Steven and Jordan Neman know how hard it can be to stand out. The identical-twin founders of Los Angeles’ House of Léon are determined to make the brand’s lineup familiar yet unquestionably distinctive. Chairs and sofas in subdued palettes. Beds, mirrors, and side tables in warm, woody hues intended to age gracefully. Pieces that reflect a design language rooted in simplicity and functionality, whose neutrality ensures cohesion whether the collection consists of a few pieces or an entire home.
It’s an aesthetic acuity with early familial roots. The Nemans’ mother is a sculptor and their father an enthusiast woodworker. The brothers even cut their design teeth lending assistance to friends and relatives rethinking their spaces. When House of Léon became their primary focus, they partnered with a family-owned atelier in Istanbul currently operated by three brothers whose craftsmanship they instill as much into House of Léon’s ever-growing collection catalog as into their own children and grandchildren, whom they teach the trade.
Below, we get to know the two founders and the guiding ethos behind House of Leon.
Tell me about House of Léon’s origins. What possessed twin brothers from Los Angeles to start a furniture design company of all things?
Since we were children, we have always been passionate about design, whether it was our childhood bedrooms, first apartments, and now homes. It didn’t take long for friends and family to notice and start asking us for advice to conceptualize their home décor. Our design business took off from there and turned more or less into a full-time job. Upon designing the homes of friends and family for fun, we quickly realized there was a gap in the market: we found it difficult to find furniture with exceptional design at prices that made sense. For instance, many brands will focus on utility and affordability at the expense of design and self expression, while the high-end alternatives are not practical or affordable to most.
Hence we created House of Léon to bridge the gap between aesthetically elevated furniture and accessibility. As twins, we’ve spent our entire lives learning to prioritize and express our own individuality. With House of Léon, we hope to help the design-minded among us to bring that same curated sense of individuality home.
I understand your parents are both creatives with some relevant experience to the brand’s offerings. Could you talk a little about them and how much they influence the product lines?
We were exposed to creativity, art, and sculpture at a young age from our mother and father. They have fostered a sense of creativity that has translated over to interior design and ultimately, furniture design.
Our father, Léon, is a woodworking hobbyist and has definitely inspired us as he is our brand’s namesake. Our mother’s art and sculptures played a big part in inspiring us to found House of Léon, so it only makes sense for us to pay tribute to her in some way. Later this month, we are releasing a candle collection inspired by her sculptures – striking, slightly abstract, anthropomorphic figures. By crafting her sculpture-inspired candles, we can now make her art more widely available, and honor the woman who continues to play such a key role in our inspiration and design.
House of Léon’s inaugural collection, Ojai, was inspired by the California enclave of Ojai, where our parents built a home and which has become such a special place in our lives over the years.
You stress the importance of “showcasing beauty in simplicity.” How do you strike the proper balance between simplicity and novelty, between something being ultra functional but still absolutely recognizable?
Our approach to this is two-fold. While prioritizing comfort, there are details we can focus on, such as materiality, weight, and dimensions that allow for prime functionality and aesthetic. For example, the Ojai Sofa has oversized arms, creating a monolithic feel for the piece. The side table uses a simple material to create a complex piece—geometric angles, shadows cast in interesting ways, tiered levels draw your eye up and down. On the Teddy Dining Chairs, the oversized legs are quite simple, but when you line them up at the dinner table, you get a sense of interest in the repeated column-like appearance. Pillar candles, a simple concept, become statement pieces simply by exaggerating their size.
By designing collections as a whole, not only are we focusing on one piece when considering these elements, but also how the pieces within the collection speak and interact with one another. The Ojai Sofa and Lounge Chair, soft and comfortable, yet monolithic in appearance are in direct contrast with the Sofita Coffee Table. The thin block of stone is sharp in features in contrast to the Ojai sofa set, but the balance all works.
How much iteration went into House of Léon’s debut Ojai collection? Were there any products that you hoped to include but had to wait for future releases?
Each piece saw a number of iterations. Some were simple, like the mirror, and some had many, like the sofa series. Playing with the proportions to get that look took many attempts. Our bedroom set took a bit more time to design and produce and is on the way.
We’ve been playing with Douglas Fir wood beams for sculptural pedestals. The organic wood continues to contract and expand as it is exposed to the elements until it finds its final form. Experimenting with those pieces took the longest. The charcoal version is out now, and we’re still trying to perfect the ideal shade of brown.
Tell me about the atelier in Turkey where all of the brand’s products are made. Why them? What production control does working with them afford you?
The atelier is located in Istanbul and owned by three brothers who learned woodworking from their father. Their practice has been handed down in their family as they continue to teach their meticulous craft to their sons and grandchildren. It remains family-owned and continues to turn out beautifully crafted furniture.
Because they’re a very small atelier, they don’t expect us to place orders in the hundreds to work with them. This allows us more flexibility in our creative process and to take a chance on experimental products and designs, as well as create limited-edition pieces. We feel incredibly lucky to have met and grown close to the atelier and this family, who have made the journey of starting this company such a rewarding adventure.
What associations do you hope people make when they hear House of Léon?
We want people to associate House of Léon with creative freedom for the home and unbridled self expression and exploration. While House of Leon’s first collection is close to home, showcasing beauty in simplicity, the coming collections will continue to stand out from what has been so commonly found on the market.
Additionally, there are certain principles we adhere to for each piece from the brand: timelessness, quality, and integrity. Our goal is to create pieces that build character as they age, eventually entering the vintage arena as coveted pieces with a story to share
What’s next for the brand? What can we expect from the first collection of 2022?
We don’t want to give too much away, but our second collection (due out in early March) will be an exercise in elegant minimalism, and, like all our collections, is inspired by regional design language. Two global regions, specifically, known for their organic minimalism.
Alongside our furniture collections, we are excited to release decor pieces that will help bring warmth and further personalization to people’s homes. These are based on Jordan’s pottery. More to come soon.