January 13, 2015

10 Questions With… Moore + Friesl

Husband-and-wife duo Terri Moore and Marcus Friesl have developed the showstopping and tech-forward components of significant public and private projects since founding

Moore + Friesl

four years ago, all while growing their own innovative furniture collection. Operating out of the bustling creative community of downtown Los Angeles, Moore (a South Africa-born, LEED accredited architect) and Friesl (a Canada-born descendent of German cabinetmakers with an extensive background in architecture and technology) offer full-scale architecture, design development and fabrication services—as can be seen on grand display in New York at the

Museum of the Moving Image

, a flagship boutique for

Van Cleef & Arpels

, and the

Lincoln Square Synagogue


Here, the pair discusses the creation of innovative custom panels, making a name for themselves in furniture design, and treating office and home life as church and state.

Headshots Moore Friesl

Interior Design: What are the dynamics of your partnership, and how do your strengths complement one another?

Marcus Friesl: As a husband and wife who are in business together, we have a familiarity that allows for no boundaries. I bring a more technical background, and we share the design work. And when I say “share” I don’t mean “compromise.” We have quite healthy debates.

Terri Moore: Sometimes our arguments get a little heated, but we know how to deal with the conflicts. We’ve gotten very good at separating personal issues from disagreements about design work. Marcus grew up in a workshop, and has a degree in architectural technology—bringing with him a lot of tech savvy. He got his master’s degree from SCI-Arc, and I have a bachelor’s degree from SCI-Arc, and we both love to touch design. I’m the one who wants to strategize and figure out the big picture scenario. Marcus is about minutia and the fine-tuning.

MF: Terri brings a framework to my chaos.

ID: You were recently commissioned by the firm MillerBaker to develop some beautiful custom wood paneling for the horseshoe-shaped sanctuary of the Lincoln Square Synagogue. What were the challenges of this project?

MF: We were very late in the game with the synagogue project, and the initial players had established the scope of their work. At that stage, the rules had been set and we had to work within them. Some might have considered this confining but there’s creativity in everything—even the most constrained circumstances. We created a template system within the synagogue so the tradespeople were able to do work at a very high level of precision and make the best possible results.

TM: In the time since we completed that project, we’ve made an active push to be involved much earlier in any project, and talk out possibilities before everything is set in stone. At this point, we’ve worked with great fabricators and designers, and the knowledge is in our pocket. We can pull from that.

ID: I like your take on being able to find creativity in even the most constrained situations… How do you mentally approach such scenarios?

MF: A constraint helps you focus. If you know there’s something you have to do or can’t do, it gives you something to aim for.

TM: Design is like a big puzzle. There are always a few ways to solve the puzzle. Sometimes constraints help because they help you to focus and not go off into the wilderness.

ID: You also were charged with creating the complicated acoustic panels in the theater of the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York. How did you tackle this challenge, considering the organic shape of the walls?

MF: The Museum of the Moving Image gig was fantastic to get, then made us really nervous. It was our first project and the start of our firm. There really wasn’t any time for second-guessing. We had to find ways to work with the designers and fabricators in an efficient way, give everyone clear and simple information so that everyone could produce to their best. Ultimately it was a great experience. We worked with some materials that we had never used before, such as thermoformed Kydex, which is incredibly versatile. That created the “pillow” effect on the panels, which were then draped with a custom-dyed felt. Making one was interesting enough, but we then had to make 1,200 of them—and 500 of which were totally unique panels. Fortunately, for a first project everything went incredibly well. We’re very proud of that project. It gave us our initial framework that we’ve use in all our projects since. For the most part our prototype is the finished product, so we have to develop these projects in a very conscience way; there is no second chance.

ID: What projects are engaging you the most right now?

MF: We are currently working on several projects in New York, including what is definitely our largest scale interior project to date. Aside from that our big push for this year is to continue to develop new furniture pieces, drawing upon the knowledge we’ve acquired. We have two credenzas now, and next is a dining room table which is already in the prototype phase. We’re looking at the existing work we have done and want to introduce more thermoformed Corian and milled wood, and experiment more with double-curved wood veneer. These are all great materials and techniques to add a sensual feeling to modern lines.

TM: Our first credenza was made in a very modern way out, of laser-cut steel. The folds and bends are created by laser-cut steel. There is so much technology available to explore, and so many fabrication techniques that were not widely available before. We’re interested in pushing the envelope there. How do we create a sense of warmth in modern design, something that often feels missing?

ID: From where do you get draw inspiration?

MF: We try to do shop tours every few months, and talk to people there to find out how they work, what they do. We also go to a few trade shows like


in Germany, which is a materials and methods show. We’re heading back to Germany soon to visit a few more shops, to check out some new materials and see how they’re worked with. We’re friendly with a group of open-minded fabricators who are willing to try new materials when they come out. For us, it’s all about how to approach the next project. We make sure we oversee all our installations, to learn what we can do better as well as what we should—and should not—do again. We want to make the whole process as efficient and easy for everyone as possible.

TM: We’re a little lucky to be a small firm. We tend to only work on parts of larger projects and hone in on the details. A lot of architects don’t have the time or ability to be in the shop, and we make it our business to understand the processes behind the fabrication techniques.

ID: Working from LA seems to offer so many architects and designers a sense of freedom. What’s it like to be a part of the downtown LA scene?

TM: We live in a great neighborhood, downtown LA. We’re very close to Sci-Arc, the school we attended, and this neighborhood is full of architects, designers, and photographers. It’s a great area to collaborate with neighbors. It’s all here, including energy from being amongst all of these creative people.

MF: We started professionally in New York, where the majority of our projects are, and we’re now opening up slowly to work around LA.

TM: Also, here in LA, we have the movie industry and great achievements in auto design. There’s a sense that anything can be done if you have the budget.

ID: What’s your comfort level with client involvement in the creative process?

MF: It depends on the project. With some, we’re hidden very far down in the pecking order; with others we’re right up front.

TM: It does depend upon the client, and how comfortable the client is with his or her own design vision. Some want more handholding and to be walked through the design process. Others are a bit more sophisticated and hands off. We prefer to have a dialogue. It’s their project; they’ll be living in it every day and they have to be invested in it.

ID: What are the great opportunities and responsibilities of being a part of the industry today?

MF: For us, it’s crucial to connect the initial design to the finished project, stay focused on the desired image, and make sure it all ends up as close to the desired design as possible, whatever it takes to get there. We go to presentations and talk about what’s possible, and get into the ways in which new materials and fabrication techniques can open up new realms of possibilities. You really can get anything made in a very precise and beautiful way. It’s the most exciting part of this work.

ID: You’re a relatively young firm. Where are your sights now set?

MF: For us the next thing really is to let the world know we have something to offer, something potentially unique, in furniture design. With the connections we’ve established, we can literally get anything made. Of course, we love larger-scale projects, but there’s real love in focusing in as well, making every part as beautiful and functional as we can.

TM: Ultimately, we’re spending a lot of time thinking about people, how they live as well as how to work effectively with others. We’ve found that working with clients can be like dating, and it’s our job to turn that dating into long-term relationships.

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