What makes a purchase “worth it”? The answer is different for everybody, so we’re asking some of the coolest, most shopping-savvy people we know—from small-business owners to designers, artists, and actors—to tell us the story behind one of their most prized possessions.
At Dyphor New York, a riff off “to die for,” Francesca Messina-DeShae and her husband Ahmad do it all. The couple’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn, custom build and interior design showroom is filled with high-quality bohemian, midcentury, and Art Deco–inspired treasures, including curvy teak chairs and cane desks, velvet knot poufs, and marble and travertine tables. Handmade Moroccan rugs, colorful Dapper Lou prints, and travel photography books featuring faraway places are a visual vacation from wintry New York.
“Seventy percent of the furniture is designed by us,” Francesca says. She and Ahmad have manufactured and imported their own collection for more than 20 years. The two first started a wholesale business together out of Bali after meeting at a trade show, and expanded from there. Francesca, who studied textile design and once owned a custom bedding and luxury linens company, works with a rug family in Marrakech and travels throughout the year to source, collaborate with artisans, and visit Dyphor’s factory in Java, Indonesia. Ahmad, who has a background in fine art and design, oversees operations at their Brooklyn warehouse (unloading 40-foot containers is no small feat!). Their other specialty is interior design, and they manage a range of projects, from apartments to gut renovations to real estate staging. Before relocating to the East Coast with their two daughters in 2016, they operated out of several Los Angeles outposts and built up a devoted celebrity clientele.
Now focusing on their core services at Dyphor, Francesca says, “it’s just popped off.” The family splits their time between New York, Bali, and, more recently, Costa Rica, where they’re building a property. “We’re artists and designers, and it reads when you come to the store,” Francesca says. “It resonates with people. Maybe they’ve never traveled to that country, but you really feel like you’re there.”
On work trips in Southeast Asia, Francesca says, “I’m always distracted by vintage finds.” Her most prized possession is an Art Deco–style, beveled, walnut burl wood bar, likely from the 1930s or 1940s. Framing the dining room in their light-filled Stuyvesant Heights brownstone, the bar is lined with vintage glasses and decanters. Atop it is a ceramic Natan Moss lamp and an unknown wood-framed oil portrait of an Indonesian girl. “For me, that area represents the modern mixed with the old world,” she says.
Two years ago in Indonesia, Francesca stumbled upon an antique shop where she’d never been. “I have my secret sources and, when I’m driving along on my motorbike through the rice fields, something will catch my eye,” she says.
Piled under stuff in a corner with mismatched knobs and covered in stickers, Francesca spotted the dusty bar. One lion-head knob and the pink-and-gold pinstripe mirror she saw inside made her think it was a Dutch Colonial–era piece. “I was like, this is so beautiful, I see the potential,” she says. After buying it, Francesca had the wood stripped, revealing burly veins and bold columns.
Although she intended to sell it, the bar has since become a centerpiece of her home. “I love to have parties and create little moments,” she says. “Once that bar busts open, I’m shaking my cocktails, and I put snacks on it. My children become part of the party, and I always have a virgin cocktail for them.”
Francesca recalls intimate dinners with family and a small circle of friends during the pandemic; they had deep conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement, the isolation her daughters felt being out of school, and lighter birthday celebrations. “That area absorbs a lot of memories,” she says. “Every piece I have evokes an emotion that I want to hold on to.”