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You might think that owning a high-end housewares shop would make you a snob when it comes to home accessories, but that's not the case with Canvas Home founder Andrew Corrie. He could fill his home with total extravagance — after all, he's also a partner at super-fancy furniture company Ochre — but he chooses to shop at normal-people places like CB2 and Ikea, too.
"It's easy to fill a house with amazing design if you have an unlimited budget, but it's much more fun to have a beautifully well-considered home if you're shopping from every source," he explained to Racked as we hung out at Canvas's new space in Soho, just a block away from where the business debuted in 2008. As much as we'd like to agree, if Canvas were our store, we probably wouldn't ever shop anywhere else. (We'll take one of everything shown here, please.)
During our visit, we chatted with the British-born Corrie about everything from Canvas's origins to what no home should be without and what makes the UK customer so different from the American one.
Tell us how Canvas Home began.
There was no grand plan. I got involved [in Ochre] in 2005 and we set up a store in the UK, and it had lots of heavy foot traffic so we started selling accessories, which tended to be made by the people we had met at the European trade fairs. But after I was here [in New York] for a while, I realized that there were so many incredible American artisans. So, bit by bit, we started commissioning some things with these amazing potters in New Jersey, or glassblowers in Portland, and started selling these accessories that complemented our big chandeliers and big furniture.
We didn't want to confuse the Ochre customer, however, so we thought we had to launch this as a separate line. It was a slight accident, really, by virtue of the fact that we were down in Soho and we wanted to take advantage of people coming to the store and sell them little things, as well as the big things. At the same time, I got involved in a non-profit called Aid to Artisans, so we added those to the line and launched Canvas in 2008.
Then there was the whole financial crash, which was a nightmare. We discovered that if wanted to keep the business going, we couldn't just be super posh. Although 90 percent of everything we do is still handcrafted, we also introduced things made in bigger facilities, and the line got filled out.
It's nice to have a wide range of price points available for customers.
It's easy to fill a house with amazing design if you have an unlimited budget, but it's much more fun to have a beautifully well-considered home if you're shopping from every source. You might splurge on a few things, but you can't splurge on everything. That's why one of my favorite places is Ikea. I just think it's fabulous to live with that balance.
Home goods is such a wide category, so how did you decide what to carry here?
We tried a bunch of different things. Bit by bit, you figure out what people like you for, and for us it's anything to do with dining and entertaining. So as we've progressed, our focus has really narrowed down.
Obviously, ceramics is also a big category. I love messing around with it, although I'm a terrible potter, but I certainly love doing collaborations with amazing potters and developing wonderful lines. Glassware is always lovely, and we're getting to know more and more amazing small shops in Eastern Europe. We have also a real focus on functional and decorative linen.
If I'm terribly honest, our most successful products have been here because of a need at home, where my wife has said, "My God, all the salad bowls we have are just too deep, and I want something that's really flat," and you start from there.
Are you big on hosting and entertaining?
Yeah, and there's a kind of weird dynamic between my wife and I: My wife is a very good cook — she'll sit in bed and read cookbooks and take notes — and I'm kind of more, "What do we have in the fridge?" She will plan and plan and plan and everything has to be perfect, whereas I'll bump into someone in a store at 2 p.m. and before we know it we have eight people coming by that evening.
Ha, your wife must love that!
Yeah, but by 8 o' clock when, everyone's sitting down and we're on our second glass of wine. she enjoys it. So in a way it's better, because if I say, "Hey let's have a bunch of people over next Saturday," that requires a lot of thought and preparation. It's a kindness to keep the buildup short.
What prompted your recent move from Chelsea to Soho?
Our first store [before Chelsea] was on the corner of Lafayette and Broome streets, and that did really well for us. We moved up to Chelsea for a much bigger space, since we were adding a lot of furniture and other categories. And last year, William Sonoma, who owned West Elm [next door], made a very attractive offer to buy the lease. So I sold it and we moved back down to our old home.
Now, I'm extremely lazy — my apartment is two blocks that way, the head office is two blocks the other way, and Ochre is two blocks this way, so I don't have to do more than a four-block commute now.
How often do you redo your own home?
Working in this world and seeing the latest trends — some you love, some you don't — you just have so many influences that you sort of get itchy to do something. Also, we've got three young kids and things are getting wrecked, so there's always a need to renew.
What's your favorite piece of furniture that you own?
My bed! [laughs]. There's a Spanish company that makes amazing beds — l just sleep so well. I've had it for a long time, like 14 years. I've tried others along the way, and I've always gone back to this one.
What is something that no home should be without?
A really big comfy sofa that the kids could use as a trampoline, or that you could use to watch a movie and cuddle. It's gotta be super comfortable — probably quite low and deep, and the absolute focal point of your living space.
Your favorite place to shop for home goods besides for Canvas is...
I love Ikea, and I think CB2 has some amazing things on a more general level. Then because I'm lucky and I get to go to these trade shows, I get to know specialists for more expensive stuff.
What's different about your New York customer compared to your UK customer?
UK customers are dying for tablecloths and teapots. The American customer is definitely "thirsty" — they want big mugs and probably slightly bigger plates.
If you could sit down to dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
People who I pay homage to, like the French furniture designer Jacques Adnet. I think he's got a very colorful personality, so I think he'd be great dinner company.
What's your favorite part about being in this business?
Putting out new product is the thing I probably love the most, and luckily home doesn't require to do crazy quantities. We introduce new product twice a year and we get copied a bit here and there and it's a bit flattering, but equally we've gotta be producing the good new stuff because there's always someone coming up behind you taking your better ideas and doing them for themselves, and I think that's a really nice balance. If you're in fashion and you're designing four or five seasons, that just feels like a mouse wheel, whereas two seasons you can kind of get your head around.
What's next for you and Canvas?
I just love what I'm already doing, so for me the next thing is creating another dinnerware patent that lasts. We've got patterns that have lasted since we started seven or eight years ago. It's nice to know that you're creating something that people are going to enjoy using and continues to sell well enough that justifies keeping it for many, many years. That's the joy of this little niche within home goods.
Thanks for the chat! Let's do a little lightning round to wrap things up: Coffee or tea?
UK or US?
Wine or water?
Dining in or dining out?
Books or movies?
Spoons or forks?
Summer or winter?
Bedroom or living room?
Noon or midnight?
Sushi or pizza?
Andrew Corrie's good tastes go beyond his own store — check out where he likes to shop in and around Soho:
Acne Studios, 33 Greene St: "I get all of my jeans here."
BDDW, 5 Crosby St: "They're one of the most innovative American designers of the last twenty years. They've got a great eye for using and combining materials of different textures, a great sense of proportion, and great craftsmanship. There's also a sense of fun that I think has a broad appeal."
La Colombe, 270 Lafayette St: "I like that their coffee is earthy and European. I know that there's are so many very cool roasters popping up, but I'm not into the new trending coffee â I think I'm too old. I like it inky."
Matter, 405 Broome St: He's the best curator of contemporary local designers that I know of. He's got a great eye for talent but also presents in a really appealing way. Everything feels very real and useable and nothing seems to get lost in the "art" of it all, but actually what he shows is generally of the high art quality.
McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St: "It's excellent. It has a great kids section, and they do lovely readings. They have fabulous stationery that you won't find elsewhere without a big search, and also a great staff that are all walking encyclopedias."
Saturday Surf, 31 Crosby St: "These really young, horrendously handsome surfer dudes set up this clothing line and opened this little store, and they have a café in it, too."
Uniqlo, 31 W 34th St: "I love Uniqlo. Their jeans are really great, and their shorts for the summer, their tees, their socks...it's just fantastic."