Award-winning architectural designer, Amanda Gunawan, shares her expert advice on how to create design balance in your home including the essential concept of uncharged space. 

How To Create Design Balance In Your Home

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Award-winning architectural designer, Amanda Gunawan, shares her expert advice on how to create design balance in your home including the essential concept of uncharged space.  Don’t miss Amanda’s expert advice on home design including tips for mixing colors and wood stains.  

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  • Amanda’s inspiring journey as a student in Singapore to a business owner in America
  • Lessons learned as a start up
  • How to choose wood stains and tones for your home like a pro
  • Uncharged space: What it is and why it’s essential
  • An expert’s space planning and designing process


Award-winning architectural designer, Amanda Gunawan, shares her expert advice on how to create design balance in your home including the essential concept of uncharged space.  Don’t miss Amanda’s expert advice on home design including tips for mixing colors and wood stains.


Amanda is one of the founding principals of OWIU Design. She worked in Urban Planning and Design at Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore, which oversees the master planning for the country. She recently worked for Pritzker-prize-winning Architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects and was named one of the “Architects to watch” by Design and Architecture Magazine in 2022.

Award-winning architectural designer, Amanda Gunawan, shares her expert advice on how to create design balance in your home including the essential concept of uncharged space.  Don’t miss Amanda’s expert advice on home design including tips for mixing colors and wood stains.


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You can’t be on that high forever. You’re gonna break down. You can’t be on that low forever. You are also gonna mentally break down. If you are designing for a residential space, which means there’s a space that you live in, should not make you feel uneasy because those feelings are just not sustainable.
Welcome to the imperfectly empowered podcast with DIY healthy lifestyle blogger on a former empowering you to transform your. One imperfect day at a time. Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. I am your host, Anna Fullmer. Today. I’m introducing you to Amanda Guan.
Amanda is the founder of architecture and design firm only way is up a company based in Los Angeles, passionate about creating sustainable design. I can’t wait to talk to her. You should see their website and the really cool things that they are doing. Welcome, Amanda. Thank you for having me. Absolutely.
And you’re in LA, right? You’re LA based. I am. Are you? No, I am in Lancaster county. Pennsylvania, just literally as opposite as can be on opposite sides of the coast and very different. We have Amish. This is Amish country . Mm. I, I think I’ve been there. Yeah, I’ve actually been there. I haven’t been to Lancaster, but I’ve been to Pennsylvania.
Yeah. Yes. It’s a little different than LA. Just a little bit. I’m sure it is. Um, is it also nice and hot right now? Well, probably not like LA we are, what are we probably like high eighties right now. 90. What is your temperature currently? Yeah, we’re also there. We’re like seventies, eighties. Oh, why did I think you would be so much hotter than us right now?
I guess. Yeah, no, um, I don’t know why, but we’ve got a pretty, we we’ve had a pretty mild summer. Okay. Yeah. I could not have guessed that. That shows my ignorance too. no, uh, California weather, you just always assume. I mean, it’s actually like, it’s, it’s a big surprise everyone. Yeah. Is it relatively temperate in LA?
Like it’s not super high or super low. Yeah. Like, I, I mean, okay. It gets hot during the day, but at night, like, I don’t, like if I were, was wearing like shorts, I’d probably need something. I gotcha. Okay. Yeah. Well, you learn, so I don’t know why in my head LA was a lot hotter than. What you just said? Well, something, something to learn always.
Yeah. So I love on the podcast talking about people’s back stories and I really enjoyed looking over your website. You started your company. If I’m understanding correctly, this architectural firm and you started it with, is it Joel mm-hmm . Is that his name? And yeah, you are. Are you both from Singapore originally?
We’re both. So I was born in Indonesia. Okay. Um, but I moved to Singapore when I was five and, um, he was born in Singapore and that’s actually where we met. We were in high school together. Okay. Yeah. And you like, how did the, I mean, You don’t always end up being a CEO, co CEOs with somebody from high school.
So how did that all start? You didn’t like, look at each other one day and be like, Hey, you wanna start a company? Or did you? Yeah, no, not at all, actually. Um, we just, it’s very, very rare when you find somebody who has absolutely complimentary skills from you. Amen. And so it’s kind of like a, it’s a, yeah, it’s like an odd dynamic where you, you have all these skills and like individually you could do well, but like together, like you guys can do really great.
Yeah. So that’s together. You can start a business. Exactly. So every time we were working together, whether it was in Singapore, where we would work together on like group projects, we would be like, wait a minute, like we’re scoring really high on these tests or like we’re doing really well. And so we realized that it’s because like, we were just going with it, right.
Like when something works, you kind of just get into this flow state. You don’t question it. So you just go with. And so we ended up going to, to choosing the same architecture school to go to, um, he had to go to the military and then he came to, so I went first and then he came over and we actually, like, we worked on projects together.
We did it individually. We worked like our, actually our architecture school was so independent like that. It was so many projects all the time and we would do it individually first and we would be okay. We would do well. But then when we were together, we were like, damn, like, these are great projects, like way better than what we can do on our own.
And so even after we graduated, we went and we worked for the same company. We got accepted into the same company. We had presented this thesis together. And our thesis was one of the top thesis of that year mm-hmm . And so the company took us both in, and then while we were there a project that we had been working on together as well, had won a competition a a while back and we just never thought about it.
And then Paris design. We caught hold of that and asked us if we wanted to exhibit it. And. That’s kind of, when we decided, you know what, like we’re young, we have so much energy. It’s now our never like, we’re so risk. We’re like big risk takers right now. We’re ready to fail. If we have to mm-hmm we have the energy when you’re young, there’s not a lot to lose.
So if we fail, then we fail us. So like, let’s just do this. Right, right. I love that. And so tell me a little bit. Singapore is architecture and architectural design, fairly common for a high school student to think through in Singapore, or is that, was that kind of unique to you and Joel, that you really fell in love with architecture?
I would also argue that’s not super common, at least not over here for a high school student to be like, I wanna go into. Architecture, actually, it’s not common at all, but interesting in Singapore, the education system is a little bit different. It works for some people and it works less. It’s less effective for some, I think right now it’s definitely improved.
But when we were in school, there was a focus on like, Book smartness. So basically if you were good at school, you were good at academics, you probably would do well. It was a lot of memorizing. It was a lot, it was very militant style. And so with that, it’s like how you make of it. Right. So it’s not. Like for a kid, it’s hard to really understand why you’re studying the way that you’re studying.
Right. Kids just wanna have fun. And our curriculum was not fun. Like we were, we were learning things in like a very static way and. But like, if you were the type of kid that was able to understand why you’re doing this and connect it to the rest of the world, then you would enjoy learning. Basically.
Mm-hmm , mm-hmm , it’s the why behind the what it’s like. Okay, exactly. Why do I need pre exactly. Oh, because I can then design X, Y. Exactly. And so with architecture, like it wasn’t like it was in the curriculum, but our curriculum was very heavily focused on math and science. Now it’s a little different, but at that time it was very heavily focused on math and science.
And for me, like I had been doing all of these, like I had been like indulging in math and science all the time. And then I started to realize. In learning what I learned. Like I, like I had all this creative energy and the way that I expressed myself was always visual. And so like, I, I started to combine all of that together and that’s how I got into architecture.
But for Joel, it’s a little different because he was. His parents are both like fantastic architects. And so he kind of grew up and they never put it on him, but he grew up being already being influenced by them because they would travel. They would see architecture, they would explain to him the relevance of buildings.
And so because of that, um, he definitely grew. Already knowing that at a certain point, you kind of decide like, that’s what I wanna do. And then yeah. Combined with his talent. Of course, he’s very talented. And then we’ll give Joel a shout out. What is Joel talented at? Joel? I don’t even know you, but we’re gonna give you a shout out here.
What is Joel talented at? A lot of things. Um, but he is a very competent execution, like taking an idea and then putting it into practice. Yes. Very good. Mean, yeah. Yes. Yeah. He is. He’s very, very good at just making, just making things happen, like yeah. Conceiving something. Yeah. How do you compliment. I am more like the ideas person.
Yeah. Like I can’t move when it comes to like, I need purpose. I need meaning. Yeah. So I’m like a big starter too. So I’m usually the one that starts it. And I usually am the one that adds like a narrative to things. And he, when I have his buy-in, he is the one that’s like, okay, how do we make this happen?
He’s the hammers and nails. He’s the one that’s ultimately putting the pieces. I love that. I love that you do need both. Exactly. Um, and it like in a, in a bad situation, it’s bad. Right? Cause like, we feel like butt heads multiple times. Yeah. Like, yeah, multiple times where it’s like, I want this to happen.
I’m not willing to move. And he’s like, it can’t like he, he’s more like, I wouldn’t say skeptical. He is just the, um, he’s more cautious. He’s. Yes. Exactly. So he’s sounds like my husband and I right. Yeah. Yeah. And it can be so annoying, but we’ve also learned to understand what each other’s skills are. And so right.
We, we really don’t want to dull that in each other. It’s kind of a beautiful melting of the minds because I mean, literally what you’re describing is my husband and I, now I’m also a very proactive person, however, to what you’re saying, like, so my husband and I have renovated and designed. Completely redone three homes now.
So certainly not to the extent that you are designing and the architecture standpoint, however, I’m more of the visionary. Like I can walk into a space and see something that is not even close to the physical reality mm-hmm and then I would explain it to my husband and be like, um, I wanna do this, this and this.
And he’d be like, I’m sorry. You’re gonna do that with this. Yeah. And it did it, it took a number of years and now we trust each other more because when I say. Here’s what I want to do. He has seen that come to fruition. So he’s not quite as cautious then in this sense of like, I don’t know that I wanna invest that money because I don’t see the outcome happening now.
It’s like, okay, I’m willing to invest that money because I trust you. I’ve seen you do. I’ve seen your vision come to lifes. Yeah. It’s so important to gain their trust like that. Yeah. It, it really is. And it’s so important to like allow each other to both have the space to be at their best. Yeah. So like, you should never force a fish to climb a tree.
Right. And so for me to say, okay, I wish you weren’t like that. Or like, for me to dull that down and say, I don’t want to hear feedback like that. It would be so like why I choose him as a partner. Right, right, right. Yeah. Like if I took that, if I took that feedback, I took his skills and I brought it forward.
It could make whatever project that we had into like the best project it can be, cuz it would have the best of both worlds. But if I was just stuck in my own head and um, I was rejecting these things even though clearly these are his best skills, then the project would just be mine. It could only ever be mine.
Yeah. And it’s so hard when you’re adding the business element because you add the money piece. I mean, that’s just a reality with any business is now you’re, you know, you’re looking at the profit margin and anytime you’re investing money, there’s that added risk and the added tension that exists. And then you’re in an area like LA, which I’m going to go out in a limb and suggest is probably a fairly competitive.
Place to be starting a business. So that’s, I love what you guys have done. What, what kind of hurdles have you faced? In that vein. I mean, in a place like LA, this is not a walk in the park oh, multiple, multiple. Like it’s every day, every day there would be like an obstacle, but I personally, the both of us, we don’t believe that anything is inherently bad.
I think we see it as like, okay, look, um, this is a learning experience. It looks like we have yet another learning experience. Mm-hmm like, how do we take away from this? And so there’s a lot, I can’t even name one cuz there’s so many. Yeah. So right, right. From people management. To knowing how fast to grow, like gauging your growth, knowing like the fine balance between that at all times.
Because if you push a little too hard, you guys will break. Like the whole company will break. And then if you are a little too slow, like it’s like, you feel the pressures. Not of. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And how many staff do you have? How many are on your team? We have, so we have a building and, um, design side mm-hmm
So with both the building and design side, we have about 10 mm-hmm that’s awesome. And then you work with clients. Do you ever get the client where they want something done and you kind of look at them and you’re like, what that’s not happening? Like, have you ever had that experience where you feel like a client is expecting something and you’re like from a design standpoint, this.
Luck not happening, not to that extent because we’ve had, funnily enough, maybe that’s happened with like my best friend and I’ve ever. Yeah. And I’ve only ever been like straightforward and honest about it. And sometimes I don’t even know if she’s joking and she’s trying to like just annoy me or something, but, um, yeah, like, uh, so.
I’ve designed my best friend’s house multiple times. So she moved from here to Austin and, uh, yeah, sometimes she, which I hear everyone’s doing by the way, Austin is the new LA this is what I’m being told. Yeah. Yeah. That’s hilarious. It’s really great. I’m actually visiting this weekend. Oh, Sorry. I interrupted you.
Go ahead. No, not at all. Not at all. Um, so yeah, sometimes I, I don’t know if she’s joking, but , it’s not like she sends me something terrible. Like I’m just like convinced that I can make it cooler, you know? Yeah. Like I’m like, what is the, what is the funniest thing that she sends you that you’re like, uh, is this a joke or not?
Actually, it was, it’s not really that funny. It’s just these kitchens, but to me they’re really basic. And so I see what you’re saying. Yeah. And so I, yeah, I would be like, so she’s very excited about her kitchen and she’s like, I wanna have like something very nice, like super elegant and all these things.
And she, she knows this, like she trusts me and like, yeah, sometimes she would send something that is just off of like, I don’t know. Like a stock cabinetry. Kitchen. Yeah. Yeah. Something like that. And then she would send it over and she’d be like, I want it like this. And I don’t know if she’s joking and I’m like, look, just trust me.
Yeah. Like I know what I’m doing. Yeah. Yeah. It’s so funny that you mentioned the kitchen. My husband and I, well, I say my husband, I have this conversation with myself and Zillow basically. Yeah. When I’m looking at these houses that come on, the market, we’re currently renting until we buy our dream property is the goal mm-hmm after.
Fixing up three other houses over the last 10 years. However, what kills me is when I see these million dollar homes come on mm-hmm and the kitchen is not as nice as the one that I put into the 1400 square foot home that we renovated. Mm-hmm to your point. It’s so funny. It’s like the design concept of why would you have a killer master bedroom?
And then the kitchen is. Totally. Yeah. And you know, to be honest, like good design and price, like affordability, that’s not, they’re not they’re, they’re not mutually exclusive. Exactly. Yeah. And so well, and the concept of quality over quantity, that’s another conversation I have with people is like, they look at their kitchen and they think they need mortally square footage.
Totally. And I’m like, no, you need to better leverage the square footage. You. Exactly. You don’t to pay a million dollars for a bigger kitchen. You need a better kitchen. exactly. Yeah. No 100%. And like, and yeah, good design is not, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. This is another question that I love to ask before we get into more of your design expertise.
Can you think of. A time, whether it be from a business standpoint or even a design standpoint where you made a mistake, we kind of talked about this a little bit, but you know, you made a mistake which then leveraged itself into a very beneficial lesson, learned whether it was like an actual architectural design mistake that you’re like, ah, yikes, or a business one or whatever.
Hmm. Let’s see. I think, um, yeah, there was this one time, but this one’s like, I’m sure there are many, but like no worries. This one time when I actually, this is this one is, is a simple one where I actually gave the wrong, like I had chosen the wrong color for a table. The, the wrong wood color. And the thing is like, for some reason at that time, like I wasn’t checking my phone and we talk on the phone all the time.
We have a group chat and it was for a client actually. And so instead of like light wood, I had chosen Darkwood and nobody, for some reason, nobody had. Questioned me on that, but I completely sent the wrong thing. Like, it’s almost like I woke up. I haven’t had any coffee and like, yeah, I just chose the wrong one.
And then it’s all about the coffee people. Coffee saves lives. Seriously design . So like, I had just completely chosen the wrong wood and yeah, I chose like a dark wood and the table was made our team made it and it came out and I was like, oh my gosh. And I kind of had to wing it a little bit. Yeah. So I was like, this is what I chose.
like, I really, I, I had to, no, I really had to wing it like initially. And then, so now how do you wing it? Tell me how winging it looks. So you’re doing it for a client. I mean, that’s like that goes in their house then, right? Yeah. So at first it, um, so when it’s made, I see it in the wood. I come in and I’m like, and everybody was like, uh, oh yeah.
Like, no, cuz no one knows. Right, right. No one actually really knows. Cuz design is pretty subjective. Right. And it as an actual table, it’s, it’s nice. Even if it’s dark wood, right. It’s Walnut now it was supposed to be like a very light Burch. And so, um, Yeah. So, so I was like, if you’ve seen all our older aesthetics, they’re all very light.
Yeah. Like everything is super light wood and like, that’s just our familiar territory. Mm-hmm . And so we had designed this person’s house, everything was light wood, everything was light. The walls were light, just our usual thing, comfort zone thing. And for some reason I, it slipped my like, like totally wrong decision.
I just picked the wrong wood. Everybody didn’t think to question me. Yeah. Like, and it came out and I was like, oh my God. Like I, and I realized I was the one who chose this. I had nobody to blame, but myself mm-hmm and yeah. So I look at the table and I was like, I didn’t show any, any panic at all. I was like, yeah, well, well, I mean, this is, this is great.
And. Like, obviously I was kind of panicking and then it got delivered to this person’s house. Yeah. And it actually looked good. And, yeah. So because of that, like, did you change anything, like, did you change anything in the house to try to help blend it in or did you just sort of leave it be an design standpoint?
It actually worked like, and yeah, that was kind of like, that was the first time I actually learned to appreciate Walnut. Yeah. And I was like, wait a minute. Like, it doesn’t have to be that. Like, I can actually like do a little bit of dark, a little bit of light and then mix it up a little bit. Like I don’t have to be so militant in choosing only light aesthetics.
And yeah, that was one the first out of many. Yeah. I’m just curious. This is a total side. And then we’ll get into more of your expertise, but I’m curious when you, if you mix woods. So this is a question that I get asked sometimes. Is there a certain rule that you go by in terms of people ask me often, how do I know what woods or what stains compliment each other?
Cause I would, I would actually agree. I’m more of one to mix light and dark, but I think you have to be strategic about it. There’s certain mm-hmm tones that I don’t think work as well, but I’m curious. Do you have any. When you look at the wood stains, how do you say, okay, these two compliment each other, these two do not.
Yes, definitely. Like I would say there are little things, easier ways to look at it where it’s kind of like tone. So if you actually look at. Different types of wood. There’s slight wood and there’s dark wood, but you can also see that there are different tones. So there’s like there are tones that are more neutral and then there are tones that are more green, so there’s like a green hue to it.
And then like, there is, there are tones that are more pink, so there’s pink, green, and neutral. And so it kind of like, so it’s just, so you ha you can’t mix these tones together. So thi this is the general consensus for me. Like something that’s green tinted will not mix with something that’s like pink tinted, cuz they will clash together and you’ll really be able to see it unless that’s a look that you’re going for.
And so that’s like the general consensus for me, but when it comes to whether to go light or dark, when you’re already in that category of green tinted wood and pink tinted wood, like. It is about viewing the whole space as like a painting, like a canvas. And so it’s compositionally. You don’t want too much of one thing mm-hmm so it kind of has to stand out.
So if you’re gonna have a lot of dark, then you’re gonna need a lot of, you’re gonna need light to balance that out. So I always believe in a space that’s balanced. Like, for example, if. Like this space is cluttered, right? Like there’s just so many colors everywhere then you’re you have to take that into consideration too.
You have to take all of that noise in and you’re not gonna be adding more chaos to that by putting in contrasting woods everywhere. Yeah. I love that. I, so what I’ve always termed is kind of like. Which is really what you just did with green and pink in my head, I’ve always looked at as like warm and cool toned woods.
Yep. And totally agreed. I have found as well, that as long as you’re mixing the warm tones, whether it be light or dark and you’re mixing cool tones, whether they be light or dark, they do tend to blend better. But it’s for me, it’s that design aesthetic. When I see, I, I always come back to kitchens when I see like, The stools have a really, really red tone mm-hmm wood to them, but then the cabinets or the kitchen table is like a very cool toed wood.
That’s when I’m like, Ugh. No, no, yeah, yeah. I know what you mean. I know what you mean. What kind of woods for people curious, adjust layout. What are some cool toed woods? What are some warm toned? Um, so I feel like it’s a whole spectrum. Mm-hmm like, I think that even when it comes to Oak. It’s about the stains.
Mm-hmm like there would be yellow Oak. That’s obviously more white. I mean, sorry, what am I saying? More warm mm-hmm and then there are, if you stain it a different way, then it becomes neutral. That’s a good point. And then if you stay in a different way, it becomes cool toed. And um, so Birch, I would say is a little more pink, like pink tone.
Mm. Yeah. Um, and then there’s like cherry wood. Cherry is pretty common here in Lancaster. I see a lot of cherry and pollen, also pink tone. I feel like. Yeah. Yeah. Pine, I think might be, I think pine would be green, but to your point though, you can also definitely stain it to look a lot warmer. Mm-hmm mm-hmm exactly.
That would actually be a really interesting thing to create is like a full spectrum of just the natural state of wood across the cool to warm, like raw mm-hmm and then here are the D. Stains that would help pull it a little bit more neutral or a little bit warmer depending on where you wanna go. I think that’s totally interesting.
Yeah, totally. I’m like, all right. That might be my next blog post would be helpful for myself for that matter. Is pine like a common thing there? Yeah, I would say pine is a pretty common wood used here. And again, Lancaster county is very much like at its roots is a farming community. Mm. I see that more like American farmhouse type of look, which is a warmer like that Oak.
Pine cherry type of yeah. Yeah. Um, and they tend traditionally to be stained warmer. I see. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Now I don’t personally cool. Prefer it. I actually go more, um, I love French country farmhouse, which is definitely a more like, I like the more neutral tone wood, like an aids. It’s very layered. It’s so interesting.
Like, because like in NorCal it’s all Redwood. And so like, yeah. It’s just so interesting to see the different architecture and like how the houses that come about yeah. Change according to climate and like what kind of trees are available. Yeah. So here’s actually an interesting story. I was looking for a table.
I love. Breakfast nooks. I think they create a lot more space in small homes because mm-hmm then you don’t have like a dining table in the middle of a room anyways. Mm-hmm so this house that we renovated, I wanted to design a five by five foot table, but I wanted to use rec I had a very specific look that I wanted.
Random story. I found this restaurant store that had these tables. So I’m like going through and trying to figure out who built these tables for them. It was in California. Yeah. And it was, I can’t even remember the name of the company now, but the bottom line, it was this company that only made tables for restaurants.
And I was like, would you make this table for. For me residential mm-hmm um, I can’t remember their names now, but it was from reclaimed Douglas, fur wood in California. This is that very Californian thing, right? Yep. It was a California based company. So anyways, I, um, super cool. Did you get it? Yeah, I did.
Yeah. So I handed me. Okay. Okay. So it’s nap ending. Yeah, massive. So it’s a five by five foot table. Shipping was like more expensive than the actual table itself. I know. And then I, right. I seriously, but I bought a big rot iron scroll base, and then I basically like. Put them together and super anyways.
Cool. Yeah. So eventually I wanna redo this table and where I’m going with this is, I don’t even know the answer. What is the raw tone of Douglas for? Is it warmer? I would say, cuz they stained it for me and everything. So I don’t even know what the raw, yeah, I would say it’s a little warmer, but it’s not too warm.
So it’s a little neutral to warm. So if there is like a whole spectrum, it’s like a little bit to warm. Okay. Cause I’m really one day I want to refinish it. We’ve had it for quite a few years now and I was like, huh, I wonder how warm this would is. Cuz I wanna neutralize it a little bit anyways. Yeah. So I have Douglas fur from California.
That’s awesome in my kitchen. Yeah. Yeah. It was fun. I’m happy you got that. Like, sometimes you, you need what you need, you know what I mean? Like you see something your, and the shooting is like, are you short price? Yeah. Yeah. But you’re like, I like, no, I need what I need. Yeah. And it is so heavy. I mean, it is a solid, solid day.
I think it’s like this thing. I love it. I’m excited. I’m excited to redo it. Um, you’re going to take a really quick break, but when we come back, stay tuned for a speed round of this or that with Amanda, we’re gonna learn a little bit more about her and her expert advice on sustainable interior design.
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Free seven day fat loss accelerator course today and start your own transformation story. All right. We are back here with Amanda. Amanda, we’re gonna play a speed round of this or that you’ll get two options. You can pick whatever comes to mind. First. No stress. Oh no, I’m terrible at making decisions.
Joel, we need you Joel worry. Seriously. Like I, yeah, I’m terrible, but let’s see, help Amanda out. Okay. Would you rather eat chocolate ice cream or vanilla ice cream? See, I don’t even like ice cream, but chocolate okay. Let me ask you this. If you want a sweet treat in LA, where do you go? What do you eat? If you want something?
I get a MAA latte. Ooh, a MAA latte from where where’s the best MAA latte Maru. How’s called Maru, M a R U. M a R U I am always asking for food recommendations. This podcast has like food recommendations from all over the world. really? Yeah. Ma Mauro coffee. Okay. Mau. I get a MAA latte. I get a Maha donut.
Wait a MAA donut. Yeah. What color is that? Is that a green donut? So good. Yes. It’s green. Interesting. Mm-hmm huh? Now I need a match a donut. I wonder how that would be curious. that’s cool. Okay. Well, if you are listening from LA. You need to go to Maru and if you’re not in LA, but you’re going to LA now, you know, this is where you get your MAA, everything, including donuts.
Mm-hmm okay. Would you rather a paper planner or a digital calendar paper, paper? We must of the same age. Do you have color coordinated markers pen? That you use? I have a lot of pens. I love stationary. same. Don’t take, my husband is so desperate to get me completely digital. And I’m like, no, no, I must have my color coordinated.
This kid is this color. This kid is this color. My podcast is this color yep. When it comes to like planning stuff or like to-do lists, I need it physical. Agreed. Yeah. Yeah. Sticky notes. Totally. My life. Totally. And my sanity. Yeah. Why change it, right? Nope. Nope. I won’t change it. Yeah. Yep. Sorry, babe. I need my, my paper.
Okay. Would you rather shop online or in a store? In a store, in a store? Where’s your favorite place? If you walk in, you will not be able to walk out without a. Without a bag of something. Let’s see, this is hard. You probably have so many out there exactly. Because you’re very specific. Cause there’s so many.
Yeah. Um, well there’s this store and the weird thing is I don’t even know the name.
I don’t even. Okay. They’re marketing must not be that good. I can’t remember the name of the store, but they need to take notes. I’m a member. I’m a member at that place. I just don’t remember the store. Wow. You know, marketing is bad when okay. What do they sell the store? Um, so they sell clean beauty stuff.
Okay. So it’s a beauty company. Yeah. So, no. So they’re, they’re just like, what about their products? The name’s not on their products, so they sell a bunch of clean beauty brands. Okay. So they stock a lot. Yeah, they have, they have perfumes. They have like lipstick, like eyeshadows, everything that you’ve always wanted to try.
But like, so you see it online and you’ve always wanted to try it, but you you’re just not sure. And so this place has it all and they get new ones in all the time. And I just love stuff like that. And every time I go in there, Like I can’t, I, I would get at least a lip gloss. We can’t tell you the name of the store.
but , it’s amazing. And you all should go it’s next to a coffee shop that I frequent too. So it’s like, I go to the coffee shop. It’s a beauty store next to coffee shop in LA. Good luck. Exactly. exactly. There are. There’s only one. Obviously I love that. That is so funny. Okay. Well, you can message. If you’re in LA and you really wanna visit this place, you can email Amanda and find out.
Maybe she can send you the directions. that’s so funny. Okay. Last question. Would you rather design a kitchen or an outdoor space kitchen? Is that your favorite plate? Like what makes you, when somebody says, I want this designed, you’re like, oh my gosh, it’s Christmas. What’s your favorite thing to design?
Mm. When someone says they want to design something with Asian influences. Ooh, love that. Yeah. I love that. That is exciting. I would feel that way if somebody was like, yeah, I want a French country kitchen. I’d be like, I’m in . Yeah, exactly. There’s some things you’re like, yes. Yeah. Okay. On the flip side, what is your least favorite?
You’ll design it and you’ll be amazing at it, by the way, if you’re a potential client listening, she’ll be amazing at it. But what is like your least favorite thing? Mm. Someone who wants like something very ornamented. So someone who is like, I want like, like who, who likes like something Gaudi. Okay. Like an over the top top.
Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I’m trying to think of like a name of an example of that. I know what you’re. I, I actually just did one, like I just on Monday, like I just submitted the design proposal and it was for a restaurant. Huh. Interesting. Yeah. And so the restaurant wanted something that was really like, they wanted me to recreate basically the feel of walking into a Spanish woman’s kitchen, huh.
And an Indian man’s house. Combined together. And so to walk into a Spanish, a Hispanic kitchen in India, basically. Yeah. So it’s basically these two characters and one is a Spanish, Spanish, um, lady. And the other one is like an Indian guy and it’s an Indian, Spanish restaurant. Okay. And so interesting. Um, like they come together and they built this restaurant.
And so I really had to play onto the narrative, which is fine. And I love that, but like, I really had to think about like, imagine designing for your mom, like imagine putting on a thinking cap for your mom. Like my mom loves stuff, right? Like she is Gotti. Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Yes, yes. Actually the farmhouse style is a little bit like not the farmhouse style that I like, but the like traditional American farmhouse kind of the country style is I think a little bit what you’re saying in that there’s a lot of knacks.
Mm-hmm, , it’s very like knack. Although what you’re talking about, the Spanish meets that I would just imagine has a lot of color. And ornamental. I know what you’re saying, like yes, exactly. There’d be a lot of layers to a lot of things. Yes. Because it’s part of their culture. They like, you can’t turn them minimalist, right?
Yes. Especially someone from my mom’s generation. My mom is not a minimalist at all by like no means I needed to really like it’s challenging. Especially because I know cuz I’ve been on your website and I know your style and it’s beautiful. And I appreciate both when they’re done well, mm-hmm but to your point, I can see what you’re saying.
It would be really hard if you are by nature, a minimalist, it’d be like somebody asking me to design something really modern. I would be like, I’m sorry. right. Keep going. I wouldn’t be able to do it cuz I’m not a true designer. I like what I like mine by no means. Don’t hire me. hire Amanda. Don’t hire me.
Yeah. I’ll have vintage stuff everywhere and you’ll hate it. I am no modern designer. um, I, so speaking of your style, this is a really great lead in, I loved on your website. You were talking about, and this is very, like, goes beautifully with the minimal aesthetic, but you and Joel, talk about creating a design that results in uncharged space.
And I thought that was a really interesting concept. Talk to us a little bit about one. What is uncharged space? Mm-hmm why do you design uncharged space? And then the third element to it is how do you create uncharged space? So the what, why? And then the. So I think it all kind of like goes back to like where this all stemmed from, right?
Like when, what is our conviction in trying to be designers? And it all happened for me maybe in like 2016 when I went to Japan and I would always visit these like, Japanese style homes called RCON. And so the whole experience of it is that when you go to a RCON is always kind of like a vacation. So everybody in the city’s stressed out, you take a train out to like the countryside you go to this place, like a Japanese RCON, and it’s just so peaceful.
And so the place is beautiful. And the way that it’s designed is so beautiful and like the whole experience, the hospitality, et cetera. And you just feel at like this level of ease, like your minus is still, you feel so centered and everything just feels good. And then you take a train back and you come back to the city and you are again, back to your hectic self mm-hmm
And so. I think I spent, like, I just wanted so much to be able to recreate that in our daily lives, because I’m like, even though we live in the city, why are we unable to feel that way? Why? Right. Because it’s actually a very, that should be our neutral feeling. That should be our default feeling. Why is stress our default feeling?
And that is an exception. Why can’t that feeling? Be a default feeling. And then stress is the exception. Right. And. I just wanted to create spaces that would make people feel like that. And I started really studying, like, what is it about a Japanese R and that was able to do that. And what is it about these places?
And there is like a, a big, like spiritual, philosophical, psychological element to all of these things, of course, but it’s able, but these ideas, right? Like how I said ever since I was young, I, I would. I like all these, I like analyzing all these things, but then my mode of expression was always visual.
Right? Like it would come out in like visual, how do we take the concept? And visually mm-hmm create it. Yeah, exactly. And so like, um, how, how do I create that? And I realize that like, things that are sustainable, things that actually last a long time, Are things that never really energize you, they should not spark you because these things are that feeling of like ecstasy or that feeling of like depression.
That should be like that highs and lows that should, that’s not sustainable. If you it’s temporary expect it should be temporary. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. You can’t be on that high forever. You’re gonna break down. You can’t be on that low forever. You are also gonna mentally break down. And so with that, like I wanted to.
Try to recreate that neutral feeling. Right. And because to me that is sustainable. Mm-hmm . And so if you are designing for a residential space, which means there’s a space that you live in, whether you actually, whether you live or whether you work, you’re spending every day there mm-hmm, like, it’s going to need to feel like that.
It should not like excite you in any way. It should. Like it should not make you feel uneasy in any way, because those feelings are just not sustainable. Like that is okay if you go on vacation, right. It’s like the high of like you’re in the really? Yeah. Like the unusual ornamented is a great word for it.
Mm-hmm , it’s like it’s a little excessive. It’s a little over the top and maybe that’s okay for a vacation, especially if you’re in a different culture where that is inherently mm-hmm part of it. Mm-hmm also the flip side. Totally. The deprivation of it, like where there’s too little, where you’re in this space, that almost feels like a hospital would be a great example.
It’s almost sterile. It’s not neutral. It’s sterile. It’s not even, there’s no depth to it. Mm-hmm, , I’m hearing as you’re describing this and I’m spitting it back out, is that sustainable? I’m hearing a sense of balance. Mm-hmm is really what I’m hearing. Like it’s a design aesthetic. Absolutely. That feels very balanced.
Mm-hmm for sustainable in that sense. It’s not screaming at you. It’s not like totally. Totally. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s all about, about that. It’s it is about balance and it’s different from, for each individual, but there is a general idea because we can all agree like you and I may have different thresholds for like what excites me and what excites you.
Right. But I may be able to take more and you may be able to take less, but we can all agree that bungee jumping every day, that’s not. That’s too much. Right, right. That is an extreme high. So those are precisely like the things that like can be agreed on. So there is, there is a general benchmark for what that there’s general design concepts.
Mm-hmm, that humanity as a whole, for the most part will see certain colors as very stimulating and not a balanced. Totally sense. Totally. So talk to me, I completely agree. Talk to me then. How do you create this? Give me some examples. Practical design, examples of creating that balanced, sustainable space.
I think it’s like what we talked about in the beginning where it’s viewing it as a whole canvas. So you would design all these individual parts to basically be good enough, but when they all come together, they all, and, but they all have a relationship with each other. Yeah. And when they all come together, they are working to create this like whole beautiful space for you.
Like a whole balanced space. Mm-hmm. So that I know that sounds very abstract, but like everything has to work in tandem with one another. Yeah. Well, and I think we touched on that a little bit. Just even the idea. Generally speaking, mixing the warm wood tones or the warm wood stains, whatever the final result is with cool ones is generally speaking.
Whether you recognize it consciously or not is going to create a sense of imbalance because aesthetic, it actually does not seamlessly. Totally work together and you might not totally think about it, but it ultimately is not quite that balanced totally aesthetic. I’m like trying to even think of examples, like having looked at your website.
I, I love what you guys do, but even just the mixture of natural elements. Creating, almost like a natural lighting aesthetic mm-hmm whether it’s the pink colors that you use, the wood tones that you use. That was something else that I saw is it felt like there was a lot of natural elements, which makes sense.
Mm-hmm yeah. Nature is very balanced. naturally Uhhuh. . Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And trying to incorporate things like, or leverage things like natural light, always. Mm. Things like that. And like, basically like open circulation, things like that. When you look at a space specifically, do you have an intentional process?
I’ll just give an example, cuz I don’t know how else to word it, but I usually in a room or in a kitchen or our family room will often try to keep. Relatively balanced, but then I’ll have like one pop that I especially want. So the last house we did the whole back splash and then the wall, which was stepping down was reclaimed brick.
Mm. And that was like the main pop, like I did not include a whole lot. Of other pops of color or texture, because I wanted it to primarily, and it blended with everything else or like in our family room, it was an antique fire mantle fireplace mantle. Mm-hmm so like, I try to pick one thing that I want to pop and it’s almost like that’s, that’s what your eye is drawn to when you walk in the room.
So it’s the sense of like, Ooh, pretty, cuz I want that to pop that’s my process. And then I design everything around that one pop of dimension and texture. Mm-hmm . Okay. Is how I do it. Do you have a process that you, you use that you’re like, this is where I start. Yeah. Yeah. My process is always to take in the past.
So like, history is very important to me and whatever that may be, that may come in the form like of the previous house. And when that happens, then I’m trying to think in my head, what can I save? And if there wasn’t a previous house, right? Like, let’s say this was an empty land, then I would take in from the nature around it.
But it’s always, I see what you’re saying, contextual. Yeah. Like you’re reclaiming something like a source or exactly. Or a product of some sort. Yeah. Yeah. Like, can you give an example of that? Like you from there? Yeah. I love that. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, one of our projects this year was a mid-century modern house and it was, it was kind of old already.
Like if we. Hadn’t come in and done anything to it. I feel like somebody would’ve just torn it down and built something else. Right. Because a lot of it was in a condition where like, I don’t think a lot of people would like want to go through the trouble of saving it, but for us, like, we definitely, like, I wanted to save some parts of it.
Some things were not like they’re not saveable and like sure. Um, So we wanted to save some parts of that. We wanted to preserve the identity of that house. Yeah. And then we wanted to inject like what we feel like we can inject, like in this given time kind of evolve the space. Like that’s what we really believe in like evolving the space.
Mm-hmm mm-hmm yeah. I love that. So working within the space or taking something from a previous? Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love. You can have two, like our design styles are ultimately very different, but the concepts are very relatable. Mm-hmm I think that’s the beauty of design is ultimately the end goal is pretty much the same and the concepts are there.
It’s more, it’s just, the style could be slightly different. I love that. Absolutely. Yeah. So. One, is there anything else that you want to chat about or let people know? And two, where can people find your work? So we have social media accounts, so you can either follow us on Instagram at O w IU and O w IU sounds like a really difficult abbreviation, but it’s actually only ways.
Which is the name of your company, right? Yeah. Yeah. Yes. Only way is up. So it’s O w I U design and this will all be on the show notes. If you’re watching on YouTube, you’re gonna click on the description down here and it’ll have all their links and you can also go to my, um, where the show notes are, and you’ll get all of these, all of these links.
I also love that you describe some of the projects on your website. Mm-hmm like you talk about sort of what you were doing, what your thoughts for them are you, they have beautiful photos. You have done a really good job displaying your work. I think. Thank you. We have an amazing photographer actually.
Yeah. I mean, that’s huge. Yeah. Those are not my photos. The, the photographer’s amazing. I love that. Is there anything else that you wanna leave us with? Anything else that we should know? About Amanda Joel and the team. And we also started making, we started making like some home goods, like ceramics. Oh fun.
So we like hand make our own ceramics now. Yeah. So if you wanna follow that, you can’t as well. And do you ship, do you ship your products? Okay. We do. Yeah. So listeners, anywhere we can ship to you actually, I’d love to send you you something. I would love something. Yeah. I’ll take whatever, whatever you wanna send.
Okay. I’ll like, look at your profile and try to see like what, like what would fit. Yes. Well, we’re so we’re currently in a rental house, but I mean, you can see my previous, anything light again. I like the French country style, so that’s okay. Okay. Yeah. I’ll send you something cute and like feminine. Yeah, let’s do that.
I would love it. I would love it. Well, Amanda, it’s been so fun. I could chat design with you forever. And Joel, you’ve been here in spirit but I just, I pray gods richest blessings over your business, over your staff, over you and Joel and everything that. You are doing out there in LA. I love the work that you guys do.
You’re, you’re making a difference for a lot of people. Thank you. Thank you so much. I so enjoyed this. Thanks for listening to this episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. I would love to hear your thoughts from today. Head to your preferred podcasting platform and give the show an honest review and let me know what you think.
Remember, you cannot be redefined only redeveloped one imperfect day at a time. Your story matters and you are loved.

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