Nine years ago, self-taught craftsmen Daniel Hellman and Eric Chang opened up shop in Brooklyn as Hellman-Chang to begin a high-end line of furnishings made with a sustainable touch. Although their pieces travel far and wide to buyers like The Ritz Carlton, The Four Seasons, and The Waldorf Astoria, and are on display in show rooms around the world, all it takes to build them is found within a short distance of their Brooklyn space.
“Despite using solid lumber, we are creating timeless pieces that will last for generations to come. We do not take that responsibility for granted or believe these materials should be used in vain,” says Chang. “With our design and fabrication studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, nearly all of the vendors we partner with are within a 10 mile radius of us. Our finishers, glass vendors, metal fabricators, and many lumber suppliers are in Red Hook, Long Island City, around the corner in Buswhick or Queens, and the Bronx.” The craftsmen take into account the carbon footprint of transporting materials, sticking mainly to North American wood and avoid exotic hardwoods, even when they are requested.
That’s a pretty extraordinary achievement in New York City.
Two of their latest pieces exemplify the sleek design of their luxury pieces, which sacrifice no element of style for sustainability. Inspired by Asian design and modern architecture, the Akane table is a piece built for both aesthetics and utility.
Likewise the Mercer is a modern design with several options for the table-top’s materials, offering the opportunity to customize but keeping in line with use of local materials.
Since Hellman-Chang started out of a 5-by-10 foot co-op studio space, they have moved on to an 11,000 square-foot studio. To use the extra space, Hellman and Chang have set-up an artist co-op for other young designers and artists similar to one they got their start in. “It was important for us to create a space with a similar opportunity,” says Chang. “It’s really wonderful to see what comes out from the co-op, and how all of our collective energy feeds off of one another. It motivates and fosters great designs, and as a result, we have a dynamic work environment that benefits everyone.” The pair leads a vetting process for applicants to join the space to ensure the studio is shared by like-minded, skilled artists and woodworkers. This is both a critical and invaluable space to the artist community in a densely populated city where good, clean work space is scarce at best. An open studio space like this ups its sustainability through offering opportunities for close collaboration and sharing materials, which ensures nothing is wasted.
Hellman-Chang also support sustainable woodworking for the future by hosting up to six apprentices and interns throughout each year for design students to cultivate their woodcraft and design voices. Chang asserts, “It’s important for us to help young American designers find ways to promote themselves to the global design community. There’s much the American design industry has to offer and prove to the world.”