Brooklyn's Latest Design Stars

BKLYN Designs Palo SamkoThe New York City borough of Brooklyn continues to attract some of the country's top creative talent, be it in music, furniture or fashion. Some of that design pedigree was on display in contemporary home furniture and accessories this past weekend at the eighth annual BKLYN DESIGNS 2010.

Local borough officials, Pratt Institute and others collaborated to showcase dozens of Brooklyn-based designers at St. Ann's Warehouse. While many of the show's wares represented custom or limited edition products, some of the featured items already are available via larger retail stores, such as a hand-printed wallpaper by Grow House Grow at Anthropologie, or selected furnishings by UM at ABC Carpet and Home.

Here's a roundup of a few of our favorites...

UM Project, short for Users & Makers, is the brainchild of French-born Francois Chambard. An obvious lover of Danish midcentury modern, Chambard is interested in mixed materials in a single piece (Corian, aluminum, birch, felt) and the detailing found in furniture construction of earlier eras. Yet he uses digital technology to make the pieces.

We loved U.M.O. (above), a coffee table/sidetable/seating trifecta, covered in cork, that includes storage nooks to stow papers or odds and ends.

Another standout was the "Coney Island Line" by Uhuru Design.

Designers Bill Hilgendorf and Jason Horvath are interested in sustainability and sense of place. So their new line, made of reclaimed Coney Island boardwalk and paying homage to its icons, makes total sense. The Cyclone Lounger (above) suggests the famed rollercoaster through its curvature and its crisscross pattern of supports. The Wonder Coffee Table bolts old, refinished planks to a steel plate and, like its namesake ride, can spin.

"We love doing things that have a story behind it," explains Hilgendorf, who along with Horvath graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. Their collection manages to embrace both whimsy and melancholy – emotions associated with Coney Island's seasonal and aging history.

Designers Hugh Hayden and Katie Vitale will have you giving a close look to their hanging creations. Trained as architects, the pair have a series called FRAMEicariums that re-envision the ant farms of childhood as framed art. The pair give 30 ants a home of colored sand trapped between plexiglass, complete with air and feeding holes. Then they sit back and let the ants do the work. It's like a live art installation that changes with each hour.

Slovakian-born Palo Samko puts a surrealist spin on his customized tables, chairs, buffets and rocking chairs. Working in walnut and oak, Samko learned his craft by doing -- that is, apprenticing with woodworkers to understand construction and technique. The pieces are in recognizable forms but their Dali-esque detailing takes you somewhere else.

Designer Katie Deedy of Grow House Grow! tells stories of Victorian ladies in the sciences: a pioneering Irish entomologist; a Frenchwoman who intersected her interest in marine life with dressmaking; and an American naturalist devoted to carnivorous plants.

These biographical sketches are told through Deedy's hand-printed wallpaper – demure and radical all at once. ($48 per 27" x 36" sheet, $180 per roll, or five sheets).

If you missed the show, see the BKLYN DESIGNS site's full listing of designers -- for inspired and well-crafted home furnishings, direct from Brooklyn.
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