Meet the Makers: Lauren Dunn & Pepe Sanchez
Local camaraderie grows through creation of custom Air Plants at The Piccolo
From vineyard vines and olive orchards to strawberry fields that seem to go on forever, it’s no secret that the Paso Robles area is home to some of the most bountiful land in California. But of all the wonderful things that grow here, the camaraderie that blossoms between our local artisans is our favorite byproduct.
We were lucky enough to witness one of these partnerships grow between Lauren Dunn of Dunn Gardens and Pepe Sanchez of Deadwood Revival as they collaborated on The Piccolo’s 24 custom air plants that hang in each guestroom.
A Makeshift Meet-Cute
It all began at the Makeshift Market, a pop-up event where 30 local businesses come together to share their crafts. Here, Kate from TenOver Studio encountered Lauren for the first time and recruited her for the interior plants at The Piccolo.
Working as an Ornamental Horticulturist since 2006, Lauren specializes in Landscape Designs with an affinity for low maintenance, drought-tolerant, colorful, California friendly solutions. A smaller-scale project than her typical full-scale landscapes, creating the Air Plants for The Piccolo was Lauren’s first endeavor of this kind—and as you can see, it was the start of something beautiful.
Hanging in the Balance: Where Delicate Meets Strong
Lauren was presented with ideas and inspiration for the air plant pieces, which were originally going to be black iron and a more complex design than the simplified, rose gold design that currently hangs in the rooms at The Piccolo. However, a simplified design doesn’t mean the work was any easier to accomplish—enter, Pepe Sanchez of Deadwood Revival.
For typical projects, Lauren would normally source metal frames from online marketplaces like Etsy. This time around, however, Lauren couldn’t find anything that was sturdy enough to support the plant on the wall. “I wanted something that was strong, but still looked delicate and light in keeping with the feel of the hotel,” Lauren said. From there, she decided to reach out to local craftsmen in the area to create something original and truly high quality. A quick Google search led her to Deadwood Revival and her partner for the project, Pepe.
“As soon as we heard about the project, we wanted to be involved in any way we could. Just being part of a community project like this is special,” Pepe said.
True to their name, Deadwood Revival Design is a team of local woodworkers, welders, and designers who specialize in handcrafted furniture and slabs salvaged from dead trees that were otherwise destined to become firewood. Deadwood Revival produces their own materials entirely, from collecting the dead wood locally to processing it at their mill in Paso Robles, and finally doing all the finish work at their workspace in San Luis Obispo. There, Pepe’s focuses on design and metal works.
“It’s a weird feeling to have. We repurpose and give life to something that was otherwise left for dead,” said Pepe, “I love providing things that you can’t buy anywhere—those funky or one-of-a-kind pieces that make a space work for the person.”
Breathing Local Life into The Piccolo
Since the project’s inception, there had been four different versions of prototypes before Lauren and Pepe arrived at the final product. For instance, the metal frames Pepe was responsible for crafting started out iron black, but once the two saw the color palette for the hotel, they chose a rose gold metal that would better tie in the hotel’s brand.
Another challenge Lauren faced was selecting the actual plant for the frames. Although air plants have become very popular due to their low maintenance reputation, Lauren admits that it’s actually fairly difficult to keep air plants happy, healthy, and alive. Operationally, it would have been even harder to take care of the plants at a hotel. With her expert opinion in mind, the decision was made to use faux Tillandsia nestled on a bed of native moss sourced locally from Cambria inside the rooms at The Piccolo.
Although the design inspiration was drawn from many other pieces, the finished Air Plant fixtures are entirely custom. But what makes them truly unique, according to Lauren, is the pride among the makers behind each piece—and we couldn’t agree more.
“There’s so much pride in people here and a strong desire to support each other—it doesn’t make sense to do it any other way,” Lauren said. “[What excites me most about The Piccolo is] meeting all the people involved, like Pepe. It sounds so Kumbaya, but it really has been cool to witness the pride of contribution and participation among us local makers.”
Despite their free-hanging nature, The Piccolo’s made-to-order air plants are deeply rooted in the camaraderie and community of Paso Robles, thanks to Lauren and Pepe’s teamwork. As The Piccolo opens this Fall, we hope to continue growing meaningful connections such as these with everyone who walks through our doors.