Move Over, Taxidermy: Contemporary Design Gets Lighter and Cleaner – New York Design Agenda


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Move Over, Taxidermy: Contemporary Design Gets Lighter and Cleaner
Move Over, Taxidermy: Contemporary Design Gets Lighter and Cleaner

The Contour coffee table by the Brooklyn-based design firm Bower is one sexy piece of furniture. It has a smooth curved base made of lacquered white wood, with a top of delicately veined Calacatta Paonazzo marble that’s inset at one end with glass tinted peachy pink. The effect is somehow cool and warm, contemporary and retro. You can picture it decorating the apartment of Richard Gere’s character in “American Gigolo,” cast in soft morning-after light. The Contour series (there are coffee, dining and side tables) is also one of the more striking examples of a nascent design trend.

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For years, design in New York and elsewhere has been dominated by the “new vintage” look, with its love of taxidermy and salvaged barn wood, its nostalgia for dark hunting cabins and 19th century gentleman’s clubs.



What design insiders are seeing lately is a brighter, lighter, more contemporary aesthetic, one that still favors organic materials but with a more refined sensibility and cleaner lines.


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“Three years ago when we started, we only made things out of wood,” said Danny Giannella, who founded Bower with Tammer Hijazi. “It was limiting, and we liked mixing materials. We liked the veining of this marble.”

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In addition to the Contour tables, the firm was showing C Lights made of curved brass tubes and opal glass globes and a series of Line wall mirrors, in silver, black and copper, created from 20 pieces of glass precision-cut by water jet. A Miami nightclub owner would love them.

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Mr. Giannella and Mr. Hijazi aren’t the only Brooklyn woodworkers experimenting with materials and embracing a look that’s more crafted than reclaimed. Asher Israelow, who operates his eponymous studio out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, made his Lincoln chairs from black walnut but incorporated brass dowels. Mr. Israelow’s furniture was at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in Manhattan last spring, alongside several designers whose work shared a resemblance.

Frank de Biasi, a New York-based interior designer, said that the first time he entered Freemans, the Lower East Side restaurant stuffed with antiques and taxidermy that arguably kicked off the trend, he marveled. “I thought it was the coolest thing to have something so rough, so undone,” Mr. de Biasi said. “Would I want to live there? Probably not.” While it’s fine to appreciate American heritage, he said, “We can move on, embrace something that’s more designed.”

The look is starting to show up in commercial settings, too, in places like Anthom, a women’s clothing boutique in Chelsea, and the New York Edition Hotel, which Ian Schrager recently opened.

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Marshall Johnson, the co-owner and designer of the store, said he was influenced by Scandinavian brands like Hay and Menu and the desire to create a calm space for customers amid the commotion of New York. “I think the mentality now is simplify your life,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s much more minimal.” He used copper for its warmth, he said, and marble because while it is clean, it’s not boring. With marble’s infinitely unique veining, Mr. Johnson said, “It still feels like it has different facets to it visually.”

So what is this new look called? Phrases like New Modernism and Post-Vintage have been bandied about, but so far nothing has stuck. In the meantime, maybe, Taxidermy 2.0? After all, the designers working in this lighter, more sophisticated vein have retained the core values of new vintage: handmade, organic materials, a respect for heritage and designed to last.


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