If you’ve never found yourself staring at your bathtub thinking, “hmm… this could definitely stand to be more stylish,” be warned: this is about to change. Meet Quiet Town, the Brooklyn-based boutique bathroom textiles company that is changing the way that we’re looking at shower curtains. Quiet Town’s textiles are inspired by Modernist art and crafted from sturdy, satisfyingly hefty fabrics—a wonderful combination of beauty and long-lasting utility. We recently took a tour of their headquarters in Gowanus, Brooklyn to get a behind-the-scenes look at their process. Take a look + get to know Quiet Home’s founders, Lisa and Michael Fine, below!
Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
Michael and I met in college a little over 20 years ago. After graduating we moved to NYC to work in magazines—he was on the advertising side and I on the editorial side. After some time Michael realized he wanted to pursue photography and I joined a start-up brand as their in-house stylist. Fast forward 10 more years and throw a couple of kids in there (Indigo- 6 yrs old, Sunny 4 yrs old) and we launch Quiet Town (while still working our day jobs shooting and styling). We make simple, design-focused home accessories for the bathroom with a lot of emphasis placed on responsible sourcing and manufacturing.
Bathroom textiles are a pretty niche business! What convinced you to pursue them?
After my son was born I spent a lot of time—like all moms—up in the middle of the night, trying to get a newborn back to sleep. Which for me, pretty much meant holding them for hours and hours trying not to fall asleep myself. For some reason, I started thinking about shower curtains and the dearth in the market for well-designed bathroom accessories. I’d revisit that idea night after night and finally, after years of being too busy to do anything about it, I did something about it. I started to seriously research the market, source fabrications, find manufacturing… My friend made our first samples and as soon as I saw them I knew we had something.
Tell us about your studio space.
In truth, our studio space was originally Michael’s photography office. He chose it for the southwest-facing windows, which let in constant sunlight, and the high ceilings. Our walls are covered with imagery, textiles and prototypes we’ve been collecting for years and product fills all other available space. It’s tight, but with the natural light, high ceilings and all of the color from our curtains and rugs, I really love it.
Our work/home life is like a little bubble. Our office is a 5-minute walk east of our home, a 7-minute drive south to our manufacturer and a 15-minute drive north to our dye house. On sunny days, we hang out at a picnic table in the back of our building which rests on the Gowanus canal. The block is filled with artists, commercial bakeries, warehouses and a cement factory and there is absolutely zero foot traffic except for those who work there. So it really feels like our little quiet town.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Every day is completely different for us. Since we both have other jobs that are in and of themselves varied, we work as a tag team. I do whatever I can in the evening, which usually means lots of writing, planning, designing, and approvals with our manufacturer. When Michael’s not shooting, he’s running to our office to ship out orders, to our manufacturer to pick up product, to our dye house to approve color, to one of our retailers to drop off goods. It’s never dull and it’s never seamless.
Tell us about your design and manufacturing process.
Michael has always collected vintage textiles and a lot of our palette comes from these. We love faded, beachy brights and natural neutrals. Our color-blocking and quilting shapes are very simple, geometric ideas inspired by artists like Albers, Rothko and Judd. As a stylist, I love offering our customers choices rather than providing matching sets of rugs and curtains. I try and design a balance of simple shapes and busy patterns with a palate that works together but is never obvious.
We really value the people we work with and their craftsmanship. Our kilim bath rugs are produced in India by a manufacturer that provides interest-free loans to their employees, education in their village, and a safe, clean working environment. Our shower curtain manufacturer has been so kind as we worked through all of the kinks. He has committed to helping us reuse our fabric remnants by storing our scraps and sampling products comprised of the waste. And our dye house is run by the grandson of the original owner who is currently defying all odds and keeping his facility in an urban environment where this kind of work is nearly extinct. It feels like an uphill battle but one that we’re proud of… down to every little detail.
Where do you seek inspiration?
Travel is a big source of inspiration for us. All of our products are named after quiet towns we have visited and fallen in love with. Fashion has always been a huge driving force and some of my favorite designers make their way into our work. The simplicity and wit of Margiela, the beachy, vintage vibe of old Tracy Feith, the beauty of a worn-in pair of jeans…and nature, that’s a big one for us. We are outside as much as humanly possible and are inspired by our hikes, beach days and climbs. We just got back from a week in Topanga with our kids. It rained almost every day and the Santa Monica Mountains were so green and lush. I think those colors will make their way into our Summer palette.
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
It’s really, really tough to make a living and produce goods at prices you yourself would be willing to pay. Most manufacturers don’t want to work with you unless you can place enormous orders. We have met some really generous and kind people along the way who have wished us luck and tried to help in any way they could. When you meet those folks, you appreciate it even more. I do love being a physical part of every process. As soon as our dye house has lab dips, I’m there to approve them. I pick up our curtains as soon as they’re sewn and ship them right out. I’m able to pop into our manufacturer and talk about new ideas and issues we need correcting. None of this would be possible if we produced overseas.
Why do you love Brooklyn?
We have carved out a small-town vibe for ourselves in Brooklyn. We love walking down the street and almost always running into friends. We love the great food on every block, the museums and beautiful parks. We have some secret spots we go to if we want to be emerged in nature and feel far from the city. If Brooklyn was sunny 24/7 it would be the perfect town.
What’s next for Quiet Town?
There are a lot of projects that are in the works. We’re developing a cool liner out of non-toxic EVA, working on a zero-waste project, designing some stuff for hotels. It’s really busy!