Merging Histories and Sustainability with Chris Mercier |
Merging Histories and Sustainability with Chris Mercier

Merging Histories and Sustainability with Chris Mercier

A contemporary kitchen that plays with old and new ideas

Asma Khan
Written by –
Asma Khan
on November 9th 2018



Karen Mercier, Kreatif Photography

Christopher Mercier of (fer) studio is back with another project, one informed by the site’s history and a playful balance of natural light thanks to the skylights installed overhead. For this tour, Chris gives us the lowdown on the Sixth+Mill project, inspirations and designing with sustainability in mind. Let’s jump right in!

Chris poses for a photo inside Officine Brera in a brick and masonry warehouse setting | Sixth and Mill |
image source

Chris, where are you from? What brought you to where you are now?

Chris Mercier: I grew up, just outside of Detroit in Michigan. I went to a high school there and graduated with an architecture degree from Lawrence University. Growing up, I was always interested in becoming an artist. At some point along the way, the realization came that, I guess, you can’t be an artist and you have to pick something.


Perhaps, I regret it but looking back now, I did choose architecture as a way of doing a little bit of both. I thought to myself, “if I become an architect, I could still be an artist. But if I became an artist, I couldn’t become an architect.”

“If I become an architect, I could still be an artist. But if I became an artist, I couldn’t become an architect.” Christopher Mercier

Black frame sheltered porch with light streaming through glass door entrance of restaurant | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill entrance

Tell us about your art

I was very much into painting throughout the years since second-grade, doing stuff like this all the way.

Christopher Mercier's painting called Intersection based on colors and form | Sixth and Mill |
image source

What’s your earliest memory?

It’s a funny story. I was back in Detroit in high school and I had gotten a local gallery in Royal Oak, kind of a progressive gallery at the time. They were going to let me exhibit a piece, which was amazing! So, on the day, my friend was helping me bring the 5 x 6 ft piece of painting to the gallery. We had a disastrous day.


We were carrying it, walked just through the door and there was this wooden chest under a pedestal inside this glass case and somehow, my friend walked backward right into it, knocking it over. The glass went exploding on to the floor and.. I mean yeah, that was my first gallery experience. So maybe, it was better I went into architecture.

Christopher Mercier's painting called Intersection based on colors and form | Sixth and Mill |
Inglewood art exhibition | image source

How did (fer) studio come about?

Over the years after I went through Lawrence [University], I was really interested in Daniel Libeskind’s work, who was at that time a theorist teaching in Cranbrook. I started hanging around Cranbrook. After going through various processes, got accepted into Daniel’s program which was in its second year, called Architecture Intermundium in Milan. I spent a year there with seven or eight other students from around the world, so that was eye-opening!


Then, I went for a Master’s in SCI-Arc while working as a metal fabricator. After a while, I got a job at Frank Gehry’s and kind of went from there. Along the path, I was imagining starting up my own office and always trying to figure out what that was going to be called.

A large painting in the middle of the restaurant with grid panel street windows | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill interior

Form, Environment and Research were really a process of me thinking — what are the elements or conditions you go through in a design process?” — Christopher Mercier, (fer) studio

In the end, Form, Environment and Research were really a process of me thinking “what are the elements or conditions you go through in a design process?”


Basically, what you have, are the form, and the environment which is a huge implication of the form and the environment, you know the physical environment. It can be the kind of political environment, emotional environment. So that’s how (fer) were the three main aspects of what it was to create a design and a piece of architecture. And that’s kind of where that name came from.

Open plan contemporary kitchen restaurant design by Chris Mercier with bricks and masonry | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill dining area

“Environment is kind of everything we do, the people, the community you are in, the physical environment is obvious. The emotional, political, cultural are all different forms of environment.”

The Green Building, (fer) studio |
The Green Building

How do you make sure you have sustainability in all your designs? Is it a challenge?

Yeah, it can be. I always question “what’s the level of sustainability?” We’ve done things like The Green Building where we’ve had the LEED Platinum award for that project. We always build sustainability into the project. So, we are already always considering how to deal with daylight.


If you really design right with the physical environment, and you pay attention to it, you kind of address a lot of the conditions of sustainability right off the bat.

Black steel framed entrance in brick and masonry setting with wooden bench and plants | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill brick exterior

So instead of designing for sustainability, you design to sustainability?

Exactly, it’s how you orient it, how you face it and how you open and close the building. All those conditions really are initial conditions you design to. They either create a sustainable condition or they don’t. Then you have to make up for it if they don’t, through other sustainable technologies.

Exterior environment of restaurant at night with bright lighting at entrance, brick warehouse | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill exterior

What words would you use to describe your work?

We provide kind of contemporary, iconic, architectural and urban design solutions for environments that are under-utilized or not working, or that need complete ground-up or revision for.


We’re providing a solution to some problem — and that problem many times is a spatial or relational one — for client. Or it’s both. It’s a spatial organizational problem. It’s also kind of an identity problem, in terms of how their architecture is perceived, how their building basically creates some identity within the market of what they operate.

Restaurant with logo painting
Sixth+Mill exterior

What is your inspiration for home?

Back then at my home in Michigan, I remember going upstairs and all I was ever given was the pain of yelling downstairs trying to get my mom’s attention for something. Now, with a lot of the houses, the majority of the houses that we do, have this kind of communication where you can be upstairs, you can lean over that rail and talk directly to someone hidden, and have the house more as an open experience.

The Officine Brera outlook with full glass panel grid windows, brick and masonry warehouse | Sixth and Mill |
Brick and glass exterior for Officine Brera

“How to make the upstairs quarters and downstairs quarters become somewhat of a linked space so that there’s an open dialogue between them all?” — Christopher Mercier

Contemporary style white open kitchen with open shelves and marble tabletops | SIxth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill kitchen interior

Can you tell us more about your latest project, Sixth+Mill?

Sixth+Mill is in the front portion of a building from about 1920. A brick and steel warehouse, it was originally [built for the] Los Angeles Gas Company … and it has the great factory windows in it. Previously, we did oversee Officine Brera which operates in the back half of that building. So Sixth+Mill is a project in the essence that it’s by the same ownership and chef that runs Officine Brera. Now they have Sixth+Mill which is really just a pizzeria, as its focus.

Protective ceiling lid with acrylic glass panels along black steel trusses, contemporary kitchen | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill skylight

All the dishwashing and all of the kind of more unsightly — or “less sightly” things, let’s put it that way — are basically buried inside the kitchen overseeing the Officine Brera. So, it really means we’re in a great open exhibition kitchen, kind of situation.

Protective acrylic glass panel ceiling under skylight, white marble table top | Sixth and Mill |
Skylight at Sixth+Mill

We were trying to preserve the building height, which is about 40 feet high internally. And so, we did not want to close it from that. There’s an upper skylight up there and it’s a really beautiful feel, kind of a vast glass ceiling.

3D planning stages outlook of the brick and masonry Sixth and Mill restaurant warehouse | Sixth and Mill |
image source

When you’re in the space, you don’t really notice it so much … it just integrates really well.”

The solution was that we created a panel of glass ceiling if you will, it’s an acrylic panel ceiling set in a steel grid. We were all worried about that at one point but it turned out pretty good. When you’re in the space, you don’t really notice it so much, I think it looks kind of … it just integrates really well.

Contemporary kitchen with modern white lighting and marble versus traditional exposed brick walls and floor tiles | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill interior

What projects are you currently working on?

We are thinking a plaza behind The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles. We’ve been working with The Broad on that for a while. That’s on top of their existing parking garage, it’s a temporary outdoor space, it’s about 16,000 sq ft. It’s basically a turf area with trees and landscape and open field area in the middle.


The road’s going to use it to host various events; the public will have music spaces and things like that. We are also working with the metro tube to connect their bridge into metro space and it’s going to link right to that plaza.

Minimalist yellow chairs and black bar stools in contemporary open kitchen | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill interior

What is your aesthetic for home decor?

Ah, let’s see! I know that question really well. You know what, at the moment, I live in a loft. So my house is both my residence as well as a painting studio.

Chairs lined up in an open elongated restaurant plan with street facing grid windows | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill interior

It’s a warehouse, kind of split down the middle in a funny way, and one half is all open but one half is closed bedrooms and bathrooms and things like that, while the main living spaces are all open. The living side has a raised wood floor, and then the working or painting side is just a concrete floor so you kind of step up on one side and step down on the other side.


The decor is pretty much a collective mix of some aged chairs, and some old wooden tables, a variety of things both kind of modern contemporary and as well as a little bit historical.

Kitchen decor, spice powder in glass jars on marble table-top | Sixth and Mill |
Sixth+Mill interior

Do you have a favorite item or project?

Every time I get asked about this, like favorite projects, it always becomes the next one! I guess I can say that I really like the idea that I can live and work like that, in that vicinity. My wife is fully pushing to buy a house so I’m starting to look for that. And I’m always wondering in my head what’s going to happen when I have to move away from the paintings.

Christopher Mercier painting outdoor structures in colorful paint in Inglewood |
Chris Mercier painting outdoors

As Chris is always looking for his next inspiration and form of art, I look forward to the direction of (fer) studio and his own artwork to come!


*This interview has been edited for clarity and grammar.

If you liked Chris’s work, you can read how he enhances natural light in a home by Exploring Split Light in Santa Monica Home or check out his luxury home design here Contemporary Glam in the Mid-Century Home of Beauty Magnate Davis Factor.


Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more daily home inspiration, tips and more!


No products in the bag.

Stay Updated
Sign up for our newsletter and get the latest home tours and giveaways.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest home tours and giveaways.