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Los Angeles-based designers Lisa Donohoe and Brynn Gelbard are the dynamic duo behind Londubh Studio (pronounced lón-dove). Their revolutionary designs and one-of-a-kind finishes are not only decorative but representative of who they are – eclectic originals. In this interview, Donohoe and Gelbard welcome The Culture Trip into their creative world.
TCT: How did you get started in interior design?
Lisa Donohoe: We both used to work in restaurants back in our San Francisco days. I came to a point where I was ready to do something else and a friend mentioned that the decorative painting studio where he worked was hiring. I had no idea what he meant by decorative painting but I’d always been an artist so I gave it a shot. It was a top studio—I quickly learned what decorative finishing was on some amazing projects for incredible designers like Jay Jeffers, Ken Fulk and Peter Marino.
Brynn Gelbard: At that time I was working for a tiny production company that specialized in video game commercials. I was taking screenwriting classes and I started producing indie films. We met these lesbian filmmakers from the UK who invited us to work on their upcoming feature. Lisa jumped in the art department and never looked back. After that, I would always hire Lisa to do production design on anything I worked on and I also worked as her assistant on other jobs. Working alongside her in the art department opened both our eyes to this hazy idea of collaborative potential—that came to fruition years later, when she finished the Interior Design program at UCLA and really started to grow Londubh. She invited me to work with her to help further establish the company and join in on some projects. As soon as we started doing jobs together, the type of work that was requested of us changed. It was like the universe was saying, ‘Pay attention to your shared voice.’ People asked us for custom art projects. We weren’t just finishers. Clients referred to us as artists—this was delicious for both of us to hear. We would spend long days and nights experimenting, expressing, listening to music, like two mad scientists at play. Finally, we realized it wasn’t going to be a temporary thing—us working together like this.
TCT: What is the most unusual request you’ve had?
LD: A designer I was working with once picked up a handful of sand, picked out one grain, and asked me to color match it.
BG: A client with an expansive canyon property with fantastical drought resistant gardens asked us to do huge pieces on both her main and guest house’s patio floors, as well as her diving board. Her only stipulations were that we have fun, be fearless with color, and make our pieces work with the surrounding environment. Other than that, she trusted us. It’s rare to be given that much leeway. In return, we trusted ourselves not to pre-plan so much, but to work intuitively, coming up with designs based on what animals visited us while we were working, what images came to us in our meditations, and using colors we mixed on the spot based on our surroundings. We call this client our angel because these experiences reinforced our connection and communication as an artistic duo like nothing else.
TCT: What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the business?
LD: As with anything, arm yourself with faith and love and take the time to develop and hone your individual voice. People who try to tear you down are only reiterating what tore them down. Be patient because all great things take time. If what’s in your own heart is your greatest source of strength, then nothing can stop you.
TCT: What’s next on the horizon for Londubh?
LD: We are excited to get in on the amazing mural scene, either doing our own pieces or collaborating with other artists. Also, we’re going 3D—we’re collaborating on a line of furniture pieces unlike any that we’ve ever seen.
TCT: How would you describe your creative process and work in 80 characters?
Three parts passion, two parts elbow grease, one loud stereo and a couple of cocktails.
TCT: What is your dream project?
LD: Creating art that inspires—a large-scale public art project that gives us an opportunity to enrich people’s lives. Inspired by nature’s palette and patterns, we can bring life and energy into the community and transform a concrete wall or floor into something magical.
BG: As far as Londubh Studio goes, for me it’s definitely working massive and public. I am so proud of how hard we’ve worked to establish our style and work ethic, and I just want to celebrate that. I’ve been having a lot of visions lately of spaces: with our decorative finishes on the walls and ceilings; our art pieces also on the walls; our painted rugs on the floors; and filled with our furniture pieces, which are an exciting new collaborative venture for us. The vibe would be so enlivening and electric. Oh, the parties we’d throw!
TCT: What advice would you give your younger self?
LD: Pay attention to what you really love doing and what really makes you happy and let that be your guide.
BG: What she said and love yourself and be as kind to yourself as you would another. And of course, honor your voice.
TCT: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
BG: My aunt Sue. She died when she was 53 of pneumonia and hadn’t been accepting of me being gay like I thought she would be. I know she was just worried about me being happy and safe in what was a much less accepting climate for LGBTQ people at the time. I’d want to tell her about how much the world has changed and that I am so happy.
TCT: What is the most memorable moment from your career?
LD: When the scaffolding was taken down from the historic Clifton’s Cafeteria on Broadway in downtown LA, we had just 12 days to complete the painted restoration of the five-story exterior. The original 80-year-old facade had been covered up in the 1960s to make the building appear more modern. We hand tinted and eye-matched so many different shades of red to blend in with the existing painted finish. The aim was to bring it back to life so that the façade still looked old but retained the grandeur of what the place was like in the 1930s. It was a sight to behold to see it finished in its entirety and an honor to contribute to such an incredible part of LA history.
BG: I don’t know exactly what moment it was but, realizing that my wife is my dream collaborator, letting go of how I thought my life was going to be, running with that, and never looking back.
TCT: If you opened up a fortune cookie, what would it say?
LD: So lucky!
BG: You can be your own best friend and your own worst enemy.
TCT: If you could only bring three things to a desert island, what would they be?
LD: Paper, pen, and ink. With plenty of time on my hands, I’d have a go at trying to recreate the Book of Kells.
BG: A solar operated boom box, our tool kit, and a drum of tea tree oil.
TCT: What will your epitaph say?
LD: Another round?
BG: She broke every rule that tried to break her first and loved with all her heart.
TCT: David Sedaris or Ernest Hemmingway?
Both: David Sedaris
TCT: Pablo Picasso or Gustav Klimt?
TCT: Greece or Iceland?
Both: Iceland. Lisa was already a dancer in a nightclub in Greece back in the day.
TCT: Curry or Sushi?
TCT: Evil Dead or Dead Poets Society?
Both: Dead Poets Society
TCT: IPhone or Android?
TCT: Amy Schumer or Lena Dunham?
Both: They’re both brilliant and using their respective platforms to speak about important issues but we’d both go with Lena Dunham. She seems to have this unshakeable faith her voice, and she’s seizing the day like nobody’s business.
TCT: Instagram or Snapchat?
Both: Instagram. Snapchat’s been a lonely unchecked item on our ‘To Research’ list for months.
TCT: Doc Brown or Gandalf?
Both: Gandalf the gay!
TCT: Ginger or Mary Ann?
LD: Ginger (and whiskey)
BG: Ginger (and Mary Jane)
You can find more of Donohoe and Gelbard’s work and renegade style on their Instagram page.