By Stephanie Murg
photography By eric ryan anderSon | October 31, 2014 | People
Medda says the mix of people found on the Lower East Side is the reason she finds it so interesting.
On a sunny fall Thursday, Bond Street bustles under a bright, cloudless sky, but a chat with Ambra Medda is enough to make anyone pray for rain. “There’s no feeling in the world like looking up into the sky and seeing a rainbow,” says the cofounder and creative director of L’ArcoBaleno (“the rainbow” in Italian), an online marketplace dedicated to collectible design, from midcentury Italian furnishings to contemporary jewelry. The site’s advisory board includes such consummate collectors as Pharrell Williams, designer Tom Dixon, and fashion designer Reed Krakoff.
Born in Greece and raised in Milan and London, 33-year-old Medda, a self-described “international Italian,” arrived in New York more than a decade ago and has lived here on and off ever since. She says she is particularly invigorated by downtown Manhattan. “From the moment I first stepped foot in the Lower East Side, I fell in love with its energy,” she says of the area that she has called home for several years. “There’s a really authentic neighborhood vibe. It feels like people live here—not a bunch of tourists. That’s the whole reason we live in and put up with the city—to feel enriched and inspired and stimulated and in the mix of it all. I really enjoy navigating that mix and being part of a place’s larger story.”
When it comes to the offline world, the globe-trotting Medda takes time to savor the daily rhythms of her downtown neighborhood. “I especially love the late afternoon, when all the kids come out of school and hang out in the little gardens throughout the area,” explains Medda. “At this time of day, it’s full of people doing their errands—food shopping at Essex Market or picking up their dry cleaning. I like that everything is in arm’s reach, and there are tons of restaurants.”
Ambra Medda exits The Smile, a favorite spot on Bond Street.
Among her favorite stops are The Smile, where she frequently takes meetings, and Estela. “You feel like you’re being well taken care of there,” she notes. “Usually restaurants have the same old thing, like branzino, but Estela actually celebrates fish, and I’m a big fish lover.” Medda also frequents Narcissa at The Standard East Village. “It’s so well designed, with this cool Scandinavian look,” she says. “And the food is phenomenal.”
The Future Perfect is a must-stop for its design-savvy yet affordable inventory.
As for the best places to discover and purchase design objects, Medda, who cofounded Design Miami and served as its director for five years, recommends starting at The Future Perfect on Great Jones Street, “one of my favorite streets in New York. Things here are accessible but also aspirational, so you can find a great sofa by an interesting European designer, and you can walk away with a really cool cutting board that’s super well-designed.” On Bond, another favorite street, is Modern Link, which offers a mix of vintage and original pieces, and a short walk away is Matter, known for its curated exhibitions of young designers, many of them American. Notes Medda, “There aren’t many galleries focused on American design and designers, especially contemporary, so that feels exciting and interesting and valid.”
She catches up on e-mail at Narcissa.
One American designer that Medda particularly admires is Lindsey Adelman, who designs, prototypes, and builds otherworldly light fixtures and more in her Lafayette Street studio, although Medda first spotted her work at a gallery in Milan. “Lindsey is a real talent,” she says. “There’s something quite refreshing about being open about your process and how you work.” Relationships with designers such as Adelman inform Medda’s view of the New York design scene and its role in the global marketplace. “Right now we’re witnessing a kind of Arts-and-Crafts revolution of the 21st century,” she says. “You see it here and especially in Brooklyn—hand-assembled work utilizing industrial components, produced in small batches. It’s an ‘industrial craft’ look.”
With the continued growth of L’Arcobaleno, Medda is exploring new ways to connect a global audience with collectible objects and their makers: Video features for the site are in the works, as is a possible TV series focused on craft. A favorite place to seek inspiration for new projects is Mast Books. “Every time I look in its window there’s a new book, a new title, a new subject,” says Medda. She recently picked up multiple copies of the Garry Winogrand exhibition catalog. “The photographs show you the city in a new way,” she says. “And yet it’s so New York.”