Book Review: Taavo Somer and his Freemans Empire

You have a beard because of Taavo. You wear plaid because of Taavo. You make artisanal cocktails because of Taavo. And we bet you have some form of antlers in your man-pad because of Taavo.

Taavo Somer has infiltrated the lives of men around the world more than they can ever imagine. You want proof? Introducing his first book, FREEMANS. This new and enthralling tome is a celebration of the innovation and vision behind all of Taavo’s projects including:

  • Freemans Restaurant– the now iconic Lower East Side haven for comfort food and taxidermy
  • Freemans Sporting Club– a retail store and barber shop (also located in Tokyo in a structure Taavo designed)
  • The Rusty Knot– a very well curated dive bar on New York’s West Side Highway
  • Isa- a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where everything was made on site (since closed)
  • GEMMA– an Italian restaurant (with seemingly one million candles) located in NYC’s Bowery Hotel

I remember when Freemans first opened back in 2004. New York City was still reeling from 9/11 and had not yet found its post Sex and the City identity. So when people started buzzing about this restaurant on a very hard to find alley in the Lower East Side with lumber jack looking waiters and dead animals on the walls serving Devils on Horse back and Hunter’s Stew, it was as if the city re-awoke in the 1880s. People couldn’t have been more excited to lose the glitter of Carrie Bradshaw and replace it with cozy, quiet, candlelit dinners.

As Taavo’s projects expanded (he is a designer and architect too), he began to be seen as the golden boy of New York’s new ethos. Every project was a harbinger of masculinity and cool.

But you know how caught up you can get just by being in an aesthetically interesting place that you miss the details? That is where this book comes in handy.

Every page reveals details of Taavo’s projects that every dude will be trying to recreate in their own homes or dream about for their one day country house.  Those blue painted windows and door at Freemans perhaps, or the DIY paneling on the restaurant walls. As Somer’s explains, “The projects in this book are united by a respect for time and for the value of longevity through the use of endearing materials, whether they’re used in architecture or clothing.”

Besides his public projects, we also get a peek into Taavo’s house in Upstate New York (get ready for serious jealousy factor gents) as well as an entire chapter of food and cocktail recipes to try at home.

While we have many gift guides on the site, this should be the one you buy for you. This is the book you want to read on a chilly winter night (maybe even by candlelight), wearing your favorite flannel, sipping an Old Palomino, in your leather armchair right below your mounted white tailed deer.


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