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After dropping twenty chairs on the streets of New York in early 2010, John Christakos and the other founders of Blu Dot furniture company wondered what they could ever do to top themselves. The answer became the Blu Dot Swap Meet, now in its second year, where would-be customers who are low on cash and high on quirky talents can offer up goods and services in exchange for a piece of Blu Dot's minimalist, contemporary pieces. "Bartering was always a part of Blu Dot early on. Anybody we could convince to trade their services for furniture, we would do that," explains Christakos. "Our original [graphic] identity was designed in exchange for us designing and building a tree house for our friend who's a designer, for his son."

Photo: Courtesy of Blu Dot

Some of the items put up as swaps are valuable in their own right, but some of the Blu Dot team's favorites are things that hardly cost the swappers a penny. "A woman designed a secret handshake, a Blu Dot secret handshake, that only we would know," says Christakos. One woman offered to have her mother call the guys every Sunday for a year with maternal wisdom. "Her mom calling us every week was a little impractical, but she sent us a care package once a month with these awesome handwritten notes in beautiful, motherly cursive handwriting." So far this year, they've been offered a secret recipe for rib sauce, a tour of the Tumblr offices, and five pounds of "drool-worthy, crazy-delicious" homemade chocolate treats.

Photo: Courtesy of Blu Dot

The whole swap meet is based on the honor system, and they have had a few "swap fails." "One was a college kegger," says Christakos. "Some kids from Illinois said they'd drive up and throw a keg party in Blu Dot's offices. So we accepted that one, but then they never kind of followed through, so we just held the kegger ourselves."

Photo: Courtesy of Blu Dot

Once the guys actually receive the items, they'll follow up with the agreed-upon furniture. Each of these items—a model motorcycle made out of 9,000 Popsicle sticks and a wind, rain, and thunder piece by the artist Kirk McCall—was swapped for one of Blu Dot's Paramount sofas, below.

Photo: Courtesy of Blu Dot

LinYee Yuan from Lonestar Empire served barbecue brisket to Blu Dot employees and passersby outside their Soho store in exchange for another Paramount sofa, a literal "swap meat."

Photo: Courtesy of Blu Dot

The team hasn't done any accepting yet this year (the meet opened Monday and will continue through next Friday), but Design Hunting is a big fan of the Brett Favre leg lamp being bartered for a coffee table, and the signed photograph of Russell Johnson, better known as the Professor from Gilligan's Island, being offered in exchange for a lamp.

Photo: Courtesy of Blu Dot

Only 35 to 40 of the 2,000 swaps proposed last year were accepted. According to Christakos, there's no real key to success: just be creative, be funny, and hope for the best. "We kind of know who our customers are, but we don't really know them," he says. "This website where all the swaps are and all the commentary that's going back and forth and the sort of amazing creative energy of the people that follow us was an awesome thing to participate in. That was the biggest payback for me, I think."

Photo: Courtesy of Blu Dot

Fall Fashion Features

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.

 

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.
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