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.
The brief itself was simple: Design and build something to sit on. It was the execution part that was hard. From April 16–21, four sets of young American furniture designers each took a turn in the open studios at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, each with a single purpose: to build and assemble a chair from start to finish, between the time the museum opened at 9AM to the minute the last straggler was ushered out the door at 6. The designers could use any materials they chose, and they were allowed to make preliminary design studies or prototypes before arriving at the museum, but the bulk of the construction work had to be executed on the museum’s 6th floor — in full view of school tours, visiting tourists, families, and itinerant design geeks who wanted a peek at the action. But the exercise wasn’t some reality show–like competition to pit designers against each other or to see whose design would reign supreme. The event was part of The Home Front, a museum project curated by Surface editor Dan Rubinstein, who spearheaded the whole thing in order explore in-depth the business of being a designer in America today.
Had you peeked into London gallerist Libby Sellers's diary for the week of the Milan Furniture Fair earlier this month, you would have seen all the requisite stops on the circuit: Rossana Orlandi one afternoon, Lambrate and Tortona the next, plus a stop at Satellite and a time out for breakfast at the Four Seasons with Alice Rawsthorn, her former boss. There was time made for shopping — Sellers is a self-admitted clothes horse, having transformed most of her London apartment into a walk-in closet — and for a visit to the 10 Corso Como gallery and bookstore. But despite what you'd expect from one of the world's most respected supporters of emerging design, who for the past two years has commissioned work from and produced pop-up exhibitions with talents like Max Lamb and Julia Lohmann, Sellers did not walk away from the fair with an arsenal of new relationships to pursue. Her scouting is done before she even gets there, in graduate degree shows and over the internet, so that in Milan — unlike the rest of us — she gets to relax and enjoy the show.
When you live all the way around the globe, visiting China for the first time for any reason — even for work, even for an international design fair, even to a sprawling modern metropolis like Beijing — is going to be mostly about visiting China for the first time. The way the pollution shocks your system, the deliciousness of the food: These are the kinds of experiences you begin eagerly tracking the moment you leave the airport. It's no wonder, then, that I enjoyed Beijing Design Week so much — almost all of the work, whether international or Chinese in origin, was presented in ways that made you feel like you couldn't have been anywhere else.