A New Home Store in Brooklyn Celebrates both Memphis and Minimalism

Designer Sergio Mannino’s bold design for the home décor store, A.MANO (meaning “by hand” in Italian), is an ode to Italian design and Brooklyn ceramics. 

A.MANO founder Katherine Wells and designer Sergio Mannino, who runs his eponymous interior design studio in Bushwick, connected over a cold email for the design of her home décor store in Prospect Heights. Wells reached out to Mannino after reading the designer’s writing on retail design for Forbes as well as his own blog. On one hand, the two united over a shared fondness for playful, slightly maximalist aesthetics, but they also had a mutual appreciation for neat minimalism that elevates objects and furniture. “The brief was ‘something bold,’ which is a natural feature in my practice,” Mannino says. “The final aesthetic came out of a back-and-forth between the client and myself.”

Mannino, who studied architecture in Florence and wrote his graduation thesis under the mentorship of Ettore Sottsass, found a design solution that celebrates the absorbing aesthetic of the Memphis Group while applying other principles of Minimalist art. Throughout the 1,800-square-feet storefront, elements such as Nathalie du Pasquier’s playfully geometric Margherita collection for Mutina are featured alongside Mannino’s own designs such as a birchwood credenza cabinet, Inside-Out Largo. In the main section of the store, traditional terrazzo tiles set the stage for offerings that range from reupholstered vintage furniture to books by artists such as Isaac Julien or Cindy Sherman, and ceramics by artists from the neighboring ceramic studio BKLYN CLAY. Teal-colored plywood shelving surrounds the main store and is inspired by Minimalism’s maestro Donald Judd. The shelves sit on glazed ceramic bricks in a matching blue hue from the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer Glen-Gery. Mannino steered clear of typical binding materials and adhesives, connecting the bricks and the shelves with screws so they can be easily dis and re-assembled. 

The main motivation for Wells to open a home store was to create a place to promote the ceramic work from BKLYN CLAY where both the founder and Mannino take pottery classes. While the opportunity to open up shop next door on the ground floor of a brand new building was an unmissable chance, the challenge was to add character to the bare-bones space. “As a designer, I want constraints so I can get the best out of limitations,” Mannino says. The unit’s original plain white ceiling was an eyesore for the designer’s bold vision, and the budget would not allow for a lower sheetrock solution. The designer decided to paint the whole ceiling and the tubes in a blue that is a few shades darker than the shelves. 

Mannino’s goal is to craft a revolutionized understanding of retail experience post-pandemic. As online retail skyrockets, the role of crafting a nuanced experience in-person is becoming more important. “A store cannot only be selling goods anymore, but must be a place where the customer connects with the brand through a built experience,” he says.

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