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I could be a classic!

The Keno Brothers "tag" the furnishings they think can stand the test of time

Written by Doris Athineos
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  • Helen Norma

    Let Leigh and Leslie Keno loose in a designer showroom and the fun begins. The twin pillars of the antiques world, along with Leslie’s wife, Emily, gamely agreed to "tag" their favorite furnishings, the ones they think can stand the test of time. The brothers possess some of the sharpest (and bluest) eyes on the Antiques Roadshow, and their recent excursion through Manhattan design centers yielded an embarrassment of riches as well as a new definition for classic." ("I think of a classic as a staple, or basic, in my decorating foundation," explains Emily. "Whatever style or look I add to a room, a classic will hold its own.")

    The Keno brothers have rescued lost classics for most of their lives. Now they keep their eyes peeled for future classics, made today or in the last 50 years. "Our aesthetic instincts are based on proportion, line, balance, and craftsmanship," explains Leigh. "True classics are rare, and while some borrow from earlier designs, the best break new ground and surprise us."

    Photography: Helen Norma

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    Winging It

    Perched on maple legs, this wing-back settee gives a sly wink to its 17th-century predecessor, but its clean lines speak to a new generation of furniture fans. Shaped by designer Marshall Watson for Lewis Mittman (ef-lm.com) and available in custom sizes, "Mangeaise" is strong enough to stand alone on a bare hardwood floor against white walls in an entryway. Amanda Mittman, the 28-year-old granddaughter of the company’s founder, owns one. "I covered it in acid-green Ultrasuede," she laughs, "but I’m ready to tone it down."

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    Hip Patchwork

    Designer Stephanie Odegard's patchwork pieces first call to mind thrifty Yankee quilts, but Odegard's groove feels more Woodstock than Williamsburg. This pixel-like patchwork kilim was scooped up by acrobats from Cirque du Soleil moments after the Kenos discovered it (odegardinc.com).

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    Another of Stephanie Odegard's patchwork pieces: Artisans in Turkey stitched the jeans bedspread shown here from factory scraps (odegardinc.com).

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    Pump It Up

    Grab and lift the "Barbell" glass side tables by Lorin Marsh (lorinmarsh.com). "The stems look like columns," notes Leslie, running his hand around a table's ribbed edge ("feels like ridges on a dime"). Available in green, blue, amber, black, and clear, "Barbell" tables are made in Venice and retail at $6,745 for an 18-inch-tall table to $10,090 for the 26-inch size.

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    Leigh and Leslie also spotted this cool, see-through cocktail table that looks like chipped ice. The Lorin Marsh Lucite table retails for $6,000 (lorinmarsh.com).

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    Catch the Wave

    The Kenos tracked down the curvaceous "Onda" chaise in Nancy Corzine's showroom (nancycorzine.com). Its rounded, feminine curves and function ("you're not lying down or sitting up") rate high. The form, a chaise lounge, harks back to 17th-century France, but "Onda" embraces a stripped-down modern aesthetic. Leslie and Emily Keno, both big fans of organic modern, see beauty in its wavy shape. "Queen Anne curves and Modern tapered feet are combined into one," says Leslie. "And curves always soften up a square room," adds Emily.

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    Chic Storage

    It's no surprise that the Kenos were impressed with the style and finish of the "Metropole," a Niermann Weeks entertainment center (niermannweeks.com). After all, designer Joe Niermann got his start in the business restoring antiques before moving on to furniture design. "The door fronts draw you in and give great depth to the console," says Emily. "And for something so chic, there's a lot of storage space."

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    Brilliance Squared

    A pair of satin-nickel square sconces grace Emily and Leslie's Manhattan foyer. The Kenos were attracted to the pared-down, clean lines, which play well with both antiques and mid-century modern pieces. Introduced by Vaughan in 2005, the boxy "Norfolk" wall sconce ($630) is irresistible to traditionalists with an eye for edgy design.

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    Viennese Verve

    The Kenos are big fans of Manhattan's Neue Galerie and the Wiener Werkstätte movement, which may explain the appeal of Maharam's satin-weave fabric "Design 9297" in peacock. Based on a 1913 Josef Hoffmann design reissued by Maharam (maharam.com), the interlocking pattern looks like elongated water droplets. "It's very organic modern," notes Leslie about the pattern's fluid feel.

    See the next slide for a closer look at the fabric.

  • Helen Norma

    Maharam's satin-weave fabric "Design 9297" in peacock (maharam.com).

  • Helen Norma

    Stacked with Style

    The Kenos like the way Mitchell Gold's "Cedric Étagere" (mitchellgold.com) stacks up against other similarly priced pieces. "With a little imagination, you can create your own custom design," notes Leigh, who sees its potential as a display case, creative room divider, and bookshelf. (The stacks are sold in sets of two.)

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    Seat Yourself

    Leigh, Leslie, and Emily all fell hard for the "Anziano chair," designed by the late John Hutton for Donghia (donghia.com). First created for the American Academy in Rome in 1989, the stacking chair has classic klismos features-saber-shaped legs and a concave top rail that embraces the sitter. But the wiry steel legs and stitched leather seat (in a delicious espresso color) feel fresh. "The chair seems to float," observes Emily. "It's a great way to add extra seating without adding weight."

    Leigh sees beauty in the balancing act. "The chair has that rare balance of airiness and substance," he says. "It appears to hover. With its T-shaped back and double tubular legs, the negative space around the chair is as interesting as the chair itself."

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