Laura Aviva brings a new meaning to work-life balance. On the day I visit her SoHo loft, the founder of L’Avivia Home – a design studio that collaborates with makers around the world to create unique homewares – is cool and collected, wearing a black dress and red lipstick.
Aviva casually leans against the kitchen counter as she introduces me to three employees, who are stationed at a long metal table with laptops. I admit to the group that I’m a bit confused: I was under the impression that Aviva lived here, yet there’s no bed, dresser, or nightstand to be found in the space.
“Oh, we move things around a lot,” Aviva laughs. “Jess Falconieri, L’Aviva Home’s studio coordinator is so masterful at storing things.” Aviva’s bed, at the moment, is in a hallway downstairs, a common place for it during waking hours.
Top: Laura Aviva designed the glass doors for her SoHo loft, which she decorated in a neutral black-and-white palette. Above: Aviva at her desk.
It’s this plucky flexibility that has allowed Aviva to build an entire home brand out of a one-room 800 square-foot space in a rapidly changing neighborhood. “During the day, it doesn’t feel like it’s my home, and then at night it is,” she explains. “When we have dinners here, it’s a bit in-between, but it feels really seamless. We were able to set it up so that it’s really morphable. We do all our photo shoots here, everything.”
Though it might not be for everyone, Aviva relishes the ability to ride the line between work and home. “We have clients in here and they really get a good sense of what we do, our vision,” she says. She’s also just as likely to have big groups of friends around the same table for a birthday dinner. (Although, as for many creative people, the boundaries between work connections and social ones are fluid; Aviva mentions that she’s come up with several ideas for L’Aviva Home over drinks with friends and, similarly, invited connections made through her work into the space when it’s serving more as a residence.)
There are certain creature comforts that come along with using the loft as an office for the L’Aviva Home team (which consists of Falconieri, design director Allyson Keenan, and Alanna Dore, who oversees business development), too. Aviva cooks meals for her small staff every day, usually shopping at the greenmarket that morning for fresh ingredients. The day of our interview and photo shoot is no different: Halfway through, Aviva relocates to the kitchen, where she begins chopping potatoes without missing a beat of conversation.
“Cooking is my sanity,” she explains. “I can stand up, clear my head. I can talk to the girls over here at the bar while I cook. For dinner I’m almost never home, so it’s nice to have this one meal here.” The lunches have become such a hit with her team, in fact, that they’ve taken to documenting them daily on the L’Aviva Home Instagram, even recently adding a story highlight focused on “l’a lunches.”
A light by Lambert Fils and a chair by Furniture Marolles flank a chest with artwork and accessories by L’Aviva Home.
Aviva arrived in New York some 18 years ago to work in magazines. “I came here to be creative director for Travel + Leisure,” she says. “I thought I’d come for a year, and I ended up staying at T+L for nine years.” Two years into the stint she moved into her current space, which she went about renovating with the idea that it would serve as a live-work space (it now benefits from New York’s Loft Law, designed to protect tenants in such spaces).
The transformation wasn’t exactly easy, though. “We completely gutted it,” Aviva says as she gestures around her. “It had these mismatched, bad drop ceilings. The girl who lived here before me was the producer of a fashion show, so some of the floorboards were from a Marc Jacobs show, but they hadn’t done all of them so it was super hodgepodge.”
Aviva preparing a meal for her team.
Aviva quickly set about devising a concept of minimal hues, which is now punctuated with the various textures of her work. “I think all day long we have so much going on, fabrics and colors,” she says. “The only way we can function is to have a super neutral background.”
Though she left Travel + Leisure ten years ago, Aviva’s ties to the travel world continue to be the driving force of her company. “When I left T+L, I wanted to do something a little different, something in 3-D,” she recalls. “But my favorite part about working at the magazine was meeting people and working in different places, so I thought, how do I parlay that into something 3-D? It was much more guided by the idea of relationships and different ways of engaging with the world than it was about things.”
L’Aviva Home towels hang on a rack in the bathroom, next to a robe the company designed for The Greenwich Hotel.
A stack of books under Aviva’s desk nod to her love of travel.
In 2010, a show at the Cooper Hewitt on felt craft in Kyrgyzstan set her on a journey to the country to explore its roots, and Aviva knew she had found her new project. “It was such a deep dive into what craft is and how history and culture and politics affect it,” she recalls of that trip. And she’s never looked back – just ahead to new destinations. L’Aviva Home has produced products in locations as varied as Bolivia, India, and Oaxaca, Mexico (one of Aviva’s personal favorite places).
Though the company began by sourcing craft from these places, now they design and oversee all production themselves. “We’re a full-on design studio, but the thing that’s carried through is that it’s a way of engaging with the world, of having relationships,” Aviva says. “We’re so incredibly hands-on. We know the person who’s making every little thing.”