Stephen Kenn's Los Angeles Loft

Bertoia and Risom provide the framework for a designer's own collection

An up-and-coming furniture designer based in Los Angeles, Stephen Kenn sees his pared-down approach to design as a continuation of the tradition established by mid-century greats like Jean Prouvé, Harry Bertoia, Florence Knoll, and Jens Risom. 

“The inspiration for The Inheritence Collection came from taking apart a piece of furniture and seeing how complicated it was to make," says Kenn. "I began to ask myself, ‘How can I take every piece involved and make it more transparent, so you can see how it functions?’”

Kenn followed this line of inquiry to arrive at human anatomy as a model for designing furniture. The skeleton became the frame, the muscles the webbing. The “guts” correspond with the cushions, replete with oxidized grommets.

Los Angeles, CA by Stephen Kenn | Knoll Inspiration

Photograph by Kellyann Petry.

The designer's own home in east Los Angeles is a testament to the material culture that inspires him. The all-concrete floor appears spartan, with little in the way of carpeting. A large repurposed sail functions as a natural partition, subdiving the space like sliding Shoji doors. Meanwhile, Japanese textiles adorn the walls and pieces of found debris (mostly antlers and driftwood) are presented as sculptural objects.

In the live/work space, three pieces by Harry Bertoia—two Side Chairs and one Diamond Chair—attest to Kenn’s deep-seated appreciation of the artist-craftsman’s work. “We look to Bertoia’s work as a model for so much of what we do. Accordingly, we've paired our vintage Side Chairs with our own 3/4" tube steel framed pieces, underscoring the shared design philosophy.” 

Los Angeles, CA by Stephen Kenn | Knoll Inspiration

“We look to Bertoia’s work as a model for so much of what we do.”

—Stephen Kenn

Photograph by Kellyann Petry.

While the chairs have a permanent home in Kenn’s loft, they often guest star in the designer’s furniture installations, like Kenn’s upcoming Bowline Collection, inspired by the buoys and rigging of sailing apparatuses. 

Los Angeles, CA by Stephen Kenn | Knoll Inspiration

Photograph by Kellyann Petry.

Kenn’s celebration of furniture’s underlying structure is also clearly indebted to Jens Risom, a point the designer humbly concedes. Kenn's incorporation of mule belts in his designs, for instance, echoes the 600 Series woven nylon webbing, then necessitated by material shortages caused by the outbreak of World War II.

The point of contact between modernism and the Second World War holds great significance for Kenn, who has always been deeply inspired by military fabrics and thought it only natural to fuse his modernist-style furniture with the physical vestiges of WWII. Soon after moving to Los Angeles, Kenn discovered an old army surplus store, filled to the brim with parachutes, tents, and old uniforms. The depot has since become a supplier for many of Kenn’s designs.

For more information on Stephen Kenn, visit the designer's website.

Project Credits:

Design: Stephen Kenn
Photography: Kellyann Petry

 

Bertoia Diamond Chair
Bertoia Diamond Chair with Full Cover
Bertoia Side Chair
Bertoia Side Chair with Full Cover