The Woman of SUBU Design Architecture

May Subu Architect and Interior Designer Los Angeles

The power of another person’s story is unique. In its raw form, it flows from one person’s experience to another in an almost physical rush. Perhaps a feeling of inspiration: “If they did it, so can I!” Or a moment of clarity where, all of a sudden, a new idea appears, sprouting from the exchange of experience.

For women, another’s story of perseverance, innovation, motivation, and success can be oh-so-powerful! In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to share the stories of women behind the brands that they have dreamed, founded, and built.

These are the women who bring a brand to life; women who are living, working, creating, and raising families. Through a series of questions, we delve into the minds of these women to share their empowering and uplifting thoughts and stories. Up now, The Woman of SUBU Design Architecture.

May Sung, The Woman of SUBU Design Architecture

SUBU is an architecture, interior design, and landscape design firm based in Los Angeles, California. The award-winning outfit specializes in luxury commercial and residential design, having completed projects across southern California and beyond. The impressive woman behind the full-service firm is founder and principal May Sung.

May graduated with honors from the UC Berkeley Department of Architecture and earned her Master of Architecture degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. After graduating, she was named Fulbright Fellow to Hong Kong SAR.

Her impressive academic career was followed by experiences abroad that have informed her perspective on design, especially where housing is concerned. May approaches each project with a keen interest in narrative, believing that each space should tell a story and reflect the personality of the client.

Historic La Serena Villas Hotel in Palm Springs, California

Along with features and recognition by top design magazines such as Luxe and Architectural Digest, May’s work on the preservation of the historic La Serena Villas Hotel has been recognized by the City of Palm Springs. She is an experienced, worldly designer with an eye for detail and a skill for storytelling that many creators aspire to.

Read on to learn more about May Sung, the inspiring woman behind the work.

May Sung

Founder & Principal

may sung subu design architecture
May Sung of SUBU Design Architecture

When did your love affair with design begin? And how did it make you feel?

I can remember exactly when it began. I remember going to construction sites with my grandfather when I was in kindergarten and watching the concrete mix being poured and becoming walls. I was fascinated by the construction process. And then going with my mother to select decorative fixtures for our home, how personal and involved it was; how scale and colors can transform a space.

Tell us a bit about your path and what led to your decision to start SUBU Design Architecture.

Having worked at various firms back East and abroad, I realized that I needed to express my own artistic vision so that I can grow in my own knowledge.

What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

Learning how to balance life and work, and continuing to work on it.

manhattan beach residence designed by may sung
subu architecture biophilia green wall may subu

Who/what has contributed most to your success? 

My mother…who has always encouraged me and taught me how much hard work and effort is needed to succeed in business and life.

What surprised you most about growing a business?

The ups and downs. How there are a lot of things that are out of your control. And design is only 20% of it, the rest is business.

Tell us about your most demanding client. What was the experience, and what did you learn from it?

Every client is demanding, even when they claim they are not. Architecture and interior are luxury items, and the client should be demanding. I have tried to learn from every experience, my job is not just about design, it’s also part therapist and teacher.

How do you handle negative feedback or criticism of your work?

You learn from it and move on.

If you could have done something different, what would it be?

I probably would have started my own firm earlier.

What helps you move forward with your business despite the inevitable struggles?

The support from my family and being able to show my children that things do always work out, even when things look bleak.

Who is May Sung, The Woman of SUBU Design Architecture?

I am a Taiwanese American who is a mother, a wife, a sister, and a daughter. I practice as an architect and a designer who loves all aspects of my job.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in design?

  • Work for someone that you admire and learn from everything, even when you think you are not learning.
  • Trust your intuition.  
  • And Listen.

Do you have any mottos you like to live by?

Life is short, don’t let the little things bother you.

What’s next for May & SUBU?

For myself, I would like to mentor more women architects/designers. For SUBU, we are starting to work on more boutique hotels and starting to work on our own collections.

Explore more by May Sung, The Woman of SUBU Design Architecture!

Words by Bridget Kitson
All Images Courtesy of SUBU Design Architecture

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