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Monday, April 26, 2010

Well Built in DC Metrocentric

Our newest Name to Know, Ann Blackwell, of the recently opened Well Built (pictured below at 14th and Q Street) is fast becoming a go to source for stylish and sustainable alternatives to furniture design in the District. DCMetrocentric recently spoke with Ann about her new venture and the state of DC’s furniture industry.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and Well Built.

Design has held a constant presence throughout my career. I have worked in fashion, marketing and urban redevelopment and have studied modern art, architecture, and interior design. Those years of dialogue and my time with Design Within Reach polished my ideals for space and objects; hence Well Built, my modern furniture store with a sustainable mission and philosophy.

What made you decide to leave Design Within Reach and branch out on your own?

While running the Georgetown studio I had become a LEED [Accredited Professional] and worked with Design Within Reach’s executive team and vendors on sustainability knowledge and practices. There was only so far the company would move in that direction - I felt compelled to bring forward better products - either long lasting and/or domestically made.

After a few weeks on the job, what has surprised you the most about running your own shop?

The enthusiasm and design knowledge of my new customers (many referred to Autoban’s major feature in Dwell this month). DC is a sophisticated audience, current in today’s top aesthetic design and exuberant about well-thought design - creativity with intention. The welcome has been startling.

What was your first job?

There was a furniture and clothing store in East Lansing, Michigan, called “Paradise”. I had to get a work permit to work there at the tender age of fifteen. The men wore kimonos and the women sported buzz cuts. There were glossy, geometric side tables. I still love a glossy side table.

What fueled your interest in sustainable furniture?

It may sound cheesy; but my love of humanity. I was horrified to learn that a new, breathtaking space could be filled with furnishings that were unhealthy for those who worked, lived, breathed there. Through my certification as a LEED AP, I further understood how the products came to be. I believe that as we designed our way into toxic practices, we can design our way out of them.

What is your favorite piece of furniture in the store right now?

Misewell’s Eileen Lamp, which is made in a small Wisconsin factory, is a truly smart and charming design. The two brothers behind Misewell will be at Well Built for a cocktail reception on May 18th. Everyone’s invited.

What is your favorite piece of furniture not in the store?

Anything by Noe Duchaufour-Lawrance; the beds he designed for the Tuscan company Ceccotti - they are so lovely they make me feel faint.

Furniture sales in DC seem to be booming, but what is the state of DC’s furniture design community?

The strongest force in our area is “craft”. I don’t mean crafts-show work; I am referring to furniture making as an art. Walk into the salon Immortal Beloved on Church Street and see perfect examples of this movement in the furniture and interior by Caleb Woodard and Kelly Gorsuch.  Or see the metal work of local sculptor Michael En Sirvet who received the commission for the Farragut West Metro Stop. These folks are creating what we will see more of; original and immediately local.

What is the best sentence you read today?

I just read a Metropolis article on Noe Duchaufour-Lawrance and I was moved by this description:

“Noe thinks like an ensemblier, like someone who orchestrates ensembles rather than elaborates single icons.”


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