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A Visit to Chamber

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Chamber is a new boutique in New York City devoted to exclusive limited editions and unique works of art and design. Sounds right up my alley!

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The Concept of Chamber was cooked up by Juan Garcia Mosqueda, who previously worked under Murray Moss (of Moss) and Paola Antonelli at MoMA. With interiors designed by MOS Architects, Chamber is located in the HL23 building, which was designed by renowned architect Neil Denari.

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The first Chamber collection, which opened back in September 2014, was curated by Studio Job and includes a mix of specially-commissioned works along with rare and vintage items (each collection will have a specific curator, who will bring a unique viewpoint to Chamber’s product selection.)

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I talked to Juan about his interesting new shop and gallery:

Why did you pick this city/neighborhood/storefront?

New York is not only the perfect city for Chamber because it naturally attracts a global audience but also due to the fact that it is a relatively new city (in comparison to European cities) without the historical baggage, especially in the decorative arts. That allows certain flexibility and reception when it comes to experimentation and new ways to show art and design.

Within the context of the city, West Chelsea seemed to be the right neighborhood for the boutique. It is an area where we can appreciate contemporary architecture in its fullest (with buildings already in place or in the process of going up by Gehry, Nouvel, Shigeru Ban, Hadid, Foster, and others), it’s the main hub for the art world and it attracts avant garde retailers like CDG. Chamber is a natural fit within that context.

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Where did you get the name for the store?

The word Chamber aims to create a new typology of business that lies between a gallery and a shop, and their typical associated connotations. It is more influenced by 17th century Cabinet of Curiosities than any contemporary standardized models and ways of showcasing and selling art and design. As we were aiming to create a new concept, we needed a new word to encapsulate it. Chamber seemed very appropriate to describe my vision.

Has it changed much since it opened? How?

No, it hasn’t yet. But it will. We foresee changes in the programming and overall calendar of the boutique, with changes to both the physical display as well as the digital component (website). Chamber, due to its new concept, will be in constant flux and will not follow only one path. It will naturally develop into many exciting things. So, stay tuned.

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

Not having a huge storage room. We have to be very smart and thoughtful about the logistical side of moving works in and out of the space. That lends itself to a certain predictability that we are constantly fighting with as we want Chamber to feel fresh and new every time you go inside.

What other stores have you worked in before opening this one?

Moss. The historically-important NY design mecca. I didn’t go to grad school, but my experience with Murray felt very much like getting a masters degree in design. I am very thankful to him. He is a true maestro.

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

Alessandro Mendini’s ‘camino’ vase. I had the pleasure of meeting Alessandro 2 years ago, when I shot a video of him, visited his studio and fascinating home. Not only he is a true genius but he is a marvelous human being. It was a huge deal to have him design this very special vase just for us.

What is this season’s theme/inspiration/story?

Collection #1, curated by Studio Job, and currently on display at Chamber is a selection of important art and design pieces, both by established and emerging designers, both vintage and contemporary. Looking at the collection as a whole, one can sense a very personal take on collecting rather than institutional. It feels like stepping into the curators’ home where you can appreciate their passions, interests and exquisite eye for collecting.

Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?

We a handpicked selection of fully-functional vintage Braun audio equipment in excellent condition from the times where Dieter Rams was head of the design department. They are true masterpieces, worth of any museum collection around the globe.

What’s been a consistent best seller?

The ‘Naughty Bavaria’ Pillows by Studio Job + Maharam. These have been very successful so far. People not only appreciate the humor evident in them but also Maharam’s impeccable craftsmanship.

Does the store have its own line?

Yes, we have about 60% of the inventory developed just for us by different artists and designers, including our own fragrance crafted by Julian Bedel and with a special bottle by Studio Job (edition of 1000 bottles) and a tea towel designed by Sjoerd Kooistra (edition of 500). We have also self-published a book to accompany the first collection that was designed by NY-based Studio Lin.

Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collaborations coming up?

We hosted a dinner reception in collaboration with PIN-UP magazine during Design Miami. We asked 6 designers who have participated in our first collection to design 6 cakes for us. It will be truly magnificent and quite innovative. We are super excited about this event. Also, we are working on the next display rotation, where we will be unveiling new works by Nacho Carbonell, Piet Parra, Tom Dixon, Piet Hein Eek, among others. #chambercakes

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

Yes, I do. My favorite one is a Theo Ruth Penguin Chair (1967), with an original Julius Vermulen fabric design that we manufactured in collaboration with the Textile Museum in Holland. These collaborations resulting from vintage pieces re-imagined by contemporary designers is something we explored quite a bit in the collection.

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What’s next for you and your store?

I’m starting to think not only about Collection #2 but also about special temporary shows to intertwine with the collections. We are already in touch with some exciting designers and manufacturers that have been seeking a place like Chamber for quite some time. We hope to give them an opportunity to use the space as a platform to bring to life exceptional works. Lastly, we want to go beyond our physical space on W 23rd St, into other cities, regions where people might have yet to discover us. That entails an intense year-round calendar of design fairs among other things.

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We can’t wait to see the 2015 collections! Visit Chamber at 515 W. 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011 or online.

Photos © Loek Blonk, except portrait by Matthew Williams.

Jaime Derringer, Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk, is a Jersey girl living in SoCal. She dreams about funky, artistic jewelry + having enough free time to enjoy some of her favorite things—running, reading, making music, and drawing.