You probably know the Keno Brothers, Leigh and Leslie, from their work as appraisers on Antiques Roadshow… they’re the ones who make people leap for joy by saying their 17th-century trays are worth bank. But what you may not know, is that these respected antiques experts have put their knowledge and passion into their own collection of furniture, decorative arts, and lighting — all inspired by many years spent studying great objects from the past. This line (simply called Keno Bros.), for furniture company Theodore Alexander, is a classically modern mix of 18th- through 20th-century styles; hallmarks include the use of exotic woods, flowing organic shapes, fine craftsmanship, and elegant-yet-functional details. Oh, and they’re also identical twins. Here, we got the scoop on their inspirations, “twinspeak,” and more. (P.S.: They answered the questions together, in one voice, rather than separately. That’s just how twins do…):
Do you ever finish each other’s thoughts? Yes, often. Years ago, on a trip to the interior of Borneo, we spent a week with the Iban tribe. Aside from our guide, who spoke English, we communicated only to each other for several days. Upon our return to civilization, we encountered a friend at the airport who told us that we were not completing sentences and that he could not understand a word that we were saying. We quickly realized that we had reverted back to “twinspeak” — basically body language, facial expression and the use of very few words that only the two of us could understand.
That’s impressive. (And probably useful for being able to talk about people in front of them, without them catching on.) OK, who’s older, and by how much? Leigh is older by 12 minutes. But, Leslie points out, wisdom does not always come with age.
How much did you fight growing up? Who usually won? We got along amazingly well, yet starting at a very young age we were extremely competitive. We did have the occasional “wrestling match,” but it always ended with both of us realizing we were equal and neither would be winning.
As business partners/co-designers, what is each of your unique strengths? How do you balance each other out? Each of us contributes in a unique way. We often agree on exactly what woods to use and how a piece should look. Often, pencils in hand, when the task is to come up with a certain form of furniture or accessory for our line, we draw virtually the identical piece.
What inspires your design (besides your amazing connection)? We have always thought furniture should be appreciated for its sculptural form as well as its functionality. We’re inspired by our passion for classic decorative art forms, sculpture and even race-car designs. People always ask us, “What furniture is being made today that will be collectible tomorrow?” Our answer: pieces that show true craftsmanship and quality. Our goal is to make pieces that will be the “heirlooms” of the future.
What’s your favorite piece in your collection? The Raindrop. It’s a gorgeous table that celebrates the intrinsic beauty of nature with the use of ofram wood and organic curves. The figuring of the grain accentuates the curves of the table.
You just had to know an Antiques Roadshow question was coming. Do you often get recognized as the “Antiques Roadshow guys”? Do people randomly pull out 19th-century pie plates at airports and ask you to examine them? Yes, especially when we are together in airports. Fans ask us about their paintings and furniture often, and usually pull out their handhelds to show us photos of their pieces. But it’s great to meet and connect with viewers of the show.
Shop the brothers’ designs, starting Monday, Jan. 27, at noon.