These Obsessive Collectors Fill Their Homes With Chicken Pottery and Prototypes

Photo: Charlie Schuck

In 2009, Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer founded a different kind of magazine that distinguished itself from other shelter magazines. Through Sight Unseen, they explored the very personal objects that people surrounded themselves with that tell a story about the places they have been, the things they like to collect, and who they are as individuals.

As they write in the introduction to their new book, How to Live With Objects: A Modern Guide to More Meaningful Interiors, out on November 15, “We believed, and still do, that while layout and fixtures and fabrics can all play apart in making a space aesthetically pleasing, it’s the objects you surround yourself with that truly give your home its soul … These objects are the story you tell to the world about your personality and your obsessions, your experiences and your memories, your desires and your intentions.” The book is organized into four categories of objects: vintage, contemporary, handmade, and sentimental, with a final chapter on styling. Between the thoughtful collective advice and topical essays, we are also invited to explore the homes of curators, artists, shop owners, and collectors, among other creative people, each one radically different from the next — and this is one of the supreme pleasures of this book. Here, a glimpse of three home collections.

Primack and Weissenberg are all over the map, both literally — with houses in Guatemala, Mexico City, and New York — and figuratively, with multiple professional interests that ultimately converge around contemporary design. Primack is a former director of Design Miami and currently runs the textile and interiors studio RP Miller, while Weissenberg, a former television exec, now works in real-estate development. Together, the pair founded the design gallery AGO Projects, which is just a short drive from their colorful Mexico City apartment, featured here.

“We started our gallery, AGO Projects, to work with contemporary designers, and to be working for the advancement of new things. Yet both of us also really love old things — we were so lucky that Rudy’s grandparents had this incredible set of Soriana sofas — so there’s this moment where the two collide for us. Our vision of the future is not slick. We’re drawn to the idea that new things can also be cozy, and that new things can feel contemporary in spirit but still have traces of real handicraft or artisanal techniques.”

“The combination of materials in these chairs by Fabien Cappello — with the metal framework, the natural palm fiber, and the pony-skin headrest — is so strange. Postmodern and Memphis-y in some way, yet also tropical. They’re very clearly a part of Fabien’s language, and we were like, ‘We need to have them,’ irrespective of how they were going to look with anything else in the room. That’s part of the philosophy that’s happening here — it all works together, but it also doesn’t matter much to us whether it’s working together.

“The chicken in the kitchen is a vintage piece — Mexican Majolica, probably from Puebla — that we had seen at a friend’s house and admired. She moved and gave it to us. It’s probably from the ’50s, and it’s just a wonderful found object. The fruit lamp by Fabien Cappello was developed for a show at AGO, and there’s also a bronze version. We’re not necessarily driven by the ‘importance’ of objects. We’re drawn to things that make our lives more fun and elevate the way we’re living.”

Photographs by Charlie Schuck

Born in Seoul, trained in New York as an architect, and now a full-time furniture designer, Kim creates sculptures in wood and fiberglass that reimagine Western design archetypes — like the chaise longue, the executive desk, or the prayer seat — through the lens of Korean craft techniques. His home in Queens is an extension of his research, filled with studio experiments and the remnants of his former life in South Korea.

“I have a huge interest in ’80s or Postmodern standalone wardrobes, and as I was studying them, I realized there were a lot of examples that mimicked rural sheds. During the pandemic, I spent a lot of time in my backyard, and there was always a need for storage because my neighbor, who I share the yard with, does a lot of farming and gardening. At the same time, I wanted to make the backyard space a little bit more my own. When I had some extra time for a holiday break, I decided to go for it and built the shed.”

“During the pandemic, my roommate was doing a lot of natural dyeing upstairs while I was working in my woodshop downstairs, and we had been talking about working together … For the pendant above the kitchen table, she made a naturally dyed silk shade and I built a frame and wired it. We also built this fabric hanger in the living room together. She had all of these fabric samples piled up, and one day I was at the studio and I had an idea to make a kind of skeleton figure. It was another way to bring our work together in the space that we share.”

“Because I lived abroad for so long, it got to a point where I needed to reinvent the idea of ​​home for myself. The best way for me to do that is to build things for myself. When I moved in, the bedroom had a swing door to the outside and no closet. It was so tight that I had to throw out my bed frame. I built a closet and a bookshelf and made it kind of an entry moment. Then I worked on the bed frame, which is made from second-grade plywood. After that, it was figuring out what gestures could accommodate my objects, like adding a knob to the bookshelf to hold a cup.”

Photographs by Charlie Schuck

A writer and curator, Wu rose to prominence as the founder of the influential blog I’m Revolting, which unearthed unusual and often anonymous designs. Now based in Mexico City with her husband, the artist Alma Allen, and their two children, Wu is a staunch champion of the local design scene, using her home — a converted community theater — as a place to co-curate exhibitions and showcase her ever-growing collection of gifts, Mexican crafts, and contemporary art and design.

“I’m drawn to things that feel like they have a lot of experiment in their making — like the person was working through something or figuring something out.

“The bathroom wall was entirely designed by our carpenter. I wanted something that felt a little bit more traditionally Mexican, and this is what he came up with — which, I was like, huh, okay. There’s actually a gigantic vent hiding behind it that goes to the ceiling, because we thought, for a moment, that we might open up a restaurant in the space. The tile was just me going to the tile shop and being that weird person who’s there for way too long laying things out. It’s traditional Mexican Talavera tile.”

“Everything in my home is something that’s from a friend or that I found with a friend or that I associate with a story of a friend. The little wooden chair in the atrium is by Jardín, which is two designers from Mexico City, Roberto Michelsen and Carmen Cantu Artigas. It was a gift from them … What I love about prototypes or gifts is that they really embody a certain freedom. I think some designers and artists struggle with wanting to make work for themselves without having to be overly concerned about the audience. These things are made for just one person.”

Photographs by Charlie Schuck

How to Live with Objectsby Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer” data-track-option=”Image” data-track-merchant=”Amazon” data-track-manufacturer=”Clarkson Potter” data-track-price=”51″ data-track-currency =”$” data-track-badges=”” data-track-source=”” data-track-medium=”” data-track-campaign=”” data-affiliate-links-ignore=”true”> How to Live with Objects, by Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer

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