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Meet Silver Lake Architect & Designer: Tara Noni McDonagh

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tara Noni McDonagh.

Tara Noni, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
At the core of all of my design work is a primary interest in Anthropology and sociology. I am genuinely curious about the world; how and why we live, the way we live and what role I can play as a designer to enrich this. A huge part of design for me is about facilitating an authentic delightful experience and I also try to live my life this way. I grew up in a small beachside town in Australia. For as long as I can remember I have been experimenting in design; whether it was exploring visual art, fashion, music, literature or pop culture.

Travel, exploration, and emersion in cultures and sub-cultures have always provided inspiration and triggered my creativity. In my late teens I traveled for a couple of years; living in Japan and throughout Europe. It was during this time that I realized that my curiosity and design intuition should/ could be my full-time career.

I strongly believe in hard work, I knew I wanted to design spaces and Lifestyles and that I wanted a classical educational backing to support my creative exploration and so the right decision for me was to go back to Australia and Study my Bachelor and Masters of Architecture. I also have a degree in International relations and communications and formal accreditation in Graphic design and publishing.

I came to L.A close to three years ago with an open mind. I love the freedom of L.A and the rich multifaceted creative culture. Whilst in L.A, I have worked on a range of projects. I have worked on teams designing Hotels and Large Commercial Architectural projects for multinational clients, High-end commercial interior projects internationally and I have met some amazing people with whom I have collaborated on smaller passion projects. For example, I recently collaborated with my good friend and Artist Esteban Schimpf on the design of an Opera. We worked with a German director on an interpretation of La Traviata to be staged in Giuseppe Verdi’s hometown.

In my Architectural and Interiors work, I am transitioning into exploring small-scale and residential projects as well as branding and the design of lifestyle products. I really believe that design is multi-disciplinary and holistic in nature and as a designer, I am curious and want to be involved in all of it.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has and it has not been a smooth road. It is always hard to leave home and relocate to the other side of the world but I have also found this such an exciting and rewarding process. When I moved to LA I didn’t even know how to drive on the right-hand side of the road and I was naively unprepared for the kind of subtle cultural difference that exist between Australia and the U.S. Building a life here was a challenge and luckily I love a challenge; everything that has been an obstacle has also on the flip side been a huge motivation. For example, when I first arrived in L.A I knew maybe 5 people. I had to assimilate quickly to the culture (and put on an American accent on the phone to be understood) and with no U.S professional experience, I had to convince someone to take a chance on me professionally. From this perspective, the city was very overwhelming. I decided to focus on meeting people, trying to communicate my passion and working hard. In this process of being open minded and putting myself out of my comfort zone, I met a lot of like-minded people and great professional opportunities presented themselves. So in this way, everything that I have done over the last few years has happened very organically. Not exactly smooth but I have been lucky enough to have great people around to support me in the struggles.

When you look back, can you point to a period when you wanted to quit or a period that was really frustrating?
There is regularly a moment in projects where feel like I am overwhelmed or at least uncomfortable and in these times I naturally fantasize that I could give up, go back to Australia and just lie on the beach for a month. Unfortunately or fortunately I am also a perfectionist and could never just walk away. These repeatedly prove themselves to be the times when I learn the most or pick up a new skill; once I pass through this unease I have learnt something new and I am always excited for the next challenge. I am continually trying to teach myself to sit with unease and I am getting pretty good with it.

What advice do you wish to give to those thinking about pursuing a path similar to yours?
To someone starting out in my field in LA, I would say start your career with an open mind, be humble and be willing to jump into work and figure it out in the process. From my perspective we are lucky to live in this city, the culture is so diverse and as a designer in this city so many wonderful and often weird opportunities for creativity arise. On a number of occasions, I have had moments in my work where I have been completely out of my comfort zones in the best possible way. Whether it be spending a Tuesday night at a storage facility shopping for large game animal taxidermy to put into a hotel I was designing, working with amazing architects who designed the buildings I studied in Architecture school, or admiring the shoes of a women at the opening of a gallery I worked on only to look up and realize that it was an artist I have loved for a long time. Also some of the most interesting jobs I have worked on started out as projects that other people didn’t want. So yeah, be humble and open minded.

What are you most excited about these days?
I am about to begin a new multidisciplinary design opportunity in the next month or so, focusing on residential and Hospitality projects at all scales both the Architecture and interior. On top of this, I have been working for some time on a line of Jewelry in my spare time. Anyone who knows me knows I am always adorned in statement gold jewelry. I normally get this custom made downtown; I am working on models to produce some of these designs and start a small line. The aesthetic is very simple and geometrical (some might call it architectural) playing with unexpected scales and materials. I would love to stock the pieces in local boutiques around LA.

Contact Info:

  • Email:
  • Instagram: taranoni

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Image Credit:
Esteban Schimpf, Robb Williamson

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