Designer Jerome Byron’s Raw-Edged “Quarantine Quarters” Feel Like a ’90s Office Gone Rogue

Spurred on by the pandemic, the Los Angeles–based designer and architect builds a rough-and-ready workspace that’s indicative of his experimental streak.
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When the pandemic forced Los Angeles into lockdown in March, architect and designer Jerome Byron had already been mulling over an idea to build a workspace in the studio below his apartment. Sheltering in place kicked his plan into high gear. 

Completed in a month, Byron’s Quarantine Quarters is a 12-by-12-foot nook within the architect’s spacious studio in Echo Park, detailed with organic textures and imperfect finishes. Byron likens the space to "structured chaos," having been heavily planned out, yet left with an intentionally messy edge. 

Once shelter-in-place went into effect, a sense of urgency drove Byron to complete his Quarantine Quarters. His work would normally include on-site visits, but given the circumstances—and an uptick in work—the architect needed a space to complete his projects remotely. 

To source materials for the workshop, Byron was "efficient and cost-minded," he notes. He’d make masked runs to Lowe’s, grabbing what was available to him at the time. 

The completed workshop demonstrates Byron’s core interest in spaces and how they can be molded to achieve a desired mood. In his commissioned work, delivering an atmospheric concept is a top priority as well. Creating mood boards is an important step in this process, leading him down "a rabbit hole of research," Byron explains. In refining the mood, he considers "what the space is like, and how it makes you feel," playing with materiality and the "tangible quality of it." Byron likes to draw inspiration from myriad sources—parsing out visuals from film stills, for example.

For his Quarantine Quarters, Byron wound up tapping into what he describes as a "futuristic retro vibe." He envisioned a "very warm and residential [space]," one that would counterbalance his studio’s colder features, like its cracked concrete floors. 

Byron’s studio floors are marked by "uneven, cracked concrete—making it impossible to comfortably roll while around sitting in an office chair," he shares. To add a sense of intimacy and comfort to the space, the architect imagined "a room within a room," he states. 

Working alone, Byron furred out all the walls of the nook, raised its floor, and introduced cork lining for pin-up space. He also made the desks, closet, and bookshelf himself, and wired the LED ceiling panels (after extensive research on YouTube.) To punch things up, Byron painted the drywall ceiling a dark red. This mix of moody character and corporate lighting translated to a "’90s office space vibe," says Byron. 

Cork-clad walls in the Quarantine Quarters allow Byron to pin up images and inspiration.

During the building process, Byron sanded and sealed the birch ply floors and furniture. His desk displays "a Donald Judd-inspired shape," he shares.   

Byron’s dog Taejo poses on a pile of the architect's design plans. 

Byron’s background in studio art informs his current work treating spaces and making furniture. While completing an intense art program at his high school in Columbus, Ohio, he spent half of his junior and senior years solely painting. At the Pratt Institute, Byron focused on experimental, intuitive design and spatial thinking, where he found a correlation between working in spaces and image-making. As he describes, creating any space is like "painting in three dimensions...finding a balance between textures, materials, and colors." 

Similarly, he treats his self-directed furniture projects as another artistic medium and an exercise in "playing with perception," he says. In 2018, after months of being fixated on the premise of indoor concrete furniture, he created a series of curved concrete benches after much experimentation and a number of failures, ultimately honing in on a process that worked for him.  

Byron never wanted to feel "locked into one lane," he explains. Rather, he enjoys the balance between his commissioned work and his more self-directed projects, which often reflect his background in studio art. 

Byron’s experimental approach to color and material is evident in his concrete stool project.

Byron wanted to riff on the brutalist aesthetic, which is commonly associated with "imposing governments and harsh materials," he states. Creating the stools was "an exercise in taking back the material" and recasting it to take on a new meaning. His treatment of the material and palette allow the stools to look surprisingly light and delicate, as though they're floating. 

Byron enjoyed the element of confusion invoked by the final product. The stools are at once buoyant and sturdy, achieved by the designer's handling of the material and the dainty, pastel palette.

The pieces come in three types—a low stool, a high stool, and a broad bench—and each one is unique in finish and tone. 

Byron’s work has ramped up during the pandemic, forcing him to adjust to completing otherwise tangible projects from his studio. Luckily, he’s been enjoying his new Quarantine Quarters, a space all his own. 

Related Reading: My House: Two Bay Area Creatives Navigate a New Normal in Their Artist Co-Op

Project Credits:

Architect + Builder of Record: Jerome Byron / @jeromebyron


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