By Emily J Weitz
When Natasha Esch, a designer whose work has been featured in magazines like Elle Décor, laid her eyes on a run-down building on Madison Street, she saw the potential to help create an epicenter of design. She proclaims the area where Main and Madison split the East End’s Design District, and Monc XIII is in the heart of it.
Surrounded by design stores and antique shops, Esch doesn’t see her neighbors as competition.
“I think if I were selling the same things that others around me are selling, it would be competitive,” she says. “But we’re not intersecting in terms of what we’re carrying.”
As a result, she believes the discerning client, local or visitor, will make the journey specifically for their design needs.
“The more the better,” she says. “It gives people a reason to come and hit a bunch of stores. If you can kill two or three birds with one stone, it makes it a much more attractive proposition.”
The renovation of the saltbox building Monc XIII occupies is the first major design feat Esch and her husband and partner, Matt Coffin, undertook on their way to creating Monc XIII. It started a couple of years back, when they purchased the neglected building and began working with architect Martin Sosa.
“We came up with a vision,” says Esch. “I knew I wanted to gut the building. I knew I was doing furniture, so I wanted the space to be open.”
What resulted is a wide open first floor adorned with carefully selected and meticulously placed furniture and accents from all over the world. A spiral staircase leads to an upstairs loft, and there’s an apartment in the back. The way the building was restored reflects Esch’s greater design philosophy.
“My philosophy is pairing the modern with the old,” she says. “There are some modern design statements, like the spiral staircase or the iron work. But it’s always paired with something old, like reclaimed beams, reclaimed floors, restoration glass in the windows, or metal frames. It’s a constant juxtaposition.”
As a designer, of course Esch allows the style and the aesthetic to be dictated by the clients. But she always encourages this juxtaposition to help get the maximum benefit of what is there.
“When you have an interior that is homogenous,” she says, “it’s not as interesting. When you juxtapose, each one of those elements gets more prominent by being contrasted against the other.”
The items in the store range from mid-century antiques to modern pieces. There are designs from 12 different countries.
“There isn’t a formula [to how I select the pieces in the shop],” said Esch. “When I’m buying, I buy things that inspired me. The common denominator is having pieces with good shape to them, good quality pieces. I have a great appreciation for particular types of wood, like the rosewood dresser we have.”
Born in Toronto, raised in Germany, schooled in Switzerland, Esch went to college in the U.S. and moved to New York upon her graduation. But her international roots have influenced her deeply. She still travels all over the world for her business.
“When you travel,” she says, “it allows you to train your eye to see how different cultures pair things together. Every country has a different design culture with a different importance. It’s a discovery ground when you go to another country.”
Because of her varied points of inspiration, Esch hopes that Monc XIII reaches a spectrum of designers and users.
“What I hope to provide is a point of inspiration,” she says. “My goal is to offer a little of something that anybody might appreciate. Not everybody likes mid century, but they might like these 1930s benches. Or a 19th Century-style commode. I don’t have a particular user in mind, but these people have an appreciation for great lines, great shapes, and they look at furniture as investment pieces.”
Esch hopes that Monc XIII will be more than a shop — she wants it to be a place where like-minded people can gather.
“We want to recreate the era of salons, where you gather with people of common interests. It’s a place to gather, to be inspired, to hang out. We will have events every few weeks .”
This coming weekend, for example, there will be a book party for Steven Gambrel, one of the country’s top designers who happens to live in Sag Harbor. This event is by invitation only.
Another party this summer will highlight premier leather board games, which Esch recently ordered from an English company.
“They supply all the major tournaments with leather board games,” she says. “And since I’m a backgammon junkie, I ordered some backgammon boards. We’ll do an evening backgammon tournament with cocktails.”
Whether it’s for an evening salon or a morning shopping trip, Monc XIII draws people up Main Street to Madison, right into the heart of the newly proclaimed Design District of the East End.