Gilt-y pleasures: Out of their bunkerlike Downtown studio, the Haas twins (Simon, LEFT; Nikolai, RIGHT) craft sinfully sumptuous furniture and objets for an international A-list crowd.
Since their show-stealing debut at Art Basel last year with a line of outrageously outré furniture, design duo (and fraternal twins) Nikolai and Simon Haas have become stars of the international art scene—a glitzy culmination of years spent tinkering in their family’s Austin, Texas, backyard. “Our parents were eccentric, collecting and making all sorts of crazy things,” Simon says of his screenwriter mother and stonemason father. “Niki and I have been building stuff our whole lives.”
Almost 30, the Haases are now being courted to build stuff for some of the world’s most coveted creatives, spinning art into serious cash via fashion/art/furniture collaborations with the likes of Versace, decorator Peter Marino and, most recently, LA’s newly opened Ace Hotel. From their industrial studio on the edge of Downtown, they’ve created everything from S&M masks and angel wings for Lady Gaga to black leather bondage chairs and surreal furniture with carved horns and cloven feet (sold chiefly through their own company as well as NY-based R & Company gallery).
“Everything is highly sexually charged,” says Nikolai, a buff, confident guy with long hair and lots of tattoos, as he shows off a capsule collection of furniture and light fixtures that wouldn’t look out of place in an Amsterdam peep show. The goods are being developed for an upcoming Art Basel installation called “The Sex Room.” “It’s based on openness, not about infidelity, but the boundaries.”
The brothers stumbled into furniture design via music. Shy and soft-spoken, Simon studied art and architecture at Rhode Island School of Design before dropping out to join Nikolai in Los Angeles and play in Vincent Gallo’s noise band. “We had nothing to offer,” Nikolai laughs in wonder, but the group’s demise instilled fearlessness. “As soon as you let go of your inhibitions and start doing what you want or believe in, you exceed expectations.”
The twins, whose older brother is actor Lukas Haas, attribute their success to the encouraging spirit of LA. Case in point: Just a few years ago, Simon (a painter) was cooking in Echo Park vegan restaurant Elf Café when he met Roman Alonso, creative director of interior design firm Commune, who invited the brothers to draw murals for the yet-to-be-opened Ace Hotel. After opening a workshop out of Simon’s apartment, they started making furniture, swiftly getting word-of-mouth commissions from the likes of Tobey Maguire, Mario Testino, and Donatella Versace.
Perhaps most importantly, the pair is charismatic and enterprising in a city that’s teeming with hustlers. “I don’t know how we fell into this, but suddenly we have an opportunity to communicate with the world, and we have a lot of positive things to say,” says Nikolai with mesmerizing, rapid-fire enthusiasm. “It’s helpful that LA doesn’t have much history,” adds Simon, smiling. “[LA] is undeniably the next art city having its moment.”