Material Object: Beverly Nguyen
As told to Joshua David Stein. Illustrations by Lucilla Tubaro.
What's the most important item in your home? In our series Material Object, we explore that very question, asking some of our favorite people which of their possessions connect them to their past, to their family, and to themselves.
Beverly Nguyen is a New York-based fashion stylist and homeware guru behind Beverly's, a pop-up shop with a cult following. (It most recently popped-up in Rockefeller Center.) She also collaborated with Material on a limited edition colorway of The Trio of Knives in Sage. Below, Beverly shares the story behind the table that reminds her of her childhood.
When I opened my second pop-up store last spring, my friend Louis Rambert and I designed a table that sat in the space in Rockefeller Center under a glowing globe-shaped Japanese lamp. The table itself has an oak veneer top with a lighter Danish stain for the base. It's minimal but monumental, like a work by Donald Judd. Even though it was just a pop up, it felt kind of vulnerable creating a store, letting people into what physically represents what my insides look like. But stores do that.
Each item from a bamboo spider strainer to a pepper grinder represented a passion, a story, a memory from my life. And this table was at the heart. So after the pop-up ended, the table made its way to my loft right in the Lower East Side. In the store, the table was a counter, a register, an anchor. Now in my living room, the table is the heart. It is like a portal into the world of ideas and a parade of moments. Around the table, I’ve hosted a dinner party for eight. And a dinner for one, a baby shower, and hours and hours of conversations and silence. Obviously I do not lack for homewares but the table—the space it commands and the space it offers—is something special.
"And what I learned, something etched so deeply within me I wasn’t conscious of it, is that tables, like families, offer a lifetime of support but only when they rest on a strong solid base."
Though it didn’t occur to me at the time I designed it, the table is not too different from the one I grew up with. My parents—Vietnamese refugees who met at aged 23 on the boat to America—settled in Orange County, California, where I grew up. They created their family, my family, around that dining table. I learned how to cook around that dining table, Vietnamese dishes like tamarind-flavored canh chua, clay pot dishes featuring rice, pickled vegetables and an array of chilis and seasoning. I learned about the power of family and the power of food around that dining table. And what I learned, something etched so deeply within me I wasn’t conscious of it, is that tables, like families, offer a lifetime of support but only when they rest on a strong solid base.