July 5, 2015
Q&A with New Showroom Global Home
Joe Giamarese and Vivian Hung, the husband-and-wife team behind the new Flatiron showroom Global Home, answer our questions on their incredible finds and gorgeous wares.
by New York Spaces
NYS: Can you tell our readers about your life-altering journey in early 2000?
Global Home: It started with a cocktail napkin. We had just returned from a fantastic Italian vacation when we immediately started talking about where to go next. As we had cocktails, we each listed our individual wish list. We compared and compiled about 50 places, and only two matched. Realizing the impossibility of seeing all these places in our lifetime with just two weeks off a year, we hatched a plan; Save money for a year, quit our jobs and then travel around the world for a year and a half. We squirreled away our dollars, stopped going out, sold our belongings and bought really large backpacks. Then after a huge going away party in our Williamsburg loft, we flew off to Rio de Janeiro on Jan 23rd, 2000. This is before airbnb.com, blogs, smartphones or Wifi. Once that plane took off, we really were cutting the cord of our cushy urban fast-paced life to one without direction except to explore.
NYS: What did you learn by traveling through 21 countries on six continents in a year and a half?
GH: 1. People are generally good and want the same things in life as you and me. Happiness, love, enough food for themselves and their family, warm shelter and a better life for their loved ones. Skin color, religion, and culture add variety but the motivation for all is pretty much the same.
2. As people of the first world, we have no excuses to not live fully. Witnessing true poverty first-hand, we saw life's worst consequences. The likelihood of our lives ending up like that are close to nil. If the worst things will never happen, then what is holding you back from making your dreams happen?
3. There are incredible artisans all around the world creating beauty everyday. We were fortunate to go to remote villages to see the craft work being produced for everyday living. This pride and creativity put into every piece humbled us. And made us want to share the work with everyone.
4. Be kind. A little bit can go a long way.
NYS: What was it like returning to your corporate jobs after all that time living free and seeing the world?
GH: Pretty depressing, quite honestly. Our plan once we returned home was to paint henna tattoos on the beach to make a living during the Summer. So when we got offered jobs right away, our mindset was not geared to corporate thinking. We were so fortunate to get positions in companies that many would literally kill for but our hearts were not in it. We quickly got back into the pace of NYC life but our drive to climb the ladder had died. Despite our efforts to fake it we probably were not the best employees. Apologies to our former bosses. Then September 11th happened and we knew that it was a sign we couldn't wait to put into motion our next adventure.
NYS: What precipitated your desire to start Global Home?
GH: We were always interiors and home obsessed. From the start of our relationship, we spent an extraordinary time visiting home stores or discussing the design decisions made to put together the latest bars or restaurants. Our trip around the world opened our eyes to where the home items and furniture were being manufactured as well as design styles from different regions. We even discussed importing items into the US while we were traveling so the concept was always in the back of our minds. 'Wouldn't it be great to travel and buy things to sell?" But what really pushed us past the tipping point was the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun'. Diane Lane plays a newly divorced woman who runs off to Italy and on a whim buys a dilapidated farmhouse to renovate. It is essentially a story about following your heart. We were so inspired by this sappy movie while sitting in our own dilapidated country house that we quit our jobs the next week. We drove into our country town and found the perfect spot to start our business on Main Street. That was in 2004.
NYS: You have been open now for almost three months. What has the experience been like?
GH: Exciting and scary in a rollercoaster riding way. Even though this is not our first time opening up a showroom, it is our first where the stakes are so high. As you can imagine, the cost of running a retail operation in Manhattan is quite high, so every business decision feels critical. That said, we LOVE every minute of it. We have already met many lovely people and interior designers that have become customers. It's been a real pleasure introducing people to our brand and aesthetic. Thus far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
NYS: What is your aim when setting up your products in the showroom?
GH: We love contrasts. We love juxtaposing dissimilar styles and creating harmony from chaos. When we display products in our showroom, we're keenly aware that many people would never mix together the items we do, in the way we do. This is also a key tenet in our interior design. Playing with scale, pattern, texture, color. Often our clients our incredulous of our plans, but come around when they see everything together. The composition is critical. It takes a keen eye.
NYS: You both have an incredible eye. Where did this affinity to design and interiors come from?
GH: We have no idea. We can show you photos of the interiors of the homes in which we grew up and that would explain absolutely nothing. Sometimes it was pretty awful. Perhaps the 1970's were to blame. It's hard to say. But most likely our interest in interiors is a correction from this state of affairs. Vivian was an Art History major and we both are obsessed with Italy and travelled there extensively throughout our lives. In Italy, nearly everything is built with an eye to design. Every town is planned so that every last corner turned offers a pleasing vista. Every window is adorned with geraniums. Some of that has got to rub off. Then take that experience and expand on them by a power of two with an intensive trip around the world. Top it off with a stint for Joe at VOGUE and Vivian at Martha Stewart Living combined with a decade in the furniture business and, bam, there's your "eye".
NYS: Do you apply these talents to interiors? Can a consumer hire you to design their country home or apartment?
GH: Yes. We have designed many country home interiors upstate. And many of our upstate clients have had us design their NYC apartments' interiors as well. So, yes. We are for hire in New York City, The Catskills, and anywhere else it makes sense.
NYS: Where can we see examples of your work with interiors?
NYS: What has been the most rewarding part of this journey you have taken together?
GH: Working side by side with your best friend to create a life for our family where we wake up and go to bed fulfilled by creating our own destiny. Also, creating dream-homes for clients. That means a lot.
If you could take home one product in your showroom today, what would it be?
Vivian: Laura Kirar's Tassel Lamps
Joe: The Genoa blue velvet sectional
NYS: We fell in love with a John Delaney photograph you had of a Kazakh Nomad Chief's daughter in a village in Mongolia Can you tell us the story behind this photographs?
GH: John stayed with these nomadic Kazakh families of Mongolia several times over a 10 year span. He rode, hunted, ate and drank at their tables, becoming a welcome observer of their traditions. The Kazakhs capture their eagles while young, often directly from their cliff side nests. Only the females are taken because they are large and more aggressive hunters. After 7 years of training and living together, the hunter and the eagle are bound in survival. In the harsh conditions of the Siberian Winters, the food and fur provided by these hunts are essential to their livelihood. This tradition is reserved for the men of this tribe. This girl is the only female hunter John met during his time there. Her father who was set to have his portrait taken by John instead brought her in. The pride in her face, the intricately embroidered attire that matched with her bird's armor (a falcon) tells of a special girl who broke the traditions of her people. She is just a bad-ass.
NYS: You truly do have a global aesthetic. What styles are you most drawn to?
GH: It's difficult because we are drawn to so many disparate styles. It's more about what we are drawn to mixing together. If there's something so glam it's disco, its got to be paired with a rustic hemp rug. Something so refined as a crystal end table, well then by all means put a brutalist concrete sculpture atop. Got a silk sofa? Pair it with a wood stump coffee table. It's all about the tension between styles that really gets us going.
NYS: What are some of the exceptional pieces you have in the showroom today?
GH: Here's a handful of the hundred or so items in the showroom we're obsessed with right now (it's not healthy):
- The Selene Mirror: http://www.globalhomeny.com/collections/mirrors/products/selenemirror
- The Julie Low Cabinet: http://www.globalhomeny.com/collections/storage-andshelving/products/julie-low-cabinet
- The Chrysalis Dining Table: http://www.globalhomeny.com/collections/tables-anddesks/products/chrysalis-dining-table
- The Blossom Swivel Chair: http://www.globalhomeny.com/collections/sofa-andsectionals/products/blossom-swivel-chair
- The Badaya Lamp: http://www.globalhomeny.com/collections/lighting/products/badayalamp
- The Aqua Verde Rug: http://www.globalhomeny.com/collections/rugs-1/products/aquaverde-rug
NYS: We are obsessed with your limited-edition candles. How and why did you decide to make your own?
GH: Thank you! We've always wanted to make our own products. Perhaps this is a foray into that. The candles are really a labor of love for us and a true team effort; a collaboration of some of our favorite and most talented friends. Thomas Renaud out of Portland, OR worked with us to design the most beautiful, limited-edition vessel. Then he sat down at his potter's wheel for weeks and turned out 250 or them. We are in love with these. We are in love with Tom. The ladies at Soap and Paper Factory out of Congers, NY are some of the most wonderful people we know. We laugh so hard together that our sides hurt. They are also genius scent creators. To get at the scent for our Global Home candle, they pulled our thoughts apart and turned them into a scent that evokes some of our most cherished memories from our travels. We're not sure how they did it, but they did. The result is intoxicating. Cherry Blossoms from Kyoto, cardamom from India, citrus from Sicily, and (somehow) the very air in Bali. Lisa Devo of S&PF worked tirelessly to get it right. And she did!
NYS: What can we expect from you next?
GH: A vacation please. But after that, we'd love to really embed ourselves in the community here in the Flatiron District and the surrounding neighborhoods in New York. We'd love to work toward being a "must" destination when people are making decisions about furnishing their homes. Further down the line, we'd love to develop (or at least inspire) our own product line. We'd also love to bring Global Home to other markets in the US. We live in Princeton, NJ which is almost equi-distant to New York and Philadelphia – so Philly would make a lot of sense. But we also see our brand doing well in Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago and a host of other cities that have proven to be good e-commerce markets for us over the years.