Walking into designer Leah Ring's home and workspace in Los Angeles's Atwater Village neighborhood, I get a feeling of déjà vu, like we've already met — it could be because she's just got this extra friendly, genuine vibe. But it's also because the furniture and objects she creates for her brand, Another Human, speak so directly to our shared '90s-girl pasts.
Many of the pieces are inspired by playful imagery of the era: There's a red metal shelf that's reminiscent of Lego, glittery materials that remind me of my tweenage purses and wallets, and most notably, the "Zorg" chair, with a neon green metallic framework, that harkens back to the days of alien jewelry from Claire's.
In fact, when I bring up my alien jewelry phase with Ring, she agrees and laments the good old days: "Oh God, I miss shopping in Claire's. I'm going to start wearing those fake tattoo chokers again, I think those are in."
In the past few years, Another Human has become well known within a certain in-the-know millennial design community, gaining traction after debuting with Sight Unseen's 2017 "Offsite" exhibition. Things really picked up steam shortly after Ring participated in a group exhibition this year at the L.A. Design Festival, which resulted in profiles in major decor publications. She was even talking to the writer and actor Julio Torres (Los Espookys, SNL) about creating a piece for his HBO comedy special.
The Torres thing didn't work out due to timeline and budget (too bad; it would have been a match made in heaven), Ring tells me as we stand in her open-plan living room that's half actual living space with a vintage Moroccan rug and a TV atop an IKEA metal media cabinet, and half de-facto showroom, with amoeba-like acrylic tables nestled in between tubular metal magazine racks and a curvaceous blue velvet chair reigning over it all. She picks up a clear plastic pillow filled with silver confetti and considers it. "Maybe I'll still send him [Torres] something."
Ring is doing something bold with Another Human, and not just because the pieces are so out-there, but also because she's a young designer, and launching products like furniture and lighting is no easy feat. And, as with so many millennials spewed out into a crappy economy after college, her career path has been anything but linear: "I graduated in 2008, worst recession of all time," she says. After an internship at an ad agency, she decided to go back to school for a one-year degree in Visual Communications: "It sort of was like an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink program because you do some set building, prop design, styling, visual merchandising. You do some interior stuff, you do some event planning, you do some fashion styling." After that, it was a lot of bouncing around from coast to coast, working with various designers and multiple projects.
These days, Ring mostly supports herself by juggling multiple interior design projects; Another Human had been something of a side-hustle, which is quickly growing into a main-hustle. In fact, "I don't think a lot of people know that I do interior design," she says. When she started thinking about furniture design, it was during that "pre-Pinterest" period, when she was saving images of products to desktop folders and she just kind of had an epiphany. "I just was like, 'Oh, but I'm just interested in this because I'm an interior designer.' And then I was like, 'Oh, I can actually make these myself, okay.'" At this point, she was back in L.A. and working for a custom furniture company, which was clearly helpful to her future work. "It gave me a lot more insight into [production and fabrication] — how challenging that can be," she explains.
I want to keep pushing weird, you know?
She began prototyping on the side, and eventually got the basis of a collection going, and what's resulted is a line that feels bespoke and distinct — after all, it's not every day you see tables made out of pool floaties or blankets made of hand-quilted metallic lamé. Of course, what all of this means is that Another Human wares are on the high end, price-wise — and with reason.
"I think a lot of people look at the prices of indie design studios, and they're like, 'Whoa, you must be raking it in.' These are the prices we need to basically break even. I manufacture all in L.A., I use really high-quality manufacturers, and when you're doing everything in small runs, it just costs a lot of money to fabricate. I mean, I'm certainly not at a scale where I want to outsource ... my work is really personal to me, and I don't have any interest in trying to figure out how to make it cheaply in China."
While Ring might not be at the point where she'd be able to pay the sticker prices to deck out her own apartment in Another Human products, their temporary home in her living room makes for an otherwordly experience. In the four years she's been in her one-bedroom, it's evolved to become a colorful place where she can live and work (a small alcove near the front door acts as her office, overflowing with fabric samples).
"[My home] started much more minimally," she explains, "I've added in more colors, textures, and pieces as I collect them, but there's not a real strategy for me. Generally, if I see a piece that I connect with in some way (i.e. a vintage clock, a ceramic sculpture, an interesting chair) I just buy it and then figure out later how it fits into my space. I try to surround myself with things that bring me joy or make me laugh or stimulate my creativity in some way — which can change pretty often, so I also allow the space to be fluid and change with me."
There are also plenty of pieces by fellow up-and-coming or independent designers, like a mirror by L.A.-based artist Mansi Shah, a stacked blue planter by Chen Chen & Kai Williams, and another planter in the kitchen by Body Language Shop. Then there are vintage finds like a small table lamp scored at a Paris flea market; the blue metal chair in the living room is a design by the French modernist architect Robert Mallet-Stevens.
And as for her blue-green bedroom, it doesn't surprise me that there's a reference to her past: "The paint colors (turquoise and lime green) were inspired by Italian color blocking as well as my sister's childhood room which had this wild, textured beach-themed wallpaper."
Ring knows that her style might not appeal to everyone, but she's making a point about trusting her instincts. "I try to remind myself all the time of the designers that I admire, that really were trailblazers in this wacky, weird, wonderful direction," she reflects. "And it's more about making work that you're really proud of, not making work that you will think will sell. Because lord knows I'm not designing work that I think will sell, but I am really proud of the work that I've turned out in the past few years. I want to keep pushing weird, you know?"