These Designers Will Take No Shortcuts in Their Quest for High-Quality American Design

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By Kelly Vencill Sanchez / Published by Dwell
Based on tenets of good design and lasting craftsmanship, Kalon Studios keeps it stateside.

You won’t find Michaele Simmering and Johann Pauwen on a soapbox, but they are every bit furniture makers on a mission. In an era when cheaply constructed products are proliferating, their "highly considered, zero-compromise" pieces are produced start to finish in the USA, a practice that’s helping to revitalize an American tradition gutted by offshoring to Asia. "There’s a great history of woodworking and furniture making in this country," Pauwen says. "We feel a responsibility to keep the work here."

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Johann Pauwen and Michaele Simmering are at the helm of Kalon Studios, a design studio based in Los Angeles that works with manufacturers across the United States. The No. 5 Series sofa is solid, rift-cut white oak with tufted organic latex and wool cushions.

Since launching Kalon Studios in 2007, the Los Angeles–based pair have assiduously gathered a core group of fabricators located in various cities across the country that are able to produce furniture to their specifications—no small feat. They outstripped the capabilities of some shops, while others have opted to close their doors rather than take on the workload involved in retooling or adjusting their workflow to scale up with the company. "We want finished goods of high quality for which all the components are high quality and produced in low runs," Simmering says. "We’ve outgrown the capacity of a lot of shops. Others don’t want to take on a challenging new endeavor."

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The Echo Crib is made from maple.

Kalon Studios’ new upholstered No. 5 Series is a case in point. Unwilling to use conventional polyurethane foam filling, they discovered a natural, organic latex. "It’s a very heavy material," says Simmering. "We had to find someone willing to learn to work with it."

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The Isometric Chair is formed from a single sheet of bamboo with a CNC machine.

Whether they’re crafting leather drawer pulls for their home or sourcing new materials, the couple are staying the course. "When you know where objects come from and how they’re made, they have more meaning, and you hold on to them longer," Simmering adds. "They’ve grown into the story of your life."

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The simple, folding Backcountry Stool is a collaboration with Nico Nico.

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3 Blocks is a group of nesting tables that can also work as stools.

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“Finding partners who are flexible and willing to experiment with new materials and techniques has been one of the greatest rewards of our efforts,” Simmering says.