New York, rather like Copenhagen that I visited in 2014, is an excellent place to go shopping for overpriced design items. All tastes are catered for with lots of vintage stores in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side and higher end places in Chelsea and Soho. My pick of the most interesting stores are as follows:
Good for: home decor inspiration (rather than actual shopping)
Laid out and furnished to resemble the luxurious apartment of a New York rich bitch, The Apartment is more of a “lifestyle showroom” than shop. The space, a large Soho loft, is loosely divided into living areas (including a pretend kitchen and flatteringly-lit walk-in wardrobe), and is filled with tasteful items, all of which are for sale. It’s a bit pretentious and everything is hideously expensive but it’s a novel concept and well worth a visit. That is, if you can find the very discreet entrance/lift sandwiched in between two shopfronts on Greene Street.
Good for: hipster junk
Price: cheap to moderate
The person behind this trendy Lower East Side store would probably baulk at the comparison but if American Apparel branched out into selling artwork, records, design items and books, it would probably look a bit like this. The stock, which is appealingly laid out and quite reasonably priced, is secondary to the store’s “vibe”, which makes you feel hip just by being in there. I was so seduced by the experience that I ended up buying a print that I only realised was absolutely terrible once I’d brought it home, outside of the context of the store. Be warned.
Room and Board
Good for: high quality modern American homewares
I’d never heard of this US-only furniture and homewares brand before visiting New York so I found the experience of wandering around the enormous, attractively laid-out Chelsea showroom quite exciting. The style of the furniture and homewares is a high-end, distinctly American take on mid-century modern in that everything is slightly oversized, glossy and comfortable-looking. Whilst I generally prefer a more vintage aesthetic (some of the styled room setups were a little too polished and minimalist for my taste), there’s no denying the quality of the product and design across the board – a couple of the mid century-inspired armchairs were particularly covetable.
Atlantic Avenue vintage furniture stores
Good for: mid century originals
Price: moderate to expensive
There appears to be a concentration of stores along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn which specialise in selling vintage mid century furniture. I visited two fairly representative examples of this kind of store – Horseman and City Foundry – and found both to be interesting if slightly overwhelming. Both stores are packed to the rafters with mid century antique cupboards, sideboards, chairs, tables, lighting and all manner of other items, all piled on top of each other. I spotted a number of beautiful pieces in amongst the organised mess that you’d be unlikely to come across in the UK but prices were relatively high so I left empty handed.
Steven Alan Home Shop
Good for: overpriced homewares
Another store I’d never heard of before visiting New York, Steve Allan appears to be a U.S. clothing brand that has branched out into attractive if slightly overpriced homewares. The delicate artwork and vaguely ethnic looking rugs and blankets at the back of the store were particular highlights.
MoMA Design Store
Effectively the MoMA gift shop minus the touristy tat, the MoMA Design Store (across the road from MoMA) sells slightly more substantial design objects and accessories. It’s worth popping into if you’re visiting MoMA but it doesn’t warrant a dedicated trip: there wasn’t anything for sale that I hadn’t seen in other shops or online before.
This menswear store has an unexpected living room/vintage homewares section upstairs that provides a fitting backdrop for the mens’ bespoke tailoring service.
The name of this small Chelsea store describes its aesthetic pretty well. Whilst not all of the heavy wooden furniture was to my taste, there were some crude yet oddly charming paintings and bronze pieces that I might have bought if there hadn’t been the issue of having to lug everything home to the UK.