Last year, prestigious New York-based literary magazine The Paris Review was reinvented. First, it announced a new editor: Emily Stokes, a former staffer of The New Yorker and T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Next came the rebranding, courtesy of Matt Willey, a sought-after graphic designer and partner at Pentagram (the Review of design firms, if you will). Then came Stokes’ inaugural cover: a watercolor painting entitled The Two Red Cherries by Rose Wylie, an 88-year-old English artist handpicked by the Review’s eagle-eyed art director Na Kim.
The new look takes inspiration from minimalist-leaning covers in the magazine’s archives, favored during the 1970s. Blending the past with the present seemed to be a unanimous hit with readers across the board. So, when it came time to refresh the Review office in Chelsea, the bar was set similarly high. Stokes wanted new tables—communal conference-esque ones and her personal desk—for the space and turned to Nick Poe, a visual artist and architectural designer.
“Last summer, I got a call out of the blue from Emily,” recalls Poe. “It was a nice surprise, as I’d always admired the publication from afar.” The call turned out to not be as random as it seemed: two mutual friends had recommended him for the gig. Poe’s work plays into the space it inhabits, ever mindful of the light, textures, and colors surrounding it. His designs often include unexpected details, like a latex-wood bookshelf with an attached picture frame or a 360-degree daybed that can completely unfurl itself, like a flower bud blossoming in spring.
For Poe, this project started with a tour of the space, a bright office loft in Chelsea sprinkled with great art and furnishings. "Lived-in and real," as he puts it. The other key component came from some smaller tables that Stokes and the company planned to get rid of. The table's legs caught his eye. "The idea came about to repurpose those legs," he says. "They were black steel. I thought a matching steel trim around the tables would act to both hide the substrate material and unify the whole piece."
Poe presented a simple and timeless silhouette, an executive-style desk with minimalist lines and straight-forward legs. It’s relatively unadorned but the prim and clever finishing elevates it into the realm of stylish. Much like the Review's creative overhaul, it feels indebted to the 1970s, like something you might see from designers of the era like George Ciancimino or Jens Risom. "I had a hunch the color and material of the light blue satin-y Formica would pair really well with the rich blackened steel," he says. Stokes agreed. This allowed material costs to stay within budget and still produce a table large enough to accommodate group meetings.
In total, Poe delivered three tables in various sizes, and you can even spot them in an editor's letter from last fall. Intentional or not, Poe's concept was in lockstep with the rest of the creative refresh. The custom tables nod to the magazine's lived-in past while offering a blank canvas for the future.