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New YorkBoutiques
Two years ago, when the Manhattan design
mecca Moss closed after
 years in business—
a result of high overhead costs and sputtering
sales—many wondered what future, if any, such stores had in the city. The increase of
online sales and the rise of sites like Fab and 1stdibs only added to the uncertainty.
Four newcomer shops may hold the answer.
Though each is very different in concept, the
boutiques, all of which opened last fall, reflect
the strong visions of those who own and run them. Powerhouse chains like Crate & Barrel and Design Within Reach may have financial
might and host the most floor space—DWR
recently opened a
-square-foot flag-ship in Midtown, for example—but there’s still a place for smaller retail environments
of the high-end variety. These new spaces are personal and intimate, with well-made, often hard-to-get products presented in a thought-ful yet accessible way.
“Our design world is so intensely curated
and run over,” says the
-year-old fur-niture and lighting designer David Weeks,
who recently opened his own showroom on
Walker Street in Tribeca after being repre-
sented by the gallerist Ralph Pucci for about
a decade. “Everyone knows about every
product now. It’s not like you can be that guy who says, ‘Oh, I’ve got that special sheepskin
whatever,’ because it’s already available in five other stores. You have to find that weird thing or unknown designer, or do an edition no one
else has.”
For Weeks, it hasn’t proved very difficult
to do editions no one else has: Most of the
lighting, furniture, and accessory collections
in his shop are his own, and many of the pieces
aren’t available elsewhere. He adds, though,
that having a brick-and-mortar store has pro-
vided a strong foundation for the brand and
a boost to its post-Pucci reputation. “All of a
sudden people take you much more seriously,” he says. “They know your commitment level.”
Next door to Weeks’s space on Walker
Street is Stillfried Wien, run by the Austrian couple Anna and Michael Trubrig. (Anna,
previously worked in the fine arts; Michael,
was a hedge-fund manager.) Upon deciding to
move to the U.S. and open the store, they felt a loft wouldn’t make a big enough impact for their entrée into the New York design scene.
So they found a ground-floor space with, in
Michael’s words, “presence,” and then had the
Vienna-based firm Kim + Heep design it. He
adds, “For the segment we’re in, you need a
brick-and-mortar store. I don’t think you can
sell these things purely online.”
Stillfried Wien primarily carries contem-porary furniture from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland—countries familiar to the
Trubrigs and close to their hearts. Brands in
stock include e
, Team
, and Nils Holger
Moormann; the store serves as the exclusive U.S. importer for several of the manufactur-
ers on its floors and shelves, among them Bullenberg and Spolia. The pieces, many of them rare—at least in the U.S.—demand to
be seen and experienced in person. “Most of
the people who come in here say they want to
touch and try the pieces,” Anna says.
Curiosity and tactility also draw visitors
to Atelier Courbet, located on Mott Street in Nolita and run by the French-born entrepre-neur Melanie Courbet. Central to the store’s
ethos is the value of master craftsmanship. Courbet,
 is especially interested in mul-tigenerational French and Japanese makers,
but the pieces in her store come from all over. “I look for pieces that come from a workshop that has a history of passing along techniques
with a great level of discipline and training,”
she says.
After a career in art and design that included
stints working for the architect Thom Mayne
and designer Dror Benshetrit, Courbet decided to open the store, which she says
“reflects a personality or lifestyle that touches
me.” She adds, “We’re not selling things for
value that may appreciate; we’re selling things
for our client to appreciate their value.”
The furniture, lighting, accessories, and textiles in Courbet’s store come from a wide range of makers and brands, includ-
ing Domeau & Pérès, Puiforcat, and Oyuna. The space also features an adjacent room for
exhibitions. Earlier this year, in collaboration
with arts patron Sabine de Gunzburg, the
store showed a series of six artist rugs, includ-
ing an edition of three by Frank Gehry, and
(OPPOSITE) From left, Michael and Anna Trubrig of Stillfried Wien, Melanie Courbet of Atelier Courbet, David Weeks of David Weeks Studio, and Diego Paccagnella of Design-Apart at the Manhattan workspace collective Neuehouse. (NEXT SPREAD) Clockwise from top left, the interiors of Atelier Courbet, David Weeks Studio, Stillfried Wien, and Design-Apart. (FOLLOWING SPREAD, LEFT TO RIGHT) The custom kitchen by TMItalia in the Design-Apart space on West 25th Street. David Weeks’s Tripod floor lamp and Cubebot figures in his new Tribeca store.
from May
 through June
 it’s presenting
an exhibit on Dutch craftsmanship curated
by Amsterdam-based designer Aldo Bakker.
Breaking the ground-floor retail mold is Design-Apart, an apartment-turned-show-
room concept founded by Italian-born design
advisor Diego Paccagnella. His aim is to con-
nect the client with the design process and show the pieces—mostly from Italy-based designers and manufacturers—as they’re intended to be used: inside an actual living quarters. More than a store, Design-Apart
is really a platform. Paccagnella believes the commercial aspect disappears from his busi-
ness and gives the client a “more complete, deeper idea” of how each product is made
and used.
“You can walk into many Italian design
showrooms in Soho, but you’re not invited
to participate in the design process,” says
, who opened the first Design-
Apart space on West
th Street and plans to bring the concept to Australia later this year.
(Each year, he plans to move into a differ-
ent New York loft.) “It’s hard to know that
behind those products there are very skill-
ful people who could help you realize your own sofa.”
Collaborating with designers such as Jaime
Hayon, Lanzavecchia + Wai, and Renata Bonfanti—as well as brands like TMItalia,
Elica, and Berto—Paccagnella has furnished, accessorized, and customized the apartment,
where Design-Apart hosts events, dinners,
and talks. His intent is to showcase new ways in which design can be made today, whether
in small production runs, with
-D print-
ing, or in other “very specific, very accurate,
very experimental ways.” He adds, “The idea is that the designs here are
mass-production.” Connecting these store concepts are prod-
ucts of uncompromising quality and New York City itself, which Weeks describes as “ground zero” for design retail. Though
having a location in the city certainly helps
in establishing a brand, well-made products
of lasting value remain the ultimate selling
point. “I think people more and more want
to buy furniture for the long-term,” says
Michael Trubrig.
Adds Courbet, “People want to acquire
pieces they’ll be proud of and happy to pass
along to their grandchildren. When you’re
inheriting your grandma’s china or silverware,
those aren’t pieces she bought at Ikea.”
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