Spotlight on: Los Angeles Design
Los Angeles has no shortage of ingenuity—the long-established film and music industries and the now-booming contemporary art scene fuel a healthy creative economy and draw artists and artisans of all stripes to this sunny, sprawling metropolis.More recently, the modern furniture and lighting industry has gained steam, in particular among smaller, boutique firms.
For a glimpse of LA’s next-wave design, look to its creative neighborhoods, like Silver Lake or Venice, and to the young companies who are blazing a high-design trail through the City of Angels. We polled a few of our favorites for their take on LA design, past and future, and where they find inspiration.
Every piece of furniture produced by ARTLESS, the company founded in 2003 by Alejandro Artigas, is handcrafted in their headquarters in El Monte, 15 minutes from downtown LA. ARTLESS’s commitment to local manufacturing—and with it, fair wages for their artisans and adherence to strict environmental regulations in their in-house metal and wood shops—reflects not only a dedication to the local economy but also deep respect for the city’s resources. “Los Angeles has space, it has arts, it has culture, and it has one of the most experienced manufacturing workforces in the nation,” says Artigas. “Los Angeles manufacturing went from aerospace to automobiles to Hollywood—and now it even produces rockets.” In his estimation, design may well be LA’s next great frontier.
The city boasts other characteristics uniquely suited to designers, among them deep veins of inspiration via the music, arts, and food scenes, along with a collaborative, supportive community. He is a fan of two design stores in particular, A+R and Lawson-Fenning, which nurture local talent, and he visits the Pasadena College of Art for inspiration. “The design field here is still small enough that in almost all cases, designers treat each other with great care and support,” says Artigas. “Also, I love that I have the space, mobility, and freedom to do whatever I want with no one breathing down my back. I like my anonymity and privacy.”
LA’s architectural history—specifically its midcentury modern legacy—is another strong influence on ARTLESS’s designs, as seen in their heirloom-quality black walnut SQ Bed and SQR dressers, which strike a timeless balance between form and function. Fittingly, Artigas points to “the modern legacy of the Case Study Houses architects as a grounding point for our work. We produce pieces based on the Modern project, and the architecture of the Case Study architects is one of the last bastions encompassing that ideology.” Like LA’s early Modernists, ARTLESS has a simple mission, evidenced in its clean-lined, gorgeously crafted pieces: “improve our quality of life, one object at time.”
Long before he moved to Los Angeles, designer Gaurav Nanda felt a magnetic pull to southern California. A Michigan native, he had spent childhood summers vacationing in Palm Springs and was enamored with the region’s midcentury modern architecture and design. That passion never ebbed, so in 2010 he made a major career shift, quitting his job building model cars for GM and starting his own midcentury-inspired design brand, Bend. For Nanda, there was no question where he should launch. “I knew that for the style of furniture I wanted to build, LA would be the best place—both for the climate, which lends itself to an indoor/outdoor line, and also for inspiration,” he explains. What I didn’t realize is how much midcentury modern furniture and design isn’t just a way of decorating; in LA it’s a way of life.”
Nanda snapped up a 1920’s bungalow in Hollywood, complete with a pool, and opened a studio in the garage, dedicating himself to creating wire furniture and accessories—or as he puts it, “putting out pieces that are artistic and beautiful but still get their job done in your life.” His first Bend design, the Lucy chair, is now the company’s bestseller, and continues to spark new iterations—most recently a stacking version and other pieces such as the Bend Basket and Low Back Stool.
Nanda appreciates the design evolution in his adopted city. “There are small pop-up shops, flea markets, and design fairs happening all over this city every weekend and it’s allowing unknown artists and designers to have a real platform to exist as a business on their own,” he says. Some of his favorite design destinations? Silver Lake, Venice, and District La Brea, as well as architectural sites like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, the Griffith Observatory, and the Getty Museum.
“People in LA are starting to strive for individuality when it comes to their style, and are now more willing to search out and pay for good design,” he notes. “It’s shifting back into a quality over quantity world, where people are willing to spend more on something that will last a lifetime.” That’s good news for LA makers—and for design aficionados everywhere.
Villa Purcell—a renovated 1920’s Spanish house between West Hollywood and Hollywood—shelters two companies under one roof: Alexander Purcell Rodrigues Design and Purcell Living, the furniture company Rodrigues founded in 2009 with the aim of creating high-quality modern and locally produced furniture. Their pieces have become instant icons, thanks to their eye-catching angles (witness the Bias Hooded High Back Lounge Chair and Stephanie Dining Chair); innovative forms, such as the Bias Sled Chair; and timeless traditional craftsmanship.
Rodrigues was born in New York City and raised in London, but today he’s a committed Angeleno. The city is a haven for designers, and a good match for Rodriguez’s own personality and interests. “The Californian lifestyle has influenced generations of creatives with its incredible land and cityscapes,” he says. “There are so many oases hidden in and around the city where you can sit in nature and allow your creative thoughts to wander.”
As he continues to develop his midcentury modern-meets-the future furniture and grow his company, he’s grateful to live in a place whose design scene is growing up right alongside him. As he puts it: “LA has always had a strong influence on the American design scene, but it has been rising in strength as of late. The city is a melting pot of inventiveness and I think it’s set to become the future center of American creative industries.” You heard it here first.