Shop Tour

Shop Tour: The Primary Essentials

by Maxwell Tielman

Over the past few years, we have witnessed what might be called the rise of a new aesthetic. With whisperings found at design shows, craft fairs, and artists’ studios, this new style melds contemporary notions of small-batch craft production, the aesthetic of Postmodernism, and the impulses of minimalism. One might call it the more cerebral cousin of the 21st century’s craft revival; an offshoot that seeks to elevate the status of traditional and domestic handicraft to that of high art.

Every new design movement needs its taste-makers, its curators, its organizers; people who define the aesthetic by taking seemingly disparate threads and weaving them into a cohesive whole. Lauren Snyder, the proprietor of Brooklyn’s The Primary Essentials, is one such person. Opened in the fall of 2013 with the goal of providing “new outlets for unique beauty,” Lauren’s shop has in many ways become emblematic of this new trend.

Although the term “curation” has become anathema to many at this point, there doesn’t really seem any other way to describe what Lauren does. At Primary Essentials, she has brought together some of today’s most exciting new talents (Caroline Z. Hurley, Hopewell, Chiaozza, Recreation Center — the list goes on) and presented them in a fashion that is just as interesting as the objects themselves. From the shop’s dotted exterior signage to the long central table that houses all manner of craft objects, to the rear windows that contain an indoor garden of houseplants, Lauren has managed to cultivate an aesthetic that champions materiality, form, and warmth while keeping everything pared down to, yes, The Primary Essentials. A beautiful exploration of rich materials (palissandro blue marble, butternut hardwood, decorative encaustic tile) and considered restraint (surfaces are kept markedly clean and all excess is tucked behind wall-to-wall, custom-built cabinetry), the shop presents itself almost like a gallery. With room to breathe, objects are allowed come to the fore, their sculptural and artistic considerations heightened. For both its serenity and on-point interpretation of contemporary craft, The Primary Essentials is most definitely worth the trip to Downtown Brooklyn. —Max


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  • Very inspiring, I have been looking for a shop space for years now, but I keep rethinking the whole idea, as opening a brick and mortar shop on top of running my own brand would put a lot of strain on me, so I really admire and respect the people that go ahead with this dream specially when it is done so well.

  • For better or worse, this style has absolutely taken over my home of Portland, OR. I see the trend as rather exclusionary and white in more ways than one. Very aspirational. It’s nice to have enough money to pretend you aren’t a consumer, I guess? That’s my take away from the New Minimalism. I understand everyone has different tastes, but at least where I live it has become completely homogenous. I think I wouldn’t be so critical of the trend (I do like minimalism) if it didn’t “seek to elevate …domestic handcraft to high art”. This is very subjective and just lends to the commodification of basic needs

    • nicole

      i see your point, and don’t disagree entirely, but i think the idea of elevating domestic handcraft to art is a worthwhile pursuit- and one that doesn’t necessarily equate to pretension or any particular ethnicity. handcraft and domestic arts are something with a long history throughout the world- and one that doesn’t come with a high price tag. while there will ALWAYS be some people who choose to take any interest to an extreme (either in quantity or price), i think a lot of people are into this style right now because it allows everyday domestic goods to be appreciated on the same level as “fine art” and means that work that doesn’t necessarily come with a high price tag can be just as special and worth of being the center of attention as high-cost goods.