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Philadelphia Design Hub: American Street Showroom

Four Philadelphia residents entrenched in the local design scene repurpose an old electric substation as a hub for American innovation and craft.

A bird's eye view of American Street Showroom highlights some of the many custom and found pieces. 

In an industrial part of East Philadephia, an electric company substation has been resurrected from the inside out. Now more closely resembling a New York City loft filled with a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind design, American Street Showroom is the brainchild of Adam Kamens, CEO of Amuneal Manufacturing Corp. It’s a creative collaboration between Kamens, Brian Foster and Ernie Sesskin of Groundwork, and Lostine founder and creative director Robert True Ogden.

Kamens is quite familiar with the area—his family run magnetic shielding business had called it home for more than a generation—but he saw a greater potential for the company and the substation. The trained glass blower, with the heart of an artist and a blue-collar business ethic, felt he was in the perfect and unique position to launch a bespoke design company in Philadelphia. At Kamens’s helm, Amuneal's focus shifted from shielding to furniture and fabrication for the architecture and design community, specifically in hospitality and retail. Their rock star client list includes the Ace Hotel, Soho House, The Standard, Anthropologie and Barneys. While special commissions will continue to be their sweet spot, the company's offerings have expanded to include a diverse line of furniture, lighting, artwork, and a curated selection of one-of-a-kind objects, that can be purchased by designers and individuals alike.

The American Street Showroom’s electric company substation home was constructed in 1921, and though the telltale interior walls have been torn down to open it up, a great deal of historic influence remains. “A longtime friend and Amuneal employee found the building just as it was going up for auction and told me about it,” Kamens said. “The exterior of the building had the strength and humility of buildings built during that era and the interior had untapped potential.” But it’s a large unexpected find in the beautifully manicured outdoor space that first piques the interest of many showroom visitors, another piece pointing to the spirit from which it was born. “We removed the original smokestack from the roof of the building and relocated it to our side outdoor space where we retrofit it to house a wood-fired pizza oven. We use the oven for lunches and dinners with our guests—slowing down for a moment or two to take in the space and to celebrate the passion for design and creativity that brings us together.”

The 11,000 square foot showroom is by appointment only and is more of an inspiration-catalyst for design enthusiasts than it is a shopping experience, though nearly everything on display is for sale. The launch of the showroom this past November not only allows Amuneal to feature its products alongside the work of other notable Philadelphia designers, but also gives the public a new look at their expanding capabilities. "We are using the showroom in an odd way," Kamens says, "to make inspiration and discovery tangible for our peers." For those who can't make the trek to Philadelphia the team is planning to launch an e-commerce site where everything will be for purchase. It’s also worth noting that they have acquired a smaller showroom space in New York City. A few of our favorite finds include, wooden barstools, handcrafted wood and leather cutting boards, and ‘American’ sconces made from the rungs of a repurposed ladder.  

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