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Interview with Chris McCullough, Co-Founder and Partner of Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm from Los Angeles

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

Chris McCullough and Peggy Hsu, AIA


by Beren Dere

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We all want to live in a house that looks like the one of our dreams. Whether it’s designing and building a house from scratch or remodeling and adding to an existing house we already live in to be ours, an architect shall help you envision these dreams. Los Angeles based architecture studio Hsu McCullough specialize in custom home design and interior design services. Founded by Peggy Hsu and Chris McCullough, they offer clients an enjoyable path to realize their wonderful shelter.

Many of their projects have been published in notable magazines and websites. I asked Chris McCullough, co-founder and partner of Hsu McCullough, about his architectural career, his works, and his future plans. You can find here an interview with the designer who works to make homes of timeless beauty.

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm - Ashland Residence - Dan Arnold Photo

Chris, before talking about Hsu McCullough, could you tell us about your career and architectural design experience?

Born outside of Toronto, I studied architecture in Canada where I received my architecture degree. From architecture school I moved to Osaka, Japan to work in architecture firm there. I had an interest in both contemporary and traditional Japanese architecture and design culture. After my time in Japan, I moved to Los Angeles to chase a dream of designing custom homes in an amazing climate.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in architecture? What inspired you?

I have always enjoyed drawing and creative problem solving but also loved mathematics and geometry. Living in a large city with wonderful natural light is inspiring.

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm - Bowling Green Residence-Stair - Clark Dugger Photo

Could you tell us about Hsu McCullough?

Hsu McCullough is a full service architecture firm specializing in custom home design rooted in comfort. Led by principals Peggy Hsu, AIA and Chris McCullough, we envision and create exceptional places through a collaborative process with our clients. Meeting frequently to discover and achieve client goals, with communication and cooperation held at the highest regard, Hsu McCullough's meticulous approach offers thoughtful and elegant solutions for all budget and schedule challenges. Our office engages every detail of the process that flows from initial project analysis through construction completion. With a love for all things handcrafted – modern or traditional – and building materials exuding textural authenticity and charm, a Hsu McCullough space reflects the personalities and lifestyles of our clients with a loyalty to natural light and an equal enjoyment of interior and exterior environments in all their many forms. Our firm and work have been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Dwell magazine home tours and many architectural design websites.

How did your career in Japan affect your design perspective?

It opened my mind to the world of craftsmanship, especially the fearless use of wood and concrete as finish in buildings. During my time in Osaka, I worked on several projects - my role mostly visualizing designs and 3D modeling. At the same time, I was able to visit the projects I was working on during construction to see the physical realizations of the ideas we were working on- while also enjoying amazing cultural experiences - from food, art, traditions, technology and traveling. Through my time in Japan, I discovered I was equally interested in construction.

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm - Las Casas Residence - Clark Dugger Photo

Which type of projects does Hsu McCullough specialize for? What type of services do you offer to your customers?

We truly enjoy working on custom homes. It's very personal and intimate. Each project is different and will have it's own unique approach to inspiration. Working predominantly in Los Angeles, we are lucky to envision homes of varying typologies: From beach homes near the Pacific Ocean, to hillside homes built on sloped lots to homes on flat infill lots as well as restoration of historical homes. The city is home to a thriving entertainment industry and the ecosystem that supports it so we, of course, meet diverse clients.

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm - Boise Residence-MBed - Clark Dugger Photo

I really want to ask about all your projects one by one, but it would be too long. Which one is your favorite project? What was its story?

We truly do not have favorites. We are always learning new things by working on different projects of different scales in different neighborhoods with different clients. The Boise Residence is the first project Peggy and I worked on as a team so it is special to us as well as deeply personal. Residences such as Ashland, Las Casas and Grove (almost completed) are special to us as well: With these homes, the clients trusted Hsu McCullough with the full creative direction - layout, overall look and characteristics. While all projects are a collaboration with clients and consultants, with each having there own rewarding part, the mentioned above three homes were special as the homeowner truly allowed us to realize the original spirit of the design layout and overall look throughout the project. In fact, all three clients demanded it and were concerned throughout the process including during construction that we never diluted the vision.

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm - Ridgemont Residence - Clark Dugger Photo

Where is the most popular location for new residential projects in Los Angeles? What do you think about Los Angeles architectural culture?

We work in every neighborhood in Los Angeles. We've completed several projects in Mar Vista (which is adjacent to Venice) which seems to be dramatically changing from modest bungalows of the past being razed and replaced with two-story contemporary homes. We're also working on a number of projects along or near the Mulholland Scenic Corridor. Of course, we also have projects in Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Hollywood Hills, Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades. We've recently branched out to also include working on projects in Bell Canyon (Calabasas area), Woodland Hills, Encino, Sherman Oaks and Studio City.

We love the residential architecture history of Los Angeles. Many homes from every great era of development in Los Angeles still exist and can be seen while driving around town. There is an over-abundance of inspiration from these homes that come before us.

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm - Villa Roselyn - Clark Dugger Photo

In your opinion, what is the relation between Low Budget - Short Project Time - High Quality? Is it possible to combine all in one project?

This is a classic dilemma. What we've witnessed throughout the years of our practice as well as during our apprenticeship years is craftsmanship takes time. Craftsmanship may go faster if there are more skilled laborers but that typically costs more money.

If the complexity of a home is reduced, one may be able to find a sweet spot where all three items may be considered and achieved.

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm - Sunny Hills Residence - Clark Dugger Photo

What is the best advice you have received, and what advice would you give to young architects?

Commit to working through an entire project you are involved with and try to do as many projects this way during your apprenticeship years.

Ask for or try to actively pursue a role during the construction phase of your project, if possible.

Travel and/or live abroad.

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm - Ashland Residence - Dan Arnold Photo

What is coming up next for you?

Amongst seven of our projects in construction, we look forward to completing a second home for ourselves in 2019 (it's currently in construction).

Anything you'd like to add that I haven't asked?

Thank you for the thoughtful questions. I enjoyed the discussion.

Thank you Chris.

For more information, please visit website of Hsu McCullough Architecture Firm

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