Welcome to Open Studio, a Racked feature where we explore the workspaces and showrooms of some of the city's most talented designers.
When Stephanie Housley sits down to sketch a cute character for her nature-driven home goods line, Coral & Tusk, she doesn't just draw a lamb wearing a flower crown or a rabbit in a waistcoat—she invents its entire backstory. "Habitat plays a big part in what we do," the RISD-trained designer told Racked during a recent visit to her Williamsburg studio. "For example, a fennec fox lives in the Sahara, so I drew him in a yurt, and the arctic fox lives in an igloo. I love to imagine what these animals' homes are like, and how they decorate."
It's this attention to detail that propelled the label from a booth at the Brooklyn Flea (where retailers like Catbird, ABC Home, and John Derian took note) to its own South 5th Street showroom in three years. And while Coral & Tusk's fourth-floor headquarters is tucked away in an office building, it functions like a store—shoppers can pop in at any time to browse the full lineup of wall hangings, pillows, and linens. Racked did just that recently, and Stephanie Housley was on-hand to walk us through her latest collection.
"I think travel is really important, animals are really important, and certainly the natural landscape is really important," Housley (pictured above) says of the inspiration behind the line. "It's really about the feeling of being somewhere different and being to absorb that place."
A table full of new tea towel and napkin designs.
Housley's dog (and unofficial Coral & Tusk mascot) Paco poses with his likeness.
"In France, the tooth fairy is a mouse," Housley told us. "So we introduced this little mouse tooth faith pillow. The treasure pillows are a new category for us—it's a great way to give a little gift."
A mood board that hangs in the South Williamsburg showroom.
"I got into embroidery as a kid. I always had a piece of fabric and string. My grandma was really crafty, and we'd go over to her house and make little dolls out of whatever scraps were around. I never formally learned how to embroider, but it's something I've always had. I'd do it in front of the T.V. I loved to watch T.V. but I also loved to do something while I watched T.V."
"I do all the drawings by hand on paper, then I scan them and draw all of the stitches on top of the scans. These are new designs for Christmas—one is going to be all horned animals, another is this arctic scene with little furry guys."
Housley recently introduced embroidered patterns inspired by Moroccan wedding blankets—you can see a few of them, in pillow form, on the bottom shelves.
A wall of thread hangs in the workspace half of the showroom.
A tub of stuffed toys sits on a chair covered in Coral & Tusk fabric.
"We're excited to introduce some travel accessories—travel is a big source of inspiration for us. These are passport holders and we also made some travel wallets, they have enough room for all of your travel documents."
A jumble of patches, pouches, and stuffed toys.
There's that arctic fox, in his igloo.