Over the past ten years, design in Brooklyn has changed dramatically. My very first posts on Design*Sponge were inspired by and dedicated to the exciting and innovative independent designers that were filling every garage, studio and pop-up shop in the borough. Student designers were informing and shaping the design landscape along with self-taught artists and designers and their work had an electricity and intensity that was palpable. They were creating outside of the mainstream and doing something so different from what we were seeing across the country at the time that everyone noticed. But like all movements, things change. There is always a moment when what was counter-culture or outside of the mainstream starts to become the norm, rather than the exception. In the case of Brooklyn design, I think the legacy of that first generation of designers is an appreciation for salvaged, recycled and recyclable materials. I remember seeing scrap wood used prominently for the first time and now almost every major retailer highlights found materials and salvaged objects as being a part of their collection.
That change was evident at this year’s BKLYN Designs, which reflected a slightly more corporate and higher-end market than the community I associate most with our borough. The press event that preceded the opening touted the major real estate developments taking place in DUMBO and we were jokingly encouraged to buy apartments in these new buildings. While I’m aware that comment was made because of several development firms were among the show’s sponsors, I couldn’t help but think that those same designers who made up the first wave of Brooklyn design would never be able to afford the multi-million dollar apartments that are now being associated with “Brooklyn Design”.
The affect that Brooklyn design has had on the international design community was celebrated at this year’s show with a display of Japanese design work held at the Brooklyn Roasting Company. Their exhibition was touted as being inspired by Brooklyn design, though the overall aesthetic (which was beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the show) was distinctly Japanese. Some techniques were on display that reminded me of the early 2000s in Brooklyn (using copper plates and natural oxidation to create patterns), but overall I thought the show was a wonderful celebration of the sort of clever, functional and wonderfully minimalist design that we’ve come to associate with contemporary Japanese design.
There were several highlights at the show this year and I’m still so glad that a show exists to celebrate the talent coming from this borough. I hope that in future years there will be a place for more small-scale independent designers (there were just over 30 vendors at this year’s show), but perhaps trade shows in general are becoming harder for independent artists working outside of the higher-end market to afford. Either way, we’ll continue to visit them all looking for the latest and greatest in our community.
Click through for our favorites from BKLYN Designs 2014
Coffee Table and Cutting Board by Coil + Drift
Charlie table by SAW Home
Side Tables and console by Katy Skelton.
Skateboards made from wood veneer and from copper sheets (that have been taped off and exposed to different weathering methods to create a contrasting pattern) by Chaki Japan
Coat rack and table by Rather Well Design.
Cups made of coffee grounds, magnetic rings and naturally oxidizing copper trays from Oy Objects of Japan.
Metal switch plates and trays by Aizara Japan (this is the URL on their press materials, though it seems to be down at the moment. I couldn’t find a working website or social media page for them).
Oxidized copper collection from Tone Japan. (Oxidized copper was a big theme of this section of the show)
Bags, brooch and furniture by Kurasuhito Kurasutokoro.