With the motto “remember the past, challenge the future”, Lake Forest is a city that embraces its heritage and new opportunities. Currently a hub for different commercial industries such as retail, manufacturing, and technology, the city is known for its thriving businesses and neighborhoods, making it a popular place to live and work. Filled with luxury real estate properties, the city is home to condominiums, lakefront homes, and equestrian estates. 

Because of the many things the city has to offer, entrepreneurs are enticed to open business in Lake Forest. To fit the area’s vibrant community, excellent architects are needed to provide the right commercial facility designs. Our editors have pooled eight outstanding architectural firms that offer outstanding services in the area. Each firm in the list has dedicated principals that have been in the industry for several years. These firms are experts when it comes to industries such as retail, healthcare, recreation, and tenant improvement. 


17911 Von Karman Ave. Suite 200, Irvine, CA 92614

Established in 1991, KTGY combines high standards and sustainable practices in its designs. As such, it is part of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), and has earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum and Gold certifications. Leading the firm today is chairman Jill Williams. With a degree in environmental design from Miami University, she guides the team in creating thoughtful designs that serve both the clients and the environment. 

Existing for three decades in the industry, KTGY has developed into an international full-service architectural firm. In all of its practices, the firm tries to challenge architectural norms by consistently searching for new techniques. Moreover, the firm has earned multiple recognitions from the Golden Nugget Awards and other award-giving bodies. 

Included in the firm’s impressive portfolio is the Avery Center. Located in Mission Viejo, California, this retail center needed a renovation for one building and ground-up construction for another. For the project, the firm ensured that each aspect of the facility followed codes, and improved the center’s accessibility by establishing new routes. Aside from this, the firm used an Andalusian architectural style inspiration featuring exquisite landscaping and decorative elements. 

Rauhaus Freedenfeld & Associates (rfa)

23101 Moulton Pkwy. Suite 106, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

Rauhaus Freedenfeld & Associates is the go-to firm when it comes to animal healthcare. It advocates bringing people and animals together in a healthy environment. This goal has led the firm to work with different veterinarians, educators, and shelter and pet care providers across the world. Because of its dedication to the industry, it has gained multiple awards including the Merit Award 2020 for its work on Irvine Veterinary Services. 

Located in University Park, the Irvine Veterinary Services facility is a complete transformation from its previous form: an IHOP restaurant. The firm expertly rehabilitated the 40-year-old structure and turned it into a full-service veterinary facility. This 5,615-square-foot full-service veterinary hospital now has a modern, professional look with inviting spaces for both pets and pet owners. For its excellent designs in the sector, the firm has graced the Veterinary Economics Magazine

Founded in 2005, the firm was founded by co-principals Warren Freedenfeld, AIA, and Richard Rauh, AIA. Freedenfeld has handled over 350 animal care facilities in different parts of the world, and Rauh has lectured and participated in various veterinarian conferences around the U.S. alongside having experience in animal care facilities as well. Aside from this, both Rauh and Freedenfeld have years of experience in designing for different commercial, mixed-use, and retail facilities. 

David R. Olson Architects

470 Wald, Irvine, CA 92618

For high-end designs, David R. Olson Architects is the firm to call. It is a full-service architecture firm giving retail, restaurant, and various commercial establishments luxury designs. Its elegant designs has graced the pages of Luxe Interiors and Design, Orange County California Homes, and Architectural Styles, Orange County. 

Established in 1991, the firm has handled various projects for prominent companies like BMW. Its impressive portfolio also includes work on RDM General Contractor’s office. Located in Costa Mesa, California, the office space features modern, clean lines. With white and gray tones complemented by wooden beams, the palettes of colors and materials create a unique and professional atmosphere. 

In each project, David R. Olson Architect’s team displays excellent work ethic to produce high quality work. This excellent work ethic is inspired by principal David Olson. Olson is an AIA and NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) member. He earned his architecture degree in Cal Poly Pomona, and currently holds licenses in several states in the U.S. 

Saunders + Wiant Architects, Inc.

2700 West Coast Hwy. Suite 200, Newport Beach, CA 92663

Saunders + Wiant Architects, Inc. is a specialist in medical centers. Established in 1995, the firm has designed various dental, orthodontics, and radiology centers across the Southwestern United States. The firm has handled projects in the Middle East and Mexico as well. An example of the firm’s excellent medical facility projects is the West Coast Radiology center. This 4,000-square-foot medical imaging facility needed an expert firm that knows how to handle medical equipment. As a specialist in the field, the firm created a design that supports MRI, CT scan, and X-ray services. The firm also took into account the patients using the facility; it created a space that provides a calming environment for patients undergoing medical procedures. 

Aside from the healthcare sector, the firm has mastery in other commercial, education, and retail sectors as well. Whether it’s a big or small project, firm principal Niall Saunders makes sure that quality and affordability are delivered to each client. Saunders is an AIA, NCARB, and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) member. He has over 35 years of experience in the industry and has several degrees including a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Kingston, London. 

Zen Architects

22386 Woodgrove Rd., Lake Forest, CA 92630

Zen Architects employs a Zen-simple approach in each of its projects. That means providing honest designs that meet the essentials. The designs it creates are both cost-effective and personal. This objective is formulated by founder and owner John Salat. Under his direction, independent consultants work together to fulfill the firm’s goals. Salat is an experienced, licensed architect that has handled over 600 projects. His reputation is built through 35 years of valuable experience, allowing him to become an award-winning designer published in magazines like the OC Home and Garden Magazine and The Register. Additionally, Salat is an AIA and CGBP member. 

Salat’s efficient leadership has gained the firm the Lake Forest Small Business Excellence Award. Using a simple yet efficient approach, his firm masterfully handles commercial, retail, and office projects. The firm has diverse expertise that covers industrial, civic, automotive, and education sectors. In all the designs it creates, the firm’s goal is clear: to produce long-lasting facilities that are both aesthetically pleasing and budget-friendly. 

DRA Architects

32 Executive Park Suite 100, Irvine, CA  92614

For DRA Architects, its greatest asset is its team. Its group of professionals efficiently collaborate to produce the best commercial architecture designs. Partnering with big and small organizations, the firm executes projects with professionalism and cost-effective measures. Because of this, the firm has established great client relationships for the last 26 years. 

DRA Architects’ team is under the supervision of principals Carrie M. Hoshino and Stephen P. Zieg. Hoshino and Zieg combine their 29 years of experience in the industry to give strong design and architectural directions to the team. With strong leadership and a reliable team, the firm provides design and architecture services for the commercial sector. The firm has handled several offices and industrial, healthcare, and retail facilities throughout California. 

Some of its notable clients include McDonnell Douglas Space Center, Mitsubishi Executive Office, and the United Sports Brand. Located in Fountain Valley, the United Sports Brand Corporate Headquarters’ design reflects the company’s strength in the industry. Featuring a bold facade with blue and white tones, the headquarters’ design supports the United Sports Brand’s core value: to perform and excel in the industry. 

ARE Associates

25422 Trabuco Rd. Suite 105-A, Lake Forest, CA 92630

Based in Lake Forest, ARE Associates’ main speciality is self-storage units. For multiple years, the firm has earned the Best of Business award for architectural services from Inside Self Storage. Aside from its membership in the ISS, the firm is affiliated with the Self Storage Association, Arizona Self-Storage Association, and California Self Storage Association. For the past 23+ years, ARE Associates has vowed to make creative designs that meet function and are cost-effective. Founder Ken Carrell has always aimed for this. Carrell is a California State Polytechnic University-Pomona alumnus that brings in his 35 years of experience in architecture and construction to provide excellent services in commercial architecture. 

One of the storage facilities the firm helped design is the STORBOX & The Wine Grotto. Located in Pasadena, this 134,00-square-foot facility involved a conversion of a single-story warehouse. Taking advantage of the previous building’s height, the firm smartly designed a two-story facility to create more usable areas. The firm has incorporated wine and high-security art storage into the facility as well. In addition, the firm took into account climate control to preserve items stored in the facility.