“I wasn’t really planning on doing press,” Raquel Cayre admitted to me over the phone last week. “But after I posted the flyer, everyone started asking me about it.” The flyer in question is of the digital variety: a teaser photo she posted on Instagram last week that read, simply, “Raquel’s Dream House, 79 Greene St., May 3.” Mere minutes after she posted it, her inbox dinged: it was a reporter from Vogue.
Since skyrocketing to Insta-stardom, Cayre, the intrepid 26-year-old behind Instagram handle @ettoresottsass, which boasts more than 86K followers, has done her best to remain out of the spotlight. “Influencing” behind a headshot of the late, legendary Italian architect Ettore Sottsass rather than an endless reel of selfies, Cayre has proven that a feed chockablock with colorful 1980s and 1990s architecture and design can be just as likable as perfect avocado toast or a freshly contoured cheekbone. What’s more: It’s earned her serious industry cred—since establishing the account in 2014, she’s gained friends like Lisa Perry, Marc Benda, and Benjamin Paulin, as well as a veritable design collection of her own. (AD featured her own Memphis-laden home in March). It was only a matter of time before she realized the feed IRL.
“It really happened in, like, 11 days,” she told me the morning of opening, sunny and calm considering she’d spent the last two weeks shipping and handling upwards of 60 functional artworks, and commissioning half a dozen more for the four-story townhouse and basement which she has converted into the physical embodiment of her Instagram feed. In fact, it was just two weeks ago when, laying on the beach in the midst of a family vacation, a family friend mentioned a townhouse on Greene Street.
“I told him I just wanted to see it,” she explains (Cayre is a real-estate geek, constantly peeking at new properties on the market in New York and Los Angeles). Immediately upon her return to New York she eyeballed the place. It just so happened that it was vacant for the month of May—a 30-day period that includes Frieze, NYCxDesign, and TEFAF. Everyone is in New York, she thought. She was in.
Immediately she began calling up friends—Keith Johnson from Urban Architecture, Jeanne Greenberg and Paul Johnson from Salon 94, Marc Benda of Friedman Benda, Evan Snyderman of R&Company—and gave them her pitch. “I don’t have time to write you a proposal,” she told them. “If you like the concept, you’re in.”
Her goal—not unlike that of her Instagram, which serves up kooky design subculture to the masses—was a sort of design democracy. And while most of us, perhaps, cannot simply snap up a Carlton room divider for a dash of color, at least, for once, we can look at it closely in an unpretentious environment.
“I go to all these art fairs and I’m seeing these amazing pieces, but it’s very intimidating,” she explains. “If you’re not a collector or you don’t have an art adviser, you’re not welcome. Also, I was just sick and tired of seeing this amazing furniture in the same white boxes.” With no time for renovations or even a new paint job, the raw townhouse was a welcome alternative to the white box. “We just mopped the floors and moved everything in,” she says laughing.
Judging from the list of dealers who loaned things for the show, her phone calls went over well. But she admits that her unconventional idea was met with some resistance from gallery owners who were hesitant to place their pieces adjacent to those of a competing gallery with no booth or wall text to delineate them.
But to Cayre, this is the whole point: “This is like a collector’s house,” she explains. “You can’t control what goes next to what.” In Raquel’s Dream House, only Raquel holds that power. That means the shelves on the first floor mix in hipster handicrafts from downtown design shop Coming Soon with museum-worthy Sottsass ceramics (“I wanted to show products that people could buy at a lower price”), that chairs from design world youngsters like Thomas Barger gather at an iconic fish-shaped Gaetano Pesce table, that a googly-eyed painting by artist Stefan Tcherepnin from Cayre’s personal collection hangs above Marc Benda’s beloved Kuramata glass chair, and that Max Lamb’s collectable polystyrene chairs emerge like stalagmites from a gritty, unfinished basement.
“I did most of this in the last few days with four art handlers,” she says at the end of our whirlwind five-story tour as if it were literally no big deal. Then she offers me a cookie shaped like a Ultrafragola mirror.
This is Cayre’s appeal: You can feel the joy she gets from simply assembling her favorite things in one place, and inviting people in. Admission, notably, is free.
“A lot of people that follow me on Instagram haven’t really seen these pieces in person,” she says. “This show is about giving them that experience.”
Raquel’s Dream House is open through May 31 at 79 Greene Street, Monday-Sunday, 11AM-7PM. raquelsdreamhouse.com.
More from AD PRO: Tour the 2018 Kips Bay Decorator Show House