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Meet Bret Iwan of Bungalow Modern in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bret Iwan.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Bungalow Modern really started as a hobby. I had gone to school for illustration, and over the years, expanded my freelance career to include spacial and environment design, but when I stumbled upon my house, things changed. In 2012, I purchased a 1913 craftsman bungalow in Pasadena. It had been owned by the same family since the early 60’s and was the epitome of a “fixer-upper”. Years of raising a family and decades of changing trends, had left it in a state begging for some TLC. It was just what I had been looking for.

I grew up with parents that were constantly working on our older family home. Saturday mornings were spent watching ‘This Old House’ and ‘The New Yankee Workshop’. Craftsmanship fascinated me, and always seemed to go hand in hand with creativity. The Pasadena bungalow was my canvas and I took to work restoring her in a way that celebrated the aesthetics of the past, but with an awareness of today’s modern design and lifestyle needs. After three years into the process, several requests from friends to help with their design dilemmas and the need for a new creative challenge, Bungalow Modern was born. Vintage Restoration, with Modern Aesthetics… that’s the easiest way I can describe what I do. I’ve had the pleasure of designing and overseeing everything from residential kitchen and bath renovations, landscape transformations, and even the renovation/redesign of the Altadena Town and Country Club. An aviation-themed restaurant I designed in Fresno, breaks ground soon and another more casual restaurant is in the works for the Shell Beach area. I love how different every project is.

My love of vintage is really what continues to drive me. I’ve begun restoring a lot of older, unique pieces I’ve come across at flea markets and estate sales, and some of that work even lead to consulting on a few design projects with a Railroad Museum in Northern Nevada. As if that’s not enough to keep me busy, I’ve also begun designing and making my own home accessories as Bungalow Modern Provisions, selling through my website and makers fairs throughout the west coast.

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 feel like I’ve been pretty fortunate, in that I can’t say it’s been a super bumpy road, but I think any entrepreneurial endeavor has its hurdles. My biggest struggle along the way has been managing clients expectations. I’ve had help at times, but for the most part, Bungalow Modern is a one-man show. Of course, I don’t plan for that to always be the case, but changing that has definitely been a struggle. When I first started, I wanted to take on any and all jobs I could get my hands on! I’ve learned over the years, that I’m a much better designer, and deliver a richer product if I pace out my workload. It’s also a matter of taking on the jobs that fascinate me or I have a passion behind. With every new day and every new job, I’m learning a bit more. Taking the time to really focus on what I want out of the business and where I would like it to go, has been a priority at the start of 2018.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Bungalow Modern started with a focus on historic homes, but that’s really expanded to include any design job that seeks to tell a story. For me, vintage restoration is telling the story of the house and/or objects past. When it comes to a new original design, I think a strong story is what breathes life into an otherwise basic collection of materials and finishes. Building the Bungalow Modern brand has been a lot of fun because it’s really just an extension of me. My hope is that Bungalow Modern is known for a sensitivity towards the turn of the century design and an awareness of timeless aesthetics. I’m proud of the part I’ve been able to play in preserving the past and continue to strive towards a level of craftsmanship that warrants a similar respect.

What were you like growing up?
Funny enough, I’m pretty sure who I am today, is just an older version of the kid I was growing up in Pasadena. I loved the story of how things came to be, the people behind the creativity and always had an eye on the past. Walt Disney was my childhood hero and Disneyland was my happy place. My dad is an expert model railroader, and by extension, influenced my own love of steam locomotives. I grew up creating. Whether that was sitting at the drawing table for hours on end, building miniatures for our backyard garden railroad or finding the best costume for a game of Cowboys, it was always about taking imagination to the next, immersive, level.

I was a shy kid and definitely used my imagination as a retreat. I count myself extremely lucky to have parents who encouraged every creative endeavor and three younger brothers who were always willing to play along. Not much has changed today… in fact, my family and I are currently building an even bigger garden railroad, that you can actually ride on! It’s next level, for sure. My brothers are still there to play along, but the nieces and nephew’s excitement make it all that much better.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.bungalowmodern.com
  • Phone: 626-344-7091
  • Email: bret@bungalowmodern.com
  • Instagram: @bungalowmodern
  • Facebook: @bungalowmodern


Image Credit:

David Hager, Jenny Walters, Bret Iwan

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