August 4, 2016
We continue our interview with Roger Thomas at his Marin County hills home…
What was your first interior design project?
I began my first interior design job as an intern with Yates Silverman, a design firm that did work for my family’s bank. By the second summer, the management realized that I might have capabilities beyond getting coffee and filing. I was given a design project, but was forbidden from telling my father – who was the client – because of the natural insecurities raised by the idea of having an 18-year-old design an entire bank interior. So if the design firm’s management team didn’t like my work, they weren’t going to submit it to the bank. In fact, it was submitted, approved, and built. My father was told of my involvement after the project was completely finished, occupied, and a success.
Was this an “ah-ha” moment; providing clarity that interior design was the career for you to pursue?
I worked for this firm while on summer breaks during both high school and college, while I was still on the path to become a fine artist. But along the way, I realized I wasn’t very good at the suffering needed to pursue a purist path in the arts. I wasn’t going to be good at both having a day job and painting at night.
What contributed to this realization?
I wanted a job that allowed me to pursue my true passion and calling and I loved designing interiors. Imagining a newly designed space is about 3% of the job. Designing and planning the thousands of details while figuring out exactly how to build it is the other 97% of the job. I realized that I loved the entire process – collaborating with the people involved, choosing colors, forms, materials and textures, and even solving the complex problems that naturally pop up along the way.
Can you define your personal approach in creating your signature Evoca-tecture aesthetic in hotel design?
So if Evoca-tecture is about creating spaces that drive a wonderful experience and also engender profound memories of that experience. It’s about using all the key ingredients of interior design – form, scale, color, materials – to create drama, humor and surprise. Using this approach to create a great hotel dictates that it is simultaneously beautiful, unique, and unforgettable. Creating memories of a particular time, place, and experience that are so evocative that people want it again and again. That is what Evoca-tecture is all about.
Do you look for anything in particular when furnishing your own personal homes?
Well, you are sitting in a room that is very over-collected. I’m a minimalist with maximalist tendencies. I have a particular interest in anthropomorphic forms of furniture, so you can see over there a lion’s-paw footed table by Robsjohns-Gibbings, with one of his stools as well. Then there’s a Tomaso Buzzi five-legged table with pied-de-biche elements. Next to that, there is another Robsjohn-Gibbings table with the greyhound leg on it. I also have a series of collections both here and in our Las Vegas home of geometric cones, spheres, and unique forms used to illustrate equations and physics. Those are very interesting to me. And then there’s the collection of bronze statues. So yes, I fall in love and acquire all these unique forms, and my minimalism in the object is overwhelmed by the number of objects I love to have around me.
What inspires you?
I believe all designers are sensualists at heart, and anything can inspire the genesis of a new interior space. It can be a museum exhibition, a piece of music, a great dinner with friends, a film, a dramatic moment at the theater, a walk down a mountainside, a moment on a park bench, or a trip in the car. There is one memory I have used several times – in a restaurant’s fabrics, on a wall covering design, and to inspire the design of a luxury watch face of micro-mosaic. It is a memory of traveling by car through the Tuscan country side– I was in the backseat and we were going about 35 miles per hour – we drove past a remarkably textured stone wall. We didn’t stop, and I don’t know exactly what that stone wall looked like as it was such a fleeting glimpse. But it left an indelible memory of texture that I’ve been chasing for 20 years.
Photography by David Duncan Livingston | Follow David on Instagram