August 9, 2017

1stdibs's Design Cruise Lands in Red Hook

This summer, 1stdibs ferried over a group of design aficionados for private studio tours of five contemporary furniture makers to watch in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

by Byron Cordero

Rosie Li
Rosie Li.

When you ask any New Yorker what Red Hook means to them, they'd probably mention Ikea (be prepared to spend an ENTIRE day there), the crowd-heavy Brooklyn Crab, Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies, and as the setting for the 21st season of the hit reality TV show, The Real World. The one thing that didn't usually come to mind was design. Until recently that is.

A huge deterrent for Manhattanites to set foot onto the Brooklyn-based red soil bay is the lack of transportation to and fro, however, 1stdibs, the online marketplace for all things chic, found the solution: charter a ferry! A warm June summer night—paired with a few glasses of rosé—was the perfect setting as our 6:00 p.m. ferry sailed off to a private studio tour of five contemporary furniture makers to keep an eye on. The tour brought guests to DLV Designs, Rosie Li, Thislexik, TOKEN, and VOLK Studio to experience the resurgence of contemporary design and view the production behind this emerging design destination firsthand.

Both in the worlds of fashion (Monse's recent F/W '17), and in design at this year's Maison et Objet show, the creative trajectory has pivoted far off the beaten (mass-production) path and into the artisanal realm. A direct result of the soft, supple hand is a finished product so unique in aesthetic that it may come off looking irregular and/or imperfect—but in reality showcases a symbiotic meeting ground blurring the lines between art and design.

Volk Furniture
Volk Furniture.

Director of Fine Art at and Editor-in-Chief of Introspective, Anthony Barzilay Freund, shares, "We've noticed a shift in whom our dealers work with, and, increasingly, we find that they are showing more living makers. It's becoming more and more difficult to find exceptional vintage pieces, and so there's been a slight shift in focus. Contemporary has taken off."

In efforts to bring light to this new wave of design, 1stdibs is helping these makers reach an audience beyond their Red Hook studios by showcasing them among other recognized and early-career designers in its recently-launched Contemporary category. It's a testament to how online and offline channels can work together to foster interest in emerging artists and makers.

New York Spaces had the chance to sit down with Anthony (who goes by Tony) and get the scoop on these talented furniture makers...

NYS: What are you seeing in Red Hook as a growing design district?

One word: cheap! Red Hook has become popular with designers because it has offered large spaces at affordable rents.Artists like Dustin Yellin and Duke Riley blazed the trail and designers like Rosie Li, Thislexic and Token Studio are thriving there now.

NYS: What could have served as a catalyst to that?


Tony: Big warehouses and industrial spaces were easily converted to workshops and studios. It's also geographically isolated, surrounded by water and not well-served by mass transit so a kind of Wild West, "you-can-do-what-you-want" vibe has long prevailed. NYS: Where does the future lie for design?

Tony: The New York neighborhood that's the next Red Hook: Detroit. Or, slightly less far afield, Hudson River Valley towns like Kingston, New York.

Final Thoughts

It is an incredible privilege for collectors to know the maker, understand the process, and be able to collaborate on the final custom design. We're known as a place for beautiful objects, whether an antique or a fine piece of furniture made yesterday. Those pieces are the collectibles of the future.

About The Studios

DLV Designs is a sensuous mix of masculinity and glamour. Taking cues from a variety of global and historical


references, the studio uses the highest-quality materials to reinvent forgotten techniques, crafting modern interpretations of remarkable bench-made finishes and designs. Mark de le Vega is the founder and principal designer of DLV Designs, a full-service design and furniture production company. He launched DLV Collection, his first furniture collection, at ICFF in 2012 after improving his design skills at Studio Sofield. He now works out of his workshop in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where he creates beautifully crafted contemporary pieces.

Founded in New York, Rosie Li Studio is a lighting design practice formed by designer Rosie Li and engineer Philip Watkins. The duo forgoes traditional lamp design for building systems driven by science and mathematics, constructing fixtures using modular parts with a focus on simple geometry and pared-down forms. This adaptability allows light fixtures to achieve a sculptural quality by consciously responding to their environments and seamlessly integrating into the surrounding space. Parts are fabricated in-house or culled from local vendors and meticulously assembled by hand in their Brooklyn studio. Each piece is made to order. Rosie Li is a Chinese-born American designer focusing on sculptural lighting. Lifelong interests of drawing and sculpture led her to attend Rhode Island School of Design, where Li graduated in 2011 with a BFA in Furniture Design. Shortly after graduating, she launched her design career by partnering with Roll & Hill to produce 'Stella' – a series of Op Art-inspired mirror sconces. Li's love for lighting design eventually grew into her eponymous studio practice, where she blends geometric forms with organic elements. Her works challenge visual perception and blur the lines between product and sculpture. Rosie Li currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.


Thislexik is a contemporary furniture design studio that pushes the boundaries of how conventional materials are used. They flip the concept of form-based design on its head, working at the intersection of aesthetics, science, and humor. Founded in 2014 by multidisciplinary industrial designer Vedat Ulgen, Thislexik focuses on designing and producing high-quality handmade home goods and furniture that are unique and oftentimes conceptual, without sacrificing functionality. Thislexik approaches design with a loud and deliberate aesthetic, providing an environment to realize the unmade and unseen without boundaries or subtlety. Because they are committed to ecologically responsible and intelligent methods, Thislexik believes that what they create is just as important as where they create it. Located inside of five reclaimed shipping containers in the heart of Red Hook in Brooklyn, New York, the 1,500-square-foot studio implements an eco-friendly design for sustainability.

TOKEN is a New-York based furniture design studio established in 2007. The company is dedicated to an atelier style of development and production that provides commercial clients and collectors alike with well-crafted pieces that are richly artistic and warmly functional. All Token furniture is designed and manufactured in our Red Hook, Brooklyn studio with special attention to form and precision. Trained as both a fine artist and industrial designer, Founder and Creative Director Will Kavesh pulls from a background in sculpture, painting and engineering to create engaging forms using new techniques. Will draws from the Crafts movement that came out of early Modernism and sees Token as an extension of this philosophy through contemporary furniture design. "When I design a new piece, my hope is that its function is similar to a work of art. That it delivers an emotional response within a space to the viewer."


VOLK Furniture is a Brooklyn based studio dedicated to the design and fabrication of handcrafted, traditionally-joined and finished wood furniture. Each VOLK design is unique and carefully considered to showcase the quality of the hand-selected materials. The beauty of the solid wood is enhanced by unexpected details: drawers lined with shirting fabric; antique organ stops re-tasked as drawer pulls; inlaid shapes of glass or marble, or colorful patterns handpainted on linen. Owner and designer, Brian Volk-Zimmerman (BFA, Rhode Island School of Design) is a painter and musician who began making furniture in 2006 in a Brooklyn Navy Yard shop. He has since moved his studio to a Civil War era warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn. VOLK Furniture is named to honor a family tradition that he discovered when he found a simply constructed wooden side chair in the attic of the family farmhouse in which he grew up. The chair was one of many in the house made by his great-great-great-great grandfather, John Volk, a furniture maker of local renown in the early 19th century. The promise of VOLK Furniture is that future generations will treasure the simplicity, care and craft embodied in each piece.

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