Like the vision for The Greene Door, there is another neighborhood ‘brown’ door nearby, that shares a similar mission statement – a happy place where the owners also believe in and subscribe to an aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. The door may be rusty looking, but the interior is a shining reminder of what lurks behind any truly interesting door. The unimagined, the unusual, the divine. The pretty and inviting rustic appeal of Shibui, a Japanese antique store tucked under the Manhattan Bridge, on the Brooklyn side and on one of the most photographed streets in New York, is an entranceway to another world. It is full of unique pieces, including a sophisticated assortment of ceramics, textiles, traditional Japanese arts implements and their specialty, authentic antique ‘tansu,’ aka antique cabinetry. The antique cavern implodes with history, old school artifacts and exotic items that tempt touch and are ‘for,’ just not ‘on’ sale. However, it’s good to be aware of those hefty price tags on the items upon entering, and before they crumble at a squeeze and your wallet is left to pick up the pieces. I am clumsy, so I did not partake in any of the caressing. I love from afar – it seems safer.
The seven elements of shibui are simplicity, implicitly, modesty, silence, naturalness, everydayness, and imperfection. There is an unspoken Japanese mantra in that definition, a subtlety that not everyone will buy or even understand. That is, until you happen upon this cute space with inventory that is chock full of meaning and nuance – not only with regards to the craft that is for sale, but the general feeling of calm that quiets even the most frenetic interior designers that make there way from all over the world to find some comfort and some unique and utterly gorgeous antiquites. Good news travels, oh, so fast. 渋い
The success of Shibui, the store and shibui the concept is the attention to details and the responsive joy those details bring – in art, fashion, woodwork, lacquered pieces – any form of beauty appealing to those with uncommon taste. The art and artifacts, furniture, clothing, knick knacks, bric a brac, books, models, ceramics – are scattered haphazardly throughout a gigantic basement in a cool building without notice. And there is no salesperson dedicated to making a sale – ever – just a pretty little dog, laying in wait by the front door (and on alert) should anyone bite off more than they could chew. The dog knows the owner and the drill – someone will be right with you, – in dog years, mind you, so hang tough, and search a little longer and before too long you’ll have a little shibui with your sushi.
I have passed this areaway countless times before taking any notice at all, but on the day that I did, I was instantly hooked on what they hold so dear and sell so dearly- the karma and the collection. That dazzling duo work in harmony to make for a very happy customer, and an even merrier gift recipient (particularly at the holidays, when commercialism knocks at the door.)
Interestingly, younger Japanese hipsters have appropriated the word “Shibui” for themselves. In trendy young circles, Shibui now means “cool” or “rad.” How perfect that this shibui sanctuary was placed in an area that simply would not have it any other way.
Photographs by Viva Violeta Photography