Downtown Berkeley Spotlight
Celebrating Our Community
Marites Abueg & Keith Morris
Architects and Business Partners at Studio KDA
"Modern life has all of us rushing from place to place. We make spaces where people can slow down and have a memorable experience. "
Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions for us! Let’s start in the beginning.
Why don’t you introduce yourselves, what you do, where you went to school, and how long you’ve been designing together?
I’m Marites (mary-tess) Abueg and my architect/business partner and husband of 26 years is Keith Morris. We design restaurants and all things fun and food together. We met at the University of Cincinnati’s Architecture school in the mid 80’s (and started dating our very first year!) We’ve been working and designing together since our younger daughter was born, almost 15 years ago. Two years ago Keith and I merged our firm Abueg Morris Architects with Kahn Design Associates and we’re all now Studio KDA.
"We’re excited to see the new vibrancy downtown with more places to eat, more live music and theater, housing and finally groups of pedestrians at night!"
You’ve worked on so many great projects. Could you remind us of all the projects you’ve worked on here in Downtown Berkeley?
Comal Restaurant, Cornerstone Craft Beer and Live Music, Tender Greens, Maker’s Common, Ici Ice Cream, Venus Restaurant, and The Office co-working space. KDA co-created Ippuku in 2010 with Paul Diskoe as well as downtown Berkeley’s first Bike Station.
How would you explain the Studio KDA style?
Friends often tell us they recognize our projects when they first walk in, even before they know it was ours! Our approach always starts with comfort, connection and warmth. We love texture and color, and adding details, lighting and artwork that are specific to the restaurant’s personal story. This approach withstands the test of time. (Our first restaurant, Oakland’s A Cote, is 18 years old!) We say no to simply copy-pasting a stylistic era or hip trend. And unlike a lot of other restaurants, we prioritize flattering lighting and comfortable acoustics.
How have you noticed Downtown Berkeley changing and has that change effected the way you work or approach a new project? Are you trying to facilitate change with your work?
Great question! We’ve lived in Berkeley for 27 years and live just 8 blocks from downtown. Comal was a pivotal project for us, and I think, for Downtown Berkeley, in that it created a living room-like hub - a communal gathering place - that is our modern grange hall or community center. We love running into old and new friends there each time we go. We emphasize connection and inclusivity in all of our work. We want people to feel easeful and inspired in our designs while sharing a great meal with family and friends. Modern life has all of us rushing from place to place. We make spaces where people can slow down and have a memorable experience. And we’ve been lucky to have projects with outdoor patios that serve as sweet urban refuges.
What cool projects are you working on now in Downtown Berkeley?
We’ve been working on the new Comal To-Go concept next door to Comal, and we are excited to be working with the Freight and Salvage on improving their Lobby experience. Studio KDA also has several multi-family unit projects downtown currently in design and construction.
What do you guys like about Downtown Berkeley?
We’re excited to see the new vibrancy downtown with more places to eat, more live music and theater, housing and finally groups of pedestrians at night! We recently had a great date night, walking to Maker’s Common for dinner, a show at the UC Theater, followed by a drink at Comal, and a leisurely walk home. How great is that?
Special thanks Marites Abueg, Keith Morris, and everyone at Studio KDA in making Downtown Berkeley rock!