THEIR BEST-KNOWN assignment may be akin with an ballsy weekend on the town, but Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of architectonics assertive Roman and Williams rarely sample such agrarian carousal themselves.
They’ve created interiors for some of New York’s hottest draws—including multistar French restaurant Le Coucou and the Dionysian, amber-dipped lounge aloft the Standard Auberge colloquially accepted as the Boom Boom Room. Yet back they’re off duty, the two arch beeline from their attic in lower Manhattan to Montauk, on Long Island’s ragged southern tip, breadth they allotment a spruced-up ’50s bungalow on two awkward acres. Alesch surfs and plays in his woodshop; Standefer throws pots and tends to a circuitous garden. Their bootleg cosmos is artfully composed, but the absolute amusement for them lies beneath in what the abode looks like than in what unfolds there. In this sense, their best claimed apperception shares its DNA with their best absolutely accessible ones—a set of high-profile projects due to multiply, as the apple of Roman and Williams takes on ambit its husband-and-wife ally couldn’t accept advancing aloof a few years ago.
Underway is a reimagining of the British Galleries at the Metropolitan Architecture of Art; the restaurant at burghal Manhattan’s Perelman Center, a cultural hub tucked central a bottle cube by artist Joshua Prince-Ramus of REX; a new auberge in London; and a signature accumulating of furniture, lighting and accessories. And the end of this year sees the barrage of their aboriginal retail store, Roman and Williams Guild NY, an ode to the actual apple in all its seductive, active beauty.
One afternoon this able July, Standefer stood in her Montauk garden analysis the anchored artichokes and chest-high stands of mint. Abaft her was an oak table burst about apple-pie through by a accession crack. “We alarm these balk experiments,” she said, active her duke over the scar. The ’70s-era allotment has lived outdoors for a few years and is advancing from analysis action to victim of Long Island meteorology. “It’s what they alarm able furniture—or it was,” her bedmate added with a shrug. An alienation to such assigned labels is one acumen Standefer, 53, and Alesch, 51, are at the beginning of architectonics today, says freeholder Ian Schrager, who’s followed their assignment for over a decade and has active them to do an Edition auberge in Reykjavik, Iceland. (“I accord them all the adamantine ones,” he says, laughing.)
“I was afflicted that Robin and Stephen had appear from the cine industry, afterwards the accountability of any rules,” Schrager says, apropos to their alpha in art administration and assembly architectonics for film. “They access aggregate in a affectionate of novel, aboriginal way. I assignment with a cardinal of actual able people, and they ceremony accept a ‘look.’ And again I assignment with bodies like Roman and Williams and Herzog & de Meuron, and they don’t accept a signature look. Every time they footfall up they’re accomplishing article else. Robin and Stephen are some of the best, if not the best, in their generation.”
Alesch and Standefer and their 35-person studio, which has been based in New York Burghal back 2004, accept restaked the boundaries of acceptable autogenous architectonics to beset architecture, artefact architectonics and casting development. They accept dreamt up a postcollegiate blend anteroom for Facebook, improvised on the teak interiors of a archetypal motor yacht for The Stage restaurant in Milan, conjured a lavender-tinged billow from a Tribeca, New York, attic for Gwyneth Paltrow and sexed up the adolescence auberge for millennials with Freehand, a alternation of light-filled hangouts in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and, soon, New York. Bucking the acumen of themselves as nostalgists from the “Benjamin Button academy of design,” as one analyzer put it, or prestidigitators in the casting of adept decorator Renzo Mongiardino, Standefer and Alesch attention themselves artlessly as storytellers.
“There’s a fusion—Robin and Stephen are consistently attractive for it—of a space, the bodies who will abide it and the food,” says chef Daniel Rose of his collaborators on Le Coucou, breadth he and restaurateur Stephen Starr accept re-envisioned archetypal French cuisine amidst Roman and Williams’s whitewashed brick walls and mullioned windows. “A accord that they’re able to actualize amid the azoic architectonics and the living, breath activity. You end up infusing the able acquaintance with an activity that’s cyclical. They’re artists.” What the abreast art apple has labeled relational aesthetics—the act of cooking, confined and eating, for instance—resonates with the designers. It’s not that they’d alarm what they convenance able art, but they do anticipate of the bodies who move in and out of their settings as protagonists, ambience any cardinal of new belief in motion and lending capital carelessness to their work.
“The abstraction of adjustment and ataxia is huge for us,” Standefer says. “Organization, again freedom. The voltage comes from the two things not actuality resolved.”
Before he interviewed the designers for the job at the Met, Luke Syson, the museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor administrator of the administration of European carve and adorning arts, took a few colleagues on a “pub crawl,” as he puts it, to see Roman and Williams’s confined and restaurants. The curators knew they bare to abode alive perceptions of museums as amusing hubs that additionally affectation art; a architectonics aggregation that accepted “how to accomplish you feel blessed in a space” was essential, Syson says. So was one that would be angry on by the evolutionary arc of the adorning arts. “We’re aggravating to actualize galleries that feel as admitting they’ve consistently been actuality and, at the aforementioned time, will attending like annihilation anyone has anytime seen,” Syson explains. “You’re not advancing in and thinking, ‘What the eff accept they done?’ but, ‘Oh, wow. I’ve never apparent that before.’ That’s what I anticipate Robin and Stephen do.” Roman and Williams was an underdog pick, assault out over a half-dozen all-embracing architectonics firms for the celebrated $20 actor project, which will accessible in backward 2019 on the bend of the Met’s 150th anniversary.
In all the accessible ways, Standefer and Alesch are complete opposites. She is a petite, quick-witted and socially attuned New Yorker who dresses like a alluring blackbird, her center-parted bristles pulled into a bound chignon; he is the quintessential Southern California surfer dude, a breviloquent wit with a Van Dyke bristles and a Bunyonesque body who favors flannels and the elastic boots of a cockle farmer. Their acquaintance Sean MacPherson, the administrator abaft New York’s Bowery Auberge and the Waverly Inn and a West Coffer displace himself, dubs the brace “New York accuracy meets California dreamin’.”
“I antic about that, but I anticipate it’s actual abundant what Robin and Stephen do,” he says. “They’ve melded those stereotypes of either coffer calm and created this one-two punch.”
In beneath accessible ways, the designers are abundant added akin than they seem. They ceremony had bohemian mothers who encouraged them creatively: Standefer advised painting at Vassar and New York’s Art Students League and did a abrupt assignment as a arcade babe for art banker Leo Castelli, while Alesch able a biggy aptitude for cartoon and architectonics in the offices of several L.A. architects. They came to blur apart and met in 1992 on the assembly of writer/director Michael Tolkin’s adventurous banter The New Age. A chambermaid accord and sets for over a dozen added titles (among them Addicted to Love, Practical Magic and Zoolander) followed, until accommodating on places that looked achingly absolute became a circadian admonition that their assignment would be trapped consistently on celluloid. It wasn’t abundant that at the end of ceremony gig, according to their acquaintance and backstab administrator Griffin Dunne, the casting would action over pieces they’d advised afore the set was arbitrarily trashed.
Despite their frustrations with film, says Alesch, “We admired the abstraction that you allot yourself to a narrative. If you were stronger than the film, they’d blaze you. Big time.” Even aural that sometimes-banal reality, they begin they could ad-lib a new beheld language. “The humble, the mundane, and additionally the extraordinary,” Standefer says. “That astriction exists in about anybody I’ve anytime met. We admired award our accent through those stories.” Along the way, they apparent a aggregate aftertaste for colloquial objects, the no-name finds that became workhorses on their sets, and a collective animosity of “peacocky” ones—Alesch’s appellation for egoistic designs that put assuming off afore basal functionality.
By the time the brace assuredly abdicate blur work, in 2002, they’d opened an appointment in L.A. and gone attractive for a name with an enactment arena to it, one that wouldn’t highlight their abridgement of accreditation (neither is a accountant architect). Roman and Williams are their affectionate grandfathers. They added the adage “Buildings and Interiors” as a bit of apparent destiny, accepting a absolute of one brick-and-mortar action to their credit: a abode in the Hollywood Hills for actor/director Ben Stiller and his then-wife Christine Taylor, whom they’d formed with on Zoolander and Duplex. A Pacific Palisades acclimate bound followed for Kate Hudson and her then-husband, Chris Robinson, frontman for the Black Crowes.
“The aboriginal architectonics cartoon I accustomed from Stephen was article I could accept affected and afraid on my wall,” Hudson says, abacus that she and Standefer “really affiliated as friends.” The advance was a abrupt attempt into Islamic achievement beyond with ’60s rock-star escapism. To apprehend it, the designers followed a alive access that they still attach to: Afterwards conceptualizing a action together, Alesch leaves the amusing intricacies of applicant relationships to his wife, while she cedes the beheld presentation of their artful to him.
On attenuate occasions, the curve get erased. One of these arose in 2006, back Alex Calderwood, the backward co-founder of the Ace Auberge brand, saw photos of a abode they’d advised and assassin the brace (and their growing studio) to accompany him in a abolitionist unwinding of the burghal auberge archetypal in New York. The lobby-as-Scottish-keg-party that resulted still seems fabricated for millennial affair a decade later—all doughy chairs, wall-mounted box speakers and a bend bar with bottle jars aglow adjoin oak-paneled walls.
The Ace closed their reputation, and about instantly, Facebook commissioned a cafeteria for its Menlo Park, California, campus. Roman and Williams’s convenance is annihilation if not analog, abiding in hand-drawing and an obsessional adherence to craft. But aboriginal allocution amid the two firms appear aggregate interests in simplicity, believability and accepted sense, ethics disregarded in the blitz to ad-lib new technologies. (Alesch has accursed the iPhone for its addiction “to blooper out of your duke like a wet Popsicle. It doesn’t chase any function—it’s aloof a form.” Peacocky, in added words.) Roman and Williams’s architectonics avoids commendation any accurate era, instead bottomward the aggravate on settings like summer affected and the army canteen, with knotty-pine amphitheater tables and endless of altered chairs lined up like sentinels beneath vintage-style branch lights. Reinforcing the ad hoc vibe, the sprawling amplitude was bare bottomward to the agnate of its underwear, advertisement accurate floors and wood-framed ceilings breadth sprinkler active and speakers now reside. Standefer says the end result, added accession than addition, is “all about assignment in progress. You’re consistently reaching.”
The apperception of any autogenous as fundamentally amateurish is a Roman and Williams tenet, and it’s played a role in the apperception of Goop Lab, a new flagship abundance for Goop, the affairs casting founded by Paltrow. Aloof opened in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood, the “atelier,” as Standefer calls it, includes a kitchen, an apothecary area, a coffer for basic outfits, a greenhouse and a rolling bar cart. It’s aloof the newest access in the actress-turned–wellness mogul’s advancing chat with the designers, who accept formed with her on assorted claimed and able projects. “We capital to advantage the absurd faculty of arrangement and character that Robin and Stephen accompany to residential assignment for a retail space,” Paltrow says. “The beheading on their ancillary is consistently exceptional, not to acknowledgment otherworldly.”
If Goop Lab has been a friends-and-family airing for Roman and Williams, the Met marks its big-league debut. Syson says that the close has taken the Met’s altar to affection and kept them at the centermost of its thinking: “Many, abounding architects and designers, let me be honest, accept an awning appearance into which you are accepted to fit whatever it is you are doing.” Following two years of acute research, Roman and Williams has affianced with about every aspect of the 11,000-square-foot space, accommodating on a new layout, the reprogramming of three aeon apartment and the recontextualizing of the museum’s holdings. To acquaint the adventure of barter in the 18th and 19th centuries, some 200 teapots, from absonant camel-shaped ceramics to spriggy soft-paste porcelain, will be unearthed from accumulator and apparent calm in the round—by appearance and ornamentation, not date—inciting what Standefer hopes will be above “object lust.” Added of that should access via the Cassiobury Stair, a admiration of English Baroque woodcarving that’s been on view, but off limits, back 1932. In a claiming to architecture orthodoxies, it will anon be climbable—the aboriginal time in the Met’s history that an article from the British accumulating gets circadian use.
Nearly a hundred blocks south, in a alveolate above coffer amid Howard and Canal streets that already housed New York City’s ancient administration store, Standefer and Alesch’s claimed compound for active will anon be on affectation for the aboriginal time. Conceived about the abstraction of a adorning calm amplitude not clashing their own, The Guild will accommodate a shop/cafe/flower bazaar stocking a accoutrement accumulating with over 65 pieces (burnished-leather bung chairs, neoindustrial coffer lights, paints and textiles) as able-bodied as altar they’ve sourced from a core of all-around artisans. Chef Marie-Aude Rose, Daniel Rose’s wife, will run the French-themed cafe; Standefer affairs to academy the waiters in the appliance on affectation and the salespeople in the able credibility of affairs a bland espresso.
The action has been according genitalia affliction and wish-fulfillment as the two agitation whether success—they are because iterations for Tokyo and Paris—would beggarly a stylistic beach trap. “Robin and Stephen are abundant escape artists,” says MacPherson.
As analysis for the Met project, the brace accept been account Christopher Dresser, the late-19th-century British artist and polymath who was additionally an able botanist. Dresser’s book Unity in Variety makes the case that a distinct set of evolutionary rules extends to all associates of the bulb kingdom, and his own capricious career has aggressive them as Roman and Williams enters a added complete phase, folding in retail, all-embracing all-embracing projects and cultural commissions. If anything, compassionate their adroitness as allotment of a continuum has freed the duo to aim anytime higher. Dresser himself ability adore their scope, from the Fitzroy address architecture ascent on New York’s High Line to a clear chandelier for Lalique to a glassy NoMad auberge in London and a alternation of aliment halls for chef Anthony Bourdain, advancing ability afterwards three years. “I said to them, ‘I affectionate of appetite it to attending like a postapocalyptic Grand Central Station—if it was active by Asian artery vendors. Or Blade Runner.’ ” says Bourdain. “They jumped appropriate in.”
Alesch compares the action to a bowl of altogether broiled octopus he’s aloof put on the table for cafeteria in Montauk. “It’s been apathetic roasting, like the best absurd allotment of barbecue,” he says, demography a bench at the barbecue table, “120 degrees for 400 hours. Or longer.” Bourdain’s clip doesn’t bother them, he says. Afterwards 25 years of partnership, he and Standefer accept developed agnostic of the chiffon way success is affected in the architectonics world.
“So generally it’s aloof a ability race,” he says, divvying up the bowl as he talks. “A lot of addition is aggravating to get abroad from accomplishing work. Imagine you charge to dig a aperture in the garden. Some bodies will aloof dig. Others will attending for a bigger way to do it. They’ll be gone all day, bluffing about with a rope, a pulley, a lever, aggravating to body this impaired apparatus that doesn’t work, back you could aloof dig a accurate hole—that’s what we like. To us, that’s absolute affection work.”