In the Company of Friends

Interview mit Tina Roth Eisenberg

If Tina Roth Eisenberg had her way, home would be a white box: crisp, clean and clutter-free. Considering the facts – that she has a husband and two small children; that their city of residence is New York; and, notably, that the family has recently welcomed a fifth member in the form of a black cat named Lulu – the Swiss-born designer’s Downtown Brooklyn apartment comes remarkably close to meeting her spic-and-span standards. It’s neat but nowhere near sterile, punctuated by telltale traces of happy family life: children’s artwork hung on walls and doorways, a Lego castle on the living room table, a colorful – and well-organized – collection of books.
Tina’s workspace shares a similar warmth. Located in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill, it’s home to her two growing companies – temporary tattoo emporium Tattly and the international lecture series CreativeMornings – plus 30-odd creatives who rent desks on the building’s 3,000 square-foot third floor. Its name? Friends. And while it’s not exactly a pristine white box, its clean, bright design is Tina typified – right down to the tiniest detail.
“I’ll show you a secret,” she says, opening a nondescript drawer in the Tattly office. Inside, is a sea of confetti, pink and peach and electric blue. “How great is this?” she asks. She answers her own question with a smile.

You’re seen by the public as something of an incredible idea machine. Where do the ideas come from?

I like nothing more than a good challenge. I always say, ‘Instead of complaining, fix it.’ That’s my personal rule. I kept complaining about the temporary tattoos my daughter would bring home, for instance, and that was such a no-brainer. I’m a web designer - I could make a website in no time. I had lots of illustrator friends who would be interested in participating. If someone could do something like this for kicks, I could. So I googled how to manufacture temporary tattoos, and there you have it. That’s Tattly.

Looking at both your spaces – office and home – it’s immediately apparent that each belongs to you. They’re so cohesive, and impressively tidy.

That’s funny. I’m actually reading Marie Kondo’s "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" at the moment. I find it so amusing. I’ve always believed that objects have energy, have feelings – and she does, too. She believes in saying thank you to your socks when you put them away. I just love that. It’s beautiful.
As for me, though, I’m fake tidy. If you open the closet, it’s not as neat as you’d think. But any visible areas in my home and workspace are clean and minimal because visual clutter makes me crazy. I can’t stand it. It’s like noise to me. It’s just unbearable.

When did you move into your new workspace — and what drew you here specifically?

We moved in April 1st. Our old space was being converted into condos. I was freaking out about finding a new space. Then, three weeks in, I got a call from a friend who runs The Invisible Dog, which is an art center downstairs in the same building. He said, ‘Tina, you have to come here. I promise it’s worth it.’ So I went, and he said to me, ‘There are changes happening here, and the landlord is looking for someone to rent out these two floors. I told him he should contact you.’ I started crying. I couldn’t believe it.

What did you learn from the experience of having your first workspace, Studiomates, that you brought to the design of Friends?

I learned so much from Studiomates, the predecessor of my current workspace. It was important to be aware of separation. There should be spaces to talk and be loud. There should be a conference room and phone booths. There should be smaller spaces for private conversations. We didn’t have that in the first space. We also didn’t have a sink. I learned that you need to have a sink.

Overall, the process of designing this new space was very intuitive. We only had six weeks. I went with what I liked, and we worked with what was already in the space. The building has a lot of character, with floors that dip and rogue bricks that stick out from the wall.

You mentioned that you don’t generally work with interior designers. Do you enjoy the process of decorating and designing yourself?

I had an architect help me with the workspace – and my husband helped a lot with the kitchen – but the layout came together without a designer. I have a good sense of space, or arranging things and celebrating a room. It’s terrible: when I’m invited to someone’s house, sometimes I’ll think to myself, "just let me push the furniture around a little – I can make this so much better." There have been times when I’ve just said it out loud. It’s slightly obsessive.

What do you gravitate toward in terms of furniture?

I like a minimal aesthetic. Simple lines. No frou frou. Lots of white. I always say, I’d live in a white box if I could. I find white very calming, very peaceful. It’s my go-to.

Is there a design era that you identify with more than others?

I like midcentury pieces. I grew up with the opposite: old antique furniture in a 150-year-old Swiss house made of wood. Everything was big, heavy, ornate. Very old-school. I realize now my mom did a great job with it - she was consistent. But when I left, I thought, "no thanks. No more."

How have you gone about collecting Eames items?

They’re all things I remember lusting over at some point or another. I ordered my Occasional Table LTR by Charles & Ray Eames, which I keep at the office, when I was a junior designer at my first job. It was the first piece of furniture I ordered in New York City. And then the next day – literally – I lost my job. I had to call and explain that I needed to cancel the order, and luckily the woman I spoke to was so sweet and understood. At the time, it was a lot of money for me.

Then, fast forward a few years, I was doing better and I ordered it again. That was a great feeling. Then I got the Eames Plastic Armchair RAR, and the Hang it All coat hanger, also by Charles & Ray Eames. I remember I wanted the best coat hanger, and got really intense about researching. As soon as I saw this one, there was no question. It had to be that one. As for Eames House Bird, that was a gift. I love it. It holds my ear phones.

What’s the next piece you’re looking forward to adding to your collection?

I’m dreaming about a black Lounge Chair by Charles & Ray Eames. That’s my dream. My uncle had one, and I remember he’d read the newspaper in it every day for hours. It was worn and the leather was beautiful and soft. It’ll be a big moment for me, finally having one of my own.

Work-wise, what’s in the cards for you the coming months?

Starting in November, Tattly will be taking over the Aesop pop-up shop downstairs at the Invisible Dog for four months. We’ve always wanted to see what it would be like to have a store, and so we’ve come up with the idea to have it function as a temporary tattoo parlor. I have about ten storyboards for it in my head already. We’ll have an old hairstyling chair, and fake tools that buzz. You’ll be able to book an appointment and come in with your friends. I’m very excited about it. I’m giddy.

This is the feeling I love most: the excitement of creating something new. I hate repetition. As soon as something’s figured out, I get bored. I’m so lucky that what I do is also what makes me happiest - I’ll never take that for granted. People ask me all the time how I balance my work life with my personal life, and really, there’s no difference. My life just is.
See more of this portrait on Freunde von Freunden.

Publication Date: 12.11.2013
Author: Shoko Wanger
Images: Nicole Franzen

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