Stepping into ABC Carpet & Home’s newest location in Industry City could feel full of contradictions: the old-fashioned mingles with the modern; clean and bold surfaces give way to patinas. It should feel full of contradictions, but it doesn’t – everything co-exists in a way that’s intentional and feels right.
“Co-exist is the perfect word. It is a concept that speaks to our ethos,” said Colleen Newell, ABC Carpet & Home’s executive vice president. “We refer to our aesthetic as ‘ABC DNA’ – it’s our essence, and consists of mixing the old with the new… When you create space with pieces full of soul and story, you create intentional space, sacred space.”
Soul and history fill ABC Carpet & Home, which has come a long way from its founding in a pushcart on Broadway by the great-grandfather of Paulette Cole, ABC’s CEO and creative director. Now a New York institution, ABC Carpet & Home understands its place there, and uses it to push for industry change while maintaining the beauty inherent in craftsmanship. Now a New York institution, ABC Carpet & Home uses its values and standards to push for industry change while maintaining the beauty inherent in craftsmanship.
Newell’s job consists of finding pieces that have both the ABC aesthetic and comply with ABC’s icons, a social and environmental standard ABC set in 2004 that governs the curation process. These icons include goodwood (responsibly sourced or reclaimed wood), goodcolor (low-impact dyes and pigments), and fair & square (safe working conditions and fair wages). Pioneering change in the retail industry, they use their resources to help the manufacturers meet their standards.
“There are two collections in our store called ‘Java’ and ‘Mantra.’ They’re made in Indonesia with a beautiful artisan workshop, and when we first discovered the quality they were working in, we decided we wanted to collaborate and design a collection,” Newell recalls. “They were not, however, working with FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certified woods. So we said ‘We’ll buy this first shipment, with the promise that if we invest in you, you’ll invest in us.’ It created an opportunity to evolve another manufacturer.”
Now, all of the manufacturer’s wood for these collections is FSC certified.
Newell finds inspiration in the people behind the products and the culture that leads to quality. “Overall, especially in Southeast Asia and India and that region of the world, as well as Europe, for the most part, there is a profound respect for craftsmanship,” Newell noted, a respect that is still evolving in the United States.
“We now have this new wave of entrepreneur-makers [in the United States] that is so exciting to be a part of and to watch as well, but… the respect and appreciation for craft in other parts of the world is something that I look forward to gaining momentum here.”
Beauty is just as important – it is, after all, the vehicle that gives way to quality. “There is no storytelling in the world that will overcome [the fact that] someone can’t connect to the piece visually,” Newell said with a laugh. “Beauty is always the language.”
Newell’s own home mirrors the ABC aesthetic, highlighting the interlocking nature of all the pieces in the store. Each piece is part of a larger puzzle: everything has a place, and fits beautifully once correctly placed. The commonality to each piece is a softness and sensibility, allowing you to imagine it paired with any other piece for any room in your house.
“If you are finding the pieces that really speak to you, they’re going to work together,” Newell said. “It’s really about having a vision, knowing what you want the space to feel like, and then not being afraid to go for it.”