The ABCs of green luxury

Giving back never looked and felt so good at ABC Home, Manhattan’s eco-chic home furnishing emporium, where beauty and commerce are tools for change.

As pioneers of eco-consciousness, the iconic Gotham destination has become a place where luxury and social responsibility meet. And frankly, who wouldn’t want to lend a hand, especially when it means that buying a uniquely crafted treasure to adorn your home will help create a better life for a family halfway around the world?

Like the uniquely designed handmade ceramic bowls that support young artists from Cape Town, South Africa or Panda sunglasses made of sustainable bamboo and recycled polycarbonates, with every pair sold providing an eye exam and a pair of prescription glasses to the needy in Colombia’s tribal communities through the TOMA Foundation. Who can possibly resist wonderful wood bowls made from fallen Lenga trees by artisans from Patagonia’s Mapuche community, who have been crafting these chemical-free, food-safe dishes for generations?

“We’re very passionate about preservation of the design DNA of indigenous cultures, because we see that as a kind of endangered, threatened species,” says Paulette Cole, co-founder, CEO and creative director of ABC Home.

Globe-trekker

According to a Nielsen survey released earlier this year, consumers today are savvier than ever, and, given the choice, are 66 percent more likely to buy from a company that is socially responsible and environmentally friendly. So it’s no wonder the “green luxury” theme at the famed shop has been embraced by legions of New Yorkers and visitors alike, who are willing to pay a premium for environmentally and socially responsible goods.

For Cole, social consciousness and retail profitability are not mutually exclusive concepts. Indeed, since returning in 2003 to the company her great-grandfather started more than a century ago – ABC Carpet, located across the street – the New Rochelle native’s commitment to the global community has helped shape a new paradigm for retail.

“From my point of view, it was about following an intention and purpose. Having the opportunity to use this platform to amplify beauty and commerce as a tool to effect change in the world was something that I felt was incredibly relevant and timely. It made all the work feel so much more worthwhile to combine values and commerce that was impacted with purpose,” she says.

But make no mistake, there is no skimping on style or quality for the mission-driven retailer. On the contrary, the iconic six-story Manhattan store offers a profusion of the most exquisite furniture, textiles, housewares, jewelry, rugs and gifts brought back from global trips, reflecting an intoxicating mix of cultures, periods and styles.

“We’re on this path of continuous improvement. I see us as seekers and manifesters. So we’re out there looking and sourcing and constantly learning every day, keeping ourselves fresh and reinventing,” says Cole, who’s often on the road buying, because it’s her passion.

Step into the mise-en-scène of the first floor of the store on Broadway and 19th Street and you’ll be transported to a multicultural marketplace, reflecting everywhere from Brooklyn to India. The meticulously curated collections are presented in the most tantalizing displays, tempting shoppers at every turn.

The presentation, she says, is still inspired by nature, with the organic and slow food movements – with the latter encouraging the use of local produce – helping to shape tabletop wares.

You’ll find an array of beautiful raw wood, sculptured furniture and functional art throughout the store.

“Fluorescent (colors) are taking off in a fun way,” Cole says. As is white and colorful furniture from Italy.  “It’s light, airy, and fun.”

Another idea that’s emerging is lighting that draws its inspiration from the microscopic and the cosmic.

“The trend for us is looking under a microscope at all the cellular activities and kind of imagining that into product – in furniture and lighting.”

Such lighting can complement antique or modern furniture.

For Cole, it’s all about the yin and the yang.

“ABC’s always had a feminine bent, but now more than ever it’s more about balance. It’s more about the modern, crisp, articulate intention being balanced with that sexy, feminine, spiritual, antique presence. …We’re the toolbox for your personal canvas.”

Dining with Jean-Georges

The New York City landmark boasts three restaurants, including ABC Kitchen – a casually elegant farm-to-table eatery created by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (WAG, October 2011). Last year the sustainable restaurant was given the coveted James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant of 2011.

Next spring Jean-Georges will be transforming Pippa – ABC’s Spanish tapas restaurant – into ABC Cocina, serving Spanish cuisine. A third restaurant is also set to debut in the spring, replacing the current Le Pain Quotidien. Its name has not yet been revealed, but it promises to be a creative extension of 21st century food – local, organic and sustainable.

ABC is not just home design and food. Situated on the mezzanine level is Deepak HomeBase, a space devoted to periodic in-store multimedia conversations exploring health and wellness, innovation, our environment, spirituality and much more, led by mind-body healing pioneer and author, Dr. Deepak Chopra.

The mezzanine also contains apparel featuring a mix of green design, cause-related design and vintage and repurposed clothing.

The visionary store has become a one-stop shop for mind, body and soul – a feast for all the senses.

ABC Home & Carpet is at 888 and 881 Broadway at East 19th Street in Manhattan. You’ll find more affordable treasures at ABC’s Bronx outlet. For more information, call (212) 473-3000 or visit abchome.com.

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