Dwell on Design is a three-day pop-up theme park for professionals, amateurs and anyone else who's interested in the future of architecture and design. With over 30,000 visitors in 2014, DoD is the country's biggest design event, and the ninth annual edition returned to the Los Angeles Convention Center last weekend with hundreds of international exhibitors showcasing furniture and accessories, design materials, and everything geared towards the kitchen and bath.
In addition to pod-like areas such as the Energy Pavilion, Scandinavian Pavilion and Modern Family Pavilion, DoD featured offsite home tours as well as three stages worth of nonstop panels, presentations and lectures on topics such as the Silver Lake Reservoir and architectural preservation in L.A. This fall, Dwell on Design debuts in New York, but it's worth remembering that it all began in California – the birthplace of American modernism.
With this in mind, we scoured the 300,000 square-foot exhibition space for the some of the most interesting and innovative design firms working right here in Los Angeles. Here are 15 of them.]
15. FormLA Landscaping
The centerpiece of Dwell on Design is the outdoor exhibit. As one of the show's highlights, Dwell Outdoor features an assortment of prefab homes, tents, airstream trailers and backyard alternatives, along with a beer garden and lush landscaping that's all artfully arranged and built by FormLA. Based in the Sunland-Tujunga area, the eco-minded landscaping firm focuses on creating sustainable environments with a team of horticulturists, craftsmen, and designers who are all well versed in LEED criteria. So not only does FormLA offer cost-effective drought-resistant landscaping, it successfully transformed a drab spot in the middle of the LA Convention Center's West Hall into an enchantingly green space – literally.
14. VerteX design studio
From its studios in Venice, VerteX merges form and function by integrating urban elements into furniture design. The company's designer and founder Pooya Goudarzi comes from a family of architects (his brother is an architect as was his late father), and Goudarzi earned his master's degree in architecture in Tehran as well. Using reinforced concrete as a primary medium, VerteX creates edgy yet welcoming coffee and dining tables, benches, stools and countertops as well as lighting and accent pieces, all with a sleek, modern approach that reflects Goudarzi's edgy, contemporary style.
diggityART is a web-based company founded by Marcia Russell that makes bespoke acrylic tiles for just $35 apiece. It's both an economic alternative for working artists as well as everyday people who want to display their own images, from old photographs to new Photoshop collages. The lightweight, durable pieces are ideal for filling those tricky spaces that the ever-present threat of earthquakes often leaves blank, like over the bed, for instance. Based in Northridge, diggityART's sister company DIG53 caters more towards other businesses as a design fabrication plant that offers services such as signage and installations on film sets, especially made from plastics.
L.A.-based David LeGrand and Hayley Strauss combined their collective experience in architecture, design and fine art to establish eco-made, LLC in May, 2012. Since then, a small, fun, foldable accessory called the eco-amp became the company's signature product. These miniature gramophone-inspired paper iPhone amplifiers are fully customizable and made in Los Angeles. The audio quality isn't exactly the same as a speaker's, so the onus of the eco-amps' success lies with the buyer, who places orders for designs that are reprinted onto multiple pieces of flattened cardboard. And if you're wondering what anyone needs with a box full of unfolded, rudimentary iPhone amps that turn into origami, it's because they are ordered as promotional items. With any luck, more booths at Dwell on Design will have their own to give away next year, too.
See also: Top 10 Vintage and Second-Hand Boutiques in L.A.
11. Plunk Desk
During the day, Erin Strater works as a prize producer for Let's Make a Deal, but in her spare time, the tenacious founder of Plunk Desk has devoted herself to designing and producing the ideal portable workstation. Plunk Desk is an adjustable table that weighs less than nine pounds, with no tools required for assembly. Its three-legged aluminum base is sand-casted and finished in either nickel or brass, and the ergonomic top is covered in one of three wood veneers: walnut, red gum and Carpathian Elm burl. There's also an optional canvas carrying case for those really mobile types. So who would use these? Anyone with a laptop, including professors, lecturers and the everyday person who doesn't want to burn their thighs while browsing the Internet on the sofa in front of the TV.[
10. Sitskie Furniture
If Jenga had a furniture line, it might look something like Sitskie's seats, which are made from blocks. The wooden chairs and benches are actually more comfortable than they look because Sitskie designed the blocks to move and conform to the body. Sitskie also offers design and product development services while reaching out to consumers with its fun, playful seats that double as conversation pieces. Adam Friedman is the designer and craftsman behind the chairs, which have been tested and re-tested before they became available to the public, though here in L.A., they're still only currently available at Boffi in West Hollywood.
This Venice-based company began making specialty wrapping paper in 2012 and expanded to create gift packs, tags, bags and boxes. It also started producing journals, notebooks, postcards, placemats and fancy file folders – all with the idea that packaging can be an art form in itself. The journals and wrapping paper are designed and made in Los Angeles, and the range of product designs includes bold paint-splattered patterns as well as animal prints, and with the exception of the boxes (which also have bright interiors), everything has patterns on both sides as well.
8. Paper Chaise Design
L.A. artist and designer Dana Wald created the ingenious Paper Chaise and related D Chaise furniture pieces partially as an homage to three-hole-punched white lined notebook paper, which he points out that people don't seem to use anymore. In addition to designing avant-garde furniture, Wald has teamed up with artist Felicity Nove to create a series of metal wall art that also uses the iconic design of the famous lined white paper as a canvas for Nove's colorful, textured paintings.
7. Astek, Inc.
This isn't your grandma's wallpaper. Using bold, unexpected patterns and materials, Astek creates fashion-forward wall coverings (including decals and tiles) that either complement furnishings or define a room, usually both. Astek boasts the biggest stocked inventory of wall coverings on the West Coast, with design and printing performed in the company's Van Nuys studio. Astek also encourages people to create their own wall coverings through its partner company Design Your Wall, so you're not at the mercy of Astek's existing catalog. But given the array of amazing patterns, you might find what you're looking for without going through the trouble of designing your own wallpaper, like L.A. native Gary Baseman's designs that originally appeared in the artist's solo show “The Door is Always Open” at the Skirball Center.
6. Spooning Armchair
Roy Kesrouani is the man behind this unique line of modular chairs and ottomans that he calls “Thermoplastic Darlings.” The corrugated plastic chairs arrive flat and are easily assembled with aluminum screw posts. Made from fluted polypropylene, they each come in multiple colors and finishings, and at anywhere from 5-10 pounds, they are surprisingly lightweight, given the chairs can support upwards of 300 pounds. The ottomans, chairs, armchairs and lounge chairs are also waterproof and weather-resistant, making them a nice option for the outdoors as well.
From wood, canvas and metal to acrylic tiles and wallpaper, one of the biggest design trends involves using custom images to create highly personal works that instantly transform anyone into an ersatz commercial artist. Now, designers and non-designers alike have the option to upload art to create their own lamps, thanks to Lamp-In-A-Box. Founded in 2007 by Daniel Cytrynowicz, the company sells lamps with its own selection of pictures to retailers as well. The ever-growing catalog of images includes everything from fine art and classic advertisements to specialty designs by artists like the L.A.-based Maura Segal, who makes original artwork using paint and fine paper. But the most innovative part of this business is that it allows ordinary consumers to become designers themselves, and with prices beginning at just $44.95 per custom lamp, it's actually a bright investment.
A local retail shop in Atwater Village, Potted believes the comfort of home should extend into the garden, an idea that's visible in its carefully curated inventory geared for the yard. Plants grow in an impressive assortment of unusual and unexpected things such as shoes, teacups and colorful and durable hanging gardens. One look at the stuff in this eco-chic boutique and it's apparent why Potted describes itself as “boho modern.”
3. California Furniture Restoration
It's not a big deal to want to repair and/or reupholster great furniture, especially nowadays. Yet it seems patio furniture has gotten the shaft when it comes to being rescued and reused. Maybe it's because elements often take their toll on wrought-iron chaise lounges, padded metal lawn chairs, outdoor dining furniture and anything else that's designed to be outside the home, but it seems like it's always been easier to throw away used outdoor furniture than to refurbish it. Pomona-based California Furniture Restoration recognizes the value in midcentury patio furniture designs, which is why it specializes in restoring vintage outdoor furniture by replacing cushions and refinishing rusted tables and chairs so they all look brand new yet still very much retro, which they are.
Designer Armen Seveda Gharabegian founded Lounge22 ten years ago with the idea to offer deluxe furniture pieces as rentals. The company has since ventured into the retail industry as well, creating mod-inspired interior pieces that are all handcrafted in Los Angeles. Lounge22 sells and rents ottomans, benches, sofas, chairs and tables to both the public and retailers who are looking to furnish households, hotels and other businesses with a contemporary yet indie feel. The company opened a flagship store in Glendale in March, 2013 and is looking to expand internationally, but for now, anyone who wants to fill a space with furniture that has a unique modernist look, Lounge22 remains a small-business alternative to buying mass-produced goods.
1. Primal Modern
SCi-Arc graduate Michael Olshefski is an artist, designer and craftsman who owns the boutique company Primal Modern, where he creates furniture and art from solid reclaimed wood. From its studios in Glassell Park's Keystone Art Space, Primal Modern transforms salvaged trees into contemporary pieces using steel and glass. Each slab of wood takes years to air dry before it is then dried in a kiln for months and can finally be used indoors. Inspired by the organic nature of natural wood, Olshefski sketches out his ideas for each of the furniture and art pieces before he puts them together, and once they're done, they even get their own names. This highly personal approach to woodworking is apparent in the final products, and in the end, there's no better way to describe these pieces than with the name of the company itself: Primal Modern.
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