It seems that whenever I visit New York City, it’s a guaranteed good time. This particular trip revolved almost exclusively around Design: design shops & galleries, design events, and a stay in a boutique hotel to boot.
The Ace Hotel, located in the gritty wholesale district, opened in May and it seems, has been covered in every (design) magazine. Though perhaps not defined by any specific time period or style, it’s a remixed Americana, visible in the interiors’ mélange of furnishings, lighting and finishes, reclaimed pieces, and vintage finds. In contrast to the layered and historical lobby, our room was very efficient and kind of quirky. We appreciated the turntable, the jersey robes, and the wooden hangers labelled with affirmative words: “You look good in this.” Custom-designed furnishings like the desk and coat rack curiously used plumbing pipes, demonstrating how stock materials can be re-appropriated to make something elegant but simple. Overall, we were impressed to see how consistently the brand is carried through every single thing in the hotel.
I let my friend Traci orchestrate the trip. I happily went along with her splendid suggestions, knowing full well I wasn’t taking a risk since we like much of the same things. We wandered from one design node to another, Google maps on iPhone guiding us through the city.
First on the itinerary was a visit to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum to see, in particular, the exhibit ‘Fashioning Felt’. We went because Traci has an ‘unnatural’ interest in felt.:) In fact, she is co-owner of Filzfelt, a Boston-based company which sells industrial felt imported from Germany for a range of purposes: product design, architecture and home furnishings. The exhibition showed firstly historic examples and continued with innovations in the handmade felts, and explored varied contemporary uses of this ancient and versatile material.
Organized by The Nature Conservancy, the other noteworthy exhibit ‘Design for a Living World’ showcased sustainable projects by ten leading designers. They were commissioned to develop new uses for harvested materials “in order to tell a unique story about the life-cycle of materials and the power of conservation and design.” The featured designers and places included: Maya Lin using certified wood from Maine, Yves Béhar’s cocoa tool in Costa Rica, and Isaac Mizrahi fashioning pieces with Alaskan salmon leather. I enjoyed viewing the prototypes, drawings, and finished products created by the designers.
Next up was a stroll on The Highline, of which the first completed sections opened in June. Emerging from an open ideas competition soliciting re-use proposals, architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro collaborated with other visionaries to create a public park on the old elevated freight train infrastructure. It called for huge site prep: before the landscaping could take shape, everything on the structure (rails and all) had to be removed and rehabilitated prior to returning the pieces to their original location. This ‘signature landscape’, which floats 30ft above the ground, consists of a walking surface of smooth concrete planks that taper into the surrounding native plantings which push up through seams, fixed & moveable seating, and energy-efficient LED lighting elements. Everything is just so beautifully integrated, with such attention to detail. But after all, isn’t that what they say: “God is in the details?”
I retrace our next steps: a visit to the Young Designers Market, Droog, Housing Works Bookstore Café, as well as some shopping in Uniqlo, MOMA, Marimekko, and Matter in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Park Slope. In the name of Design, fashion in this case, I endured a truly nightmarish scene as hawk-eyed shoppers combed the racks at the lavish Barney’s New York Warehouse Sale. Posters on the walls read: “You’re not done yet. Buy more!”
All weekend long we explored the power of Design. If you appreciate good design, regardless of whether it’s at a large or a small scale, you see the value and are more likely to pay for it. Only two of our stops didn’t quite resonate with the theme of (high) Design. For one, we had dinner at Hill Country Barbecue Market – a ribs & live music kinda place where you carry your meal on a tray. Secondly, we inspected the items of the Soho store Evolution, with its framed bats, anatomical models, fossils, tribal masks, larva paperweights, and freeze-dried mice. One might argue – Natural Evolution – that’s the most perfect design of all!!