Ben Rousseau Brings a Bold, Modern Flair to Our Beach Cities with His Sleek, Futuristic Furniture and Décor
A brighter future.
- Written byTanya Monaghan
- Photographed byShane O’Donnell
In 2019, when Ben Rousseau uprooted his family from the U.K. and moved to Manhattan Beach, the only prerequisite was that they find a home with a pool—a promise that Ben and his wife made to their daughter. In coastal Manhattan Beach this narrows the odds considerably, but Ben stayed true to his promise. A true artist, he created the vision for this traditional, American-style home—a blank canvas to which he could take his brush and finesse into his original work of art.
From the outside, the home certainly meets the aspiration of both traditional and American. But once greeted at the door by the tall, charming and charismatic Ben, I was immediately aware of the dichotomy between the exterior and what I was seeing inside.
Crossing the threshold, I stepped from the past into the future. Bright, bold colors electrified the walls of the entry room. Center stage, like art on display at a museum, are Ben’s futuristic furniture creations. Also in view is a built-in bar and neon-lit DJ booth programmed to illuminate at different sound frequencies.
This home was like no other I had ever seen. It was immediately clear that Ben doesn’t play by anyone’s rules. His approach to work (and life) is all about fun.
He grew up in Colchester, Britain’s oldest recorded town, surrounded by buildings steeped in history— including a 1,000-year-old castle. For a young Ben, captivated by the slick, high-tech movie worlds of Star Wars and 007, the contrast was stark.
He tinkered with machinery, such as his father’s classic American car, and explored his creative side through his artist mother. He attended art school before going on to study film special effects—hoping to tap into the world of model-making and futuristic film sets. As technology advanced and computer graphics replaced the handmade work he so enjoyed, Ben reached a crossroads. He loved the fantasy but didn’t want to be tied to a computer.
In his 20s, Ben began designing DJ booths, tables and lighting for London clubs, implementing much of what he learned working in special effects to light the spaces and create the vibe. He pivoted to product design and created stage events for a PR agency that represented MTV, leading to a project with Destiny’s Child. His success in designing high-profile events offered him valuable connections that propelled him into a design career in London.
Light figures into almost everything Ben creates, from his furniture and his art to his unique timepieces. He compares lighting to storytelling, a tool to help your eyes focus on certain things and drive your experience.
“Lighting has always been a necessary ingredient for my work,” he shares. “It’s mesmerizing. It can amp the energy in a club or it can create a relaxing, calm ambience in a home. There are infinite details when it comes to lighting, and most people can’t wrap their heads around it until you show it to them. There can be layers of lights, lights from overhead and under-lighting details.”
Ben describes his Tempus clocks as “a kinetic artwork that tells the time.” To see this clock function and light up is a dazzling experience. He’s created a fresh, beautiful way to tell time using organized geometry, repeated forms and light. “It’s taking things back to the utmost simplicity, using less material and using light to create lines and shadows,” he says. “I love precision and highly engineered looks, but I also love nature—as you can never replicate nature’s beauty.”
Ben entrusted prop-makers from the recent Star Wars films to help program the light patterns and sequences of his futuristic timepiece—one he envisions hanging on the wall of James Bond nemesis Auric Goldfinger.
COVID-19 has added an extra obstacle to marketing his designs, many of which are experiential. “Until you sit in one of my bubble chairs, you don’t get a feel for how big and comfortable they are or get a sense of that protective feeling enveloping you,” he says of one of his furniture creations. “It’s a very different chair experience, and that’s what is missing from pictures.”
So Ben tapped into his creativity and connected with people through five-minute interviews in his chairs. He called the series “From the Bubble,” first interviewing architect-designer Anthony Laney of Laney LA and growing the outreach from there.
While every Ben Rousseau Design project is unique, the designer insists the approach remains consistent. “We spend time together working on your vision, so there is a deep understanding of your space, your surroundings, your needs and your requirements,” he says. “Every aspect of your desire to improve your space—whether that’s a change to the interior or adding a bespoke piece—is considered. Only then can it become the reality you want.”