How a New Kind of Design Retail Space

The year 2021 saw the shuttering of many brick-and-mortar stores, as quarantine measures and a slowed economy decreased the traffic that typically sustains physical retail spaces. In the midst of this all, fashion designer turned design collector and curator Alan Eckstein found himself crafting a new kind of design retail space in Brooklyn: The Somerset House, “a spacious, light-filled space in Williamsburg that blends decades and styles to create something totally its own.

Alan, who has spent his free time over the past years amassing a respectable collection of international and domestic vintage design, began to move into the world of interior staging after a townhouse in Manhattan’s West Village that he staged sold in just a matter of weeks. Staging, which is intended to bring out the best of space through thoughtful styling of furniture and objects, was a way for Alan to apply his love of interiors and to share highlights from his large collection, pieces that “deserved to be shown and shared.”

While in the midst of designing a living space in Williamsburg, Alan was approached by the building’s owners and asked to consider making use of the then-vacant ground floor space to showcase his design collection. From this partnership, the Somerset House was born—“a place to look, buy, and get excited about furniture.”

For visitors to the Somerset House, space is the perfect complement to the pieces inside: soaring ceilings and light-filled interior frame pieces that blend styles, eras, and locales—a testament to Alan’s skill as a collector and curator. “We are a true blend of collectible pieces from many different cultures, locations, and eras around the world,” says Alan. “We want people to be inspired when they come to the store.”

Alan is quick to welcome visitors into his space, which is available by appointment. He’s passionate about vintage furniture and gladly shares his knowledge with a listening ear. “Vintage furniture is usually made, designed, and executed better than most furniture manufactured today—it’s just that simple,” Alan says. “Solid wood construction, hand-beveled marble, things of that nature not something you see in furniture today, and that’s why our interest for unique vintage furniture is here to stay. I think as a society we will learn to covet well-made pieces that are meant to last.”

Refurbishing well-loved furniture is a big part of Alan’s work, and he sees it as a great access point for those new to buying vintage designs. “Don’t be afraid to invest in furniture and art that may need a little work—it can be more affordable that way. If you’re just starting out, use Craigslist or Facebook marketplace and seek furniture and objects that are timeless. Invest more in a few bold pieces that will define your interior, like a chair or a lamp. And don’t hesitate to take a risk!”

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