September 24, 2023“It’s so much easier to produce beautiful things in that environment, rather than in the back end of a broom cupboard with a strip light,” London interior designer Rita Konig says with a laugh. She’s speaking of the sunny new Manhattan headquarters of venerable upholstery, rug, wallpaper and paint producer FS&CO. Formerly called F. Schumacher & Co., it’s the parent company of Schumacher, Patterson Flynn and Backdrop, as well as the shelter magazine Frederic. But to most in the trade, the whole enterprise is simply known as Schumacher.
Occupying the second, third and fourth floors of a five-story 1861 building in the once-industrial Soho neighborhood, the airy new digs are not just corporate offices but also a creative hub. In addition to welcoming clients, it has space for in-house designers and for collaborators like Konig, whose first Schumacher collection will be released next year.
It’s hard to imagine the industry without Schumacher. No other textile house is so inextricably woven into American design culture.
French-born Frederic Schumacher founded the company in New York in 1889 to import fancy fabrics stateside. Domestic production took off with the acquisition of a New Jersey mill in 1895.
Schumacher provisioned the original Waldorf-Astoria, that grand hotel built in the 1890s and razed for the construction of the Empire State Building less than four decades later. Edith Wharton, Elsie de Wolfe and Dorothy Draper were loyal customers. Heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post used Schumacher at Mar-a-Lago.
A starry roster of guest designers developed, too. Beaux Arts architect Stanford White’s neoclassical print for Schumacher, woven in gold on blue satin, was a signature of the Teddy Roosevelt White House. The company famously launched fabrics and wallpapers with geometric prints by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1950s.
Such history is catnip to Dara Caponigro, FS&CO’s chief creative officer. A respected magazine editor (she was a founding editor of Domino and editor in chief of Veranda), Caponigro was approached by Schumacher in 2013. “I was very taken with the brand,” she says, noting that she probably first visited a Schumacher showroom at around age five under the wing of her mother, a New York decorator.
During her decade-long tenure, Caponigro has banished what she calls any dusty “grandmother” vibe, introducing popular collabs with big-name interior designers like Miles Redd and David Kaihoi and cross-pollinating with fashion designers like Victor Glemaud and Trina Turk. “You can have a new idea here and just get it done,” she says. Refreshing the offerings expanded the brand’s reach. Nimble creativity sells.
The final step in Schumacher’s extreme makeover was its recent move to a sprawling new space. For years, the headquarters of the still-family-owned company hopscotched around New York. Its previous location — a suite of naturally lit white-box offices on the West Side of Manhattan — was never especially cool. So this spring, the staff and design studio began to shift to a “creative laboratory” downtown.
At the intersection of Broadway and Grand Street, a cadet-blue FS&CO flag as big as a tablecloth (“So people can see the name,” says Caponigro) wafts high above the gritty Soho sidewalk. But it hardly prepares visitors for the immersive utopia waiting inside.
The triplex loft boasts blond-wood floors, soaring ceilings and endless rows of north-facing windows. Interiors firm Float Studio redesigned each level, inserting bathrooms, updating lighting and outfitting kitchens. Primary furnishings are from the Cappellini and Cassina catalogues, like the Charlotte Perriand Ventaglio desk at reception. They’re complemented by house-made pieces — several of which are available on Schumacher’s 1stDibs storefront, such as Mokki oak dining chairs designed by Finland’s Studio Kaksikko and Charlap Hyman & Herrero’s coiled-abaca Tigre rug.
Los Angeles–based interior designer Mary McDonald, a longtime company collaborator, calls herself a Schumacher OG. “They always let me push the envelope,” she says. Her maximalist Shell Grotto coquillage wallpaper panels for Schumacher lined her bedroom at the 2023 Kips Bay Decorator Show House. Now, she can’t wait for an excuse to visit the new HQ. “Nothing is more inspiring than high-ceilinged, light-filled rooms with great windows.”
Walls and ceilings throughout sport a range of available prints, many of them new offerings Caponigro has championed. “Selecting wallpapers was hard,” she says. A second-floor conference room is solidly drenched in the sensational Piazza Firenze pattern by Johnson Hartig, designer of fashion label Libertine. The bold three-panel scene depicting classical architecture is printed on uncoated paper for a vintage feel.
The design studio has the run of the third floor, and Frederic magazine (another brainchild of Caponigro’s) and the digital editorial staff inhabit the fourth. When the penthouse of the building becomes available, the remainder of the business units will move in.
A planned roof-terrace renovation will allow company creatives to work alfresco by day and enjoy cocktails along with an enviable view at sunset. For now, however, it’s the loft spaces that accommodate collaborators and clients alike. Community outreach is set to include product-launch parties and, possibly, floristry workshops. For all its evident glamour, the place was never meant to be a cloistered ivory tower, Caponigro says. “I just wanted it to be nice for people.”