A Day in the Life of BUILT

Today we hit SoHo and Orange County, New York for a day-in-the-life of Aaron Lown, co-founder of BUILT. First known for their neoprene wine totes, which debuted at the New York International Gift Fair in 2004, the company expanded into baby bottle and lunch totes the following year, and laptop cases in 2007. Today it’s the go-to line for stylish tech accessories, with peppy neoprene bags and protective cases for all types of gadgets, as well as similar items in new materials like polycarbonate and silicone. This installment of Designer Dailies provides an everyday view into the life of this Cranbrook Academy of Art-trained designer, at home with the dog and kids, and at the office with co-founder and classmate John Roscoe Swartz.

I’m awakened by a four-legged alarm clock, our black Lab, Starlight. She’s raring to go for a walk in Sterling Forest State Park near our home in Tuxedo Park, NY, before I head to our office in SoHo.

As much as I love the city, I can’t live without a morning hike in the woods. It feels like pressing the reset button on life. Today, we came across this cute orange guy (a salamander, I think) and some wild mountain laurel.

I was struck by how architectural the mountain laurel is. There’s an amazing tension inside its blossom — there’s this beautiful network of bows that hold it open.

Time to get our kids, Gus and Vivian, all packed up and down to the school bus, which stops right at the end of our driveway.


I’m at the Tuxedo train station ready to head into the city by 8 AM. If you look closely at the weathervane, there’s a flag at the top that I swear is the same one that appears in the film The Royal Tenenbaums.

Caffeine and Italian design are two of my favorite things. I get a daily fix of both before work at Gimme Coffee. That cherry red La Marzocco is gorgeous.

Had meetings all morning about upcoming products. That’s John, the other BUILT co-founder and my friend since our days in grad school at Cranbrook Academy of Art. We’re discussing the expansion of our tech line into new products for iPads, Ultrabooks, and e-readers in a variety of materials.

I spent some time in the late morning working on the mood board in my office. Finding inspiration is easy — I’m constantly collecting clips from magazines and blogs. Keeping track of it all is the hard part.

Popped out to get lunch from Organic Avenue on Sullivan Street. You can’t go wrong with pretty much anything they make, whether it’s juice or a big salad.

Saw this blue beauty on my walk back — definitely going on our “Ride On!” Pinterest board. We’re big bikephiles at BUILT. John and I have the same Brompton folding bike. We lug them on the train and ride in from the World Trade Center station when it’s nice out.

I stopped in Pleats Please Issey Miyake on Wooster Street on the way back to the office. I’ve always been a fan of Japanese design, especially after I taught at Parsons School of Design’s affiliate school, Kanazawa International Design Institute, in Kanazawa, Japan.

Having a brainstorm about new products for iPad and Kindle with Kentaro Ishihara, one of our product designers, who I actually met while teaching in Japan.

My favorite part of the day: getting to play around with materials!

I came up with an idea for a new bag, and started working on the sample in the studio.

Late in the afternoon, John and I refueled with coffee from Balthazar before the last meetings of the day. Their benches have always been the unofficial BUILT meeting place when we need a break from being indoors. The MoMA Store is across the street — they’ve championed BUILT products since the beginning.

Heading to the train, I spotted someone carrying one of our newer products, the Rolltop Expandable Lunch Bag. I still get excited every time I see our stuff on the go.

Got home to find my wife Elizabeth had fried up a soft shell crab, and made a salad of rhubarb, fava beans, sunchokes, and arugula with meyer lemon dressing. I happened to hit a farmer’s market the day before, so she treated me to this feast. In general, I try to make an effort to eat local, seasonal stuff. Last year, several of us at BUILT belonged to a CSA with Bloominghill Farm. They brought wonderful organic-farmed and foraged vegetables to the office on a bi-weekly basis.

Enjoying an evening café (told you I liked caffeine!) as I help Elizabeth make tomorrow’s lunch for the kids. Vivian’s goes in Cornelia Kitty, one of our new Big Apple Buddies Lunch Bags for kids. Then we settled in with the third season of Damages before bed. A co-worker turned me on to the show, and now I’m totally hooked on it. I have to set a two-episode limit, otherwise I’ll stay up all night watching.

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.