The Brimfield Antique show and Flea Market is open for its mid-summer sale this week, which made me think of Thomas O’Brien – master of the flea market find. Coincidentally O’Brien’s Aero Studio is having its 20th anniversary this year, so I decided to head to Soho to see what the store is offering 2 decades after he opened it.
From humble beginnings O’Brien has built a career based on flea market shopping and collecting as elevated to an art form. His gift for spotting a jewel amongst the mundane has spawned a virtual cottage industry of products bearing his name. There are fabrics for the Groundworks label at Lee Jofa, furniture and case goods for Hickory Chair, a tabletop collection for Reed and Barton, floor coverings for Safavieh, and lighting for Visual Comfort and Co. Having spent a fair amount of time at flea markets and second-hand shops myself it can be easy to see where O’Brien has taken his inspirations from – but he consistently pushes forward in refining form and function – changing silhouettes and details to meet his modern ideals. The resulting products have his signature style; the mix of vintage with modern, modest simplicity with the rare, and high with low which makes for beautiful furnishings that have one eye focused on the past and the other on the future.
On this visit (like many before) I was reminded that Thomas O’Brien excels in lighting. This is where striking a balance between the functional and decorative is most complex and complicated – and he continues to manage that equation synergistically. The collection of table and floor lamps at the store on my recent trip was, as usual, amazing. The pair of adjustable height polished nickel “A” table lamps (above) were among the offerings – masculine, classical and understated. And while we’re on the subject of table lamps, it’s genius merchandising to show 2 matching lamps next to each other, one with a shade and one without… makes visualizing your choice of size and shape easy.
Great interior design shops are a rarity, and those that manage to remain exciting and relevant after 20 years can be counted on one hand; with names that have become synonymous with good taste. Aero Studio is one of those shops. Bravo Mr. O’Brien.
419 Broome Street New York, N. Y. 10013 212-966-4700