Lawrence & Scott, the Seattle-based supplier of Asian antique and vintage furnishings and UL lighting, spans not only continents, but also decades (five and a half, to be precise). It began as the vision of a forward-thinking entrepreneur named Lucia Lawrence.
Lawrence was one of the early members of what is now known as ASID, but she also drew upon a varied range of early work experience: owning L.A.-based Wanderlust Travel agencies; shadowing work at Disney on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; and a stint in New York in 1939 where she taught orthoptics. Her first foray into antiques dealing began with a single purchase: a Japanese artifact she bought with the intent to sell in her Larchmont Boulevard design studio.
On the occasion of her company’s 55th anniversary, Lawrence’s daughter, Marcia Van Liew, chatted with EAL this past autumn about antiques, imports and an adventurous spirit that endures.
Lawrence was a frequent traveler by the time she met Lloyd Scott Kirsch, a manufacturer of high-end jewelry boxes for clients that included Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, in the 1960s. Kirsch contributed expertise and handcraftsmanship, while Lawrence, shares Van Liew, “always had this vantage of seeing the objects for their beauty, whether it was slightly old, very old or brand-new. Or conjured up in her own mind what would be a product created by a craftsman she met. She always wanted to acquire and make beautiful things. That was what drove her energy.”
Their partnership, in both business and in life, yielded Lawrence & Scott, providing interior designers with custom pieces sourced worldwide. The early days were largely devoted to importing, while more recently, the company has focused on manufacturing. Lawrence would travel the world for three to four months at a time, “sending back big loads” of products, handcrafted pieces and found antiques to their company’s warehouses in West Hollywood. She and Kirsch moved the business to Seattle in 1988; Van Liew began as managing director of the company two years later and continues in that role today. Lawrence passed away in 2008.
Lloyd Scott Kirsch and Lucia Lawrence at the Great Wall of China, 1986
Van Liew shares, “We consider ourselves very much to the trade. The design trade is our audience. Our concept of where these things are going to be used is viewed through the filter of how an interior designer would use them.”
Today, the business has largely branched out into lighting, particularly porcelain lighting handcrafted by a single potter, while popular options for interior designers include customized leather boxes, lampshades and neutral glazes for the company’s lamps. But Van Liew remains true to the founder’s wanderlust: She maintains working relationships with the children of the Asian manufacturers, potters, screen makers and metalworkers with whom her mother used to work. “It’s second-generation business, even on that side,” she says.
Though, as of the fall, Van Liew was moving locations, the company’s mascot remains: An intricate set of teak doors, sourced by Lawrence in India in the 1970s, has become something of an internal icon. The doors (pictured above and below) were crafted around 1850, says Van Liew, and were most likely used in a large family compound in India, where “little pods” of trading-class families, all related, lived in different sections of a compound as big as one of today’s city blocks. “The buildings fell into decline and collapse after the decline of that trading class,” says Van Liew. Lawrence imported the doors and they found a home under the proverbial spotlight at the company’s showrooms throughout the years.
“Her point of view was that she was rescuing it, she found something extraordinarily beautiful, embodying fabulous craftsmanship, and she was thrilled to be able to keep it safe and secure. We’ve used the doors all these decades, 40 years plus, and kept them indoors the entire time. They have served a purpose that I call the ‘theatre of the business,’” says Van Liew.
“They showcased what it is to be an importer and a dealer, and to seek out rare and special things. They’re so grand and impressive that they’re just a great show. Everybody who walked in, from the mailman to an out-of-town showroom manager, was wowed.”