Margaret O'Brien

Owner

O'Brien & Associates Design Inc.

Age: 43

Through most of her career, Margaret O'Brien specialized in commercial office design. Among top corporate clients she was highly regarded, having worked on offices for new executives who came to Walt Disney Co. in the mid-1980s including those of Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

But how many people see the office interiors of high-ranking corporate executives?

It wasn't until the early 1990s that O'Brien's talent began to be more generally displayed. That's when she met Kozo Hasegawa, the prominent restaurateur who looked her up to design his new Caf & #233; La Boheme in West Hollywood.

"No matter how high-profile the corporate work you do, you're not getting the people and the exposure that you get at these restaurants," said O'Brien, a Chicago native.

At the time, O'Brien recalled that she didn't have anything in her portfolio resembling Hasegawa's vision. Nevertheless, he "finally called back and said he wanted to work with me," said O'Brien. "I was floored it was a giant leap of faith."

It also began the buzz on O'Brien's cutting-edge style.

Caf & #233; La Boheme opened in 1992, at the nadir of the recession. The restaurant, a far cry from the minimalist style found in many Westside eateries, is a rich and earthy mix of gothic and French design, with dramatic fireplaces, high ceilings and lush velvet drapes.

It caught the eye of many restaurateurs and interior designers, but because of the anemic economy, and with restaurants closing left and right, O'Brien did little retail work.

When the economy began to recover, however, a flood of jobs started coming in, including contracts for the Garden of Eden in Hollywood and Caf & #233; Monsoon in Santa Monica.

She has also done work overseas. At one restaurant in Tokyo, the hostess station is lined in mink and gold leaf. That's only one of seven restaurants she has designed Tokyo; she also designed a restaurant in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

O'Brien is also now being sought to design private residences and is working on homes in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Newport Beach.

David Judaken, owner of the Garden of Eden, which opened last October, sought out the interior designer nearly two years before his 10,000-square-foot supper club opened.

"Caf & #233; La Boheme captured so many of the qualities that I wanted to project," said Judaken. "I found out who she was and I didn't want anyone but her."

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