Design

L.A.'s New Design Atelier That Doubles as an Art Gallery

Icelandic architect Gulla Jonsdottir opens an multidisciplinary space inside the La Peer Hotel.

“In four years I’m going to kick you out,” Los Angeles real estate developer Elie Samaha told architect Gulla Jonsdottir in 2009 when she signed the lease on her first studio, a streetfront loft surrounded by a parking lot in West Hollywood’s design district. “But then I want you to design a hotel on this site.” Another five years went into building the 105-room Kimpton La Peer, which opened last month on a quiet lane between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. “I liked the idea of coming home,” says the Icelandic designer of an offer from the Lebanese entrepreneur for Jonsdottir to reopen in her old haunt. “I could have recycled my old business cards.”

Those plans were scrapped in favor of Atelier Gulla Jonsdottir, a “work in progress,” she calls it, where private dinner parties will share the calendar with Jonsdottir’s nature-inspired, limited-edition furniture designs and installations that will explore the power of art to evoke distinct senses. Her most recent 12-piece Heimaland collection—a veritable topographical map of Iceland wrought in wood, metal, and stone—is on permanent display upstairs in the 1,400-square-foot penthouse. First off will be the inaugural Los Angeles exhibition for Kahori Maki, the Japanese graphic artist and Apple collaborator, whose floral motif graffiti art fills the hotel’s elevator banks. Jonsdottir handpicked the hotel’s 30, mostly L.A.-based artists whose work is displayed along her leather walls and bronze columns, including WeHo street artist Retna and Guerin Swing, both of whom she plans to continue promoting in her atelier. “I have a few other ideas cooking,” she teases, including an upcoming group show featuring Icelandic artists Tolli and Mireya Samper and another built around charcoal, when she envisions offering freshly made charcoal bread with her own burnt wood furniture and smaller works in Japanese bamboo. Jonsdottir has plenty of time to experiment with the new space—she’s there to stay. 

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(Photos courtesy Art Gray)

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