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Only in New York

May 17 2016

by Mollie West & Allie Mahler

Our designers, anthropologists, and architects are professional wanderers. And we don't have to wander far in NYC to find inspiration—it's right outside our door. With a nod to the IDEO Eyes Open book series from 2008, this series will highlight must-see destinations and experiences.

Observer: Louis Armstrong's House

Nestled in a middle-class neighborhood in Corona, Queens, Louis Armstrong’s house looks like any other unassuming domicile on the block. But upon entering the space, you’re transported back to 1971, the year Armstrong passed away. Turquoise kitchen cabinets and matching appliances, shag carpeting, stuffed furniture. Louis Armstrong was the world’s most famous jazz musician, but he preferred living the quiet life in Queens with his wife, Lucille. On a guided tour of his home, docents play actual recordings of Louis sitting at his desk talking as you meander through the rooms. If you close your eyes, you can imagine him practicing his songs, hosting friends, and pruning in his Japanese garden.

34–56 107th St, Corona, NY 11368 (Queens)

Louis Armstrong’s kitchen. Source: WNYC.

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Hanging with Louis. Photo: Mollie West

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Diner: Theory Kitchen

It’s no longer a “thing” to go to the newest restaurant opening in SoHo or Union Square. Now, eating out is about curation and connecting people—Questlove bringing together top New York chefs to muse on food and the mechanics of creativity at his salon. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Theo Friedman’s pop-up dinner series in a Flatiron loft—complete with 13 mouthwatering courses designed and made by Friedman and his team of two. The chef hails from restaurants like WD~50 and Gotham Bar and Grill. We learned about the series through Instagram (one of the best ways to discover the local food scene here). Whether you’re a local or a visitor who loves the experiential side of food, the future of dining is looking more local, communal, and inspiring beyond the plate. Curious? Sign up here for Theo’s list.

The bread & jam course from an evening with Theo Friedman. Photo: Allie Mahler

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One of a staggering 13 courses to savor. Photo: Allie Mahler

Coursewith Theo Small

Mingler: Russian Baths

If you're into taking to the waters with strangers of all shapes and sizes, give the Russian & Turkish Baths at 268 East 10th Street a try. With a classic old-school steam-room vibe (it’s been around since 1892), the baths offer a great selection of options, including an aromatherapy room and radiant heat, an outdoor deck for cooling off or catching a ray of sun, and a mostly young-ish crowd, it’s a rejuvenating hang for a couple of hours—or all day—$40 gets you in for as long as you want to stay. Check the schedule; some days are co-ed, some are not. 

Recommended by guest author Dan Soltzberg, Design Researcher, IDEO Palo Alto

Back when "health" just meant a good shvitz. Source: Author, Dan Soltzberg

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Shopper: STORY

STORY rotates out its entire collection every few months. With each rotation, the boutique comes up with a new theme, then sources items such as chocolate, candles, books, and socks that relate in some way. Right now the theme is “f-word,” and at STORY, that stands for feminism. Past themes have included color, well-being, Made in America, Home for the Holidays, and love. Owner Rachel Schechtman invites speakers, artists, and designers to give talks and hold events. Not only has she created a platform for artists, business owners, and entrepreneurs to showcase their work, but she’s also built a wider community that’s united by their curiousity, passion, and engagement.

144 10th Ave. at 19th St. NY, NY 10011 (Chelsea)

The f-word in its most colorful glory. Source: STORY.

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STORY's hyper-curated collection of mensware. Source: STORY

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  • Mollie West

    Organizational Designer, IDEO New York
    Mollie West is located in IDEO's New York studio, where she loves to work on projects related to organizational culture. She often gets asked, "What exactly is organizational design?" It's helping IDEO's clients shape the conditions that influence how employees experience their work (structures, processes, talent, and incentives).
  • Allie Mahler

    Experience Lead, IDEO New York
    Allie finds joy at the intersection of designing experiences, building connections, and creating cultural moments. She believes people want to be made to feel things—from connection to inspiration, creativity, adventure, reflection, and everything in between and outside the box.

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