Industry Insiders: Jack Dakin & Corbin Plays, Design Dream Team

Jack Dakin and Corbin Plays are two Northern California Bay boys who came to New York City to create lounges and restaurants that combine functional design with the cool factor. They ended up working for the likes of Serge Becker, Sean MacPherson, and Eric Goode and on venues such as: Joe’s Pub, The Bowery Hotel, Jane Hotel Ballroom, The Park, Dirty Disco, and Duke & Duchess. The duo plans to soon branch out to New Orleans, Dallas, and Philadelphia. We caught up with them before their national invasion.

Which present-day designer/architect does it right? Jack Dakin: Marc Newson. The man does an excellent job bridging the gap between fine art and design. Corbin Plays: Santiago Calatrava does it right. He combines function with form in a balanced way. He’s both an engineer and an architect.

What past designer/architect influences your style? JD: I have to thank Serge Becker for giving me my start in this business. He inspires me every day. Also, I have to admit — although it sounds cheesy — I do love all those midcentury designers: Gio Ponti, Alvar Aalto, Oscar Nemeyer. CP: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He designed on all different scales from large buildings to furniture. His ideas are clear throughout.

What venues around the world do you think are done well, with style? JD: The R- Bar in New Orleans. It’s an amazing balance of hipness and dive. Best Bar in America and two-dollar Miller High Life. La Esquina is still going strong, and I’m impressed at the way they make the components — taqueria, café, and restaurant — function so well. Also, I love L’asso on Kenmare … just plain amazing pizza. I’m very impressed with the new Standard, although I haven’t seen the whole thing. Also I recently stayed at the Standard in Miami and enjoyed that as well. CP: Clerkenwell on Clinton Street. Great food, people, vibe and location. Joe’s Pub has cool music and comfortable lounge chairs. Oyster Bar because the ceiling is great and food is good too. The Outrigger in Kona is my favorite hotel, because the bar hangs over the ocean, and you can sip cocktails and watch the fish and turtles swim by.

Favorite city for design? CP: Rome with the layers of history, and boldness of the architecture all stacked on top and interlaced. The downtown neighborhood of Testaccio — where the clubs are — is built into the ancient Roman amphora dump. All the walls are made of ceramic pots that they used to transport olives and wine back in the day. Like Rome, New York has those layers of history, and the old 1800s tenements are contrasted by the new modern glass structures. JD: If I don’t say New York, then I’ll have to ask myself why I’ve lived here for the past 14 years.

What’s special about New York in that regard? JD Different people mixing. Of all the places I’ve been, I’ve never experienced a place as diverse as New York. I think every New Yorker answers that question with my answer, so it’s a bit of a cop out, but very true.

What’s the next New York trend in architecture and design? JD: In the last ten years, New York has moved much more in the direction of cultural segregation, with the creation of a lot of insular cliques. I think that in the next couple years, the pendulum will swing back, and when you go out you might sit down with a prince, a punker, a banker, a model, and an artist. CP: My outlook on the future of architecture in New York is that the best way to make a more sustainable city is to not only build new buildings but to restore the well-built existing architecture from the past.

Where do you go when you go out? JD: I go to Oro, my local coffee shop, every day. Café Select also has a scene I enjoy, very low key but lively. Also, I have to mention the sound system at Santos, what the fuck? CP: The list would be too long, but most recently Spitzer’s on Ludlow, and Dumpling House on Eldridge.

Something no one knows about you? JD: I’ve always wanted to learn to play the violin. CP: I shed tears while watching The Deadliest Catch.

Photo by Ivory Serra

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