written by
Ryan Lynch

The Transience of Time In Spaces With Green River Project

design 5 min read

The spaces we inhabit are, in essence, museums constantly exhibiting proof of our own existence. Their walls adorned with bits and pieces of ourselves: a meaningful work of art, a poster of a favorite band, an old photograph of you and a friend. Pieces are added and taken away as the years wax and wane, constantly contextualizing and recontextualizing all that you are, what you wish to remember, what you wish to be remembered as, with you as the only one who can piece together this kaleidoscopic image into a coherent timeline.

At Green River Project, this tapestry of personal history is at the core of their design ethos, even taking precedence over aesthetic appeal. “I think it's really important, we like exploring history and the process of making objects. I think that comes from doing research before making work, the form is almost secondary to the narrative in a lot of cases,” Aaron Aujla, co-founder of Green River Project alongside Benjamin Bloomstein, has said.

Green River Project co-founders, Aaron Aujla and Benjamin Bloomstein

Aujla and Bloomstein met in 2009 when Bloomstein was working for Maccarone Gallery in New York and Aujla for one of its artists, Nate Lowman. The two bonded over a shared passion for art and design, eventually agreeing to share a studio in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Because of their experience with artists, the two were intimately familiar with creating and conceptualizing art that interacted with and played off the physical space around it. The pair started out informally collaborating on various furniture for their studio. This soon turned into requests from friends and family, including Aujla’s wife, Emily Bode (yes, from Bode).

“Ben was always interested in making sculpture using metal and wood; pieces that would trace the lines of the body and relate to a person’s volume in an interior space. I was making paintings and installations about interiors. I remember my art dealer telling me that the fullest pursuit of my work would be in doing the interior of an apartment. Conversations like that really stuck with us,” Aujla admitted.

In 2017, Aujla and Bloomstein made their collaboration official with Green River Project, named for the tributary flowing through Bloomstein’s family home in Hillsdale, New York, where the two created their first collection. Since its inception, the duo has defied the conventional boundaries for a design studio, focusing less on the message of an individual piece and more on the overall story the pieces tell in tandem with the space. Their combinations of textiles, shapes, and color palettes work to tell a wordless tale across a variety of spaces, whether it be for the storefronts they’ve designed for Bode, restaurants like Dr. Clark’s in New York, or homes they do for private clientele.

The historical catalog of influence that GRP draws from is expansive and diverse. They derive inspiration from Aujla and Bloomstein’s own lineage, the legacy of other great artists, and prominent cultural moments and movements from across time. Collection III from 2018 drew from Aujla’s family heritage in Punjab and Indian culture as a whole. Their railcar seats  pay homage to legendary Kolkata filmmaker Satyajit Ray; while nods to a prominent element of Punjab’s agriculture, bamboo, is crafted into screens covered in khadi. Other elements like vintage sari fabrics supplied by Bode, shades on brass floor lamps, and foundations on quaint side chairs with an appropriately mossy-green upholstery, round out the collection’s storytelling.

Green River Project, Collection III, Bamboo Sari Screen
Bamboo Screen W/ Bode Textile (Sari), made for 2018’s Collection III. (Photo: Green River Project)

The following collection would subsequently reference Bloomstein’s family tree as well, with a collection inspired by his grandfather’s time serving as a naval architect in New York City’s South Street Seaport. Showcasing art-deco style chairs upholstered with worsted wool and industrial aluminum accents, steel welding tables, and a collection of welding jackets made in collaboration with Bode, the collection was offset against a serene forest and the namesake Green River. Using elements of the country’s largest metropolis, the collection traced Bloomstein’s lineage from his grandfather’s presence in its industrial revolution all the way to Bloomstein’s in its thriving artistic scene in the present.

Green River Project, Collection IV Aluminum Chair
Anonized Aluminum Chair draped in a Sheepskin Welding Jacket, made in collaboration with Bode for 2018’s Collection IV. (Photo: Green River Project)

Inextricably woven into Green River Project’s history and visual DNA is Emily Bode. Along with being a supplier for numerous textiles utilized across GRP’s collections, the fashion designer has also been a muse for the team since the beginning. Beyond Aaron and Emily’s romance, both Bloomstein and Aujla credit Bode as the tipping force that convinced the pair to go into business together. The two forces have worked in synergy ever since. Their 2019 collection, Collection IV, was based around designing Bode’s Hester St. store in New York, and the set for Bode’s Fall 2018/19 show.

In February, Green River Project revealed their latest project was Aujla and Bode’s New York apartment. Combining a color scheme derived from turn-of-the-20th-century Eastern European interior design, a decor that blends Emily’s sense of timelessness with nods to Aaron’s Punjabi heritage, and complete with art-deco inspired pieces by Green River Project, the apartment is eclectic and unique, while remaining deeply homely.

Green River Project has created several pieces in collaboration with Bode, like a collection of half-moon Douglas Fir stools upholstered from Bode corduroy. Elaborated in a similar fashion to products in Bode’s Senior Cord collection, the studio team individually designs and  hand-draws each piece in accordance with the buyer’s personal motifs.

This is also very much like how GRP handles their works for private clientele. For a house in Rockaway, New York, the duo drew inspiration from the client’s history with ceramics. The client has worked in their trade from a young age and grew into a passionate collector. Therefore, GRP, imbued the space with a handmade feel. By blending rougher woods around the house, in vintage furniture and coffee-stained lauan in the kitchen with earthy adornments like mixtures of tobacco, raffia, and dried plants on the walls and windows. The pillows give the home the same unpolished, textured sense of antique ceramics, a sentiment for the history of the handmade that Aujla holds very close to the design ethos of GRP.

“I think it's the best part of owning a piece of furniture is when you can tell someone has spent time on it. It's hard to fake that,” says Aujla.

GRP kitchen interior
House in Rockaway, New York, designed by Green River Project for a private client in 2021. (Photo: Victoria Hely-Hudson)
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