles, and what he was planning to discuss on his panel.
Q. How did you become interested in design?
A. I always loved to draw and make things since I was little, so I think I was probably interested in design without even knowing it was called design back then.
Q. Favorite design classic?
A. I love relaxing on my Eames Lounge and Ottoman.
Q. The one object you can't do without?
A. My iPhone. I dropped it in New York on a sidewalk a few weeks back and shattered the screen. Being in another city made me realize how dependent I was on it.
Q. Best view in Los Angeles?
A. Cycling up Mandeville Canyon because it makes me forget that I'm in L.A.
Q. Favorite architect?
A. I would say Stephan Mundwiler and Cara Lee of lee + mundwiler architects, obviously, because I chose them to design my home. I also admire the work of Tezuka Architects and Suppose Design Office in Japan.
Q. Your firm has worked on a number of projects with places like Herman Miller, the Hammer Museum, and MoMA. What has that been like? What has the most interesting project been?
A. It's been amazing. When we started Hello, we wanted to work with diverse clients and create diverse work for them. I think the most enjoyable part of the process is learning about our clients and what they do. We've been lucky in that we get the chance to work with Fortune brands and museums alike. Herman Miller is a wonderful group of people to collaborate with because they appreciate and understand the power of good design.
Q. Your home will be featured in the Off the Grid section of our July/August issue and boasts a number of green features. Was there one in particular that you and your family feel really passionate about?
A. I would have to say we're pretty passionate about solar power. It's great to know that you can run this household of five without relying on the grid. It's satisfying to see the electric meter spinning backwards, too!
Q. Your family has three young children. How did that factor into your home's design?
A. We put a lot of thought into designing a home that will grow with our family. In that sense, the way we are using our rooms now will certainly change as the kids get older. For example, we have a playroom right now because our two daughters want to share a bedroom. I'm sure it won't be too long before they're going to want their own rooms and that playroom will then convert to a bedroom. There are little details as well, such as thinking about how things look from their respective views. We have windows on the second floor that are at the kids's height so they can look outside, too.
Q. Can you give us a sneak peek of what you'll be discussing on your Dwell on Design panel?
A. Sure, our topic is "Design for Kids." I want people to know they can live in a modern home that is still kid friendly. It doesn't have to be one or the other. I think good design is something that can surround us in our everyday lives and it's more about what we choose not to put into it.