Pieces Home Kennebunk: The Ultimate Airbnb, Where Everything Is For Sale
When coronavirus arrived in the US, the trio behind Pieces, the Brooklyn-based home and product line, was preparing to open a liveable showroom in Maine on the coast of New England. Everything in Pieces Home Kennebunk, the name they gave their shoppable Airbnb in the small town of the same name, was photographed in situ and listed for sale online.
Design aficionados are attracted to furniture and objects that they want to live with, so why not allow them to live with them before they buy? This was the thinking that informed the decision of Mr Chris Corrado, Ms Jenny Kaplan and Ms Tai Coombs (Mr Corrado and Ms Kaplan are married), the team behind the creative agency An Aesthetic Pursuit, through which they created Pieces.
Pieces Home Kennebunk, which was launched to coincide with the brand’s third collection, features rugs, vessels, tables and seating that articulate the team’s playful aesthetic. An armchair with the texture of a teddy bear, an oval table with translucent borders meant to evoke a racetrack and a side table with supple, velvet sides and a sleek stone top being three examples.
Ms Jenny Kaplan
“It’s hard to sell product that is just shot on a white background in a studio space,” explains Mr Corrado of the decision to establish the Airbnb showroom. “It’s actually really hard to find a space that looks like this warm, honest, living space to shoot your products in and not make it look sterile, forced or produced.”
Kennebunk means “the long cut bank” in the language of the Abenaki people. This town of less than 11,000 inhabitants was incorporated in 1820 and still feels like a village with its rows of quaint residences, including the Pieces home. From the outside, Pieces Home Kennebunk looks like a classic 1850s New England farmhouse. But inside, it is a micro-environment all its own. The team has drenched the property in colour, using a recurring motif of squiggly lines that juxtaposes pleasingly with the colonial symmetry of the building.
The design team initially discussed bringing some classic elements of Maine into the project (Mr Corrado and Ms Kaplan are both from the state), but ultimately decided against it. “I remember a couple of times asking, ‘Where’s our shiplap moment?’” jokes Ms Coombs. Shiplap, traditionally used as exterior siding in coastal areas, has been popularised in interior design thanks to HGTV. “You grow up in Maine and you live in Maine and everyone’s got a buoy on the side of their house or a lobster-trap lawn ornament,” adds Mr Corrado. “But it’s just a bit too literal for what we wanted to do.”
Pieces had far more unique textures in mind, including a honeycomb-coloured mesh headboard, a glass-block corner wall and a bubblegum sink basin with a sky-high rim. Adorning the dining room and living rooms, meanwhile, is a 60ft rug featuring 10 differently coloured undulating stripes. Mr Corrado recalls thinking, “Nobody’s ever going to buy this, this is obviously editorial, it’s an installation”. They joke about this now, as it has become their best-selling rug by far.
Pieces relies on a network of friends and contacts to execute its designs. These collaborators and suppliers range from artisan weavers in India to fibreglass workers in Vietnam and metal workers in Brooklyn. Once they have a prototype and photographic assets, they can put each product in front of their customers to see if there’s demand.
“That’s the ideal path,” says Mr Corrado. “But we live in such a digital age at this point that we also work with 3D renderers, which over the course of the pandemic was beneficial. The evolution of the technology we have access to right now can really help save time and energy – and help a product get to market faster than even five years ago.”
“People realised that the house photographs so beautifully, but it lives even nicer”
Given that Pieces is so colour-centric, it felt appropriate to ask the team about Pantone’s colours of the year: 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and 13-0647 Illuminating, a lemon yellow. We initially agreed that these choices were underwhelming, but in discussing the “lazy river” rug (as one friend of the design team described it), and the comfort and joy it has brought to customers in the midst of the pandemic, the polarities of 2020 soon re-emerged. Pieces may have been surrounded by lemon (and lavender, and peach and emerald), but emotionally they accept that there were plenty of grey days, too. “The Pantone colours make sense to me all of a sudden,” admits Ms Coombs.
The team stayed in the house from April to June, when they finally hosted their first booking. Taking advantage of an early thaw, they finished up some landscaping projects while bringing would-be guests into the home through updates on social media, which included photos of Zuko, Mr Corrado and Ms Kaplan’s husky-shepherd mix and the team’s mascot.
Mr Chris Corrado
In March, Pieces posted a line drawing of a new rug on Instagram and asked their followers to colour in the blanks. The winning design, they promised, would be made into a rug (or rugs) to be produced by Pieces, proceeds of which would go to the Food Bank For New York City. They received more than 200 submissions before finally announcing the winner.
As with any vibrant fantasy encountered on social media, there’s always the risk that it won’t live up to expectations. Ms Coombs says this hasn’t been the case with Pieces Home Kennebunk: “People realised that the house photographs so beautifully, but it lives even nicer,” she says.
Indeed, the response to the Pieces Home has been substantial. Collection III products such as the Dose Table, which was launched in the space, have been well-received because of the home’s environment. “I feel very confident if it hadn’t been in an actual space, we probably would have had a hard time selling it,” confesses Mr Corrado. The hope is that the Kennebunk home is the first of many, and that Pieces can brand design-forward vacation experiences in all of the places they love to travel to.
Ms Tai Coombs
In terms of what’s next for Pieces, Mr Corrado, Ms Kaplan and Ms Coombs, each of whom has a fashion background, explain that they have been developing a concept called Home Wear, which is inspired by all of the time spent inside last year. “The way that Tai and I dress a lot really works with this,” says Mr Corrado, who specifies that the clothing will be “good enough to lounge around the house in, but nice enough to take a Zoom call or hit the streets”.
The patterns in the forthcoming Collection III were inspired by Palm Beach, where Ms Kaplan’s grandmother made her winter home. She says she still treasures the artwork and vintage furniture that her parents kept from that house and admits to frequently referencing her grandmother’s taste in the course of her own design process.
Previous Pieces collections have been thematic, too. Collection I was based on sketches, colours, shapes and even doodles Mr Corrado found himself drawing during meetings. Collection II was inspired by sport courts, particularly those used for basketball. “We really dissected sport courts and loosely interpreted sport court design,” explains Ms Kaplan. In Kennebunk, an aerial view of tennis courts hangs over one of the beds.
Despite their preference for themes, the Pieces team believes that inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere – and often strikes when you least expect it. From April to June, for example, Ms Kaplan took Zuko for hours-long walks, watching the world around transform from winter to summer. “The range of colours that transitioned really inspired me,” she says. “I feel like subconsciously I put it to use.”
In Mr John Steinbeck’s 1962 book, Travels With Charley, the author documents a trip around the US with his poodle, Charley. The first leg of the journey takes them through Maine, where Mr Steinbeck notes: “One thing I remember very clearly. It might have been caused by the season with a quality of light, or the autumn clarity. Everything stood out separate from everything else, a rock, a rounded lump of sea-polished driftwood on a beach, a roof line. Each pine tree was itself and separate…” Itself and separate, like the objects created by Pieces, which together form a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.