“Retail is Secondary” Chat with Interior Designer Kevin Jakob of BKLYN Curated in Greenpoint
While on one of my wanderings on Franklin St, I walked into the new home interiors shop called Bklyn Curated (88 Franklin St). My eyes were happily devouring all of the vintage and antique Americana, Folk and Native American finds when a familiar face came into focus.
Kevin Jakob, the shop’s owner wasn’t a Greenpoint face though – he was from my former and very different life at Polo Ralph Lauren. It was great to see him doing his thing in Greenpoint away from the Midtown hustle and comforting to see that life goes on after Polo.
Kevin sat at a nearby cubicle on the 11th floor at Polo’s Madison Ave office before my desk was literally moved into a closet a la Milton in Office Space. His grounding sense of humor was a relief in an office of talented folks who were often drinking the corporate Kool Aid.
His inspired desk in Bklyn Curated is a much sweeter spot for sure.
Kevin never saw himself as a “lifer” at Polo and wanted to open his own shop for a long time. We talked about all the positive influence that Polo has had on both of our careers, particularly when it comes to the details. What I call “Polo goggles” serves Kevin in the presentation of Bklyn Curated, which is not only a retail space, but also a showroom and workspace for his interior design business.
It’s always been his “little dream” to have a space to meet with his clients – so they can “step into my world,” Kevin said.
Bklyn Curated is a place where “retail is secondary.” His world isn’t just a “one dimensional” store where shoppers “come in, buy, and get out,” he explained. At Bklyn Curated his objective is to “build an environment.” Past the meticulously merchandised front area is Kevin’s comfortable work-space which leads to a casual back yard garden (which usually has a huge American flag hanging) and on one side is adorned with my favorite Greenpoint architectural feature – aluminum siding. Kevin invites customers to “come in, hang out, talk about different stuff.”
The shop unavoidably has design elements you might find in a RRL Store given that Kevin worked at Polo for over 14 years, much of the time spent in Polo Creative and working on RRL – the company’s most eclectic vintage inspired brand that draws from Native American and Armed Services motifs, among others.
Despite this Bklyn Curated has its own unique aesthetic, drawn from Kevin’s life growing up in a “creative environment” on Long Island’s North Shore “looking at Connecticut my whole life,” he joked, with a Mom who was a photographer and musician.
“I play music, I paint, I’m an artist,” Kevin said.
While “working at Ralph within his framework,” Kevin felt what he described as a “burning passion” to seek out the work of artists like Manet, Picasso and Van Gogh. He feels that being educated and influenced by the modern masters helped develop his talents and it “comes through in whatever you do whether it’s fixing cars or doing [store] windows.”
Why open in Greenpoint?
“It made perfect sense,” Kevin said, “I love Greenpoint. Franklin is changing everyday but it’s a different growth. [Greenpoint] is going through a lot of changes but the core of it is not going to change.”
He contrasts the change here with the change that has happened in Williamsburg.
Williamsburg had an “artists loafing in old buildings core, then the money came,” but in Greenpoint, “there is more of a foundation, more of a neighborhood.”
So far Bklyn Curated has been well received on Franklin St.
“I met 5 million people last month,” Kevin said, “A lot of people work in Manhattan, in film, magazines and the arts and they really get it, they love it.”
Of the people that don’t “get it” he said that, “everyone is positive and even with a positive attitude, some people don’t get it, so I have to educate them, which is a good thing, too.”
We talked about other shops and restaurants in Greenpoint, designed straight out of a particular era, so visits become almost like time traveling.
“These spaces were so badly built out in the 70s and 80s that when you are doing a build out and start taking away you reveal original tin and original elements so the spaces naturally take on an older feel,” Kevin explained.
That being said, he quoted a friend: “I felt like I was in the 1900s, but they had very modern prices.”
Bklyn Curated’s prices are surprisingly reasonable compared to other vintage and antique shops in Greenpoint.
Because the modern Brooklyn “look” is influenced by so many cultures and eras, it’s difficult to have a dialogue about the aesthetic of the Bklyn Curated, which Kevin said is a “mash-up” of Mid-Century Modern, Native American, American Folk Art, with textiles and books and a surfer element.
At the end of the day, that isn’t really the point, either.
Kevin’s finds are “a little bit of all over” – LA, Ohio, Pennsylvania and flea markets.
When working with clients he tries to help them get out of design boxes, which only draw from a particular period.
“I buy a lot of antiques, a lot of vintage, which requires a lot of trust from my clients,” he said. “When I find pieces it’s not like I’m shopping from a catalog or walking around Soho. It takes time to find the right piece,” which is not always easy for clients.
When I asked Kevin if he could give advice to people designing or decorating their own homes, he said, “Buy what you like, buy what you think is cool. You can always make it work.”