Franklin Studios Brings Architecture Back to Life

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You won't hear the founders of Franklin Studios Inc., Frank X. Medrano or Steve H. Brabson talking about architecture in terms of ideology or current trends. Instead their visceral approach is from the heart, producing a visual landscape that offers a seamless integration of evocative architectural spaces with stunning interiors that bring a balanced and harmonious aesthetic to their clients. Medrano and Brabson's vision has attracted residential clients such as club promoter and event producer Brent Bolthouse, as well as hotelier and restaurateur Sam Nazarian. The team most recently designed Tengu and Abode restaurants in Santa Monica.

Originally from the Midwest, Medrano and Brabson met while working together for Michael Maltzan in Los Angeles. They each went on to work for Frank O. Gehry until Medrano was offered a position with internationally recognized tastemaker Kelly Wearstler as Senior Designer at KWID. The two remained friends and in 2006 they decided to combine their talents under the banner of Franklin Studios, based in Hollywood.

"We don't want to pigeonhole our aesthetic," says Brabson. "Part of being creative is being allowed to constantly evolve. That's when things get exciting." They approach each project by exploring the possibilities of the client's ideas, drawing inspiration from the location and physical space itself, as well as the raw materials they select to create each design.

For Tengu Santa Monica, Medrano and Brabson transformed the space that was formerly Ivy By The Shore by using the patio along Ocean Avenue as the engine to drive the design. They wanted to blur the line between the interior and the seascape by opening the façade and wrapping both the liquor bar and the sushi bar out onto the patio. They wished to steer clear of the traditional Asian design aesthetic and instead chose a white pallet to punctuate a feast of textures that energize the space. Medrano and Brabson selected a single ornate lantern anchored at the center of the restaurant to draw passersby in at night with its alluring glow.

Their vision for Abode restaurant, located in an intimate courtyard off Ocean Avenue, was to create a refined, exclusive atmosphere that pays homage to the sophisticated high glamour and abstract geometries of late-sixties design. They used a rich, earthy color pallet with patterned stone slabs and dramatic ceiling pendants to create a spectacular focal point for the center room.

When Brent Bolthouse approached them with renovating his John Lautner home, Medrano and Brabson discovered the previous owners had nearly destroyed the original layout. "We wanted to bring it back to life," says Medrano. "There were odd shaped rooms added, outdoor areas enclosed with canopies, overgrown landscaping; a real diamond in the rough." They stripped it back to its true essence; a simplified octagonal plan cantilevering over the Hollywood Hills with the entire roof suspended by three armatures. The final result was profiled in the publication, Hip Hollywood Homes in September 2006.

Medrano and Brabson pride themselves on their Midwestern integrity and honesty. "We like to bring the genuine essence of good living to our clients with an awareness of how your environment can impact you favorably." Tengu is set to open in December 2006 and Abode will open February 2007. Current projects include Quincy Jones' residence remodel in Bel Air, a San Diego Hotel Resort, a Hollywood condominium building, as well as a Los Angeles nightclub and Las Vegas restaurant.


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