Photography by Colby Edwards

Published on January 31, 2021

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Remember back when you’d want to spend an hour browsing in your favorite boutique? Designer and creative Andrew Chen does. Ahead of launching his brand 3Sixteen’s latest store in New York’s Nolita neighborhood, a prolonged effort through the pandemic, some big renovations had to be done—and they happen to be easily replicable in any home. Chen shared a couple of his favorites with us. 

Use Archways to Divide Rooms

In a collaboration with design firm Meadow on the interiors, Chen had an arch cut out in the formerly nothing-special hallway that bridges the two halves of the store: sales racks and lounge. The wood trim around the hallway is a nod to the furniture and sales racks, but also frames the back area of the shop and two changing rooms. In a studio apartment setting, a curved passageway could segment the kitchen from your bedroom. DIY it with a wood framework and Sheetrock, à la ceramist Lalese Stamps.

Reimagine Seemingly Useless Spots With Built-Ins

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“The space has a lot of funny little nooks,” Chen points out. In older buildings like his, divots and awkward lines in the floor plan (adjusting for pipes or the foundation) are common, but there’s a silver lining: They’re the perfect place for custom shelving. By measuring each board and painting them all in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White, there’s now storage for books, records, a turntable, and decorative objects.

Carve Out a Workless Zone

“I spend most of my waking hours at work,” admits Chen. When the bulk of his day is being put toward getting this new project up and running, having a place to take a breather is important. In the store, that’s designer Stephen Kenn’s cushy, textured leather Inheritance sofa, which Chen will open up orders for soon. “We met with Stephen to build a couch that would age as well as the jeans we sell,” he says. Rather than face a television, it looks onto the store’s stash of records. Since most of us are working from home these days anyway, a similar spot free of screens and laptops, where you can simply listen to music, isn’t a bad idea for transitioning out of meetings mode. 

Be an Imperfectionist

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Rather than break up the stark walls using paint or colorful decor, Chen and Meadow sourced handmade white oak racks through manufacturers in North Carolina. “It starts quite pale, but after use it takes on a honey hue and gets more expressive,” says Chen of the material. Instead of covering up any flaws, the team filled the fractures or splits in the timber with a resin and then sanded them down—making each piece one of a kind. “You get beautiful grains right next to a zebra stripe down the beam,” he notes.

Sheer Curtains Draw the Eye Through the Room

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Doors are the ultimate privacy solution, but they don’t exactly make a space feel bigger. Take a page out of Chen’s book and hang two swaths of sheer fabric instead. For the 3Sixteen store, they allow a (slightly) more intimate setting behind the curtain for a meeting and beckon people visually as they enter. “They show off the length of our store,” explains Chen. “It really draws the eye through everything.”

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