Design looms large — this week in Milan and in our world in general — she no longer takes a back seat, as her value is becoming known to those who should know it. She inches towards the front of the room, and as she approaches, she stands ever taller.
A building made entirely of stairs to be climbed for a fee. Awards that are purchased, not won. Empty rooms transformed into living commercials that jump off the screen and page, and then – ironically – back onto them. In our age of hyper-commerce and of hyper-communication, Design looms larger still.
And as her cheerleader, I dare not object.
But in the cacophony of her growth, she has kept a space for us. We, who exist in the intersection between the plentitude and the passion. Here, we find quiet.
We find a woodworker with his slab of oak. We find a chair with a mother rocking her child to sleep. We find an architect at her desk, with a pencil and paper. Gone are the crowds — and in their place, are one-on-one interactions, personal discoveries and group collaborations. And here, in our corner of design, leading up to New York’s design week, we at Colony celebrate these duets of intimacy.
Before we embark on another busy spring season of launches and May exhibits, a look back at pieces from last year’s NYCxDESIGN show Balance/Unbalanced gives us a moment of reflection on the lasting impact of great design and our ongoing pursuit of balance.
First and foremost, let’s address the shivering elephant in the room; it’s not spring. And if you, like me, were feeling hopeful for green-tipped crocuses and the sound of songbirds, then I implore you not to take the city’s cruel and snowy reminder of a lingering winter too personally. Instead of focusing on still-frozen precipitation, I’m looking forward to the upcoming bouquet making event with Flat Vernacular in celebration of their newly launched floral collection, Wilds.
I plan to center my bouquet on the kitchen table in an act of defiance against temperatures in the teens. As Wilds was inspired by resilient flower species, it feels fitting that I’m turning to these blossoms for a cheerful reminder that warmer sunshine is just around the corner.
Fort Standard‘s founder and designer Gregory Buntain has long centered his collection of beautifully utilitarian furniture on the dining table. The instantly recognizable Column Dining collection consists of elemental and substantial cylindrical pillar legs and a variety of shaped table tops, honed from marble or crafted out of solid wood.
More recently, Buntain has considerably broadened his Red Hook-based studio’s offerings by introducing the Strata Collection, a minimalist grouping of furniture pieces incorporating machined metal components. Launched at ICFF 2018, the Strata Credenza became a collection mainstay, growing to include side tables, coffee tables, and shelving units. Its modular system allows for a wide range of formats with endless material and finish combinations.
We’ve found that a Fort Standard collection launch is an industry-wide event, with all eyes on Buntain and his studio for design inspiration. Don’t miss his next move: a brand new dining collection to debut at Colony in early May. Stay tuned here for more information on the forthcoming exhibition.
In my four years working at Colony, I’ve moved four times – which means I’ve become quite familiar with my material objects and their respective dimensions as I’ve fit them into the back of various moving vans, up countless sets of stairs, and around tight corners. Each packing period has become an exercise in self-editing and assessing my things for how often and how well I use them. I’ve let enough pieces go curbside to feel protective over those that have stuck with me and adversely towards the idea of further thoughtless consumption.
My surviving pieces have been, for the most part, a largely sentimental mix of family heirlooms and cherished thrift store finds. That is with the exception of my prized possession – my half moon chair from Vonnegut/Kraft lacquered in a sunset peach, which I’ve ubiquitously dubbed “pink”.
The chair was a generous gift from Jean following my first holiday season at Colony, tempered by her early December question, “If I buy you that chair, will you stop gushing about it already??” Thinking this a joke, I said yes only to find myself bringing the chair home come Christmas.
Having had this piece four times as long as any home in the last decade has made me rethink the concept of what home is to me. As a transplant from New England, I’ve had this query before but never landed upon the concept that my experiences with personal objects have become greater than the sum of those in each transitory home.
The chair is a living memory of all the actions and reactions it has participated in since we’ve come to know each other so intimately. I’ve written poems in this chair, paid bills in this chair, drunk boundless cups of coffee with my legs crossed and draped in my Nana’s silk robe – a mix of minty green and bright oranges that dance against the pink finish. I’ve set my Christmas “tree” atop the seat and strung the whole thing with fairy lights.
Most often serving steadfastly as a desk chair, the piece has also functioned as an entry “bench” and bedside “table” when tight spaces have demanded versatility. The poppy pink joinery currently brightens up my living room while providing an extra seat; whereas, I’ve relegated stacks of books and windowsills to act in the less honorable stead of side table.
Of all these memories, what I’ve truly lost track of is the amount of times I’ve woken up to find my cat, Loofah, perched on the chair sunning himself. It’s his favorite seat in the house.
All the houses.
It was 2016. New to the design industry, I stepped into the unassuming second-floor loft space occupied by Colony. With my then-colleague, we passed through this ethereal landscape.
Rosy pink cascaded from the white brick onto the floor, an orbed color block of paint trailing its bright color between surfaces. A sea of stark white platforms and plinths held aloft some of the finest furniture: things round and plush, with airs of buoyancy; others trim and angular, comfortably spartan. Textiles dripped from the ceilings, hanging lethargic and beautiful, softening the light that flooded through a trio of huge windows.
A small pixie with a blooming head of platinum blonde hair threw her arms up, star-shaped, in welcome.
Jean Lin, Colony founder and pixie, spread massive, tufted pillows out on the floor for our Tribeca Design District meeting. I took note of the set-up: this was no conference room, no mahogany table. And for that, it felt like home.
Jean and I continued to cross paths through the design industry over the years while I worked at a neighboring design studio: to collaborate on social media campaigns, to coordinate neighborhood-wide events, to revel in the work and in the play of design week.
Later, when I left that job, floundering and unsure, she took me under her wing. She grew me and gave me space to grow myself. She has become more than just a pixie woman, to me; she has become more than just her recognizable name, her hair, her business.
She has become an employer, a mentor, and, perhaps most importantly, a close friend. She still throws her arms up, star-shaped, for me and for other guests of Colony. She still spreads the massive, tufted showroom pillows out on the floor for our meetings.
The integrity of the space and the business she’s grown trickles into the integrity of the relationships she builds from it and out of it. I serve as evidence of this. Built from devotion to the design industry, devotion to the designers themselves; built from a love for this gallery and its orbit of industry peers and those mammoth, cozy Colony pillows…
Colony felt like home from the start, and it has manifested as a true professional homestead. I plan on staying put; under Jean’s wing, in her home of design, and comfortably on her floor pillows.
-Emily R. Pellerin