In a bustling, ever-moving city like New York, finding or creating a place of calm and serenity is a priority, at least for shop owner Urte Tylaite of Still House. Nestled in a small but airy and light-filled space in the East Village, Still House is indeed that tranquil respite New Yorkers and out-of-towners crave when the metropolis gets too overwhelming. With her thoughtful sensibility and eye for local + international design, Urte has curated a shop that’s filled with more than just beautiful objects – it’s filled with purposeful design that helps you cultivate an intentional lifestyle, one where each object not only fulfills a need but also elevates the act of fulfilling it.
At Still House, Korean earthenwares, Japanese planters, Danish lighting, Brooklyn-crafted vases, and candles hand-poured in California are displayed next to one another without any interruption in aesthetics or break in form, as if they were always meant to be next to each other. It’s this level of curation and skill for perfectly styled still life vignette that sets Urte’s shop apart from other boutiques.
In Still House’s new storefront (the shop recently moved earlier this year), Urte has expanded the store beyond just a shop. It now also exists as a platform for local artists and designers to showcase their latest exhibition or body of work. With Still House’s own in-house jewelry line rounding out the boutique shop, it’s no wonder that the store is a design destination favorite in the city. Read on as we chat with Urte about her history with New York, the shop’s upcoming events, and her process for curating beautiful pieces for her shop and her home…
Why did you pick this city and neighborhood?
I moved to New York in 2003 and fell for this city immediately. It’s very stimulating and inspiring.
I found myself spending a lot of time in the East Village, working weekends in restaurants during college, and assisting a jewelry designer post graduation. The East Village has a very interesting history and a strong sense of community. It is the birthplace of many artistic movements and is considered a center for all things counterculture since the 1960s. Even though it has changed a lot since then, I would argue that its core character is still strongly intact.
The idea behind opening the shop was to curate a collection of objects for the home produced by local artists. The process of how they are made and the intention behind them gives each piece purpose. It is an alternative way to create a distinct environment at home. The East Village felt like a natural home to fuel this concept.
Where did you get the name for the store?
I was very interested in the idea of calmness as a juxtaposition to New York’s bustling daily life. What better place to create it than home which we return to every evening. I played around with multiple synonyms for ‘calm’ and ‘home’ before arriving at Still House.
Has it changed much since it opened? How?
The most recent change was our move to a new storefront earlier this year. We stayed in our beloved East Village, but moved a couple of blocks over to 9th Street. The original location opened in 2011 and I was itching to renovate the interior. Sometimes these simple changes in the surroundings, in my case a redesigned storefront, affect us in unexpected ways. The final result energized me to share the new store with a wider range of artists by hosting exhibitions and events. Our first show was Formations by the artist Pat Kim. The show opened back in May 2018 and consisted of a collection of ten one-of-a-kind wooden sculptures.
We also hosted a photography and drawing show by the artist Emily Johnston titled What Hildegard Heard this summer consisting of three diptychs of photographs and drawings by the artist.
What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?
I have to admit it is difficult to name only one. At this moment, workflow organization seems to be the top pain-point. There are always new projects, collections, and ventures and it can be hard to allocate time for everything. No two days are ever the same but that’s part of the fun of it. Even though our team is lean, we always make it work!
What other stores have you worked in before opening this one?
Home-goods and jewelry store in Carroll Gardens called Swallow, and a jewelry store called St. Kilda, that was located in Park Slope.
What’s your favorite item in the store right now?
Matte Black Glassware by Sugahara Glassblowing Studio in Japan. I am obsessed with its satin finish.
What is this season’s inspiration?
I always organized displays by monochrome color. One shelf would be dedicated to white, another to yellow, a third to green, and one more to black. This season I am intrigued by introducing bold color accents. I am combining bold greens with creamy whites and strong reds with more neutral beige tones.
Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?
I am a huge fan of Manhattan based ceramicist Marge Lurie’s new black underglaze series. I love the juxtaposition of her classic forms in this strong minimal tone.
What’s been a consistent best seller?
This season, the Carrie LED Lamp by Menu has been very popular. Lighting is a new category for us, so it’s very exciting to see it attract so much attention. The light has three settings from dim to bright and is charged via USB. It can be used as a lantern, as an ambiance light in the living room, or hung on the wall as a night light. I believe this versatility is what draws our customers to this design.
What’s your process for selecting + curating the objects in your shop?
I primarily look for hand-made and locally made pieces with a minimal aesthetic. This search most often starts within our immediate community. The artists we work with recommend we take a look at their colleagues’ work or our customers recommend us studios they have come across. These types of connections lead to the best discoveries, though we try to attend design fairs and always go through all artists submissions in our inbox. Over the past few years, I have also come across a few international design studios I could not resist.
Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collaborations coming up?
I am very excited to host the debut show Antecedere by ceramic artist Yoon Young Hur opening on Thursday, November 15th 6-9pm. She is creating a grouping of sculptures inspired by the ancient Korean ritual earthenware “toggi”. Her contemporary take on these ancient vessels serves as an introduction and exploration into the deep cultural and historical ties between contemporary ceramics, ancient rituals, and the human experience.
On Thursday, December 6th, we are hosting the opening for the photographer Emily Johnston. Her new body of work is called Ash Drawings. The photographs on display will be a documentation of drawings she made by casting ashes into the snow; an act of release, but also of divination.
Do you have anything from the store in your own home?
Oh yes. A lot actually. Tall stacking glasses by Toyo-Sasaki, dinner plates by Mondays, a vase by Robert Hessler, but pieces by Hasami Porcelain are the ones I use every day.
How would you describe your jewelry line? What makes each piece so special?
Jewelry was part of the store’s curation since the it opened in 2011. I love representing other jewelers’ pieces, but when I launched the line I was interested in exploring what jewelry treated as a design object would look like. In 2013, with this intention in mind, Still House Jewelry was born. I aim to create pieces that are beautiful to look at and are comfortable to wear. They are dainty, minimal pieces full of subtle detail. All gold is recycled and I source my diamonds from Canada.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned since opening your store?
One of the most important lessons I learned is to stay true to myself. Over time in any work field certain tasks become repetitive and decision making can naturally develop into automated action. It’s a lot easier to be swayed by current trends when in this state, rather than focusing on longevity. I have created the best work and have the most fun when I take a step back and focus on what it is that I am most curious about.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to follow a similar path to yours, what would it be?
Create an atmosphere where people around you feel welcomed to share their honest opinions. It takes a strong team to grow a business.
Stop by Still House at 307 E 9th St, New York, NY 10003!