Finding a place to live is never easy, but beginning Friday, furnishing your home with style and originality can be a cinch. This year’s edition of BKLYN Designs, the annual bazaar of avant-garde furniture and house wares, will convene 70 exhibitors who design or manufacture goods in the borough.
The three-day event, the biggest in its six-year history, opens on Friday, May 9, and will sprawl over four DUMBO locations — St. Ann’s Warehouse, The Tobacco Warehouse, Smack Mellon art gallery and the DUMBO Arts Center.
“This year, there will be 28 brand new exhibitors, and that’s a big number for us,” said organizer Karen Auster. “The great thing about BKLYN Designs is that some of these small companies launch with us and end up with so many orders that they outgrow it. We hope for that. We want great success for them!”
Auster’s plan seems to be working. She cited designers like DUMBO-based City Joinery, which she said, “does most of [its] sales at BKLYN Designs every year.”
Another addition to this year’s lineup is a bigger-than-ever showing from “green” designers. Uhuru Design, a Red Hook-based firm specializing in furniture made from recycled and repurposed materials, is known for launching new products at BKLYN Designs each year, and it’s just one of 18 eco-friendly exhibitors.
“It’s great [for buyers] to be able to meet the designers and have them explain their work and the significance of the design decisions,” said Uhuru’s Bill Hilgendorf. “Focus on sustainability has been big for the past few years, and it’s been great for designers to be able to explain to clients why it’s good, how we are able to be sustainable and why you should buy into that.”
“We’re definitely into promoting Brooklyn,” he added. “We’ve stuck with BKLYN Designs because we feel like it’s a good place for us to launch products.” This year, Uhuru will be launching a line of furniture made from reclaimed Kentucky bourbon barrels. Included will be a lounge chair, coffee table, bench and end table.
Uhuru won’t be the only design group flaunting new material. Auster cites new items like the “Sorapot” kettle by Greenpoint resident Joey Roth as an example of “ordinary items becoming design-savvy pieces.”
Other materials making their debut at BKLYN Designs include Cobble Hill resident Jill Malek’s nature-inspired wallpapers (“She makes wallpaper look like art,” said Auster) and customized furniture from Vexell.
BKLYN Designs isn’t just a shopping trip, however. In addition to the vendors, the event has organized a dozen events — ranging from an opening-night, keynote speech from designer Sami Hayek (brother of actress Salma) to a Mother’s Day crafts workshop — to keep the design savvy attendees educated and entertained.
Although New York hosts a number of design events, including the International Art + Design Fair in October, BKLYN Designs has the distinction of being on the cutting edge of what is being shown.
“You have to design or manufacture in Brooklyn to even be eligible,” said Auster. “We have applications coming from all over the country, but you really have to be a Brooklyn designer. I know someone who moved their business to the borough just to be part of BKLYN Designs.”
Hilgendorf added, “It has the feeling of a fresher group, and people expect to see new stuff.”
And when BKLYN Designs rolls into DUMBO, that’s exactly what they’ll get.