Design Blog

Thoughts & Musings

Meet the Designer - Robert Puertas


This month we had the pleasure of chatting with local designer, Robert Puertas. Robert's projects include some of our favorite coffee shops and restaurants in Orange County from Portola Coffee, Taco Maria at the OC Mix to Bear Coast Coffee in San Clemente. In our interview we dive into his passion for his work and ask how he balances both residential and commercial design.


What inspires you and your design work?

I love to entertain. I'm an enthusiastic home cook and baker, and a bit of a wino. I also love to travel and enjoy leading tours - both architectural and wine or scotch focused. This passion for hospitality and history makes me want to create places where it's a joy to entertain and feel a connection to our memories of those great experiences.

How do you help your clients achieve the design aesthetic they're looking for?

This is always the fun part! For most clients, the notion that we can turn a nebulous collection of ideas, memories and emotions into a rich and layered physical environment that functions in a way that will improve their lives, is something that has never even occurred to them. They just want something new and fresh, but I strive to give them so much more than that.

Hutchings Residence

Images by Anne Watson Photo

What has been your favorite project to date and why?

They're all my kids, you can't love one more than the other, right?  In truth, there are always projects that we feel certain connections to, places where you feel you got everything perfect, or solved a particularly challenging problem in an especially clever way. Taco Maria is one of those places that just feels perfect to me. The warmth of the walnut counter, the asperity and surprising delicacy of the green concrete tiles, juxtaposed with the stainless steel and white subway tiles in the open kitchen... Carlos Salgado's amazing food doesn't hurt. It's the perfect place to take clients for a working lunch.

Taco Maria at The OC Mix - Image by Anne Watson Photo

Taco Maria at The OC Mix - Image by Anne Watson Photo

 The Smigel Residence in San Clemente is one of those projects where the client (a graphic designer) and I were perfectly in tune. Every detail of that house is the perfect expression of the client's personality with her collection of vintage product branding perfectly incorporated throughout.

But I'm just as excited about the next Portola Coffee Roaster project, and two big residential projects that will be completed this year - one in Dana Point and the other in Tustin.

Smigel Residence - Image by Anne Watson Photo

Smigel Residence - Image by Anne Watson Photo

What's your number one tip for creating a beautiful environment?

Natural materials used in balance and juxtaposition. Warmth vs. modernity, texture vs. color, but most importantly, emphasizing the joint where two disparate materials or ideas meet.

How do you balance both commercial and high-end residential design?

Aside from the clients themselves, restaurant design and high-end residential design have more in common than you might think. My restaurant experience certainly informs my residential design, especially in the kitchen, where my work with pro chefs gives me special insight into work flow and functionality. Restaurants also tend to be more of-the-moment in terms of material use, and frequently have more specific themes that drive design choices.

Ultimately though, restaurant design is about hospitality and making people feel at home. I try to make my residential work more personal to my clients, because the idea of hospitality for a residential client often invokes childhood memories and their personal connections to their mom's or grandmother's kitchen and dining table. The trick is making that emotional connection for them in a modern functional space.

Bear Coast Coffee - San Clemente, CA

Images by Anne Watson Photo

What do you love most about the Famosa Showroom?

I take all my clients to Famosa because they have an amazing selection that is perfectly curated, beautifully presented and constantly evolving. Plus the staff is pretty great...

What's the best part about your job?

I get to use both sides of my brain. It's a perfect balance of art and technical application. But more importantly, I get to work with amazing people and help them to realize their dreams.

Image by Kate Noelle Photography

Image by Kate Noelle Photography




Find out more about ROBERT PUERTAS and hIS upcoming design projects by following the links below!