USC alumnus Jerry Helling has revolutionized Bernhardt Design, one of America’s oldest furniture companies, all while tirelessly working to preserve authentic design. Approaching furniture ideas from fresh perspectives and investing in LA County’s young designers, DIGS gets a snapshot of this visionary’s direction.
Since the onset of his career, Jerry Helling, president and creative director of Bernhardt Design, has elevated the company from a family-run wooden furniture business to an internationally acclaimed design brand with a conscious. Celebrating his 25th anniversary with Bernhardt, Helling has accomplished much for the future of streamlined furniture design.
Famously known for collaborating and nurturing fierce talent from all over the world, Helling has brought under Bernhardt’s umbrella such talents as Ross Lovegrove, who designed the famed Go chair, and Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, designer of the cheeky backless-armless sofa in the brand’s recent Colours collection. With a vast hit list of unique and groundbreaking designs from great creatives, Helling shares,
Bernhardt remains a family-owned business, one with a history of being lovingly committed to community and environmental welfare. Helling himself holds an even deeper conviction to maintaining design authenticity and nurturing young talent. One initiative dear to his heart is Be Original Americas, a program created to educate consumers and designers on why we should concern ourselves with original design, which is not limited to furniture design or apparel design or art, but is an architectural, museum and music issue, as well. Helling was the first president of the program—originally a collective idea encompassing 10 different manufacturers and designers that addressed compromised designs (aka knockoffs), taking the problem from a conversation to action. The group offers education through lectures, events and teaching young designers one on one. Now on the board after years of service, Helling explains, “There are environmental, performance, and social issues about where and how these products are made, and in the end, copying a design is stealing.” Thus, the Be Original website calls designers, decorators, architects, musicians, interior designers and anyone in the creative field to join the initiative to protect design originality.
On a similar note, Helling is part of a handful of programs for design students and young designers just starting out, including Tools for School initiative, Contempto and The Carrot Concept in El Salvador, yet his self-proclaimed favorite project, ICFF Studio, is based in Los Angeles County at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Here, students gain professional hands-on experience such as seeing a product from conception to completion then through the sales and marketing process, and, finally, to retail. Bernhardt Design, meanwhile, presents these designs at market, and even pays royalties to students for their original work. Every other week each fall, Helling actually works in the school’s studio, where six local LA design students recently won candidacy for the Bernhardt ICFF scholarship project.
Furniture by Bernhardt Design is available locally at Twentieth in Los Angeles as well Hive Modern. Outside of growing the company’s brand, Helling desires to encourage the design community to strive for accountability and originality to preserve and protect the industry as well as nurture and protect talent.
Handsome in premium-grade cherry wood that ranges in hue from light to reddish brown, the Grove Cocktail Table from Room & Board mixes well with a modern setting and complements but doesn’t dominate a space with its light open shelving and beveled edges. Handcrafted by Pennsylvania woodworkers, this solid-wood stunner is good for many rounds. $799, RoomandBoard.com
Room & Board’s mixed Grain Pendant Set is three time’s a charmer in either walnut or hickory. Boasting a stainless steel ceiling plate, the sustainably harvested trio offers dimension with various forms featuring subtle patterns. Together, they flood a room with richness and made-to-age depth. $1,047, RoomandBoard.com
Made to hold modern-day media or classic fine art, Restoration Hardware’s 19th C. English Artist’s Easel is a strong, solid-oak update of a earlier-era staple. With a turn-key to lock casters and a crank that raises and lowers for ideal viewing, this piece (shown in Salvage) offers a fresh take on a utilitarian tool. Also available in Black or Coffee. $1,045, RestorationHardware.com
A contrasting glass top with stained birch base elevates the Y Table by Reda Amalou Design from furnishing to work of art. Combining simple elegance with well defined structure gives this 2015 Good Design Award winner its irrefutable architectural cred. Also available in American walnut. Price upon request, RedaAmalou.com
Written by Abigail Stone | Photos courtesy of DISC Interiors
“There’s a house in Cheviot Hills and one, no, two in Encino, a new build in Beverly Hills, and a midcentury in Pasadena,” says David John Dick of DISC Interiors, who begins ticking off homes all over the city, running out of fingers long before running out of projects that he and his partner, Krista Schrock, have currently underway. Collaborators since 2011, the duo have such a symbiosis that they finish one another’s sentences. “It’s been like that since the day we met,” Dick recalls.
The two in-demand designers, whose work has appeared in Luxe Magazine, Elle Decoration UK and Dwell—just in the past year— have carved out a niche working on interiors that Lonny describes as “warm California modern, with a Scandinavian bent.” Dick likens their style to a woman who wears jeans and a t-shirt with a great necklace. “Not everything in the room can be the showstopper. You need to have a couple of things that are the focal point and the rest work to support those moments.” The hallmarks of a DISC Interiors’ space are variegated layers. The spaces are, in a word, tactile. “I think it was designer Ilse Crawford who said that the most important part of a room is the area that’s 6 inches in front of your hands, what you’re about to touch. And, for us, it’s how a room should feel versus how it looks. So many rooms are beautiful in photos but they’re not rooms you want to live in,” says Dick. It’s why he and Schrock spend so much time thinking about small the things. For example, “Sofa depth, and how high the back of a chair is, and table height,” Dick explains. “How it functions. Where you put down a glass.” Schrock jumps in, “We always tell our clients, ‘Eventually we’ll be out of your life and we want you to be in a home that you’re excited about, but that you feel comfortable in.’ You can like things, but it doesn’t mean that you want to live in them every day. And I think that’s a big distinction.”
This feeling of livability is what draws the pair to natural materials, luxurious textures and rich neutrals. “We’re definitely on the other end of the spectrum than shiny and sleek, though it’s fun to add elements of that,” says Dick. Taking cues from the landscape of their adopted state, California, the pair gravitates toward colors that echo their surroundings. “We’re inspired by nature. You don’t need a lot of color to be impactful,” explains Dick. Grass, hills and intense California light inform the DISC Interiors’ aesthetic that inspired a line of window coverings with Smith & Noble and a quartet of rugs from Marc Phillips Decorative Rugs. “We make rooms that people can live their life in,” says Dick. That certainly sounds like a happily ever after ending to us.
6815 Willoughby Avenue, Suite 201, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Ochre’s sleek sable collection launched last year with a chic chair in an array of shades. This season, the brand’s bows stool and bar stool designs are from the same family. The metal-framed sable chair, shown here, sports sumptuous Italian saddle leather and features pinched seams sewn by hand and scalloped corners. With streamlined looks and a schoolhouse form, class is most definitely in session. Prices upon request, Ochre.net
Turning her cool-girl touch on the glamorous Liaison Dining Table, LA design darling Kelly Wearstler adds to her arsenal of aspirational pieces for individually stamped interiors. Handcrafted from glossy marble and bronze, this space anchor features a mix of materials and modern lines that redefine surface quality. Price upon request, KellyWearstler.com