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Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023

An Appetite For Creativity

Morning Glory, Born & Raised, Raised by Wolves, Soda & Swine and Polite Provisions.

The above-mentioned are not only some of San Diego’s hottest food and beverage spots, they also showcase some of the concepts from San Diego-based designer Paul Basile and BASILE Studio.

Headquartered in the East Village with 58 employees, BASILE Studio was founded in 1994 and focuses on commercial, hospitality and retail projects. The company has annual revenue of $8 million, according to BASILE Studio.

Asked to describe BASILE Studio, Basile said, “we are a vertically integrated design and fabrication company,” adding that the company does all its own electronics, windows, doors, shelving, furniture and lighting, among other custom-made specializations.

‘We Customize Everything’

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“We build everything you see — all the woodwork, the windows, the staircases, the liquor shelving, the ceiling lighting — we customize everything,” said Basile, born in Detroit, Michigan, who funded his career through construction work. “Before, an architect developed the concept and a designer built it. But we do development and interiors and build larger quantity items for more unique spaces that are customized. We don’t go through layers of people and deal with markups… I get to design whatever I want because I get to build it, and a lot of designers don’t get that opportunity.”

Basile moved to California at the age of 19 hoping to realize his dream as an architect; he attended school for a couple of years, at Lawrence Technological University back home in Detroit, but didn’t finish. Immediately after relocating, he not only fell in love with furniture design, he also realized there weren’t a lot of places in San Diego to offer a job as a furniture designer. So, he figured, if he built the furniture, then, he could design exactly what he envisioned. And that’s when, in the 1990s, he launched his career designing and building furniture pieces via the Basile Gallery in the Gaslamp Quarter.

“When people would come and see my unique designs, it was almost comical,” said Basile. “But they also saw I was capable of doing some different stuff. That’s when custom work came into play.”

For Morning Glory, Paul Basile said he and his team created 24 individual bi-fold windows that fold vertically in the air as well as the motor and electronics that control each one. Photo courtesy of BASILE Studio.

Year of the Dragon

In 1994, Basile’s first commissioned piece was a 30-foot-long, three-dimensional dragon for the now-deceased restauranteur Tom Fat who owned Fat City and China Camp. It had copper plating and smoke coming out of its nostrils, said Basile. His first full-scale project was for a restaurant called Papa Jack’s, located where FLUXX Nightclub is currently housed downtown, for which he was hired to do a “bunch of metal components like wine holders and wine towers and guardrails,” said Basile.

That’s when Basile began to work with architects and interior designers, and, through that experience, learned about design. It was a backward way of learning, he said, as he first began building, and then designing. But, in the long run, it proved to be an advantage.

As requests for one-off projects began to increase, Basile began to delve more into general contracting. By 2008, BASILE Gallery had closed and BASILE Studio, a full-service design/build and fabrication studio, had opened in East Village. Since then, Basile and his team have worked on some of the county’s most intricately designed, visually interesting restaurants and bars.

Andrew Murphy, head of client relations at Flores Financial Services, Inc., which works with most of the BASILE Studio-designed restaurants, said Basile’s creations are not just stunning on the eye, they serve a marketing purpose and drive new and repeat customers.

“Visually stunning restaurants draw social media-savvy patrons,” he said. “These customers share images online via social media, fueling the hype and driving new and repeat customers. While it’s impossible to put an accurate price tag on exactly how much a flashy space promoted in this way will add to your bottom line, it clearly has considerable value as ‘invisible’ marketing dollars.”

He adds that these detailed venues not only draw customers off social media postings, but also creates curb appeal, bringing locals and passersby as well.

When he is first contacted for a job, Basile said it begins with a simple conversation between him and the client, where they exchange ideas. For Raised by Wolves, the speakeasy by San Diego-based CH Projects located at Westfield UTC Mall, “the concept was to be a kind of old bottle shop that had a secret bar in the back,” said Basile. “Within the first five minutes of the conversation, we came up with the Scooby-Doo wall, where it spins you around and gets you in the other room. Five minutes later, I had sketched out how we split the space, working with what we already had, which was the exits, the restrooms and storage.”

Playing Off Genres

Basile said the idea was to create a French Nouveau atmosphere, with the French-styled bottle shop up front, but then a London-like library feel in the back.

“We don’t want to imitate anything exactly,” said Basile about his concepts. “We just play off of genres that play well together… The idea is to not imitate history, it is to put our twist on what that is by utilizing different materials. We like to use natural materials and use it in as many unique ways as humanly possible.”

Basile said his goal is always to achieve something that is timeless and has a handcrafted look to it that evokes a feeling of thoughtful labor and elevation. He said BASILE Studio has recently integrated a technology lab which designs circuit boards and handles coding for its design creations, including lighting and motor drive systems and such. The department has two full-time people that work with six in-house engineers, including a robotics engineer and an electrical engineer, and five mechanicals.

“We did something with Morning Glory that I came up with a little while ago,” said Basile. “We came up with individual bifold windows that bifold up in the air. These are 24 individual windows and they bifold up vertically. We created the motor and electronics that control each one of those. We can control the positioning of every single one of these windows. And, they can open in any pattern.”

He adds that for the latest Puesto Mexican Artisan Kitchen & Bar location in Mission Valley, which Basile is currently working on, the eatery will have a light show for which BASILE Studio designed its own electronics that will control over 100,000 LED dials.

Interactive Architecture

“That is what we think is the future,” he said. “Beside people doing design and build outs, we also have the interactive architecture side that we are integrating into our projects… Interactive and reactive elements are the future. There was a time it was about design and finishes. But, I think this is the next level, where architecture speaks to you and you speak back to it and it speaks to you again. This avenue is still young and we are learning a lot.”

Alex Adler, one of the founders of Puesto, said part of what makes Basile and his work special is that he is self-sufficient.

“San Diego is lucky to have a visionary designer like Paul working here,” he said. “We have entrusted him to work on four of our newest restaurants because he truly brings our vision to reality. The fact that we are able to visit his East Village studio to see his custom fabrications in progress is key. His process is unique because he not only designs but builds crucial components of his projects. Paul is a creative who embraces beauty via utility.”

Basile said his goal is to continue to build new architecture, or what he dubs “disruptive architecture,” and it is hoped, integrate hospitality into residential in the near future.

In terms of inspiration, Basile said he admires Los Angeles firm Bells & Whistles for their playful approach. But, understands the ability to construct and sculpt and create beyond design gives him a leg up on the competition. He said what makes BASILE studio successful is its innovation and persistence. On the flipside, Basile said the toughest part of running the business is management.

Branching Out

Currently, BASILE Studio has a handful of projects in the works, most of which couldn’t be revealed as of press time. This includes a ground-up residential homes project in San Diego and a hotel in Brooklyn, New York, — BASILE Studio’s second hotel following one in Phoenix, Arizona. He also just recently wrapped up a project in Serbia, another in Washington, D.C., and one in San Jose.

While the company is branching out of San Diego, Basile said no matter where work takes him, he always aims to make his city proud.

“I do have a lot of stuff going on… but we are a San Diego company,” he said. “One thing we are really excited about is… the idea that a San Diego-based company has been chosen to do a project in New York. That is huge for me and huge for San Diego.

“I’m glad our work is getting noticed,” he said. “It is putting San Diego on the map and I’m really excited about that.”


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