As COVID shuttered most of the world in March 2020, designers Jeremy Graef and Matthew Noll began thinking about work, life and the future. They viewed the pandemic as a “cultural reset,” using it to contemplate their growth and development. Eventually, they decided to begin Connate Design, a full-service interior design studio and furniture brand based in Los Angeles.
“We knew this was the time to start Connate,” Noll says. Coming from a career in fashion, he was excited to partner with Graef to dream up a new company. “Jeremy [Graef] resigned from being associate partner at his AD100 design firm, and we quickly got to work building the new company and brand.”
With an architectural eye and attention to detail, Graef and Noll combined their passion and expertise to create a brand that merges design, function and art to embody a Californian aesthetic in a new and sophisticated way. Their focus extends from interiors to the creative direction and brand identity of spaces, and is driven by a deep passion to envelop sustainable practices with contemporary architecture and design.
“We always knew that furniture design would be a key part of Connate,” says Graef. “So at the time, we started to work on Connate Home, our furniture line. It was a passion project and is the perfect fusion of both our worlds of clothing manufacturing and furniture design.”
Graef and Noll’s work centers around expressing the materiality of the furniture. Wood is kept as close to its natural state as possible to showcase beauty of the natural grain, or veining in marbles. The Connate palette is also kept simplistic in its finish options — every color is reminiscent of various Californian landscapes.
“We allow for the material and craftsmanship of the products to shine through our architectural designs,” says Graef. “Clean lines, modern architectural detailing and soft curves embody our vision of the ideal California aesthetic.”
Connate also implements sustainable design practices, creating high-end, heirloom-quality furniture that is timeless, and meant to be passed onto future generations. By designing and producing furniture locally in Los Angeles, the team reduces its carbon footprint, and better controls the number of products made. This allows for a major sustainable impact.
“A lot of furniture these days is primarily mass-produced in foreign countries, and we knew that dynamic was not for us,” says Noll. “The largest component of carbon emissions from furniture is their footprint of transit, and the next is waste for overproduction or damage due to poor quality.”
Connate also offers made-to-order luxury furniture pieces that are locally handcrafted by woodworkers, stone smiths and upholstery tailors throughout the industry.
“Made-to-order allows for customization of all our pieces, so each one is made for each customer,” says Graef. “No wasted inventory. The shift from mass production allows for innovation, collaboration and quality control with our artisans and fabricators.”
Connate is also a member of 1 Percent For The Planet, meaning a percentage of every sale for all facets of the business go directly to vetted nonprofits. These groups address the interrelated issues of climate change, healthy food systems, land management, water resources, pollution and wildlife diversity.
“We always envisioned creating a company that is mission-driven and gives back to our world in meaningful ways,” Noll says. “Our furniture is inspired by nature, so we feel it’s important to give back to the natural world.”
Noll and Graef are currently designing two villas in Abu Dhabi, a large property in Newport Coast, a home in Northern California and a few more in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. They also recently completed office spaces for Beverly Hills plastic surgeons, and another home in Newport Coast.
“They’re all our favorites,” Graef says. “And they’re all different in their own right, which makes it even more fun for us. It allows for more creativity, variation and learning.”
As for the future, Noll and Graef want Connate to continue to grow internationally. They hope to design more projects all over the world, and partner with more designers and architects to grow the Connate brand.
“We have a few more product ideas that will launch in the fall,” Noll says. “We envision opening a flagship showroom for Connate Home in Los Angeles in the coming year, and then expanding to San Francisco and New York.”