Artist Ken Brown, best known in those areas with all 10 and under as Santa Claus, first moved to Harrison Street 36 years ago. And that fact alone could tell you how charming this loft is. But it is his patient nature and his wit that make him both a great Santa Claus and a great decorator.
I saw his apartment for the first time when I passed by to give him the yak hair beard that makes the look of Santa Claus. Since Ken comes with his own white mustache and ridiculously high pink cheekbones, all he needs is the beard and the red suit. But once he let me in, it took him a while to get me out, because there is so much to consider, so many stories to hear, so many thoughts, intentions and intentions. details. Nothing seems random.
Ken says his wife, artist and host Lisa Crafts, is a minimalist, which means they must have a really good marriage. There isn’t a flat – or even vertical – surface that isn’t covered with some sort of fascinating collection. Even the plants have character.
The couple moved here from Boston in 1985, after visiting to see a Ken’s postcard sales rep (see more on that here) whose office was on Chambers Street. As they walked up Hudson, they spotted a real estate sign in an upper storey window.
“The next thing we were there looking at that big empty room with a little cheese kitchen, which made sense since it was a cheese warehouse,” he said. “We made an offer two weeks later. Ken managed to secure a corner of the basement to use it almost as a warehouse for the business.
They raised their daughter there – she is now in her thirties – and created their work there, adding walls for bedrooms and studios as they went. The door to her daughter’s bedroom was found in a local loft warehouse and has a textured glass window that reads “employees only / no admissions.” Lisa added Jemma’s name. The kitchen counters were salvaged from an old restaurant; Ken took the oven upstairs before the building had an elevator. Ken made the cabinet over the sink using pottery shards found on the family farm and other adventures.
Many tchotchke figurines or collections were found at the 26th Street Flea Market and were useful components for a number of wrapping paper and postcard designs. “Salt and pepper shakers, Christmas figurines, little citizens, toys and Shriners have all had new life,” he said. “Other modest collections joined in the fun, but I have since become a completely reformed curiosity collector without any purchase for many years.”
However, he still has the need to save, save and preserve. Only now he’s doing it digitally. Not just documents and art, but walls, windows, storefronts, everything. It is the nature of his art and it is also the nature of his home. Three decades make a lot of diapers.
“I’m glad we held on to Tribeca, although that has changed. I love the buildings and the scenery and the proximity to the river and the trains to get anywhere, ”he says. “A lot of artist friends got knocked out. It can be hard to take the change. But I’ve always known that underneath it all, I’m trying to save things.