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Meet Angela Panozzo of Sugi House in Mount Washington

Today we’d like to introduce you to Angela Panozzo.

Angela, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
From the beginning, my life has been infused with intersecting cultures and interests. I was born in Italy to a Chinese mom and an Italian father and lived mainly with my Chinese extended family. When we moved to Texas, where I spent the rest of my childhood, I became accustomed to a radically different environment – culture and landscape. Being exposed to different cultures and customs had a remarkable influence on my sense of beauty, taste, ability to adapt and to be resourceful… and perhaps most importantly, to see beauty in it all. Spending my teen years in a country as historically and artistically rich as Italy, I found myself passionately drawn to art, architecture and design. Traveling from such a young age helped me shape and expand my view on the concepts of aesthetics.

My mom is a fashion entrepreneur and founder of her eponymous line, Weili Zheng. She was my first introduction into the world of design; as a teen I would intern at her company here and there until I left Italy. All of these factors led me to deepen my exploration of interior design at Istituto Marangoni in Milan. While in college, I worked on residential projects all over Italy, as well as restaurants in Shanghai, China. A few years later, I chose to expand my skill set, chase my love for music, and relocate to Los Angeles, where I continued my studies at FIDM. Upon graduation and working with a few design firms, I began working with Jennifer Culp of JC Studios. I have been working alongside Jennifer for the last five years, all while developing my own personal design projects. An eternal nomad, I am now proud to have moved to LA 7 years ago and call it my creative home.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I believe every journey comes with its set of challenges that are designed to help us grow. I’d say my first challenge was figuring out how to start a business without a business background. As creatives, we are often taught how to create, yet not how to promote. I was definitely one of those cases. And like many other newbies, I was clueless as how I could promote myself in an authentic, creative way that would set me apart from the ocean of multitalented people that live in the creative mecca that is Los Angeles. Over time, I discovered that it was by meeting and collaborating with the talented community around me that would open me to inspiring new ideas. Some of those creatives have become an integral part of my journey here in LA. Particularly, master luthier (specializing in guitars) Pavel Masowiec, who shared his passion for woodwork with me and has become my main creative collaborator.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Sugi House story. Tell us more about the business.
Interior design is not about filling a room, it’s about harmony and functionality. A balance between textures, materials and colors. I would compare interior designing to cooking. For example, if you have one great ingredient, you don’t want to overwhelm it with an abundance of spices and flavors. It’s all about building the perfect balance with a few quality components.

After working on a multitude of projects as an interior designer, I felt the need to deepen my understanding as to how things were made. I then devoted my time to understanding and appreciating the materials that make a space functional, stylish, and comfortable. My interest in craftsmanship grew and I observed and learned that it’s the little details that make a piece of furniture unique; everything from the construction to the materials to the wood joinery. In particular, one of my inspirations is Japanese craftsmanship, which highlights the wood joinery as a decorative element, not just for its function. As well, from the Japanese tradition, I learned Shou Sugi Ban, a wood-burning technique that I like to use in my work.

In addition to caring about the quality and detailed woodwork, one of my main interests is to create in an Eco-friendly, sustainable manner. We use all-natural materials to up-cycle, some of my favorites are tree cones found on hiking trails to make vases or using LA artist Sasoon Markarian’s repurposed military canvases (re-dyed with indigo) to upholster our furniture. Whatever wood shavings are left from our projects get added to our compost which nourishes our backyard vegetable garden. The circle of life, if you will.

While studying with Pavel, we began to collaborate on different projects together. We are passionate about restoring vintage furniture pieces and are developing our own line of products and home decor. This includes furniture, hand-turned vessels, bowls, platters, candle holders. Something I am proud of is during lockdown this spring, with Pavel’s guidance, I made my first ukulele. As dog-lovers, we make unique dog beds with frames. The beds are handmade from a top selection of hardwood, constructed with Japanese joinery. The cushions are tailored with natural hand-printed African mud cloths and memory foam mattress, creating a modern look while providing the ultimate comfort for our best friends.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Los Angeles is a mecca for creative individuals. It’s booming with diversity and resources to spark inspiration; it’s a cultural melting pot and an eclectic environment for anyone. Museums, art galleries and exhibitions, pop-up stores, trade shows, and an endless buffet of artistic events are alive in this city on a typical daily basis, offering all kinds of opportunities to connect with other creatives and to discover endless possibilities. On top of that, Los Angeles matches its cultural diversity with its natural landscapes, ranging from the beach to the mountains, the nearby desert, and skyscrapers that build the metropolitan city. Each scenery also has unique architecture.

The entertainment industry attracts talent from all around the world in every creative field, making this city the biggest concentration of creatives I have yet seen. Yes, the competition can be intimidating, but there is room for all of us and this city gives you the opportunity to display your own work, no matter who you are.

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Image Credit:

Mahsa Babaie

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