Studio Visit
Red Hook Design Tour

ALL PHOTOS SHOT WITH A PENTAX K-01

A subway-less industrial bastion perched halfway down the western coast of Brooklyn, Red Hook is a pain in the ass to get to. But when the weather’s nice, you never want to leave. Last week when we showed up, it was 70 degrees and blindingly sunny, and from all around the warehouse that some of New York’s brightest up-and-coming designers share with Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie, the East River sparkled at us suggestively, with the Statue of Liberty looming not too far in the distance. It was the kind of day that seemed made for boat-spotting, beers, and an impromptu Fairway picnic, and yet we were there for one reason and one reason only: To make a few long-overdue house calls. Armed with the new Pentax K-01 digital camera — designed by Marc Newson with a sleek, Braun-like aesthetic that’s even more striking in person — we popped in on five different design studios in the neighborhood, taking sneak peeks at work destined both for this past weekend’s Architectural Digest Home Design show and the upcoming New York Design Week. The result is a two-part Red Hook Studio Visit series — all shot with the Pentax K-01 — which kicks off today with Liberty Warehouse occupants Fort Standard, Piet Houtenbos, and recent Pratt grads Persico + Dublin. We aren’t professional photographers, but we think the results turned out pretty swell — check them out here, then come back tomorrow to catch up with fellow Red Hook designers Bec Brittain and Uhuru.

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The up-and-coming duo Fort Standard, whose marble-topped geometric tables sell at Matter in Manhattan, spent most of last year designing and fabricating their own pieces, hence the need for the massive shop they share with several other studios in the building. Hence their studio tagline, as well: Designers & Makers.

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This year, though, things are changing. “We’re phasing out making smaller products in-house,” says Greg Buntain. “We’ve licensed our Balancing Blocks (pictured) to Areaware, for example. We’ll keep making high-end furniture here, then continue to grow our consulting business.” At the moment, the pair are working on a line of cookware for All-Clad.

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They’ll also launch a new line of furniture and lighting during the Noho Design District, including larger-scale marble tables. Pictured, a slab of stone used to cut shapes for their Bludgeoning Tools, part of the American Design Club’s recent Threat show.

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One of the tools, at right, with the studio’s stunning waterfront view visible in the background.

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At left, glass samples from the lights they’ll launch in Noho. “The glass itself isn’t special, but we’re using a kiln-forming process you don’t see too much, at least not in contemporary design,” says Ian Collings. “As opposed to glass blowing, where you melt down and re-form the glass, in kiln forming you bring sheet glass to the point where it begins to soften and move. It’s also known as slumping.”

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Outside the pair’s office is this fireplace, which, along with a constellation of space heaters, was their only source of heat this winter. FYI: The deer’s name, written on the plaque below it, is Chad.

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Out in the communal workshop, Fort Standard showed us this series of prototypes for a line of brass belt buckles they’re designing for the Florida-based leathergoods company Makr.

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On a work table just behind them was a group of wooden bases for their Elevate tables, still made in-house, one of which was being clamped together while its glue dried.

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Two top-secret experiments for an upcoming pitch to SCP, for a stool inspired in part by the turntable in a spray booth. Rather than passing through the base, the seat’s axis will pivot freely on top of it, held in place only by a small ring. “It’s about exposing that connection,” says Buntain.

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Unfinished versions of their marble and wood Foundation Lights, along with more shape cut-outs used in their Bludgeoning Tools. Those will soon become candlesticks for Sight Unseen’s upcoming Shape Shop pop-up at Creatures of Comfort, opening April 9.

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Also destined for the Shape Shop are these reclaimed-wood shields by newcomers Brian Persico and Evan Dublin, who graduated from Pratt together in 2009 and got a shared studio in the Liberty Warehouse last year. Exhibited at the Threat show, the shields marked their professional debut as Persico + Dublin.

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The red square shield sits at their workspace, alongside the leather straps that make it “functional.” Behind it hangs one of the thread-wrapped bows the 25-year-olds make sometimes for fun. Though both are interested in designing very well-made, good-looking objects, “I’m the builder,” says Persico. “Evan is more conceptual and computer-based.”

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Multi-colored spray-paint cans clustered underneath their workspace.

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When we visited, Perisco and Dublin were focused on these still-rough pepper mill trials, for the American Design Club’s upcoming Raw+Unfiltered show during New York Design Week. They pair standard pepper mill housings with sections of steel pipe, for ease of production. The duo are working out proportions, and figuring out what kind of color treatment to add.

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They had also just gotten back from a camping trip upstate, where they sliced this section of birch bark off a tree with a pocket knife. “It’s an incredible material, but we don’t have anything planned for it yet,” says Persico. “Possibly some kind of one-off vessel.”

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Diagrams for the shield series, whose proper name is Brook Shields.

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Paint daubs, a bottle of booze, and a yellow pencil cup Persico made from a color sample for the shields that he drilled a hole in.

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Piet Houtenbos has spent the last two months working from the Liberty Warehouse on this trio of wardrobes. Like Fort Standard, he’s now designing products like Sonia Kashuk makeup brushes while fabricating large-scale solid-wood commissions. This is his first.

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He learned the craft — and met Eric, his co-fabricator — while managing the City Joinery in Dumbo for the last year and a half. (It recently relocated to Massachussetts.) “Building with solid wood is very different from using plywood,” Houtenbos says. “Just the wood alone for these wardrobes cost $7,000, but one of the nice things we were able to do is make all three front faces from the same 300-year-old curly walnut tree.”

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“If we got random pieces of wood from different trees, the color and grain would have been completely different,” he adds. Pictured is an iPhone shot of Houtenbos with the tree the day it was delivered, in eight huge slabs, to the studio.

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A close up of one of the wardrobe doors, with the LED light strips that illuminate the interior visible behind.

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The handles required three different router bits to be cut out the way Houtenbos envisioned them, plus one that was completely custom designed and manufactured for the job, and “very expensive,” he reports.

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Houtenbos hopes to work on more projects like this once the wardrobes — which are actually a commission for his father — are finished and delivered. “I’ve been having fun just trying all these facets of design,” he says.

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Follow this link to purchase a Marc Newson–designed Pentax K-01 like the one we shot this story with.