O and I jumped on the bandwagon to check out NYC’s Color Factory after  J, one of our bubbliest and inspirational designer friends, highly recommended us to go together as a nice date. She showed us photos from her experience and suggested that we check it out for a nice date. But  after visiting the Museum of Ice Cream  and 29 Rooms (honestly, underwhelming), I couldn’t help but feel a bit guarded. Because it was J of all designers and friends, I was curious and convinced to check it out.

O was just as excited as I was to start the new year off with it. Unlike other pop-ups where your timing could be a huge factor, the Color Factory did a phenomenal job of not making us feel rushed by encouraging us to make the most out of each room because once we moved on, we couldn’t “go back.”

And yes, I recommend to come as a pair/pairs for the sake of one room being less awkward. Nothing wrong with making a new friend though. People should cut some slack and just chat/get to know strangers if he/she is separated from their S.O., because really – it held up my line and caused one guy from his friend and me from my boyfriend. sigh….

Part way through, we matched with colors that reflect our life choices / personality. And woah. we’re complementary colors, re-emphasizing how we complement each other.

Although it’s best to attend every room with the group we came with based on our scheduled slot, we didn’t feel rushed. I also loved the fact that they gave each and every one of us cards so that we could tap at every exhibition to have our photos taken. Color Factory? Hell yeah.  Thanks for bringing me back to our childhood selves.

The ball pit is understandably, one of the most infamous rooms because it’s a vast  sea of  about 207,000 gorgeously blue balls. Drowning ourselves / soaring like flying fish / playing hide n seek / chucking balls at your friend / taking selfies with aerial photos using the cards they provided are all brilliant ideas. Nonetheless, swimming in that sea of 207,000 balls was magical and everything I needed to start the year.

With the great customer service, all of the interactive experiences, take home photos without us delicious treats (macarons, ice cream mochi, Swedish fish…) and even thoughtful take home gifts, I’d rank it 10/10. Color Factory is officially my favorite interactive (temporary!) pop up museum and I so highly recommend it.

The Color Factory

251 Spring Street
New York, NY 10013


When I was leaving Tokyo in July 2015 to move back to LA, I thought that I’d visit at least once every year, as I’ve been convinced that Japan is truly, my second home. Living in Tokyo was a major reason why I chose to live in New York City over Los Angeles for the past few years; It’s bustling – there’s something happening around every corner, the food and art scene has been in a constant rush, public transportation actually exists. Since I’ve moved to New York City, I’ve mainly met O’s friends and my brother, Tony’s friends. It’s honestly been a bit lonely sometimes because to this day, I still feel a little culturally out of place. This time, I brought O to meet some of my best friends – some of the characteristics and rituals and mannerisms that could define me a bit more.

Toraya (とらや)

4-9-22 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

First off, Majima-san – my Itoya coworker, has known me too well for these past 5 years and invited me to Toraya, this gorgeous confectioners gallery and cafe. Not sure how she does it, but whenever Majima-san invites me for an outing, it’s always particularly mesmerizing. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who’s so spot-on for what kind of food, drinks,  interiors. and experience I love. Toraya, founded back in the 1600s, has been renowned for its gorgeous illustrated wagashi design books from the Edo Period (1603 – 1868) and well known to feudal lords. It blows my mind how the original location in Kyoto was burnt to the ground along with the original Imperial palace and such a place still exists. And who knew wooden restrooms and hallways could smell so earthy and heavenly at the same time.

AFURI Ramen (原宿アフリハラジュク)

While we did check out a few ramen restaurants, Afuri was the best  – better than Tokyo street/Rokurinsha 六厘舎, better than Kyoto’s burnt miso ramen. Not sure why, but I loved the Yuzu ramen this time more than I had when I lived in Tokyo. Maybe it’s because we were the first that morning.

Tokyo Disney sea (東京ディズニーシー)

I don’t know why, but Tokyo Disney Sea makes Disneyland look almost sad and ghetto. Something about the scenery of Tokyo Disney Sea makes me want to go every single time I visit Tokyo.  I vividly remember my dad telling me stories of Tokyo Disney Sea when I was growing up.  Although I’ve been there  4 times within the past 5 years, I fall in love with it every time – from the entrance, from getting my mickey mouse popcorn bucket filled with various flavored popcorn, to gazing out the ocean, eating curry, and screaming hysterically at random rides. There’s something hilarious about Indiana Jones and Genie speaking Japanese and Mickey Mouse fighting in Japanese.

Nezu museum

What I like to call…”Kyoto in Tokyo” and one of my favorite gardens (with a museum) by Kengo Kuma and his associates. This gorgeous minimalist museum with Traditional little tea houses even includes a cafe with wagashi. Everytime I come here, I always feel like I am at peace. But of course, O and every other architect I bring here spends almost more of their time/energy on studying the joinery and details rather than the garden – that’s particularly mindblowing in the fall.


3rd Floor, 1 Chome-6 Jingūmae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001

Originally, O and I were going to go to an owl cafe, but when he noticed a sign for capybaras along Harajuku’s infamous Takeshita…  he insisted we come here instead, just for the capybara. I had no idea that this animal existed nor that rodents could be so relishing with 4 webbed toes at its hind legs and 3 webbed toes at its front legs. Such peaceful creatures.

On the bittersweet side, who knew coming back after 2 years would reveal that 1) My home of over one year is no longer there because of Japan’s disposable housing market, 2) Tokyo metro and J-rail feels and looks cleaner than I’d recall,  3) the majority of my favorite places and coworkers would still be there and  4) To me, truly, these architectural designers are #1 in the world, including my JMA friends.


My favorite type of tofu is now the yuuba. With a burner heating a pot of tofu soup,  I’ve learned to use a bamboo stick to pick up layers and layers of tofu skins gradually. Who knew tofu could be served in so many ways. The first time I came to this comforting tofu restaurant was with my Kyoto friend, Rika-chan. Ever since then, it’s been a tradition for me to visit the Kiyomizudera temple and tofu restaurant everytime I come to Kyoto. And of course, end with tofu ice cream – creamy, slightly sweet with subtle flavors of soymilk and tofu.

Before/after tofu and ice cream I know it’s always a good idea to swing by Kiyomizu dera aka “Water Temple” – which was and is always particularly beautiful in the fall, not necessarily for their light show nor the swarms of tourists in kimonos, but how gorgeously red and vibrant it stands with bright leaves – naturally and from all angles.

Kiyomizu dera (清水寺)


Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社)

This Shinto shrine of thousands of gorgeous Torii gates is perhaps most infamous. there’s no wonder why it’s featured in so many films, music videos, posters, art in general. This is hands down, a favorite stop that I love walking up in early mornings. While I should’ve truly believed my friend that there isn’t much at the top, O and I hiked to the top.


% ARABICA Kyoto Arashiyama

3-47, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo-ku
Kyoto 616-8385 Japan

Although I never like to wait in long lines nor be associated with coffee snobs, I always make time for Arabica Coffee, particularly the one next to the breathtaking Arashiyama river.  After I saw Arabica Coffee in a magazine last year, A and I taxied over first thing in the morning and was alright with just a few people in front of us in line; A liked it so much that he went again the next day – and bought a bag of coffee beans to bring back home. Not sure if we were just lucky then going in early in the morning or if it’s gained so much more popular by now, but even after O and I taxied over on a Friday morning, we had to wait a good 30-ish+ minutes in a line full of other coffee enthusiasts/photographers/foreigners around the world. No, they don’t offer seating, but yes you can sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous scenery or you have to rent that space for $10 per hour.

I’m still seriously amused by their consistency in serving superb coffee  in such small space with mobs of customers. Something about the coffee beans being brought from high elevations elevates my experience.

Kinkakuji (金閣寺)

I also tell my friends who want to see the Golden pavillion, to visit either by sunrise/early morning or sunset; it’s one of the best things you could do for your soul. O and I arrived shortly before it started raining and the sun set, which created such a heavenly experience.


Since I’ve been particularly fascinated with history and learned more about samurai and imperial history, I fall in love with Nijo castle and am always mesmerized by how sophisticated the Japanese culture has been throughout centuries and how well they preserve their culture. Although photos are prohibited, I well…. accidentally snagged a few.

Kyoto wouldn’t be Kyoto for me without the nostalgic Mister Donut “pon-de-ring” – this very chewy sugar coated donut  that’s filled with mochi. Thank God there is one in Kyoto station. I always love to snag one (or two) as soon as I arrive and just before I leave. Something about that texture in donut form…

Our one night stay in our tiny little hotel in Shimogyo-ku was not only traditional and clean, but so serene with the phenomenal view. Who knew sleeping on the floor could be so dreamy. This time I also appreciated Kyoto just as much or more than I had Tokyo. Not sure if it’s because I’ve gotten older, or if it’s because I was so much busier in Tokyo meeting with friends and old coworkers, or if it’s a mix of those and Kyoto’s traditional architecture and general serenity made it so much more peaceful than our lives  in New York City.


Before my flights to Tokyo, Boston, and New York City for the holidays, I purchased my first mirrorless lens camera: Sony A6000 (with a f 1.8 35mm) and a remote. (My goodness, it weighs like a feather, compared to my D700) To test it before I fly out … (tonight to Tokyo), I practiced shooting some food and interiors by starting at my home this past Saturday morning with my furry little friend, Teddy.

Sometimes I wonder if my dog still looks like the same 3 month year old sleeping puppy or a really old grumpy man. Maybe he’s both, depending on what angle you look at him from.

I struggled a lot with directing the light. Every morning there are always these gradients and cast shadows… but I couldn’t help try to photograph my favorite place in my studio and my latest favorite fall snack: Pear crostini with a spread of brie cheese and sprigs of rosemary.

As 2016 is wrapping up, I decided to start focusing on fulfilling specific goals that I want to bring into 2017. Honestly, I haven’t set new years resolutions in years, yet from the habits I’ve developed and progress that’s been made – I’m feeling better about all of this.

  1. Always keep my car clean to drive / pick up anyone in need, my home as clean, cozy, organized, and hospitable as possible to care for a friend / person at any moment. (always have toiletries, cleaned sheets and towels, clothes, books, wine, and ice cream)
  2. Support more local art and participate in more volunteer work (specifically volunteer in food services and help women in need) After the Stanford case and Trump officially being delegated as president, I’m especially compelled to stand up for my rights and do something about specific social issues like harassment, gender inequality, racism.
  3. Tame my eczema. Seriously. This is the most painful, humiliating, and frustrating long-term “incurable” health disorder I’ve been battling for the past 7 years that primarily affects my facial skin, sleep, and stress.
  4. Build my credit score and maintain a decent budget (Less drinking, less impulse buys, designate a realistic percentage of my budget into my recipes, blogs, props, photography gear)
  5. Post one thing every week (one on my personal blog, one on the chefcharette)
  6. Accrue 3,000 followers by December and actively respond to comments/users.
  7. Do something challenging every morning. Hike and watch the sunrise at a summit (inspired from Carl-Ray and my climb up Mt. Fuji)..learn a rap in the car when stuck in traffic. (So far, I can rapTupac-Life Goes On, R.Kelly-Ignition, Nujabes-Luv sic pt. 4, Usher-Love In The Club, and now I’m working on Teriyaki Boyz-Tokyo Drift and Macklemore – White Walls)
  8. Travel somewhere new every month (if not a flight, make my own solo road trip)

Details on the interior:

West Elm Belgian flax duvet

West Elm cozy texture throw

Zara Hydraufallic top

Banana Republic sloan pants

Franco Sarto boots

Crate and Barrel LED birch tree

Crate and Barrel birch plant with rocks (stole from Kyle’s garden because I don’t think anyone should pay for rocks)



Aside from the plethora of craft coffee shop options, Maru Coffee sits quietly along Hillhurst Ave, as this dreamy quintessential, design-build coffee shop. But it’s more than just the up and coming LA hot-spot that brews craft coffee in a minimalist space. The delicate, serene experience begins as soon as you walk in. You’ll notice the carefully crafted maple stools, a long family-style sycamore table hand-welded by the owners themselves, and cute pockets of plants and zines of poetry that peek out on a door. To your right –  a serene display of soft and smooth ivory ceramics by Notary Ceramics that you look almost too sacred to touch. And after you re-gain your consciousness and that you’re supposed to order something to sip in front of you, you’ll notice the medley of sweet pastries in a glass display box, and an attractive barista team with Jacob Park rhythmically pouring water and ground coffee from Stereoscope Coffee beans. Maru Coffee brings the LA community an artistic display of both hospitality and decorum, while bringing close attention to the practice of hospitality and community.

My relationship with Maru Coffee first began when co-owner Joonmo Kim came to pick up his book bag next to me and found me flipping through my Kinfolk issue on Japan. He curiously peered over me and asked me more about what I’ve been reading. My initial visit here that was meant to be my Japanese interior design study session, developed into an extensive dialogue with Joonmo about design, culture, and ways that western and eastern cultures, traditional and modern design can integrate.

Every time I meet Joonmo here, we sit on his incredibly comfortable, soft and smooth stools and bench with our warm cups of coffee and we continue exchanging our dialogue about our experiences in Japan, Korea, America – how sharing design and cultures can contribute stronger ideas, unite individuals, and serve the community. Maru Coffee is a strong testimony to our values: it has a distinctive humble approach that resonates with quality art and service for the people.

I eagerly came for my second visit to learn more about the story of Joonmo, Jacob, and this cafe. From my childhood joy of hand-making sweets, handing them to neighbors, and studying architecture in college, my primary lifelong dream has been designing my own cafe and serving my pastries to customers. I firmly believe that good design and hospitality can brighten communities. As I approached the front door on Saturday morning, Jacob gently smiled and quietly welcomed me into the cafe before it opened. While I was gazing at their display of soft ceramics again, Jonmo playfully came in and poked me from behind, offered me help and a sip of his coffee. As I busily crouched and tip-toed to shoot photos at various angles, Joonmo politely bowed and welcomed a cute group of elderly Korean customers, while his partner, Jacob prepared a variety of coffees, my favorite almond latte, and an almond croissant powdered with fine sugar for me. We sat down and continued our conversation specifically on how Maru Coffee’s idea became a reality and future possibilities of how it can develop.

Please tell me more about your backgrounds in the coffee industry. How did you two meet and decide to collaborate and open this cafe?

JP: I’ve been working in the coffee industry for the past 12 years as a barista and a roaster. I’m also a certified Q grader. Simply put, I just want to brew good coffee.  Almost half of my life, my work has involved coffee…. it’s been a long time, haha.

Jacob and I met while working at the same coffee shop.  While working there, he re-taught me everything about coffee.  He was so knowledgeable   I knew with our different strengths and qualities, we thought we would do a good job.  So we went for it.

How do you, Joonmo and Jacob, collaborate together? How are your personalities portrayed through the work you do in this cafe?

JP: I’d say I’m fairly calm and am more of a deep thinker.  And I like to approach my craft and coffee the same way. I don’t think there should be any fluff in quality. I’m always testing various beans and trying to brew better, even after 12 years.

JK: Haha yeah,  I give Jacob a lot of respect because I see how dedicated he is to his craft.  His personality is perfect for quality. For me, I am a believer of community.  I think good things happen when people get together. I am inspired by connections with people and ideas.  So my mind is always on people.

Is there a meaning to the name, Maru Coffee? Why did you choose this name for your coffee shop?

JK: Maru is derived from an old Korean word, “San Ma Ru,” which means mountain top. It is our representation of high quality as good coffee beans come from high elevation.

I really admire your minimalist interior design. Who designed the interior, furniture, and how did you come up with the design approach?

JK: We both don’t have any design backgrounds, but we were both pretty particular about what we like and didn’t like.  We’re both Korean, so naturally we were drawn to Korean aesthetics and design.  We wanted to create a space that is simple, minimal, with warm vibes.

JP: Since I also grew up in a Korean temple as a child, we also drew some influence from my childhood. As for the furniture, we decided to design and make everything ourselves based on furniture we were inspired by. We had put together the wood pieces we had custom cut and sanded all our furniture altogether inside our shop before it opened! Youtube is a great resource, because it taught us how to do it ourselves.  We mainly used light maple and sycamore.  This process gave us an appreciation for real wood and its textures.

The ceramics you also have are also beautiful. Did you design these as well? If not, who and how did you find them?

JP: We had them custom made by Notary Ceramics from Portland, Oregon.  Sarah, who is the ceramist, makes amazing pieces. The cups have a good weight, earthy texture, and it feels good to hold it.  We are looking forward to collaborate again with Notary Ceramics.

What is your overarching philosophy when it comes to what constitutes a good coffee shop?

JP: For us, it’s simple. Good coffee and good people makes a good coffee shop.

Is there a purpose for your cafe? Do you envision your cafe to do something specific for the LA community? Would you like it to expand? 

JK: To be honest, we haven’t thought about our specific purpose yet.  Our main goal was to bring good coffee and we just got started… literally opened a month ago. so we’ve been focusing on that right now.  It would be nice to expand but we’re taking it one day at a time.

Maru Coffee

1936 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
M-F 7:00-19:00, S-S 8:00-20:00


As an architect, interior designer, and culinary artist who lived and worked in Tokyo for over 2 years, I’m happiest in minimal spaces and maximized uses of space. In Tokyo, I was very well accustomed to living in my tiny, 100 sq foot washitsu (Japanese style bedroom) But due to personal matters, I moved to Los Angeles, jobless, homeless, and faced some severe reverse culture shock. Moving to Los Angeles and adapting to LA lifestyle was surprisingly much more difficult for me physically, mentally, and emotionally than it was for me when I moved to Japan.

Yet Kyle, my loyal friend of over 15 years, invited me to move into this studio attached to the house he and his new Japanese-American wife recently purchased. A week after arriving Los Angeles as this disheveled mess, I lugged all of my boxes of furniture and luggage into this LA studio, fell asleep on my blankets spread out on the floor, and woke up to a hipster neighbor’s rooster cukoo-ing. On my way to adjusting to the neighborhood of my new office in downtown LA, I walked through alleys that wreaked with piss and pot, and accidentally ran through Skid Row.  I was so terrified and overwhelmed by all of the clutter, chaos, and a personal life crises I was struggling with, that I seriously considered to move back to Tokyo. Tokyo, which I considered my home, is one of the world’s cleanest, safest, and most organized metropolitan cities, qualities of what a home should have. Yet after consulting with my friends, and reflecting on my experience, situation, and future, I became determined to make my LA home a comfortable and cozy haven to wake up and return to, just as I had in Tokyo.

After I’ve switched my weekday role as an interior designer with up to 80 hour weeks in Tokyo to now, an architect with 40 hour weeks in Los Angeles, I’ve pledged to myself to invest my additional time, money, energy by exploring, designing, cooking, building, and decorating my home into my personal sanctuary. Through personal time and the help of many incredible friends on weeknights and weekends,  I/we researched, drilled, screwed, and assembled everything altogether. While I’ve still been transitioning between Japanese and American lifestyles and cultures, I gathered my favorite design elements I grasped from Tokyo and brought them into my LA home. Again, I utilized mid-century Scandinavian, American, and contemporary Japanese design and maximized my space to be multi-functional. I firmly believe that comfortable living consists of stripping everything down to simple lines, organic curves,  and blending a palette of whites, grays, neutrals, and blue hues.

When you first step in, you’ll step into a spacious entrance foyer with an alcove for what should contain a fridge, counter, and stove. But to my horror, I was informed that the kitchen was removed and I was prohibited from having a kitchen because the city law prohibits one home for having two kitchens and my friend’s house was already fully equipped with one. Fortunately, Tokyo living had taught me to improvise well, so I assembled my kitchen and dining to consist of this: a compact wine bar from CB2 that contracts and expands into a functional work and dining station.

My LA home isn’t just an ordinary square-layout studio. It consists of a corridor and bathroom that separates two spaces, which enables me to designate spaces for specific uses. I designated the entrance area to function as my work / food experimentation for my blog and hospitality purposes. Meanwhile, the other functions as my resting / reading / dresser space.

For my bedroom, I rolled out my 8′ x 10′ cream rug and found this mid-century table and chair from Wayfair, this gorgeous Belgian flax linen duvet cover at West Elm that paired well with my brother’s bedsheets, and I covered my pillows with linen pillowcases hand-sewn from an Etsy designer in Lithuania. Behind the bed was a huge 75″ x 55″ x 20.5″ crawl space (an ugly pitch in the wall) that the previous owner designated for entertainment purposes. But because I don’t have the attention span/interest to regularly watch TV and the unrefined crawl space disturbed me, I covered it with a work in progress painting to make my sleeping space more therapeutic. I combined (4) – 30″ x 40″ canvases into one giant quatych that can still be conveniently detached and transported through cars. Installing the canvases onto the wall was the most challenging task, but many thanks to Home depot’s 2×4 plywood and Benny’s quick thinking and determination, we were able to suspend 4 canvases (without them all falling on my face) and I’m able to continually paint over whatever and whenever I want.

Although I’m still working on my painting and replacing/adding elements, my studio has definitely become my sanctuary that is an ongoing home project in progress. Thanks again Jonathan Vu for this fun collaborative styling photoshoot! And of course, thank you friends for making my every day of living – a little sweeter, a little brighter.

Details on the interior:

CB2 swig white mini bar

CB2 Odyssey dining table

Eames Eiffel style chairs

Ikea MALM bed / desk / shelves

West Elm Belgian Flax linen duvet cover

Muji linen storage and organizers

Customized Idee curtains (from my last Tokyo apartment)

Succulent from Home depot, re-potted into World Market dinnerware

Wayfair lounge chair

Wayfair mid-century table


After wrapping up a Revit presentation of our current mid-rise SF project, I flew up to San Francisco and reunited with one of my best friends from Architecture school. A.L sat next to me on our first day of studio, and although our friendship has extended to this brutal LDF, I’m incredibly thankful to have designers/friends like him in my circle. My last trip to San Francisco was just this past December, but I booked this flight to SF for the purposes to have another getaway from Los Angeles and to reunite with some solid friends while I check out new cafes/potential upcoming collaborative projects. My schedule was slammed back to back and the lack of sleep from the previous week + heat tormented my skin and flared up my eczema. But, thank you so much A.L. for driving me to every destination for me to reunite with architecture colleagues + Japanese friends from Tokyo and Osaka, waiting in lines for me, keeping me cool, and for taking such wonderful care of me. San Francisco was again, so stellar.

1. Song Tea and Ceramics

2120 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94115

I found this tea shop with A.L the last time I swung by San Francisco. This time, I didn’t get the chance to see Peter Luong, founder of Song Tea and Ceramics, but I happily picked up some Snow Jasmine tea to bring back to LA.

2. The Elite cafe

2049 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115

While my eczema was completely tearing my skin apart, A.L found me some shade and a place for us to settle down in a cooler area. It’s been too long since I’ve had southern comfort food, and just one of these buttery biscuits fulfilled every longing.

3. The Mill

736 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117

The Mill is also a great resting / afternoon spot, with sweet stacks of fresh loaves of bread (coming straight out of the open oven), a selection of Dandelion chocolates and pastries that go perfectly well with your coffee and sketchbook.

4. Tartine Manufactory

595 Alabama St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Tartine Manufactory is this up and coming San Francisco cafe that combines a bakery + restaurant + bar + ice cream parlor + coffee shop into one heavenly space at the corner next to Blue Bottle. I was initially invited to join brunch with my Japanese girlfriends at Bar Tartine, but because of my misreading and clash in dates/schedules, and a friend working in Tartine Manufactory, A.L and I decided to scrap the Bar Tartine brunch idea and instead swing over here for brunch. Although the line is a drag and the circulation – a mess (a bit of a clusterfuck especially on Saturday mornings that mislead customers with a bad sense of direction), the tables were great and the food? … fantastic.

A.L. and I settled on the porchetta sandwich (a stack of assorted meats and vegetables covered in a buttery bun) with a liege waffle. (A.L opted for the house coffee while I chugged my drip of Blue Bottle)

5. SF MOMA (extension design by Snohetta)

151 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Right after Tartine Manufactory, we quickly drifted to SF MOMA to check out the extension/renovation by Snohetta. Thanks Anish for the SF MOMA tickets + A.L. for capturing the candid portrait of me.

6. Samovar Tea Lounge

Yerba Buena Gardens
730 Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94103

I came here to reunite with another tea enthusiast blogger who I met in Tokyo. This duck jook was so damn tasty and the bottomless pu-reh teas really calmed me down after a restless weekend. I’m really excited to see what upcoming projects both Steph + I can steep up in the near future.



These past few weeks have been a mesh of huge celebrations, including the Gamble House’s 50th anniversary of the transfer of the Gamble House from the Gamble Family to the City of Pasadena + USC’s School of Architecture, Kevin and Lisa’s wedding, and other college/high school/OC reunions. I was cordially invited, along with all other graduating scholars in residence to attend this in-house tour of the newly renovated kitchen, brunch reunion, and festivities (+ this clip of me + T in a band) (Photo credit to T for taking the blurry group photo and cutting off our legs in the mob of photographers haha)

After this event, T and I split and I quickly rushed down for a much needed haircut from Yuki-san and met with J to Trabuco Canyon to help photograph for Kevin and Lisa’s wedding at Coto. Some photos I was able to snag:

カフェ スティロ― CAFE STYLO

I swung by Cafe Stylo before it opened to customers for this quick interior photoshoot. Even though this cafe’s been opened for 8 months, It still felt unreal to step into this interior design project, especially after I invested hundreds of hours / 8 months into it as my first ‘real’ built project, and it being here overlooking the skyline of Ginza and Tokyo.

Takita-san, Cafe Stylo’s restaurant manager (always in his black suit and gleaming smile) welcomed me in and curiously watched me set my camera and equipment up, while asking me about my experience living here as a foreign architect / interior designer. We talked about the work expectation differences between American and Japanese culture, and laughed at the fact that I was taking my ( 代休/compensatory day off from overwork) to photoshoot interior shots… for my work-assigned upcoming lecture. Once I began shooting, Takita-san turned up some pleasant jazz, brought me a stellar cup of espresso on the house, a Salmon Florentine Benedict and a creamy, Classic Eggs Benedict. (Thanks again, Takita-san!)

Café Stylo isn’t really a clear reflection of my personal style;  I’m honestly not  into light rustic wood flooring … and particularly the existing, dark, narrow length of the space was an extreme pain in the ass to work with (the inevitable struggle for every building along Chuo Dori).  I prefer cleaner, pastel colors, natural lighting, and subtle warm glows.  But this was honestly a killer experience of merging both American and Japanese design, materiality, and even food. And I love these masculine Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec Softshell chairs and  Jasper Morrison Hal chairs in ice blue..

Through photos, I [present the outcome of a collaborative project with NYU planning and my clients, Itoya’s CEO and art director, who specifically requested for these California hipster accents (warm rustic wood, grey walls, and subtle hints of steel, glass, and plants.) Yes, this is what’s hot in Tokyo  and  I am truly thankful for the several compliments and positive feedback we get from Itoya, guests, and other designers.

The vision and story behind this cafe though, are major reasons why I decided to move all the way here to Tokyo and work on this project. Itoya’s CEO envisioned this rooftop cafe to be a place for gathering, socializing, nourishing, and comforting – to bring employees, customers, and foreigners from all over the world together, to open doors and merge eastern and western cultures altogether. If you know me, you know I’m a huge supporter in designing architecture and feeding people with the main intention of all of these purposes.

And the main purpose of this photoshoot was not only to document my work but to also present a series of photos  for my then upcoming lecture I entitled, 建築でもてなす (kenchiku-de motenasu), meaning Hospitality Through Architecture.  I presented this 30 minute lecture on a series of past work (both personal and precedent) and emphasized my belief that the purpose of architecture isn’t just to give society aesthetically pleasing buildings. In this cyber society with so many high-tech skins and buildings, a lot of them that surround us are actually quite intimidating, elite-associated,  and cause some individuals feel lesser than who they are. But I strongly believe that architecture’s purpose is to serve individuals, to be hospitable to individuals and communities. Sure,  we all have different visions of hospitality; architects probably visualize a hotel design, while chefs imagine cooking something up in a restaurant. But in all areas of hospitality – they all require a type of service, with a purpose to serve people with something to brighten their day.

Through my adventures of cooking for my dad, myself, and friends since I was a child, to studying and practicing architecture with professional architects, I’ve learned that that the roles of a chef and architect are quite similar. The roles and goals of the chef and architect are to serve people with something that makes their lives a bit better-whether it’s through aesthetics, taste, materiality, lighting, an/or spatial configurations. And this is why I’m still happily jumbling the two.

I ended the photoshoot at this particular favorite view. I have a tendency to always sit at this seating area against the glass window. It’s where I sit and eat with old friends/coworkers, or simply gaze out aby myself and visualize other ideas and possibilities.


I began my first day in LA in one of LA’s hottest new restaurants-the Otium. Situated adjacent to the Broad Museum, the restaurant makes a perfect choice for a break before/after looking at the Broad’s contemporary artwork. Otium is yet distinctive for its casual, warm-modern, industrial-chic interior, designed by South Pasadena based interior designer House of Honey and creative, electic menu by Chef Timothy Hollingworth- previous chef de cuisine of French Laundry.

R and I enjoyed their pork belly kimchi fried rice and an off-menu item: smoked french toast cubes with bacon bits, served over coal with a side of fruit sauce for dipping. Killer presentation that fulfilled both sweet and savory taste buds. (Thank you again R for reserving well in advance.)

During my adventures dining through LA, my (first and only DSLR) NikonD3100 unfortunately broke. With even more tragic iPhone/technical difficulties, I couldn’t shoot the colossal carnitas sandwich I devoured at R+D Kitchen, Abricott’s spicy pork belly sandwich (my local favorite), nor Bacao Mercat’s Toron/oxtail hash sandwich and Mussels soaked in Sriracha and Feta for NYE. Yet, I’m thankful that I was able to borrow my brother’s SonyRx1 to shoot my last brunch at Bottega Louie.

If you’re living in Los Angeles, you know that Bottega Louie doesn’t need any introduction. Yet if you’re like me – a sucker for clean, crisp white interiors, high ceilings, sharp packaging, Italian food and French pastries, then Bottega will probably fulfill all your fantasies and cravings. Surely the cost of poor acoustic design + high ceilings + long queues on weekends = people yelling over the table and across the room. Although this makes it a poor choice for a quality first date, my last brunch here with some fine company on Saturday afternoon with stellar food made it all worthwhile- a fine brunch for a double date. (Sorry, I ate the portobello fries and burrata pizza so fast that it was too late to shoot photos.)


2015 was the year of many big firsts for me: my first year in stepping full time into an interior designer, initiating the ChefCharette and blogging, and pursuing freelance photography. I feel worn out thin from juggling all of these on my plate (with also the additional occasional event planning)… I’ve been desperately trying to maintain some work/personal life balance and am learning to say no to meeting old/new people, even if they are for networking purposes.

Yet I’m also still this incessant 24 year old woman who is worried shitless of what is to come in 2016 and the years aftermore. I can’t help it, I’m anxious to quickly figure out how I can best utilize my skill set and contribute to the world with a meaningful purpose.  (I am tired of drawing nonsense lines for buildings that don’t get built, photographing and filming narratives that people barely glance over.) I’ve decided to hone my design portfolio by studying and adding more interior, architecture, and lifestyle photography. After reading more into Cereal’s travel issues, I decided book this trip to San Francisco by 2015 and to experiment with cafe photography (and to see whether San Francisco could be my next potential move for 2016.)

This year’s trip through downtown was mainly guided by my one of my closest Architecture colleagues: Andrew Lau. Within two days we prepared a breakfast, walked throughout the streets of downtown, and roamed through cafes and restaurants including Blue Bottle, Sightless Coffee, Song Tea and Ceramics and Hops and Hominy.


After a year of requests to see my bedroom, I decided to try out interior photography and share my bedroom story with snippets. My bedroom is characterized as a Washitsu (和室)- a Japanese style unadorned bedroom with exposed wooden framing and sliding doors inlaid with washi.

When looking for a home,  I look for 3 qualities in a bedroom: 1) A good window that brings in abundant, diffused light into the bedroom, 2) Storage space for my culinary and design equipment, 3) The location being conveniently close to a grocery store and metro station. Back in February 2015, I found this handsome bedroom of rich wood, veneer, and washi inlaid walls. This bedroom fulfilled all my needs and is also a convenient 5 minute walk from my favorite design stores, culinary specialty store, and bookstore including Spiral Market, Muji, Idee, Itoya, Tomizawa and Tsutaya. After negotiating for a reasonable rent with the tall, sincere Japanese architect house owner,  I quickly packed everything in my previous 7m² apartment and carried everything through the rain to this 10m² bedroom.

My main table is what we call a contemporary Kotatsu(こたつ): it sits low and is equipped with a heating element underneath the top. Since I don’t like sitting on the floor, I prefer to sit on the basket stool and use this table for painting, photography, and reading during cold winters.

The tokonoma (床の間), the recessed alcove, is traditionally used for flower arrangements and hanging scrolls. Naturally instead, it became my ritual space for me to pick outfits and apply makeup before work, in between meetings, and occasional events.

Now that I’ve settled in, switched from being an architect to an interior designer, I’ve learned to maximize minimal space, to make my furniture multi-functional, to embrace the formal qualities of Japanese wooden framework and soften it with Scandinavian patterns and textiles. I’ve donated and collected pieces over time, altered and decorated bits every weekend. Home decorating and designing is never a finished project, and it’s liberating for me to freely roam with my creativity in my bedroom. My bedroom is this calm sanctuary with existing Japanese furniture and accumulated gifts from friends and family all over the world. These historical pieces remind me of my roots and surrounding myself with these warm, meaningful pieces gives me a sense of closure wen I feel lost and overwhelmed in a bustling Tokyo.

Details of the mix:

Customized Idee readymade curtains.

Bed sheets from mom, Muji pillows, Loft pillowslip cover.

Clothes and shoes from Zara, Rope Picnic, Uniqlo, Lemaire, Banana Republic, Fed International, Parare, Randa, Pura Bianca.

On the cabinet daily essentials: Matsuyama Alternative face lotion, MIMC eyeliner, Anastasia brow palette, Kiehls ultra facial cream, Shiseido BB cream, RMK lip balm, Ooshima Tsukbaki hair oil, Muji herbal bath salts.

Pearl necklace birthday present from mom, Kanazawa handcarved wooden piece from a local landscape architect.

On bedside table: Yumiko iihoshi espresso cup, Kinfolk home issue, Muji FOUND notebook, black Pilot gift pen from Itoya.

On the Kotatsu: Honey from my brother in Paris, Muji calculator, Design magazines and Bow Wow book from Tsutaya, Handmade wooden coasters from Maruni workshop.