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Inside Steven Alan

At Home with Fort Standard

  • March 27th, 2014 | Home

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    A few weeks ago, we dropped in on Fort Standard founders Ian Collings and Gregory Buntain at their apartments in Crown Heights (Ian) and Fort Greene (Greg). The multidisciplinary design duo were busy preparing for the Architectural Digest Home Design Show and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, but were nice enough to show us around and answer some questions.

    IAN COLLINGS, CROWN HEIGHTS

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    How long have you lived in this apartment?
    Two years. I moved to New York for school ten years ago and ended up moving every couple of years.

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    Do you think you’ll stay in this space?
    I’ll stay until my needs change or feel up for a different experience. To me, my home is still very much an active space. It’s not really a place that I’m settling into or even making myself comfortable. I do quite a bit of sculptural work, and here I’ll put it up on the walls and live with it for a while, see how I feel about it, learn from it — just be around it and think about it. It feels good to hang up bits and parts of ideas I’m working on and draw inspiration from the mainstream ideas I experience every day. Aside from that I keep it minimal and pretty bare bones, yet cozy for the part of me that needs to allow my mind and body to rest.

    Before I lived here I was living with five people in a loft — a bit insane, but some of the most fun I’ve ever had. It was all artists and designers so there was always some crazy happening or event and I like that aspect of how our space functioned. I moved here around the same time that I started Fort Standard with Greg and my whole life was just becoming more focused and calm. Now two/three years later I think I’m maybe getting to that point where I’m looking for a place where I’ll probably stay for a while, and that’s probably where I’ll relax into the idea of making it more comfortable, but regardless, I’m sure my living space will always need to appease this active mind I have.

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    Has living around these inspiring objects resulted in any specific pieces you’ve designed for yourself or for Fort Standard?
    Living with things like these sculptures has helped bring to my attention a much broader spectrum of how objects function–from where they are purely emotional to when they cross over and become a more practical utilitarian idea. One end very much informs the other with all the variation in between. But if I hadn’t allowed myself the freedom to just make things for no other reason than I felt like doing it, I doubt I would have the spectrum of thought that I enjoy. I feel like no matter what you spend your time doing, it’s bound to come out in your work.

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    We imagine you don’t spend much time at home, between all of your projects.
    Yeah, I don’t spend much time here at all–it’s really just more of my weekend getaway. We get started early and work until 8 or 9, and it’s not uncommon to work past midnight for a deadline or even some sort of personal project. So by the time I get home it’s shower and bed for the most part.

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    You have quite the rock collection. Where are they from? Do you make a point to pick up stones everywhere you go?
    These are from all over the world. It’s not that I make a point to pick things up — I just can’t help myself. It’s actually a problem. There’s something about stone, obviously, that I’m into. It’s everywhere.

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    Do you cook often?
    I do, but not here. We cook all the time at the studio. We have a great fire place that doubles as a cook pit for just about every meal. Our shopmates Brian Persico and Pat Kim actually built a rotisserie and since we are near Fairway, we sometimes go a little crazy.

    Since I eat most of my meals at the shop, it’s turned into the place I keep my groceries, and half the time I catch myself making a sandwich to bring home . . .

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    Can you tell us about what’s on your walls?
    These [sculptural pieces] are all slate. It comes in sheet form, like a countertop would. I carved it down. The paintings are from a cousin of mine, Lauren Collings, and good friend James Moore. The paintings are unbelievable, I really love them all. The ones from Lauren are actually studies. A lot of her paintings are much larger scale. She has a studio in Greenpoint. We trade a little bit here and there.

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    Is there something sentimental that always comes with you wherever you move?
    I think everything I own has sentimental value. Everything that I have has a story — otherwise it doesn’t really stick around very long. A good friend introduced me to the idea that you should never give something that doesn’t mean something to you already — my idea of gift-giving has changed ever since. The things coming in and out of my life are always very meaningful to me. I do buy things from time to time, but it never beats putting my own hands into its creation or taking something that I really love or that means something to me and giving it away.

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    GREGORY BUNTAIN, FORT GREENE

    greg

    You’ve lived in your apartment for eight years, which is almost unheard of in New York.
    I moved here when I was a sophomore at Pratt. My landlord is this older lady from Trinidad and is the nicest, kindest woman. She’s only raised my rent $150 in the past eight years. She’s too nice to be a landlord.

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    You can probably never leave.
    There was one point where I was actually looking for another place, maybe five years ago, and everything was less space for more money with no neighborhood. I just really lucked out.

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    Ian explained how your apartments are quite different, in that yours is more comfortable and feels much more like a home. Do you spend much time here?
    Not really. More and more, recently, I have put in some more work just because I’m trying to spend more time at home, and it is nice to be comfortable.

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    {The sewing machine I actually picked up from Steven Alan. It was in the basement of the Home Shop, when we were designing the store.  It’s great because it’s a super industrial sewing machine so I can sew leather, which is nice.}

    It looks like you’ve put in a lot of Fort Standard pieces and built some of the shelving.
    Yeah. I’ve designed most of the stuff here. There’s a Fort Standard side table, and I actually designed the desk for West Elm when I had just graduated. I built the shelving, and designed and built the chairs. There are some stone versions, and Sight Unseen actually just did a feature on them. I designed the shelves. I just picked a dresser up last week and built a base for it — I thought it needed to be off the ground a bit.

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    It must be nice to be able to just build or modify things to get what you need.
    It’s really nice. Ian and I always talk about it — I don’t know how most people get by.

    What are some of your favorite features of the apartment?
    I don’t know — I’ve been here for so long that I’ve been able to grow into it totally organically, so things are always changing a little bit. It’s really nice being able to not only design and create things, but bring that into your living space, and to be able to really design your lifestyle.

    One of my favorite things about the apartment is that it has all of these little nooks and alcoves, with ornate moldings.

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    The alcoves are perfect for displaying your collections of objects. What are you collecting these days?
    Recently I’ve been getting some more tools. The axes are pretty fun. I bought the heads on eBay and then sharpened and re-handled them.

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    {This is when it becomes obvious that I’ve been here for so long}

    Do you think a lot of the things you grew up with influenced your designs or aesthetic?
    I think both of my parents have really good taste. When I was in high school I wasn’t really into the arts. My school didn’t really have much of a program to speak of, but my father was always into photography and art. He was like a machinist at one point in his life so at a a very young age I just started working with my hands, taking things apart and figuring out how they work, which I think was really important for me because I just was constantly building.

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    {I actually grew up with these side tables but they were plated brass and the finish was coming off so I had them nickel plated and had some gold mirror cut for them. The tombstone chairs I made are Bahia Blue Granite which comes from Brazil.}

    Do you cook often?
    A decent amount. My girlfriend cooks more. She’s an incredible cook so I rarely have to (or am allowed to). The studio is where I do most of my cooking. We have a wood fireplace which is really nice, with a rotisserie setup. It’s kind of insane because we’re next to a Fairway as well so the combination is pretty amazing. We eat like kings every day. It’s nice because we’re in a co-op space so there’s always someone cooking.

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    {The terrarium is Fort Standard. This mirror has kind of a cool story. It’s from BDDW and they have an archery club. I won that at their annual “Weenie Roast” competition for shooting a fake deer from the back of an old Land Rover Safari truck.}

    What are some spots you like to frequent in the neighborhood?
    I really like Walter’s — that’s one of my favorites. Roman’s is good as well. I used to go to the Brooklyn Public House quite a bit but they just shut down.

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    {The floor light is one of our designs, that was licensed to Roll & Hill. It’s part of the same “Counterweight” line that Ian has over his table.}

    You’re busy preparing for some shows right now. What do you have coming up?
    Yeah, we’re getting ready for the Architectural Digest show, as well as ICFF in May, which is pretty big for us because we’ve never brought our furniture into market ourselves. We’ve just never really had the time. It’s pretty exciting. We’re also going to be launching some new lighting this Spring.

    Many thanks to Ian and Greg! You can find Fort Standard products in our shops and web store, and learn more about the designers here.

    - Photos by Connie Wang; second photo Maleeha Sambur

    This entry was posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014 at 4:21 pm and is filed under Home. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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