World-renowned concert pianist and painter Chau-Giang Thi Nguyen, known to her friends as Coco, spent last Wednesday morning running around her gigantic two-floor apartment in Soho preparing for an “artist showing” that was to be held in her honor that evening at the BoConcept store on Greene Street. There, the walls were being covered with the Vietnamese-born artist’s paintings: bright splashy watercolors, some of which had already been bought by the litany of notable New York names that make up the 37-year-old’s inner social circle.
“I’m having all my friends wear traditional Vietnamese dresses made by my friend Duc Hung,” Coco told the Transom, motioning to her own walls, where the exotic gowns hung like art. Mr. Hung himself sat quietly nearby, an old friend from the Hanoi School of Music and Fine Arts, where Coco studied from age 8. (It was still the morning, so Coco was in daytime Missoni.)
“We’re collaborating on an underwater opera as well,” she said, while Mr. Hung smiled bashfully. This type of collaboration is not unusual for Coco, who runs her home like a cultural salon for all types of creatives, from gallery owners and tech entrepreneurs to celebrities and artists.
The first time The Observer met Niki and Shaokao Cheng, it was July, during the opening night of Julio Gaggia’s art show. Mr. Gaggia, the boyfriend of the plastic surgeon Mark Warfel, was preparing his work “Living Art: Chelsea Boy Apartment,” during which he would live for five days as a window display model at the BoConcept furniture store on West 18th Street. He spent the week eating, sleeping, working—and performing other, less-mentionable activities—in a showroom that divided him from gawkers outside with a pane of glass.
While we lounged about on the display furniture, socialite photographer Patrick McMullan brought over a petite woman with short, pixie-cropped hair.
“Niki is one of the few Power Asians in New York society,” he loudly whispered, flourishing Ms. Cheng before us. She smiled shyly and posed for a photograph before excusing herself.
It would be two weeks before we realized that Ms. Cheng and her husband owned the store where we had dropped more than one canapé between the cushions of a $3,000 couch.
In fact, the couple owns all five locations of the Danish furniture store in New York City, and another two in New Jersey. But the stores themselves aren’t the reason Mr. McMullan calls the Chengs “Power Asians.” Rather, it’s the couple’s seemingly innate social instincts, their ability to leverage a fairly cookie-cutter, mid-market design base into a celebrity-filled social whirl. One might say “Only in America,” or (even worse) “Only in New York,” but this wouldn’t exactly cover it. There is a certain type that thrives in Manhattan no matter what they’re selling, no matter where they’re from, no matter how few resources they have upon arriving.