President Obama sits behind a custom walnut desk of their design in his private study, and François-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek’s Paris apartment is illuminated by their light boxes, but until now, the design partnership of Daniele Albright and Stefan Lawrence fell under the auspices of Twentieth, Lawrence’s contemporary furniture showroom in Los Angeles. Now, the longtime collaborators have launched Videre Licet (Latin for “to be able to see”), a new line of furniture and lighting, in conjunction with Twentieth’s sweeping new space on Beverly Boulevard. Designed using contemporary technologies but crafted entirely by hand — and priced accordingly, in the $20,000 range — the collection is daring, glamorous and a touch tongue-in-cheek, with sly references to Hollywood, modernism and the ’70s.
The BBC Table, shaped like a smoky, mirrored crystal, is equal parts disco decadence and L.A. New Age culture, while the Subtracted Cube’s flawless brass surfaces come thanks to its complex folded construction. The Abalone Lounge chair (which has a coordinating console) recalls the shape of the beloved beanbag chair, but is in fact made from cast fiberglass and resin with hand-laid, sustainably harvested abalone from the Philippines. The Woolly Bella is both the sexiest and the strangest piece in the debut collection: a curvy, comfortable chair with cast-bronze legs and long, glossy Mongolian goat hair more often used by fashion designers. It can be dyed, but Albright prefers the natural black and white. Unlike some contemporary designers who celebrate industrial precision, this team embraces the human touch and the unpredictability of organic materials. “With our shell pieces or the fur or the bronze,” says Albright, “you’re using this natural material that has its own characteristic, and you’re not afraid to not control that completely.” Of course, there are exceptions; they recently had to bring in a hairstylist to give a particularly unruly Bella a nice layered cut.
Albright — a world traveler and photographer whose work is featured in the Gypset series of lifestyle books — has been staging elaborate photo shoots with each piece in iconic California locations, from the beaches of Malibu to the mountains in Mammoth. “This cinematic element is something we can bring to it,” she says. And for Lawrence, who was the first to bring designers like Tom Dixon and Marcel Wanders’s Moooi to Los Angeles, the collection is a refreshing new way to contribute to the global design discourse. “After all these years,” he says, “it’s nice to be able to make our own statements.”