In our Ask a Shopkeeper series, we tap the coolest store owners we know for a tour of their space and to ask them what items are trending right now—and beyond. For this installment, Sarah Zames and Colin Stief—the founders of General Assembly and now Assembly Line in Brooklyn—take us inside their new reno-friendly shop.

Why make the transition from being a design studio to opening a retail shop?

Sarah Zames: It has been an idea of ours for a long time, ever since I started General Assembly and moved from architecture to doing more interiors. I felt as if there was this weird disconnect with people not having access to some brands, especially people who aren’t doing full renovations but just targeted areas, like a bathroom. And we felt like there wasn’t a great spot for them to go.


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Colin Stief: For instance, the D&D Building is great and has such a long history, but it can also feel very intimidating, especially if you’re not working with a designer. It’s hard for us to even go in there sometimes. So the idea was to bring some of those materials to people.

Back Away From the Hardware Store—This New Brooklyn Shop Is a Renovator’s Dream

What brands are you selling that customers can’t get anywhere else?

Zames: Another Country is a U.K. brand that we’re carrying. You can get it online, but you can’t see its finished samples, and most people don’t know about the company. And then there are smaller artists like Hannah Bigeleisen, who makes lamps, so it’s a nice mix.

Stief: Fern is another one. The founder used to have a showroom in Hudson, New York, but now we’re the only place in the city where you can see his furniture.


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Back Away From the Hardware Store—This New Brooklyn Shop Is a Renovator’s Dream

If you’re a casual shopper walking down Atlantic Avenue, what are you walking in and buying?

Zames: Drawer pulls from Fort Standard or a shower curtain from Quiet Town. Maybe a rug from Tantuvi.

Back Away From the Hardware Store—This New Brooklyn Shop Is a Renovator’s Dream

What has working with clients taught you about what customers want?

Zames: When it comes to buying furniture for our clients, we always want to make things feel more digestible. So for example, with Fern, you can get any size and any finish you want, but the way that we’re presenting it to people in the store is more like: Here’s three sofa sizes and the fabrics we recommend. We don’t have full lines in the store.


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We also want to show design opportunities. We put a giant Faye Toogood for Calico mural in the living room that clients would see and say, “Oh, wow, that’s so cool, but I don’t know if I can have that kind of thing.” But when you see it installed in our store with pretty normal furniture, it seems really doable.

Back Away From the Hardware Store—This New Brooklyn Shop Is a Renovator’s Dream

Shop Talk

Music that’s always playing in the store: Sade and smooth jazz.

Instagram accounts we go to for inspiration: @m.a.r.c.c.o.s.t.a, @thefutureperfect, @brownstoneboys.

Dream person to walk into our store: Ethan Hawke.

Favorite nearby shop that’s not our own: The Primary Essentials and Mud Australia.

Favorite nearby restaurant: French Louie.

Favorite pieces in stock right now: Fort Standard knobs and the In Common With Dome table lamp.