America’s Best Independent Design Shops: Lichen

Helmed by Jared Blake and Ed Be, the East Williamsburg storefront is stocked with vintage and contemporary designs—and acts as an incubator for fresh talent.
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Walking into Lichen’s East Williamsburg storefront feels like dropping by a stylish friend’s house: Music is playing, people are chatting on sofas, and there are beautifully crafted objects—lamps, vases, hand-loomed textiles—placed on shelves and tables in a way that feels simultaneously intentional and relaxed. Interspersed with recognizable designs by Eames, Aalto, Rietveld, and Knoll are the self-assured works of young local and international makers on the rise.

Jared Blake (left) and Ed Be stock their Brooklyn storefront with vintage and contemporary designs.

Ed Be and Jared Blake, the friends behind Lichen, are ambitious about the store’s mission, part of which is to be an incubator for fresh talent. In addition to collaborating with established brands, the founders champion emerging New York designers, some of whom they met as repeat customers. The two also encourage prospective sales by allowing customers to rent pieces from the shop so the objects can be "tried on" at home first. 

The store’s prices, in general, are accessible, a product of the duo’s desire to share good design with a wide audience. The friends focus on what Be calls "problem-solving within the realm of design," which can mean collaborating with designers to create affordable new objects that make sense for Brooklyn apartment living, in addition to sourcing existing furniture to fill a niche.

Be and Blake have applied the Lichen vision to products beyond furniture and housewares, introducing their own candle fragrances and even socks. As the two friends grow their business, Blake explains, they are still guided by their core motivation: "Economically and aesthetically, everything we do is based on a fundamental practicality—but with room for flair." 

Lichen’s Regional Recommendations 

Mesa Tres by Christine Espinal 

The cut-plywood Mesa Tres works vertically or horizontally as a table, "or simply in its sculptural form," says Be, adding that the Brooklyn-based maker’s versatile design "accommodates city life."

Horned Bowl by Mike Ruiz-Serra 

"To add curve and imperfection to an otherwise stoic material is ingenious," Be says. The cast-iron housewares in an upcoming collection are seasoned with avocado oil.

Moire 1 Monoprint by Pat Kim 

"Pat Kim offers a lesson in process and form," says Blake. "He’s taken his wood craftsmanship and translated it into beautiful prints at approachable prices."

Tob(i) Stool by Nifemi Ogunro 

"Nifemi’s designs exude so much character and personality," says Blake. The Brooklyn designer spins stories from bent plywood, concrete, and polished maple.

Sconce 3 by Alvaro Ucha Rodriguez 

The local designer crafted these aluminum lighting fixtures in response to a ponderous prompt from the Lichen founders for "a solution for the contemporary sconce."

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