Last weekend was the start of New York Design Week. What better place to lead off the festivities than in Brooklyn, home of the fashionably quirky and the tragically hip, where the BKLYN DESIGNS Fair at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo showcased some of the best of Brooklyn furniture and home décor products. Designers and furniture makers from North Brooklyn were well represented here. Among the forty plus design studios and manufacturers, half were from the Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick nabes.
Brooklyn designers’ ongoing love affair with reclaimed and sustainable woods continues. They’re making furniture with clean modern lines that pays homage to classic mid-century style while building with care and craftsmanship akin to the time-honored tradition of the Shakers. They’re also selecting eco-friendly materials that reflect the concerns of today’s consumers.
All manner of wood is displayed in its full glory here—oak, walnut, sycamore, zebrawood, tiger maple; there are salvaged woods from old barns and brand new wood from managed plantations; wood that is raw, molded, composite, laminated, veneered, pickled and stir fried…
This is a juried show, and most of the products are tasteful and thoroughly modern—furniture that would fit perfectly in a sleek condo or a raw loft, yet wouldn’t be out of place in a turn-of-the century brownstone, thanks to the warmth and vitality of wood. Furniture by Williamsburg and Greenpoint designers like Andre Joyau who
use reclaimed wood to build tables and chairs that look natural and organic, while Eric Manigian explores the beauty of wood grains as a major design element for his sideboards and tables. Designer Palo Samko’s dark wood dining room set is minimalist, yet holds a timeless grace.
Here and there are flashes of Steampunk touches that channel the youthful North Brooklyn art vibe, like tiny watch parts inlaid on stately wooden tabletops (Palo Samko), while other designers employ heavy industrial metal parts as bases for glass or wooden desks and dining room tables.
Some of the most innovative products came from students and faculties from the Pratt Institute, like the bold red Clutch wall shelf by Amyel Oliveros that looks like a sensuous soft sculpture (who would want to clutter it up with stuff?), or the Fugle Swing by Christina Fesmire, where the wooden seat is smoothly molded to look like an open book.
Other standouts are graphically styled tree tables (for children) by April Hannah, architectural metal planters by C. Constantine for Ram Metals and Tinker toy-like furniture “Slug It!” by EcoSystems Furniture whose beds and shelves can be assembled quickly without tools, perfect for today’s urban nomads.
From the home décor sector we see carpets, wallpapers, pillows, lounge pads and wall hangings. A little tired of cheerful flowers and elegant stripes on the wall? How about menacing knives, bright yellow bananas and New York City fire hydrants from Flavor Paper? Will these float your boat? I can see some 30 years from now, your grown up daughter saying to her interior designer, “What were those old people thinking! Maybe it was the toxic fumes from Newtown Creek.”
If you’re the moody, cerebral type, wallpapers from Eskayel may be just the thing. They are totally different from anything I’ve ever seen, not pretty really, just quirky and somewhat intriguing, like looking at repeated patterns from a Petri dish. I like it! The recycled, rolled felt lounger mats from Lamacek, adesign studio in Williamsburg, are boldly colored and comfortable. Then there are the live ant farm paintings by Hugh Hayden Design & Katie Vitale, I have no desire to take one home (I like my bugs free range), but they’re cute. And if you find that you can’t get enough of Brooklyn by just walking around Dumbo, then take it home with you by collecting products inspired by Brooklyn Subway signs and traffic lights from 718 Made in Brooklyn.
Next year, I would like to see more stuff, even stuff that’s cruel, loud and crazy. Nothing breathes life into a classy show like really good eyeball grabbing design, and I don’t mean ant farms in elaborate frames either. Good taste is lovely, but a little more variety and contrast can be great fun on a balmy Saturday afternoon.