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Best of 2013: Designers to Watch

A version of the following articles originally appeared in 1stdibs’ Introspective Magazine.  For more stories on today’s most influential designers and style-setters, visit

With 2013 coming to a close, Previews® Inside Out asked 1stdibs to identify some of their favorite new design talents of the year. They didn’t disappoint. From a Soho-based duo that caught the attention of Architectural Digest earlier this year to a Los Angeles team with a distinct curatorial approach, they gave us five up-and-coming names to keep an eye on in 2014.


A recent autumn afternoon found the principals of the New York interior design firm Ashe + Leandro intently painting a pumpkin bright pink. The next day, Ariel Ashe would hand-deliver it to Vogue for an online story featuring pumpkins decorated by fellow creative types. (A+L’s pumpkin, it should be noted, pays tribute to the Mexican architect Luis Barragán.)

Such incidental nuggets of publicity often seem to seek out Ashe and her partner, Reinaldo Leandro, much like the commissions that have stacked up, one after another, since the day they established their business in 2008. Ashe, who started out doing set design, and Leandro, an architect, first met as young associates at a midsize New York architecture and interior design firm and, a handful of years later, set up their own shop in a tiny space on Downing Street.

Just a few weeks ago, they moved to the northern edge of Soho into a larger office—that is, large enough that their chairs no longer clank together every time they roll them back from their desks. The impetus to expand came courtesy of the biggest project A+L has undertaken yet: a five-bedroom new-build (their first) on Martha’s Vineyard, composed of three interconnected barn-style structures that combine a Cape Cod-gray exterior with an airy interior intended to showcase the owner’s contemporary art collection. This year also marks the firm’s first foray into Europe (their inaugural project abroad was a hotel in Leandro’s native Venezuela), with a gut renovation of a Victorian townhouse in London’s Belsize Park belonging to Jonny Buckland, the lead guitarist of Coldplay.

Amid this rapidly growing roster of high-profile clients and projects, the two still acknowledge that their best asset is each other. Indeed, it’s rare to observe a pair that clicks so well both personally and professionally—the two take trips together (most recently to Nicaragua), daydream about getting a house upstate together and, on occasion, inadvertently show up to work wearing roughly the same outfit (see: flannel day; military-chic day). “We share a bank account; she bosses me around,” says Leandro. “It’s just like we’re married.”


To Nicki Clendening and Callie Jenschke, the word “scout” conjures up everything they wanted their new interior design venture to embody: the thrill of the hunt, the search for unexpected possibilities and the spirit of adventure. And so, when deciding on a name for their business, the duo very quickly settled on Scout Designs. “It captures what we do every day,” explains Jenschke. “Our work is all about the process of discovery.”

Sourcing the unique, whether from a Texas flea market or a French antiques shop on 1stdibs, Jenschke and Clendening create beautifully layered spaces, peppering them with contemporary art, global objets and handwoven textiles. They live to create interesting juxtapositions: placing an ultramodern sofa in a prewar apartment, say, and then adding even more contrast with a Brutalist lamp and a sculptural marble Saarinen Tulip table. For them, being “all about the mix” means finding that thrilling tension between disparate elements—exotic Moroccan textiles with Texan cowhide rugs; flea-market art with antique Asian furniture; a Lucite coffee table with a classic English rolled-arm sofa—and then filtering everything through a global perspective. “We love creating spaces that have depth, that appear to have been designed over decades,” says Clendening.

The duo met in 2008 when Clendening, who had just left a career as a book publicist, and Jenschke, a former style editor for O at Home and Metropolitan Home, were both stylists at Manhattan’s rustic-chic Greenwich Hotel, in Tribeca. While filling the hotel’s public spaces and guest rooms with decorative accessories and books, they quickly realized that they had almost identical style sensibilities, not to mention similar rural Southern backgrounds. “We’re both as happy on the back of a horse as scouring the souks in Morocco,” says Jenschke. A year later, they founded their firm.

A few years later, after Jenschke’s Upper West Side studio apartment landed on the cover of Lonny, editors at TradHome (the Web-only joint venture between Lonny and Traditional Home) deemed the firm one of its 20 designers to watch. And in 2012, the International Furnishings & Design Association named them Rising Stars.

These days, Jenschke and Clendening are working on a trio of projects in Manhattan—apartments in Tribeca and Chelsea, and the Philippe Starck-designed Gramercy Starck condominium. They’ve also launched an online store, Mercantile, from which they sell global finds, including African headdresses and vintage Italian cocktail shakers, and they’ve ventured into product design, too, partnering with Moore & Gilles to make the Scout Studio Satchel. A leather bag created with designers in mind, it features compartments for samples, sketches and, of course, a laptop.

Jenscke and Clendening say their goal these days is to keep pushing the limits of design to create spaces that are as exciting as they are unexpected. According to Jenschke, “We are really ready to work with clients who will let us go all out. Our ideal client is adventurous, wants to think outside of the box—and is afraid of beige.”


Todd Nickey and Amy Kehoe can’t help but take work home at the end of the day. The cofounders of Nickey Kehoe, their Los Angeles interior design firm; NK Collection, their signature furniture line; and NK Shop, their home-décor boutique, are also next-door neighbors, living in mirror-image two-bedroom apartments in a Spanish-style 1920s duplex in Silver Lake. Whether looked at together or apart, their spaces serve as a sort of joint inspiration board, one that charts their personal and professional evolutions.

Since launching their partnership nearly a decade ago, these former New Yorkers have developed an aesthetic well suited to Los Angeles’s diverse creative and architectural landscape. Respectful of the vernacular—be it Venice Craftsman, Hollywood Hills modern or Brentwood Mediterranean—they bring a curatorial sensibility to interiors. Though Kehoe defines their look as “teetering toward the classic with a modern twist,” they champion not only pedigreed furniture and period wallpaper, but also humble touches such as burlap curtains and dog beds made from military surplus materials. “Give us an old tent,” Nickey says, smiling, “and we can do anything with it.”

It’s what they don’t do that most impresses. Nickey Kehoe homes are devoid of by-the numbers midcentury modern, Hollywood Regency and global bohemian rooms. “We want to help people make decisions so they can build a collection that is not too overthought,” Kehoe declares. “So we steer away from trends and toward timelessness.”

A keen eye for artisanal pieces and the ability to execute custom designs have brought Nickey Kehoe a devoted clientele that includes a host of Hollywood agents, producers, directors and screenwriters, as well as the actors Ginnifer Goodwin and Mark Ruffalo. “Everyone who comes to us has a real passion for beauty,” Kehoe says. “Working with creative people is a collaboration.”

Introduced by mutual friends in 2000, Nickey and Kehoe first met in New York and soon became best pals. He had started an interior design business there, but, as more West Coast commissions came his way, he relocated to L.A. three years later. One night in 2004, over glasses of Prosecco at Ammo in Hollywood, the duo decided to create Nicky Kehoe.

Working together in a city often defined by high glamour, high-ticket design, Nickey Kehoe’s accessible style quickly gained traction. By 2008, they were able to move out of their plain office space and open NK Shop, an atelier that merged their design studio with a retail storefront. This new spot, on Hollywood’s Highland Avenue, served as a showcase for their vintage and antique finds and NK Collection, their custom designs, which includes the Modernist T dining chair, a sculptural seat that recalls the shapes of Marcel Breuer and Alvar Aalto, and the brass L-Sconce, a versatile light fixture with an exposed bulb and reflector backplate that illuminates chef Suzanne Goin’s AOC restaurant. “The philosophy behind [NK Collection] is to create classic pieces we just can’t find,” says Kehoe.

At first, the shop was an incubator, where Nickey and Kehoe could play around with what pleased them. But they proved so adept at finding and filling the space with objects of all kinds—made-in-the-U.S. bedding and artisanal tabletop goods such as Match pewter from Italy, ceramics by Terrafirma and Richard Carter, handmade carbon-steel knives by Matthew Lajoie and Fog Linen kitchen cloths—that last year they moved the NK Shop to a 3,000-square-foot storefront on high-profile Beverly Boulevard.

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Best of 2013: Designers to Watch

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