June 1, 2006
Brooklyn Block Party
A developer turns one of her new town houses into a celebration of the borough.
What if the most talented Brooklyn artists and designers got together and outfitted an entire house, from bedroom to bathroom to backyard? A single-family brownstone designed by Rogers Marvel Architects—one of more than a dozen such structures in a development called 14 Townhouses, which stretches across half a Brooklyn block—has become the canvas for just such a creation. Abby Hamlin of Hamlin Ventures, Jonathan Marvel and Rob Rogers of Rogers Marvel Architects, and Jennifer Carpenter of TRUCK Product Architecture curated the project, called blockparty, which was unveiled this May during BKLYN Designs.
“This is not a model home, but rather a model of a home,” Marvel says. “We selected products by imagining a family living there.” The four-floor town house was built with the Boerum Hill demographic in mind, so along with lighting, tabletop, and seating, the curators had to take kids’ rooms and the backyard into consideration. They opted for a combination of one-off prototypes and offerings from established and new designers submitted in response to a call for proposals. “The filter was the idea of what fits in a twenty-first-century home,” Carpenter says. “We noticed that the work coming in fell into two categories: extremely polished or exhibiting evidence of the hand. We could have gone either way but chose instead to juxtapose them—this should not feel like a gallery but like a home.”
For Hamlin the connection between the architecture and furnishings was foremost. “There is a unified vision here, not a theme,” she says. “This vision courses through the architecture, the furniture, and the art.” Pieces like a glass Bubble chandelier by Lindsey Adelman, an upholstered love seat by Brooklyn Royal, and playful plush-toy creatures by Longoland were all created specifically for blockparty. Other featured items include Portia Wells’s plywood chairs with iconic slipcovers, two David Weeks floor lamps, and hand-printed and woven drapes by twenty2. The backyard was designed around a 17-foot sculptural bench by Ethan Ames, and sculptures, portraits, and a site-specific wall-painting round out the installation.
Of course since the town house also functions as a show house, events throughout the summer—including art walks, architecture panels, and docent-guided tours—double as an overture to potential buyers. However, certain selections—such as Jason Miller’s Duct Tape chair, featuring leather-striped arms that suggest bands of duct tape—erase any notion that the town house was curated simply as a vehicle to sell homes.
“There is an aesthetic behind the whole project. This is not just some developer putting fourteen town houses up as cheaply as possible and selling them off,” Marvel says of Hamlin’s rare design sensitivity. “Abby took a risk with the town houses. And the same risk is involved in blockparty.” Hearing this, Hamlin grins and says simply, “We built a block, and now we are having our party.”