Sometimes art ends up imitating life. Thomas Buczkowski grew up in Michigan’s north woods. The son of a lumberjack, he possesses a deeply ingrained aesthetic appreciation for wood and iron. Yet, as an MFA film grad and New York City resident, he simultaneously values the finesse of cosmopolitan living.
Ruggedness and richness. Two seemingly disparate elements that nevertheless fuse harmoniously, both in Buczkowski and Rough Luxe, Williamsburg’s new 1,000-square-foot furniture shop. First coined by contemporary interior designers and popularized by an eponymous London hotel, this term connotes a style that is by definition a study in contradictions. It can mean an industrial-looking desk crafted by a master artisan from superior-quality wood. Or a plush velvet settee plunked next to a rickety metal bookcase. “In the past, luxury meant only patina, veneer, and bling,” notes Buczkowski. Rough luxe rejects those antiquated limitations. Never precious, it is instead a celebration of the imperfect and authentic, and its popularity is ever expanding.
Aficionados include Roman & Williams, NoHo-based architects responsible for the rough luxe décor of Manhattan’s Ace Hotel. Buczkowski’s own Gen Y clients are usually couples, most often led by a woman enticing her partner into the shop with this promise: I found furniture you’re going to like. “Our items boast a masculine feel, but one tempered by a beauty and elegance that appeals to both sexes,” says Buczkowski. All new offerings (no antiques) are currently made by six mostly U.S.-based manufacturers and feature selections such as a leather “Whiskey Lounge” sofa ($6,499), a hand-hammered zinc “Rocket” dining table with potbelly stove legs ($3,999), and a French industrial console ($599) with a metal frame and high-finish wood shelves.
Buczkowski first started in the industry because he fell in love with French industrial design, a rough luxe precursor. Those authentic vintage pieces can still occasionally be found at Parisian flea markets, but they’re uber-pricey collector’s items. Reproduction work, sourced stateside in spots like Brooklyn Flea, is far more common. Collection thus amassed, Buczkowski began selling from a small DUMBO boutique, but soon outgrew the neighborhood. “In terms of population density, Williamsburg is vast and sprawling,” explains the entrepreneur. Buczkowski, and partner Ana De La Pava—who designed the logo, manages the website and serves as creative collaborator—now feel poised at the forefront of the waterfront renaissance. Luxury condo buildings are sprouting, including one in the old Domino Sugar factory, while the opening of Urban Market means increased foot traffic. New residents require furniture, and patrons are also traveling from as far as Greenpoint and Bushwick, lured by this latest incarnation of shabby chic.
20 Broadway, Williamsburg