If you’ve driven through downtown Chico recently, you may have noticed the extensive work being done to the historic Bank of America building on the corner of Second and Broadway streets on what will soon be Teller’s Grill. What you can’t see—at least yet—is the building’s overhauled interior, which was designed by another new local business: Design SI. Founded by Chico State professor and veteran interior designer Rouben Mohiuddin (pictured at left), the firm also includes designer Alyson Meucci and draftsman Zack Heckerson (also pictured) and offers clients a wide range of services such as home design, interior design, space planning and furniture design. Before taking a position at Chico State in 2009, Mohiuddun worked for more than a decade at several different Southern California design and architecture firms while also teaching at UCLA, the Art Institute of California and the New York School of International Design. During the summer months, Mohiuddin would take on pro bono and community projects, often getting students involved as well. That’s how he met Heckerson and Meucci, who joined him on a community project at Oroville Hospital two years ago. For more info on the firm, whose tagline is “Intelligence made visible,” go to www.designsi.net.
How did you start Design SI?
Some of the students graduated and left [after the Oroville Hospital project], but Zack and Alyson were like, “Hey, we want to continue.” After working together for about a year, we gelled together really well. As we started getting busier and I went back to school, they started picking up the work, so we decided to start a practice in Chico. Chico is very much about local community, so we thought, “Why not bring in something different, a design firm that’s a little more innovative, a little more cutting-edge?”
What was your approach to working on the new Teller’s Grill?
I was really interested in the project because of the historical context of the building and its history and relationship to Chico. I started digging into older black-and-white photographs. We tried to design something that was inspired by the history of the building rather than just coming up with a preconceived notion of what a restaurant should look like.
You’re also doing some pro bono work for Sneha, an orphanage in Bangladesh?
They reached out, and because of some of the alternative building technology they were using, they were wondering if I was interested in working with them. When they said they were building structures with bamboo and rammed earth, I was like, “Yay! This is gonna be a challenge. We definitely want to work on this project.” So we approached it in a very environmentally conscious way, where we tried to save as many trees as we could and use local indigenous materials.