Husband and wife team, Matt Ensner and Megan Sommerville, have called the Hudson Valley home for more than ten years. The pair has designed furniture and spaces for quite some time under the brand name MATERIA, and a new showroom in Soho has expanded their reach. Unlike the earthiness of their Hudson home, MATERIA’s New York City gallery is inspired by its urban setting: sleek, elegant, and edgy. Designed to have a loft apartment feel, the gallery features the couple’s in-house designed pieces and antiques in a home-like setting. Megan and Matt tell us more about their new location:
What are your professional and educational backgrounds that led you to open MATERIA? Did you formally study product or furniture design?
Megan: I have a background in fashion and choreography, both of which inform my sensitivity to texture, form and the orchestration of objects in space.
Matt: My graduate education in Landscape Architecture has most informed my understanding of space and design, but my interest in object design actually began in a high school drafting class, which ironically is when and where I first met Megan. The next semester I took a cabinetmaking class and realized my penchant for geometry and craft, which led to me working through college as a carpenter and later as a cabinetmaker in several New York shops.
Wow, you both have such a variety of interests and expertise! What was the impetus to start your own design business?
Megan: It happened very organically over time, as a confluence of many things. When we moved upstate and renovated our first home, it was difficult to find furniture and lighting that spoke to our tastes and was in our budget at the time, so we designed and built many custom pieces, which eventually began to inform the beginnings of a collection. We opened a small antiques store upstate around the same time and slowly added in some of our early pieces. They were met with positive reception, so we kept adding more of our own work, and eventually, it took over.
The new showroom looks incredible! To find a space in Soho is no easy task. How long had you been looking for the right space and how did you know that this was the one?
Megan: We began looking for the gallery space in the fall of 2018, and spent a tremendous amount of time investigating TriBeCa, Chelsea, and Soho for the very elusive live/work loft that New York is known for. We initially visited our space, which is a classic A.I.R. (artist-in-residence) loft in a historic cast-iron building, and fell in love with the huge skylights and the fact that it had not fallen prey to a tasteless developer “renovation.”
Matt: Formally we were looking for 6 months, though in our dreams we had been imagining the space for years. We looked all over lower Manhattan, and though we saw the penthouse on Howard St. early in the process, we actually came close to leasing two other spaces, one in the Lower East Side and one in Chelsea. Fate had those fall through and our fabulous agent/friend insisted we circle back to the spaciously proportioned Howard St. loft.
What did you do to prepare the space as your showroom? Were there any changes made to it?
Matt: We thought long and hard about the use of the space and how visitors might progress through while being offered vignettes of interest along the way. When we arrived, the space read as one large room and we worked to enhance three distinct zones within the floor-through. In the largest zone, we built a multifunctional volume within the room that wildly alters the experience of discovery in the loft gallery and was more challenging to build than I expected. I am also very proud of the kitchen renovation as it offered me a return to my cabinetmaker roots, and the result is a simple, beautiful and functional space with custom detailing that we use all of the time.
Tell us about your selection of pieces that you sell?
Megan: In the gallery, we exclusively sell our own furniture and lighting, as far as contemporary work is concerned, however, we have an ever-changing mixture of antiques that we source from all over; some pieces are found through treasured dealers upstate, others are dragged home from our travels, such as several ceramic vessels we brought back this past summer from Puglia. Later this year, we will be introducing the work of several fine artists, including strikingly graphic intaglio etchings by our friend, the architect Joseph Owczarek.
Matt: In the future, we envision collaborations in the space with our favorite contemporary designers, artists, chefs, and thinkers, but, right now, this space is about showing all of the work we make in the way that we live with it. That means that our work is layered in with our eclectic collection of objects from around the globe. I love hunting, haggling, dusting off and marking up, so I keep my eyes open everywhere and always.
Is there something uniting these disparate pieces? Any common thread that runs through all of the items at MATERIA?
Megan: I think whether we are creating a MATERIA collection, or curating a group of objects for the gallery, there is an attention to texture, scale, color palette, and usually a sense of humor, or the feeling of something being slightly off-kilter.
Can anyone come up and see the showroom or do you need an appointment?
Megan: We’re open to the public and the trade, Monday – Friday 10-6 or by appointment.