The first piece of furniture that Michaele Simmering and Johann Pauwen made together as Kalon Studios, the sustainable design company they founded in 2007 and now run out of their home in L.A.’s Silverlake neighborhood, was a crib for their youngest daughter. Named the Echo after her, it embodies all of the elements of a Michaele-and-Johann-made piece: a trueness to the material used (in the Echo’s case, 100% maple wood), a respect for the craft-process the material requires, and a supreme ability to function in the most simple, straightforward way. “Integrity is at the root of everything,” Johann told me. The beauty of Kalon Studios’ cribs and couches, stools and stumps, and tables and trunks is that they are all exquisitely, precisely made without looking over thought. If there was a single word, it might be “quiet.” Last year, Kalon won the Martha Stewart American Made Award for Design, nbd. Wait, actually, it’s a totally, completely, game-changingly gigantic-big D!
See, how great is this couch? It’s one of their newer pieces – a three-piece sectional with a rift-cut white oak frame and the prettiest pink toxin-free Latex-foam cushions. Plus, how great do Michaele and Johann look together on it in their jeans? Pretty great, right?:
Are there any similarities between the furniture they make and the jeans they wear? “Completely,” said Michaele. “Our pieces are designed to stay with people for a lifetime. The materials, the line work, all of it is chosen to grow more beautiful with age and use. We design with the idea that through use, an object will gain more meaning to the person using it. A great pair of jeans is like that. My jeans are like that.” Her jeans, btw, are Étoile Isabel Marant. His are from the artisanal jeans company, Neuw.
But because making couches doesn’t make people couch potatoes, we got up and followed Michaele and Johann to Pasadena, where with their daughters Io and Echo, they practiced their draws at Roving Archers in Arroyo Park. Just guess what they wore…
What do you love most about the denim you’re doing archery in?
Johann: The fit. I am tall and lean, so finding a pair of jeans that fit well is often a challenge.
Michaele: They’re the perfect jeans for kicking around and doing stuff with the kids. I don’t have to worry about them. Plus, the weight is perfect for a range of temperatures which is nice for LA. They’re crazy comfortable but don’t feel slubby. I’m have a thing about being too comfortable in public. These are about as comfortable as I get.
Io: The fashion
Echo: It’s one of my favorite colors.
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What do your jeans know about you that no one else knows?
Michaele: That’s hard. I think Johann really knows everything about me. Whatever else there may be is probably something best forgotten.
Io: Who I have a crush on.
What’s the most memorable place you’ve been in your jeans, or, Echo, your jean dress?
Johann: I can’t tell you the most memorable place I’ve been, so am not sure what it is for them. I can tell you that they have been a lot of places in the past months. East Coast, West Coast, Florida, Caribbean, Germany, countryside, city, park, beach, at home, in hotels, cafes restaurants… Sitting, walking, driving, biking.
Echo: With Katrina [our photographer] taking pictures of me.
What’s the weirdest place?
Johann: Haven’t been to a weird place in a long time.
Michaele: Touring Martha Stewart’s offices when we went to accept our Design Award. The offices themselves weren’t weird, but hanging out in a New York block-sized space stuffed floor to ceiling with every craft and decor item imaginable with Martha, her staff, and her dogs, wearing a giant ribboned “WINNER” pin while cameras flashed and whirred is definitely not an experience I imagined having in my life. Nor one I’m likely to have again.
If you could go anywhere in the world in your jeans tomorrow, where would it be?
Johann: I have a family friend who goes and wrangles cattle on his brother’s ranch in Colorado every spring. I could pick up and go for a week, riding, and camping. That sounds like a nice fantasy.
Michaele: Back to the Sahara, where Johann and I had the time to haggle all day with a Bedouin over tea.
Is there something you always wear with your jeans?
Johann: A pair of Chelsea boots, a leather belt, and an Alexander Yamaguchi t-shirt.
Michaele: My (cherished and dying a slow death on my feet) leather ankle boots and my belt.
Who besides you has worn your jeans?
Io: No one.
How do your jeans help you do what you love to do?
Michaele: They are completely unfussy and durable. I don’t have to worry about chocolate ice cream spilling on them or if I can climb a tree in them.
Io: They help me on the monkey bars because I can go upside down without showing anyone my underwear.
What’s the best possible ending you could imagine for your jeans?
Johann: My jeans always end up in the same place: the trash can. There is not really any sentimentality when it comes to my jeans. I like them, and sometimes wish that I could get the same pair again, but when it’s time to let go…
Michaele: Being stolen from my closet by one of my daughters.
Io: They would be decorated with brightly colored yarn.
What’s the best possible thing you could be doing in them right now?
Michaele: Sitting outside laughing with friends.
Io: Being with my cousins.
Echo: Having pasta with cheese and climbing trees.
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