By Katy B. Olson
Today, the New York Design Center's 500,000 square feet is home to 100-plus tenants—including newcomers like Reagan Hayes and Aero, alongside stalwarts like Baker Furniture and Cliff Young Ltd.—all representing some 500 collections. But back in 1926, the Ely Jacques Kahn-designed building at 200 Lexington Avenue swung open its doors under a different name. Known as the New York Furniture Exchange, it was home to markets for furniture and department store buyers (which serve as precursor to tomorrow’s What's New, What's Next market event). It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the building fixed its gaze on the interior design and architecture community.
Jim Druckman, president-CEO of the design center, came on board about that time but was actually born into the industry; his father distributed mass-market furniture and served as a partner at the Furniture Exchange. Druckman, who graduated from Columbia Law School and initially worked as a lawyer, joined the family business in 1975, at the request of his father. In 1981, the building was rebranded as the New York Design Center, or 200 Lex, and in the years since, Druckman and his team have targeted the building’s marketing outreach and overseen its transition into a designer-centric destination. Druckman chats with EAL about the past, present and future of arguably the most friendly design center in the country.
Has the mission of 200 Lex changed since you became president in 1995? How has the programming changed?
The mission of the New York Design Center has never changed. It has always been to enhance and support good design through professionals. What has changed is the method of our execution. Our extensive marketing efforts and support of education and charitable institutions have enabled us to give back while continuing to support the industry. In addition, the breadth and depth of the showrooms and products have increased exponentially further, enabling us to fulfil the mission of 200 Lex.
What might an interior designer of, say, the 1950s think of the building’s transformation? And a designer of the 1980s?
Interior designers from the past would find more and varied products, sophisticated showrooms and more custom offerings. Today’s 200 Lex is the home of exciting resources, for example the 1stdibs Gallery, our expansive full floor of antiques and vintage, the new Aero showroom and FAIR, a curated collection celebrating expert craftsmanship artfully executed. Designers from the past would certainly be impressed by our evolution to a true marketplace for the very finest in high-end design!
What accomplishments do you hope the NYDC’s centennial will celebrate in 2026?
The 2026 New York Design Center Centennial should celebrate our unwavering commitment to being the finest building of its kind in the United States, if not the world! We pride ourselves in being the oldest yet most progressive design center in America. We hope that in the next 10 years we will celebrate many more innovations that exemplify our continued support of the industry and being a dynamic, comprehensive, place honoring and promoting good design.
Part of Druckman’s outreach into the community includes What’s New, What’s Next. Last year’s WNWN event hosted 6,500 attendees. To mark the 90th anniversary of NYDC, this year’s occasion (its eighth thus far) will celebrate with new branding and original photography that reflect a theme of the building as “The Center of Design.” The event kicks off tomorrow, bringing with it a lineup of the industry’s notable names.
Programs will unfold from 2 p.m. until the evening, including the debut of thousands of new product at 80-plus participating showrooms featuring designers and industry leaders like Alexa Hampton, Mario Buatta, Allegra Hicks, Mark D. Sikes, Sasha Bikoff, Jamie Drake, Thom Filicia, Steven Mandel, Brett Beldock, Ryan Korban, Brooke Gomez, Young Huh, Barclay Butera, Jay Jeffers, Robert Passal, Lisa Frantz and Lydia Marks of Marks and Frantz, Deborah Lloyd, Thomas O’Brien, Jeffrey Allan Marks and Windsor Smith.
Among the programming are open houses and parties across the showrooms, and launches including The New Traditionalists (Suite 701) and HC28’s debut with French designer Christophe Delcourt (EJ Victor, Suite 814, 3 p.m.). There will also be discussions like “What’s Old Is Definitely New Again,” with designer Thomas O’Brien and Veranda Editor in Chief Clinton Smith (Century Furniture, Suite 200, 3:30 p.m.), and panels including “How to Get Published,” with New York Spaces Publisher Lisa Ben-Ivy, Editorial Director Jason Kontos and Executive Managing Editor Deborah Martin (Atelier, Suite 202, 4 p.m.), and “Obsessions: Design to Live With the Things you Love,” with designers Daun Curry and Ryan Korban, and Elle Decor Design’s Mieke Ten Have (CF Modern, Suite 510, 3:15 p.m.).
“This year’s What’s New, What’s Next is the most exciting to date,” shares Alix Lerman, NYDC’s chief marketing officer. “With over 47 programs from some of the finest names in the industry and our 24 media partners, we are particularly pleased with this year’s lineup. We are grateful to our showrooms for bringing in new product and continuing to make WNWN a true market for introductions. We look forward to welcoming the design community and celebrating the very best in design as well as the New York Design Center’s monumental 90th birthday!”