2022 Innovator Award Winner

Honors | Young Alumnae Undergraduate

Birta Ólafsdóttir, DMSB’14

Co-Founder, LDV

Birta Ólafsdóttir’s Luxury Retail Company Could Become the NET-A-PORTER of Vintage Furniture

by Molly Callahan   |   November 5, 2022

Following her father’s’ advice that in order to reach your full potential, you must first pursue happiness by tapping into your curiosity, Birta Ólafsdóttir launched her dream venture, Salotto, meaning living room in Italian. Ólafsdóttir has since changed the name to LDV, but the sentiment remains the same: To bring the world a retail platform for luxury vintage furniture design, where art deco meets the seventies.

When Birta Ólafsdóttir moved to Los Angeles, California, at the end of 2019, she had plans to become an interior designer. But, those plans were soon scrambled by the COVID-19 pandemic and everything was put on hold.

“All of my plans had to take a U-turn,” Ólafsdóttir says. “It was a very strange, confusing time.” Soon, though, that U-turn revealed a new passion—and a new direction.

Ólafsdóttir started working on a project for a fashion brand, and met Guido Callarelli, the person who would become her partner. By the time the project ended, they’d discovered a shared love for vintage furniture, particularly from the 1920s and 1930s art deco era.

By 2020, that shared love bloomed into something more: Ólafsdóttir and Callarelli launched LDV, a retail platform for curated, luxury vintage furniture and decor. They rely on their own exacting taste to handpick the items they’ll sell, seeking out estate sales, small auctions, and private dealers in Italy, France, and the United States to procure pieces from some of the most sought-after designers of the time.

Ólafsdóttir has collected works by the famed Italian photographer and designer Willy Rizzo; art from American sculptor and designer Paul Evans; and master designer Karl Springer, arguably one of the most influential fixtures in American furniture design in the late 20th century.

“We know what we’re after, which is what allows us to make fast decisions during auctions or estate sales,” says Ólafsdóttir, who graduated from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University in 2016. She and Callarelli maintain a vast network of art and furniture dealers around the world, and can move quickly to scoop up an important piece for their retail collection.

“Our aesthetic is very glamorous; revitalizing glamour is in our mission statement,” Ólafsdóttir says.

And indeed, there is something of a symmetry in the historic arc of their mission. Arts Décoratifs, as the style was known in France, was a celebration of luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in progress. It was a truly global artistic phenomenon, pulling from French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Egyptian traditions—and monuments to the style can be found in the arching craftsmanship of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in New York City. The style celebrated beauty and expression, and moved toward a design sensibility that furniture could be beautiful as well as functional.

“Our aesthetic is very glamorous; revitalizing glamour is in our mission statement.”

—Birta Ólafsdóttir, Co-Founder, LDV

“Our aesthetic is very glamorous; revitalizing glamour is in our mission statement.”

—Birta Ólafsdóttir, Co-Founder, LDV

Nearly 100 years later, Ólafsdóttir sees a parallel movement beginning, as people emerge from the isolation of COVID-19 and begin to celebrate beauty once again.

“History is repeating itself,” she says. “There’s this revitalization of glamour.”

In some cases, Ólafsdóttir says, the century-old furniture she and Callarelli procure requires some restoration. This requires a delicate touch—a balance between the craftsmanship of the past with the functionality of the present. For such critical work, the LDV founders contract with artisans throughout Italy, Ólafsdóttir says.

The company is at the brink of going live. Ólafsdóttir and Callarelli opened their retail website to friends, family, and select designers throughout Los Angeles before holding a public launch. Many of the pieces they’ve curated for sale have already been scooped up.

Ólafsdóttir was recognized with a 2022 Innovator Award, a competition hosted by Northeastern University’s Women Who Empower that drew more than 100 applicants this year. “It was a great honor to get this award,” Ólafsdóttir says.

“Birta is an amazing entrepreneur and innovative talent,” says Betsy Ludwig, executive director of women’s entrepreneurship at Northeastern, and a member of the Women Who Empower team.

“She understands the seminal importance of building a strong community of entrepreneurs to combat issues such as impostor syndrome, the fear of failure, and the need for perfectionism—especially for younger innovators and for those who might come from underrepresented groups,” Ludwig says. “Birta understands that feeling surrounded by support is a key to success, no matter where you are, where you’ve come from, or what you are trying to do.”

While she has big dreams for LDV, Ólafsdóttir is taking things one day at a time.

“Maybe it’ll become the NET-A-PORTER of vintage furniture, but I’m just doing this because I love it,” she says. “No matter what happens, I’m going to continue. This is just the start for me. Maybe I’ll grow with LDV, or maybe it will take on a life of its own. All that matters to me is that at the end of the day, I love what I do.”