Twice as Nice
Design duo Flat Vernacular has the makings of another hit on its hands: the brilliantly disruptive Department of Decoration
Apop-up store at New York City’s South Street Seaport featuring wall coverings made of faux eyelashes and 14,000 pencils? All in a day’s work for Brooklyn’s Flat Vernacular, run by husband-and-wife team Brian Kaspr and Payton Turner, who created the unconventional installation last summer. The couple’s wallpaper and fabrics—from marbleized patterns in white and gold to painterly scenes depicting fruit doves and florals—have appeared in such varied venues as Upper East Side powder rooms and It Girl apartments to bad bank-heist movies and exclusive Bahamas estates. Earlier this year, Kaspr and Turner kicked things up a few notches with the expertly orchestrated launch of Department of Decoration, complete with knife jugglers and a cappella performers. The current, room-specific collection consists of dip-dyed vintage chairs and tabletop objets whose genre-bending qualities are impossible to ignore. Payton Turner gives us a peek at their process. —Irene Edwards
When did it become obvious that your connection with Brian would be creatively and personally successful?
We met—oddly enough, at a gothic gay bar—in Baltimore, where we both attended Maryland Institute College of Art. There are a few major instances when we knew that our pairing was perfect on many levels. We took a three-month road trip across America in Brian's beat-up Honda, documenting the whole thing with a blog, photographs, drawings, and Polaroids. We moved to New York City and began laying down the roots of Flat Vernacular through constant collaboration—including our first and only gallery show together, The Salon at Sundown, in 2009. We have fun together. We puzzle things out without judgment. It's not always easy in the day-to-day, but the important things feel effortless.
What kind of environment do you need in order to create??
We work together—in a studio in East Williamsburg that has become way too small for both of us! This summer we’re expanding into a larger one downstairs. Stimulation breeds creativity for us. We've both evolved into needing a bit of blank space to visually think, but I'd say as a rule our studio looks like one of my first wallpaper designs: Too Much Stuff.
What was your goal in debuting Department of Decoration as a five-night event?
The major goal in launching with a secret dinner was simply to do something unexpected, meaningful, and nontraditional during New York City’s design week. It’s essential that each new collection of objects is viewed in a tactile, inventive, and surprising way. Our favorite aspect of the event, aside from seeing people interact with our products, was the hands-on project we had the audience participate in during all five nights—a massive canvas that was drawn upon in a pattern with Krink markers. We plan to use the end result for a future product.
Describe your vision of the dining room embodied in this collection. What are your inspirations for the forthcoming Bedroom collection this fall?
The Dining Room was pictured as a clean, high-ceilinged, modern space near the sea, with lots of light—sparsely furnished with natural wood furniture, and huge windows. Bedroom, launching this November, is inspired by the interaction of contrasting materials existing on one object or surface—the unnatural and the natural, the light and the dark. That's all we're going to say!
Do you travel anywhere for creative inspiration?
I would die of happiness if I got to visit Japan—with an empty suitcase for miniatures and stickers—and Brian would die of happiness if he got to visit Iceland. No fermented shark, though! We spend as much time as possible out on Long Island each summer, and it inspires both of us. We'll be ending the season with a visit to Milwaukee, Brian's hometown, to do drawings and recordings of the Wisconsin State Fair.