Mark Zeff has a passion for life and design. The South African Native came to New York City for vacation in 1984 and after being seduced by the Big Apple, has never left. Educated in the UK at the Chelsea Design School, Zeff began his U.S. design career at the Walker Group. By age 26 he opened his own firm that specialized in designing residential luxury interiors in NYC and in the Hamptons. Among his loyal clients are actors Hilary Swank and Gabriel Byrne, jewelry designer Alexis Bittar, and famed photographer Annie Lebowitz.
In a desire to expand his design prowess, Zeff also managed to make his mark on the hospitality industry. He's designed several restaurants for Jeffrey Chodorow including Social Hollywood, he was also responsible for the complete renovation and redesign of the the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for Morgan's Group, the Sense Spa at the Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel and The Red Cat restaurant in New York City. Today, his firm MARKZEFF works on a global scale with international projects such as the Seafire restaurant in the Cayman Islands to Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, TX, the latter of the two created for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. He's created the Canopy brand for Hilton Worldwide and is designing at least a dozen of these hotels. What gets him really excited these days are his designs for the first Flagship Virgin Hotel in New York City's Nomad District for Sir Richard Branson.
With all this he still shows no signs of slowing down in his unparalleled quest to redefine the meaning of luxury lifestyle for how people live today. So it came as no surprise that Zeff wanted to begin a new venture offering great style at a fair price, and so the BLACKBARN brand was born.
The brand began with the BLACKBARN house, a structure that Zeff and his wife built in the Hamptons that is in line with the designer's belief in honest architecture and natural aesthetics. While the exterior is unassuming and a bit mysterious in its simplicity, the inside is full of texture, color, and objects, that are meaningful to Mark and Kristen. The home is at once industrial, artful, subtle, refined, personal, and understated; it is with this mixture that they sought to expand this idea through a retail experience. The shop is the latest iteration of Mark and Kristen Zeff's BLACKBARN lifestyle brand ( https://www.blackbarnshop.com/ )
Mark and Kristen (a former marketing executive) saw a void in the market for an emporium-meets-atelier, which offers not only found and designed items but also custom design services. Clients and designers will be able to buy found objects, art, and furniture, BLACKBARN home products, as well as custom designed items. "The goal is for our clients to find beautiful found and new objects, but also be able to consult with one of our in-house designers to create a custom kitchen, dining table, light fixture, or anything else you might need for the home," explains Zeff.
From the moment you enter BLACKBARN Shop, you feel like you have arrived somewhere really different -- housed inside a former 1920's era industrial warehouse -- you are drawn inside this stunning and enormous 3,000 sq. ft light-filled space with floor to ceiling windows, exposing this cabinet of curiosities. Utilizing items found on their extensive travels as the baseline for the collection on display, they have also collaborated and commissioned artists both locally and from places such as Morocco, Bali, South Africa, Spain, Portugal and Italy to create pieces for the shop. In addition, from Mark's native South Africa, there are antique Cape Dutch farmhouse furniture and objects, as well as handwoven baskets made by the Cape Town Society for the Blind. Balinese ceremonial necklaces made of cowry shells are displayed as objet d'art, and vintage items from Paris personally selected by Mark and Kristen.
One will find not just access to global style, but such a personal touch to the store. All of the items for sale have a story, and it feels fitting to have this reimagined Dumbo warehouse housing such treasures. In addition to the shop, Zeff had the great vision and foresight to transform the back area into his stunning MARKZEFF headquarters, proving once more that we may never think about luxury the same way again.