Cooper Hewitt

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum is a cutting-edge museum in an extremely old house. The museum is in Andrew Carnegie’s old house on 91 St. and Central Park. Andrew Carnegie purposely bought the land for his house much further north than his fellow rich peers, who basically all lived in midtown. He did this either for more open space or to give him an excuse to cancel Friday night plans with the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts (Mr. Carnegie was in high demand. I can’t be the only one who would usually rather stay on the couch under a blanket).

The museum’s grand location sets the tone for a dichotomy between classic and modern. Cooper Hewitt reveals the genius behind design in everything from fashion to furniture. We were particularly interested in the Pixar exhibit and loved seeing the concept art behind the beloved movies, with the exception of Toy Story. We should always be grateful that Woody and Buzz look nothing like this.

Woody Toy Story Concept Art

Concept Art, Woody and Buzz, Toy Story, 1995

The museum’s exhibits really showcased the art of everyday, drawing the fantastic out of the ordinary.

Manicures were mesmerizing.


Nail Designs, Tsumabeni, 2016

Bottles and sponges were just two materials of many that housed a tiny world.

One of my favorite aspects of the museum was its effort to make everyone feel like an art student for the day. Each visitor is given a chunky pen which is used to save photographs and information on exhibits (and, it’s the reason I have so many pictures in this post). The pens are also used on huge tables, where visitors can turn their sketches into hats, buildings, furniture, and lighting fixtures. In my case, that meant convincing myself that a meaningless squiggle was a sort of Eames lounge chair.

The whole exercise really confirmed that I should stick to public policy. Still, for anyone with a creative mind, visiting the Cooper Hewitt is a great way to spend an afternoon near Central Park.


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