Good taste is a strange thing to define, being that it is, technically, subjective. But there are those few who are the lucky benefactors of, by and large, unanimous support. Their eye is undeniable, and what they touch accepted as an indication and validation of true beauty. Egg Collective, a design firm based in New York City, falls into that fortunate camp.
Founded in 2011 by Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, and Hillary Petrie, Egg Collective began as a synthesis of each woman’s respective talents within the fields of art, architecture, and woodworking. They shared beliefs about the power of design, and based Egg Collective atop unshakable tenets: materials are to be revered, creation carries responsibility, and beauty is a thing whose significance extends far beyond the realm of mere aesthetics. In seeing and touching and admiring the work—these beliefs are most evident. The work is exquisitely simple, and imbued with the kind of intelligence that fills the room.
The quality of materials and the hand-crafted nature of their product makes the work of Egg Collective scarce in a way that inevitably leads to desire. Their pieces are often made to order, though they do keep in stock some more manageable items, like their C.D. stoneware vase or brass bottle stopper by Carl Auböck—both excellent holiday gifts, by the way, if you haven’t wrapped up your shopping yet. Their work, large and small, is well-regarded by those in the design field, and has been featured frequently in Architectural Digest, T Magazine, and Elle Decor, to name just a few.
Below, the team behind Egg Collective lets us into their stunning Tribeca showroom to talk paisley upholstery, object permanence, and the compulsion to pinch oneself when a dream comes true.
Describe your childhood living room:
Crystal: A mish-mosh of things set up in an old farmhouse. There were some very old/odd things, including a piano passed down from my grandparents, taxidermied deer, a pull-out sofa bought from—I believe—JC Penny, and an antique glass display case that housed my father’s rock and artifact collection.
Hillary: I moved from my childhood home when I was 11, so the memories or items and textures are a little fuzzy, but I could draw you a floor plan! I remember a wall of built-in cabinetry, a fireplace, a bay window, and a pass-through bar to the kitchen. The room had two sofas and two chairs. I think there was some paisley upholstery, and a lot of family photos and books.
Stephanie: I would describe my childhood living room as traditional 80’s. Floral upholstered sofas, a big wooden coffee table, all on a sea foam and pink rug. The fireplace was surrounded by empress green marble and wood panelling.
The moment the three of you decided to form Egg Collective:
Hmmm, there were many moments… In 2006, after graduating, we stayed in St. Louis with the intention of designing products together. It was at this point that we named ourselves Egg Collective. But it wasn’t until 2011 that we officially started the company. That is the year we moved to NYC and made it legit/legal.
First commission that helped Egg Collective really establish itself:
Shortly after debuting our first line of products at ICFF in 2012, we were commissioned by the NYC Ballet to design seating for the promenade space at the Philip Johnson-designed theater. It was a dream commission, and something we still pinch ourselves over.
As a team of three, how do you all work together?
At this point, we can complete each other’s sentences. We have known each other half our lives, and have been collaborating for almost all that time. So our design process is second nature. The three of us have different strengths and core skill sets that allow us to divide and conquer our different roles in the company.
What do you hope an Egg Collective piece brings to a person’s space?
Hillary: Joy is a great answer!
Stephanie: A sense of permanence.
Era of design that inspires you most:
Crystal: Impossible to choose! It’s changing all of the time, but recently I have been looking at a lot of design from the ’70s.
Hillary: The ’20s and ’30s has always inspired me, especially the jewelry and objects of Jean Després.
Stephanie : Early Modernism. Art Deco. Eileen Grey.
Color you’re most recently drawn to:
Hillary: Deep forest green.
Stephanie : Eggplant.
How did you find your current workspace and where is it?
Our woodshop is currently located in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. We ended up here because we were found a large space that was zoned correctly for us to be able to manufacture and finish furniture, and was also an easy commute for us and our employees.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Crystal: Typically a coffee and either fruit, yogurt, or a pastry depending on the day…
Hillary: I’d like to say yogurt, but, if I’m honest, I have a pastry habit.
Stephanie: Black coffee and greek yogurt with honey.
What’s a day typically look like for you, from start to finish?
Crystal: On a typical weekday, I get up around 7:30 and get ready, then take the train either to Brooklyn to Manhattan, depending on if I am headed to our showroom or to our woodshop. Usually I pick up breakfast along the way and make it to work by 9 a.m. I spend my time at work doing a variety of things, from drawing/designing new work or custom iterations of existing work, to strategizing with my business partners and managing our employees and production schedule. Once the day is over, I typically head to meet my husband for dinner and a glass of wine.
Hillary: My infant daughter wakes up every day at 7 on the nose, so I do, too! My husband and I get her ready for daycare while also getting ready for work ourselves. I drop her off and, depending on the day, head to our woodshop in Brooklyn or to our showroom in Manhattan. I pack or pick up an iced tea and some breakfast and tackle my list for the day, which includes lots of emails, errands, spreadsheets, and accounting. I love to get outside at lunch, and like to make it home for my daughter’s bath and bedtime. After she’s asleep, my husband and I download our days and enjoy tasting natural wine, his new obsession. Then it’s Netflix and HBO GO for the ultimate wind down.
Stephanie: Six out of seven days a week, I start the day taking my dog George to the park. She comes with me to the woodshop, where she doesn’t work very hard. I spend most of my time at the shop, as I oversee the production of our work. We have a team of seven in the shop executing our work at the highest level, so my work day consists of management, problem-solving, teaching, and lots of spreadsheets! We take lunch as a team—outside if the weather is nice! After work, I will either meet up with friends, catch a yoga class, or meet my partner at home for dinner.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Crystal: Not really. We always have music on low at our showroom, but it is background music.
Hillary: I run errands for the company and love listening to WNYC en route, especially the Brian Lehrer show.
Stephanie : We play a variety of music in the shop—contemporary music, oldies, jazz, classical, and, if you are lucky, even the occasional Disney soundtrack.
Least favorite question people ask you as a designer:
Crystal: “Describe your designs.”
Hillary: “What is your style?”
Stephanie: “How would you describe your designs?”
What are you currently working on?
We are planning for next spring. Stay tuned!
What medium or tool are you most interested in presently and why?
Crystal: Wood was the first material I fell in love with, and it is still the material that I love the most. I have always been obsessed with nature, specifically with plants and trees. So I guess it makes sense that my preferred material comes from the things I love most.
What material do you go through the most of?
What book/ film/ work of art most recently captured your attention and why?
Crystal: I recently started reading Nelson Mandela’s A Long Walk to Freedom. I purchased the book prior to booking tickets to visit South Africa, as I wanted to educate myself further about the history of that place.
Stephanie: I just went to see James Turrell’s “Meeting” at PS1, which just recently reopened after being closed for eight months. Viewing of the piece takes place at sunset, as you watch projected light change your perception and understanding of a void open to the sky. It is a very grounding physical experience that is both powerful and inspiring.
Best advice you’ve ever received:
Crystal: My father told me from a young age that I should be kind and respectful to people, especially those less fortunate than myself.
Hillary: A successful colleague once suggested we view the running of our company as one large design problem—a sculpture constantly seeking a harmonious balance. This always helps me feel positive when the day-to-day zaps my creative energy.
Stephanie : There is nothing you can’t fix.