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Interior Design Maven: Interview with John Saint-Denis

July 25, 2011  
Filed under Profiles / Interviews

By Bethany Nauert —

interior designer

John Saint-Denis; Photo Courtesy of Stephen Busken

I met John Saint-Denis when I showed up at his lovely design-centric home for a photo shoot for Apartment Therapy. Everything in his flat is sexy, masculine and as regal as can be. This is no surprise for a well-respected figure in the design world, who knows way more than a thing or two about interior design, merchandising, and retail marketing of luxury brand furniture and goods.

John comes from an Italian and French lineage with a degree in communications/linguistics, and has studied art history in Florence at the Uffizi. He previously served on the board of Avenue of Art and Design in West Hollywood and is a founding board member of La Cienega Design Quarter, and has recently co-founded the La Brea Highland Associate of shelter businesses.

John’s most recent venture is paving the way for Creato Finito Home’s new brick and mortar showroom on La Brea Avenue. He has taken the upper hand at designing and curating pieces for the store, where he has held events such as Brandon Herman’s opening photo exhibit. He was also a co-host for a major benefit for the Human Rights Campaign, auctioning off artwork and goods for a cause. It’s these sort of events, his accomplished design know-how, mixed with his very humble charm–that have turned him into one of the most well respected men in Los Angeles.

20 Questions for John Saint-Denis: His Take on the Best of LA

1). How long have you been an Angelino?

I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 1987. I came here for a summer job after finishing college back east with the intent of staying a few months.  A few months has somehow turned to 24 years.

2). What part of Los Angeles do you live in?

I live in an area I like to call the La Brea/Highland Romantic district. It’s kind of between Hancock Park and Miracle Mile. Some people call it South Hollywood. Most of the streets and buildings between La Brea and Highland, south of Paramount Studios were designed by set designers and built by the studios in the 1920’s as fourplexes and duplexes and larger courtyard multi-family buildings. They were crafted by set designers who were inspired by the palazzi of Italy, chateaux of France, and Moorish townhouses of Spain. At that time, LA was a booming film town because of its magical bright natural light, and it enjoyed a hope of a new renaissance with the new art form of film. The designers of these buildings clearly referred to renaissance Europe when building this part of town. It’s a perfect neighborhood for me.

3). What turns you on the most about this city?

Well, so many things. I love all cities. Major American cities in particular tend to be crossroads of the world with great food, art, design, cutting edge thought and plenty to see and do. LA is the best of all that. While being one of the most open and politically liberal places on earth, it’s not as militant about it as other Western cities. Of course the climate, the enchanted gardens, the modern architecture as well as the traditional, the odd blend of single family homes and skyscrapers on the same block, make it a never ending rule-breaker of a city. I love that Los Angeles is typically hated by San Franciscans and New Yorkers, but Angelinos never hold a grudge and love those other cities in spite of their scorn with no shame of their own wonderful city.

4). What turns you off the most about this city?

The cars. In this wonderful climate people ought to be walking more and enjoying their own neighborhoods. Just too many cars!

5). Favorite place to eat Sunday brunch?

Larchmont Bungalow. Simple hearty good food, charming environment, nice people. In that order.

6). Most overrated venue?

Mozza. Its good, but not worth waiting a month for a table and investing two months salary in a meal you can get for 8 euros at any corner café in Rome.

7). Who is your favorite local artist?

At the moment, Brandon Herman, a photographer working out of a studio in Chinatown who makes modern portraiture. Modern and edgy, but not abstracted or minimalized.

8). If you were going to move, what would be your next destination?

Tuscany. Probably somewhere in or around Florence. My mother is from Italy, and I’ve traveled most of the country, went to school for a summer in Florence and it’s always felt like a second home.

9) Name something you wish would change here.

I wish developers would focus on redeveloping underused, ugly or decaying one-story buildings on the main boulevards of the city, rather than expanding further and further out.

10). Favorite time of year in LA?

Late summer after a rainy spring, like this year. I like it hot and lushly green.

11). Where to go for the best happy hour?

Home. I’m not much of bar person. Sitting in my garden after a work day with friends drinking a bottle of wine is about the happiest hour I can think of.

12). Best flea market?

The Rose bowl is probably still the best, but being a collector and provider of vintage furniture, I’m not giving away all of my secrets.

13). What is the best exhibition you’ve seen here?

Recently I’ve enjoyed Art in the Streets at MOCA which took graffiti artists’ work into a gallery setting. The quality of the art was astonishing. I’ve always been opposed to graffiti, but now I’m just opposed to graffiti that’s not good art. I learned the difference between vandalism and a fascinating and growing body of real work.

14). Where is the best place to go on a first date?

Ca’Brea Restaurant on La Brea. It’s quiet enough to talk and get to know each other, but lively enough for it to be “okay” during a lull in the conversation. Also, their wines are really great and reasonably priced. Wine always facilitates a good date, but don’t drink more than your date!

15). Favorite of all the tourist spots?

Santa Monica Pier. After decades in LA, I still feel like I’m on vacation when I’m walking on the pier. There’s something about the sounds of the arcades, and birds and the fishermen, and the fabulous view north towards Malibu at sunset!

16). Best venue to see a live show?

Hollywood Bowl, hands down. I love it season after season. Although the purity of Lloyd Wright’s original design is somewhat eclipsed by the most recent renovations which include way oversized speakers, the basic idea and experience is still wonderful.

17). Name a hidden LA gem that has not been taken over yet.

I love Angelino on 3rd Street. Not to be confused with Angeli on Melrose or Angelini on Beverly, both great, but Angelino’s food is the real thing, the staff is super friendly, its affordable and easy. I hope I don’t spoil that.

18). If LA had a subway system like New York or bus system like San Francisco, would you use it? Or would you stick with your car?

I’d definitely use it. In fact, I do use what little subway we have, as well as the bus system. As Los Angeles becomes denser, accessibility to beautiful buildings, to art, to great food, to great shops will increase. More people means more economic and cultural opportunity, but there is just no room for more cars, and who wants them all over our walking paths anyway?

19). Biggest (but most true) cliché about LA?

None of it’s true. I won’t propagate negative clichés. LA has smart, educated people, fantastic buildings, and wonderful culture in abundance.

20). What mark do you want to leave on the world?

My passions are in creating environments where meaningful relationships flourish. I hope to leave some of the great people I’ve met in this city, connected to one another. I hope to promote and celebrate their work, to make spaces, both physical and emotional where talented individuals, business, art and design can thrive.


One Response to “Interior Design Maven: Interview with John Saint-Denis”
  1. I’m really glad i’ve read this interview as John Saint-Denis has influenced me with my design techniques.

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