A Vintage New World

Meeting the duo behind Friends of Form.

Vintage classic furniture has had a bit of an upswing in recent years - as people are becoming more sustainably conscious by opting for second hand, or going for better quality. But unless you are an expert or have an inherent interest in classic furniture design, it can be hard to know how to find the right piece, or understand its value when you walk into a vintage furniture store, or buy something online. It’s all about the context. That’s where Jordy Murray and Nora O’Neil, the founders of Friends of Form (FoF), saw a gap in the industry.

With their background in modeling, they met each other on a shoot in New York, where they are currently based. During the pandemic they decided to take a new venture away from fashion, and set up their business dedicated to classic and vintage design pieces, which they recontextualize within a curated space, and give them a new lease of life and value through custom design. As the name suggests, both of them are passionate about form in terms of shape, colour, and material - and how to reimagine pieces in a more modern and playful way.

Photos by Clement Pascal

J: “We’re really drawn to interesting textures, shapes and materials and boundary pushing design of its time.”

Their studio is based in Brooklyn, which is where they showcase their vast collection of pieces - an eclectic mix of different design eras and styles, from early French and Italian modernism, to Postmodernism, and mid-century modern. They do not limit themselves to a defined style or era - but rather choose to experiment with and customize pieces, whether it’s a design classic, or an unknown designer or piece that they appreciate for its unique form, and then change the color, upholstery or alter it’s silhouette - always making sure to honor its original design.

J: “When we bring them (new pieces) into our studio we then start the design process by reimagining them. This gives us wider access to pieces as others are looking to buy and sell, and we are a bit slower in our process by accumulating, collecting and refurbishing, as we want things to have a blue line that’s undeniably Friends of Form. When you come to us you are buying a certain aesthetic.”

One example of an aesthetic that they both admire is the use of utilitarian forms and industrial materials reimagined in a new way, such as the coffee table by Gae Aulenti, with its glass top and rubber wheels, inspired by trolleys in old production factories in Italy. As Jordy and Nora point out, the simple idea of just adding a glass top makes it feel instantly elegant.

Aside from being a showroom, the studio is also used as a gallery space, where they exhibit and host solo exhibitions for up and coming artists that reach out to them via social media, or they have a connection with through friends. They are currently in the process of curating an exhibition for Irish artist and model, Helen McCusker, who works in oil on canvas, and whose paintings are characterized by her vivid use of colour and movement, and are wonderfully playful. By allowing their space to be a gallery, this also opens up plenty of opportunities for both the artists and FoF - as interior designers and architects that are looking for the next big thing come to their showroom for inspiration, as well as sourcing art and unique furniture for different projects.

Being personal with their customers, and thinking outside of trends is one of the things that separates FoF apart from other resellers and curators. Whatever project they work on, it is important to them for the client to feel comfortable and at home in their surroundings. Both of them mention how people are starting to ‘lose their taste’ due to the constant pressure from social media, and how we are constantly exposed to trends, as influencers share posts of themselves at the latest restaurant in town, hotel etc., which becomes a vicious cycle as people want to be perceived by others as having ‘good’ taste which then perpetuates these trends further down the spiral.

N: ”My advice is collect everything you are drawn to - there will be an obvious through line in what you like. We try to encourage people to think outside of trend and explore their personal taste. ”

Trends aside, as a creative it’s essential to feel inspired, and know where to find that source. For both Nora and Jordy, New York offers a constant supply of inspiration for them, whether it’s through the people, the architecture, or the culture - the versatility and energy of the city always gives them the drive that they need to run their business. One of their mutual sources of inspiration is their community of creative girlfriends, who are all successful in their own fields, from photography to fashion design, and all empowered by each other.

J: “The hustle and drive and the spirit of these girls..like, if you need a pick-me-up, a little bit of support, a second opinion - you have this incredible resource. Seeing what everybody is so capable of and feeling so supported is very inspiring.”

It definitely feels like there is a positive shift in the design and creative industry today for young women, and the younger generation in general. Nora mentions it could have a lot to do with social media too - as it is much easier to follow the journeys of creative young entrepreneurs, support one another, and collaborate together.

N: “Since we are quite new to the New York design scene, in the short time we’ve been involved I’m thankful to social media. It has formed the evolution of FoF without us even knowing it…I think something that’s really cool and inspiring about the design space in particular is that a lot of our peers are around our age. It doesn’t feel like the stuffy old world anymore that you easily get stuck into.”

So what lies ahead for Friends of Form? Apart from working on expanding their in-house collection, including a daybed, and building up their portfolio of interior design projects - the young, confident and extremely laid back duo seem not to think too much about the future, and prefer to just follow their instincts, think outside the box and keep an open mind. The perfect attitude for anyone to adopt in this fast changing world.

J: “We have a big vision, but we are open to multiple ways of getting there.”