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Single Women & Their Spaces: Phantila Phataraprasit's Sustainably-Furnished New York City Apartment

The co-founder of the sustainable furniture line, Sabai, gives us a tour of the New York City apartment where she lives, works, and tests the pieces she creates.
photography by Belathee

photography by Belathee

Meet Phantila Phataraprasit, a woman on a mission to make beautifully designed, affordable furniture that doesn’t cost the earth. Quick backstory: She founded Sabai with a college girlfriend in an effort to fill a need of their own. Thus a furniture line was born, one that allows consumers to live according to their values. It's a purpose-driven product and that offers accessibility through pricing and making sustainability (and ethical manufacturing) the easy choice. Basically, Sabai is kind to the planet and a joy to live with.

This same ethos is how we view Phantila's beautiful NYC apartment—with an air of simplicity, yet cozy and welcoming, her obvious creative eye shines through in the space she calls home. We know you'll enjoy a peek into her four walls, and also hearing about her business and the wisdom she's gained along the way.

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Tell me about your home: Where do you live and what drew you to this space? What were some key elements, be it light, a spacious kitchen, or a place for all my books, that were non-negotiables when searching for your apartment?

I live at the intersection of Nolita, Little Italy, and Chinatown, which makes for an amazing selection of neighborhood spots. It keeps things exciting because you're always discovering new places, but are also able to have your go-to spots for different specialties (fresh pesto, roast duck, etc.). 

The first priority was sunlight and the second was a spacious living room—this apartment definitely satisfies those two things, with the big windows in the living room and enough space for both a dining table and sofa. The bedrooms are also on the east side and the living room on the west, which makes it so that I can wake up with the sun and have the living room lit up for the second half of the day. Even though my last apartment was a lot smaller, it still had great light. I've been spoiled in terms of sunlight, but I really don't think I would be happy living anywhere without it!

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Are you currently working from home as well? And if yes, how has that transition been? If not, how has it been going into an office daily?

I was actually already working from home before COVID because I was a student (I just graduated from law school last May). Luckily, the move to the current apartment happened in the fall, from a previous spot that had pretty limited living space. It's been incredible having a table to work at, and I am always gushing about it. 

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Your space features pieces from Sabai, the line you and your business partner founded and run. Can you tell us about how Sabai came about and the ethos behind the company? 

Caitlin and I went to college together and were not only great friends but had also started a credit union together while there. We are both very conscious about our impact on the environment and had been working on incorporating more sustainable practices into our lives. When it came to furnishing our apartments, however, we realized our options were quite limited given our budgets. That experience and understanding is directly tied to Sabai's ethos, which is all about making sustainable living accessible. 

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Sabai is a Thai word (I'm from Thailand) meaning cozy, comfortable, and easy. That's exactly how we want people to feel about both their experience with us, as well as the decision to live sustainably. Oftentimes sustainable choices come with a lot of sacrifices and added effort, which is sometimes unavoidable. However, we've worked really hard to make sure that their experience with us is just as easy and comfortable, if not more, than any alternative.

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Which pieces from the line do you have in your space, and why did you choose them? 

We have a Sabai piece that isn't actually available yet, but will be eventually! When we first launched, we introduced our Essential Seating Collection, which consists of a sofa, sectional, and ottoman. As we've grown, we've also had a lot of requests for additional sizes and configurations.

We actually just launched our loveseat, which was the most commonly requested size. This configuration is our corner sectional, which we hope to start offering by the end of this year, and the fabric is our Oat Upcycled Poly. We chose this piece because we wanted to have a lot of seating space for hosting friends and wanted a light color because our last sofa was navy and we had gotten quite sick of it. The Oat Upcycled Poly is also inherently stain-resistant and easily cleaned, so we knew we wouldn't have to worry too much about getting it dirty.

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Which elements of your aesthetic carry over from your home to your company, and vice versa?

I'm a fan of many different aesthetics, so I usually end up mixing a few styles. I think you can also see the impact various parts of my life have on my aesthetic. I grew up in a house decorated by my mom, who loves neutrals and focused on texture as the point of differentiation. Although my family is Thai, we have a lot of Chinese ancestors (similar to many Thais). My family also works in the tourism industry, so we grew up traveling a lot and loved bringing that into our home.

I think this apartment exhibits that tendency towards neutrals but mixes it up with influences and pieces from various experiences and cultures. I think this tendency towards mixing styles carries over to Sabai in how the pieces are quite versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. We've definitely seen that when it comes to our customers, who have made the same sofa look completely different in their own spaces.

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How do you see the design and furnishings business evolving currently?

It's been very exciting to see the amount of innovation that is occurring in the design and furnishings industry recently. In the materials space, there have been lots of developments around bio-based and non-toxic alternatives. On the flipside, consumers are also becoming more educated around toxicity and sustainability. We really appreciate this and have seen how it can affect a company's actions firsthand, as our customers are always pushing us to do more. 

Most recently, we launched the Sabai Standard, which includes two initiatives: Repair Don't Replace and Sabai Revive. The first is a program that encourages our customers to repair their furniture if anything gets damaged rather than throwing the entire piece away. The second is an effort to ensure that our pieces never end up in landfills by taking pieces back from customers and reselling them, giving them a part of the resale price. We're excited and hopeful for a new mindset when it comes to companies taking responsibility for the products they put out into the world. 

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How do you want people to feel upon entering your space? How do you want people to feel when they leave?

I just want people to feel comfortable! No other motives here. 

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