October | HAUTE ART
Who Lives There? Architectural Designs and the People Who Inhabit Them
By Tricia Stewart Shiu
“Earth Shadow” – Deuter
Ever see those gorgeous glass houses? Wonder who lives there and, more importantly, how they live? We’ll take a peek into one man’s plan to build the ultimate dream home and how it came to life. Jeremy Kaplan, is President and Creative Director for Art Machine, a marketing and advertising company based in Hollywood, CA. He was integral in building the company and helped lead Art Machine’s evolution as a top tier entertainment creative firm. His professional accomplishments are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to aesthetics. Throughout the success of his business, Jeremy was cultivating and, subsequently, birthing his dream home. Also, full disclosure, Jeremy, his wife Michell and I are longtime friends.
TRICIA: Your life vision, has been clear, since day one. I remember standing on the lot you were thinking about buying and seeing, firsthand, your passion for aesthetics and design. It was an empty lot and I distinctly remember you detailing what your dream home would look like. That’s just a part of who you are. Where did your love for aesthetics originate?
JEREMY: My dad. So, basically growing up, my father was in advertising, which is weird because the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. But, luckily, my dad had good taste as does my mother. My dad was going to be an architect, which I didn’t know until later. We grew up in South Louisiana where, there’s not a lot of contemporary architecture. There is some.
But, through his travels, got into Eames. We had Eames chairs, we had Danish Modern and the house was architectural. Basically, growing up around that, I just kind of absorbed it. So, taste in music and art and also architecture, because, when I was about eight or nine, he built a house that we all lived in, which was really contemporary for South Louisiana. Lots of angles and it was different. It stood out on the street.
You’d go down the street and it was more Acadian houses, Country and then we had this modern house that he built so growing up, through that, I just absorbed it, , and that’s where, luckily, he wasn’t into Shabby Chic, if so I’d probably be “Shabby Chic Guy,” but growing up around all of the Barcelona chairs, Arco lamps, Eames chairs and Danish modern furniture…he had a lot of friends that were artists, some of them contemporary artists so, again, it was just what I grew up around. It kind of stuck. That’s my comfort—I’m a Cancer and I nest. So, that’s my comfort zone, wood and steel and cement, coupled with the warmth of leather, Eames chairs and that mixture. I don’t like it too sparse, but that’s my comfort zone. Its calming to me.
ARTISTIC ALLEGORY | LE MOT JUSTE
TRICIA: So, if you look at your day as a design, your aim is comfort and simplicity.
JEREMY: How do you mix those two? Some people may come into our home and luckily my wife, Michelle, as you know, has similar taste which is great. If you come into our home, we have cement floors, but there are also wood accents.
Some people may think it feels cold, but for us, it feels warm. That’s where going through the day, there are not too many choices—like, when asked what their favorite color is, they say, “black or gray.” It’s, pretty funny. I have very simplistic tastes. I wear the same thing. You know, I’ve got my jeans and my t shirt and, yeah, it’s simplicity and comfort, because, there’s enough stress and choices that you have to make on a daily basis. I try to minimize those things to get the day going.
TRICIA: What are you most proud of, so far, and in the top three standout design decisions that you’ve made in your life?
JEREMY: Behind the wife and kids—I would say, our home. Even though we’ve been there for 18 years. It’s been nice. I found an empty lot, built a small box and met Michelle my wife and then, as the family grew, we added on. So, we built that home together. That’s why, I’m definitely more emotionally attached to it. Even though we’ve talked about moving sometimes. we’ve built a really ,really amazing home over 18 years.
TRICIA: Let’s talk about that, because I find that the most fascinating piece in your design journey. I think people would love to hear about it, from the beginning. You probably had a vision before the property came up for sale. So, what sparked your decision to buy and build on an empty lot?
JEREMY: basically, I’d just gotten a decent job and started making a little bit more money back in 1997 and I was living in a loft downtown which was awesome. Even in the loft I created a really nice environment there, aesthetically. I found this piece of land that had amazing views. That area of Silver Lake hadn’t come up, yet. So, it’s not like I had all this foresight or even knew it was going to be something, it’s just anybody that stood on that piece of land would be crazy not to say, “This is an awesome piece of land. The views were incredible and there are only so many of those views. So, that’s where I say, “Okay.” It’s a good piece of land. Let’s do that and then I’ll figure out what to do later and obviously, I’m thinking, “What’s my jam, as far as what I do with the land. I want it aesthetically pleasing and thought what would be least expensive, to build. I took, crazy enough, Jiffy Lubes designs as reference, because Jiffy Lube uses cement block. I’m thinking, “I’m going to do a cement block house, because, back in the 50s and 60s, they did the stacked block look. Well come to find out, it’s really expensive to do cement block with all the rebar and cement so we designed the look of block but with more traditional stick build and smooth stucco. It was too big. Couldn’t afford it. Made it smaller—still couldn’t afford to build it.
So, then, took the garage, which was going to be an apartment above it and just made that box and said I’ll build that, move in there and just see how it goes. It’s on the back side of the lot, so I can eventually add on later and just figure things out. Really it was just, what can I afford to do at the time to live on that piece of land. Then, as life moved on and new things happened, we adjusted and I knew, eventually, I’d have a wife and kids so, when the time came, we just added on a little bit here—a little bit there.
TRICIA: What I’m noticing is that, as you work creatively, you ping pong back and forth between the the vision and the practicality.
JEREMY: Exactly right.
TRICIA: So, it sounds to me. like there’s the vision. Then, there’s the practicality of it. It’s funny, I’m using the word practicality, but I’m wondering if you call it something different.
JEREMY: No, no. It’s being practical. Well, that’s where having a partner with more common sense than me is so good, because when I built the first box, I enclosed the shower, which was like 10 by 12. Who needs a shower that big? I had a cement Japanese soaking tub, which was huge.
TRICIA: I do remember that.
JEREMY: It took 45 minutes to fill up. So practicality. That didn’t make any sense. Did I need a tub that massive? I could have done a smaller box that would have filled up faster. So, that’s where it is good to have a team—a teammate—in making some of those decisions. As nice as I like my aesthetic and what makes me comfortable, it’s not practical all the time. When I say practical, it’s also about money—what something costs. And, you know, if money was no object, I would still have cement floors in our home. There are certain aesthetics that don’t really result in like “OK it’s too expensive or not” category, but I’ll choose aesthetically, anyway.
TRICIA: The thing I’ve noticed about you, is that when you are in the mode of design, goal setting or looking forward, you don’t hem yourself in. You don’t look to the practical, right away. You actually stay in the space of: “If I had all the money in the world…” You let yourself expand into whatever it is you want to design, first.
TRICIA: When do you know you’re done? After expanding for a period of time, at some point , you say: “…and we’re done here.”
JEREMY: You’re never done. That’s the crazy thing. Thinking about that for our home, right now. I would add on above the garage. I would have done either a home theater or done another rental, because we put that rental prefab in the back corner, and its been doing well. So, I guess the only time you’re done, is if you are restricted. Like, okay, we can’t add on space, but then 10 years down the road we say: “Let’s redo the floors or repaint or tweak something.” Yeah, I don’t think you’re ever done.
TRICIA: One of my favorite architects is Frank Lloyd Wright. He incorporated design into every part of his life, even designing his clothes which you kind of do, too. Do you have a favorite architect? How about a favorite designer?
JEREMY: Favorite architect ? I love Frank Lloyd Wright—but, if I had to choose one architect it would be Tadao Ando, a Japanese architect that actually didn’t go to school for architecture, but became an architect. He builds beautiful poured in place concrete buildings. They just did one in Malibu. I think he was hired to do a private couple’s home, but also art gallery, in Malibu. I’ve always loved “Church of the Light,” in Japan, where it’s just this poured in place concrete structure. It’s kind of like brutalist architecture from the 60s, but again, has the Japanese minimalist aesthetic. I love the Japanese aesthetic—poured in place concrete, but then you have some kind of rough stone or wood beam as a counter top. You know mixing those elements in steel, but he does it and I love his architecture. If I had to pick one it would be him. I geeked out when he came and did a book signing at Taschen and waited in line to get a signed book from him.
TRICIA: How about clothing?
JEREMY: I’m a creature of habit. I have three pairs of favorite jeans and three sweaters, I wear all the time and a white V-neck. In high school, it was jeans and a white V-neck, because, I felt comfortable in that. You don’t have to decide. I, honestly, find a pair of jeans and I’ll buy four pairs. Michelle has to say, “Don’t buy four pairs again.” Because, if I find one thing I like, I’ll buy three or four of them, because, I know I like it and I’ll just wear it all the time.
Then, it’s less deciding in the morning about what I am going to wear. I pretty much have two pairs of boots that I wear all the time. Three pairs of jeans and then about 12, white, V-neck T shirts and four sweaters.
TRICIA: I’m assuming these are quality items—quality and durability.
JEREMY: Yes. More so, than name brands, because companies like Gap will make an amazing cardigan that that’ll last 12 to 15 years. It’s not about labels. It’s, definitely, about quality and being well-built and durable—and it looks good. Then, I’m on board.
TRICIA: Then, how do you shop? Are you constantly looking for items? Do things just catch your eye or do you schedule time to shop into your week?
JEREMY: No. I shop way less than when I was single and I’d shop every week. It was terrible. I was worse than any female known for shopping. But now, with kids and stuff—there are plenty of things to spend money on, other than clothes. I try to find my staple. We go to the one place I go, whenever they have sales—Bloomingdale’s—because, it doesn’t even pay to go to the outlet stores anymore. Bloomingdale’s has 40 to 75 percent off racks and it’s just insane. Normally, we’ll wait for sales and rarely pay full price. I will spend money on jeans, a good pair of jeans.
But, other than that, we’ll wait for sales. Michelle’s really good about that, too. But, I’ll not go shopping and then Michelle will say that the boys need pants.
We end up going shopping and I walk out with more bags than anybody else and I’m like, “How did this happen?” I didn’t want anything. I didn’t need anything, but I’ll walk out with stuff because, it’s on sale. Look at that. It’s normally $300 on sale for $75, oh my God!
TRICIA: What this brings up is emotions. Obviously, there’s some emotional component to your process. So, you have a vision, you have a design all set up and then, something happens…
JEREMY: Then, there’s retail therapy. That dopamine rush you get when you find a good deal or something and you’re like, “Oh, this is my jam.” But then, I realize, oh you know what? I’ve got three more of those shirts. That’s why I like it because it’s the same.
My wife says, “You’ve got three of those. That’s why you like it.” She’ll call me out on it. For Christmas, we went shopping and then I said, “Look, I’ll buy a couple of sweaters and a pair of jeans. Actually, what I did this time was I went on eBay because I love Nudie jeans and they’re $200 jeans, but I love them. I found two pairs of Nudies for $50 each. So, I’m starting to go to eBay and look for pre-owned clothing.
You know, it’s great, because I’m not paying $200 for a pair of jeans and I can find a pair that is already broken in. At that level, people mostly take care of them so it’s not like they’re super hammered. But yeah, so for Christmas, what I got was I found two pairs of Nudies one for $40 and one for $50. Then, I got a Gap cardigan, a couple more white V-neck tees and we just wrap that stuff up.
TRICIA: So, Christmas was not so much of a surprise.
JEREMY: No, no. Actually, we are at that stage, where I’m like, “What do I need?” Then, I’ll buy them. Same thing with her. I just buy some stuff, surprise her with one thing and we’ll just wrap it.
TRICIA: Well, that’s great, because you get what you love.
JEREMY: It was maybe three weeks before Christmas. So, the week before Christmas, there were some other sales where we went looking for some last minute gifts. Suddenly, I see something I want and say, “Oh my God, I love this!”
I say, “Should I get it? It’s on sale.”
She’s says, “Seriously?”
I say, “What?”
Then, she says, “You have one piece that’s wrapped, that you bought two weeks ago and it’s the exact same thing.”
That happened three times.
So, if she wasn’t we with me, I would have bought stuff and opened up on Christmas and I forgot that I’d gotten it and it would’ve been the same things that I bought three weeks before. So, that’s how it is. I’m a creature of habit.
TRICIA: How does your vision for design play out in your work life?
JEREMY: it’s nice being a part of a really, amazing team, I get to collaborate with smart, super talented fun people. So, that’s the day job which is great.
TRICIA: You have the vision and you have the team to build it.
JEREMY: Yes. And again, I learn something new every day. You’re only as strong as the people that you’re surrounded with. So, I would never claim ownership over everything, but I feel ownership of being a part of a lot of it. get to do that every day and there are ups and downs to that process. But, being able design artwork is great and working with amazing photographers and designers. That’s the thing I really love about all of it is just creating assets and working with people that create assets it’s great getting to the final product, but it’s such a process and a lot of times, where you start and where you end, is way different, but again, working with great photographers being able collaborate and designers, that part’s good. I get to do that all day and then the home environment is our nest. So, I want to have a comfort zone there. We want to make that comfortable. Then, the side hustle with the container architecture. If I had a do over, and I could be anything else than what I am now, I would either be a musician or an architect. And I know neither of those are going to happen at this point in life. So, doing the container thing has been really nice, to try to feed that creative outlet. And so, there’s always something to do with design every day.
TRICIA: Okay, the things you say, “aren’t going to happen,” really are happening, right now. They’re happening are those things.
JEREMY: I’m doing those things. Yes.
TRICIA: You are doing those things. I guess you’re saying like you’re not in Carnegie Hall.
JEREMY: We’ll I can’t feed a family and send kids to college. That’s work. It’s more of a creative outlet and, eventually, it’d be great to segue into doing one of those things full time as Life 2.0. That would be awesome. It’s been 20 years that we’ve been doing this so far.
TRICIA: So you’ve got a few things and you know what came up to the other thing is collaboration. What you talked about at the very beginning was finding a partner a wife who balances you out right. Who helped you create your vision. Who sort of kept things in check IDs at points and probably offered some you know feedback or even some other creative suggestions. So tell me about and then you talked about then at work what you do. First of all what’s your title now.
TRICIA: Earlier you talked about collaboration, both with your wife and with your creative team at work. What is your is your process for collaboration when it comes to your design and how you build your vision?
JEREMY: Honestly, it’s about being open to other people’s ideas, having an idea, trying to see it through and, not necessarily, convincing people that your idea is right. But again, if I trust the opinions of the people that I’ve chosen to surround myself with, then I don’t have to be right all the time, because I trust those people’s opinions. If I don’t trust them, it would be a different experience. So, I trust my wife, I trust everybody that we’ve hired here because of their abilities. I trust my business partners and I feel like that’s one of the best things that I’ve done, so far. Knock on wood, I feel like I’ve chosen the right people to surround myself with.
TRICIA: Surround yourself with the best of the best people.
JEREMY: Yes, choose your tribe for sure.
TRICIA: As you’re collaborating, you trust those people, but then they come to you with information and questions.
TRICIA: You have commit to your vision, right? So, maybe there is a lesson?
JEREMY: For me it’s a lot about gut instincts. If I feel in my gut that I like something, it doesn’t mean that everybody is going to like it, but you know most of the time you need to say, “I think that because of this”, you definitely need to articulate your pov. half the time it’s gut, just aesthetically it looks cool—as lame as that sounds—the other half is, Oh well, this is what they’re trying to hit. This is the demographic that people are trying to hit.” So, this plays to that demographic. That’s why we think this would be correct. So again it’s a collaboration. So there’s that balance of this is what I think. And unless there’s a lot of negative feedback coming back your way you know you need to own. You need to have an opinion. That’s it. It’s interesting because, as much as I do rely on the people that I surround myself with, as far as a collaborative effect, you also need to have a point of view.
I can go into a room and if I believe in something, I can speak to it and say, “This is why I think it should be this way.” If everybody disagrees, it’s a little bit tougher, but it’s rare that I would say, “I really like this, it gets the hairs up on the neck. This is why I think this is right.” And I’d have 10 people say that’s wrong. I’m not saying that I’m always right. Most of the time, if I really, truly believe in something and I can own it, then I’ll see it through. It’s not our decision in the end a lot of time it’s the client’s decision.
TRICIA: So, you use your intuition. You’ve honed that part of yourself?
JEREMY: Yes. Just out of doing it for so long. Being around so many different creative clients that have different taste levels and different workflows and how they deal with stuff, whether it’s healthy or super unhealthy. I can pretty much reflect on the last 20 years and say OK I’ve been in this situation before. This is how it went down. Maybe, I’m going to do it different or this is why it works I’m going to do it the same way.
TRICIA: Thank you so much, Jeremy, for sharing your wisdom on design and vision. It is such a treat to get a glimpse into your expansive wealth of knowledge and experience!