The Designer’s Work Embodies All Things California Modern
Written by: Jeff Cooper Eric Trine Brings Long Beach-Based Design to New Heights
Photographed by: Tae Kwon
The Expert: Eric Trine
Credentials: Object Designer + Artist
Native Knowledge: Eric got into DIY projects after moving into his first apartment with his wife Heather.
When you ask the average 10-year-old what he wants for his birthday, he might say a video game or maybe a bicycle. When Eric Trine’s parents asked what he wanted for his tenth birthday, he asked for a circular saw. Since childhood, Eric has built a reputation as an amazing designer with an innovative, signature product line. He is inspired by the elegance of modern design, emulating the mid-century principles of stellar design and craftsmanship. Fresh from the lumberyard, Eric sat down for an interview, describing his life as an artist, a family man, a business owner and a Southern California native.
Q: So you grew up in Orange County, why did you choose Long Beach as your headquarters?
Eric Trine: I grew up in Orange County near Seal Beach and I am definitely an Orange County kid, but attended graduate school in Portland, Oregon. My whole family is here; we are all a couple of miles from one another. Beyond them, the opportunity business-wise has been so amazing for me here. We have amazing diversity and resources in Long Beach that I love—all of which contribute to keeping me local.
Q: Can you describe how you got into design?
ET: I have taken a long path with my experience and education. I started in high school where I did set design and lighting for the theater program. I played sports my freshman year, and then saw all of these guys involved with the theater that got to build and create things. When I saw the opportunity to make stuff and build stuff I jumped on it—I joined that program and it started my hands on education in design, which eventually fed into college. I explored lots of options in college and took every single art class that I could.
My formal training was put to the test when my wife and I outfitted our house, like building a bed frame and creating a space for my family. That experience pulled me from the abstractness of the fine art I learned about in college into a practical and hands on approach to design—it grew and I started making product for friends. I used friends to prototype products and it kept gaining momentum. My grad program in Portland was a hybrid entrepreneurship and design program, like a mix of an MBA and MFA; it was an MFA in Applied Craft and Design.
Q: Describe your aesthetic.
ET: I have been throwing around the term “California Modern”—I want to execute modern design that isn’t about status, but is about being clean and casual. It’s modern design for the middle class.
Q: Is there a designer or particular period of design that fascinates you?
ET: I am definitely interested in the mid-century modern design look—it is a major bookmark for me. The philosophy behind the era is what interests me most. I was recently in Palm Springs learning from designers and architects; design should benefit people’s lives, and the mid-century designers didn’t want the products to have status, but to build products that improve lives.
Designers during that time worked to make things that were simple and casual and affordable. The time frame is known for the introduction of television, and lifestyle magazines and reminds me of my own upbringing. Its suburban casual, with indoor-outdoor living; a sense of approachability.
Q: What inspires you in your designs?
ET: Beyond an aesthetic, designing a thing or product is 10 percent of the problem. The bulk of the work is hitting a price point and getting the product to people who want it, and knowing what they will want sometimes before they do! I actively search out what is cool, interesting and unique in Long Beach. There are a lot of great people and places here that give me inspiration in my work.
Q: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
ET: I wrote a paper in 6th grade about wanting to be an architect, but when I was in 4th grade I also wanted to be a hairstylist for a while. I’d say architecture is my go-to answer.
Q: What does your perfect weekend look like?
ET: I like to have one weekend day when I don’t leave the house. I don’t get enough time in my own home during the week, and I love lying around in my backyard and barbecuing. I was up early this Sunday morning and I was noticing new rhythms in my own home, and it feels really good to see and experience my home throughout a full day.
The other day of the weekend is usually running around doing a combination of errands, and we go to The Lab or The Camp in Costa Mesa to eat at Native Foods or East Borough; it has become our home away from home. I built a lot of fixtures and installations at The Lab and The Camp, they’re great places to hangout.
Eric’s Favorite Place in Long Beach: Rancho Los Alamitos—“It is the best-hidden gem in Long Beach. It’s a great place to take kids and they have an amazing botanical garden and cactus garden—its free and a lot of fun.”
Eric’s Go-To Food Spots
Working Class Kitchen
Eric Trine is the King of California Modern Design