Consciousness, Costs, & The Skimp/Splurge Design Dichotomy With Jamie Bush

Even though for many of us, 2021 felt like it was an extended remix of 2020, it was also a year where, thanks to our ever-shifting patterns of living with the pandemic, the appreciation for thoughtful design continued to rise to the top of our collective consciousness. Whether in public or private spaces, the necessity of design to serve our needs, to protect our health, and to soothe our nerves is now an indelible part of life today. Pair this new era with what feels like never-ending logistics issues and you have an industry, to quote Business of Home’s recent report, “in an unprecedented period of disruption—and opportunity.” 

Designer Jamie BushJamie Bush

In this second installment of our look at the changing ideas around skimping and splurging we explore how this era of disruption and opportunity has impacted the thinking and practice of AD100 design powerhouse Jamie Bush from Jamie Bush + Co. Lauded for his ability to approach the design of a space as one holistic vision and admired for his deep understanding of architecture (he holds a M.Arch and a position at the Tulane School of Architecture Board of Advisors ) he’s contributed to some of the most historically significant modernist residences in the US. and collaborated with Steven Ehrlich, Marmol Radziner, David Hertz, Walker Workshop, and Barbara Bestor, to name just a few. We sat down via ZOOM to learn how two decades of award-winning design have shaped his perspective.

What’s New With Jamie Bush + Co.

At the start of the pandemic, like many design firms, Jamie Bush + Co was prepared to embrace a pared-down, super-lean, survival mode. But life had other plans. “It didn't turn out that way,” Jamie relates. “And you know, it's funny because I'm reluctant sometimes to even talk about this, but we had our best year ever this year. We've been very fortunate.”

Current projects include putting the final touches on a Montecito residence for the family behind a quintessential French equestrian and luxury fashion brand, an Atherton residence, and a Tahoe retreat. “We're doing some very different projects right now, so as far as inspiration goes it's been fun. For instance, we're doing a 1920s historical Tudor home in Beverly Hills which we’re slightly restoring and looking at the English Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movement, late 1800’s William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites—things like that…which is not our typical project.”

Living room with gorgeous view in Beverly Hills.Beverly Hills Estate

Skimp, Splurge, or Both??

Turning to the concept of skimping and splurging, Jamie continues “We just finished a house which is about 3,500 square feet. It's like a “normal” house, but for a wealthy European client. And with that project, what was nice is that we didn't skimp on anything because it's a small house. Every everything had value and attention to detail: [even] the closets were a celebration of an idea! There are layers of surprise at every turn.” 

Could this be an example of crossing over from merely “not skimping” into full-on splurging? Not exactly, he says. “It's not so much of a preciousness. It's more of a consciousness of not missing the small things. In this house that's lovely and full of warmth and beautiful detailing,  everything is considered. And on a project like that you always look to save money here and there you know, in the kids’ rooms or what have you, but what I find a luxury is a smaller home that’s designed to the nines.”

View from the living room of a San Francisco townhouse.San Francisco Townhouse

So, what should never be skimped on? “Ah, things not to skimp on... You know what? I would say we consider everything: the light switch plates, the interiors of the cabinets, the hangers going in your designed closet. So, I would rather find less expensive options, but [more importantly, find] the right options. Meaning, it's not about an expensive hanger. It's about a hanger that plays nicely with the design of the closet.”

And what counts as a splurge right now? Jamie chuckles and replies “I feel like in what we do, every day is a splurge.” He continues, “But you know, this was a splurge and is an interesting story: We're doing a house, a very minimalist house in Atherton right now for a repeat client. The house is a study in editing. So, it's ‘white-on-white on cream-on-white on oak’. The house has no labels. Everything is decanted. There's no pattern; no colors. They [the clients] wear gray, white, and black and are really interesting people.  Their whole thing is that they're busy, too busy, and there's so much noise out there in the world that they want this serene, minimalist environment. So, the art in the house is all light and space and perceptual. We wanted an Anish Kapoor reflective piece that sort of disappeared,” he continues, “There's a gallery here, Regen Projects that reps him. We spoke with them and ended up commissioning a piece through his studio in London. It was very expensive, but we saved hundreds of thousands of dollars commissioning a piece versus buying in the secondary market, which I would never imagine. But, how fun [it was] to actually work with the studio, make something and it's less expensive than buying something ready-made that other people or gallerists are marking up and, it's extravagant but at the same time interesting to have that experience and contact.”

View from a beach house of the ocean from its living room.Butterfly House, Carmel by the Sea

What’s Next For Jamie Bush + Co.

In the capable hands of Jamie Bush + Co., this time of unprecedented disruption and opportunity transforms splurges into surprise savings, and luxury, a word exhausted by overuse, into a consciousness of scale and attention to detail. So, what’s next? Looking back in order to look forward, he muses “We built our business sort of slow and steady and have gone through ups and downs so we're able to deal with whatever comes up. It's been exciting and harrowing at the same time recently. We talk about this internally, that this [boom] is not forever. That this is a moment in time and will cool down. And, you know [looking ahead] there may be a dip, but I feel that we've always been, in a business sense, fairly lean. So [we’re] being cautious and always looking to the future.” We can’t wait to see what that future holds.

Interior of kitchen with warm wood walls and stainless steel.Silvertop

For more information about Jamie Bush + Co. visit their website at: https://www.jamiebush.com/.

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