Designer You Should Know: Jun Aizaki of CRÈME

Jun Aizaki. Photograph by Fanny Alle

A native of Japan, Jun Aizaki moved to New York in the early 1990s to earn his bachelor of architecture degree from Pratt Institute. He began his career at Rockwell Group, designing a number of restaurants over five years. Since 2004, Aizaki has led his own firm, CRÈME / Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design, based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. With a team of 15 people, Aizaki has recently designed interiors for the Maven Hotel (see feature) in Denver and the public spaces of the Kimpton Hotel Eventi in New York, including its restaurants Lupulo and L’Amico and its lounges The Vine and the Luggage Bar. He has also crafted furniture, including the Exchange Collection—a dining room table, a lounge chair, two bar chairs, and a dining chair—produced by Stellar Works.

A dining chair produced by Stellar Works. Photography courtesy Stellar Works

Why the name CRÈME?
I started CRÈME / Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design as a firm through which I could bring together great designers to collaborate together. It is a gathering of the crème de la crème—the best of the best. I was also drawn to the word crème because it is not a name one would associate with architecture.

Why did you decide to start the practice after your experience with Rockwell Group?
Rockwell was an amazing place to learn the ins and outs of restaurant design. When I decided to open my own practice, I wanted to take my Rockwell experience and expand upon it by applying it to other design realms, such as hospitality, retail, residential, and product design.

What is unique about your design approach? And what differentiates your work?
At CRÈME, we have the same problem-solving approach for each project—be it a chair, restaurant, building, logo, or city block. We also have a rich pool of talent with a diversity of experience and ideas, and that always enhances the depth and richness of our varied projects.

Kachina Southwestern Grill. Photograph by Andrew Bordwin

Your latest Denver project incorporates urban design with interior design. How does the design of the urban realm relate to your experience with interiors?
The Maven Hotel at Dairy Block is located in Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo) neighborhood renowned for its historic brick buildings. Our work there honored that past and tried to reflect it in a new, updated way. It was also a chance for CRÈME to really use all of its specialties as an interdisciplinary design studio. In one project, we did everything from interior design to custom product design to branding. CRÈME was responsible for the hotel’s lobby and other public spaces, the two feature restaurants Poka Lola Social Club and Kachina Southwestern Grill (pictured, above), as well as the urban design of The Maker Alley, which is Denver’s first activated alley. Our designs intentionally blur the lines between the different spaces, and we tried to find unexpected ways to connect them all.

What is important in design today?
Design has to tell a story, whether it is a new story created especially for a space or a story that reflects the space’s true history. These stories help infuse a place with a purpose and that, in turn, can help to create a destination for people to create their own stories and histories in.

What is next for your firm?
CRÈME is working on exciting projects such as a full-scale hotel in Philadelphia, restaurants in the Middle East, a multi-use complex in Japan, as well as some fun restaurant and retail concepts in New York. And we are continuing to develop products, with more furniture to be made available from Stellar Works in 2018.