At Bklyn Designs: A Purple Heart

Hurrah for Brooklyn! Hurrah for the future! Hurrah for the re-used, the re-claimed, the re-purposed! Help, I feel Walt Whitman welling up within. Best to change course before I wax sentimental. Whoops, too late.

Solid Walnute Purple Heart Dining Table. Designed by Eric Manigian.

To Brooklyn, “The great city is that which has the greatest man or woman: if it be a few ragged huts, it is still the greatest city in the whole world.” To Brooklyn’s designers, iconoclasts all: “He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.” And to the human race in want of inspiration, “after you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on-have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear-what remains? Nature remains.”

As I explore the offerings at Brooklyn Designs, I’m quite impressed by the uniform insistence on creating without destroying, on finding innovation within constraint, on improving upon and exceeding what has gone before (Whitman-fellow Brooklynite-would be aflush with pride). How’s this for a metaphor of what I grasp at herewith: Eric Manigian’s Solid Walnut Purple Heart Dining Table, constructed from reclaimed wood. Manigian makes hand-crafted pieces from solid wood with old world techniques. We’re talking hammer and chisel; mortise, tenon, and mitre; dovetail and dado. All the work is custom in the sense that Manigian only uses found wood-”hand-selected from small millers who receive fallen, diseased, or discarded trees.” Thus, each workpiece conveys an individualism that influences Manigian’s vision, an interplay that he likens to “an improvisational process, balancing design, craftsmanship and wood’s natural qualities. The dialogue between these elements results in furniture that is spare but which quietly reveals a richness of detail.”

At Bklyn Designs: A Purple Heart

While most of his furniture is minimalist, with clean lines and sharp angles, each piece has an essential quality that sets it apart. The Purple Heart table illustrates: a simple slab atop subtly in-sloped twin supports, the construction is understated yet evocative. The cross pieces that provide the under-structure for the slab hearken back to Japanese Timber Frame techniques, while the integration of the wood’s striking hue (more of a technicolor magenta, actually) with the sedate tones of dark walnut counterpoise the old to the new. While conventionally beautiful, the table’s palette recalls colorization-that over-extension (some might argue misuse) of technology that tried to re-make the past, that allowed us to see Gone With the Wind or It’s a Wonderful Life as they were never meant to be seen. Though a commercial failure, colorization created something beautiful-albeit surreal and bizarre-by its attempt to co-opt what had gone before. I’d argue that Manigian has done something similar here (absent the surrealism). His Purple Heart Dining Table re-visits the past to create the future, showing a certain respect for nature while simultaneously re-envisioning its inert materiality, and, in the process, paying homage to both.

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