1STDIBs - shop talk - STORY by erika heet (2011)

Constructivism and Mount Fuji, Los Angeles-native Jorge L Cruzata has always known he wanted to forever dwell within the world of design. “I even had a name for my showroom years before I opened it – Siglo Moderno,” says Cruzata, the words melding together harmoniously in his melodic accent, courtesy of his Peruvian and Afro-Cuban heritage. “In Spanish, siglo means century and moderno means modern, so for me the name encompasses the convergence of vintage and modern, old and new.”

His path to the 2010 opening of Siglo Moderno _ which indeed includes an admirable balance of vintage, modern and contemporary, along with pieces of his own design that seems to touch upon both styles – was paved by an early obsession with the thrill of the hunt. “I remember being a ten-year-old kid and my grandma would take me to the flea market, give me ten bucks and say, “Go for it.’ When I would find something that I really responded to,” he continues, “I could feel it in my gut. That feeling has definitely carried through to the way I buy today.”

As a teenager, Cruzata took a particular eye-opening trip to Japan during which he fell in love with the buildings, scaled Mount Fuji just to watch the sun rise, and “saw, felt and even smelled things I’d never experienced before,” as he explains it. Afterwards, back in LA, he began sculpting and soon segued into the field of architecture. “I interned at an architecture firm and got a glimpse of my future – and it terrified me,” he says, laughing. That firm was the venerable Marmol Radziner, and despite Cruzata’s reservations about life in architecture, he maintained a mutually respectful relationship with the firm, which now produces Siglo Moderno’s line of custom furniture.

Cruzata found his happy medium studying industrial design; his first job after graduating in 2005 was with Commune Design followed by SBE Entertainment Group, where he was asked to work on the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills and present directly to Philippe Starck, who was designing the interiors. “He is by far one of the nicest – and kookiest – guys I’ve me,” says Cruzata. Naturally, Cruzata took Stark and his wife, Jasmine, to a flea market. “We were so excited, like kids – we’d see something across the way and run to it like it was a cupcake,” he says. “I get this thrill when I’m out finding things. There’s something that happens to me: My body reacts. My eyes shift from normal person to crazy in a hot second.” It is this shift, this metamorphosis, that helps Cruzata hone in on the peices that set Siglo Moderno, which occupies a prime spot between Alexander McQueen and the shimmering Bisazza tile store on Melrose Avenue, apart from other showrooms. Within its 2,000 square feet, classics such as Michel Ducaroy’s 1973 Togo sofa in rust-red leather and Gaetano Pesce’s La Donna chair in bright yellow coexist with the delightful unusual: Bambi sheathed in vintage needlework by French artist Frederique Morrel. Inghua Ting’s area rugs made from vintage leather belts, or wood worker Brian Fireman’s ebonized-walnut Swallowtail chair, which looks as if it might take flight at any moment.

Cruzata’s taste also occasionally tends toward the sensual, evidenced by the current showstopper: a 1970’s modular seating system by Mario Bellini for B&B Italia, accented by interlinking metal hardware suggesting a penchant for domination. “The hardware makes it sexy,” he says. “After we came across the Bellini set, we found this,” he adds, pointing to a faded adult magazine spread from the 1970s in which people in various stages of undress languish upon the sectional. Nearby lies the de Stijl bed, the star of Cruzata’s own S+M Collection (short for Siglo Moderno with a nod toward the naughty). A rather organic interpretation of the straight lines of the Dutch art movement, the blocky walnut platform bed is the kind of piece you would place in a room by itself – not as a punishment, but as a celebration of its sheer perfection.

Everything works together because Cruzata employs the same simple philosophy both in the showroom and in his budding interior design career: “I just blend it all in,” he says. Yet as the day ends and darkness falls upon Siglo Moderno, a row of Handblown Caleb Siemon glass pendants awaken and throw psychedelic neurons of light onto the wall, beckoning passersby to visit this place that does not blend in, but stands out.