Kevin Sharkey shares his favorite design shops in New York City -- and the textiles, furniture, and books he's loving right now.
It's rare, but every once in a while, I find myself in New York City on a quiet weekend morning with no plans for the day ahead. With my schedule wide open, I happily spend an entire Saturday visiting my favorite home-goods shops. I'm transported to my version of a dream world -- one filled with a treasure trove of exquisitely embroidered fabrics, midcentury finds, and antiques.
My first stop is Ankasa, on Broome Street, which carries luxurious and expertly designed pillows, bedding, furniture, lighting, wall art, and other accessories. Ankasa is owned by husband-and-wife team Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia, fashion designers (with an eponymous women's wear line) who also bring a couture sensibility to textiles. The couple's unique perspective and unbridled creativity draw me in. While decorative pillows are just part of the collection, they are, I think, the highlight of the shop. With cases hand-embroidered in Mumbai, India, each pillow's color, design, size, and shape show off an acute attention to detail. These pillows are the standard by which I judge all others.
Next, I head west via Spring Street to Wyeth, an ever-evolving emporium of midcentury furnishings from all over the globe. The store is organized like an art gallery, allowing the inventory to shine. I have spent many hours with Martha and Alexis (both fans of midcentury-modern style) at the New York City shop, and we've even visited its outpost in the Hamptons. The collection is impressive on its own, but a major bonus is to be able to turn to the knowledgeable staff for an item's history. I love learning about the journey a piece of furniture took to get here, including my favorite purchase from the store -- a Dunbar coffee table.
A cab ride to my old neighborhood -- the Upper East Side -- is worth the detour to visit L. Becker Flowers, on East 83rd Street. Owner Larry Becker's work is always chic without being too over the top or, worse, too subtle. His flower choices and presentation are incredibly considered -- only Becker would know to pick black petunias or to groom the flowers just so. And I recently received from the shop a perfect arrangement of tweedia, a powder-blue flower.
But I don't just visit L. Becker Flowers to see the flowers. (In fact, strangely, I've seen arrangements in his shop only twice.) Instead of buckets of flowers and the usual flower-shop clutter, the narrow spaces that make up L. Becker Flowers are filled with vignettes of antique ceramics, furniture, garden accessories, blown-glass pieces, metalwork, and art. The disparate odds and ends come together like a cabinet of curiosities. Captivated by Becker's collections, I take my time choosing something to bring home before stepping outside the shop and back into reality.
On My Bookshelf
Furniture isn't the only thing I collect. I tend to stockpile books. This fall, I'll read:
"The Game in the Dark" to Martha's granddaughter, Jude (Phaidon, October 2012). And for myself, I'll buy "Doris Duke's Shangri-La: A House in Paradise" (Rizzoli, September 2012) and "Gypset Travel" (Assouline, September 2012), a colorful exploration of how the gypset (gypsy + jet-set) live.