Design Brooklyn is an occasional column featuring Brooklyn interiors, both residential and commercial. The column is written by Anne Hellman, with photographs by Michel Arnaud. They blog at Design Brooklyn and have a book of the same name coming out in October.
Daniel Prieto Preston established the chocolate and spirits factory Cacao Prieto in 2010. It sits unassumingly on a cobblestoned block in Red Hook — unassumingly because the red-brick façade he created for the new construction carries over characteristics from the older building next door (which houses the restaurant Botanica), now part of Cacao Prieto’s business.
The interior, opening airily onto the street, offers soaring ceilings and multipaned glass and steel dividing walls. These repeat on the façade in the form of large windows and one giant door that provides easy passage for large machinery. Preston has brought in refining and distilling machines from around the world, and has also created his own chocolate-making machines. All of these play a defining role in the sparkling new antique aesthetic of the factory spaces.
Cacao Prieto, located at 218 Conover Street, sources its ingredients from the century-old organic cacao farm in the Dominican Republic that Preston’s family has operated for more than a century. Coralina Farms produces cacao using self-sustainable and organic farming methods, and Preston turns the beans into chocolate as well as chocolate-based rums and liqueurs. Now, with a copper still from Germany installed, he also offers Widow Jane Whiskey.
With a background in engineering, Preston knows his machines — for both chocolate making and distillation. The factory houses a vintage 1895 Lehman mélange for refining cacao beans, and also reproduces a number of chocolate machines for sale. The room-size copper still takes its place beautifully in the vast back room, glittering against the brick and tile walls. All of these components, alongside a steady dedication to practices of repurposing, combine to give the interior the hum of productivity, not to mention the sumptuous aroma of chocolate and rum. Click through to the jump to see more photos of the interior and exterior.