For fifteen years, furnishings company Kalon Studios has been creating American-made furnishings that blur the line between handmade and machine. By working with virtuoso craftsmen who embrace traditional methods and new waste-reducing technologies, the studio, founded by husband-and-wife team Michaele Simmering and Johannes Pauwen, has become known for simple, ethereal pieces that emphasize the beauty of natural materials that are even designed to be biodegradable.
But it was COVID-19, perhaps counteractively, that sparked an expansion of thought at the Atwater Village studio. “It felt impossible to execute anything normally, so we found ourselves making things with our own community of creatives,” explains Simmering. Without the pressure of market deadlines, designing also took on a renewed energy of fun. “Our recent collaborations are the manifestation of that,” she says.
For their work with Frances Merrill of Reath, they invited the interior designer to reinterpret their pieces with the addition of textiles inspired by Alexander Girard and Rose Cumming, creating a raucous juxtaposition of minimalist form and maximalist pattern. “A lot of Frances’s work is about storytelling, and the collection captures the way a house evolves over time,” Simmering notes.
The couple has also welcomed Paris-based homewares brand Trame to the studio with the first U.S.-showing of the company’s Seminara masks, grotesque faces designed to ward off evil spirits. “Trame’s handmade masks resonate with our ethos,” she says. “We’re interested in work that invites dialogue with the user and evokes particular experiences. There’s a call and response between object and user that elicits a connection. As designers, that’s what we’re striving for, connections.” A forthcoming rug collaboration with Trame will further those explorations.
“I love the way that working with others pierces bubbles of process and perspective,” Simmering continues. “For a creative, they’re a powerful reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place.”