The inaugural Design Miami LA explores living with design

Inside the debut of Design Miami LA, staged at the Holmby Hills Estate until 20 May 2024

Design Miami LA in Los Angeles, featuring pyramid-like displays inside Holmby Hills Estate
(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

The inaugural edition of Design Miami LA, on the grounds of the sprawling Paul R. Williams estate in Holmby Hills (until 20 May 2024) is part of the city's newfound international design recognition. The pioneering late black architects’ 1938 Colonial Revival masterpiece was a fitting scene for such a large-scale globally recognized design fair.  

'Los Angeles has always been a marker for culture and risk taking and the people who get involved in making things happen,' said Grela Orihuela, Senior VP of Fairs at Design Miami, during the opening remarks. The new global rebrand designed by Henrik Purienne, Design Miami’s Global Creative Director for 2024, explores ‘Living with Design’ across the fair’s international programming in Los Angeles, Basel, Paris, and Miami Beach. 

'It feels perfectly fitting to start the year with our inaugural LA exhibition,' said Design Miami CEO, Jen Roberts, 'Which promises a dynamic and thoughtful gallery program that is deeply rooted in the city’s cultural and creative ecosystem.'

Dozens of exhibitors spanning both floors of the main dwelling and guest house, with sculptures dotting the park-like grounds, leading to the pool house, the white backdrop of the historic home seemed positioned as its own canvas an and integral part of the fair.  


Podium Exhibition 

Podium exibition at Design Miami LA

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

Recognizing LA as 'a land of dreamers and creators,' Curatorial Director Ashlee Harrison’s programming was inspired by LA’s rich design heritage, centred on themes of eclecticism, imagination, and nostalgia. Her Podium exhibition “Masterworks of Collectible Design,” was astonishingly put together in a matter of months, encompassing rare and iconic pieces, pulled from a variety of galleries present at the fair, spanning from the 1930s up to modern day.

The Podium collection starts in the foyer with the Lynx Table by Judy Kensley McKie, presented by Wexler Gallery, and spans over three rooms in the home. One of Harrison’s favourite pieces in the show is from Southern Guild, Nkcokocha (Mountain Peak) by Andile Dyalvane. Hailing from the East Cape in South Africa, the artist works with clay and indigenous timber. Harrison offered insight to the work, 'This piece, has a typographical reference of the mountain ranges where he grew up. He creates volcanic mountain elements by putting firecrackers into the clay before he fires them and the natural morphology of how they erupt gives its texture and motif.'

Podium exibition at Design Miami LA

George Nakashima’s 1985, Sanso table

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

Other finds along the way are George Nakashima’s 1985, Sanso table, represented by Moderne Gallery, Philadelphia, and Nacho Carbonell who works with industrial materials in an organic iteration such as the welded steel tree structure with a chair at the base, presented by Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

Wexler gallery display at Design Miami Los Angeles, podium exhibition

Wexler Gallery at Design Miami Podium, featuring the Lynx Table by Judy Kensley McKie

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

In one of the guest house rooms, Wexler Gallery is also representing artist Nick Missel who uses truck radiators that are sculpted into furniture, such as a chair, before incorporating them into resin and then high polish. 'This is an incredible evolution for him and he is definitely one to watch,' says Harrison.

On the ascend-up the staircase to the second floor of the guesthouse, the walls are covered with Andy Warhol celebrity photography adding a bit of old Hollywood glamour. Some of the 35 mm images depict Warhol’s quirky solo fascinations with everything from hotel chandeliers to room service trays and toilets a la Marcel Duchamp. 

The light-flooded second floor is the main Podium room curated with pieces from a Mickey Mackintosh Chair, 1981 by Wendy Maruyama, presented by R & Company, to Alberto Giacometti lamps in patinated bronze flanking an Ingrid Donat bronze piece ‘Commode aux Engredages', inspired by the Charlie Chaplin film “Modern Times”, is represented by Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

Southern Guild 

Design Miami Los Angeles displays inside Holmby Hills Estate

Desk by Rich Mnisi, artwork by Zanele Muholi

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

Representing an impressive roster of artists from Africa and the diaspora, Southern Guild from Cape Town, and a new location in the blossoming Melrose Hill area of Los Angeles, occupies the main room just beyond the entrance to the estate with a backdrop of the garden grounds and their towering totem sculpture Isacholo by Zizipho Poswa made of ceramic and bronze.

'For the first time we are able to show our whole program of art and design in one setting,' said co-founder Trevyn McGowan, who has been participating in Design Miami for the past 13 years, along with her partner Julian McGowan. The stark, non-binary, black-and-white image by Zanele Muholi was shot using the person’s own make-up and with no lighting. This image appeared as a wallpaper for the fair.

Design Miami Los Angeles displays inside Holmby Hills Estate

Sculpture by Adam Birch and ceramics by Zizipho Poswa

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

Other exhibiting designers supporting the narratives of hyper-sentimentalism, nostalgia, ecological concerns, craft traditions, and social politics included Zizipho Poswa, Porky Hefer, Rich Mnisi, Cheick Diallo, Nandipha Mntambo, King Houndekpinkou and Patrick Bongoy. 'To be able to spend time and really understand what these pieces would look like in a home is such a unique experience,'  McGowan added, 'This house makes you want to linger.'

One spot where patrons were lingering, was a Porky Hefer piece called ‘Yoko’ – a white leather cocooning lounge chair lined with sheepskin, inspired by a plea for peace.

Friedman Benda

Design Miami Los Angeles: objects on show

Let me pay my taxes today!, 2023, by Carmen D'Apollonio from Friedman Benda (Image credit - Evan Bedford)

(Image credit: Courtesy of the gallery)

The focus for New York and LA based Friedman Benda was in exhibiting local talent with three LA based studios - Carmen D'Apollonio, Darren Romanelli, and Farrell Hundley.

Friedman Benda is working with artists they feel are among the pillars of design today, while showcasing the eclectic nature of cutting-edge voices such as Faye Toogood and her iconic Roly Poly chairs in bronze, 'One of the most prominent female voices in the field today,' said Marc Benda.

Samuel Ross chair

Foreign body of chalk and iron, 2021 by Samuel Ross from Freidman Benda

(Image credit: Oliver Matich)

Benda also calls out some of their exhibit highlights, 'Joris Laarman is one of the most innovative voices in design, our collaboration going back two decades. The deep narratives present in Samuel Ross’s work, who is active in fashion, sculpture, painting, and furniture design, are encompassed in the small-scale Jut, impale, emerge.  

Design Miami Los Angeles: objects on show

KAWS Chair Black, 2018 by KAWS and Estudio Campana from Friedman Benda (Image credit - Daniel Kukla)

(Image credit: Courtesy of the gallery)

New York-based Misha Kahn has been noted for a decade for his imaginative rethinking of how design can express and manifest personal narratives. Finally, the collaborative work between KAWS and Estudio Campana has never been shown in LA.'

 The Future Perfect

Design Miami Los Angeles displays inside Holmby Hills Estate

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

On the second floor of the main house, The Future Perfect (New York/Los Angeles) took inspiration from the classic décor of the surrounding estate with works by Genesis Belanger, created in collaboration with Bower Studios. The collection of acid etched bronze mirrors feature sets of hands emerging from behind curtains. The mirrors shift from obfuscation to clarity, present a deeply evocative image, creating an immersive and striking showcase. 

Works by Jane Yang-D’Haene, Chris Wolston, Leena Similu, and Eric Roinestad also can be found in the space, which leads to a closet and bathroom in one of the homes’ suites.

Design Miami Los Angeles displays inside Holmby Hills Estate

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

London's Gallery Fumi recreates a domestic setting with works from an array of designers. Highlights include Kustaa Saksi’s Pitkä-Kotka Chair, crafted from woven textile art wrapped around an oak wooden frame; the Incontro Low Table by Francesco Perini, crafted from oak and inlaid with rings of black gold marble; and a pair of mirrored wall sculptures from the Rosa Luna series by Sam Orlando Miller, created in hues inspired by the Los Angeles sunrise and sunset. 

Other voices

Design Miami Los Angeles displays inside Holmby Hills Estate

James De Wulf

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

Acclaimed furniture designer James De Wulf, renowned for his imaginative work with concrete, debuts his latest creations that continue to push the boundaries of material and form. 'Design Miami is my favourite show to be a part of and since my company’s roots are in LA, being part of their inaugural LA show was a no-brainer for me,' said De Wulf. 'This show has accepted and even pushed me to feel free with my designs – and not inside the box. The more I push my boundaries, the more they love it.' To that end, highlights include the innovative Blueberry Table, the Art Deco-inspired Deco Chess Table, the nature-themed Lotus II Exo Mirror and Leaning Lotus Exo Console, and the sculpturally striking Standing Stone I.

Todd Merrill display at Design Miami LA, with circular yellow sofa

Todd Merrill

(Image credit: Courtesy Todd Merrill)

Making its first West Coast exhibition, Todd Merrill Studio (New York) brings a diverse array of works from its international roster of artists, including Erik Speer’s textiles, Draga & Aurel’s Lucite works, Yunhwan Kim’s wood furniture, and Pia Maria Raeder’s ‘Sea Anemone’ series. 'We thought it important and nostalgic to bring some top-level Mid-Century California Design and have brought a group of museum-quality carved wood chairs by Jack Rogers Hopkins,' said Merrill.

Twentieth Gallery display at Design Miami Los Angeles

Twentieth Gallery

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

Mattia Biagi, founder and creative director at the new MC+ Design Studio in West Hollywood (in the original Spago building above Sunset Blvd.) is showcasing his work with Twentieth Gallery. According to Biagi, 'The gallery will embrace eclecticism by curating a diverse range of artworks or products that draw from various styles, genres, and cultural influences.. For me personally, imagination is at the heart of my design choices, incorporating whimsical elements, unexpected visual motifs, and playful touches. An ordinary light fixture, for example, is infused with magic and wonder.'

Gulla Jonsdottir jewellery presented by Wexler Gallery at Design Miami Los Angeles

Jewellery by Gulla Jonsdottir

(Image credit: Courtesy Gulla Jonsdottir and Wexler Gallery)

Icelandic-born architect and designer Gulla Jonsdottir is working with Wexler Gallery to display her zinc and blackened oak puzzle table, along with her new sculptural, wearable art, gold jewellery collection.

 Wellness and Design 

Design Miami Los Angeles displays inside Holmby Hills Estate

Nick Thom in the estate's Pool House

(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

Leading out to the pool house, the hyper-color blue and purple spectral paintings and installation display by Australian artist Nick Thom, who is regularly commissioned by LVMH, offers an alluring pop of colour. 

Wellness area at Design Miami LA


(Image credit: Charles White for Design Miami)

Next door, Atra is leading the California wellness-theme, with the sleek and comfortable Morphus Lounge Chair - a sensory chair, originally exhibited at Salone in Milan this year where it was extremely well received. Guest can try on the headphones for a musical journey and LED light therapy goggles which sync with vibrations in the seat cushions, offering benefits like stress relief and pain management. 

'We are bringing bio-hacking to a new audience, and California being a wellness culture, it’s a natural fit between wellness and design,' said CEO James Williams. 'It’s having your spa at home and making it much more accessible which a lot of developers and designers are interested in right now.'

Throughout the weekend, design talks will take place in a screening room, ranging from Joesph Becker from SFMOMA who just opened a show ‘The Art of Noise', to discuss how sound and design collide, to Ryan Murphy talking about film, set design, and creating an atmosphere through that medium and in his own homes.

Carole Dixon is a prolific lifestyle writer-editor currently based in Los Angeles. As a Wallpaper* contributor since 2004, she covers travel, architecture, art, fashion, food, design, beauty, and culture for the magazine and online, and was formerly the LA City editor for the Wallpaper* City Guides to Los Angeles.