January 9, 2019

With a beautiful showroom at Kew’s 255 Fifth Avenue building, Ernest is a dynamic collective that offers the most inspiring Belgian-European architecture and design brands to North American architects and designers.  The company has built its business on its core values of personal responsibility and a down-to-earth attitude. Co-founder and partner Thierry Herbert explained that the very name of the company was chosen to underscore these special qualities.  He said that a leading interior designer commented to him that it was wonderful doing business with the firm, because it was so “earnest.”  We think it fits the company so well that management adopted it as the firm’s corporate name.

Ernest Looks for Specific Characteristics in Choosing Products to Import

In crafting its portfolio, Ernest first and foremost only presents products that will be exclusively available through them — these are not products you will find elsewhere in North America.  They must also have several key qualities:

  • Be more architectural than simply “decorative.”
  • Have a design that can be characterized as clean, timeless, and forward-thinking.
  • Be a medium to high-end quality product that is well-made.
  • Offers longevity both in design aesthetic and construction.
  • Be manufactured as a sustainable product using sustainable means.

Ernest Customers Have a Special Perspective

Herbert described Ernest’s clients like this: they are “people who are generally internationally driven, who like architecture and culture, who value quality, longevity, sustainability, and consider the evolution of product development.”  He also noted that they have “a certain partiality to imported goods and materials — those that are not be as accessible and as common as local products.”

The problem of course is that not everyone understands that investing in a better product pays off multifold as time goes by.  Herbert quoted Ben Franklin: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.“  He also referenced the story of The Three Little Pigs —”the first two build their homes out of lesser materials and make fun of the third for working so hard, but of course, in the end, the one made of the strongest materials is the only one to survive.”  It’s amazing how many people don’t learn that childhood lesson.  However, it’s the people who did learn it who are Ernest clients.

Offering Four Broad Product Lines

The company offers a huge range of products covering four main categories: furniture, lighting, architectural products and materials.

1. Furniture — Ernest offers furniture from Royal Botania, which has earned an acclaimed worldwide reputation for creating a refined and diverse choice of outdoor furnishings, engineered to offer a perfect blend of precision, functionality and sustainability.

2. Lighting — Ernest represents Delta Light, a Belgian family business, which creates innovative lighting designs recognized throughout the world for their subtle blend of ambiance, elegance, and functionality, both in interior and exterior lighting.  Besides, individual products, Ernest also handles Delta Lighting projects for small- and large-scale houses, hotels, offices, public buildings, retail and hospitality environments.

3. Architectural Products — Renson is a Belgian family business creating healthy spaces with innovations in ventilation, sun protection, and terrace coverings. Renson products focus on sustainable energy efficiency, acoustics, and design in creating systems for homes, apartments, offices and healthcare facilities.

4. Materials — In Ernest’s showroom you can see a broad range of building materials, including reclaimed wood, tile, and carpet flooring.

A Must Visit Engaging Showroom at 255 Fifth

Ernest’s showroom reflects the firm’s vision.  It is set up to act as a one-stop shop for developers, specifiers, architects, designers, and individuals seeking design-focused, residential and commercial furnishings suitable for both indoors and outdoors. The showroom is divided into different spaces – a living room/lounge, kitchen, dining room, outdoor furniture area, and bathroom – all using Ernest’s products, so that buyers can see, feel, and experience products in situ. Herbert stressed, “We want designers to come here and see the full range of how we can work.

As a means of promoting dialog, with the New York design community, Ernest uses the space to play host to multidisciplinary cultural and social experiences such as screenings and social events throughout the year.  To make the space exciting and flexible to accommodate these events, it is cutting edge, with experimental creations; drop-down media screens, adjustable LED lighting solutions and retractable privacy screens.  (It’s also stocked with Belgian treats so you can get a literal taste of Belgium while you’re there too!  We told you it was a great, inviting space as well as a great resource.)

Forward Thinking

“Through our strong brand partnerships, we have been able to offer a rich and distinctive collection of inspiring Belgian-European products. We wanted to build on that successful base and enhance it with a fresh new name and concept that is emblematic of our shared philosophy.”

He notes that there have been some barriers, which are changing.  Europe has been much more forward-thinking in terms of sustainability, but America is catching up and that is good for Ernest.  Not only do Ernest products offer longevity — they are meant to last, but are produced with the environment in mind.  That is becoming more and more important in America, and Ernest is well positioned for the future in this regard.

The company approach to showing products in use also helps.  The company’s showroom parties have been a great success, not only in terms of business but also in terms of creating a forum for discussion and synergies among members of the design community.  So to, its Ernest Cabin, outside the main entrance of the Architectural Digest Design show in 2017, and its mini-house have proved great venues for attracting audiences and showing Ernest products effectively.  Both have helped designers and architects see many Ernest products at once and in use.

Ernest and NoMad

Ernest has been a Kew tenant here in the NoMad area for almost three years now. Herbert describes NoMad as “a perfect area for architectural design,” “a central location for business,” and “very alive and thriving.”

Herbert pointed out that there are also some very talented furniture, lighting, and architectural designers whose creations are on display in showrooms here in NoMad.  It wasn’t like that a few years ago, but the changes have been significant — it went from “no man’s land to NoMad.”

Blue Dot,  Liaigre, Jung Lee, Porcelanosa, Marimekko, Archlinea, ddc, and Natuzzi, are just a handful of the many firms catering to the interior design and architectural professionals that have located in NoMad, making the area a center for people interested in finding the ideal solutions for their projects.  That puts Ernest in the center of New York City’s newest design center.

Thierry Herbert especially welcomes Kew’s architect and interior designer tenants to call upon him and visit the showroom just a few blocks away — there is a lot to see and learn that may be useful in your next project. 

Ernest
255 Fifth Avenue, 6th Floor (between 28th & 29th Streets)
New York NY 10016
(212) 334-5045
info@ernestny.com

www.ernestny.com

Hours:
Monday through Friday: 9:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m.

December 28, 2018

If you’re looking to make an end-of-the-year contribution to an organization, whether for tax deduction purposes or otherwise, allow us to make a suggestion: Consider giving back to the neighborhood by making a donation to the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Madison Square Park is arguably the crown jewel of NoMad, and it plays a huge part in why this neighborhood is such a remarkable place to live and work. It provides us with wonderful views, a place to stroll during lunch or break times, year-round family-fun and cultural, a place to walk the dog, world-class art exhibits, and so much more.

The park doesn’t stay beautiful on its own. Although this is a city park, the Madison Square Park Conservancy raises 100 percent of the money required to plant the park’s flowers, maintain and keep the park grounds, as well as put on the numerous programs that benefit the community all year. That is why it is one of the most beautiful, well-maintained, and active park in the city.  The Conservancy is currently planning for its upcoming calendar—and the budget they can raise plays a significant role in what decisions are made.

If you have taken time out of your day to walk the park, eat a picnic lunch, relax on a bench or attend a special event at any time during the last year, you have already benefitted from the good will of others who have and are supporting the park. If you’re not already a supporter, why not take this opportunity and do your share for the upcoming year?

Madison Square Park Conservancy is a non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible. They’ve made it easy to donate – just click here to fill out their convenient online form. Let’s work together to help keep our park looking amazing—and in so doing, we’ll help keep NoMad one of the best places to live and work in NYC.

December 10, 2018

In the second half of the 19th Century, the small Worth Hotel stood where the Townsend is today and the elegant, very famous St. James Hotel was located at the site of the St. James.

The Worth was owned by the Townsend family who decided to replace the hotel with a larger commercial building. They hoped to purchase the two adjoining brownstones to add to the building site. The brownstone nearest their building agreed, but the second brownstone was owned by Edward T. King, who held out. The design and building of the Townsend proceeded without King’s property. The St. James Hotel, at the other end of the block, was purchased by Joseph and Abraham Pennock, who planned a second office building on the block. They too approached King to incorporate his property into their site, but again he refused.

That’s how 1129 Broadway became one of the first holdouts in New York City history, and for a few years the five-story brownstone was wedged between a 12-story building and 16-story building.

King should have realized the neighborhood was changing as residents, hotels, and private clubs began moving further uptown and businesses increasingly took their place. It was only a short time before the family recognized their mistake. Less than 12 years after the Townsend and St. James were finished, the Pittsburg Life and Trust Company persuaded the Kings to sell. The brownstone was immediately torn down, and the one-story building that is now on the site was built. (You can still see the white ghost of the old King brownstone on the sides of 1123 and 1133.)

Now housing Num Pang, this one-story building was originally occupied by the renowned and popular Carl H. Schultz mineral water shop at “The Sign of the Siphon.” Schultz was famous for his artificially flavored waters and patrons could enjoy their drinks in long-stemmed glasses served from marble counters decorated with Tiffany lamps. Just across the store a wooden bar, putatively from the then recently demolished Fifth Avenue Hotel, served ice cream sodas and egg creams.

Since 1952, all three buildings have been under Kew ownership. In an ironic twist, a passage was created across the roof of the one-story “holdout” in the 1980s, connecting the Townsend and St. James. And despite the frustration of the original builders, the King holdout enforced a space between the two tall buildings providing today’s tenants with more light and air than they would have had if the buildings abutted each other as the Townsends and Pennocks had hoped.

September 13, 2018

If you live or work in NoMad, chances are you’ve dined at (or at least walked by) La Pecora Bianca, the delightful Italian eatery in the historic St. James Building at 26th and Broadway. But save for a few faint reminders, one would never suspect that this site once was home to the Havana Tobacco Company, frequently described in its time as “the finest store in the world.”

Opened in 1904, the Havana Tobacco Company became one of the most popular New York cigar shops of its day. Surrounded by other fine shops at the top of Ladies Mile, and in the center of world-class hotels and the homes of high society, this store had to present an image of exclusivity and sophistication.  So, it wasn’t just the fine cigars and tobacco products that made it the “finest store;” it was the architecture and ambience.  The shops décor included: tall marble columns. ornate furnishings, luxurious cigar lighter stands, lush palm trees and greenery, and fine oil paintings depicting Havana Harbor. And of course, long rows of glass cases displaying the finest cigars money could buy. Everything about the interior of the store evoked the look and feel of an opulent tropical terrace, transporting patrons back to another time and place—back to old Havana itself.

New York’s Finest Architects

The style of the Havana Tobacco Company can be accredited to the combined work of the most noted architects of New York’s Gilded Age. The St. James was designed by Bruce Price, known for NYC landmarks like the American Surety Building and the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.   The grand scale Price provided for the ground floor shops was enhanced by the classic but simple grandeur that was the hallmark of McKim, Mead & White.  The nation’s leading architectural firm, known for buildings like the original Penn Station and the Brooklyn Museum, among many others, created a powerful but retrained space that gloriously reflected Gilded Age style and elegance, branding the space perfectly for its wealthy local clientele and visitors from abroad.

Fine Landscape Paintings

For the upper walls surrounding the showroom, the tobacco company commissioned a mural comprised of seven or eight oil paintings by Willard Metcalf (1858-1925), a famed artist of the American Impressionist school best known for his landscapes. Metcalf reportedly traveled to Cuba in 1902 to create the original studies for the series, which depicted scenes from Havana Harbor, adding a tasteful touch of brilliance to the showroom.  Only one of the original Metcalf panels survives, and it is currently on display at The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Space Today

A few years ago, when La Pecora Bianca owner Mark Barak looked over this storefront as a possible location for his restaurant, he was intrigued by the story of the McKim, Mead & White cigar shop and sought to recapture at least some of the original feeling of the space. Unfortunately, not much of the original store survived the more than 100 intervening years, but Barak chose to build on the bones that were left.  If you look at photos of the dining room today compared to the historic photos of the cigar shop, it’s not an exact replica, but one can certainly see the resemblance.  Very few changes were made to the shape of the room and the current counter is placed as the original cigar counter was.  Perhaps most reminiscent of the original shop are the columns that La Pecora Bianca retained and its ceiling, which is classically beautiful while humanizing the scale of the enormous space.  Barak was largely successful at creating a modern functional space for the demands of a new age, while retaining key elements that still make the space graceful and charming just as they did back when Teddy Roosevelt was President.

September 5, 2018

Sitting near the heart of NoMad at 1133 Broadway, the historic St. James Building stands as a reminder of New York in the height of the Gilded Age—a time when this neighborhood first became a gathering spot for noted authors, financiers, statesmen and others among New York’s elite. These days, however, few people realize the deeper historic significance of this building—namely, that Bruce Price, the man who designed the St. James and kept his offices here, was also one of the most influential architects of his time.

Beginnings and Career

Born in Maryland in 1845, Price studied at Princeton before eventually settling in NYC in 1877. During his career, Price gained great renown for both his commercial and residential projects across the Northeastern U.S. and throughout Canada.  He also had a profound impact on shaping the emerging NYC skyline. A master of refinement in architecture, Price was known for his Neoclassical/Beaux-Arts and Romanesque designs as well as his innovations in Shingle Style and Modernist architecture—his buildings reflecting the elegance and abundance of the Gilded Age itself.

Along with the St. James Building, Price is credited with designing numerous Manhattan buildings. Among the most notable: the Bank of the Metropolis; the International Bank; the American Surety Building, a landmark considered one of NYC’s most important early skyscrapers; and the Richard Morris Hunt Memorial in Central Park (in collaboration with sculptor Daniel Chester French).

Price’s influence can also be seen across Canada, particularly the numerous hotels and stations he designed for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, arguably his crowning achievement, is listed as a National Historic Site of Canada and is one of the most photographed hotels in the world.  It has become so completely identified with Quebec that it has become a de facto symbol of the city.

A master of design on a small scale as well, Price also designed, patented and built the unique parlor bay-window train cars that were used by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Boston and Albany Railroad during this time.

Tuxedo Park

Another of Price’s notable achievements, perhaps the most influential of his career, was Tuxedo Park, located north of New York City. A planned community consisting of “cottages”  (more like mansions) built between the late 1800s and the turn of the century, Tuxedo Park Estates became a haven for some of the most notable people of the time. As the prime architect for the project, Price designed more than two dozen structures in the community, including the post office, the library and the since-demolished Tuxedo Club. Price’s cottages would eventually house his own family along with notables such as Mark Twain, J.P. Morgan and Dorothy Draper. Perhaps most importantly, Price’s cottages would eventually be cited as a major influence on Frank Lloyd Wright and other modern architects such as Robert Venturi.

Daughter Emily Post

Among the famous residents of Tuxedo Park’s was Price’s own daughter, Emily Post. A noted author and columnist, Post echoed her father’s legacy in her own way by establishing herself as a “social architect”—a renowned expert on all things etiquette and manners. Her book Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home, her first etiquette book of many, solidified her reputation as a national symbol of manners for modern society.

St. James

As for our building at 1133 Broadway—completed in 1896, the St. James is rapidly approaching its 125th birthday. At 16 stories, this building was among the first high-rise office structures in the neighborhood that would eventually become known as NoMad. Not only did Price keep his own offices here, but the St. James became a hub for other notable architects—including Henry Pelton, Daniel Burnham (who designed the Flatiron Building/Fuller Building), and John Russell Pope (who also contributed to the Tuxedo Park project). Today, as part of the landmarked Madison Square North Historic District, 1133 Broadway continues its legacy as a haven for businesses focused on creativity and design—including the many numerous architects found among our tenants.

All photographs of 1133 Broadway are © David Lubarsky, 2016 — All Rights Reserved.
July 19, 2018

If it wasn’t already clear, the international design world officially has a new favorite neighborhood. Following the openings of showrooms the likes of Carl HansenNatuzzi, and Molteni & C in recent years, the NoMad area has a new name to add to its roster: Liaigre. Today, the Paris-based design house and furniture manufacturer will open the doors to its light-filled, two-story corner location on Madison Avenue and 29th Street, ahead of a grand opening this fall.

Read more here: architecturaldigest.com

May 23, 2018

Lunchtime in NoMad is an event in itself. Almost anywhere you walk in the neighborhood, you’ll find hundreds of excellent restaurants offering a vast array of options from quick bites to culinary delights. With all these choices, you could spend most of your lunch hour just wandering around, perusing the menus indecisively, only to grab a hotdog from the nearest cart just in time to rush back to the office. Opportunity lost.

No need to fret; we’ve compiled seven of the best lunch spots in NoMad where you and your coworkers can find a satisfying lunch without wasting time on the hunt. From the fast and (somewhat) cheap to the unique, be sure to check one of these places out on your next lunch break.

1. Inday

1133 Broadway

If you’re looking for healthy Indian cuisine served at fast-food speed, look no further. Inday’s counter-style service lets you choose three grains or veggies, two garnishes, a sauce and a crunchy topping served up in a bowl for $8.25—or add a protein for a couple dollars more. They’ve got a few “signature bowl” combinations, too, but most guests prefer to customize to their own liking.

2. Made Nice

8 W. 28th St.

Take the fine dining aesthetic of the world-famous Eleven Madison Park, put it into a casual lunch setting, and you have Made Nice, the counter-service venture of Daniel Humm and Will Guidara. With glorious menu items like carrot ginger salad, asparagus & cheddar soup, bahn mi sandwiches and chicken pot pie, you won’t believe you can get them to go.

3. Sweetgreen NoMad

1164 Broadway

If you’re not yet familiar with Sweetgreen—think of it as the farm-to-market version of fast food, made even faster by app ordering. Choose from a seasonally-changing variety of healthy salads and satisfying grain bowls, all assembled from locally and regionally sourced ingredients. But here’s a tip: Your money’s no good here. Sweetgreen went cashless last year, so bring a credit card, or better yet, just get the app.

4. PN Woodfired Pizza

2 W. 28th St.

Famed for their organic flours made from ancient, unrefined grains, PN Pizza lets you choose your own dough for the crust of your pizza—and you can definitely tell the difference. Lunch-goers can choose 2 items from their list of small bites, soups, salads and 7-inch personal pizzas for $18. (Worth it.)

5. Maui Onion

35 W. 26th St.

Hawaiian poke is taking NYC by storm—and here in NoMad, Maui Onion is where you get it. Choose from an array of signature poke bowls, or build your own by selecting a rice, protein, flavoring and extras.

6. La Pecora Bianca

1133 Broadway

Aside from the fact that this is some of the best nouveau-Italian food to be found in NoMad, La Pecora Bianca (translated “the white sheep”) offers both sit-down and counter takeout options. Grab a sandwich or salad to go, or if you have time for an extended lunch, have a seat and enjoy a bowl of their signature gramigna with sausage and broccoli rabe and a glass of vino—the way Italian food is meant to be enjoyed.

7. Luke’s Lobster

5 W. 25th St.

Okay, so this isn’t fancy, and it’s not Sweetgreen. But it’s good, quick, and a helluva lot tastier than the hot dog stand. Choose from a lobster roll, crab roll or shrimp roll, sourced from traceable, sustainable sources—or turn it into a salad. If you only have time to grab something to go—grab this.