How Studio PCH Hits the Sweet Spot

Severine Tatangelo, who founded the California-based firm in 2008, reflects on designing spaces that don’t simply look sophisticated—they’re created for people to gather and live.

Nobu Ryokan. Photography courtesy of Studio PCH

It’s never easy crafting spaces that hold two opposing aesthetics—welcoming yet pristine, warm yet polished. Studio PCH embraces this challenge with the utmost enthusiasm, and has carved a niche with standout hospitality projects that hit this sweet spot. The studio masterfully designs high-end restaurants and hotels in Southern California and beyond, including Nobu Malibu—the celebrity-favorite hotspot that has become a pop culture staple. After Nobu Malibu’s success, Studio PCH’s star began to rise, and it’s only going up. Surface spoke with Severine Tatangelo, the principal and owner of Studio PCH, to hear about her unexpected path from France to Los Angeles, and how she crafts such welcoming spaces. 

Nobu Hotel Shoreditch. Photography by Will Pryce
Nobu Hotel Los Cabos. Photography by Kraft Signature Resort & Hotel Photography

When did you become interested in architecture?

My parents built their own house when I was about six years old, and I remember going there every weekend—for what seems to be an eternity—and seeing this project rise up from the ground. A lot of my family was in construction; my dad was a plumber. I still remember the concrete blocks! Later on, I took drawing classes, and then decided to study architecture.

How did this lead you to start Studio PCH?  

During my last year studying architecture in Lyon, I met an American architect strolling at our school. We started to talk and share the projects we were working on, and he gave me his business card. This is very common in the U.S., but not in France! He said, “Whenever you come to L.A., here’s my contact.” I graduated several months later, and I emailed him asking for jobs in L.A. He was a teacher at the University of Southern California and sent me a bunch of internship opportunities. I responded to a few, and what was supposed to be a few months of an “abroad experience” became a permanent home, and here I am 15-years plus later.

When you founded the firm, what was your vision? What projects did you take on? 

Starting out, we took on Nobu Malibu, among several other projects, for Larry Ellison in Malibu. We’ve since built an incredible relationship with the Nobu team, and I’m very proud of that. We’ve been designing restaurants and hotels for them since 2008, and it means so much to me. I grew up professionally with these giants, especially Meir Teper, one of the Nobu partners, who has helped me to build a strong creative studio with a skilled team of designers and architects.

Nobu Ryokan. Photography by Barbara Kraft
Nobu Malibu. Photography by Ivan de La Luz
Bora Bora. Photography by Gregoire Le Bacon, GLB Design
Bora Bora. Photography by Gregoire Le Bacon, GLB Design

What is the aesthetic language or guiding principles of Studio PCH? 

We design contemporary yet warm and sophisticated spaces. I’ve always been interested in linking the sociological aspect with architecture. My thesis explored transitions between exterior and interior spaces. Designing restaurants or hotels often goes beyond the finishes and look—it’s more about designing spaces for people to gather and live. Still, since Nobu Malibu opened in summer 2012, I get goosebumps when we see guests entering our spaces. Seeing them laugh, drink, and eat with joy; enjoying life regardless of the circumstances; and most importantly sharing memorable moments is what drives us every day to design better.

What is a dream project of yours, if you could choose just one?

As we get older, we realize that what matters—and what makes a dream project—are the people and team you work with. When we’re bonded together, we all deliver the very best.

Severine Tatangelo. Photography by April Valencia

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