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Beyond Skimp & Splurge: Process, Pleasure, & the Red Envelope Tradition with FORM Design

By Renée Soucy

2021 has truly been like no other—not only for fluctuating protocols, supply chain issues, and mask mandates, but also for the irrepressible boom in the design business. As clients and designers adjust to a new way of life, domestic pleasures and the evolving definition of the workplace have made it abundantly clear: home matters more than ever. According to research group Technavio, the global interior design services market is poised to grow by $24.13 billion during 2021-2025. In this era of changing lifestyles and exuberant growth, what do terms like skimp or splurge actually mean?

We caught up with three of Southern California’s brightest design studios to learn what’s new, what’s inspiring, and their thoughts on the skimp/splurge paradigm. In this first installment, we talk with Joshua Rose and Rafael Kalichstein from FORM Design Studio.

Black and white professional headshot photo of two men designers Joshua Rose and Rafael Kalichstein of FORM Design

What’s New with FORM Design Studio

When an Emmy award-winning designer (Joshua) and a certified practitioner of Black Hat Feng Shui (Rafael) combined their talents over a decade ago, the result was FORM, a studio whose distinct vision is found in hospitality, commercial, and residential projects worldwide. 

The duo recently completed a four-year-long project in Miami, a ground-up build in Brentwood, and a Trousdale Estates residence soon to be featured in the Winter issue of California Design Magazine—this is all in addition to ongoing product lines with Global Views/William D Scott, LeftBank Art, Dempsey & Carroll stationery, and Mehraban Rugs. To say they’ve been busy this year is an understatement.

Modern luxury designed wood surrounded by trees in the forest with glass wall

Skimp or Splurge?

We sat down via Zoom with Joshua and Rafael to dig a little deeper into their take on skimping, splurging, and what they feel is essential for a project to be a success. “In terms of what to guide someone towards splurging on and not skimping on, it's hard,” says Joshua. “It's every touchpoint you have. If it's something you're interacting with on a daily or regular basis, you shouldn't skimp on it. It should be something that's going to give you the most use and bring you as much joy when you interact with it.”

modern design home with wood walls and fireplace with marble accent and multi-colored floor pattern

Every designer knows that at the heart of every project there’s the dream—that sublime one percent of inspiration that comes to life in vision boards—and then there’s the work of establishing clear lines of communication and setting expectations. Rafael illustrates how important this aspect is for FORM: “I think if we had to pick one thing not to skimp on it is process because you can make anything work,”. Joshua adds “There's no reason that something has to be more expensive...but if you skimp on process, you lose. It's not what it could have been. And ultimately, yes, the ingredients for process are time and probably some soft costs, some money…We've found that what works is to design the project.” 

Touching upon Joshua’s advice to not skimp on pieces that create joy, the conversation led to a noteworthy, joy-inducing splurge sourced for a project featured in Interiors Magazine:  “The client wanted something really special,” tells Joshua, “We ordered it through Snyder Diamond. It's a very significant bathtub that has a rose gold leaf finish on the exterior. It's a room maker.“

Chic bathroom with rose gold bathtub and marble counters

Subjective Splurges & the Red Envelope Tradition

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is the splurge. Aligned with this new era of life at home and the larger societal shift towards empathy and justice, subjectivity and individual experience color the definition of the splurge. Touching upon this, Rafael shares, “…One of the things that I love about the word splurge is that it has a sliding scale and that it applies to every person. Before I was in design, I practiced in the sphere of Eastern medicine. There's an Eastern concept called the Red Envelope Tradition...The concept behind it is this: if you need a service from a practitioner, but you don't have any currency to offer, that doesn't really matter. You put something of value to you in a red envelope.” 

Shiny red and gold design chinese new years envelope in hand

Rafael continues, “You give the Red Envelope with the thing of value to you [inside]. And that is a form of payment and currency which is meant to be commensurate with whatever the transactional piece is. Ultimately speaking, it allows people of not as much means to still have certain services that are really important. And the piece of it that's so important is: if you receive something, but you give nothing, it's very hard for your holistic self, the spirit of yourself, to understand the value of what you've received. And if you can't understand the value of what you've received, it won't have any effect. It won't have any real benefit. So, I feel like ‘Splurge’ carries with it a little bit of that Red Envelope tradition. It doesn't matter what you have. You can always Splurge relative to what you have. “

One of FORM’s founding principles is a quote from legendary Italian designer Carlo Mollino. Though coined in the middle of the 20th Century it speaks perfectly to our current moment and the evolution of the skimp/splurge paradigm: Everything is permissible, as long as it is fantastic.”

FORM Design Studios
5308 Calhoun Ave, Sherman Oaks, CA 91401
(310) 993-5390

Author: Renée Soucy

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