Lost and Found: The New York City Apartment of KleinReid
The celebrated ceramists fill their Jackson Heights, Queens, residence with secondhand treasures given new life
A family of misfits, castoffs, and misunderstood objects fills the 1,300-square-foot home of David Reid and James Klein. How else to describe a pair of chrome-and-leather 1960s Arne Norell chairs that were handed over for a mere $100? (A similar pair recently listed for close to $15,000 on 1stdibs.) The couple’s living room is a virtual portrait gallery of those near and dear to them—works hung frame to frame by a motley crew of artists and friends, including Kara Walker, Robert Gober, James Gobel, and Carrie Moyer—many of which were rescued from flea markets and junk shops.
“James came across the self-portrait by [20th-century artist] Leonard Foujita at an antiques mall in Ohio, and it really spoke to him. We didn’t know anything about it at the time, and it’s become one of our absolute favorite pieces,” says Reid. The story aptly illustrates the duo’s decorating style, which is driven by instinct and emotion rather than pedigree. Today the Foujita hangs, mounted in an ornate gilded frame, over the marble-front fireplace. Peering through his signature black-rimmed glasses with his beloved cat perched on his shoulder, the Japanese-French artist seems perfectly at home among the midcentury lighting, antique chairs, modern art, and of course, the duo’s spectacular, timeless ceramics.
The couple started KleinReid in 1993, creating handmade vessels in their Brooklyn studio that were more art and less craft. Their design-minded aesthetic is credited with helping the pottery movement evolve past its folksy roots. A partnership in 1999 with artist Eva Zeisel cemented KleinReid’s place in cultural history, and today the pieces appear in venues as varied as museum galleries and showroom floors. The pair recently released a handful of new pieces as part of an ongoing collaboration with Room & Board. Their latest line, Mijara, was named Best New Collection at the design fair NY NOW.
It’s no surprise that Klein and Reid know how to effectively team up on a creative project, be it for home or business. They have been professional partners for 22 years, and a couple for nearly a decade longer—they met and fell for each other as high-school classmates back in Tallmadge, Ohio. After grad school (Klein at Alfred University, Reid at the Cranbrook Academy of Art), they settled in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, setting up a ceramics studio a short walk from their 700-square-foot rent-stabilized apartment. Over the next 15 years, they watched their once-scruffy neighborhood grow up around them. In 2007, the couple decided it was finally time to “move off campus,” as Reid says. “Sixty to 70 percent of the buildings were under construction, and cement trucks were rumbling down the street each morning at 4:30 am. It was time for a change.”
They found their new home in Jackson Heights, Queens: a 15-minute train ride from Midtown Manhattan, but seemingly a different world. The 10-unit prewar co-op building, like others on the block, was modeled after English garden apartments. The modestly sized structures eschew density in favor of greenery—Klein and Reid share with their neighbors a bucolic garden nearly the size of a football field, complete with two spacious lawns, stately trees, and a plot blooming with flowers, native plants, and produce. The couple tends to a small crop of hot peppers and herbs that they often harvest before cooking a meal.
Inside, they have greater room to roam as well. Their new apartment, with three bedrooms and two baths, is nearly twice the size of their former residence. But like any good caretakers of rescued art and design, they brought with them much of what populated their previous home, simply growing their family of furnishings as space allowed. “When we first moved in, we had all this extra room, so we would just buy things we liked without a thought about where it would go—we would find a spot for it,” recalls Reid. “But now that it’s filling up, we’re trying to slow down. We don’t want to turn into pack rats.”
And although their richly layered living room has the feel of a well-attended party, the private spaces are quieter and offer a greater sense of solitude. “There are only two real pieces of decoration in the bedroom,” explains Reid, pointing to a mirror and a graphic black-and-white silhouette painting by Klein. “It’s very purposeful, as we wanted this room to be extremely underdone in contrast to the living room.”
And what about their own creations—the ones people collectors for at Aero, Homer, and Napoleon Perdis? Surprisingly, those are not always long to stay amid the couple’s found treasures. “Our home is something of a testing ground. When we create a new glaze or a prototype, we have to know we can live with it, so it comes home with us for a little while,” explains Klein. This rotating approach to their own work keeps their personal space from looking too much like a showroom. But a closer look will reveal there are plenty of beloved KleinReid pieces that, like the underappreciated Norell chairs, have found their forever home overlooking a garden in Jackson Heights.