For Amsterdam Modern’s owner Ellen LeComte, curating mid-century modern furniture doesn’t just mean searching for brand names. “A lot of people look for the iconic designs, the Eames or the Knoll,” she explains. “I like to get things that are out of the ordinary. I like the odd.” After 12 years of delighting with the items she curates, it would seem that her penchant for the unique is exactly what her clients in downtown Los Angeles are looking for.
Their website is barebones, with no payment processing integration. Still, AM has been a mainstay among LA’s design-savvy for over a decade. LeComte’s curated wares fill out hip restaurants, furnish the sets of films and TV shows, and crop up in the personal homes of celebrated designers. True to the practical minimalism with which she’s organized her business, LeComte remains unaffected by celebrity. “I’m such a not star-dazed person,” she says. “A lot of the people that come in, I have no idea who they are.”
Amsterdam Modern’s primary focus is sourcing mid-century modern furniture from the Netherlands. LeComte’s reasoning for this is rather serendipitous: “I married a Dutchman.” Through her husband’s friends in Amsterdam’s famed Waterlooplein flea market, LeComte was introduced to the art of furniture picking. As soon as her first container of items arrived in LA, she knew that she’d discovered something special. She recalls the other buyers and pickers at LA’s Rose Bowl market eagerly unloading her wares for her. “We started this frenzy, just from bringing in great furniture that people wanted,” she says. This sense of excitement has kept Amsterdam Modern blossoming over the years, as the business grew through word-of-mouth and relationship building.
Today, mid-century modern is very much in vogue, with viral hashtags circulating and web markets churning out poor attempts to emulate the iconic designs. LeComte points to the timelessness and innovation of the era, as well as the way the designs evoke our nostalgia. “For many of us, it’s what we remember our parents and grandparents having in their homes.” Keeping the items imbued with a sense of history is crucial, and to that end, Amsterdam Modern sells most items in their original condition. “Even where there’s brass that’s tarnished or oxidized a bit, it adds an extra layer of richness that helps warm up any space,” she says.
Visitors to Amsterdam Modern’s warehouse are consistently dazzled, as crowded aisles burst with stacks on stacks of tables, chairs and lighting. The fullness is precisely the point: the experience of the search brings more value to the reward found at the end of it. “There’s a beauty in hunting for your own piece. It’s an experiential thing: you’re not just scrolling mindlessly until you find something that’s trendy,” explains Ellen’s daughter Samantha, who serves as AM’s director of social and partnerships. In the epoch of fast furniture and factory-produced conformity, Amsterdam Modern’s beautifully deliberate chaos functions as antithesis and antidote.
Images courtesy of Amsterdam Modern.