The Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. In collaboration with Domino magazine, we’re focusing on the intersection of design and home cooking, and speaking to leaders who inspire us. Eny Lee Parker is the designer and founder behind her eponymous line of ceramic furniture, lighting, and accessories. At her apartment in New York, Eny made paella and discussed her hands-on approach to furniture design.
I have an undergrad in interior design, and I went to graduate school for furniture. While I was in school, I would take a lot of photos of my furniture and post them online. Slowly, I was able to gain a following on social media. The team behind Sight Unseen reached out to me and invited me to come do a show with them. I don’t know exactly how, but slowly people thought it was a business, even though I was still in school. Finally, when people started asking for pricing, I just kind of faked it and made it up on the spot. After about two and a half years, I rented a studio and just kept going, and, basically, I'm still doing that. Fake it ‘til you make it.
We live in boxes, basically. I love the idea of softening that up with furniture and lighting.
As far as my designs go, I tend to gravitate toward simple forms and shapes. The start of all of my pieces are pretty simple forms. I'm actually trying to make them a little more complicated and more detailed from now on. I enjoy the idea of creating furniture that resembles body types, celebrating the different types of skin textures and the curves of the body. I’m drawn to curves and more organic shapes because I think a lot of our homes are so boxy. You see the floors and you see ceilings, and it's all very geometric. We live in boxes, basically. I love the idea of softening that up with furniture and lighting.
I first fell in love with ceramics when I went to Korea. My aunt lived in this really old town, and she took me to this little village that had all of these really old ceramics. I loved the hand gestures that were left in the clay body. I tried it out, and I really, really enjoyed it. I love things that you feel in your hands; it makes you have more appreciation for organic textures. Like cooking and eating, it’s very tactile. But I think food's better because you get to eat the product.
The furniture world in New York is really incredible.
The furniture world in New York is really incredible. I think it's community-driven. I have a lot of creative friends and a really great community of designers who are in the furniture world in New York. Everybody's so giving of their resources, and we’ll throw each other images and ideas on Pinterest. It's not a very competitive field, I would say, which I really love.
My husband and I live in a loft on the second floor, and then my best friend and her boyfriend are on the first floor, and then we have access to our roof. Our apartment is one of those hand-me-down apartments where the pricing is really good, and it's really spacious with great light. And my husband and one of my friends are really good at taking care of the plants, so they make the vibe so much better. We joke that the apartment is dual function because it also serves as a showroom and storage space for a lot of my pieces. I can't help it because it's just stuff that I show at trade shows and then bring it back and leave it at the house. So it's a dual space.
This was actually my first time making paella. You start by browning onions and garlic in The Dutchess. I caramelized the onions and garlic and then added crushed tomatoes. And once that was cooked down for a little while, you add the rice and toast it. Then I added chicken stock, but, ideally, I wish I had boiled shrimp heads to make seafood stock for it. Then you add chicken — and I didn't add chorizo, but you can. You add a little bit of spice or some pepper, too. When it's almost ready, when the rice is nearly cooked and the chicken is cooked throughout, you add any seafood that you want inside. I added shrimp and mussels and littleneck clams. It was really good, especially for the first try.
It was easier than I thought! It took about an hour, and it's just a series of adding everything in one pot slowly. I felt like The Dutchess was the perfect size. I mean, it couldn't have worked better. Plus, it feeds about eight people, which was amazing. I already want to make it again. I wish I cooked more often, but I just don't like cooking out of obligation. I like cooking when it's fun with your friends and drinking wine.