Retail Report: SoHo's Apartment is Ready for Occupancy
Stylists Vanessa Traina and Morgan Wendelborn take their e-commerce outpost offline for to an invite-only minimalist spot worth settling into.
The Line is bringing new meaning to the phrase “Make yourself at home” – the online style and design site from New York stylists Vanessa Traina (who also happens to be the daughter of novelist Danielle Steele) and Morgan Wendelborn (Shopbop.com's former art and style director) has set up shop as The Apartment, a clever and cozy way to sell online products to an offline consumer.
Upon establishing The Line to share a limited selection of fashion and furniture favorites, the duo called on set designer Carl Sprague (a frequent collaborator with Wes Anderson) to create their dream living space in New York City’s SoHo shopping district.
“We wanted to make a quintessential SoHo loft,” Charlie Cole, president of The Line, tells The Hollywood Reporter of The Apartment, which inherently resembles the homes of Traina and Wendelborn. “They’ve got a little bit more space to work with, but it’s very much the same. They have a very edited personal style to everything they do.”
We recently stepped into The Apartment to see how the two translated SoHo from The Line to actual eyeline:
The Structure: After requesting an invitation online – more because the space isn’t fully open just yet than to tout a snobby exclusivity – shoppers stroll through SoHo to 76 Greene St., an indiscriminate white door that reveals an average old-building elevator. But once on the third floor (just one floor below The Line’s NYC office), fashion and furniture fans enter The Apartment – a carefully curated, open-concept loft to contextualize pieces that evoke The Line’s minimalist aesthetic. Light hardwood floors and white walls play canvas to aluminum Jonathan Nesci shelves and Lasvit lighting fixtures, which are actually presented as they would be when installed after purchase.
“The general purpose here is to try to put something together based on how people actually live – we want people to feel like, OK, I could see this in my living room,” says Cole. “Commercially, if you’re gonna buy an $18,000 chair, you might want to see it.”
On Cole’s end, the format allows inventory to be easily refreshed. “If we want to get 300 new SKUs in, we can easily do that; we just redecorate our apartment,” he jokes. “It gives a certain amount of malleability and realism that I don’t think most stores have.”
The Finds: Beginning with a pair of patterned loafers and a Mansur Gavriel bag by the entryway, every turn brings a new balance of textures to the eye, and nearly everything on display can be imagined as sporting a price tag (which they don’t in reality; that's an upcoming feature that will only ease the experience, Cole says). That means every Area ID pillow and Le Labo perfume bottle, every travel and architecture book lining the hallway’s shelves. The most requested items so far are the closet’s distinctive mirrors -- one from Modern Living Supplies and another from GK Framing for The Line.
The selection is a mix of mass-produced minimalism pieces and one-of-a-kind finds, as two Fritz Hansen lounge chairs bookend black vintage coffee tables. Likewise, the closet, currently embracing a monochromatic style, is diversely outfitted with pieces from Reed Krakoff, Christophe Lemaire,Vince and Protagonist, the chic Line-exclusive label by designer Kate Wendelborn, Line co-founder Morgan’s sister. “This is how people dress – people buy a $60 Vince T-shirt and put a $2,500 smoking jacket on it,” says Cole of the clothing selection. Nobody buys just $2,500 pieces. So we’re trying to make it truly contextual.”
The only items not for sale? “The art is generally from personal collections of someone within our collective, and basically, we kind of felt that was just one step too far,” Cole says of the Keith Tyson and Donald Judd standouts. But with The Apartment’s concept still under construction, the restrictions are still malleable. “I don’t know if it’s the forbidden fruit effect or people are actually interested, but everybody asks about it.”
The Staff: The startup company boasts a small team of 15 and is currently on the hunt for the right Apartment host. Until then, either Cole or another member from The Line work from The Apartment to assist walk-ins, as word about the space spreads. “Honestly, I really enjoy doing it; it’s the best way to see people’s reactions and then pivot on the business model,” he says.
Soon, staffers will double as event hosts, too. The Apartment hosted a launch party last month and will house art and design industry screenings, dinners and discussions: Fritz Hansen creative director Christian Rasmussen arrives in New York on Dec. 12 for a panel about minimalism.
The Standout: Since we’d never seen Protagonist pieces in person before – let alone in a stylish pop-up closet – we were taken aback by the line’s silk crepe and cashmere tees and tanks, perfect for layering under a slouchy Reed Krakoff cardigan or an oversize Vince jacket. We’d happily appreciate the pairing while lounging atop the living room’s jaw-dropping combination of a Las Venus blue velvet couch (which is customizable, by the way) and an Area ID fox fur throw.