Assistant Professor of Architecture Kirin Makker has written an article on Amy and Brandon Phillips, owners of Miles & May Furniture Works in Geneva, which appears in the March 2014 issue of Dwell magazine. Devoted to modern architecture and design, Dwell has an audience of more than one million readers. Makker’s article focuses on the Phillips who renovated the building that houses their business and residence, the Cracker Factory.
Since purchasing the building, the Phillips have worked with Makker and other members of the HWS community to host events and offer internships to HWS architecture majors and Philips has taught a course at the Colleges.
“They bought the building in 2007 for $137,500 and have been-with sweat, creativity, and a shoestring budget-steadily rehabbing it from a forlorn relic into a 21st- century factory humming with possibility,” says Makker.
She describes the form and function of the building, including the original features the designers kept as well as new elements – such as furniture in their own Miles & May design.
“Throughout, the couple has made the reuse of found objects feel purposeful and prized-and far more special than what any museum of America’s industrial past could achieve,” says Makker.
Trained professionally as an architect and planner, Makker prizes her liberal arts undergraduate degree for giving her the tools for thinking about design and the built environment from the vantage of a cultural critic.
“I often find that some of the most interesting designers out there are the ones that think the most broadly about their discipline and the impact it can have on peoples’ lives. A sculptor that practices interior design; a business woman who moonlights as a cook and kitchen consultant; a printmaker who designs clothes — these are the folks who are really bringing design into peoples’ lives in compelling and impactful ways,” she says. “Brandon and Amy Phillips are great examples of those types of folks so when they offered to take interns, we jumped at the chance to get our students into their shop and learn from such dynamic and entrepreurial people. The article for Dwell is an extension of my teaching, except that instead of introducing the Phillips’ to my students, I’m putting their story on the radar of the larger public.”
Visit Dwell online for the article and photos. The text of the article follows.
Dwell: At Home in the Modern World
Kirin J. Makker • March 2014
Whether they’re fabricating a dining chair, designing a line for West Elm, or building out a kitchen, Amy and Brandon Phillips find ways to reveal the unique histories and characteristics of the materials within their work. “We don’t believe in enshrining the past,” says Brandon, “but we don’t need to hide it either. We can respect it.”
Amy and Brandon own a 65,000 square -foot 19th-century factory in Geneva, New York, where they live and run Miles & May Furniture Works. They bought the building in 2007 for $137,500 and have been-with sweat, creativity, and a shoestring budget-steadily rehabbing it from a forlorn relic into a 21st- century factory humming with possibility.
The Cracker Factory (the building’s new name, a pithy moniker that came from a shared love of The Simpsons) stretches over three floors and is anchored on one end by a 200 foot-high smokestack, left over from its previous life. The workshop and showroom occupy the first floor, while the second floor houses the couple’s 1,700-square-foot apartment, a 6,000-square-foot event space, and a 4,000-square-foot letterpress studio. The third floor remains untouched, with plans in place to convert it into artists’ residences.
The couple’s large two-bedroom flat is composed primarily of stained heart-pine floors, mottled worn-brick walls, and enormous metal windows set with blue-and-white safety glass. It’s a testament to the richness of well-placed, delicately finished found materials. The front door opens into their kitchen, where you step onto a glossy, chocolate-marble-tile floor (rejects bought on clearance). The grandeur of this space is kept in check by a simple, original wood skylight hovering 19 feet above. The white veining in the floor is picked up by the white cabinetry – MDF covered in automobile paint – and the Carrara marble counters that appear to wrap the built-ins, inverting and riffing on the typical treatment of stone resting atop.
The living-dining area, which opens off the kitchen through a nine-by-seven-foot doorway, comprises the bulk of the apartment. One corner of the room holds a hickory dining set from the couple’s furniture line; the other contains the entry to their bathroom, with a sliding door constructed from salvaged, leaded windows and ipe from the Coney Island boardwalk. A large shower takes up the back end of the bathroom, and cleverly installed found objects fill out the space. Electrical boxes serve as medicine cabinets, and wall-hung train luggage racks hold towels.
One continuous cathedral ceiling runs from the kitchen threshold to the back, where the bedrooms are. A variegated wood ceiling, fashioned from maple flooring rescued from a factory in Michigan, dominates the open living area and gives way to corrugated metal in one bedroom. A large entertainment center, fabricated from salvaged industrial joists, cantilevers off one of the central columns of the loft and physically divides the private and public spaces.
Throughout, the couple has made the reuse of found objects feel purposeful and prized-and far more special than what any museum of America’s industrial past could achieve. “We work 80 hours a week, so we needed to live and work in a beautiful place,” says Amy. “Some people like cars. We like space.”