Commune, the LA-based collective known for trailblazing the New Bohemian Southern California look, has changed the design landscape in a good way (see our posts on the Ace Hotel LA, a luxe Paris garret, and one of our favorite tiled kitchens). The team frequently creates à la carte designs—concrete tiles and wood flooring for Exquisite Surfaces, for example—but its new collection for West Elm is its first Martha Stewart–style attempt at affordability.
Commune principles Roman Alonso and Steven Johanknecht and product designer Alix Beck masterminded the look of the West Elm collaboration: “We were influenced by midcentury design by way of Japan, Mexico, and Denmark, and by heroes like Rudolf Schindler, Bruce Goff, Frank Lloyd Wright, Kaare Klint, the Eameses, and Luis Barragán,” they tell us. We recently chatted with the trio, who filled us in on the story behind the living room collection, which consists of mix-and-match pieces that add up to that hard-to-define Commune cool.
Above: “We asked ourselves, ‘What do we want for our own living rooms?'” Alonso says. “Our design team treated this project as if we were designing for ourselves. It was a great opportunity to create some accessible pieces that emanate our aesthetic.”
The pieces took shape over more than a year and many rounds of prototypes. Shown here in a Brooklyn loft, Commune’s response to a request for a sectional: a pair of low Commune Armless Sofas, $999, and the Commune Single Chair, $799, “that aren’t too bulky or sectional feeling—the pieces don’t physically join, they just float near each other. We designed low wood tables, square and rectangular, that connect the chair and sofa. We wanted to keep the profiles very light and simple and used thin metal legs. So that the sofa doesn’t look too sleek and clean, we added a corded leather piping as the trim.”
Above: The Commune Low Cushion Ottoman with oak base, $349, can work as a coffee table. “Sketches of this ottoman have ended up on multiple project boards of ours over the years. We looked at Frank Lloyd Wright ottomans at Falling Water for inspiration, and we’ve always been inspired by Bruce Goff’s triangular stool. We changed the shape to a square, added a leg, lowered the height, and just had the cushion floating on an oversize base.” The Commune Leather Tray has a sheet copper base.
Above: The undyed stitched leather on the Commune Sling Chair, $999, came from the same New York source as the tray and will, they say, “patina beautifully.” Inspired by Mexican butacos—”small in scale but very comfortable”—the chair also references Pierre Jeanneret’s “compass-like legs” and the wrapping technique that Cuban designer Clara Porset liked to use on her seats. The Commune Marble-Topped Coffee Table has subtle white veining and an oak-veneer engineered-wood base.
Above: The Commune Tripod Floor Lamp was influenced by midcentury and Japanese design and is made of copper-toned metal with wrapped leather detailing; $399
Above: An ode to the Eameses, the Commune Storage Bench, $699, has doors of lacquered wood—”we initially specified linoleum, but couldn’t source the kind we wanted”—and a removable brown leather cushion (not shown) that turns it into a bench. It also has outlet holes and is sized for holding records.
The 40-inch-square Commune Eclipse Tapestry is embroidered cotton linen, $149. “It’s a nod to seventies wall art and has a really solid drape to it. It’s like a flag or a sun—it’s open to interpretation. We added grommets for easy directional hanging. The circle isn’t perfectly centered and we like the feeling of that.”
Above: The Commune Single Chair has a burnished bronze metal frame and is available in linen white or charcoal upholstery with leather trim; $799. The walnut-finished Low Wood Side Table has “a hinged door with a small knob for storage, a nod to George Nelson.”
Above: Commune Planters, $39 and $99, are “a riff on the classic terracotta planters you see everywhere: We just played with proportion and exaggerated the cuff, angles, and slope. And we added ‘ears’ on top.”
Above: The Commune Arch Mirror has a metal frame in a copper finish and a mango wood shelf in walnut finish; $399. “We were thinking about people living in small spaces and always needing additional storage; this piece was inspired by Mission-style architecture and the simple archways you see in a lot of homes here in LA.”
See the full collection at West Elm.