In an area of the Lower East Side known to some as Dimes Square, lies Coming Soon, an interior design store and certified hotbed of current trends. Scoot past the Noah-and-Reformation-clad couples loitering outside and you’ll encounter punchy Cold Picnic rugs, pert Dusen Dusen towels, and congealed Gaetano Pesce vessels. As a whole, the inventory of Coming Soon is a candy-colored who’s who of the squiggle school of design. But amid all the neon amorphous objets d’art you’ll find something entirely different, something of murkier ancient origins. Her name is Hester, and she’s a nail.
Most nails, especially the kind you’d use to hang things around the house, aren’t meant to be noticed. Their function is purely utilitarian, facilitating the display of photos, mirrors, art, and whatever else you might choose to decorate your walls with. Hester is different. She’s brass and three inches long. She has an irregular hammered surface, with a four-sided shank and a large round head. Her faceted imperfections glint in the light and snag the eye.
Hester’s too bulky to lay flush to the wall, too large to hide seamlessly behind a frame. She’s an exaggeration of a household nail, like a child’s drawing of a nail rendered in reality. There’s also something rarified and Promethean about her, like nails uncovered in Roman archeological digs. She’s meant to be seen.
But Hester is not without flaws. For one thing, she’s $12, which seems exorbitant for a nail. But this isn’t really a nail you buy in bulk; it’s a statement nail, a nail meant for high-profile jobs like hanging calendars and aprons from a kitchen wall. Brooms, planters, that macrame wall hanging your sister made—if you want to show it off, Hester will do so with style. What other option is there? Command hooks, while damage free, aren’t nice to look at. And proper hanging racks are fussy to install.
This may seem like a lot of fanfare over a nail, but nails like Hester aren’t as easy to come by as you’d think. Decorative nails, as simple as they seem, appear to have gone out of style somewhere between 3400 BC (earliest known nails in Egypt) and today. An online search for decorative nails will provide you with a deluge of upholstery tacks, and only a few trace hand-forged nails from independent artisans. By and large, the nails of today are purely functional. Hester proves that they don’t need to be.
According to a Coming Soon shopkeeper I spoke with, Hester came about simply because they sell so many things meant to be hung on the wall—they figured they might as well sell something to hang them with. I tried to get to the bottom of the charmingly dowdy name, to no success. Whatever the story is, the name clearly works: that’s initially why I liked Hester in the first place. But it takes very little to see this nail as more than a gimmick or a clever marketing tactic. If you’re going to hang aprons or a pretty collection of wooden spoons on your wall, why not hang them with something that does the job and looks nice as is? Frank Lloyd Wright said that utility should go hand-in-hand with beauty; Hester the Nail succeeds at just that.
$12.00, Coming Soon
Originally Appeared on Epicurious