At the expertly edited abode of Oliver M. Furth and Sean Yashar, divergent instincts blend for bespoke design.
“Oliver’s a hoarder,” says Sean Yashar affectionately of his significant other, interior decorator Oliver M. Furth. “But we call it something else instead: collector.” The accused, sitting on an oversized custom teal velvet upholstered couch he himself designed in the pair’s silver-painted upstairs living room, good-naturedly shrugs. “One of Sean’s first gifts to me was an engraved pen,” he replies. “It said: ‘I like things.’ ” Visit the pair in their two-story 1920s Spanish Revival home in South Carthay, where niche antiquarian mixes with modern and avant-garde, and this much is apparent right away—from the Thai headdresses that anoint a 1950s cocktail table to the Mike Mills print on the mantel to an 1850s pine Louis Philippe cabinet that doubles as wine storage, beautiful objects are never far from reach.
Friends before they became an item, thanks to circulating in the same industry (Yashar, 32, is the founder of The Culture Creative, a brand consultancy and talent discovery and management firm for the decorative arts, with clients including cult showroom Blackman Cruz, emerging maker duo Dougall Paulson and French luxury design brand Jean de Merry) the couple—both local natives—moved in together five years ago.
“This area is attractive because it’s still a relatively unknown little pocket; the McMansion thing hasn’t happened here,” says Yashar of their Mid-City locale. “That being said, our neighborhood got its first hipster coffee shop, Paper or Plastik Café, a few years ago—where the drinks are lukewarm because they don’t want to burn the beans and they add turmeric for no reason—so, you know, it’s coming.”
The blending of possessions was a delicate dance: “Sean is much more minimal than I am, and efficient in terms of the way that he does things,” says Furth, 34. “If there’s a chair, he sits on it. For me, well, there are 300 years of chairs in here, and I’m as attracted to the chair that’s 1830s as I am the chair that’s 1960s. I like the tension between them and the negative space around them—that’s what feels modern and current and interesting.” Still, despite Yashar’s more functional instincts, he, like Furth, loves era-mashing: delighting in the juxtaposition of a rare stool by neo-Baroque Hungarian designer Lajos Kozma with a West Elm center table refinished in a crackle lacquer.
Downstairs lies, in the couple’s words, “The World of I Like Things.” While the kitchen, sitting room, master bedroom and dressing room (a plush hive of natty sartorial) all reside on the upper floor, the ground floor is their professional domain, complete with individual offices and a conference room.
The main space functions as a salon. It’s here that Yashar’s latest enterprise AUX (pronounced “auxiliary”), an in-house think tank for projects in experimental design, art and craft, has its spiritual headquarters. A preview of AUX’s latest quarterly installment is on view: a series of limited-edition smartphone-sized “devices” by L.A. artist Sean Brian McDonald that are due to launch this summer, and arrayed on a bronze Dan Johnson Gazelle table. Comprising upcycled fabric textiles, dark blue enamel paint, paper and Styrofoam, the pocket-sized sculptures are intended as a commentary on art for personal experience as opposed to display, as well as an invitation to resist the addiction to documentation: “People are not engaging with art when they’re looking at it because they’re too busy shooting it with their phones,” explains Yashar. “It’s about replacing your phone with this thing that will curb your need to hold something while looking—like a patch.”
Furth is equally committed to fostering new ideas and talent: In addition to his practice, which he launched in 2005, he consults for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (where he’s chair emeritus of the museum’s Decorative Arts and Design Council), and recently co-founded LA><ART><DESIGN, a sister organization to independent visual arts nonprofit LA><ART, devoted to bringing attention to the city’s burgeoning scene. “I saw a white space: There’s no group here that’s focused on contemporary design. Meanwhile, you go to New York and there are three design museums—and L.A. is glutted with talent,” Furth says. Plans include yearly exhibitions, studio visits, lectures with local and out-of-town talents, and visits to collectors’ homes.
“We’re two sides of the same coin,” says Yashar. “Design is the common thread of it all, and this is our lab.” He points out a geometric walnut and metal ceiling fixture prototype by SCAD graduate Kalin Asenov that hangs in the conference room, panels of hand-painted metallic white and yellow gold wallpaper Furth is developing in collaboration with an L.A.-based painter, and a pair of lacquered suspended sculptures by artist Elyse Graham—in the process of being adapted as light fixtures. “It might end up working and it might not,” he says. “But we’re happy to be the guinea pigs.” olivermfurth.com; theculturecreative.com.
By Melissa Goldstein.
Photographed by Roger Davies.