In the Studio with Leah Ring of Another Human

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A lot of words come to mind when appraising the work of Leah Ring. “Joyful” is one of them. “Electric” is another. The pieces the L.A.-based designer creates within her studio, Another Human, are ecstatic takes on the utilitarian. Here, a piece of furniture—a chair, a lamp, a coffee table—is not simply a piece of furniture. Each item, rather, is an opportunity to explore new shapes in the third dimension. Ring does not make anything that fades agreeably into the background; her work demands more of space, screaming in shades of lizard green and emergency orange.

Ring, who clocked over a decade as a high-end interior designer, opened Another Human’s doors in 2017 and quickly established herself as a creative of note. Her self-described “weird” pieces eschew more familiar shapes and silhouettes in favor an uncommon playfulness. Everything from her use of geometry to the materials she uses is an invitation to upend the status quo. When the rest of the world is asking Why?, Ring is operating with a far more expansive, Why not? 

Editors have had their eye on Ring since the beginning. Her pieces routinely appear within the pages of Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, and Dezeen, to name a few, and she made Sight Unseen’s “American Design Hot List” in 2018, and was a finalist Lane Crawford’s 2018 “Creative Call Out.” It’s a remarkable buzz that will surely continue in the years to come. Below, Ring lets us into her studio to talk design language, puffy paint, and the importance of indulging even the strangest ideas.

Former occupation and your most notable memory there:

My first job after design school was at a design/build firm working on the since-closed Rolling Stone Magazine restaurant and bar in Hollywood. My boss at the time was both the contractor and interior designer on the job and it had a crazy fast timeline, so it was a serious crash course in design and construction—we had to finish in time for the American Music Awards after-party to be hosted there. I got to go to the party and brush shoulders with Katy Perry, Jon Bon Jovi, Kelly Osbourne, and the like! It was a super cool experience to see everyone enjoying a space I helped design.

Your first experience with art/design as a child:

There were so many funny crafts I enjoyed as a child—making clay beads or paper beads out of old magazines, BeDazzling things (loved my BeDazzler), puffy painting on clothes, sewing. A lot of my art and design projects in my youth were more focused on fashion, which is what I thought I wanted to do when I first went to design school, then I changed gears to interiors and never looked back!

What did your parents do for work? Were they interested in the arts or design?

My parents both worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, so both were in medical and service professions, not at all related to the arts or design. They were great, however, at really making sure my sister and I had a range of experiences, from music lessons, ballet lessons, art classes, language camps, etc. I think they saw early on that I was a creative child and they encouraged me in that regard.

Describe your childhood living room in detail:

Navy blue leather recliner sofa, one wood-paneled wall, one stone wall with a fireplace, big sliding doors looking out at the pool or at mounds of snow depending on the season, beige carpet, a colorful Kagan-esque pivot chair (though I wouldn’t recognize that until years later), and loads of VHS tapes and family photos. Really dating myself here!

Can you describe the process of how a piece of yours typically gets made, from start to finish?

It all starts with a sketch, and typically my finished pieces look almost exactly like my initial sketches. I’ll always iterate on it a bit to make sure I’m not missing something, but I usually stick with the first thing I put on paper. I’ll do some foam-core mock-ups in my studio and some more technical drawings, then quote with various fabricators. Then, before production, I always meet with my fabricators and have an in-depth talk to make sure they understand my design intent. I’ll often make progress visits during the process, depending on the complexity of the piece.

Are some designs terribly difficult to realize once taken off the page and into reality?

Of course there’s a range of complexity in my pieces, either pending the actual processes required to manufacture or how many vendors are involved. I’m trying to develop some new pieces right now in materials I haven’t used before, and working with new fabricators is always the difficult until you build a relationship and they understand your design language. A lot of times I’m asking fabricators to do things outside of their normal processes, so things always get easier once I’ve built a relationship with a fabricator and they understand that, even though it might seem crazy on paper, I want the piece to look exactly as I’ve designed it.

How does your experience working as an interior designer influence your work as a designer, if any?

My experience working in high-end interiors helps me think a lot about the potential client and use scenario for my furniture work. Both practices are really important to me, and even though my furniture pieces can lean more sculptural and experimental, I’m still thinking about the end user and how I envision a piece living in a space. Also my years of working in interiors resulted in a tremendous amount of design research, introducing me to legendary furniture designers over the past century and really giving me a greater appreciation for the path that I’ve chosen.

How did you find your current workspace and where is it?

Right now I work out of my apartment in Atwater Village. I moved in four years ago and was lucky enough to get a two bedroom with a garage, so one room acts as my studio, the garage is for messy projects, and half of my living room has become a make-shift furniture showroom.

What do you eat for breakfast?

Varies depending on the day but I’m a big egg fan. Soft boiled or sunny-side up with a piece of toast (and sriracha!) is perfect for me.

What’s a day typically look like for you, from start to finish?

My days can be pretty wildly different depending on what I’m working on and where my furniture pieces are in the process. Right now I’m really busy with interior design projects, so I spend a lot of my day in front of my computer working on drawings, making calls, creating presentations, etc. I try to group together site visits on specific days, but that also means that then I have entire days during which I’m traversing the city of Los Angeles the whole day and visiting different fabricators and vendors.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?

Always! I really need music to get in the groove. I listen to a pretty wide range of tunes and live for my Spotify weekly playlists, but I have a few go-tos for different moods: Ty Segall for a rock mood, Jessy Lanza or George Clanton for an upbeat indie electronica vibe, or when I really need to jam out work, I put on LCD Soundsystem and turn the volume up.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I have residential interior design projects in Los Angeles and New York, as well as an office project and recording studio project in L.A. that I’m designing. In terms of furniture, I’m working on developing a few new collections with new materials for me—it’s in the very early phases but hoping that I can have some of these pieces ready to show next spring at the furniture fairs.

What material do you and your fabricators go through the most of?

Probably acrylic. I’ve become tight with my acrylic fabricator; they’re so good to me in terms of indulging my weird ideas. Also it’s easier to do one-off pieces in acrylic than it is in, say, metal, and I love acrylic so my brain is often thinking in that material anyway.

What color are you most interested in presently and why?

Yves Klein Blue is an all-time favorite of mine—I’ll never grow tired of it—but lately I’ve been really into fluorescent yellow/green. I know it’s such a loud color but it makes my brain super happy. It stops me in my tracks every time.

Era in design you are most inspired by:

Definitely the ’80s. My work is very Memphis-inspired, and I love the super irreverent post-modern design that was happening in the ’80s.

What book/ film/ work of art most recently captured your attention and why?

A friend just gave me Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke which offers some beautiful advice for anyone following an artistic path in their life. I also had the great privilege of attending the Olafur Eliasson exhibition at the Tate Modern and a few of the installations actually moved me to tears. I think he’s so talented at tapping into innate human instincts and desires through his work, which is so inspired by nature and natural phenomena. I love when good art can spark the sort of joy and wonder that was so common to feel as a child and we so often forget to feel as adults.

Person in history you’d like to plop down in one of your Zorg chairs and have a chat with:

So hard to pick one person, but Ettore Sottsass is an idol of mine.

What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Just keep going. I think this can relate both to how the creative path can often be a winding (and hard, uphill, strenuous) road, but also I relate it to staying true to yourself artistically. It can take many, many years for a creative career to really take off, but as long as you’re continuing to make good work that you’re proud of and that is uniquely you, that’s all that matters. The rest will sort itself out.

Photos by Tyler William Parker for SIXTY Hotels

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, specializing in music, fashion, the arts, and culture, both high and low. Her work has been featured in Cereal, Lenny Letter, and more.