Jeni Gamble is the co-founder and creative director of the San Francisco design firm gamble + design. The firm is led by Jeni in partnership with her husband Murray Agnew, who is the technical director. Together they guide the client’s projects from design through execution with the firm’s team. We sat down with Jeni to discuss industry challenges, design influences and the future evolution of design.
Interview by Arkitectura
Can you tell us how gamble + design was conceived?
After a decade of working in a range of design firms in San Francisco, my partner (Murray Agnew) and I decided to open our own firm. We both have degrees in design, mine in Interior Architecture and his is Lighting Design. We met while working at a lighting design firm. We decided to focus our firm work on residential design because, while I was in the commercial sector, I liked the large condo projects best. That was ten years ago this month. We started our firm when I was pregnant with our son and the economy just crashed.Our firm today is located in the darling neighborhood of Cole Valley in San Francisco. We are a boutique firm, a team of five, which gives us the ability to have the whole team involved. We specialize in designing the entire experience—from the big concept to construction drawings to lighting to art.
What word would you use to describe your aesthetic, and how is it integrated into your projects?
Inspired. The look is clean and deeply custom, with a strong respect for the heritage of the architecture. We are known for clean lines that play off the original home’s character.
We draw ideas from constantly being educated on materials and visiting spaces inside and outdoors. We have 20 years of great relationships with contractors and fabricators that we can collaborate with to design our client’s home from studs to styling.
How does environmental sustainability factor into your projects?
I have found it takes commitment and a team for a successful sustainable building. When I worked in commercial design I did many LEED projects. That experience transferred to our firm’s first residential project, which was a ground-up home in Sea Ranch. The home achieved a LEED Gold certification and has zero energy use from PG&E. With the right planning, my hope is all the homes we deign will be off-the-grid. When designing, we are constantly considering how we can create a healthy planet for the next generation.
What would you consider to be the biggest change in the field of design since you opened your firm?
It is more important for people now to have a space that meets their day-to-day life in an inspired, functional way. The average person spends about 80% of their time inside. Which is why the design field is getting a lot more personalized than following a trend. People are valuing the design field more than ever theses days.
Have there been any notable influences on your career?
I tend to be influenced by industrial designers such as Hella Jongerius, Patricia Urquiola, the Droog collective. For interior designers and architects, IIsa Crawford and John Lautner.
Bill Puetz, a principle designer I worked with when I was a junior designer, taught me a lot about how to design. When I worked with him he made me get off the computer and into the spaces. At some point it clicked…I have to feel the space to design it.
How do you predict design will evolve over the next couple of decades?
I predict that the design process will be more valued as one of the great arts. There will be time allowed for the designer to come up with an innovative creation. Much like the slow food movement, were quality and exploration is valued.
Currently we see a lot of homes in the bay area being developed for fast turn-key sales. Once sold, often many of the materials and items are thrown out for a more personalized home. This is process is very hard on the environment and de-values design. At some point the system will need to change to allow the occupants of the home time to make the right choices from the beginning.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?
We specialize in full home projects. Our current clients are in different stages of that process. We are starting schematic design for another home for actress Candis Cayne in LA, we are wrapping up construction and preparing for furniture installation on a Lautner/Japanese inspired home in Presido Heights. And finally we now get be our own client. We are starting a renovation on our new home in Mission-Dolores this week. We will be sharing our process on Instagram (@gambleplusdesign).