Ralph Pucci International’s Hollywood Gamble

Degen Pener

Photography by Chris Fortuna

Ralph Pucci inaugurates his new space in Hollywood with a group show on March 2.

To celebrate 10 years in Los Angeles, Ralph Pucci International is embracing a different side of the city—moving from the sleek Pacific Design Center to a historic building in Hollywood’s up-and-coming arts district. “We always knew we wanted our own space in Los Angeles on par with our other showrooms,”says Pucci. “This new building fits our DNA.”

When Pucci, one of the world’s foremost tastemakers in contemporary collectible furniture design, first saw the 1924 structure it was hard to tell exactly what was going on, but he knew it had good bones. The 12,000-square-foot building was a warren of dance studios, used most recently as rehearsal space for ABC‘s reality competition show Dancing with the Stars. Still, there were spots of natural light filtering down from the expansive buttressed ceiling.

“As soon as I saw the space, I fell in love with these wraparound skylights,” says Pucci, who first began showing furniture in the late 1980s (as an adjunct to his family’s fashion mannequin business) when Andrée Putman asked him to represent her line, Ecart International, in the United States. He’s since become renowned for the elevated way he showcases furniture and lighting creators in exquisitely curated gallery settings, from legends like Vladimir Kagan and Jens Risom (who both died last year) to newer talents he not only scouts and promotes, but often mentors.

From left to right: Patrick Naggar’s Speed desk; a chandelier by Hervé van der Straeten; bronze floor lamps by Philippe Anthonioz.

Even though Pucci’s lease at the Pacific Design Center wasn’t yet up, he snapped up the entire Hollywood building two years ago, renting it out until renovations began late last year. “We went into the building and we just blew the whole place out and knocked down walls and made it a big white space,” says Pucci, who also has showrooms in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District and New York’s Flatiron District. “Once all the walls were gone, the light became a dominant factor, which is so fabulous to have in Los Angeles.”

Located just off Highland Avenue, Hollywood’s budding gallery row—within yards of a clutch of galleries such as Regen Projects, Gavlak, Hannah Hoffman and Various Small Fires—the new space opens March 2 with a group exhibition featuring 20 designers and five artists, including Risom, Putman, French designers Elizabeth Garouste and Eric Schmitt, illustrator-designer Ruben Toledo, photographer Christopher Makos, midwest industrial-inspired designer Jim Zivic and L.A.-based lighting designer Lianne Gold. The inaugural show will be followed by a presentation of lighting by architect Richard Meier, and later an exhibit of work by the late French designer Pierre Paulin. “We’ll have a more consistent presentation of all of our main designers,” says Pucci, who also plans to program dance and music performances that complement design shows. “We’ll be bringing major statements.”

Elizabeth Garouste’s Jungle Cabinet for Ralph Pucci.

The space is so large, double that at the Pacific Design Center, that it will allow Pucci to dedicate individual rooms to Risom, as well as Paris-based designers Herve van der Straeten, India Mahdavi and Patrick Naggar. Van der Straeten, who praises Pucci for his “strong vision,” says he’s looking forward to having nearly two dozen pieces on display at once. “I prefer to do a large show with very many pieces because there’s such a variety to what I do in terms of materials, shapes and colors,” says van der Straeten. “You will have a full understanding of what I do there.”

Given that L.A. is the epicenter of mid-century design, the huge new space is a big bet, but Pucci believes that tastes are becoming more wide-ranging in the increasingly global-minded city. “We are always showing what’s next and we take people slightly out of their comfort zone,” he says, “but in time they become very comfortable with us.”