Robert Frank: Easterly Influence

Robert Frank of Robert Frank Design may be based in San Marino but his aesthetic is rooted on the East Coast. “I’m such a fan of the ocean and the simplicity in design of Cape Cod architecture,” he says. “The style is a simple with few decorative embellishments since they were designed for easy construction and efficient heating,” he adds, noting that their symmetry and wood construction are also part of the appeal. Though the designer, who offers a full-service interior design firm, creates beautifully crafted and timeless homes in a variety of styles, but you’ll often spy a few East Coast touches in his projects, like shingled siding, multi-paned and double-hung windows, wood paneling or interior wainscoting. We were delighted to work with Robert on the poolside changing rooms he created for the 2014 Pasadena Showcase house, and we’re equally delighted to now feature him on our blog.

How would you describe your aesthetic? And, as a native Californian, I love the coast and the indoor-outdoor connection that we have as part of our lifestyle. My design aesthetic holds influence from details of original Cape Cod design, transformed to function and work harmoniously with our California lifestyle. To me, it’s the perfect blending of traditional and contemporary design that works so perfectly with many of Southern California’s homes. Whenever possible I use the architecture of the residence as the jumping off point a project, but I like to provide a fresh interpretation of the original design so the end result is fresh and tailored to my clients needs.

How did you get started in the business? I started in the business many years ago by purchasing houses, fixing them up and reselling them for a profit–essentially flipping houses. As I become more successful, people started to recognize my work and would ask if they could hire me to design their homes. Eventually I transitioned into just working on clients’ homes and it has become my passion. Having a background in real estate has really helped me advise clients about things they should or shouldn’t do to gain value in their homes.

From where or what sources do you derive creative inspiration? As I designer, I feel that I gain creative inspiration from just about everything–whether it be color, design or style inspiration. I try to always be aware of my surroundings and utilize what I see in the course of my projects. Of course, I also have my design resources that I utilize for projects. These include furniture and furnishings vendors, and showrooms for wall coverings, paint, fabrics, fixtures and finishes. As a Pasadena-area design company, we are so lucky to have showrooms such as Mission Tile and Snyder Diamond where the product selections are so great.

If you could reside on a Hollywood film set from any era, what would it be? I am a huge fan of director Nancy Meyer's aesthetic; she has a wonderful eye and a phenomenal attention for detail. And as I’m also a fan of coastal architecture and the simplicity in style of Cape Cod design, I'd be thrilled to live on the set of Nancy Meyers' 2003 film, Something's Gotta Give. All of the sets in this film are bright and fresh, with tons of coastal style that is both refined and causal at the same time. Her designer incorporated crisp whites with classic navy color palates and the main character's home has a wonderful connection to the outdoors with spectacular views. Many of the details in the kitchens and baths reflect classic design details but they were updated to be fresh and modern. 

What takes a kitchen or bath from ordinary to extraordinary? To me, it’s all in the details. Even the tiniest or most simple of bathrooms or kitchens can be the most spectacular and inviting space with the smallest of details. And the details have to be specified and installed meticulously so they look perfect. For example, a client may have a very basic bathroom space, tiled in simple white subway tile. We might suggest using a stone border on the tile floor, a spectacular plumbing fixture or soaking tub that will become the focal point and make the space special and memorable.