Q&A with WestEdge Featured Designer: Minglie Chen and Tyler Smutz of KILLSTRESS Designs

(Minglie Chen and Tyler Smutz of KILLSTRESS Designs)Technical expertise and time-honored skills combine in the heirloom-quality works of KILLSTRESS Designs, run by husband-and-wife team Minglie Chen and master craftsman Tyler Smutz. Here, the couple take Lonny's Proust-inspired questionnaire. 

1. Antique or modern? Modern.

2. City or country? City.

3. Which colors do you use most? Natural wood and metal tones.

4. Favorite materials or textures? Hardwoods with beautiful, clear grain like walnut, tiger maple, and cherry.

(Linear Kitchen Island)5. What is your favorite interior design-related word? “Home.” It pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? 

6. Does your current home look like the one you grew up in? No, but we’re getting there. Tyler was born in a gorgeous, remote part of Canada. Our house right now is in the suburbs but we’ve started a vegetable garden in the back. Tyler even engineered a vertical aquaponic garden—it’s a wall of veggies rooted in water that flows in a loop between the plants and a little fish pond, using a solar-powered water pump. It’s off the grid and super fun.

7. Does a room need a view? Yes.

8. Favorite designer or architect? George Nakashima or Oscar Niemeyer. They had fantastic, crazy ideas about furniture and architecture that actually got built.

9. Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without? Hard to say… we read A LOT every night (we don’t actually own a TV). Top picks are Wallpaper magazine, Apartment Therapy, and Design Sponge.

10. What qualities do you most admire in a room? Function and light. Objects in the room should have a good reason for being there. Light literally dictates where you look and sets the mood. We always think about how our furniture designs will catch and reflect light.

11. What is a forbidden word in your house? No words are forbidden. We like to use all the words.

12. Design rule you love to break? I don’t know if it’s a rule, but we don’t necessarily think of objects themselves as coming with rules. For example, we love bikes. But who says bike storage has to be a fixture on the floor or wall, or even stored out of the way? We made a rack that flies up and down at the push of a button right in the middle of our shop. So it’s a bunch of things: out-of-the-way storage, centerpiece display, moving, static... depends on our mood.
(Photos courtesy of KILLSTRESS Designs)13. What is your favorite room in the house? The kitchen. That’s where the food is. (Consequently, it’s a great gathering place for people.) 

14. What is your most treasured possession? [Smutz:] My grandfather’s bed roll. It was his sleeping bag during World War II. He was one of two soldiers in his platoon who survived the Battle of Normandy.

15. What do you wish you could do without? A waffle maker. We don’t actually have one, but we’ve had a hankering for Liege waffles and there’s no way to make it happen without that unitasker. Seriously, the last time we had an authentically good waffle was in Philadelphia in 2008.

16. How does West Coast design differ from East Coast design? Does it? The West Coast loves midcentury design, and that’s not a bad thing. Midcentury modern has an airiness that lends itself to the open West Coast landscape. The East Coast embraces modern design like a champ too, but there’s a little more history retained in East Coast architecture, and it shows.

17. What is your favorite thing about the West Coast—design-related or otherwise? The weather. It’s impossible to overstate how good the weather is here. Also, within 90 minutes you can have your feet in the ocean, stand on a snow-covered mountain, or take in the desert.

18. If you could live in one historical figure’s house, whose would it be? George Nakashima’s homestead in Pennsylvania.

19. On what movie set would you like to live? Waking Life.

20. To which country would you move for the design? Japan. It’s a great mix of old and new, and there’s a certain restraint in Japanese design that we admire. That said, we’d still need to travel.

21. If you were reborn as a piece of furniture or an object, what would it be? A rocking chair, because it comforts young and old and it doesn’t serve everyone. It’s not meant to.
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