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Mark and Maggie de la Vega, the husband-and-wife team behind the Brooklyn design firm DLV, know how closely entwined risk and reward can be. In February 2012, a few months shy of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, they pulled out a credit card and took a $30,000 gamble: They would kick their three-year-old fabrication studio into high gear and create a collection of furniture and accessories to debut that May. As Maggie, the business manager, recalls, “It was a total leap of faith.”
They may have been short on time, but the results were far from slapdash. The mahogany Abuelo chest of drawers, modeled after one Mark inherited from his Mexican grandparents, featured saddle-leather panels and inlaid brass. The cast-bronze Giacometti chair showed off their sculptural skills. And a mirror in handlaid eggshell mosaic revealed a reverence for old-world craftsmanship. “We are rooted in early modernism and Art Deco,” says Mark, who credits the “Harvard-level education” he received in rarefied furniture and finishes during his years as a designer at Studio Sofield.
While Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann and Jean-Michel Frank are guiding stars, DLV’s industrial setting—a waterfront warehouse in the Red Hook neighborhood—has imbued the work with a rugged edge. The building also houses nearly all the firm’s production resources, including a ventilated room for spraying lacquer and a woodworking shop. Under the same roof is a close-knit group of collaborators, from French master upholsterers to églomisé artist Lisa Stimpson, who helped create a screen featuring Rockwell Kent’s illustrations for Moby Dick.
For clients, this one-stop-shop setup is a rare find. London firm Anouska Hempel Design has commissioned more than 45 pieces for its first U.S. residence, ranging from gold-leaf screens to upholstered headboards. “They’re a young company,” says Federico Toresi, Hempel’s studio director, “but they’re hungry and very skilled.”
For this month’s ICFF, DLV has doubled the size of its booth. Highlights include an eight-foot sofa inspired by a shapely French Art Deco chair and a custom-configured steel wall unit. Both will join DLV’s earlier designs for sale on Dering Hall. Meanwhile, Mark’s mother will fly in from Colorado to help with the couple’s two-year-old, Holly. “It’s a family business,” he says, “down to the babysitter.”
This article originally appeared in ELLE DECOR. Article by Laura Regensdorf.
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