One of the best interior spaces in Brooklyn, NY, can be found on the assiduous Nostrand Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant (aka Bed Stuy)*** Peace & Riot is a beautifully designed home decor and gift shop owned and operated by Interior Designer, Achuziam Maha-Sanchez and her husband, Lionel Sanchez. The store, wonderfully curated with eclectic pieces created by various artisans both locally and abroad, exhibits a serene and cushy vibe.
Peace & Riot has become a neighborhood staple and a favorite to many residents near and far. The Cur8 Home team instantly fell in love with the space when we first visited over a year ago. Now, whether we're stopping by to check out an in-store "pop-up shop" showcasing a local vendor/artist or stopping by to say a quick "hello," we make sure to support and we never leave empty handed.
On a gorgeous summer morning this past August we dropped in to spend some time with Achuziam to discover what inspires her vision for Peace & Riot, and to learn more about the legacy of the store...
Inspiration behind the name?
Peace & Riot was a name of a band that was started by me and my husband, Lionel. We were in a band called, Every Anything, for almost 8 years and wanted to do our own project so we started Peace & Riot. Then we got married and then got pregnant, so we never put anything out. When we opened the store three years ago Lionel said to me, "You know we still own that URL for Peace & Riot." He said, "Go Daddy’s been getting our money all of this time, we might as well use it!"
The name is the perfect fit because I use it as inspiration in the way I design and shop for the store. When I think of a room I waver between, 'do you want a peaceful space where everything is quiet, kind of monochromatic, soft, etc.?' OR 'do you want a riot of color with a mad house theme and you just go there?!' So I try to shop like that for people in the store as well. Like, which one are you trying to pull off? Most people have a space for each one in their home. There’s that room where you want to work out and be energetic so all of your bright stuff lives there and you feel energized. Then you have your bedroom where it's calm and you’re in a cloud.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn [sidebar: my dad is Nigerian and my mom is from the West Indies (Jamaica & Barbados) so the food was good on both sides!] I have really deep roots here in Brooklyn. My grandmother used to be the head of the block association right here on Hancock Street (not too far from the shop's location). She had those very trees planted on Hancock St., so that history has been told to us over and over again. My mother reminds us that we were the first black family on the block. It’s really important to us that we keep it a certain way. It means a lot to me that we're still living in the house where my son is sleeping in his great grandmother’s bedroom. Ultimately, I want him to have all that he needs within walking distance. That’s what makes a community a community, you should be able to find everything within a 5 minute radius.
What sets Peace & Riot apart?
We are pioneers. I think we may be the only storefront home and gift store in Bed Stuy. There are other places that offer things like furniture pieces, etc., but they’re "By Appointment Only" services. Mostly everything else that’s landing in the neighborhood is food and service related. So you can eat and get your hair and nails done. There are even some spa and wellness businesses, but for retail there’s vintage shopping, vintage clothing. There’s a similar store named Locale, that has a yoga studio in the back and gifting items for sale in the front, but we’re still the only real home offering. The kind of items we sell here are unique to us.
Aside from that I have a commitment to supporting black designers, so I make it my business to make sure we’re represented because I think that there are people who don’t know that we’re here and that we create amazing products.
More on peace & riot...
Our first store:
Our first store was twice this size and located on Tompkins Avenue in Brooklyn. When we first opened, my brother was designing and building all of the furniture and I was on the sewing machine, sewing everything. This was, of course, before I had a family. I made custom duvets, curtains, pillows, etc., and when you walked into the store you saw a collection. My brother began to get frustrated early on because stuff wasn’t selling, so he returned to New Mexico which impelled me to have to buy everything for the store, furniture, etc. We remained at that location for 5 years until the housing crisis happened. A lot of the homes in the neighborhood went into foreclosure. My mom said to me, "Achuziam, you can’t have a home store. No one has a home.” She advised me to walk away from that lease.
Our 2nd store:
Six years later, I’m married with a son, and we saw this empty retail space on Nostrand Ave. that used to be a book store. As I was passing I said, “Somebody is going to come and take this space and do something and it’s going to look like Williamsburg. It’s going to land on us. I can’t have it!” I knew I was going to cry if I walked by and saw that happening. I said, I have to try it again. I had just finished a big project in Manhattan on Central Park. I saw the check and thought, I could take this money and renovate my apartment, (and I really wanted to), or I could build wealth and start this business again. So that's what I decided to do. I took that whole check and this is it!
It’s been a lot. The first year was crazy because of all of the construction here on Nostrand Ave. No one wanted to walk down this street. We’ve been here for 3 years, but really its been 2 years because of all of the construction.
What is your favorite product?
Sissi Morocco’s Pillows. They speak to everything that I like. They’re made of recycled materials. No two are the same. For instance, they’ll take a piece of a blanket, a random piece of ribbon, a piece of Adinkra cloth, etc. They'll screen this person’s face, and then another print screen of neon on top, etc. to create this pillow. The idea that someone is sitting in a workroom, going through a pile and piecing it all together…I love that they take the time to do that.
Expansion. More space, more collaborations. Our biggest focus is launching our own private label pillow and bedding collection. I’ve been designing this collection for a long time and I’ve had it under wraps. The thing is, because of the price point I don’t think that I can sell here, but I can sell it to ABC Carpet. So that’s our goal, getting the brand out farther.
What are you most passionate about?
My son. My little person. He’s a Gemini.
One word to describe this space?
***Peace & Riot moved to a new, bigger, location after the publishing of this post! :) You can find them in Brooklyn at 401-403 Tompkins Ave. (Between Hancock & Jefferson)