I’m a big believer as a renter in NYC that reclaiming or inheriting odds and ends is a better and kinder way to populate your space. Krrb.com is the perfect place to do just that. They’ve honored me with the task of picking some of my favorite Krrb finds for Fall and I hunted down some really lovely (and equally strange) objects on the shop by stoop home sales website. Krrb is easy to use and I’ve had a blast selling and buying on it myself. Anyone can build a “corner” where they list home decor, furniture, or homemade wares for sale. You can easily post and edit pictures or information about the object and tag key words. The site helps you search by zip code and category and it’s a real blast to find out what’s near by. Look for The Queer Interior and my 20 selections on their newsletter and website today! Here are my top 5 and why I picked’em!
As featured on Remodelista and AllModern.com. This Hunter Green Blue Dot Strut Table is an awesome use of space. It’s highly functional as a desk or dinning room table. It’s the perfect freelancer find and if you’ve got a neutral space the green is going to be a really great contrast color.
Looking to ironically store toilet paper or have legit tools to store? Then you should buy this awesome tool box! I think it’s really sexy and sleek and if I had more than a hammer and bad attitude about home repair I’d buy it. in. a. heartbeat.
When I think about what’s great for Fall gourds and painted leaves are not my first thoughts. This Swarovski covered animal skull, now this, this is autumnal. I want it on my dining table or coffee table, really anywhere someone can see it.
Crowded streets, rotting garbage, lack of moving air underground; these moments of metropolitan madness are the reason that the mythical “upstate weekend” is a necessitiy for a New Yorker’s survival.
Against the better judgement of my accountant (*cough* mint.com *cough”), and the fictionalized fear of where such a trip could lead (we’ve all seen that episode of Girls) I decided to unplug and retreat from the all the noise of the streets and the tweets.
Millbrook, NY (population 300) provided a secluded yet, inhabitated enough location to serve as the perfect backdrop. The town was exceptionally quaint, but don’t worry, it had 3 antique shops.
Our lodging, a barn converted into a home a heaven, was simply stunning.
The impact an open floor plan can have on opening a jaded soul, should never be understated.
Early Bird Granola is an established granola brand proudly built by the hard working and lovely Nekisia Davis. Maybe it’s her southern sensibilities or her die-hard love for a coast, but her brand and home have found a comfortable corner in friendly Red Hook Brooklyn to call home. She worked wonders converting a 1200 square foot office space above her commercial kitchen by maximizing the room with an open floor plan. The exposed beam supports, fire engine red functioning sprinklers, and a mad pink wall are brave and awesome choices.
The Queer Interior team styled out a corner of Nekisia’s apartment in pieces and accessories from A&G Merch, a furniture store in Williamsburg Brooklyn, to help us imagine how her newly renovated space would play host to actual furniture. We were there on an afternoon that some of her team were finishing up work on the windows and kitchen. I was happy to indulge superstition and smudge the space with sage, making sure to reach every corner.
The Queer Interior: What was your biggest challenge during the renovation?
Nekisia Davis: The biggest challenge was definitely waiting to see the final. I’m an I-want-it-now kind of girl, so it was torture. Veruca Salt-style but way less demanding and bratty.
Q.I: Do you have a favorite addition from the renovating?
N.D: It’s the commercial stove we put in. My contractor said it’s an insane stove for residential and I pushed to keep it, so they had to built a concrete sleeve around it covered in stainless steel to keep the heat in so it won’t light my cabinets and entire kitchen on fire. WORTH IT.
We used a lot of IKEA, which I actually always do (which surprises people). You have to go in there with a good eye. Also we fetched some barn wood from upstate for all the shelving, and stole some rad knobs for the kitchen from our designer Di Needham. She kept us sane during the whole process. Renovation is no joke, and I’m very aware that ours was a miniscule project in the grand scheme.
Q.I: You lucked into the amazing quality of these floors. What’s their story?
N.D: The floors were original and we had no idea they were even under there until we started knocking down walls. We had new floors spec’d out and those were beautiful as well, but I’m so happy to be able to reuse what came with the building. And they definitely tell a story, there are random nails all over that have sunk deep into the wood, areas where the coloring varies dramatically…these floors were WORKED on back in the day and I love seeing the story there.
Q.I: What were your style inspirations for the renovation? Was there any one thing you had to have?
N.D: My style inspiration was a combination of COLOR, Los Angeles, and Blance Devereaux’s bedroom. I’m not sure that the result points specifically to any of those, but that’s where my head was.
Q.I: Is it so weird to live above your commercial kitchen? Has it changed your relationship with the business you run?
N.D: It is SO LOVELY to live right above work. I stumble downstairs in some acceptable version of pyjamas with a cup of coffee in the mornings and am very lucky to be able to do that. On the other hand, I occasionally stumble down late night (different kind of stumbling this time) to steal some ricotta or yogurt from the walk-in (shout out Salvatore Bklyn and White Moustache yogurt, my small batch partners in crime), and might run into someone doing midnight yogurt production. I am sometimes fully clothed, sometimes not.
*Our Style Inspiration Corner made possible by A&G Merch was so rad. Check out their site to purchase!
It was awesome to style out the corner with help from the talented folks at A&G Merch and they’re shop and sponsorship made this feature possible. Here are the links to all the lovely small and large moving pieces of our inspiration corner made even more inspiring by Nekisia’s pink wall! –
It’s summer which means outdoor movies and ice cold treats! We caught up with Walter Youngblood the proud owner and maker of the addictive King Leche Cremes. These outlandish goat milk popsicles made from fresh and seasonal ingredients are for sale each Tuesday at the outdoor movies hosted by Red Hook Flicks and a slew of awesome sponsors. Mark your calendars to enjoy the movie and have a bite because this coming Tuesday the 5th they’ll be projecting Paris Is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990)! The film is about the drag and ball scene in the late 1980s and it’s everything, so get into it. Look forward to a breathtaking view of Lady Liberty, a sweet treat, and a super queer cult classic!
When did you start hand-crafting these treats?
This is my third season producing KINGLeche Creme Bars. I started producing the bars, named after my dog (King) and cat (Leche).
You use goats milk. Have you always steered clear of cow’s milk? Besides the deliciousness what is the advantage?
I use goat milk because I am lactose intolerant and I wanted to find a way to enjoy ice cream. Goat milk has the most similar lacrosse sugars to human milk making it more digestible for most people especially those with lactose issues. Also goat milk is consumed more globally than cow’s milk and is better for the environment. It takes far less resources to farm goats than cows. Goat milk is lower in fat than cows milk and is just overall better for humans.
Part of my inspiration came from working at Lower East Side’s WD~50, where I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some incredibly talented chefs like Wylie Dufresne, Sam Mason, Alex Stupak, Christina Tosi, and Malcolm Livingston. I got an invaluable education!
What’s your favorite bar? Is there a big seller that’s made waves?
I do have a favorite bar. That would be Rah’s Blushing Grasshopper. The bar was inspired by someone very special. The bar is a spinach and strawberry combination and is lovely to look at and delicious. It also happens to be my best seller this summer.
What’s next for King Leche?
In the future I would like to have a storefront and kitchen that I work out of independently and I’m also planning to move into other goat milk products like soaps and lotions.
George Venson, founder of Voutsa (pronounced |voot|– sä), a design company specializing in wallpaper, is currently making waves with his daring colorful designs, featuring an array of patterns ranging from beautiful inspirations such as flowers, to unexpected animals such as chickens, to body parts such as lips – and yes, even nipples.
Venson’s personality offers a mix of deadpan irony, and cavalier charm, both resting beneath hair as defiant as David Lynch or a young Michael Musto. He confidently described the process of his work as being split between the design portion, “which is easier if you have to spend all day in a studio for four days and get a pattern done, you can” and the second, lengthier process, of “turning that pattern into a consumer good.”
Voutsa’s watercolored themes are all hand painted before being placed in contrast with adventurous colors. He explained, “The real target for me are people that want to explore new bold options – like, if you want to paint your wall pink maybe you should wallpaper it pink– but with fish on it.”
The conversation shifted from his past work unexpectedly when he exclaimed, “We need to talk about my clothes!” Voutsa’s trademarked tagline “The Walls are Alive” has taken a surprisingly literal turn. “I have always envisioned my designs on the body,” he said. This Summer, he is debuting his latest endeavor: men’s dress shirts, body wraps and pocket squares in collaboration with Paul Marlow.
Originating from San Antonio, Texas, Venson’s upbringing was “totally suburban everything.” In high school he immersed himself competitively in tennis and by the end “I was among some of the top kids in the country.” He would “go to these tournaments, and there were all these really serious tennis players – who lived in tennis academies. But, I was just there, my dad was taking off work, taking pictures, or we’d be celebrating by eating at the CheeseCake factory.” However, while attending Rice University, his sports career faded, “I kinda closed that chapter. The passion changed. People don’t understand that. Passions change.”
His economic major led him to a soul crushing summer internship. He made an abrupt turn and completely remapped his college career, diving ferociously into an arts degree, “because I literally could not go one minute further,” in economics. As an art student, he discovered there was joy in “being recognized as a thinker and a whole person.” He found his thinking diverging from his former mainstream education, “There was this whole grasping and hunger for an alternative way of thinking.…It was as vital to me to help try to shift people’s thinking.”
“I am really indebted to the Residency Program, at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. It brings in all these great artists who are also required to teach at Rice. So I was encountering all these great people who live in New York and LA.” The combination of Rice’s Art Department, “stunning architecture” and the fact that it was “non-competitive” empowered Venson to experiment boldly, in a variety of mediums from painting to writing a fully produced student film.
Upon graduating, the university awarded him a scholarship which enabled Venson to travel the world and leave his home state. “My only complaint” about Texas is that “- It’s not connected to this big world. It wasn’t necessarily just a gay thing, it was across the board, with all issues, and I could not handle that.” He found New York City to be, “Incredible.
At the beginning of Voutsa, “I was encouraged to make beautiful lush wall papers..they were abstract. I started to sell some to bigger companies” which evolved into, “why don’t I just make my own patterns, have commercial success, and then fund my life?” However, “that transition took from age 22 to 29, so it’s been at least six years.”
For those six years Venson “worked for a lot of different types of people,” which he said “was vital.” This time “working a lot of jobs” was “not a waste whatsoever because… I still draw on a lot of qualities I picked up along the way. Even if I worked something and I hated it, maybe it taught me to run a studio, or make calls, or organize my art collection.”
Voutsa’s splash, “happened really quickly.” The location moved from South Williamsburg, to a huge loft in Union Square, as noted in New York Mag, and is now finally headquartered in Chinatown. That first year operating out of Union Square was when “everything came together.” He nostalgically recalled how, “I made all my wallpaper. I built my website. I had my first shows. I had my first press. I had my first visits with decorators.” He sites that “the location [Union Square] and the size [of the studio] had a lot to do with it.” Even though, “I literally had no furniture,” except, “a mattress on the floor.” Speaking almost with disbelief, “I had all this space, at the right time – the universe came together for the first time ever. Since then, I let it move itself in its own way.”
Voutsa is now fully situated into its new home and is better poised to continue its ascent. With a new summer line of patterns, its clothing series, growing representation in showrooms nationwide – or simple joys such as Lena Dunham ‘liking’ a design on Instagram – the future of Voutsa is limitless and like George Venson, full of the unexpected.
Before we both parted, he paused and spoke with the same fiery tenacity that took him from Economics to Art, from Texas to New York City, from artist assistant to Company Owner: “After six years, I am finally making my own life – that’s what you should put in your article. I am finally making my own life.”
The Queer Interior had a wedding insiders peek at event space and wedding venue Atelier Roquette owned by two of the Queens of Red Hook. Kristen Blush and I scored some stunning and romantic shots that we’re thrilled to share as part of our May-long celebration of all things wedding! Chef Monica Byrne and Leisah Swenson have been together 10 years, the two aren’t married, but they’ve been the helping hand in more weddings than you’ll ever have the chance to attend.
They co-own and operate café, wine bar and cozy brunch hang HomeMade on what is arguably one of the most important corners of Vanbrunt Street in foodie’s paradise Red Hook ,Brooklyn. Their attraction to special occasions is obvious. Monica’s food is personal and comfort oriented, that perfect combination means everyone wants to have their shower or celebration in teeny-tiny Homemade. This led the two ambitious ladies to nearby Commerce Street where they’ve outfitted a garage into a lofty white-walled event space called Atelier Roquette with their in-house catering as definitive perk.
We had the exciting opportunity to shoot around The Little Flower School co-owned by Sarah Ryhanen and Nicolette Camille. Their work has been featured in Domino, Vogue, Martha Stewart and many more. Seeing all the eager up and coming flower folks wearing stunning flower hair pieces with scissors or pad in hand was inspiring. While Sarah and Nicolette encouraged a break from arranging and took questions; Kristen Blush and I got to work capturing images of this lofty and multipurpose space.
The moody view of dusk through the two giant skylights and rows of flowers made the space feel like heaven’s waiting room. All the furniture is hand picked by Monica or Leisah and some of the pieces including the tall stool and wire baskets are for sale.
The industrial farmhouse feel with steel and wire accents, old luggage and one-of-a-kinds find make this raw space come to life. These two have an eye and every piece has a story.
The space hosts everything from tastings to markets and the flower school made it’s home there for a long weekend and was a perfect place for students to create, dine, and collaborate.
Every work station made for a still-life shot that Kristen Blush was able to capture as the sun set on a long day of flower styling.
The two are planning their own wedding in the space for this coming October. We can’t wait to see what they’ll do with it!
If you’d like to know more about having a party or celebration at Atelier Roquette head to their website and input your party size and details here: www.atelierroquette.com
Full Disclosure: I live a cluttered life. Perhaps that is why I respond so emphatically to minimalism, because it is beyond my capabilities to maintain in any capacity: in writing, in speaking, in scheduling, in dating, in listing…
From beneath my cluttered soul I have learned that the beauty of the simple is most powerful when it’s visual.
The fresh and sleek project, A Genealogy of Things, from graphic designer John Perry Yates, uses simplicity to its greatest effect. Once a week he focuses on a single chosen item and condenses its form and tracking its evolution from years 1864, 1914, 1964, & 2014.
For instance this one entitled “Pen”:
I am also a big fan of this one titled “Fan”:
Yes, it’s geeky, yes it’s a tumblr, yes I qualify it as tumblr porn for any person who practices clean lines, focused simplicity, or for those who can only fetishize them. Check out the full collection here!
Since Yates’ own personal genealogy includes an education at Yale and a job with Condé Nast’s Architecutral Digest, this series seems to place him (pictured) completely in his element. Currently employed at the web design firm Blenderbox as Project Manager, he has found a home he enjoys and a job he is passionate about, both cozily and conveniently cloistered within Greenpoint.
The Queer Interior: Where did the concept originate for A Genealogy of Things?
John Yates: I always found myself wanting to get more practice at illustration and hone in on a “personal style”, but I’d spend so much time figuring out what I wanted to draw that I’d always end up losing interest or running out of free time. Around New Years, I decided a weekly themed project would be well-defined enough to keep me motivated, but open enough to not get bored with. Many of my idols in the design/illustration do something similar, like Jessica Hische’s “Daily Drop Cap” or José Guizar’s “Windows of New York”. I’m a giant history nerd and antiques hoarder, so I settled on Genealogy of Things pretty naturally.
Q.I:What is your process selecting objects to illustrate? In your experience, has finding inspiration before your weekly deadline been a challenge thus far?
J.Y: I’ve got a running list of ideas I keep in a Google Drive doc that I add to as inspiration strikes – I usually know what I’m going to be drawing for the next two weeks or so. I’d say it’s very easy to find something that’s perfect for three of the four years, but hitting all four can be challenging. Of course, not only does something have to exist in all four eras, but it has to be strikingly different in each era. I can’t do a post for “A Hammer” or “A Towel” since they haven’t really changed form in 200 years. I’ve found that objects that changed dramatically between the 1960’s and today often didn’t exist in the 1860’s; sometimes I’m able to get cute about this like with the ledger book for “Cash Register.”
I think I’m behind deadline for this week – I’ve been busy illustrating wedding invites for some friends!
Q.I: Do you have a personal favorite that you have done?
J.Y: Hmmm hard to say! “President” was fun, I’m pretty happy with the extent to which I could capture their personalities within my simple angular grid system. At that low level of detail, moving an element 1/8″ to the left or right can change a face from being instantly recognizable to looking tragically deformed. Although I think the most successful so far, in terms of the tone I hope to set, was the “Pen” (pictured above).
Q.I: Although simple, you have added design “rules” to your work, what are these specifically and what was the impulse to add these limits?
J.Y: There are three main rules:
1) Only straight lines and circle segments (no other curve shapes)
2) A strict 1/16th” grid, plus 1/64th” strokes.
3) A palette of no more than 5 colors plus black, using a flat fill without texture or gradient
Practically, the rules ensure consistency from week to week so the feel of the series remains cohesive. More personally, I have a hard time being creative if I’m just given a brush and told “go for it.” I need a few constraints to start thinking – I think this is my Lego-filled childhood shining through! To me, illustration always feels more like building than painting. Even in my rare attempts at actual painting, I end up breaking it all down into interlocking flat shapes and looking like knockoff Charles Sheeler.
Q.I: Are there any other bloggings – past present or future – we should keep our peepers spying for?
J.Y: I feel like it’s a symptom of our modern life to have a half-dozen half-dead blogs floating around without an update in months. The only other thing I’m really updating frequently is my Instagram: MRY8S – I collect hand-painted lettering and other interesting type I find around NYC (or on vacation). Last weekend I was over in Calvary Cemetery and snapped some gorgeous 19th Century carvings on the mausolea. When I was in Italy visiting my boyfriend a few weeks ago we explored this tiny town with perfect gilded Art Nouveau lettering in every shop window. I spent most of the day photographing stores from all angles – luckily for me, he’s the sort of guy who enjoys that!
NYC has always had a one-stop-shop for everything from laundry to takeout. The only thing not on the menu is peace and quiet. Personal space is a commodity in a city with more than 8 million dwellers. Breather, and it’s big time investors are banking on the sale of just that commodity: personal time. In Founder Julien Smith‘s words, “The essence of Breather is we fit into the cracks of a city,” in this case, New York. We spent an afternoon in The Nomad Breather space and have answers to questions you might have about how it works and what it’s like.
I had a chance to hang for 3 hours in The Nomad Breather room-for-rent in the Kiamie Arcade Building north of Madison. Like a good New Yorker I was there on the wire, huffing and puffing with a big bag holding my computer stuff and things for my waiting tables gig after. The Breather App prompted me to check-in, and with the tap of my phone I was supplied with a door key code. I felt like Ethan Hawke in Gattaca minus the inferiority complex.
The door opened easily, I put my bag next to a large mirror, hung my coat on a hook, and took in the sparse sitting area. I’d booked one friend hang, one meeting with a possible interior shoot, and a content meeting with my photographer Mike Popp. I told Mike to get there at 12:30 so I had half an hour to myself. The first thing I noticed was the quiet.
The room was set with a yoga mat, two nice floor pillows, three window facing chairs, a long wall mounted desk, a dry erase board and a mod chair with plush pillows. The details are where #Breather gets it right. A jar of tootsie rolls, a nice blanket, and a copy of the most recent KinFolk Magazine brought it home.
Style and function put you at ease. An iPhone 5 charger was set next to a jar of pencils and erasable markers, so I hooked up my phone and lay down. There is something weird about treating what is inherently a shared space like your own, but that feeling dissipates as you relax. I decided I’d try to take the advice at the core of this business’s concept and just lay down for a moment and relax. I breathed in the breeze from the window and the muffled hum of the street noise outside.
When it was time to get to work I connected to the Wi-Fi easily with a cheeky password. A knock at the door meant it was time to get started. My content meeting was great and everyone in attendance said they’d be looking into a Breather stay for themselves. The reasons ranged from needing a home base in-between errands and a work shift or freelancing with the ability to take phone calls and listen to Jill Scott.
Here are my tips for your next Breather stay:
1. Don’t be late. The whole function of this departure from your every day routine is meant to be relaxing. If you’re running behind and feel pressure to make to your relaxation time doesn’t that sort of defeat the point?
2. Freelancers, Don’t over book yourself. Go with a project or two in mind to work on; If you’re staying for 2-4 hours the time constraint is a great way to task manage yourself.
3. Water, Coffee, Snack. If you’ll be there for a while come equipped with edibles or plan on ordering in. We used Seamless to get lunch and it was just like at your regular office or apartment. This also means you’ll be maximizing your time there, as you don’t want to be stepping out too much.
4. Make a meeting. This is a great opportunity to have a business meeting, strategize an upcoming trip, call that family you don’t get around to, or even have an old friend over and just gossip.
5. Breathe. This is your time. Take it to unwind and just daydream. There is a pad of paper to draw on, windows abound, some latest copies of magazines and Chronicle Book titles. A yoga mat encourages a few judgment-free downward dogs. Just Breathe.
Paul Langland is a real New Yorker. Upon meeting this educator his generosity of spirit and urge to share is contagious, I felt myself cracking jokes and divulging details of my train ride, job and eventually whole life. It was like meeting up with an old friend, or in this case a new one. A thoughtful and powerful member of the dance and performance art scene in New York, he has been teaching specialized techniques at New York University’s Tisch School for 40 years and currently lives in Chelsea with his partner, the painter, Colin Cochran. This shared space is comprised of comfort, charm and smart kitsch.
In separate states at the moment, his boyfriend Colin was at their Santa Fe house in New Mexico, but his work and good vibes were all over the space. It was hard to feel bad for the two who have a sprawling view of the mountains in New Mexico and a nearly panoramic look at downtown’s cityscape here in New York City. Modern comforts, keepsakes and a personal art collection surround you. Nothing is too precious, but everything down to the small art pieces has a story. Nature light is a star in this space and they’ve got it in every room. As Paul gave me a tour he filled me in about their New Mexico styling, the importance of a clean dining room table, and previous N.Y.C pads.
How long have you been in this amazing space? The views and natural light are simply perfect.
We moved in 21 years ago, 1993
There are corners of your pad that are straight out of Santa Fe. What draws you and Colin to the Wild West esthetic?
This apartment was constructed in 1930. The walls are rough where they have been repainted, and can appear to be similar to adobe, which also has a rough surface, so the place has a weathered feel, even though it is a New York high rise. We were drawn to the weathered feel of the place.
We are drawn to the west because both of us have experiences in the American west. I was born in Laramie, Wyo, and Colin went to school there. We both love long vitas. Out east, the land is often hidden by soft trees and even buildings. Colin especially needs to see the form of the land because it is very important to his paintings.
I also like seeing big distances which I remember from my childhood in Wyoming and the region.
Now that we have a place in Santa Fe, our apartment is gathering even more western objects.
The postcard by the medicine cabinet is lovely. Tell us about it.
It’s a show announcement for the photos of Bill Costa from a show at the Wessel + O’Conner Gallery, NYC in 1997. We didn’t know Bill Costa, but his dates are listed as 1944-1995. This shot is a very nostalgic reminder of small early NYC apartments which often have the tub in the kitchen or small bathroom. It’s a gentle photo of two lovers bathing, and reminds us of a temporary sublet we rented on East 6th street.
When you ripped the Keith Haring pieces from the wall of Prince Street Subway Station in the 80s did you have any idea you’d one day have them framed in your home?
These walls speak (and in some cases sing). It’s obvious art collecting is something you love (I.E Haring, Chagall, Basquiat). Tell us a favorite memory of a piece from you and Colin’s collection.
We especially treasure the Gandy Brodie tree painting above the TV. Gandy was Colin’s painting teacher for several years, and, for a time, lived at the same address as us at 93 Greene St. in Soho. This wonderful teacher and painter passed away at age 51 in 1975 shortly after we purchased the painting from him.
The orchids are lovely and you seem to have a seriously green thumb. Do you have a proper garden somewhere?
We are gradually getting some wild flowers growing in Santa Fe. In fact, we hope to get more of a garden in out there this year. In Santa Fe, the prairie comes right up to the door of our house and presents it’s own kind of bleak technicolor beauty.
In the 1980s, Colin worked in the gardens of the Cloisters for many years, so we had that glorious garden accessible to us any time of day.
Most of our plants are currently in pots, either in Santa Fe or NYC.
Colin and you are artists. Is there a place in your home that you gravitate to as an artist? Additionally is there a staple every artist should have in his or her home?
Colin spends a lot of time in his beautiful studio in our place in Santa Fe, and I rent dance studio space or use the facilities at NYU.
Our dining tables serve as office and library as well. We spend lots of time at them in both places. The wonderful choreographer, Simone Forti, has a dictum that it’s ok to have a messy house as long as the dining table is clear. I try to follow this advice, often not successfully.
Besides this amazing space what is one of your favorite apartments you’ve lived in or visited in New York City.
Our loft at 93 Greene St. We lived there from 1973 to 1982. It was a semi-ruined, romantic huge place full of a mish-mash of street finds, random antiques, and deco furniture that the cats gradually destroyed. It had a big dance floor, a painting studio, and a wood stove. We converted it from a Christmas tree lightbulb factory to a hippie loft. We had art shows, dance rehearsals, classes and big parties.
We have only one photo of the place for some reason. *
Congratulations are in order to this innovator, just last month he was honored by BAX (Brooklyn Arts Exchange) with this year’s Art’s Educator Award. It was a treat to learn about his experience in New York and to be in such wonderful company.
A bird nest rocking chair, piñata chandeliers, inflatable mirrors. These are not wonders from Willy Wonka, or descriptions of Surrealist paintings, but are the whimsical creations from the spry mind of Misha Kahn.
When browsing Kahn’s breadth of work it is hard to comprehend that his pieces exist outside the animation or within the laws of physics. It was this furniture’s audacity which inspired me to personally meet their creator.
On a sunny Sunday morning, Misha, whose energetic aesthetic has refused to grow up, met me in a Greenpoint bakery appropriately named, Peter Pan. His thin frame was draped in loose fabrics. He covered his awkwardness in a smirk. His strong profile peered from a tangled wisp of brunette waves. At first glance he is practically a caricature of bohemian Brooklyn. However, his style is not calculatedly trendy. Its origins derive from how he discovered his interest in furniture, “it was so accidental” – a confession given as we each grabbed barstools and ordered breakfast.
Growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, Misha attended Minneapolis College of Art and Design. “I made some tables – looking back they were awful” – he said with a laugh, “but they sold, and I think they would sell again.” Quickly he transferred to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) after his Freshman year “where I thought I would end up in Apparel – which just seems so wrong now.”
Rambunctiousness has remained an important aspect in all of Misha’s work. He used class critiques as opportunities to make “a big ordeal… dress up to match my project, or serve food.” He gleamed impishly, “-one time I made everyone go into the basement, that had all these old safes, and I passed out hot dogs in crystal napkins.” He admitted that this showmanship “was probably irritating to other kids in my class” but that it “takes a while to keep the volume turned up.”
In contrast to his rapid success, Misha’s experience was not one of overwhelming favor at RISD. “The response that you get in that environment…is more like – ‘ok, Misha’s doing something weird again.’ It’s nice coming out of school where you can find environments to fit in a little bit more.”
Upon graduation Misha earned the prestigious honor of a Fulbright Scholarship.“I think I just needed a year to re-boot, or just reset some things.” He chose Israel to spend his Fulbright experience and observed Israeli designers being “more comfortable incorporating personal narrative.” To him, “American Art School methodology is rooted in bullshit – the pseudo-conceptual and the theoretical. Israeli perspective is self indulgent in a different way and was nice for me to encounter.”
Misha has been churning out audacious designs for two years via his Navy Yards studio. He transitioned seamlessly, earned representation from, Johnson Trading Gallery, has had notable showings while beguiling impress both critics and press. He does not doubt New York’s artistic relevance, or his ability to survive its pressures, and “anytime I do – things keep happening and moving forward in a really nice way.”
Refilling his cup, he subtly spiked his coffee with what appeared to be a flask, catching my surprise he shrugged, “Soy milk.” He reflected on how infusing personality in his pieces offers more intimacy, while indulging on a Red Velvet Donut, “it just doesn’t make sense not to portray it. I don’t have serious issues to talk about in my work,” and even when things “…appear happy, they are kinda fucked up and a little deflated. – I allow room for a little bit of sadness. I try not to make things that are completely early Katy Perry. There’s always a little bit of complexity.”
There are physical attributes with Misha that infer hidden complexities as well: his relaxed energy, the patient cadence of his speech, and his reserved timbre of voice, offset assumptions one could make from work that revels in its garishness.
Misha confessed that an element of vulnerability is central to his design philosophy: “my work is never too cool, and always needs to be a little bit relatable. Nothing is too sleek, it is always human. I try to make things in a way as if one person struggled with it, and that is something we both feel in a dialogue. In furniture we see a bunch of mass produced objects or, if not mass produced, then people getting off on craftsmanship totally inaccessible to a person. Where with my things you can see how they were made – and are really weird and relatable.”
It is impossible to categorize where Kahn falls on the artist/designer spectrum . He feels “very uncomfortable saying both. If you design objects and then call yourself an artist you look like you are pathetic and clamoring, but if you call yourself a designer people only see the objects. – Yet, none of my objects are replicable so then that feels a bit off from what people think of as a designer. Ultimately I hope everyone takes away a conversation more interesting than that.”
The brunch bustle began to overwhelm the atmosphere. Misha’s poignance cut through the chaos, “I do feel that as a designer I am doing something that is a little bit pushing some boundaries, but as an artist I am not doing that at all. I’m making really stubborn, pretty objects that just kinda sit there.”
Misha continues to blur labels and push boundaries even with his own goals. This month he’s showing a series of lamps he made in a collaboration currently on display at the Whitney Biennial, his studio time is spent working on a large scale new piece he’ll be showing at the Museum of Art and Design. More epic still is his dream to bring his Navy Yard studio creations, even closer to the water: “I want to make a floating exhibition, make a floating hotel, and also create The Royal Exoticist – a very huge, very fucked up Import store.” When pressed for details regarding his scope, he winks “everyone is going to be involved a little. I want all of this to be on a boat. I want to buy a 100 foot barge. I keep talking about it hoping enough people will think it is going to happen – so it will.”
Vacating the crowds we walked to Misha’s bright yellow Jeep – a hoarder’s paradise. A theme emerged: the cloud of chaos inherent in his living style is inseparable from the accidental style of his creations. Smiling to myself, I recalled his quote before we were aggressively asked to make room for new customers: “This is the look: take it or leave it.”
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