The Art of Brooklyn: Meet Uhuru Design
At 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, our design embraces local community, the history of our neighborhood, and our natural surroundings. In this series, we go behind-the-scenes with Brooklyn-based artists featured throughout the hotel, and their creations which bring our design ethos to life.
When Uhuru Design founders Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf first started making furniture in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, in 2004, they were literally pulling discarded construction beams off the street. Call it reclaiming or scavenging, but Horvath and Hilgendorf laugh when they recall that they were essentially taking wood out of the trash.
These days, reclaimed wood has a market in New York City, but it’s the same material that the two Rhode Island School of Design alums were using 12 years ago: sturdy yellow-heart pine, more than 100 years old, used in buildings and on construction sites around the city since the turn of the last century. And, while Uhuru initially used the wood because it was available, the ethos behind their designs has developed from that idea of up-cycling. Now, they focus on the lifespan of the materials they use, and try to use their designs to tell a story of the previous lives of the wood, glass, stone, or other natural material.
When we recruited Uhuru to create furniture for 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, we didn’t realize just how exciting the project would be for them. As it turns out, many of the reclaimed materials they work with would have been used in the buildings that were, 100 years ago, on the site where the hotel now stands. The DUMBO waterfront was once home to cold-storage warehouses built out of the same kind of iron and yellow-heart pine beams that Uhuru has turned into pieces that fill the hotel’s common spaces. From tables in the lobby, event spaces, and restaurant and an oversized sofa for the lobby, to benches in the guest room corridors and banquettes for the restaurant and café, the neighborhood’s history is now everywhere you look in the hotel.
Horvath and Hilgendorf’s favorite piece, though? A table for the lobby that they made out of both metal and wood. Before they started Uhuru, Horvath was a metal-worker, and Hilgendorf a woodworker, so the table feels a bit like a representation of their partnership.
To learn more about the Brooklyn artisans at Uhuru Design, watch the video and visit their website here.