With an sharp eye for design, enviable DIY skills, and a toolbox full of wit, New York University sophomore Daniel Kanter spends the time he’s not in class painstakingly adding detail to his apartment (and then documenting it) on his blog, Manhattan Nest. His NYU degree will be from Gallatin School of Individualized Study, but we’re voting that he receive at least an honorary degree in good taste (hey—check out those chairs). Here’s a look at the music that keeps him going.
What do you listen to while you work? I like to have music on almost all the time, except when I’m reading or writing for a class. I’m definitely one of those people who needs their music to match their mood, so most of the time that means some type of alternative-rock, current favorites are The Smiths and The Cold War Kids. I tend to get really into a specific band and just listen them to death—recently that’s been The Black Keys and The White Stripes. When I’m DIY-ing or working on my apartment, I like music with a lot of energy, which can range anywhere from The Cure to The Old Crow Medicine Show—the best old-timey bluegrass group out there; they’re pure fun—to, yes, Lady Gaga. I’ve even been known to submit to short but intense bouts of that grizzly Bieber Fever pandemic. When my ears need more of a rest, I like folk music (or artists with strong folk influences) like Bob Dylan, Donovan, Pete Seeger, The Dodos, Abigail Washburn, and She & Him. But let’s not forget the power ballads of the 80s. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler is an epic masterpiece.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? I’m sort of incompetent with computers and the Internet, so mostly I just use the iTunes Music Store. Shazam is a great iPhone app that can recognize ambient music almost anywhere, which is great for covert music discovery. I feel like a spy when I pull it out in the coffee shop to figure out what they’re playing. I also often make questionable decisions at flea markets and thrift stores with record purchases—they’re just so cheap! I recently came home with nine Joan Baez albums. Nothing against Joan Baez, but that might have been excessive.
Does music influence your work? Adding a soundtrack to your life definitely puts you in a certain frame of mind and influences the way you interact with your environment and generate ideas. I like music that does something unexpected—the kind of songs that you don’t know exactly what you’re in for after hearing the first ten seconds. I suppose I try to carry that quality through to my work on my home, blogging, academic work, etc. In my workspace, I made my desk from a traditionally-styled nightstand I found on the curb and played the beat-up wood against a crisp white desktop, white painted drawer fronts, and hairpin-inspired legs from IKEA. The shelving was made with steel plumbing pipe and plywood. I like the interplay of the exposed honey-colored tone of the plywood edge (which to me is evocative of mid-century modern furniture) and the more industrial feel of matte-black pipe. Added to that are office accessories ranging from the 40s to the present, a vintage oriental rug, needlepoints, and—still my favorite element—my vintage Eames “light sea foam green” Shell Chair. Broken down piece by piece, it sounds like a mess. But I like the way it all works together.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? Music recommendations come from everywhere. I’m lucky to have a lot of musically inclined and talented friends, so their recommendations are always the best. But I’ve also found some of my favorite music from other blogs, movies, or hearing things at the coffee shop or at a party.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? Optimistically, I’m going with David Bowie. Not because I’m brilliant or talented or British or married to Iman, but I think that his music and style expertly toe a line between beauty and fun. I suppose I take the design of my space pretty seriously, but I try to be careful not to let that quest for a good-looking room shut out the things I love. Some people want to live in a magazine, but I’d rather keep my surroundings sort of playful and personal. In the end, I’d rather have my space be “me” than be perfect.
Images: Daniel Kanter