March 1, 2008
A crafty, DIY-inspired furniture movement emerges in New York’s most creatively vibrant borough.
Far from the maddening crowds of the contemporary-furniture scene, a small group of intrepid designers is sprouting like trees in Brooklyn. Aesthetically, they’re all over the map. Scrapile (from Greenpoint) is known for the pun it’s named after: a scrap pile of locally sourced wood that designers Bart Bettencourt and Carlos Salgado turn into a building material; each block incorporates everything from walnut to plywood and is then processed through a labor-intensive layering method. Uhuru, founded by Bill Hilgendorf and Jason Horvath, offers a line of sleek, multimaterial pieces, all of which, if viewed through a larger lens, are just as sustainable.
Those firms got started about four years ago, and they join the older guard Elucidesign, founded in 2001, and City Joinery, which set up shop in 1996. Elucidesign’s Redpoint collection is a beautifully spare series of pared-down pieces; City Joinery’s range and look is broader and heavier.
These firms may not share a look, but they do share a sensibility shaped by their size, scale, and voluntary outsider status in the design world. “We’re in this straddling position,” City Joinery’s Jonah Zuckerman says.
“We care a lot about design, but we also care a lot about craft.” Horvath brings up a similar tension: “We don’t want to be this big furniture company that does production overseas, but we don’t want to be just building furniture in Red Hook.” He shouldn’t worry too much. His company and his compatriots are part of a new phenomenon—the rise of the artisan designer, Brooklyn division.