She is a Spaniard and he an American. But Paz Fernandez and Hunter Fleetwood crossed paths as architecture students at Catholic University, after Fernandez’s admiral father was transferred from Mallorca to Washington, Fleetwood’s hometown. Upon graduation in the late 1990s, the two stayed local, each taking a position at Lehman Smith & McLeish. Eventually, the kindred spirits headed to Los Angeles, feeling the pull of its experimental vibe, as evidenced in projects by Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne. “The modernist movement here is related to Spain’s,” Fernandez notes, “its optimism and relaxed attitude.” With dreams of starting their own interiors firm tucked away, Fleetwood landed at Frederick Fisher and Partners, Fernandez at Gensler.
In 2007, the married couple founded Fleetwood Fernandez Architects. A seemingly inopportune time to launch a business, they sailed right through the Great Recession with commissions from Wells Fargo. The financial company was in the midst of buying failing banks and needed Fleetwood Fernandez to redesign all those interiors—more than 1 million-square-feet worth.
Today, the firm’s purview extends to residential and hospitality projects, including Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, a community-minded, 1,100-square-foot café in Del Mar, California, offering such artisanal flavors as vegan apple cider of my eye. Its scheme suggests an inverted donut, but the simplicity of the palette is as refined as powdered sugar: White oak appears on the walls and ceiling; a slightly iridescent terrazzo is nearly everywhere else, including the built-in seating. “Our reduced materials strategy,” Fleetwood says, “makes the design come through.”