This Is Not My Beautiful House


Somewhere up there with real estate porn and Vera Wang dream weddings lies custom-furniture lust, and the annual arrival of New York’s National Design Week only provides fodder for the obsession. It is a week made for New Yorkers who dream of a better life—and living room—in which Noguchi coffee tables and Eames chairs play a prominent part. All those who worship at the House of Knoll and the foot of Terence Conran began the week at BKLYN Designs, a showcase for modern furnishings and furniture made by artisans from that borough.

Much like the delusion one has about becoming a concert pianist while actually not making it past Für Elise, we wandered the vendor stalls at St. Ann’s Warehouse, where the event took place, and started imagining that we could become someone who is “handy,” and actually build these pieces ourselves.

In this fantasy, we can magically construct the Iglooplay lima-bean shaped kid’s table and the Argington Artemis rocker, but in adult sizes; we can cut environmentally sustainable birch into Brave Space’s modular shelves that fit like Tetris pieces; we can bolt polished maple blocks together to construct RDay Will Come’s bumpy Ossa coffee table; we can even scour dumpsters for old bicycle rims and wood scraps to clean up and refashion into the Uhuru Stoolen stool. Linking together what looks like mattress springs, we craft a room divider/screen by Aswoon; we grab a couple of kitchen strainers and string them together around a lightblub to make Nicholas Furrow’s lamp.

This crazed hallucination continues until we board the shuttle bus for “blockparty,” an offshoot of Brooklyn Designs and one of 14 Boerum Hill townhouses designed by Roger Marvel Architects. Billed as an opportunity to admire pieces from the show in the setting of a real home, the blockparty planners hired the shuttle bus to transport attendees from St. Ann’s Warehouse to one of the townhouses on State Street. The shameless plug for the 14 new townhouses and the Corcoran Group—whose rep had cunningly dropped her business card on the kitchen table in case anyone could afford to buy—would not have bothered us if the project itself wasn’t so bizarrely misguided. Situated across the street from old Brooklyn homes and a few blocks from the lively Fulton Street Mall—home to Jimmy Jam and Junior’s—the Tribeca-esque townhouse at 267A State Street felt incongruous and sterile. This wasn’t carrying Brooklyn into the 21st century, this was building mod Miami beachfront property and ignoring the existing neighborhood.

It is possible to carry a fantasy too far.