How L.A. is amping up its design game

A  revolution is taking place in Los Angeles, defining the city as a capital of international design.

That was apparent at the Los Angeles Design Festival — the jam-packed month of exhibitions, home tours and shows with Dwell on Design and INTRO/LA emphasizing the international design presence in Los Angeles and the makers who are shaping the emerging landscape. 

The takeaway? Talented designers from abroad are staking their claim in the city.

“I can make almost anything I can dream up here, and I love that,” said designer Stephen Kenn, who relocated from his native Canada to Los Angeles. “I also love the design community. It is friendly and collaborative.”

He crafts everything from furniture to luxe overnight duffles by experimenting with new processes and quality materials out of his downtown Los Angeles studio.

Wrk-shp’s Airi Isoda and Ryan Upton, the husband-and-wife team that splits its time between Tokyo and L.A., consistently teams up with local makers on architecture, furniture and fashion pieces. At INTRO/LA, Wrk-shp debuted a collection of pieces made using Japanese textile cording in a Danish weave style mastered by local artisans. 

This year’s shows did not disappoint, from the use of rope at the Brazilian outdoor furniture company Tidelli, to art and design intersections at industry giant Signature Kitchen Suite with live paintings done by artist Donald Robertson, to a fresh host of architects turned makers like Lebanese-born Sevak Karabachian, who manages his time between firm Gehry Partners and his new sideline, furniture design.  

Designers weren’t the only ones on the scene. Rose Apodaca, co-founder of L.A. design resource and store A+R, curated a fluid mix of pieces by local designers and European brands including Hay, Menu and New Works, which A+R is introducing to the Los Angeles market. "At A+R alone, we’ve entertained creative directors and designers from Denmark, England, Spain, New Zealand and Hong Kong," says Apodaca.

The city, she said, is a place where there, “is space — to live and work, to try new ideas, to fail and reinvent.” 

Here’s what caught our eye:  

WOOD-METAL BLENDS

Stephen Kenn’s Bowline console table, seen above, maintains the alder wood’s natural grooves. $1,500, stephenkenn.com

HAND-PAINTED GEMS

San Francisco-based brand Fireclay showcased a collection of graphic black-and-white artisan tiles. $35, fireclaytile.com

ROPE & WEAVE

Danish-weaved Japanese textile cording is at the heart of this Woven Collection of baskets, stools and benches. From $975, wrk-shp.com

STATEMENT BASES

Swedish marble bases in different shapes ground Knockout Tables by Denmark-based Friends & Founders. From $850, aplusrstore.com

REIMAGINED GARDEN

L.A. design company Bend’s new plant stand brings high design to the garden. $200, bendgoods.com

DEPTH, DIMENSION

Hand-carved raised silk perfected in India on Kush’s Skull Dot wool rug creates texture in a new dimension. $1,900, kushrugs.com

RAW BEAUTY

Barter’s Revolve series planters have a charred, red cedar base with smooth concrete, terra cotta or marble vase up top. Los Angeles store Hammer and Spear is the first to introduce this Canadian brand to the U.S. From $700, hammerandspear.com

GOOD AS GOLD

British Columbia-based Matthew McCormick’s satin 24-karat gold Halo pendant lights shine bright alone or in a group. From $1,125, also from hammerandspear.com

DITCH YOUR OFFICE CHAIR

FluidStance in Santa Barbara collaborated with artist R. Nelson Parrish for its limited edition Level Air. You could call it a “movement-based, work-platform.” Or the coolest thing to ever happen to the standing desk. $489, fluidstance.com

PERFECT SYNTHESIS

MOQU’s Japanese elm shelving system was inspired by building blocks. The possibilities are endless for this Hida, Japan-based company. From $5,940, moqulab.com

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