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Photograph: Imogen BrownFor the past 15 years, Steve Dumain, the 36-year-old creative director of handbag and shoe company Be & D (beandd.com), has lived in a DIY space he and a friend converted from the ground up. “It’s kind of like a tree house because I put it together myself,” he says. “This building for me is a magical, quiet place. I grew up on a farm near New Paltz in the Hudson Valley, so I like to feel like I’m in the country.” Dumain is pictured here with his dog, Poncho, whom he recently adopted while on vacation in Mexico.
Photograph: Imogen BrownDumain’s self-professed “hanging jungle” is rigged to a pulley system, making watering the plants as easy as tugging on a few ropes.
Photograph: Imogen BrownThe blond wood shelving unit is a recent addition that Dumain and his friend Bill Coleman (billcolemandesign.com), an eco-friendly carpenter, constructed out of found lumber. The kitchen cabinetry is “from some family who ordered them and didn’t like them, so they were getting rid of them at a really great price,” says Dumain.
Photograph: Imogen BrownThese bottles, shells and melted makeup jars were debris washed ashore from a former dump at Brooklyn’s Dead Horse Bay, where Dumain scooped them up on the beach. “It’s like garbage sea glass,” he jokes.
Photograph: Imogen BrownTalk about a steal: Dumain scored this timeworn wooden chest at a yard sale outside Ghent, New York, for $5—including the tools tucked inside its drawers.
Photograph: Imogen BrownAmong the many items the avid collector aggregates: sneakers. “I only wear New Balance,” he declares, surveying his rainbow-hued assortment. “They’re the best.”
Photograph: Imogen BrownPoncho takes a nap on vibrant crochet blankets made by Dumain’s 98-year-old grandmother, Roccatella. “I have tons of them in all different colors,” he says.
Photograph: Imogen BrownDumain tacked this cheeky vintage Eames ad to his bathroom door “right where your butt would be—I like it because it’s a nice, normal butt.”
Photograph: Imogen Brown“People like locks on bathroom doors, but this one’s never had one,” shrugs Dumain, who bought the claw-foot tub from Architectural Salvage Warehouse (architecturalsalvagevt.com) in Essex Junction, Vermont. “I love to take baths.”
Photograph: Imogen BrownA working retro Crosley radio from the Meeker Avenue Flea Market (391 Leonard St at Meeker Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-302-3532, meekeravenuefleamarket.com) sits in Dumain’s bathroom. “If I forget to turn on my stereo, I’ll flip this on,” he says.
Photograph: Imogen BrownDumain bought this vintage fixed-gear Carraro bike on eBay and assembled it himself, adding an Italian leather seat. “I bike to work,” he says. “I take the Williamsburg Bridge because it’s calmer. The Queensboro Bridge is scary; it’s just nothing but trucks.”
Photograph: Imogen BrownDubbed “the boys’ room, because it’s like a clubhouse up here,” this lofted bedroom serves as Dumain’s pad when he’s not housing guests. “I try and let people stay here because it’s such a great place to wake up,” he explains, motioning to the killer view of Manhattan’s skyline. The bedspread is a repurposed American flag Dumain snagged at the Salvation Army for $15 and the framed eagle needlepoint was a salvaged find. “I love Americana,” he notes.
Photograph: Imogen Brown“That’s my favorite movie of all time,” the film buff proclaims, pointing to a poster of the 1984 flick Paris, Texas, which was a birthday gift from a friend. The ladderlike stairs lead to a room primarily used for storage.
Photograph: Imogen BrownA vintage suitcase is cleverly reworked as a discreet dog bed for his pup, Poncho. “I collected vintage luggage,” explains Dumain. “That’s how I got into leather work.”
Photograph: Imogen Brown“I love this picture because no one is posing,” says Dumain of a family photo taken before he was born. “I hate posed pictures. The generation before mine, people were not posing; they were looking at the camera like, ‘What is that machine doing?,’ which is kind of what this is.”
Photograph: Imogen BrownThe handsome wood dining room table was a salvaged find from the hallway of Dumain’s building. “It’s amazing how much free stuff there is in New York—people leave things in the hallway and other people take it,” he says. “Here, we have a rotation. My neighbor came over recently and he goes, ‘Dude, I just realized you have my table.’ His roommates had thrown it out while he was away.” The chairs were bought at Golden Calf (319 Wythe Ave between South 2nd and 3rd Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-302-8800), which specializes in antique furniture.
Photograph: Imogen BrownAmple natural light allows Dumain to grow tomatoes, lettuce, jalapeños and herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, mint) indoors. “I’ve always had a little garden inside,” he says. “We’ve been eating off of it a ton, which is awesome.”
Photograph: Imogen BrownThe vintage doctor’s bag dates back to the 1920s and is striking in more ways than one. “Scarily enough, they used to make these out of seal, so I guess this is a sealskin bag,” says Dumain, who found it at the Meeker Avenue Flea Market (391 Leonard St at Meeker Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-302-3532, meekeravenuefleamarket.com).
Photograph: Imogen BrownDumain traded one of his luxe handbags for this Dunbar rolltop desk, which was made exclusively for Chase Manhattan Bank in the ’30s. “A few years ago, a friend sent me an e-mail and told me this desk is now on auction for $10,000 to $15,000,” he says. “My bags aren’t worth that much!”
Photograph: Imogen Brown“I collect vintage eyeglasses,” says Dumain of his stack of old spectacles. “I like to buy them on the streets of Paris, because you can get some really wild ones, and at yard sales on the weekends.”
Photograph: Imogen Brown“I’m movie crazy,” says Dumain, who used to be a full-time screenwriter. “I’m still writing and working on that part of my life, but the bags and shoes keep me pretty busy.” He puts his extensive film collection to good use, watching them on a projector screen in his bedroom downstairs.
Photograph: Imogen BrownOther items Dumain collects (salt, statue heads, vintage cameras, etc.), old drinking glasses are among the most functional. “The great thing is you can always buy vintage glasses—they’re not that expensive,” he says. “Glasses are meant to break. When you get too attached to stuff, it gets hard collecting it. That’s why I like to have things and let them go.”
Photograph: Imogen BrownDumain purchased the whimsical Bambi lamp at a yard sale in the Catskills for $5. The twin figurines at its base are both of Astro Boy, a Japanimation character. “He’s a cool collector’s piece,” says Dumain. “Sometimes I give them to my nieces and nephews and sometimes I end up keeping them for myself.”
Photograph: Imogen BrownThese serious-looking knives stuck to a magnetic strip above the stove make it no secret: “I’m a big meat eater,” says Dumain, who’s a fan of the butchers at the Meat Hook (100 Frost St at Meeker Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-349-5033, the-meathook.com). “Those guys are so sweet.”
Photograph: Imogen BrownAs a nod to his current craft, Dumain displays salvaged shoe-mold bookends in his living room.
Photograph: Imogen BrownWhile on a trip to Rhode Island, Dumain met a psychic who told him he needed a statue of the multiarmed Brahma, pictured at center, to instill balance in his life. “I like to do a lot of different things, and she said, ‘You need more than one job—you do just one thing, it doesn’t work,’ ” he recalls. A week later, Dumain spotted the deity and a pair of Buddha statues in a window on Franklin Street and called the general contractor they belonged to until he decided to sell them.
Apartment tour: 3BR loft in Greenpoint
The salvage-filled abode of Be & D creative director Steve Dumain is part country escape, part urban jungle.
Greenpoint Vintage(1 Monitor St at Richardson St, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; greenpointvintage.blogspot.com) Dumain calls this reclaimed-furniture store "a great and still kind of secret vintage spot that has excellent finds—you need to e-mail for an appointment."
Meeker Avenue Flea Market(391 Leonard St at Meeker St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-302-3532, meekeravenuefleamarket.com) "It smells like cat all the time because they have litter boxes everywhere and don't take care of them, but they have amazing finds," says Dumain, who makes this a regular stop. "The good thing is that no one goes there, so it keeps the prices low."
The Thing(1001 Manhattan Ave between Green and Huron Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; 718-349-8234) This quirky thrift store is "more of a digger's paradise," according to Dumain, who recommends "the amazing record collection in the basement."
Sprout Home(44 Grand St between Kent and Wythe Aves, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-388-4440, sprouthome.com) Dumain buys all of his plants from this gardener's mecca. "You will be mesmerized by this place and the owner's botanic knowledge," he says.