From the outside, the Clinton Condominiums is a streamlined building wrapped in Cor-Ten steel and walls of glass. On the inside, the condos are simple, walnut-floored white boxes, gleaming with sunlight flowing through oversize windows. Sparse and bright, designed by local wunderkinds Holst Architecture, they’re the ultimate in urban loft living. But when Andy Ricker moved in, he wanted to infuse some personality into his place—to make it a little less predictable. “You’re in this big modern space, and you’re going to have all this modern furniture?” he says. “Plus, everybody’s got the same shit—it’s too much.”
The widely acclaimed restaurateur behind Pok Pok, Ping, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and, most recently, Pok Pok Noi, Ricker had been living across town in a 450-square-foot condo with a nearby freeway and juvenile detention center as its backdrop. “I bought the place over there to be farther away from Pok Pok, because I felt like it was consuming my life,” he says, continuing with a laugh, “and it was. But then I realized I don’t really have a life.” So he gave in to the inevitable, and bought this condo on SE 26th Avenue and Division Street, just six blocks from his flagship restaurant. Though he was pleased with the location and his unit’s eastern exposure, which lets him lie in bed and watch the sunrise, he had some issues with the layout. Oversize bathroom doors blocked the main entry when open, an electrical box took center stage over the bed, and the bedroom layout forced Ricker to sleep with his feet facing the windows.
A resolutely practical person, Ricker wanted his place to be easy to come home to after 12-hour days at his restaurants. To create a custom mix of functionality with his own quirky aesthetic, he turned to designer Andee Hess of local firm Osmose Design for help.
Hess and Ricker had met years before on a design project (Ricker was a professional commercial painter in a previous life) and been good friends since. A virtual nomad who travels for months at a time in Southeast Asia hunting down new recipes, Ricker made it clear that he wanted “what amounts to a really nice hotel suite—very low-maintenance and easy.” As the almost-bare cupboards attest (a glimpse inside one reveals a lone bottle of fish sauce surrounded by paper plates), Ricker’s not home all that much—nor is he fond of clutter.
The condo came with a galley kitchen, but Ricker brought in a massive food prep table as a dining-cum-cooking surface—perfect for either large groups of friends or a dinner alone poring over his cookbooks. Hess custom-designed and installed a wall of industrial felt in the bedroom to create layers of texture that she describes as “tactile, but sharp and masculine,” to add visual interest and insulate for sound. Where closets used to be now stand a bed and a wall of built-in bookshelves. A sometime-musician (his current band, the Quags, just cut its third album), Ricker hides his collection of guitars inside cabinets over his bed.
Since space was at a premium in the 880-square-foot studio, Hess maximized flexibility. A series of sliding screens divide spaces, revealing one large room when Ricker is by himself, but allowing for easy partitions and privacy when guests are over. Because the bed is just steps away from the kitchen, Hess created a latticework screen out of walnut ply between the rooms. The pattern, derived from Southeast Asian motifs, was laser-cut—blackened marks remain, giving off a faint whiff of burning wood, appropriate for a chef who specializes in grilled Thai street food.
A white plastic cellular panel topped with painted fiberboard sheets became a slick system that screens off the bathroom and closets. Light glows through all of the screens, keeping the rooms feeling open despite the sliding dividers.
All in all, it’s an eclectic mash-up of styles: a retro, ’70s vibe mixed with an industrial aesthetic, with a little bit of Thailand tossed in. A vintage Eames shell chair sits next to a bright red industrial locker from Ikea in the bedroom. The side table in the living room was custom-made in Thailand of salvaged teak, and is surrounded by a groovy brown lounge chair found online at local store the Good Mod. Card-catalog cases hold cassette tapes from Ricker’s old bands (five and counting), and Hess dug the large metal casts over the couch (from local metal foundry ESCO) out of her friend’s shed. Ricker and Hess carefully handpicked everything; pasted prominently across the microwave, a tongue-in-cheek sticker proclaims “made to order” in Thai.
It’s a complex stew of moods, all served up in a practical manner—a fitting metaphor for Ricker’s cooking. “We accomplished something you can’t quite put your finger on; it’s not something you’d find in a style book,” Hess says. “If you have someone with a rich lifestyle in terms of stories and history, it’s really exciting to be able to extract that.”