By Sergio Mannino
When Katherine Wells decided to turn her online craft home decor business into a brick-and-mortar center for artists, Brooklyn, New York residents, and retailers — a space that facilitated collaboration and accessibility to local art on a larger scale—she turned to Brooklyn-based Sergio Mannino (SM) Studio to design a new space that serves as both a store and a gathering place. Wells had read Mannino’s articles in Forbes about what it means to own a store today and decided to change the name from “Cain Sloan” to something more evocative and indicative of the culture she was trying to create.
The SM Studio team always starts with a big question: how can we keep people excited? In a world where everything changes all the time, the team is driven by the need to deliver life-giving design solutions that are not only sustainable, materially diverse, ethical and politically informed, but also solutions that will last, both on the both functionally and aesthetically. . Comprised of professional architects, interior designers, graphic designers and branding consultants, SM Studio is driven by the desire to create spaces that synthesize creativity, excitement and functionality.
A.MANO Brooklyn, recently rebranded from Wells, is an interior design boutique merging the retail of locally made ceramics, fine art and upcycled furniture. Additionally, A.MANO partners with Bklyn Clay, a ceramics school/workshop located next door. This collaboration promotes the promotion of local art and the sale of the pieces benefits both entities. For A.MANO’s physical location, Wells inspired SM Studio to create a vibrant and welcoming space full of artistic references she cherishes.
The project also incorporates SM Studio’s dual heritage: radical Italian design on one side and American minimalism on the other. A.Mano’s design features a minimal, bold and funky design, while incorporating a raw feel to the space. The matching logo and branding have been carefully crafted to reflect cleanliness, while maintaining a delicate and unique look. This is representative of the unique, handmade ceramics sold. In fact, the Italian expression “a mano” translates to “handmade”.
The unique and modern store combines various design aesthetics, from 80s Italian design to minimalist and industrial, drawing inspiration from iconic artists and designers such as Donald Judd and the Milanese group Memphis. In addition, the store has been designed in a sustainable way, allowing all the fixtures to be dismantled without destroying the materials. No glue was used to connect all the pieces, even the glazed bricks, demonstrating that sustainable design can be done well and need not limit creativity.
To tie the two sides of the project together, the team considered each material and element of the physical space from an architectural as well as a graphic perspective. The brand’s primary colors – black, white and smoky blue – are reflected in the floors and glazed bricks. The colors were selected for their strong character, contrasting tones and bold presence.
The material research of the team was guided not only by these colors but also by a reflection on clay (main medium exhibited at A.MANO) and all the different ways in which it has been used for construction over the centuries. .
The interior of A.MANO is distinctly divided into three different spaces: a main gallery, a coffeeshop and a rear gallery which can be used for various purposes. Each has a unique feel. The goal of the overall design is to create a gradual flow and allow for different experiences for each of the customers.
The main gallery is an eye-catching space with blue stained plywood shelves resting on a blue and white glazed brick base, paired with black and white terrazzo flooring. The raw, minimalist look and use of plywood in the design was inspired by Donald Judd, positioned on a colored glazed brick base for a finished look that takes nothing away from the wares on display. The ground floor features Florim porcelain flooring with a digitally printed terrazzo pattern, which quickly became a pattern for business cards and window graphics.
The coffee corner, located to the left of the main gallery, has a more intimate and welcoming atmosphere. Here, a bolder terracotta/orange tone on the walls and floor evokes the ceramic pieces sold by A.MANO. The stained concrete floor is punctuated by a series of Mattonelle Margherita tiles by Mutina, designed by Nathalie Du Pasquier, a Milan-based designer known for her signature Memphis Group design and art. SM Studio used the tiles to create what looks like a ceramic rug on the floor through a custom mosaic pattern that greets visitors at the cafe counter.
Finally, the back room is a more neutral area where the store will periodically feature rare and valuable vintage furniture from different eras. It has a blued concrete floor and two large windows overlooking a garden.
The entire space is characterized by a 16” plinth aligned with the top of the glazed bricks. The “skirting problem” is a recurring one for many architects, with some trying to do away with it entirely, leaving only a revelation. The studio went for a bolder solution to give it a strong presence in the space, painting it in contrast to the wall behind.
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