LOS ANGELES — Commissioned to design the Fine Living: 2026 installation featured at L.A. Design Center during NeoCon West last month, Patrick Tighe combined the best of all worlds.
Tighe, AIA and principal of Santa Monica, CA-based Tighe Architecture, explains: “This case study installation will make an important statement on how design, technology and home-product innovations will merge and integrate with the overall architecture of the urban dwelling in the not-so-distant future.”
Asked to design for the way a live/work urban dweller will live 20 years from now, Tighe fused together technologically advanced materials and capabilities with organic, sustainable and rapidly renewable resources, to create a forward-thinking – yet environmentally responsible – habitat.
“Our purpose with this year’s installation was to articulate how digital technologies are leading to profound changes in the architecture, function and purpose of the urban dwelling,” adds Jeff Sampson, director of marketing, for the L.A. Mart Design Center.
Therefore, with some 1,300 square feet of available space within the L.A. Mart/NeoCon West second floor exhibit hall, Tighe designed three separate – and symbiotic – spaces: the live/work/play area, the kitchen and bathroom area, and the sanctuary.
In fact, Tighe notes that each area serves a contrasting purpose, yet functions in harmony with one another.
“The installation is a three-dimensional representation of a live/work environment of tomorrow. Notions of tension and balance are explored. Conflict and harmony co-exist within the dichotomous dwelling,” he offers, noting that the ultimate goal of the design was to strike a chord between technology and human-centered design concepts.
To that end, the Fine Living 2026 exhibit also features “Smart Home” concepts, such as home automation (to eliminate certain undesirable or rote chores); mass customization/personalization (to create personalized products for individual customers at a mass-production price), and intelligent appliances (designed to achieve environmental control by reducing consumption).
Tighe concludes: “Designing this space was a creative challenge. Most people live in spaces poorly tailored to their needs, they don’t know how to bring balance about – and they don’t understand how to incorporate technology into that mix.”
Fine Living – in its third year – is the residential arm of NeoCon West, the contract furniture/furnishings trade show.
2026: A Design Odyssey
According to Tighe, technology serves as an integral character in both the design of the installation and the featured products in the Fine Living: 2026 exhibit.
“The technology component serves to harness and disseminate outside information, equips the inhabitant with his/her work-related tools and controls the dwelling’s overall live/work environment,” he points out.
For instance, although there is a noticeable absence of color throughout the design (which enabled the materials specified to enhance the space), all of the lights change color based on what’s going on inside the space – allowing the user to customize the environment to best suit his or her mood.
To that end, the project’s cornerstone is the concept of how a singular form and its corollary function can seamlessly morph into the next.
“The components of the space are an integral part of the architecture, with each designated area defined by its function,” Tighe offers.
He remarks: “Activity inside the 21st century home – especially that of a live/work area – will require cutting-edge technology and a smart user interface to fulfill multiple pursuits.”
Simplicity, and a streamlined, modern look were the keys to the kitchen design. In fact, one of its most unique aspects is that the kitchen features layered organic forms that serve to create a counterpoint to the angular lines of the overall rectilinear configuration.
To that end, one of the main features of the kitchen area is the simple, yet massive, stainless steel island. Most notable about the 15-foot-long island is that all of the functional components are self-contained within it, including a Miele cooktop, a sink and a Sub-Zero undercounter refrigerator. The island can accommodate up to eight people for a relaxed get-together.
There is also a noticeable lack of cabinetry on the perimeter of the kitchen area to not only maximize the small space for efficient movement, but also to enhance comfort, and utilize the island to that aim. Tighe concludes that the stainless steel look of the island contributes to the atmosphere of the space, as well, by reflecting ambient light and color.
The master bath section not only carries some of the aesthetics seen in the kitchen area, but also offers its own unique capabilities.
For example, the kitchen and bathroom areas are tied together through undulating walls that form an embryonic shell piercing with light portals. This look is enhanced with a SensiTile material that contains an embedded, light-conducted matrix that reconfigures shadows and redirects light, he describes.
The shaped walls also allow light and air to flow into the room and provide a softer privacy solution, as well. Also featured in the bathroom area are Neo-Metro’s stainless steel toilet and sink, which add a cohesive feel to the space and complement the stainless steel island in the kitchen; Rohl fixtures, and Spec Ceramics floor tiles.
According to Tighe, the central living space – called the live/play/work area – introduces users to the seamless concepts found throughout the Fine Living: 2026 exhibit.
“Everything is about integration,” says Tighe. “The individual components are an integral part of the architecture. Each distinct space is an expression of the function contained within.”
For instance, the central living space consists of a raised plinth sheathed in a translucent, honeycomb material that is lit from beneath. The lighting morphs in color and intensity to suit the mood of the space, Tighe adds.
In addition, a Panelite raised floor system integrates with the area’s built-in lounge seating, which is upholstered in eco-friendly Knoll textiles. The system transitions into the technology control center with its aerodynamic console outfitted with Apple Cinema Displays and Power Mac G5 Quads, he points out.
For added technological capabilities, the space features a Crestron in-wall touch panel system that controls the environment and music throughout the space. Completing the look is a monolith clad with CaesarStone quartz surface material, which extends over the lounge/tech center. Hardwood flooring from National Hardwood Flooring & Moulding is featured throughout the space.
The sanctuary area is designed to juxtapose the dwelling’s technological spaces and offer a place for relaxation and contemplation.
For instance, the spa-like atmosphere incorporates Zen elements including fire, water and natural light, as well as an indoor, urban garden and eco-friendly, organic materials for a sense of balance.
Among its other main features are a state-of-the-art Zuma airbath that is inset into the raised deck. Simultaneously, a floating steel hearth by Fireorb creates a natural gathering space as it also adds some retro-styling.
Completing the look of the sanctuary is an urban garden – which brings the outside in – that incorporates another form of integration into the space while it ensures a balanced and centered life for the user.