Naming Rights – At Home with Mark Mahurin
The question I‘ve gotten most often since our launch in 2014 is “Where did you get the name Bowery & Bash?” Trust me, if left to my own devices, there’s no telling what this company would be called. Enter my friend Mark Mahurin, Chicago retail designer and the creative man behind the name.
Mark and his wife Mary Kay Petrella are bon vivants, parents of five and my all time favorite dinner party hosts. Seriously.
They are their own lifestyle brand.
There’s always laughter, the best music, a killer meal – courtesy of MK – a specialty cocktail served in vintage glassware AND the most simple and interesting tablescape, ever.
A bowl of citrus, with twine, something organic from the garden, an object Mark brought in from elsewhere in the house. Somehow they make it seem casual and effortless every single time.
Mark takes his inspiration from the everyday, all of it grounded in family life and his Iowa upbringing. So excited to share his story and beautiful home. Enjoy!
People always ask us this question: Why Bowery & Bash –
How in the world did you come up with that one?
First of all, I’m a big fan of alliteration and word play. When you asked me to take a shot at a name for your company there were a few obvious starting points: your strong ties to Louisiana and relaxed southern style, the general sensibility of the furniture itself, and of course the types of events your furniture would be part of.
In my mind, all of those events began and ended in celebration, whether it was a wedding, a milestone birthday or a celebration of life. And like the furniture itself, I felt the name needed to be accessible, playful and bold.
After tossing around dozens of words and imagery, I landed on two words that felt absolutely perfect together. In my mind, the word “Bowery” provided the energy for an interesting and somewhat abstract location and of course the word “Bash” evokes nothing but fun. Together it was like A Street Car Named Desire somehow collided with a night at The Moulin Rouge. If I owned a bar or a restaurant, I think I would want it to feel very similar.
(KE: This is the highest of praise. And I NEVER knew this about the process.)
What does home mean to you?
For someone whose parents have moved almost 40 times in their married life, I do appreciate the twenty plus years my wife and I have been in our current home. Growing up in rural Iowa I spent a lot of time playing in and around barns, machine sheds and farm houses with expansive front porches and dirt-floor cellars with very little attention paid to the idea of “design”, not like how we think about it today.
POWER OF DESIGN
I think that landscape provided me with a strong sense of practicality and grounding that definitely carries over to my design aesthetic. And as much as I tend to live and breathe the beautiful visual aspects of life, when it comes to our home, it’s first and foremost a functional and dynamic, warm space that changes as the people and seasons change. Everything in our home is something we love and would have a hard time parting with.
What do you love most about your home?
The flow of our home is great. Because it was built in the early 1950’s as a center entrance Colonial, it doesn’t have an “open” floor plan – which we kind of love. As a trade-off we think it offers variety in living.
In the winter months it’s all about the front of our home, with the living room focused around the fireplace and dining room with its warm lighting and weathered brass accents. In the colder months we eat most of our meals at a painted white truss dining room table, which came from a dear friend of my wife after he passed away.
So, while MK is cooking something wonderful and likely Italian, I’m usually busy keeping up with the dishes and or striking the mood in the house, lighting candles, opening wine, selecting music, napkins and plates based on the meal – it’s our ritual.
Dinner time, especially now during the pandemic, has been our time to reconnect, let go of daily frustrations and enjoy delicious food and wine together. In the summer the focus shifts to the back of the house where we enjoy a screened-in porch and bluestone patio for larger gatherings.
You and Mook have always had such an authentic and original space. Never trendy, always casually flawless.
How do you make your design decisions?
First of all, that is such a great compliment. Thank you. I think decisions about our house come in fits and starts. Trust me, it’s not always flawless and there has never been any greater plan for what the house needed to ultimately be. Many things have influenced our choices over the years including kids, pets, more money, less money, art, movies, entertaining, even Covid. From a design standpoint we tend to strike a balance between modern and classic lines. But rooms naturally evolve over time when you’re not looking – which I think is a good thing.
SWITCH IT UP
If we start to think a room is feeling too crowded or too modern or too thrift store we’ll switch out a lamp, a side table, a pillow or piece of art until it feels back in balance. As a person who has spent his entire career in retail design, I tend to stage the house by season.
In the spring and summer, we remove heavy fabrics and pare back on the number of things sitting around to keep it open and airy. Then as fall and winter approaches, little by little the rich fabrics and footstools start to show up. We keep the house fresh by rotating out certain things by season. Those pieces don’t go away for good, just for a while. And when they return, they often do in new and unexpected places where they feel new and fresh again.
It’s an affordable way to keep it mixed-up. For us, good design means we still have money to do the other things we love and fix the roof when we need to. It would be easy to spend a lot of money on keeping up with the latest trends but at the end of the day, our focus is creating a well-balanced life, not a magazine spread. Our house is only one aspect of who and where we want to be.
From a design you can’t be afraid of taking a few design chances in your home-it’s your home. My philosophy is: if you really love something, you can probably make it work somewhere. You have to think about what’s important and exciting to you and your family and be confident enough to put it out there. When the five kids were still at home we had a built-in focus group. We knew immediately if something new was going to work or not. Like everyone else, we have a few design guardrails when it comes to our home, but we force ourselves to break those rules when it makes sense or when we grow tired of certain design restrictions.
But knowing the rules and knowing when to walk away from them is how we evolve and keep our lives interesting. The best thing you can do for your home is move stuff around and see what works, what feels good and then live with it for a couple days. You’ll know soon enough if you’re on to something exciting or if ultimately it doesn’t make sense. Living an audacious life means you’re less concerned about failing or looking silly and more concerned discovering something new about yourself or your house, even if it’s short lived.
You guys give the BEST dinner parties.
Care to share a recipe for your favorite cocktail?
Like the rest of our life, even our cocktails seem to move through the seasons. Hands-down favorite cocktail for fall and winter is a classic Manhattan served “up” in some obscure stemmed glass with a Luxardo cherry.
That along with the right lighting and music makes us feel like we’re hanging out in a fantastic bar with our friends inBrooklyn or here in Chicago.
THE HOLY GRAIL
I use Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth which was originally given to me by a friend on my birthday. And Rye, always Rye whiskey – usually Templeton (from a small distillery in Iowa) or Bullet Rye, finished off with artisan bitters.
Last Christmas, MK bought me a small, 6” round tarnished brass cocktail table with a marble top for just such a cocktail. In the summer it’s less about the cocktail and more about gobs of rosé and white Bordeaux. In terms of music, I’m fairly tuned into jazz but it’s MK who holds the key to great playlists.
THE OG PLAYLIST
For her last birthday MK put together a playlist that held a favorite song from every year since she was born. It was great soundtrack and compliment to the party and is still a big go-to for gatherings and dinner parties.
KE: I’m stealing this playlist idea