Stacey Bewkes: A Keno Brothers Evening
December 6, 2011
Last month I spent a fun-filled evening at the Lillian August flagship store here in Connecticut. Leigh and Leslie Keno were there presenting recent additions to their new furniture line for Theodore Alexander. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the entertaining duo from their appearances on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.
Beyond their celebrity status, they are true experts in their field. Leigh currently owns and operates Keno Auctions in New York City, having previously been the proprietor of Leigh Keno American Antiques, where his sales not only set world record prices, but where he helped assemble for clients some of the finest collections of Americana anywhere. Leslie is theÂ senior vice president and director of American Furniture and Decorative Arts at Sotheby’s in New York, where he has presided for thirty-three years.
With extensive backgrounds in art history and buying and selling antiques, they’ve learned that even a small nuance can mean millions in the value of a piece, and it is that attention to detail that runs through the new collection.
Whether inspired by modern, mid-century or antique examples, each design is informed by years of study and hands-on experience. When they first considered launching a line, they attended High Point wearing their Traditional Home editors-at-large hats. As they wandered through the extensive offerings, they were struck by one booth in particular. There sat a mahogany Chippendale table with scalloped sides and carved open-taloned feet. They immediately recognized it as a replica of the Nicholas Brown tea table that Leslie had sold two years earlier at Sotheby’s for a record $8.4 million.
As it turns out, it was part of Theodore Alexander’s Rep.li.ca line, and the brothers were so impressed with the quality and craftsmanship that they immediately set up a meeting with CEOÂ Harvey Dondero–and the rest, as they say, is history.
Produced outside of Saigon, in Vietnam, the collection is a testament to the talented craftsmen who have so successfully interpreted the Kenos’ vision. The brothers spent nine days at the factory working with these men and women to produce a line of exceptional quality. Take a look at the amazing woodworking on the organic Stream table, where the seams are totally invisible.
Unlike many other lines, their collection is made up of individual items ranging from eighteenth-century classics to mid-twentieth-century adaptations. With an emphasis on quality and versatility, many of the pieces have flexible functionality. In keeping with the trend toward eclectic decorating, this line is perfect for creating a personalized space with a mix of styles and high and low price points. Take, for example, the handsome Raindrop table. You see the S-curve here so prevalent in those stoneware jugs and Queen Anne style the Kenos admire, reinterpreted as a modern sculptural piece of Ofram veneer, a beautiful exotic wood. The piece could work in many venues, mixing with many styles.
Another Queen Anneâ€“inspired piece is the Tall Fine Point 2. With its cabriole-like legs and scalloped edges, it has a certain movement and lively shape that would enhance a variety of spaces.
With exposure to thousands of consumers over the years, the Kenos have a well-informed sense of what people want, and it shows in the collection. The pieces are not only beautiful and well crafted but are approachable and functional as well. The Double X tables (I and II) are perfect examples.
The subtle allusion to campaign style give them a modern edge with a historical reference. Whether used as a desk, console or coffee table, the clean style is an elegant, versatile one. And the same can be said for the accompanying Essence chair, which could function handsomely at a desk, table or an occasional piece.
There definitely seems to be a growing desire these days for quality and longevity. Perhaps as a reaction to years of throw-away living or to a challenging economy, many people now want fewer pieces but of better quality, and reactions to the collection have been resoundingly positive. The amazing Dance tables are a perfect example.
Not only does the marquetry-like wood pattern make for a signature quality piece, but even the insides are executed with incredible artistry.
Whether a major piece or tabletop accessory like the charming In and Out box, there is something for everyone.
With a lifelong passion for beautiful furniture, the Keno brothers now present heirlooms for the future that also resonate with today’s lifestyles. Combining unrivaled expertise with years of on-the-road experience, the Keno brothers have responded with a collection of style, function and value. Whether looking for a single signature piece or furnishing an entire room or a house, the Keno brothers offer beautiful, thoughtful solutions meant to last.
Stacey BewkesÂ is the creator and author ofÂ Quintessence, an upscale lifestyle blog,Â presenting daily style inspiration on topics ranging from interiors and fashion to art, architecture, travel, wine and film. Following a seventeen-year career as an art director at Simon and Schuster, she now lives in Connecticut with her husband, four children and dog, Charlie.