Friday Five with Julie Smith-Clementi

Julie Smith-Clementi, partner at award-winning LA-based multidisciplinary design firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios, has put her mark on numerous design projects ranging from elementary schools, public parks, iconic performance venues like The Hollywood Bowl, residential projects, landscape architecture, products, and environmental branding. She’s also responsible for spearheading the notNeutral product line – you might be familiar with their collection with Cooper Hewitt or their infamous LINO coffee mugs of which they’ve sold nearly a million. notNeutral was born from the idea that “architecture is more than just a building.” As president and CEO of notNeutral, Julie was able to bring together her passions for architecture and holistic environments to create an iconic line of bold, accessible objects for today’s modern lifestyle. From parks to plates RCHS’s approach to color is seen in nearly every project, whether it’s in the landscaping or the products within. Today, Julie is sharing five of her favorite things with us in Friday Five!

RCH Studios’ Austin City Limits \ Photo by Jonathan Jackson

1. Live Music
There is nothing like live music to make you feel alive. I have a deep appreciation for the interaction and energy of a live performance, which is why I am especially driven to venue design. In projects like the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theatre, and Austin City Limits, I was able to focus on the unseen or unnoticed factors that impact and elevate the experience for guests and performers. There are so many facets of a live music performance that engage an audience, and any time you experience music it leaves you wanting more. My introduction to Arcade Fire was through Austin City Limits alongside 300 other people – one of the most amazing concert experiences I have had.

Photo by Steven Eickelbeck

2. Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale, 1964
This car was a gift from my husband, Frank, who is Italian. It is my birth year and my namesake, not to mention beautifully designed by Franco Scaglione for Bertone. The design is the culmination of aero dynamic studios done by Bertone in the late 50s and early 60s. My father had a love of old cars and collected them, so I like to think he is smiling down on me when I’m driving it. The car is a touring car and a dream to drive. We take it out to the hills above Malibu where the curves are perfect. So few women are out there driving these amazing cars, I like to show their husbands that it’s ok to be a passenger once in a while.

Photo by Rios Clementi Hale Studios

3. Diamond Flatware, Gio Ponti for Reed Barton, 1950
My parents married in 1959 and registered for this stunning silverware. Even though they may not have known the significance of Gio Ponti, they recognized good design. I studied Gio Ponti’s work when I was a student in Florence, Italy and I am a huge fan. Only when I returned did I put the two things together. Years later, my husband and I traded my mother our flatware for hers. It was originally promoted as “The most advanced sterling of our generation.” I love that it is an example of an architect-designed tabletop product and that the design has stood the test of time.

Photo by Skandia Shafer

4 The Cortado
Without question, my favorite coffee beverage is a cortado in a VERO glass. At cafes there are special cups designed for coffee, latte, cappuccino, and espresso – but the cortado was always served in cocktail glasses. I decided that notNeutral needed to create a cup to elevate this beverage and its story. The glass was typically called a Gibraltar. We drew inspiration from the rock of Gibraltar to create a glass that is faceted like cut rock. The idea is that the drink is “cut” with milk. It really showcases the opacity of the beverage. It was so successful that now the VERO is available in sizes for cortado, cappuccino, and espresso.

Photo by Rios Clementi Hale Studios

5. Eclecticism
I have an affinity for color and pattern that grew from my childhood experiences. Between trips to the fabric store with my mother, standing in aisles of boldly patterned bolts of Marimekko fabric, and Sunday antique markets, I was influenced by collections, craft, whimsical forms, color, and boldness. I tend to surround myself with graphic patterns and bright color from different time periods. I am a modernist but like to mix things up to create a “warm modernism.” This can also be seen in some notNeutral patterns and products, which are adorned with color and bright pattern. We worked with the Cooper Hewitt to re-interpret some of the Wiener Werkstätte patterns in a mix of bright colors that felt more Memphis in spirit than Arts Crafts or Art Nouveau.