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Historic Inspiration

Design Trends

With a keen eye for color and design detail, Francesca Garcia-Marques looks around the Mount St. Mary's Campus with delight as her design vision is coming to fruition. Years of design research and development have paved the way for an updated look to the Southern California campus, all the while maintaining the integrity of the architecture, Francesca looks forward to the next phase of this project. We recently discussed this project as well as her design background and what inspires her to keep designing. Here is our interview:

Please describe your design studio and how you began your company.
Studio Francesca Garcia-Marques was founded in Los Angeles in 1989 as a design-oriented firm, operating in the fields of interior design, branding, graphic design, exhibition curating and design, as well as direction and organization of architectural/design programs.

This interdisciplinary approach is based on my training and experience in Milan, where I worked for Giò Ponti and other top designers who created everything from spoons to skyscrapers. When I moved to Los Angeles, all the firms I interviewed with were specialized in one design discipline only so I decided to start my own studio.

What or who inspires you in your design work?
I am inspired by harmonious compositions, as well as by unexpected juxtapositions of form, color and materials. I am inspired by innovative current architecture, as well as by the classic beauty of ancient cities. Architects, artists and designers who inspire me: Tadao Ando, Paul Klee, Le Corbusier, Andrea Palladio, Giò Ponti, Richard Serra, Philippe Starck and so many others.

Please describe your work at Mount St. Mary's College and the history of the campuses.
Since 2003, I have enjoyed the good fortune of working with Mount St. Mary's College (MSMC) on design projects at both historic campuses. Projects include exterior color schemes, as well as interior design and lighting design for auditoriums and theaters, classrooms, conference rooms, offices, residence halls and lounges.


Mount St. Mary's College was founded in 1925 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. The Chalon Campus that opened in 1928 is located in the Santa Monica Mountains, with a breathtaking view of the mountains, the city and the ocean. The architecture is predominantly Spanish Colonial.

The downtown Doheny Campus opened in 1962 on Chester Place, a century-old estate once owned by Los Angeles oil baron Edward L. Doheny. In addition to the renowned Doheny Mansion, built in 1899, the verdant park-like setting of the campus contains mansions and homes in multiple architectural styles such as Romantic Revival, Victorian, Queen Anne and Craftsman.

What was your design inspiration and design process for choosing the colors on the campuses? What Dunn-Edwards colors were used?
Chalon Campus:
The main entrance to the Chalon Campus is the gracious circle that includes Mary Chapel, the jewel and centerpiece, surrounded by the library, residence halls, classrooms and administrative buildings. Colonnaded walkways link the structures.



When I first saw the campus all the circle buildings were painted white. Inspired by the Spanish Colonial architecture, my concept was to create the atmosphere of a traditional Spanish plaza. The overall field color is cream, to preserve the unity of the circle, but each structure now has specific accent and trim colors that complement existing ceramic, stone or wood elements, and transition subtly from one building to the next.


The introduction of color has provided an inviting space where students enjoy hanging out. It has also revealed intricate details of the structures that were barely noticeable with the previous monochromatic palette.

Chalon Campus: Dunn-Edwards Perfect Palette® paint colors


Doheny Campus:

The architecture at the Doheny Campus comprises an eclectic mix of styles. Many of the historic homes that have been converted into classrooms, offices, meeting rooms and housing were constructed between 1897 and 1905.



Because the campus is located in the West Adams Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, all restoration work and color palettes are required to be consistent with the style and period of the structure and the neighborhood. This initially implied a significant amount of research on my part as I was not familiar with the area.


Each house is unique, but many had been covered in the past with dull or mismatched paints. It is a delight to see them come to life with harmonious color palettes that also complement the surrounding buildings.

Doheny Campus: Dunn-Edwards Perfect Palette® colors used


What has been the outcome of the projects – client reaction?
My clients at Mount St. Mary's College are thrilled with the results. I believe their positive reaction is evidenced by the fact that they have been engaging my studio's design services for 10 years. A recent comment:"Her unerring sense of scale, color and the historic value of the campuses have made her an invaluable part of the MSMC consulting team."

I would like to add that I could not do these projects without the amazing assistance and advice that I receive from Dunn-Edwards, the tools you supply to designers such as the Perfect Palette ® system, and your immense range of high-quality paint colors.

What's next for you?
Classic and modern design projects are equally exciting for me. I hope to continue my historical work with Mount St. Mary's College. I also look forward to new cutting edge projects, particularly in the restaurant, retail or exhibition fields where I can incorporate my talents in interior, lighting, display and graphic design.

To find out more about Francesca and Studio Garcia-Marques, visit

PHOTO CAPTIONS: All photos courtesy of Studio Francesca Garcia-Marques, except Mary Chapel, photographer Rick Mendoza..All copyrights are reserved.

Image Details:
MSMC Chalon Campus:
Mary Chapel -- photographer: Rick Mendoza; Following Images by Studio Francesca Garcia-Marquest: Rossiter Hall & Colonnaded Walkway; Rossiter Colonnaded Walkway; St. Joseph Administration and Seaver Science Center; Colonnaded Walkway at St. Joseph Administration Center / Humanities Building; Charles Willard Coe Memorial Library

MSMC Doheny Campus: House 1, House 7, House 10, House 22 photos courtesy of Studio Francesca Garcia-Marques