Cultured Magazine

February/March 2015

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116 CULTURED Alexandra Loew has a proclivity toward the surreal. "Imagine that all your practical needs were a given, what would you really want to feel like in your space?" she asks as we sit in her Los Angeles office, a space occupying a gilded Art Deco relic on Hollywood Boulevard. Despite her clients' initial focus on their practical needs, she says, "I want to do projects that really invite people to dream and sort of detach; if you cater only to pragmatic concerns, the project won't be that interesting." About a year after leaving the rebellious and esteemed Morphosis office in 2003, Loew founded her own boldly irreverent interior design practice. The firm has since developed a bicoastal body of fabulously diverse clientele, which includes a Proustian, a cloistered art collector in Manhattan, a pop starlet in the Hollywood Hills and many others that fall somewhere within the spectrum. With each project, Loew's approach remains the same. In addition to placing the constraints of practicality on the back burner, her process combines her deep understanding of art and design history with a thorough "retroactive inventory" of each client, an investigation into any biographical clues that might illustrate his or her unactualized desires. "I identify things that they relate to and feel passionate about," says Loew. And often, the genesis of a project is a single object or concept. For a recent Long Island beach house, Loew, who is also a trained architect, chose to create a history where one did not previously exist, transforming a mundane Hamptons vernacular home into an antique Dutch farmhouse—as a cultural homage to the client's European heritage. Together, Loew and her client traversed European secondhand markets in order to cultivate a rich collection of Belgian and Dutch vintage design and Old Masters-inspired artwork. Artisans made use of Old World traditions, employing distressing techniques that included bleaching and stenciling the floor to emulate an inlay of marble parquet. Loew even custom-designed a toile de Jouy textile decorated with scenes from the client's family history. As an added bonus, she also retrofitted a 1920s Swedish secretary with an espresso machine and a Sub-Zero refrigerator. But not all clients have as romantic a disposition. In contrast to the cool blue-and-white palette of the aforementioned, lovingly titled "Double Dutch" project, renderings printed on Loew's wall depict a lavish Hollywood Hills estate that combines dramatic gradations of cotton-candy pinks, blues and purples with gold and mirrored surfaces. "She's obsessed with fantasy," Loew says of the unnamed client. The mood boards surrounding the printed renderings on the wall articulate references to the ombre of the Los Angeles sunset and paintings by Ed Ruscha—plus cutout images of Barbarella. Despite the apparent contrast, Loew takes on these projects with equal élan. They share a certain otherworldliness, the decadent Surrealism she's looking to realize—no matter the challenges. At the Hollywood client's behest, Loew is now looking into the possibility of a retractable pool cover that will double as a dance floor. Interior designer Alexandra Loew finds inspiration in many forms— from Rembrandt to Barbarella. BY JANELLE ZARA PORTRAIT BY CAROLINA PALMGREN POISE AND PASSION

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