Valentine's Day might be more than two and a half weeks away, but it's never too soon to gush about whom we fancy. Please allow us to introduce you to our new crush—The NWBLK (that is, the new black). Would you care to know why we're crushing? Mainly it's because this multipurpose entity houses furniture designers, creatives, and a New
Year's Eve bash you'd tell your grandchildren about. But just to be clear, The NWBLK isn't merely a design cooperative."We are not a design collective or democracy, though community is very important to what we do, and what we are building." That's their development director, Bob Wilms, whose background is peppered with interior design, rhetoric, film and an array of other skills mastered in-between.
"The New Black is a brand and retail environment/gallery bringing to market the most compelling objects in furniture, fashion, lighting, locally, and from around the world."
Their approach is just that—new. It started with the idea from both Wilms, and the esteemed designer and founder Steven Miller, as a means to, "Create a vehicle for the designers and makers in the world that are pushing boundaries, and creating the most beautiful and compelling contemporary design objects in lighting, furniture, fashion, (or as in the case with Paul Budnitz, bicycles), to bring their work in innovative ways to the public."
"We're definitely not the first gallery/brand to build a workshop in the gallery, and we are just in the very beginnings, and I do think that we're doing some things right, and it's exciting to have a bunch of power tools fired up in a building with such a rich history of manufacturing in its bones," Wilms says.
"NWBLK provides designers
with the opportunity for invaluable feedback and collaboration in the design process, to prototype product..... on through to the production, marketing, and presentation of the final product in the gallery for sale."
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, a venue of this measure did not necessarily exists before. For a talented designer of distinct high-end goods, it is often difficult to create, market, and showcase their work all at a level that truly reflects and complements their finely crafted pieces.
"When Steven and I started workshopping the concept in June, 2011, and took a look at what's out in the marketplace both of us felt that there was a gaping hole where traditionally galleries and showrooms existed. You have art furniture on the one side and production furniture on the other. DWR's scatter the landscape, art furniture galleries carry an air of the precious and mighty. Vintage, antique and modern design shops are ubiquitous. Where does one go if they don't fit into the existing architecture of the design marketplace?"
...To their showroom, that's where! It borders the Mission and Potrero District on 1999 Bryant Street, housed in the former American Can Company. It is a space that allows for full expression of creativity. It's a showroom, a 9000 sq ft gallery, and an event-ready environment with the 22-foot high ceilings, exposed industrial elements, natural light, modern LED lighting, and a minimalist atmosphere able to provide an enthralling experience that is still private, intimate, and engaging.
"The building is the bedrock of inspiration, the ground floor or foundation so to speak," Wilms adds. "Fine arts establishments saturate the landscape of most major cities, but few, if any, applied arts galleries exist, and none that present a compelling, contemporary aesthetic environment, and the space for public commerce, interaction, and design."
The New Black also offers Prototyping Services to the Design Community assisting in the development, engineering, sourcing and production of designs. With their countless amount of artisans and collaborators, a designer can produce just about anything. This prototyping allows for the designer to connect with a broader range of creatives yet exposes all involved to new designs with potential for licensing, production, and inclusion in the offerings right there, at The NWBLK.
"To quote our friend and advisor, founding editor of Surface Magazine, Riley Johnonnell, the objective is "to create a better life through great design." We couldn't agree with this more—and that's why we're crushing.