Designing a Brave New World - Mary Ta-Founder, Minotti Los Angeles

In 2004, Minotti Los Angeles debuted as the first monobrand Minotti flagship showroom. Founded by Mary Ta beginning in 2002, Minotti Los Angeles has been a leader in modern contemporary design.

JAMIE AGOGLIA (JA): You're an absolute legend. Over the past three to four months, there have been so many people in general, but then especially in the affluent world that have of course been forced to be in their homes. So they've owned these works of art, whether it be a home in the Hamptons or Los Angeles or Malibu, you name it, and they really haven't always been forced to be in their homes or in their office buildings or whatever it might be, and now having been in forced too, they see that there's so much more that they can do with their homes. Your insight on that in correlation with the most inspiring, powerful moments in your career, that changed the trajectory of your career and inspired you and took you to a different level.

MARY TA (MT): Wow. I love this. No one's ever asked me this. Thank you so much for thinking so deeply.

Beautiful. I agree with you a hundred percent. I honestly feel like design is about people and their experiences. I didn't go to design school, so I didn't start out with design principles and design being about objects. I just experienced design as a lay person, basically.

That's how I started it because I was an attorney originally. And for me, it’s about the experience, and I think that the experience of it can change your life. And I think before coronavirus, a lot of people who are very affluent wanted to create environments, so they want to have a certain feeling when they come to LA and then they have a home in New York and they had many, and then they had the ability to travel, searching for the experience.

And I believe that's what design is all about, and I think my career, in regards to your question, some pivotal moments would be when I first opened the showroom. It was a reaction to my experiences because I was a design junkie. I was an attorney. I had a very stressful job. And on the weekend, my de-stressor would be to go around to all these different showrooms.

Look at things, design my house and also read magazines, and I think a lot of people enjoy that. Laura Schuffman enjoys that. That's how I met her. But typical showrooms were like a retail experience. It wasn't an emotional experience. There wasn't any client experience. So opening the showroom for me was creating an experience that I wanted, and I think a lot of people I knew wanted, which was to be inspired to come into this environment, different things.

A part of design is about learning. It's not just about buying something. Learning what mid century modern is, learning what Barnard is. What post WWII design industrial design is about. Part of the fun is about learning. I think the traditional retail experience is not about that.

So that's what I wanted to create. And I would say that that changed the city of LA because it was very welcoming. I think it became very prevalent and it became very justified.

The next thing that happened, which I really love, was influencing the value of modern design. Because I think before the recession in Los Angeles, most of the real estate, were these huge traditional homes.

They valued huge, massive mansions for example. Very large scale furniture has a very high ceiling and modern wasn't really considered luxury..

So we met a developer from Europe and at that time there was the writer's field strike. The whole entertainment industry was going through a very difficult time. Napster was taking music. So the traditional clients that I was educating were people in the entertainment or architectural industry that loved learning modern design and they as a demographic were no longer capable of being my clients; it was just an economic issue.

So the clients that I saw were a lot of Europeans who were coming to America and purchasing real estate and they were used to let's say, modern architecture in resorts or villas that they saw in Majorca or Ibiza or Saint Barts. The thought was that we have this incredible history of the century, modern architecture.

So it was to take the history of that mid century modern, you know, the Schindler and combine that with these beautiful, more modern homes in Majorca pizza and create a combination of LA and Europe. A luxury understanding of internationalism. So it wasn't just about a local or specific design, but a level of international modern design, which then becomes luxury. So we felt like internationalizing something makes it more unifying for different races, cultures, languages - understanding. So we met this group and encouraged them towards modern architecture, they had this Irish architect who understood and was open minded to a collaborative development process. We're not architects, but we brought a lot of inspirational architecture. The architect was very open minded and fantastic, and together created more of modern, mid-century inspired larger homes in Los Angeles, which we designed together, their internal team from the surfaces to fixed furniture, to loose furniture and really created this international life in LA that is, you know, originated from the whole concept of indoor outdoor living in a modern house, and these projects completely took off. We love the ripple effect because what we do helps entire communities in a sense where the real estate community really benefited, the real estate became very powerful in LA. It also helps the design architecture industry and thus has this massive ripple. It also caused an increase of people's awareness for quality and for modern design. It's not about selling a product, it's about creating a concept that leads to these ripples that helps an entire community.

It’s our responsibility, not just to design products or buildings, but to design a way of being. And lately I've been thinking a lot after the coronavirus about redesigning a brave new world.

So it is our duty. We all feel very helpless, but if we look deeply into ourselves, each of us can actually do something really that causes massive ripples because if we see our job, whether it's in your magazine or in my building a project, basically designing a brave new world, that is absolutely correct, and for people to understand that.

JA: That’s absolutely correct. They do have that power within them, they do have the power to create a ripple and people can, in the blink of an eye, can change anything in their life, and when you do do that, you can change the lives of all of those around you and your immediate family, friends, etc., which correlates directly with what you're saying. Designing a brave new world.

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