It takes a versatile team to design everything from carefully-crafted outdoor gardens to the interiors of high-profile restaurants like Flour + Water and Central Kitchen. Luckily, the crew at RareField Design/Build are well-equipped for the job. Formerly known as Paxton Gate Design/Build, the innovative team is now a distinct operation, repurposing and expanding their vision for their firm and clients while continuing to embrace all facets of design. Find out more about founder Sean Quigley and lead designer/roject manager Todd McCrea in our Q&A below.
1. Who is your biggest role model?
SQ: By nature I’m inclined to operate in a bubble but I have always admired people who excel in multiple disciplines. Sir Joseph Paxton who was an architect, a landscape designer, plant propagator, inventor, manufacturing innovator and more is way up on my list. And btw, the inspiration for the name of my first business, Paxton Gate.
TM: My mom for sure, but also Paul Newman and his philanthropic endeavors.
2. Which movie or play do you wish you could have designed the set for?
SQ: A remake of Swiss Family Robinson would be pretty great given my desire to design and build treehouses. San Francisco Code restrictions make that close to impossible, but we’re actually talking to a client about doing one in Moss Beach; my boyhood dream come true.
TM: pretty much anything Wes Anderson has made, but my favorite set by far is The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. The scenes on their ship, The Belafonte, are just so perfectly detailed. Everything about the rooms within the ship are so thoughtfully done, and playful. Please call me Wes, i'll work for free! I even have Team Zissou t-shirt!!
3. What is the best way to gauge a client’s personality before starting a project?
SQ: It’s hard to say since so much is done by email. And even a nice email can feel curt. But ultimately it’s the feeling that you’re on the same wavelength. I’m happy to say that for whatever reason we seem to attract really cool clients.
TM: It’s pretty simple really: conversation. I’ve found if you talk to them like people, and not potential clients, things can really open up.
4. What new design trends are you excited to integrate into your work?
SQ: I purposely try to stay a bit naïve in regards to trends. My preference is to come at a project with no preconceptions and designing the space to fit the client’s needs. Trends, no matter how fun or novel come and go, good design stays and gets better with time.
TM: I’m with Sean. Ideally, projects should respond to what people desire and how you interpret those desires can vary greatly. That said we are excited about incorporating more metals into our designs, and have recently been blackening sheet metal. Reclaimed materials have a lot of appeal, but are way overused. We like the look of many raw woods, especially when combined with richer shades of grey. In the restaurant we are currently designing, we are using white oak and oxidizing it to achieve a beautiful, rich shade of blue grey. Frame this with the untouched, raw white oak and you have a clean compliment that pairs beautifully.
5. How do you completely unwind?
SQ: I can happily unwind at the end of the day with a cocktail but to completely unwind means getting out of town, and camping out in the trees or near moving water. I just recently returned from a solo trip to Peru. Winding back up took a while.
TM: Since I have three small children “completely unwinding” is not really an option. But having a drink after everyone’s in bed, while wearing headphones and watching Game of Thrones … I’ll take what I can get!
6. If you hadn't become a designer, which career would you have pursued?
SQ: Archeologist! Pre-history has always interested me, and ancient cultures like the Maya, Incan and Egyptian exude a mystery and a reality I find compelling and hard to resist.
TM: When I was a kid, watching Walter Matthau clean pools in the movie The Bad News Bears looked like a dream job to me. Maybe that’s next.
7. What’s the worst pre-designer job you’ve ever had and why?
SQ: At 16 years old I had a job washing dishes at a pizza parlor with a very cranky owner that let them pile up all week until my weekend shifts. As you can imagine, designing the interior of Flour + Water brought a lot of closure.
TM: I cleaned ponds for a living for a little while. Sucking out layers upon layers of fish waste with a wet vac. This too might’ve had something to do with watching Walter Matthau in The Bad News Bears, but I clearly missed the mark.
8. What’s your favorite recipe (can also be a cocktail recipe!)?
SQ: I love cooking but as a former bartender I’ll opt for the cocktail. Lately it’s been a Last Word modified with Mezcal instead of Gin. Take equal parts Mescal, Luxardo, Chartreuse and Lime, shake and strain, and voila, a smoky and citrusy end-of-day unwinding gem!
TM: I’m a big brunch guy. Prosecco, Cointreau, and OJ mimosas, yum!
9. Create your perfect playlist for us.
SQ: At my house, I’m in charge of décor while my wife handles the music.
TM: Well, I’m happy to handle the music at home and here.
10. Would you rather shop new or vintage?
SQ: I’d love to say vintage but these days it’s mostly new.
TM: Mostly new, with select vintage; I recently bought a Cisco Pinedo couch which pairs nicely with my vintage Wendell Lovett fireplace.
11. First celebrity crush?
SQ: I’m sure there’s someone even further back but the first I can remember is Jami Gertz in The Lost Boys!
TM: Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon! I was 10, and she was perfect!!
12. What’s your hidden talent?
SQ: I can fearlessly drive a large vehicle through a narrow space.
TM: I can throw a pretty sweet vase on a potter’s wheel.
13. Best restaurant in your area? Where is it?
SQ: Range, Valencia near 19th.
TM: Shoreline Coffee House in Mill Valley. It’s a diner setting that serves all organic food with *perfectly* cooked eggs, and bread from Green Gulch Farm. It starts a day out right.
SF or LA?
SQ: SF will always be my home but LA has a lot to offer.
TM: Go Giants!