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Only in New York

Nov 30 2016

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. Here’s where we’re headed this fall.

Spying on Harriet the Spy, Kid Design Researcher

During design projects at IDEO, we often seek inspiration by looking at the world through someone else's eyes. One of our favorite children’s book characters is Harriet the Spy, and we asked ourselves, What if you could see New York through Harriet's eyes? She’s the original design researcher—setting out with her notebook to observe the subtle ways her neighbors behave.

As it turns out, a real estate site has already tracked down Harriet's address: 558 East 87th Street. If you pay a visit to her apartment, look up to the third floor, right under the eaves. According to the book, this is the perch from which she peered down at the street and recorded notes. We were curious to see if any of Harriet’s neighborhood hangouts still exist. Carl Schurz Park, where she lost her notebook, still sits on the East River at East 86th. Harriet reports that the Gregory School, where she was a student, is right nearby, so many people assume it is based on Chapin School, two blocks away. Harriet spies on delivery boy Little Joe Curry from an alley behind the Dei Santis’ grocery store on York Avenue at East 86th Street. Though that shop is now a restaurant—denying us the vicarious thrill of peeking through the window where Harriet did much of her spying—visiting her old haunts sent a spike of childlike joy through us, and transported us to a time when a book could open up an entirely new world.

Harriett's House

Image by Forgotten NY

Harriett’s home: 558 East 87th Street.

Koneko Cat Cafe

Koneko Cat Cafe is a relatively new spot on the Lower East Side where customers nibble on Japanese pastries while lounging with an adoptable clowder from Anjellicle Cats Rescue. The cats roam free between rooms on two different levels, lazing on designer cat furniture or swatting at the many cat toys provided for visitors. Everyone can engage in a different way: playing directly with the cats, doing other work with the bonus of being surrounded by felines, or striking up a conversation with humans who have the same affinity for cats. Koneko’s founder toured 25 cat cafes in Japan to get inspiration for her own place. Koneko is similar to Japanese cat cafes, but has a more sophisticated interior design with curated art on the walls. As one visitor told the New York Times, “I have a cat, so I feel a little dirty coming here. It’s like going to a strip club if you’re married.”

Koneko New

Image by Amy Wang

Even the litter boxes have been carefully designed.

Tiny Doll House

We know many designers who find pleasure in miniature things: miniature spoons, miniature post-its, you name it. Hidden in the middle of a long residential block on the Upper East Side is a miniature heaven: Tiny Doll House. It’s a store that sells dollhouses, as well as dollhouse furniture and supplies: miniature nightstands, candelabras, and even equipment to electrify a dollhouse. The store sources miniatures from Europe and South America. Immediately after stepping inside, your imagination is fired up. Peek inside an English Cotswold Cottage—next door to a Riverside Townhouse. The attention to detail and passion that goes into each one is simply astounding. Even if you’re not passionate about decorating dollhouses, you can use these supplies for making terrariums, architectural models, or prototyping small versions of design projects. You can buy tiny Thanksgiving dinner sets, caskets, Starbucks coffee mugs, garlic presses, bunk beds, broken eggs, beaux arts desks, and everything in between.

Tiny Dollhouse New

Image by Tiny Doll House

Miniature everything! A collection of tiny trimmings from Tiny Doll House.

Header image courtesy of Koneko Cat Cafe.

  • Mollie West Duffy

    Senior Organizational Designer, IDEO New York
    Mollie loves creating order out of chaos and helping people work better together. In her free time, Mollie enjoys taking personality tests, listening to podcasts, and seeing comedy shows.
  • Daniel Neville-Rehbehn

    Global Leadership Coordinator, IDEO New York
    Daniel works with IDEO's Global Managing Directors to support a variety of global projects and strategic initiatives. With a background in theatre and nonprofit administration, he is passionate about the power of in-person interaction and is always looking for new ways to orchestrate moments of connection.