Steel Magnolia

In nightclubs and hotels from here to Beirut, designer Gulla Jonsdottir locks opposing elements in a never-ending tango

Photographs courtesy G+ Design, Damon Casarez (shoe, bracelet)

As the award-winning architect and designer of Red O, Rick Bayless’s restaurant on Melrose, Gulla Jonsdottir is known for juxtaposing heft with fragility and feminine curves with muscular materials. She tied up the hot spot’s facade with an abstract metal bow, “like a gift from Mexico to L.A.,” she says; inside, columns are wrapped in steel roses. At the Roxbury nightclub on Sunset, she splashed a hard-edged floral motif onto sky-high iron gates. Now in talks to use a 3-D light show at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (1), she’s also building SBE’s Bar Varsity in West Hollywood and a beach club in Beirut (2).

Jonsdottir moved to Los Angeles from Iceland to attend SCI-Arc in 1989. She worked on the Getty Center under architect Richard Meier and was lead designer for Dodd Mitchell Designs before opening her all-female office, G+ Design, two years ago. The plus sign stands for “everything I want to do,” she says. “Architecture, interiors, lighting, furniture, accessories, plus, plus, plus.” Her latest endeavor is Gulla, a custom furniture line of laser-cut metal screens, aluminum bookshelves, and wood slab desks and tables with twisty-metal, barklike legs (3). The collection allows her fans to bring home her signature mix of brawn and whimsy. 

theessentials_masa_tAnd On Her Inspiration Board

4.  “Perforated suede shoes. The holes permit light and shadows to play, which is a theme in my work. ”
5.  “The Blue Lagoon Spa in Iceland. I love the contrasting colors of the smoke against the milky blue water.”  
6.  “Calla lily petals often inform my designs for ceilings and walls.”  
7.  “This bracelet has a ‘lingerie’ effect—you can see through it but not the whole picture.”  
8.  “I’m always inspired by the curvature of the female form.” 

Illustration by Andy Friedman