Los Angeles is home to some of America’s most iconic designers; Charles and Ray Eames, Welton Becket, and Frank Gehry immediately spring to mind. However these celebrity designers are not a reflection of all that is happening on the design scene in L.A. Ranging from high end luxury interior design to innovative recycling schemes, L.A. boasts of an eclectic range of design practices. On the one hand, there are designers using traditional craft as inspiration for furniture, on the other, luxury brands continue catering to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. This diverse mix is what makes L.A. such a fascinating place for design.
It’s impossible to discuss design in Los Angeles without mention of the great “starchitect” Frank Gehry. Born in Toronto in 1929, Gehry is perhaps one of the best-known architects of his generation. He moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s where he kickstarted his formative education in architecture. Gehry has long experimented with sculpture and furniture design, forging unusual pieces of furniture in the process. Gehry’s Fish Lamps came to be by accident; while working on a commission for Formica Group in 1984, he accidentally shattered a piece of Formica ColorCore®, noticing that the broken shards were reminiscent of fish scales. Since then, the fish has become a recurring motif in Gehry’s work. Whimsical and aesthetically pleasing, the lamps glow softly.
Growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico, Amaya Gutierrez has always been influenced by the great variety of artisanal crafts and techniques from her native country. She uses traditional craftsmanship in combination with contemporary design aesthetics to create her stylish and unique pieces. This is clearly visible in her Bdoja Chair, which was inspired by the notion of comfort and what that means to different people. The Bdoja Chair was created by fusing traditional weaving techniques then applying contemporary materials that were both socially and ecologically responsible. Formed from knitted 100% raw cotton over a wire frame with padding made from 100% organic wool, Gutierrez had to design her own tools to make the chair. The aim of the Bdoja Chair was also social; Gutierrez sought to provide a job for people who needed to be able to work from home, such as single mothers. They would be provided with the materials and tools, which would then allow them to build and finish the chair in their own time. Beautifully made and with a strong social ethic, the Bdoja Chair is a clear example of why Gutierrez is a credit to design in L.A.
This Los Angeles based start-up company makes bicycles with recycled materials and is aiming to eventually be able to use 100% recycled materials. As it is, it already use reclaimed materials such as cork saddles and chain free belt drives as well as recycled aluminium. Clearly, the entire approach is based on minimal waste of materials, and changing the way in which we see material usage in the future. Additionally, The ReCycle is aiming to produce all of its products in the USA; at the moment, 99% of the bikes across America are made elsewhere. Regardless, the company believes that wherever the products are made, they should be made with integrity, both social and ecological. Dedicated to buying local, looking after the environment, and, of course, creating well-made and long-lasting bikes, The ReCycle is a company that is truly trying to make a difference in the world.
Originally from Leeds, England, Thomas Robertson of Ripple Design is an architect who also works with interior spaces and has a distinctly ‘Green’ ethic. Often working with reclaimed materials as well as employing clever and innovative eco-elements, Ripple Design seeks to find ways in which to make eco-design the norm for design practices. This is clear in the creation of Stories Bookstore and Café, a bookstore that opened in the eclectic L.A. neighborhood of Echo Park. The store, which is 1,800 square-foot in size, is full of interesting design quirks, such as custom wood-and-steel shelving and reading tables made from recycled lumber left over from demolition sites and salvaged book cases. With some interesting ideas, and a lot of know-how, Ripple Design is a design firm that is beginning to seek new ways to create ecologically sound spaces.
Based in Los Angeles, Sitskie is both a purveyor of fine handmade furniture, as well as a design studio that takes great care to select sustainable materials for their products, which are all locally hand constructed. Each item is initially designed and developed by Adam Friedman who is a designer as well as a craftsman, which is then taken and fine-tuned to create wonderful objects that enhance living spaces. An example of this is the Block Chair, inspired by mid-Century design and made entirely by hand in Los Angeles; the design of the chair is so unique that it has even been patented. The surface of the chair is made up of more than 200 individual blocks, with the wood being carefully selected for its quality as well as its grain. The cushioning is made from a high-grade foam that is made in America, and is held in slipcovers that are both removable and washable. A truly innovative design, the Block Chair is a combination of luxury design with eco-elements.
With a number of high profile celebrity clients, twins Nikolai and Simon Haas are fast becoming the wonder boys of the L.A. design scene. Born in Los Angeles but raised in Texas, the Haas Brothers had a very creative upbringing, and spent summers working for their father’s stone carving company. Simon initially pursued a formative education in painting and architecture, whilst Nikolai followed a career in music. They joined forces again in Los Angles, but not with the intention of setting up a business together. It was only as a result of being approached by friends who knew of their skill as builders that they began to work together on small design and construction projects. After being asked to work on a Johnston Marklee project at Sony Studios in L.A., the Haas Brothers became a fully-fledged company. Since then, they have gone from strength to strength, working on commissions for the likes of Lady Gaga, Versace, and Peter Marino.
Established in 2000, Landon Cole is an Arts and Furnishing outlet located in the heart of Los Angeles’ ‘Furniture Corridor’. Offering sleek and contemporary designs, Landon Cole is a company with a large following in L.A. Founded by an entrepreneurial young man in his 20s, the vision of Landon Cole is that well designed luxury furniture should not only be readily available to all, but that the experience of buying should be an enjoyable one. The store is therefore open, airy, and comfortable with a relaxed atmosphere that lends itself to a pleasant shopping experience. By encouraging people to try the furniture out, it ensures that customers are totally satisfied with their choices. With an in-house staff of artists and design consultants, every piece can be made to measure, thus giving the customer the maximum degree of control whilst creating objects that are designed to the highest quality.
Blurring the lines between design disciplines, and personal and public spaces, Deegan-Day Design specialises in the innovative tailoring of contemporary technologies with architectural methods to create unusual interior spaces. In 2009, the company undertook the design and creation of an installation at the SCI-Arc gallery in Los Angeles. Called Blow x Blow, the installation hosted an exhibition about prisons and museums, as well as work by artists exploring new media. The space was divided by two surfaces, folded to become the screens. The angled geometries that made up the partition were created by digitally bouncing a single vector line around a grid-frame with the dimension of the gallery space. Incredibly innovative, Deegan-Day Design’s Blow x Blow installation staged a bout between two exhibition trends. On one hand, the claiming of the gallery space by architects and on the other, enhancing the possibilities of new media.
A home renovation specialist and interior designer, Alexandra Becket started her career as a textile designer. She set up a textile design company, Unico Studio, in Los Angeles which focused on the creation of one-of-a-kind prints for the home décor and fashion industry. Additionally in 2010, she set up the company ModOp Design in 2010 with her husband. Here she focuses on modernising distressed properties that both restores and respects the original character of the property whilst still exhibiting some of Becket’s own individual flare. She oversees the interior and exterior design of each property herself, for which she then adds a mix of unique furniture, custom made accessories, and original artwork. The interiors that Becket creates are always stylish as well as liveable, and showcase the best qualities that the home has to offer.
Born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Tanya Aguiñiga has always been influenced by the experience of living on the Mexico-California border. Her design thus explores the ways in which different societies interconnect and how culture is celebrated. Using furniture as a means of translating these feelings into tangible objects, Aguiñiga tells stories through colour and touch. She also uses furniture as a way to reconsider the ways in which we use everyday objects and how they integrate into our lives. Additionally, she uses art and design as a means to empower local communities; she has in the past focused on how to use art to bring national and international attention to the plight of impoverished communities, such as in her hometown of Tijuana. Currently working on ways in which to combine furniture design and community activism, Aguiñiga’s social ethic is a credit to the design profession, and is something that should be more commonplace in the future of design.
By Sophie Finney