It's Design, Bitches!

Pop, supergraphics, and eclecticism: The L.A. cool of Design, Bitches

Architecture Feature Interiors West
Designed holistically, Design, Bitches's the Springs features a mix of modern and midcentury modern sofas, stools, benches, and Acapulco chairs throughout the various programs of its health and wellness complex. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)
Designed holistically, Design, Bitches's the Springs features a mix of modern and midcentury modern sofas, stools, benches, and Acapulco chairs throughout the various programs of its health and wellness complex. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Catherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolph, cofounders of the multidisciplinary firm Design, Bitches, recently moved their four-person office from Rudolph’s home to a not-yet-gentrified nook of L.A.’s Glassell Park. Aside from a homey corner store, their mid-block storefront is the only other obviously inhabited shop in the area. But even that distinction is nebulous: With its street number missing, the studio is discernible only by an old sign a previous occupant left behind that reads “Architecture.” Make your way through a metal gate and vestibule, and you’ll find yourself transported into the well-lit, spartan factory Design, Bitches uses as its headquarters.

The genesis of Johnson and Rudolph’s firm is a well-worn story: During the depths of the Great Recession, the American Institute of Architects L.A. chapter put out a call asking, “Architecture is: Fill In The Blank.” The duo’s response, “It’s design, bitches!” became the clarion call that launched a namesake practice. Both were working at Barbara Bestor’s office at the time and had experience with high-profile commercial projects—Johnson worked on Intelligentsia Coffee’s Sunset Junction location, while Rudolph labored on the interiors for Beats By Dre’s Culver City headquarters. The duo joined forces and put together a mostly fictitious portfolio for the AIA competition, ultimately winning an honorable mention award for their provocations.

Design, Bitches appropriates and re-contextualizes wide-reaching elements from pop culture in projects like the Springs, where the firm applied a non-hierarchical layout to a wellness center to “encourage mind-body wellness” and create an “urban-natural microcosm [that] invites exploration and change.” (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Design, Bitches appropriates and re-contextualizes wide-reaching elements from pop culture in projects like the Springs, where the firm applied a non-hierarchical layout to a wellness center to “encourage mind-body wellness” and create an “urban-natural microcosm [that] invites exploration and change.” (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Since then, Design, Bitches has not only become a real firm with real projects, but one that has gone on to help articulate the polyamorous eclecticism that now defines the hipster, slow food, and green juice scenes of popular L.A. culture. That’s because the Southern California Institute of Architecture–educated principals have a keen and self-described interest in pop. They are as likely to evoke Venice’s Dogtown days by using Mexican poncho fabric to wrap banquettes as they are to riff on Frank Gehry’s exposed stick construction by turning the horizontal fire-stops between studs into shelves for epiphytes and succulents. They rain down supergraphics upon diners hunched over grain bowls and have used indoor planters and palm fronds to divide a wine bar from a yoga space.


Design, Bitches works across the fields of architecture, interior design, and graphic design, merging those related traditions with pop culture and brand identity. The result is a trademark approach that is notable for its intellectual flexibility, constant reinterpretation, and total-work-of-art-ness. Because it mines history and references heavily and freely, one can’t really say, “That’s a Design, Bitches project,” per se, but look through your most in-the-know L.A. friend’s Instagram, and it’s more than likely Johnson and Rudolph’s work will come up sooner or later.

Touting itself as an “eco-vegan-mind-body-one-stop-shop,” the Springs brings together a mix of programs—wine and juice bar, restaurant, yoga studio, and wellness center—inside a structural steel-and-concrete-block hangar in L.A.’s Arts District. Concrete-block planters and a breezeblock screen split the industrial-scale volume. The spaces between these dividers are populated with objects painted in a sun-bleached spectrum, running from bright yellow to key lime to turquoise. These colors are applied to space-specific furniture: wood benches and chairs in the dining areas; couches, bowl chairs, and yoga mats in the wellness areas; as well as an assortment of rugs and pillows throughout.

Cofounders Catherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolf evoke Vans sneakers and L.A.’s burger stand culture in The Oinkester restaurant, for which they cleaned up an old, neglected commercial building and added a wraparound patio and picnic blanket-patterned VCT tiles. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Cofounders Catherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolf evoke Vans sneakers and L.A.’s burger stand culture in The Oinkester restaurant, for which they cleaned up an old, neglected commercial building and added a wraparound patio and picnic blanket-patterned VCT tiles. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

The Oinkster’s interiors blend with the outdoors through perimeter glass partitions coupled with the heavy use of luncheon motifs, such as tables modeled after picnic benches and apple-red accent lighting. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

The Oinkster’s interiors blend with the outdoors through perimeter glass partitions coupled with the heavy use of luncheon motifs, such as tables modeled after picnic benches and apple-red accent lighting. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Johnson and Rudolph’s large scale gingham patterned VCT floor tiles mark the kitchen pass while bifurcated table tops allow for flexible use of the space’s large tables. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Johnson and Rudolph’s large scale gingham patterned VCT floor tiles mark the kitchen pass while bifurcated table tops allow for flexible use of the space’s large tables. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

The Oinkster Hollywood
The Oinkster is a picnic-inspired roadside burger and pastrami stand in Hollywood. Design, Bitches uses an open, porous plan and facade to make the dining room seem more like a covered patio. The seating is a nod to picnic benches, and VCT tiles are laid out in various gingham patterns along the floor, drop ceiling, and the wall framing the kitchen pass. A long, street-facing patio area is topped by a white cloth awning, while supergraphics depicting the restaurant’s name and logo—a reclining, sunglasses-wearing cheeseburger—wrap the parapet above.

Design, Bitches turns an old strip mall storefront into Button Mash, a restaurant barcade that creates a “maximal timeless experience.” (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Design, Bitches turns an old strip mall storefront into Button Mash, a restaurant barcade that creates a “maximal timeless experience.” (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

A porthole, board and batten paneling, and supergraphic-printed wallpaper are just some of the materials used to differentiate the gaming, bar, and eating areas. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

A porthole, board and batten paneling, and supergraphic-printed wallpaper are just some of the materials used to differentiate the gaming, bar, and eating areas. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Button Mash
Button Mash is a unique restaurant barcade located in one of the ubiquitous strip malls along Sunset Boulevard. The architecture nods to pop culture, bright colors, and screaming patterns just as much as the games themselves do. The entry area’s walls and ceilings are covered entirely in a cartoony, black and white wallpaper depicting scenes of surfboard-toting beach babes, dudes and sea monsters playing arcades, random medusa heads, and a rat screaming on an old school brick cellphone. The interiors resemble an unfinished Southern California garage smashed together with a Midwestern basement with board and batten wood paneling, polished concrete floors, built-in seating, and a mish-mash of ceiling types. Picnic tables and diner and barstool seating areas fill out the space between arcade games.

Housed in a prefabricated, H-beam warehouse in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District, Design, Bitches’ scheme utilizes concrete block planters and tropical indoor plants to subdivide an otherwise monolithic interior space. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Housed in a prefabricated, H-beam warehouse in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District, Design, Bitches’ scheme utilizes concrete block planters and tropical indoor plants to subdivide an otherwise monolithic interior space. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

A bright and playful color palette extends throughout various metals, woods, and textiles in the Springs, offsetting the gray, industrial hues of the preexisting structure.(Courtesy Laure Joliet)

A bright and playful color palette extends throughout various metals, woods, and textiles in the Springs, offsetting the gray, industrial hues of the preexisting structure.(Courtesy Laure Joliet)

The Springs
Touting itself as an “eco-vegan-mind-body-one-stop-shop,” the Springs brings together a mix of programs—wine and juice bar, restaurant, yoga studio, and wellness center—inside a structural steel-and-concrete-block hangar in L.A.’s Arts District. Concrete-block planters and a breezeblock screen split the industrial-scale volume. The spaces between these dividers are populated with objects painted in a sun-bleached spectrum, running from bright yellow to key lime to turquoise. These colors are applied to space-specific furniture: wood benches and chairs in the dining areas; couches, bowl chairs, and yoga mats in the wellness areas; as well as an assortment of rugs and pillows throughout.

Nong Là takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to exposing wood frame construction by using certain horizontal members as shelving for epiphytes and other plantings. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Nong Là takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to exposing wood frame construction by using certain horizontal members as shelving for epiphytes and other plantings. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

In this family-owned Vietnamese restaurant, Design, Bitches evokes the casual surroundings of a home cooked meal through bombastic wallpaper and generic hanging houseplants. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

In this family-owned Vietnamese restaurant, Design, Bitches evokes the casual surroundings of a home cooked meal through bombastic wallpaper and generic hanging houseplants. (Courtesy Laure Joliet)

Nong Là
At Nong Là’s La Brea Avenue location, the second branch of the popular, family-run Vietnamese restaurant, Design, Bitches uses plants and wood—hanging pothos plants and philodendron-printed wallpaper, and exposed two-by-fours—to evoke the banal domesticity of L.A.’s single-family homes. In one area, the leisure shirt–inspired
wallpaper turns from wall to drop ceiling,
terminating in the middle of the dining room to reveal exposed ceiling joists as well as a trio of HVAC grilles. Navy-blue cloth banquettes, button-studded and hanging on golden hoops from pegs embedded in the wall, follow the space’s perimeter, while a mix of built-in settees and colonial and midcentury chairs fill out the dining room’s tabled seating areas.

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