By Doris Athineos
Furniture experts Leigh and Leslie Keno are hard at work. The twin brothers circle around a mahogany cane-back armchair with gracefully curved back legs. A rapid-fire exchange ensues as they pet its shapely contours. “We love the sloping arms,” enthuses Leslie. “The mahogany is sculpted so that it appears to be carved out of one piece of wood,” opines Leigh. Leslie points out that the “Slope” chair (shown above) has no hard edges. Leigh dubs it “tubular organic.” Without exchanging a word, they both lock eyes on the softly rounded cane back. “It’s airy,” says Leslie. “And sculptural,” adds Leigh, stepping back for a fresh take.
For once, there’s no question about when or where it was made or who created it. The talents behind these designs are the Kenos themselves. After more than 30 years of dissecting the work of colonial cabinetmakers, the Kenos, in partnership with furnituremaker Theodore Alexander, are giving shape to their own designs. “Our design sensibilities come from a lifetime of studying great objects from the past,” explains Leslie.
The brothers have shed the weight of earlier eras without sacrificing a single sexy curve. “People are attracted to the wavy S-curve that resembles a woman’s body,” says Leslie. “It’s called Hogarth’s line of beauty.” In his 1753 book, The Analysis of Beauty, artist William Hogarth argued for voluptuous curves. And, like the mid-18th-century cabinetmakers before them, the Kenos have delivered, with cabriole legs and serpentine chests.
How the furniture is made--by hand--counts, too. The Roadshow warriors excel at craftsmanship and subtle details--bone escutcheons, brass-capped toes, and birch-lined drawers--where other affordable furniture often falls short.
“We’ve envisioned these pieces all our lives, and to create them is truly a dream come true,” says Leigh, who lives with a mix of antiques, midcentury modern, and cutting-edge design.
They ditched carved decoration in favor of striking silhouettes clad in eye-popping veneers with names you’ve never heard of (block anegre, ofram, and sapele). Wavy, rosewoodlike ofram grain ebbs and flows across tabletops and down shapely legs.
Smart, good-looking, well-proportioned, and versatile, some 45 snappy pieces made their debut last spring at the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, North Carolina, and Theodore Alexander will roll out new designs at the next High Point market in October.
“The only limitation the Kenos have in working with us is their own imagination,” says Theodore Alexander chairman Harvey Dondero, who upped the glam factor by filming the Keno brothers as they caressed rippled cabinet doors and hand-hammered aluminum legs on the showroom floor. The movie is coming to a furniture store near you (ditto the brothers and their furniture). Tap into theodorealexander.com to find the nearest store, or watch a segment here.