Helena and Natasha Sultan have their hands full. It’s opening night at their furniture showroom and, here on the third floor of an unassuming office building in Chinatown in New York, where the smell of fresh paint hasn’t completely evaporated from the rich teal walls, the Sultan women are busy attending to a crowd of well-wishers eager to toast Konekt’s new home.
“We looked around SoHo and the Design District, but the vibrancy and community of Chinatown felt more authentic to us: from the fruit stands to the exotic smells—all the commotion,” Helena says. “It engages your senses,” Natasha adds, “like our furniture.”
The well-edited line, which, up until the showroom opened earlier this month, was headquartered out of Helena’s home office in Philadelphia, launched in 2015. It made its public, if quiet, debut at the ICFF furniture fair later that same year. “Each year, buyers think we are from somewhere else. Last year, we were Italian, the year before, French,” says Helena. “The line has a feminine aesthetic, and I think that sets us apart from modern designers here.” Two years in, the brand still works on a made-to-order basis, commissioning master craftsmen in local Bucks County and Lancaster County to produce pieces like playful podlike chaises longues, a geometric sideboard, and hand-sculpted bronze tables.
Previously a documentary filmmaker, Helena had experimented with furniture-making once before: she had designed a line of outdoor tables in 2007, but the project was shelved while in prototype phase due to the recession. This time, though, things clicked, and not just for Helena. Natasha, who’s helped shape the brand from the beginning, left a career pursuing jewelry to co-design with her mother and run the New York showroom full-time. Helena’s mother, Sonya Pollack, an 85-year-old artist, also has a hand in the business: her paintings and sculptures appear throughout the showroom, but it’s her influence that looms large throughout. Take a group of brass candlesticks resembling the smooth stones Pollack has been collecting for decades outside her Nantucket studio. “My entire life we would take trips to the beach and leave with a car riding about two inches from the ground it was so heavily laden with stones,” Helena says. “She seems to have passed on the fascination.”
In a moment of minimalism exhaustion, Konekt’s furniture is a delight for eyes in search of flavor. The Pause chair combines brass legs with a sensually curved seat in materials like blush pink velvet and maroon-hued boiled wool. The Pyramid Sideboard, done in a silky white oak or American walnut, comes wrapped in a textural natural goatskin parchment. The Thing Stools are topped with a cushion of plush velvet in shades of moss, cream, curry, and jet, and boast a cascade of coarse Mongolian horsehair. “Our biggest hurdle thus far has been the need for a showroom,” explains Natasha. “Our pieces are all about the tactility of our materials; they really have to be seen, touched, and experienced to be truly appreciated.”
Now that they have the space, the Sultans remain steadfast about their commitment to slow growth. “In the next few years, we’d like to have grown the furniture collection, and we hope to add in lighting soon. But it’s also important to us that we will be making things just as we do now,” says Natasha. “We want every piece to still show the human hand,” Helena adds. That ethos is also the brand’s namesake—a manifestation of Helena’s desire to create a sanctuary from the fast-moving and digitally focused world. In an era of fast consumption, we’re happy to slow down and take a pause with Konekt.