The effect is a childlike sensation of not having the full context of the place you’re in, just knowing there’s more you might see around the corner. “It occupies your eye in a gentle, comforting way when it’s done well,” Nicholas adds. “We kind of play with that aspect of it, changing it from being this very loud, garish ‘Happy New Year’ thing. You can use it in a way that’s still very loud, but you can work it into an everyday setting. It’s permeable, like a portal.”
Walking into James Veloria in New York’s Chinatown is a comforting rush. To begin with, you’re entering a mall underneath a bridge; then you find yourself walking through a maze of floor-to-ceiling glass windows until you find this spot with trompe l’oeil murals, deep purple carpet, and a wall of silver tinsel. Brandon emphasizes that the store’s intention is to make high-end designer vintage less intimidating. “I just wanted it to feel like you’re dressing up at your friend’s place before you go to a party,” he says. “There’s usually fun music playing. That’s the best part of your night out, really.”
At Rialto Grande, a new bar in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, gold fringe covers the front windows and entices people into the bar off the street. Jonny Sela, director of operations, says that the gold tinsel was “sort of a happy accident” that resulted when he and owner Andrew Bulger were designing the space. The bar channels everything from defunct Los Angeles haunts to classic New York dives and the kind of retro faux-fancy restaurants that “served, like, different kinds of baked hams.” When it came time to throw a soft opening for friends, they realized the wood paneling overwhelmed the room. The gold fringe was a last-minute fix that became a signature.
“It says fun is happening here right now,” Jonny explains in an email. “That familiarity makes it naturally nostalgic and inviting. For us, there’s some of that athleisure wardrobe attitude. You wanna look good, but you don’t want people to think you made some big effort or that you take yourself too seriously.”
Nicholas and Julie dreamed up Confetti System as a “weird flipping” of the dollar-store decor they admired in Chinatown trinket shops. They wanted to hand-make piñatas, tissue flowers, and tinsel garlands, cutting out unfair labor practices and prohibitive wholesale minimums. At the time, party decorations weren’t as trendy and materials like Mylar and metallic paper were limited to holiday gift wrap and proms.
“When we started it was like, put all that away, take it down after your party’s over,” Nicholas concludes. “Those are beautiful things. We love having them up year-round. They age, they fade in the sun. It’s just that feeling of living with something and remembering that day of your birthday.”
Nearly a year after I bought them, I’m not sure where I’m living (long story!), but I have a grocery bag full of tinsel curtains ready to be hung up in my next space. It’s been a relief to spot them out in the world, a disco party we can experience together once again. Once you’ve tuned into the tinsel frequency, you can spot them anywhere—windows of nail salons, local banks doing a festive promotion, partitions in coffee shops. We’re all sweaty, feeling weird, and looking for things that sparkle. We’re no longer in the bounded piazza but in the twinkling lights of the city at night.