Makoto Mizutani and Benjamin Luddy are both devoted to the outdoors.
"When we're not working, we try to spend as much time outside as possible," Mizutani said. "We love to go camping, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding and road tripping all across the country."
Inspired by this, the L.A.-based designers, who work under the studio name Scout Regalia, bring a relaxed yet modern look to their products: stylish picnic tables, sturdy raised-bed garden kits for apartment dwellers and colorful stainless-steel wall hooks for indoors and out.
"We're inspired by the act of living, utility and the function of how things work," Luddy said. "'Pretty' is not a Scout Regalia word."
Mizutani and Luddy both have graduate degrees in architecture from SCI-Arc but consider themselves designers first.
"We had to reinvent ourselves," Luddy said of life after graduation in 2008. "It was the worst time to be an architect. People couldn't get loans. We had to invent our own products."
Their first product design was born out of necessity. When they couldn't find a simple raised-bed planter for their apartment, they made one on their own using simple powder-coated brackets and 2-by-6 boards. "We decided to design stuff we need," Mizutani said from their headquarters in Glassell Park.
Working with local fabricators, the couple, who live and work together, design products that are grounded in style and practicality yet have whimsical dual functions. A heavy-duty canvas saddle bag for their SR Bike folds to become extra seating. Ranger stools feature hooks and compartments for storage. And when their powder-coated steel folding table is not in use, its tabletop can be detached and used as a magnetic dry erase board.
Their aesthetic, they said, is informed by their love of the outdoors.
A case in point? An attractive lean-to tent for CB2 that converts to a travel bag.
"When we first discovered Scout Regalia, we were looking for an outdoor addition for a capsule collection inspired by the classic beach-and-surf style of California," said Ryan Turf, CB2's head of merchandising. "Scout Regalia were the perfect designers to help us with this project, since they are based in Los Angeles and understand that lifestyle."
In a generous form of marketing, the couple also are sharing their design process with the public, releasing DIY cheat sheets they call "cutsheets." The simple designs — a plant table and a bias-cut fence so far — are available as free downloads, with step-by-step instructions available on their website.
Why would they give their designs away? Luddy said it goes back to education. "It gives people an appreciation for good design. It places value on well-crafted goods."
Recently the couple designed furnishings for the Packing House food hall in the new Anaheim Packing District and are currently designing the interior spaces for Blue Collar Working Dog in Echo Park. True to the spirit of Scout Regalia, they are designing an interactive dog-agility course for the pet store.
Although the couple said they don't feel like they have "made it" yet — they are still fulfilling some orders from their house — they hope to grow to the point where they can manufacture products themselves. "Our branding is about making things in L.A.," Luddy said. "We would like to bring woodworking back in-house so we can do custom pieces. My dream is for people to see the process of design and manufacturing under one roof."
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The Gamble birdhouse workshop
Makoto Mizutani and Benjamin Luddy of Scout Regalia are hosting a birdhouse building workshop at the Gamble House as part of Machine Project's AxS Festival.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Sept. 25, 1:20 p.m.: This post has been updated with a video and information on an upcoming workshop with Scout Regalia.
This post was originally published on July 15 at 3:27 p.m.