This story is part of “Clearance,” a design issue that peels back the layers of aspirational architecture in L.A., and envisions a more beautiful future that lives a little less on the nose. Read the whole issue here.
MidcenturyLA, the furniture mecca in North Hollywood, is the kind of place made for manifesting. Co-founded by David Pierce in 2004, the store has become a destination for Midcentury heads, designers, those who obsessively covet online, and celebrities seeking finds from around the globe. (Pierce won’t name-drop his clients, but spend an afternoon scrolling through the store’s 171,000 Instagram followers, and you might be able to hypothesize which rock star fought for a Danish table in their home.)
The space is a 12,000-square-foot warehouse of color and texture — in its current state, it is giving a ’70s Italian and French fever dream. Pierce, whose early background was in tech, not design, curates furniture based on a feeling more than the scholastic merits of the object or rules of the game. The selection relies more on what particular era he’s in, what he’s drawn to in the moment. “I follow my gut on pieces that I like and the aesthetic — I don’t really dive into studying a lot about the designers or where it came from,” he says. “Some people might find that offensive and others … you know, I keep it pretty casual.” He was initially drawn to Scandinavian Midcentury furniture because of its equal dedication to form and functionality — what good is a stunning vintage couch if you can only sit on it for five minutes? He came to appreciate more quirky styles of furniture, like Brazilian Midcentury, which incorporates rich colored leathers and unique woods. These days, Pierce has over 65,000 square feet of storage space between L.A., Sweden, Holland, Belgium and Italy.
Along with more deep cuts, MidcenturyLA has become known for its“it”pieces: the wall of Michel Ducaroy Togo couches. The psychedelic Roche Bobois Mah Jong sofa that takes up an entire corner. Sloping Terrazza sofas by Ubald Klug that bring you closer to heaven. But the reasons people come into the shop vary, says Pierce. People in their 20s who are ready for their first big purchase might be looking for the hot sofa. Families sometimes come in for a future heirloom. “I’ve seen everything,” says Pierce. “I’ve seen the life cycle of relationships from literally second date, engaged, to married, to children, to bitterly divorced, complaining about who got what piece from me.”
A roof might be the first requirement of shelter. But there’s possibility to be found on the flip side.
In Pierce’s experience, furniture is about relationships — his relationship to his business, his relationship to his clients, their relationship to the furniture he sells them. There’s a life cycle baked into each one of these pieces as well — they come from somewhere else, where they were used and ideally loved, on their way to a new place, where they’ll either be kept in pristine condition to show off or develop condensation rings from too many forgotten coasters. Hands from all over the world help bring this furniture to the L.A. warehouse — from the woman who fiercely guards 10,000 square feet of couches, tables and more in Parma, to the elder Scandinavian couple who used to drive all over to help Pierce source furniture, to his sources in Holland and Belgium. (“I’ve wired millions of dollars to people I’ve never met,” says Pierce.)
MidcenturyLA feels alive. Furniture is a form of art inextricably linked with living, after all. Walking into the space, you imagine what kind of life you’d lead with the puffy chocolate tufted chair in your living room. Picking a piece is kind of like choosing a family member, even if, at the end of the day, they’re just objects. As Pierce reminds us, it’s we who add meaning to them.
Models: Ciarda Hall and Jesus Garcia
Hair: Jocelyn Vega
Makeup: Selena Ruiz