Pandemic design wonderland in upstate New York


Despite the idealized way in which Hudson River School painters like Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church portrayed the Hudson Valley in the 19th century, for many, life there was far from romantic. Mining companies have sent hundreds of men underground. One of them, the Hudson Ore and Iron Co., has built its own hamlet with a school and housing for over 100 families. The village, known as Burden, is long gone, and the mine, closed since 1898, has since become a seven-story underground bunker for the Iron Mountain document storage company, a place to safely store faxes , microfiches, master recordings and even impressionist paintings.

Georgie Stout and David Weeks on the porch of their 19th century cottage.

Of the three miners houses still standing in Germantown, New York, one is now owned by David Weeks, 53, a Brooklyn-based lighting and product designer, and Georgie Stout, 54, a founding partner and director. creative executive of the brand agency 2 × 4. In 2015, as they searched for a getaway for themselves and their two sons, Stout said they envisioned a place “that would have a monumental feature, something that would make it more exciting for the kids.”

“That giant brick building kind of filled the bill,” Weeks says. It refers to what they call the smelter, where the mining company would repair wagons and other machinery to take away its loot. Like a Monopoly-board hotel eclipsing one of its tiny green houses, the slate-roofed structure towers over a grassy rise and the two-bedroom cottage on the nine-acre property. “The house is really cool,” says Weeks. “It’s actually a pleasure to see that it’s a big relationship with a giant structure and kind of a little intimate relationship with a little one.”

Stout describes the chalet as “very rustic and rickety in places,” a feeling they made up with a few old farmhouse tables and also cut with unnamed Modernist furniture salvaged from storage. As a young couple graduating from Rhode Island School of Design in the early ’90s, they had trolled flea markets in search of new things, which, for Weeks, included old devices with silk cords he could reuse in its first lighting projects. He says the chalet has been a great place to “drink whiskey and listen to records” in the winter; in summer, they benefit from two sleeping cabins and a swimming pond.

Using a brick machine shop on his upstate New York property, Weeks finalized a series of new brass fixtures that play serpentine lines on rounded bowls of blown glass. The collection is called Whiplash.

But the place was not a long term home until necessity made it. In the spring of 2020, as the pandemic escalated, Weeks left their 12-person design and production studio on the southern outskirts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and moved to the foundry remotely. A few power tools, a battery, a damaged lounge chair, and a 12-seat dining table came along. The 3,000-square-foot space was so large that an architect friend was able to measure his plans for a three-story brownstone in the central bay. The floors, paved with river stones, were in good condition; Weeks added a lifting mechanism to get large-scale lighting in the air and hired a local carpenter to build an imposing set of double doors. Still, his team and the majority of the work were back in the Brooklyn studio.

In the living room, one of Weeks’ Tripod floor lamps under a bow and arrow fixed to the wall.

He started sending parts for machining, not the fastest arrangement. But being 120 miles away had its creative advantages and introduced new tools and materials. “It was kind of to do with what you have,” says Weeks, who graduated from RISD with a degree in painting. “His [using] a chainsaw, or — it’s not really an expected thing. But it was just awesome. It is truly liberating. I think Thurgood Marshall said he was doing his best with what he had. It is as crucial a part of the design as the problem / solution aspect. And beauty is not a factor, it is an additional characteristic.

The fluid curve of one of the Weeks pendant lights.

Designer David Weeks has installed a new Whiplash pendant light in his upstate New York studio.

Wood became a central element of his work because it suited his new configuration. When the boys needed desks for Zoom school, he got busy and carried his results down the hill. “If anything happened here, it was part of the house,” says Stout, who was busy consulting 2 × 4 clients like Tiffany & Co. and New York’s Rockefeller Center from the family dining table.

Weeks came to think of orphan projects in Brooklyn, including its first full line of glass lighting, which had been in development since 2019. Named Whiplash, after one S-current curve in Victorian lighting and later in Art Nouveau design, the work had stalled at around 80 percent. In the upstate, he was able to refine decisions about the color and finish of shades as light fixtures hung from the foundry ceiling joists.

Inside a bedroom in the cottage, a painting of Georgie Stout’s father, Ralph Stout, hangs above a vintage leather lounge chair.

“We wanted feedback,” Weeks says. “We thought, when are we going to be able to show something except on Instagram? In 2020, he made the difficult decision to abandon his Tribeca showroom after eight years. “It was disappointing, but at the same time, I kinda like going out into something new,” he says. “We had to find a new way to show the work, and the foundry helped us reach a different audience. ”

In early 2021, informed by some advice at the table on building a solid brand experience, Weeks began planning for a spring opening. And he immersed himself in a new chandelier design that came together in three weeks from spare parts: brass arms, aluminum shade, LEDs, glass diffusers. One day, before realizing that the doors were open, he hoisted the mobile monster into the air: “The winds were passing from end to end. I was like, Oh, my God, the thing is going to fall apart!

A sleeping cabin on the property offers pastoral views from its raised porch.

He does not have. The event – pizza truck, bonfire, playlist of upbeat soul and funk – was a success, and the couple hope it will be the first in a long series. Ideally, the curatorial aspect of the Tribeca space will find its place here, says Weeks, “because it would be great to provide opportunities for the locals. A lot of people here are doing great stuff.

“It was so cathartic,” he adds. “Normally it takes three years to see it, get all the parts machined and move perfectly. And the scale of the whole is truly shameless. “

In the living room, black and white designs hang above a collection of vinyl records near a vintage yellow chair and ottoman. Weeks says the chalet has been a great place to “drink whiskey and listen to records” in the winter.

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