Growing Beyond the Standard


Talia Ghazal

Imbue's three designers reinvent the collaborative process.

For nearly a decade, Talvy, Hunter and Matt of Imbue Design have shared workspace: a ten-foot long table in their Salt Lake City-based studio. Don't let this fool you, though – sitting shoulder-to-shoulder daily hasn't changed a thing. The passion and enthusiasm surrounding their work has remained as strong as the day they met in grad school. Their close proximity is clearly working for them; the designers' fresh approach to architecture is known for breaking the rules of standard modern design.

When the design trio incorporated our Kingstown Stool in a San Francisco Nob Hill residence, we at Studio DUNN were intrigued. We looked into Imbue Design's story and reached out to them to find out more. How do they approach their work? What brought them to our Kingstown Stool? These questions fascinate us when we work with designers to fulfill their vision for a home.

Imbue Design - Nob Hill - Studio DUNN

Talvy, Hunter and Matt began Imbue Design following their graduation from University of Utah, with master's degrees in architecture. At the time of Imbue’s inception, the team felt the homes they came across in Utah were not the most appealing. Their disappointment in the local design scene was channeled into motivation, and the three designers went nose to the grindstone.

It should come as no surprise that their strong in-studio collaboration translates into exceptional quality of work and service outside the studio.

"We generally partner with clients who have conscious lifestyles and deliberate meaning," says Matt. While the designers use their expertise to execute a task, they take the client and location into deep consideration. In addition, the firm stresses the importance of meaning and substance in its body of work. In the case of the Nob Hill residence, location played a key role in the design process.

"As Imbue Design approaches each project from a site-specific perspective, the city itself influenced the material palette for the Nob Hill residence. San Francisco teems with ambitious inhabitants, a unique historical context, and fluctuating weather patterns."

Matt elaborates on how San Francisco’s weather influenced their design. "Needing to keep warm, but inviting the cloudy/rainy days. Rich in texture and subtle tone variation for late nights. These factors defined the material set of rift sawn oak floors, random matched burnt walnut cabinetry (fabricated by Henrybuilt), felt wall panels (material by FilzFelt) and the wide expanse of glass looking out to the city."

Matt continues, "For a play on harmony, a natural walnut louver system (handcrafted by The Furniture Joint) acts as a variable wall. Just to nail this concept home, International Orange adorns the building’s original structural columns, reflecting the Golden Gate Bridge (which can be seen from the space)."

Imbue Design - Nob Hill - Studio DUNN

Imbue challenged themselves designing for a home in San Francisco, a very different milieu than the rural, open land of their home state.

"The Nob Hill residence provided us the opportunity to design in a dense, design-rich metropolis. The clients requested Imbue to design and select everything: from the space layout and finishes, to the furniture upholstery, dining-wear linens, and a step stool. This level of detail was relished by Imbue, culminating in a turn-key space for the owners."

But Imbue didn’t stop there; they partnered with a local contractor, relying on their expertise to realize the project. Matt continues, "We teamed up with a standout San Francisco-based contracting firm, Bellcore Construction. The wealth of knowledge for the existing structure, plus a skill set of finely honed craftsmen allowed Imbue to actualize a true jewel box of a space."

As with any other project, we at DUNN were curious to know what challenges Imbue faced since learning how to approach a new challenge is an important way to expand our skills and insight.

"Time was the tightest constraint for this project,” explains Matt. “Nob Hill's building bylaws allotted us with a 120 working day construction schedule." Matt adds, "Imbue Design is accustom to having a very detailed documents set... Inevitably, with a 50-year-old building, issues arise after design work was already approved. The contractor also had to be very diligent in executing plumbing and his other work. Looking over these razor sharp details was a huge undertaking."

Imbue Design - Nob Hill - Studio DUNN

Of course, this conversation wouldn’t be complete without finding out how Imbue selected our Kingstown Stool for the project.

"Imbue became familiar with the detailed, clean design work of Studio DUNN via self-similar social media connections,” says Matt. “The internet is a wondrous beast!"

"With the unique detailing of the Kingstown Counter Stool, the team knew the furniture would complement the burnt walnut kitchen island and rift sawn oak flooring,” Matt explains. “Imbue feels lucky to have such great clients who wholeheartedly agreed that the hand crafted DUNN stool was a perfect fit for their space. They say they enjoy a nice glass of red each evening on the stools."

It's always fun to learn where our work ends up; and while it may be the end of their story for us, this particular set of Kingstown Stools is just beginning a life in a new home, hopefully for generations to come. 

Imbue Design - Nob Hill - Studio DUNN

"Imbue infuses each project with material authenticity by teaming with craftsmen to build architectural elements,” says Matt. “These people are inspired by their trade. It is these craftspeople (local, national or international), which inspire Imbue to exceed each of our client’s expectations." At DUNN, we are happy to be counted among those craftspeople valued by Imbue.

A piece crafted in New England, selected by a Utah design firm, and styled in a West Coast home represents a true cross-country collaboration that could only be pulled off by a firm like Imbue. Their openness, collaborative spirit, and appreciation of craft allow room for the firm to grow beyond the standard.