Known Work — the Furniture Spinoff of Interiors Studio Parts and Labor Design — Just Launched an Immediately Iconic Debut Collection

Perhaps it was inevitable that Parts and Labor Design, a New York interiors studio noted for its atmospheric hospitality projects — including the subterranean Negroni bar Sotto, which we featured last fall — would launch a furniture design studio. After all, some of the more memorable details from their interiors have often been custom, in-house designed fixtures, which explore the tension between kinetic material and earthly texture. Called Known Work, their furniture arm debuted its first collection, Perceptions, at Zona Maco in Mexico City last month as part of Sculpted, a joint show with artist Jorge Yazpik, curated by Materia. The collection consists of nine pieces, each as alluring as you might expect: a sculptural yet soft, cocoon-like, wood-backed chair and coordinating settee; a cylinder-footed plinth that comes in burl wood, aluminum, lacquer, or stainless steel (as does a shorter “cube” that functions as a side table, or, when arranged in multiples, a coffee table); lamps made from steel and mold-blown glass; a pert ottoman; a glass catchall; and ceramic candleholders.

Parts and Labor was founded in 2009 by Jeremy Levitt, who joined forces five years in with the New Zealand-born Danu Kennedy. Three years later, creative and design director Alex DiLena came on board. The trio envisioned Known Work together, bringing their collaborative interiors approach to Perceptions. “A team of three, sometimes we feel like a uni-brain and sometimes we feel like foreigners meeting for the first time,” says Kennedy. “We are extremely communicative. Dialogue is a huge part of our process; the spoken word has been the foundation for most of what we create. But we find sketching to be a really meditative process and it’s essential to how we design each piece.”

Furniture has been foundational for the three of them, in particular Levitt. After studying crafts, art furniture, interiors, and industrial design in college, he went to work for Gaetano Pesce, eventually landing at AvroKo before founding Parts and Labor. But in many ways, their debut collection is a miniature exercise in interior design — all of the skills involved in putting together a space and finding a distinctive mix of textures and materials seem to go into each piece. “Being interior designers, we inevitably approach things in a certain way and that shows through in our work,” says Kennedy. “We get obsessed over materials, textures, details, silhouettes. How a piece inhabits a space. Its presence and the relationship it has to other objects in the same space. One thing we decided early on was that we wanted to design our collections as vignettes, a collection of objects that have a relationship to one another. They can be purchased as a grouping or as single pieces. We tend to be holistic in the way we think of furniture design and interior design; imagining the room a piece will exist within and how that dictates some of the decisions we make in terms of materials.”

The choice of those materials was intuitive, says DiLena, based in “highlighting contrast, from hard and soft, angle and curve, to reflections and textures. We’ve loved pairing more structured and reliable materials like metal and wood with more erratic and (sometimes) frustrating materials like glass and ceramic.” Rather than struggling to make certain materials conform to a predetermined vision, they stayed flexible and open to the unexpected, letting the materials guide them. As DiLena explains, “We followed what felt right and pivoted as we needed. Nothing was forced; it came from a place of curiosity and celebration.” For the glass catchalls, for instance, “you really need to accept what the material and process is going to give you and work with those results,” DeLina adds. “You can’t really make molten glass bend to your will as much as you might like.” Likewise, the reactive glaze on the candlesticks ensures no two will turn out the same.

The name of the collection reflects this idiosyncrasy. “Everyone’s experience of the world is different. No two perceptions are the same, we are unique beings and filter the world through individual lenses,” says Kennedy. “This collection is an offering to that in a way — an offering to how you perceive your environment and the things in it.”