Fashion-student turned furniture-designer Taylor Forrest shows us her appreciation for the thoughtfully handmade.
“I never thought I’d ever work a power tool, to be honest,” says Taylor Forrest.
It’s a brisk winter day in New York City and the Manhattan-based furniture maker is seated at the kitchen counter in her friend Robyn Shapiro’s Nolita apartment, eating a doughnut. A few feet away stands a dining room table outfitted with a set of eight sling chairs in sleek black leather: her own designs.
A deep respect for impassioned craftsmanship is something Forrest and Shapiro share. Shapiro's apartment, located in the city’s historic Police Building, is the picture of tactful and deliberate design. In search of a more meaningful connection to the items in her home, she chose to furnish the space with a mix of vintage and locally-sourced custom pieces. Forrest was commissioned to create a mirror that matched the exposed terracotta in the apartment’s domed, skylit bedroom; she also lent a hand in the construction of a few of Shapiro’s own leather-centric designs, including a waste bin, a wine rack, and a set of trays. “Everything is meant to feel connected,” says the current Director of Community for Manhattan's proposed Lowline.
“I studied fashion at Parsons, so for a time, I was much more involved in that world,” she continues. “Then I met my boyfriend, who has a work space on the Lower East Side. I wanted to learn more about woodworking for a shoe design prototype that I was working on at the time, and after being in the studio for a while with him, I realized I wanted to explore more.”
Making things by hand — and with heart — is a concept the designer has held dear from an early age. “My mom has a great eye,” she says. “She has these two cast bronze tables, for example, and with each, it’s clear that someone made it. That table was one person’s idea. With things like that, you don’t feel like you’re interacting with just a product — you’re interacting with art.”
Forrest's chairs built using bronze, steel, and saddle leather, reflect an appreciation for both method and memory. "I grew up horseback riding, so I was always coming into contact with beautifully crafted bridles and saddles," she says. "On the reins, they take a strip of leather, and punch holes through the center. Then they braid another strip through it to make a grip. It's so genius, and so often overlooked. And I grew up riding in my mom's saddle from when she was my age — that was really special. I'm not sentimental about everything, but that concept means a lot to me."
When asked about her own aesthetic preferences, she stops to think. “I never considered myself a big fan of super simple, but making my furniture has completely changed that. When I first started, I wanted to make pieces that were faceted and more complicated, but then I thought, why? All that is just extra. Overall, I like things that are primitive and time-worn, but also somehow new in form. I like when the materials feel like they’ve been there forever — but they’ve just been put into a new package, or taken on a new shape.”
To those listening, it’s almost as if she’s describing her work — and her career path: instinctive, unforced, always evolving.
“I like the idea of spending my time thinking and learning,” she says. “This hasn’t always been the most practical path, but if you’re gonna live, you’re gonna live.”