A Visit to Still House

Design Store(y) heads to the East Village this holiday season to tour Still House, owned by Pratt graduate Urte Tylaite. The 300-square-foot sliver of a space was designed by Brooklyn-based firm Silva/Bradshaw, and features wood plank floors, a dropped wood plank ceiling, narrow wood plank shelving along the walls, and plywood display cases down the middle. Tylaite features items from local designers, plus pieces from Scandinavia and Japan. Still House opened its doors a bit over 18 months ago; we’ve been dying to get inside.

Did you search for storefront for a long time?

It took almost two years to find a spot for the store. I guess I just wasn’t truly ready for it first, now that I think about it. One afternoon, after getting off work, I took a walk in East Village and saw a sign in the window here. Even though the previous tenants used it as an office and it had three walls that had to come down, I knew right away I wanted it. I called the number in the window and signed the lease within two weeks.

Do you love the East Village? 

I am really happy to be here. Even though I never lived here, I always spent time here, working or going out with friends. I love the neighborhood’s sense of community. Of course, it is still very fast and vibrant, and New York City-like.

Where did you get the name Still House?

I just put two of my favorite words together. For me, the word ‘still’ represents the complete opposite of the fast and vibrant energy of New York City, and so therefore it brings balance. I often find myself longing for stillness. I am reading this highly entertaining book right now by Bill Bryson called, A Walk in the Woods, about his experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail. Early on in the book, he observes: “. . . there is something innately sinister about [woods], some ineffable thing that makes you sense an atmosphere of pregnant doom with every step and leaves you profoundly aware that you are out of your element and ought to keep your ears pricked.” It was one of those ‘Eureka!’ moments for me, because that’s the kind of stillness I am thinking about. No one would argue that woods are not still, but there is that deeper element to them. As for the word ‘house,’ it is our home, our shelter, our personal space, and a place one always returns to. Still House aims to help everyone create an environment that’s always welcoming, but just slightly off-putting and different.

What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?

Learning to let go, for sure. I love my customers and I love being in the store. I found quite a few friends through it, and have met a lot of interesting people. To help business grow, I need to step out and work on other parts of it. I need to let other people enjoy that role of being in the store and meeting our great customers. That has been the hardest thing for me so far.

Ring trio by Silva/Bradshaw

What other aspects of retail and design have you worked in before opening Still House?

My longest retail experience was at Swallow in Brooklyn. It’s not only a wonderful spot for ceramics and glass, but a great place to check out the owner’s own line of beautiful small scale metal castings and nature-inspired jewelry. I also worked for Nora Kogan, the jeweler behind the St. Kilda line, as well as jeweler Sarah Macfadden.

What’s your favorite item in the store right now?

Oh I really do not like this question! I buy for the store myself, so of course I like it all!

Any new arrivals you’re particularly excited about?

I get really excited about all the new arrivals. I just discovered this new line Wednesday Paper-Works out of Berlin. I love everything those girls make. My favorites right now are their new notebooks; I have a secret passion for notebooks.

What is this season’s mission?

Introducing plants back into a young adult’s interior space. I constantly go through my plants at home and trim them. The plant cuttings then travel to the store. People love getting a vase with a plant already in it! And a plant cutting does not require any maintenance really. As long as there is water in a vase, it will stay alive. A lot of customers come back and tell me that their plant cutting is doing very well, or that the roots grew very long. Sometimes they even plant it eventually and keep me posted on how it is doing. I love that!

Rings by Silva/Bradshaw

What items have been consistent best sellers?

Silva/Bradshaw jewelry always receives deserved attention by customers. The faceted white bowl by GDG Studios has been doing great, and Michiko Shimada’s banana salt and pepper shakers always make customers laugh. I also have to mention Wolfum Home Furnishings coasters, since they have been selling very well, and steadily, too.

Faceted bowl GDG Studios

Salt and pepper shakers by Michiko Shimada

Coasters by Wolfum Home Furnishings

Does the store have its own line? 

One of the big plans for next year is to grow Still House home goods and jewelry line. At the moment, we only have a few items; more is definitely coming soon!

Have you mounted any special exhibits or commissioned any collaborations?

We asked a few of our designers to create an exclusive piece for the store to celebrate the launch of our new website this fall. They’ll be available through the end of the year. As for exhibits, I really want to have a few photography exhibitions in the space.

Do you have anything from the store in your own home? 

Yes! The Teroforma water carafe is on my night stand, and I have at least a few terracotta planters by Nick Frazer, as well as lots of rocks and lots of ceramics. We sell all of our ceramic cups, plates, and bowls individually. Whenever there is only one left from a set, I get it for home because I know customers will not buy just one. By now, every single bowl and cup in my home is different. And I love it this way. Every single morning I take a minute to decide which bowl I should use for my yogurt. It’s almost like choosing what to wear that day. This process always puts a smile on my face. My friends and family seem to appreciate them too. Everyone always compliments my dish set when they come over for dinner. If only they knew it’s not a dish set at all!

Visit Still House at 117 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10009.

Photos courtesy of Still House; last photo by William Chan.

Marni Elyse Katz is a Contributing Editor at Design Milk. She lives in Boston where she contributes regularly to local publications and writes her own interior design blog, StyleCarrot.