It’s no secret that the pandemic has accelerated an ongoing shift towards online shopping. Even as brick-and-mortar retailers re-open their doors, the convenience of e-commerce remains unmatched. Still, there are some products that warrant an in-person shopping experience. Large investment pieces like furniture are a case in point: Tactile material qualities — and a sense of comfort — easily get lost behind a screen.
But choosing to shop in-person doesn’t necessarily mean we have to forgo the comforts of home, as a wave of new showrooms draw from the intimacy of living spaces. Los Angeles-based furniture brand Kalon Studios is the latest to embrace this trend, introducing a warm and comfortable space where furnishings are integrated into a welcoming quasi-residential setting.
Originally zoned as a live-work space, the brand’s debut storefront in L.A.’s Atwater Village retains a sense of residential scale. A departure from the more industrial aesthetic that defines many L.A. showrooms, Kalon embraced the domesticity of the interior, curating an environment that feels functional and inviting, rather than raw and sterile. Designed by co-founders Michaele Simmering and Johann Pauwen, the space is intended as a reflection of the brand’s ethos. “While many furniture showrooms can feel abstracted or devoid of life, the Kalon showroom is very much a living space occupied by people,” the designers explain.
In keeping with Kalon’s signature pared-down style, the showroom features a natural material palette comprised of wood, stone, linen and metal. But the brand also wasn’t afraid to venture from their established aesthetic — a maximalist bathroom clad in emerald tiles and kitchen replete with daring green marble and luxurious brass accents the space. Like the furnishings, each material was chosen for a distinctive patina that enhances its beauty with age, another cornerstone of Kalon’s timeless design philosophy. (Throughout, custom built-ins also display a curated assortment of accessories and vintage objects.)
“With so much of our lives having gone online, we felt it was a powerful moment to channel some of our energy towards creating a physical space in the world, where people could come to experience Kalon and all we stand for, touch the materials, and see how our designs make them feel,” explains co-founder Johannes Pauwen. “So much of our practice is about those materials, and about the cultivation of particular feelings and emotions. All of that is best experienced in the flesh, with our full sensory capacities at work and able to engage.”
The intent behind the material selection was as much about creating a cohesive interior as it was to highlight Kalon’s sustainable values. Wooden floors in the building’s second floor office mitigate heat absorption from the roof and decrease the need for air conditioning. And to minimize waste, the kitchen and bathroom are outfitted with remnants from stone yards.
Solar panels, an induction cooktop in the kitchen, and fully-insulated low-e glass were also incorporated into the design. The sustainable approach extends to the building’s exterior — the upstairs roof deck and surrounding outdoor areas leverage climate sensitive, low-water plants that are appropriate for the region.
The space is designed to adapt, with the collections on display rotating throughout the year. To begin: the showroom’s debut will feature a material expansion of the Rugosa collection, complemented by the brand’s hallmark Highland, Simple, Caravan and Isometric lines. A complete library of product materials and finishes will also be available for perusal.
More than just a venue for showcasing the brand, Kalon’s new hub is a resource for the local design community. It’s a sentiment that is reflected in the space — Kalon collaborated with local artists and designers to accessorize and accent the interior, styled by studio manager Julia Saltzman and her partner Austin Leis, who also created artworks for the showroom. The new outpost is also home to the brand’s offices and will host a variety of design-related events, ranging from a foraged flower arranging workshop to a panel on sustainability in design.
“The importance of building community and investing in our local community has always been a driving force behind the work we do and how we do it,” says co-founder Michaele Simmering. “We had been looking for a place for years and finding one now was a fluke, a rare silver lining of the COVID crisis. In a way, it has felt like a radical exercise in optimism, creating this space that we hope will one day serve as a gathering place for our community, customers and friends.”
Showcasing the furniture brand on an intimate residential scale, Kalon Studios’ debut retail-meets-event-space makes a case for shopping IRL.