The difference between good and great is often found in subtlety–those details so small they’re nearly imperceptible but inevitably felt, subconsciously or otherwise. Such is the case for De JONG & Co., where the precise slenderness of a serving platter or the clever tapering of a pepper mill makes the difference between standing out or blending in. Standing out, beautifully but with polished reserve, is what De JONG & Co. does.
The Los Angeles-based interior design and furniture company was founded upon the unique talents of three siblings: Ruth, Peter, and Philip. Ruth, a production designer in film and television whose credits include Manchester by the Sea and the reboot of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, handles interiors for both commercial and residential clients. Peter, who designs the furniture for De JONG & Co, has background in sculpture and woodworking. Before he moved to Los Angeles, he was building furniture for BDDW, a highly regarded New York-based furniture company (and one of the prettiest shops in SoHo). Philip, operating out of the East Coast, initially helped establish the brand’s interface with the world through graphic design, web design, and photography. Since starting his own creative studio, Hundredweight, Philip has understandably had to scale back his involvement. Still, the aesthetic he cultivated permeates and, time allowing, he shoots De JONG’s products and interiors.
While each De Jong sibling supplies a particular expertise to the endeavor, it is undeniable that each shares an eye for telling stories through objects. How they go about expressing that, of course, is different: Ruth arranges, Peter builds, Philip captures. Each executes their part of the story with wondrous artistic verve and, together, they create a shared vision of home. While each forges ahead in their respective careers, De JONG & Co. moves along, continuing to garner both clients and praise. Below, we catch up with Ruth and Peter to talk childhood Narnias, fortuitous darkrooms, and the allure of Dutch orange.
Former occupation and your most notable memory there:
Ruth: In college, I shot freelance photography for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on my Nikon FM2. I always loved getting the call to go here or there to shoot whatever it was, never quite knowing until I arrived. Then I’d have to go back to the Star-Telegram, develop my film in the darkroom (no matter what time it was) and share with whomever the editors were that day/night. It was an incredible insight into a place that was not familiar to me. (At this point in my life I was set on pursuing war photojournalism).
Peter: My job when I was in college in Richmond, VA was an art store clerk. When corporate tried to make us play canned music, my coworkers and I collectively said, “You know what, we’re just gonna stick it to the man.” That felt good. The employee’s personal music choices were always central to that place. Same goes in our workshop.
Your first experience with art/design as a child:
Ruth: Building forts in the woods, designing imaginary villages that my siblings and I pretended to live in. We had this amazing creek across the street from our childhood home in the San Bernardino Mountains–it was our Narnia.
Peter: I find this as tough a question as the art/life dichotomy. One of my first memories had to do with growing up in the San Bernardino mountains and imagining that I was going to be eaten by dinosaurs that still walked that area. Seems valid if you’ve ever hiked those mountains. But that imagination/play on reality is a good basis for art-making [in my opinion]… unless you’re a young art student drenched in fetishized nostalgia… (I’m looking at myself ten years ago).
What did your parents do for work? Were they interested in the arts or design?
Ruth: They were both very interested in the arts. They met at a small liberal arts college in Michigan, both pursuing a BFA. Our mother went on to get a masters and studied art history. She went on to be curator at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. before any of us were born. Our father was a photojournalist. Their passion for the arts definitely wore off on all of us.
Peter: Our mother was an art history major, our father a photojournalist. I’m sure Ruth is going to write this same thing, but our parents love to tell the story of how they met in a photo class in college. The line goes: “We met in a darkroom and look what developed!”
Favorite room in your childhood house:
Ruth: I loved the living room. Our dad designed and built our childhood home; it was very modern and had windows with great light that would blast through. I sought the light-filled rooms, never cared for a dark room. The living room also has a beautiful exposed two-story stone fireplace. All the stones were foraged from the creek across the street.
The chevron detail in some of your pieces is beautiful and unique. How did that come about?
Ruth: Per Peter–this is his design creation and it’s stunning!
Peter: Just coming up with alternatives to butterflies in terms of our slab work. A number of designers use cast bronze butterflies as accents which is nice but I wanted to come up with something original. It’s sort of like an asymmetric butterfly but also adds a much more graphic element to the pieces, especially in groupings.
Ruth, does your work in production design influence your work with De JONG & Co. at all?
Ruth: Absolutely! I am always traveling outside the U.S. and also throughout. I’m blessed to be exposed to so many unique places I would otherwise never be allowed to see. Through my work, I am always meeting incredible craftsman as well as hunting down fantastic new shops and treasures.
How did you find your current workspace and where is it?
Ruth: Our showroom/studio I found in 2009 on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles, before that area’s big transformations. We sit on the corner of 9th and Broadway in the heart of the historical core and on the edge of the Fashion District. I was interested in DTLA and the potential it had, I started to actively look and came across this live/work loft space in the Orpheum Lofts and immediately committed. It has the original terrazzo floors, doors, and hardware–they’ve done a beautiful job maintaining the integrity of the building.
Peter: Our production space we found through my good friend Seh Kim. We get lunch regularly and he gets me in to this Korean-only soup spot down the street. We used to be in Boyle Heights, where I live, but that got crazy with all the galleries moving in, the 6th Street bridge construction, not to mention the protests in response. Also we basically got priced out of there.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Ruth: A typical morning is coffee in my Chemex, eggs, avocado, spinach, and some fruit (usually berries).
What’s a day typically look like for you, from start to finish?
Ruth: There is no typical day for me; each day ranges wildly. I am either scouting locations for films/commercials, designing sets in my production office, designing interiors out of our De JONG & Co. showroom/office/studio in the Orpheum, or shooting on set.
Peter: Work from 9 to 6, probably 80-percent shop work. Beer at six. Then either more work, or I play futsal some Monday and Wednesday evenings, or I go home and work on music.
Do you listen to music while you design/work? If so, what?
Ruth: Yes, in my studio I always have records on. If I am at my production office I always have music on very low, usually symphony or jazz in the background.
Peter: Yes. Lately I’ve been revisiting Susumu Yokota. Amazing genre-bending musician who died three years ago.
What are you currently working on and/or designing?
Ruth: I am currently designing a television show for Paramount Network: a 10-episode series starring Kevin Costner. We are shooting between Montana and Utah. I am also wrapping a full pool house remodel in Hancock Park for clients of De JONG & Co. It’s stunning, if I do say so myself.
Peter: Hopefully you will see soon. Please check our website, which also is about to get a new face. But yes, there’s a lot coming down the pipeline so please remember to check back in soon!
What material do you go through the most of?
Ruth: Paint. Peter would be wood.
Peter: Walnut and oak.
What material/ fabric/ color are you most interested in presently and why?
Ruth: I am currently obsessed with Marmoreal by Max Lamb for it’s vibrance, uniqueness and beauty.
Peter: Netherlands Orange. Must be the Dutch namesake. Just look at my soccer boots .
What book/ film/ work of art most recently captured your attention and why?
Ruth: Human Flow, a documentary by Ai Weiwei.
Peter: Lately been revisiting a lot of Situationist texts. With all the political strife in this country (as well as globally), I find it helpful to go back to these radical texts on how to play with, possibly transform, or maybe sidestep our current societal conditions.
What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Ruth: Have no fear.
Peter: Judge a person’s character by their actions, not their words.