Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, Furniture and Product Designers

After Jean Lee met Dylan Davis while studying industrial design at the University of Washington, and after a string of successful school collaborations led them to start dating, the two of them did a semester abroad together in Rome. “Those were the good times,” laughs Lee. “We saw all these independent studios there, and designers working more as artists, and it was really inspiring for us. That wasn’t happening at all in Seattle.” And so after they graduated in 2005, Lee went on to work for a messenger bag company based in Philadelphia, while Davis joined the team at Henrybuilt. They did a small trade selling vintage finds on Etsy for awhile, and eventually started repurposing those objects into new designs as a hobby. But what finally led them to join forces as Ladies & Gentlemen in 2009 were the first signs that they might be able to find in Seattle what they experienced in Rome after all: Not only had studios like Iacoli & Mcallister and Grain begun to flourish by making and selling their own work, their new coalition Join was gathering together local designers to collaborate and exhibit together. “Jamie Iacoli asked us to contribute to a show, and were like ‘What the hell? Let’s do it!’”

Davis and Lee chose the name Ladies & Gentlemen for its vaguely generic quality, hoping it would give them license to stay flexible as makers. First, they designed new objects inspired by vintage ones, like their cake servers and doily rug. Next, they moved on to small, minimalist-yet-cutesy pieces: the chalkboard piggy bank, the candlesticks shaped like houses. And then last year, as part of Sight Unseen’s Noho Design District event, they launched Natural Selection, their first series of furniture, and a rather sophisticated one at that. What ties their burgeoning portfolio together, says Davis, is “simplicity, playfulness, and an exploration of materials” that extends to the couple’s live/work studio, which is lined with shelves full of wood blocks and scraps of leather. “Having those around as we’re trying to think of an idea always feeds what the object will feel like in the end,” Davis says. “That’s a big part of our work—that directness of what we can do with this block of wood to make it an object?”

We asked Davis and Lee to show us those shelves, and all the other inspirations and ideas that will inform their work as it continues to develop — likely, they say, into more furniture and more designer collaborations, starting with a new line of lamps for a forthcoming Seattle-based lighting brand called Standard Socket. Get to know them better in the slideshow at right, then be sure to visit their home on the Sight Unseen shop, where they’ve just launched an amazing series of splatter-paint bowls.