Posts tagged New York
The Evolution of Yabu Pushelberg

Last month in Milan, we sat down with George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg to ask them a few questions about the studio’s growth since it was founded almost four decades ago

George Yabu (left) and Glenn Pushelberg. Image courtesy of Yabu Pushelberg

George Yabu (left) and Glenn Pushelberg. Image courtesy of Yabu Pushelberg

The Taylor collection for Stellar Works was among one of the studio’s ranges launched at Salone del Mobile this year. Pictured here is the Taylor valet

The Taylor collection for Stellar Works was among one of the studio’s ranges launched at Salone del Mobile this year. Pictured here is the Taylor valet

Suzy Annetta: You set up the studio almost four decades ago, how much has it all changed since then?

George Yabu: It’s changed a lot.

Glenn Pushelberg: For the last five years we’ve been working on morphing ourselves from an interior design practice into a multi-disciplinary design practice. Now we have a product design team, fabric designers, lighting consultants and a graphic communications department.

Yabu: And they’re all trained in these fields; they're not interior designers designing furniture but designers who actually trained in textiles designing textiles or carpets, and furniture designers designing furniture. Our clients say they can tell the difference, because these chairs that we're doing now aren’t the same, they're not designed by interior designers, and that’s a compliment to us. We're going to hire an architect next.

Pushelberg: The reasons we’re doing this is that when you design projects like resorts, you want the ability to design the building, the interiors, the uniforms —all the details.

Yabu: It's a little bit more about complete concepts.

Pushelberg: Yes, so we’re doing fewer projects, but designing more holistically.

And as the team has grown have you felt, as creative people, that it’s made your lives easier or more challenging?

Pushelberg: It’s made our lives more complicated but more interesting; more challenging but in a positive way. It keeps us young and keeps us curious. You know, if it was just about the money then we would be better off just continuing to design luxury hotels, but we’d find that a little tedious because we already know how to do it really well. We like doing them when it’s the right project, but we want to be challenged.

Over the years, as the practice has changed and you've grown, has the work-life balance gotten any easier?

Yabu: [Laughs] Glenn and I have never really experienced work-life balance, we think this is normal. I think we want to see what's going on outside the world of design; our pace may have changed a little, but our curiosity level still hasn't dissipated.

As told to / Suzy Annetta


Read the rest of this interview in the Design Anthology Fair Report: Milan Design Week 2019

From the editors of Design Anthology, this stitch-bound compendium captures the energy, events and encounters of the world’s most influential design event, combined with key insights and analysis unpacking the industry’s future

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The Taylor lounge chair and floor lamp for Stellar Works

The Taylor lounge chair and floor lamp for Stellar Works

The Taylor cabinet and bar stool for Stellar Works

The Taylor cabinet and bar stool for Stellar Works

The Puddle coffee table is part of Yabu Pushelberg’s second collection with Italian furniture brand Henge

The Puddle coffee table is part of Yabu Pushelberg’s second collection with Italian furniture brand Henge

The firm launched its new studio in Tribeca with an immersive installation by   Jason Bruges Studio that incorporated the latest collection for Hinge. Image by Charlie Schuck

The firm launched its new studio in Tribeca with an immersive installation by Jason Bruges Studio that incorporated the latest collection for Hinge. Image by Charlie Schuck

The studio designed Hong Kong fine-dining restaurant Arbor

The studio designed Hong Kong fine-dining restaurant Arbor

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Jean-Georges Vongerichten ‘s The Fulton in New York, the chef’s first seafood restaurant, designed by Yabu Pushelberg

Jean-Georges Vongerichten ‘s The Fulton in New York, the chef’s first seafood restaurant, designed by Yabu Pushelberg

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The duo worked with Ian Schrager on the recently opened Times Square EDITION. Image by Nicolas Koenig

The duo worked with Ian Schrager on the recently opened Times Square EDITION. Image by Nicolas Koenig

Image by Nicolas Koenig

Image by Nicolas Koenig

Image by Nicolas Koenig

Image by Nicolas Koenig

The studio is also behind the design of the The Peninsula Chicago’s Z Bar. Image by Alice Gao

The studio is also behind the design of the The Peninsula Chicago’s Z Bar. Image by Alice Gao

The Urge to Create: In Conversation with Ian Schrager

On the occasion of the recent opening of Ian Schrager’s latest EDITION Hotel, this one in the much-maligned New York neighbourhood of Times Square, our managing editor Philip Annetta spoke to the legendary creator of Studio 54, the Palladium, Morgans Hotel Group and many more

Image by Chad Batka

Image by Chad Batka

Design Anthology: This is EDITION number ten of a mooted one hundred, plus you’ve created your own hotels and many projects as a developer and designer. Are you still learning?

Ian Schrager: Of course. And evolving. Working with Marriott in and of itself is an expansive experience for me, so still learning, still refining the craft. Always.

There’s been a lot of scepticism about opening the hotel in Times Square, and I guess you’re aware of that. Did it impact your decision making?

You know, I’ve been dealing with scepticism my whole life and I’ve also been dealing with hotels, nightclubs and luxury apartment buildings in unlikely locations — creating neighbourhoods — and I know better than anybody else that if you build something special and unique and distinctive then people will come to the moon.

I’ve already had a number of projects in and around here — the Royalton on 44th Street, which up to then was unsafe to walk on. And the Paramount on 46th Street. The only thing in Times Square at that time was the Marriott Marquis and the Paramount Hotel — that whisky bar was where Rande Gerber met Cindy Crawford, and there were all these stylish, chic people walking through Times Square to get to the hotel, to the whisky bar. Studio 54 was in this neighbourhood, before Robert De Niro was in Tribeca it was a truck stop, then there’s the East Village and the West Village west of Seventh Avenue and the meat market and Wall Street and Columbus Avenue and on and on. The city is like an ebbing and flowing river, and when I hear that type of thing it’s preposterous. Let them come tonight or tomorrow night or the night after and see all the people that are here and see if that’s questioned. That, to me, interests me, upsetting the status quo.

You referred to building a neighbourhood. Is that how you approach things?

No, I don’t think like that. I’m not a real estate guy — I don't go into a neighbourhood and buy everything around it. I’m very product-driven, you know, do something great and it lifts the tide. 

I remember when I did the Delano in Miami Beach, the hotel next door was available for three million. My partner said ‘buy it, buy it!’ But I wasn’t excited about doing another hotel there at the time. Do a great product, that’s the credo. Everything else gets taken care of. 

OK. But knowingly or unknowingly you’re building third spaces — you’re really strong on bringing people into the lobby and doing things on the ground level — and in modern cities there’s this constant question of whether the third space is a good space. And do we even have a third space?

You know, fashions change but the human condition doesn’t change. Ever. Socialising is a human urge. I don’t care if it’s dating over the internet, you know, all those things change but they don't change the basic urge to socialise and meet people. So to me, staying in a hotel and having a microcosm of the best that that city has to offer right downstairs in the lobby just made a lot of obvious sense.

And it’s not a totally original idea — that’s the way hotels used to be. But then the real estate guys, they couldn’t figure out how to make any money with food and beverage — it’s too labour-intensive for them, so they got rid of it all. Then the bars and the restaurants and everything became boring to be profitable. It used to be that the restaurant and event spaces in hotels, they were like the social centres of the cities they were located in. Those great hotels like The Plaza in New York… but we got away from that. So I just thought, you know, let’s do it again. But let’s do it in a modern way.

It seems boutique hotels always try to bring a sense of place more than you get with a big chain hotel. Do you think that’s more crucial than ever? Especially given that cities are getting more homogenous and that we’re in an era where I can go online and book someone’s apartment in Madrid tomorrow. So is it more important than ever for a boutique hotel to actually curate the best of a city like that?

I think you can book an apartment wherever it is, in Madrid or Barcelona, but you’re not going to get the community social space and the public space that a hotel has to offer. Airbnb, which I assume you’re referring to, they can’t do that and that’s a critical structural element of a hotel and it plays to our strengths, and I think that has to continue. Whether cities get homogenous or don’t get homogenous, there’s always diversity, whether it’s in the suburbs or in the mountains or in the desert it doesn’t matter – you have an elevated product with an elevated experience, it will attract people who are interested in being a part of what they think is going on that manifests the zeitgeist, that manifests popular culture – it’s just an obvious thing to me, it comes as second nature.

As far as that goes, and you can see that in evidence here, the rooms are really subdued. It’s Yabu Pushelberg and yourself, and they’re very calm, very minimal, but then the public spaces, that's where the pizzazz is.

Well, it’s a different function. I think the room is supposed to be a sanctuary where you sleep and eat and bathe, you know, you’re coming in here rest and to kind of recharge and regroup. I find it more difficult to do the rooms because they’re not very forgiving. If you make a mistake, you go in to shave and you bend your elbow into the shower door, where the public spaces are more operatic, they’re more flamboyant, more dramatic, more forgiving. We’re not quite sure how they’re going to be used specifically but I think they’re supposed to complement each other, you know, where the public space is supposed to make the room look better and the rooms are supposed to make the public space feel better because it’s an outlet – it’s like a very tight concept. Originally we were toying around with the idea of black and white here – you see it in the lobby. Originally these rooms were black and white. I didn’t think that worked in the rooms. It didn’t feel calming and comfortable. You never know what’s going to work.

That’s true, not till you see it. So talk me through the process with Yabu Pushelberg.

They were part of the team, but I can’t delegate to them responsibility for doing a successful product, whether it’s the room or whether it’s the public space or whether it’s the towels or the sheets or whatever, you know. There is no detail, no matter how small or insignificant, that we didn't consider or contemplate. And I also work with a very talented team of people in my office. I think you’ll find this room and this public space is different from other Yabu Pushelberg spaces.

It does feel that way. So do you start with a very strategic idea? You also worked with Madison Cox on the garden design, but you have experience designers as well — that’s The House of Yes for the live shows — and you’ve designed down to the curation of the music. Do you start with that very strategic approach?

I do, but I didn’t do it so much with The House of Yes, because that’s a new medium. They’re doing something new and original down there, there’s something new and original going on with entertainment period — that whole industry, content, is undergoing radical change, you know. I relied on them — I wasn’t sure what they were going to do even, to tell you the truth. But, you know, we agreed on an idea that was a collaborative effort to rethink, restructure a performance that’s chaotic, evolves, changes. Every performance is different — it doesn’t follow the traditional theatrical structure of a play. We agreed on that, but they really did all of that because I didn’t really have any skill set in that area. But even there, when it came to the lighting I was tempted to get involved, but you know I’m very tentative because it’s their gig. There’s no other place in the hotel that I could say it is anybody else’s gig.

It’s funny to hear you say that that’s not really your thing when you you’ve come from nightclubs…

Yes, that might be, but the actual show itself, that’s their idea.

Speaking of which, where did the idea for the jumbotron come about? To show the stage shows on the building?

It was part of the real estate transaction. But, you know, our idea for that is to use the jumbotron with no commercial purpose — we’re not selling anything, you know, we’re elevating the experience for all the people and for free. It’s not unlike what Andy Warhol did for art, making it accessible and taking the pretention out of it. It’s just great to see something up there that doesn’t sell anything! You know, it’s just visual, stimulating. It’s a civic-minded thing, and we really enjoy it and we’re going to get a bunch of young people to do a lot of great stuff with no purpose in mind other than entertaining people, just making people smile. No purpose, but…

But you can walk on the street in a busy commercial area and feel like you're not being sold to.

Which I think this whole area needs — to leave some of the touristic things that are going on here, you know, the appeal to the lowest common denominator. Not the lowbrow and highbrow mix — that we love. But it needs to be elevated — I think it needs to go back to what it was in the 20s and 30s and 40s where it was a very naughty but avant-garde cultural area. I think that — you’ve got to understand what’s going on over here — there’s the theatre district, Tin Pan Alley where all the songs were written, the Brill Building where all the rock and roll got written, the jazz clubs which are just as prominent as the ones up at the Cotton Club, the Metropole, Birdland, Roseland, the Paramount Theatre, where Frank Sinatra and all those people performed — I mean, it's a cultural centre.

I don’t think people realise what was going on over here — Madison Square Garden was part of it too, originally. Everything was here. It was a cultural Mecca. It was the crossroads of the world — you came to New York, you came to Times Square. And so it had a bad period — had the dark ages, I suppose — now hopefully it’ll come back.

On a personal note, you went to university and studied law. What happened? What led to all this?

I studied law because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. How can you be? How can you know what you want to spend the rest of your life doing? You know, the only thing you can do is get out there, start with what you know and things happen. I went to law school because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I thought no matter what I do it would be helpful. And then, you know, I see people waiting on line at clubs — that was just when the baby boom generation had come in to New York, the sexual revolution was in full bloom, people were going out — and I thought, here are people waiting on line to get in to nightclubs, taking all sorts of abuse before they got in! [laughs] That was the business I wanted to get in to. Life is… you can’t connect the dots till later, you can’t make sense of it till later. That’s what I found.

OK, and I want to finish with one last design-related question. There’s a school of thought that nobody opens a hotel for pleasure — it’s for commercial reasons. Because a hotel has to make sense operationally, has to make sense commercially, has to make sense from a usage point of view, still has to look good.

I don’t really believe that. All the great hoteliers in the past were hotel people, you know, Statler, Issy Sharp from Four Seasons, Portman, Bill Marriott, they loved to do hotels. You know, maybe the finance guys don’t care for anything but for the numbers, but that hasn’t been my experience. I like to create — it doesn’t have to be a hotel, could be anything. Could be an apartment, could be a nightclub, could be anything, but I enjoy it, and yes, it has to work financially or else you don’t get another opportunity. But I’m still doing what I’m doing because I love it, and I’ve got a job I would take if I didn’t need one. 

So that sounds like a rather bleak, pessimistic view of things, and it hasn’t been my experience. The great hoteliers are all people who like to create hotels. Kemmons Wilson, the guy that did the Holiday Inn, they all were creative guys. You have to make money or you don’t get an opportunity to do it again. That simple. But you can’t do it just for making the money — it’s a perversion of the process. You have to do it for doing something great. You know, Steve Jobs said he didn’t care how much people made, he cared about what you made, and I don’t think he was doing that because he had the most valuable company in the world maybe — I don’t think so. He cared about what the insides of the machines looked like — nobody even saw them, you can’t open them! So I don’t believe that.

Text / Philip Annetta
Images / Courtesy of EDITION Hotels


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Co-Op Chic

Art Deco, mid-century and 1970s influences come together in this spacious Manhattan family apartment

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A stone’s throw away from Central Park in Manhattan’s exclusive Upper East Side, architecture and interior design firm Frederick Tang Architecture have created an expansive and elegant apartment for a three-person family and their dogs.

For this project, the designers undertook a complete gut renovation, combining two units in a post-war co-op building to create an apartment imbued with Art Deco, mid-century and 1970s design inspirations. This distinctive style was directed by the female client who ‘loved anything in black and white, navy or purple, and a little sparkle and glamour. In contrast, she appreciated a clean aesthetic and modern lines. The result is a fusion of the 70s open-plan concept, Deco opulence and materiality, and mid-century iconography,’ explains Frederick Tang, Principal at Frederick Tang Architecture.

The apartment is characterised by large, open spaces which flow effortlessly into one another, and several curved walls and rounded bays. The home needed to suit the family’s varied lifestyle, so the designers introduced a series of subtle design elements that can be used to create multiple rooms or ambiances.

As the clients occasionally work from home, the study’s steel and glass framed doors fabricated by Habiterra offer privacy but continue the apartment’s extensive length. The family also needed an open space for entertaining, with areas that could be closed off for the children’s play dates. Midway through the project the client requested the inclusion of a television, which is cleverly hidden behind millwork and hinged swing doors above the stone fireplace.

The entrance boasts stunning Art Deco-style stonework. ‘The clients wanted an impressive foyer that diverted from the chevron oak throughout the apartment. Influenced by their affinity for black and white, we designed the compact entry in an Art Deco geometric pattern with stone tile from ANN SACKS. To do this, the stone was placed on a diagonal with a basket weave of brass inlay that created movement as it lay under and over one another,’ shares Barbara Reyes, Director of Design at Frederick Tang Architecture.

The design gene has clearly passed down to the clients’ daughter, who also had a clear vision of her ideal bedroom. ‘She was inspired by a vintage 60s image from Knoll, complete with Saarinen furniture and playful patterns,’ Reyes explains. A queen platform bed has surrounding seated areas perfect for sleepovers and hanging out. The room’s key motif is her favourite animal, the sloth, most obvious in a custom light fixture by Lite Brite Neon Studio, while custom Maharam leather and Paul Smith dot and plaid cushions offset the wallpaper and hidden storage.

One of the most endearing elements in the apartment is Chili and Waffles’ own doggie spa. The service bathroom has a tall but shallow shower and sink area, and the designers give a playful nod to classic New York City pre-war co-op bathrooms with a basket weave mosaic of Carrera and Nero Marquina.
A neutral colour palette with accents of ‘varying shades of ink’, including blues, black and purples, transforms the apartment and is complemented by a luxe materials palette. Several types of striking stone feature throughout the home, from the fireplace in quartzite by Antolini in Elegant Brown, with its dramatic caramel, charcoal and ivory veining, to the grey and white checkerboard floor in the master bedroom closet. White Oak flooring from MADERA is accompanied by a mix of polished nickel, chrome and brass lighting and furniture.

Vintage furniture was reimagined in new fabrics and colours, such as a 1970s ottoman and lounge chairs which were redesigned in two-tone Knoll velvet, a Vladimir Kagan Corkscrew chair that was covered in aubergine Knoll wool and the Saarinen Executive Chair, which received a luscious facelift with navy velvet and legs plated in 14-carat gold. This chic meeting of old and new also inspired the lighting throughout the home, including the 1970s J.T. Kalmar tiered chandelier with Venini smoked and clear glass, among designs by Kelly Wearstler, Roll & Hill, Gaetano Sciolari and Hans-Agne Jakobsson

Taken as a whole, the home is a masterful confluence of design inspirations that reflects unique and sophisticated sensibilities.

Text / Babette Radclyffe-Thomas
Images / Gieves Anderson

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Wave. Particle. Duplex

Studio Swine explores the invisible elements that shape our environment

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Studio Swine’s site-specific installation, which opened to the public at A/D/O in Brooklyn in mid-January, begins with a series of electrifying light sculptures. Entitled Dawn Particles, the hand-blown glass tubes are mounted on red walls and fluctuate between a single, static beam of light and a turbulent swirling of filaments that burst and flicker like flashes of lightning.

Natural elements have always figured heavily in the studio’s creations, and the new works are no different. Artist Alexander Groves and architect Azusa Murakami, founders of Studio Swine (Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers), spent a large part of their six-month residency at Brooklyn’s A/D/O design hub experimenting with plasma.

‘We are making work with what is essentially star matter,’ Groves says. Plasma is the fourth state of matter, he explains, and it makes up the majority of the visible universe. ‘When you look at the sky, it’s essentially plasma. There’s something really amazing about that.’

The pair experimented with various gas combinations and power supplies, collaborating with local studio Urban Glass to create vessels that use magnetised plasma to capture bursts of light similar to those observed in the sun, stars, and comets.

The gleaming light sculptures are followed by the more serene Fog Paintings, a series of backlit vitrines containing swirling fog. These pieces are inspired by the transcendentalist landscape paintings of Turner and Thomas Cole, and are evocative of light passing through the atmosphere. In this sense, both works explore the energy of the invisible world.

Groves and Murakami first arrived in the city during an oppressively hot summer and recall being amazed by the dramatic skies and sunsets. Wave.Particle.Duplex was conceived in part as a response to the shifting light and weather patterns.

‘Because New York is coastal you get these amazing squalls coming in,’ explains Groves. ‘And you have changing light on the river and the steam systems that come up the street. The contrast to the urban environment is quite exciting, and we wanted to capture the convergence between the man-made and the natural.’ 

In the past, Murakami says, the studio’s work tended to be a more literal translation of inspiration. This project, she says, is less linear and more instinctive, with a focus on ‘creating atmosphere’.

Still, the way technology gives expression to natural systems recalls elements of the studio’s past works, particularly the wildly popular New Spring sculpture for COS, in which a tree-like structure emitted pale bubbles that dissolved into white mist as they burst.

‘We really love tangible materials and the expressive quality they have,’ says Groves. ‘In this case we’re using these ephemeral materials like fog, light and plasma, which act as an interface for the technology.’

The partners call this ‘ephemeral tech’.Their interest lies not in the lure of digital screens or projections, they say, but in using technology as a tool for exploring the edge between natural and artificial, a border that is increasingly difficult to locate.

Text / Sophie Kalkreuth
Images / Courtesy of Studio Swine and A/D/O 

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Common Comforts

The SoHo home of Common’s Director of Architecture Jenn Chang is a thoughtfully designed space that promotes harmony and happiness

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In densely populated cities where co-living is a way of life for many, finding ways to improve communal living is a top priority for designers like Manhattan-based Jenn Chang.

Born in Taiwan, Chang moved to the USA when she was 12, and later studied architecture at Columbia University. In 2017, she joined the American co-living brand Common — a residential leasing company that offers private rooms and shared spaces in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and Seattle — as Director of Architecture, where she oversees the spatial and structural design and planning of Common’s co-living properties. 

‘As a designer, the most fascinating part of working at Common is the direct access we have to our end users. This means we can take member feedback and loop it directly into our design process in real time. If architecture can generate happiness — and I think it can —  we have the metrics to prove it,’ says Chang, who hopes her work can help alleviate the housing crisis across all major metropolitan areas.

The design values and aesthetics of Chang’s own home, a 96-square-metre apartment in a pre-war duplex in New York’s SoHo, which she renovated with friends in 2015, certainly translate into her work at Common.

Chang’s duplex apartment is housed within a four-story Queen Anne style building that was built in 1886 as a grammar school before being converted into a 39-unit condo by the New York City Board of Education in 1981.

‘The repurposing of a schoolhouse for residential use creates a progression whereby tight spaces are relieved by expansive, airy spaces. The former classroom, with its 4-metre high ceilings and oversized picture windows, is almost proportionally cubic in its dimensions, which makes for wonderful and unusual living spaces,’ Chang explains.

In its reconfiguration, the two unused storage spaces in the lofts were reconceptualised as the main design features of their adjoining spaces. This allowed Chang to keep the common areas simple but beautiful. The warm maple that wraps the apartment works with the compactness of the space to create the most intimate areas in the home.

Chang collaborated with her university friends Charlie Able and Andy McGee on the redesign. ‘My budget was limited, so the renovation didn’t rely on luxe finishes, but rather the detailing of basic carpentry. We focused on using simple materials like drywall, maple plywood and raw, unfinished concrete. Kin & Company custom fabricated the blackened steel accents that connect the spaces, highlighting the portals, doors and interior windows,’ she says.

Being part of New York’s design community allows Chang access to sample sales around the city, which is where she sourced most of the interior furnishings. One of her favourite pieces, the Matter Made Windsor Chair in the dining area, was found at a sample sale in Gowanus, Brooklyn, while the rose gold coffee table was designed by a young couple from Florida who were exhibiting at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair for the first time.

‘I have a strong affinity towards graphics, patterns and colour, and much of this was expressed in the floor textiles. The Kinnasand rug from Future Perfect makes a strong graphic statement without overwhelming the space. But the real gem is the handwoven rug in the bedroom, made by craftswomen in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. It’s covered in a collection of textures, colours and symbols that make it unique, charming and personal to me,’ says Chang.

Text / Michele Koh Morollo
Images / Nick Glimenakis, Will Choi, and Mukul Bhatia for Par en Par

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Barefoot Luxe

Luxury carpet company Fort Street Studio premieres its first limited edition collection Progetto Passione in New York, signalling a new chapter for its artist-designers

When American artists Brad Davis and Janis Provisor decamped in China in 1994, they fortuitously founded Fort Street Studio — now the world’s foremost luxury carpet company. From their apartment in Hangzhou, in the search of something just for themselves, the duo took their distinctive painterly artworks as inspiration and applied them to a pattern for a woven silk carpet. In the process, they pioneered a carpet style that is now so celebrated that it belies the tedious and skilled nature of the techniques involved. Over two years went into research and development to determine how to transform their distinctive artworks into a format that could be understood by the weavers. That first carpet came off the looms in the fall of 1996, and the pair have hardly had a chance to look back since.

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Fast forward 20 years and the increased availability of computer software has made designing the rugs both faster and easier to copy. But with a shrinking pool of master dyers and weavers with each passing generation, the carpets are ever more difficult and time consuming to produce.

Despite their seriously impressive artist credentials, the duo has insisted that the carpets not be viewed as artworks, but rather completely functional and usable pieces of (highly tasteful) home decor. Each of their designs takes into account a sense of symmetry, adaptability around various room shapes, sizes and furniture arrangements, and is customisable in terms of shape, size and colouring. Their latest collection, however, represents somewhat of a departure. Born of the desire to work outside their usual self-imposed constraints, Progetto Passione straddles the worlds of art and collectable design.

‘In 2015 we began spending time in a magical small mediaeval village called Roccantica in Italy. While in residence, we began to collaborate on a group of designs that pushed the boundaries of our work for Fort Street Studio into a realm that sits more comfortably at the nexus between art and design,’ recalls Provisor of the origins of the collection. ‘Drawing on our background of being the originators of watercolour affects in hand-knotted carpet design, we opted to produce a group of pieces that both employed this technique and was also emphatic and singular in their use of colour and iconic bold forms. We also chose to include a metal sumac detail in each of the eight pieces, copper, tin and brass/gold, along with a finer knot count than our standard wild silk production.’  

The eight designs that make up the Progetto Passione collection are 150 knot wild silk and took three years to create from the initial designs to the finished carpets. ‘Not only is this an artistic collaboration between the two of us but also with our masterful weavers in our workshop in China, of whom there are only six who have the expertise to weave these pieces,’ adds Provisor.

Part of the motivation behind the ambitious collection is the dwindling availability of skilled weavers who can produce such highly complicated designs. Each piece requires at least four to five months on the loom, meaning the designs will be limited to between five and eight per run, depending on its complexity. And in case you were be wondering — these may be some of the last carpets of their kind ever produced.

The origins of the collection inspired its nomenclature. Pieces are named after real or fictitious Italian towns, plus other Italian words alluding to the collection’s underlying passion project roots. ‘So we've entitled the collection Progetto Passione!’ explains Davis with excitement.

Founder and principal of Art Agency Allan Schwartzman, who also serves as a partner, chairman and co-leader of Sotheby’s Fine Art Division had this to say: ‘Janis and Brad have singlehandedly transformed high carpet design from the traditions of Eastern cultures to the cutting edge of innovation in contemporary creativity and craftsmanship. Their newest and most exclusive Progetto Passione carpets raise that bar even higher. They’re in a league of their own.’

Schwartzman’s contemporary Jodi Pollack, also of Sotheby’s where she is co-heads the International Design Department, added her own accolades: ‘Weaving a carpet with the fluidity of watercolour has become a standard sought after by many contemporary carpet designers. Janis and Brad were the originators of this approach. Their new series of Progetto Passione carpets reinforces their premiere position as design leaders and masters of their field. The complexity of composition, palette and material, and the extraordinary workmanship required to execute each of these unique works, transcends anything that has been presented in the universe of contemporary carpets. Their finely knotted craftsmanship, as well as the forms and colour combinations they have designed for each of these eight remarkable carpets are breathtaking, a true achievement of both design and execution.’

Text / Suzy Annetta
Images / Courtesy of Fort Street Studio


The Progetto Passione limited edition pieces will be on display in Fort Street Studio’s New York City flagship showroom from 1 – 29 June 2018. Private viewings will also be available through Sotheby’s

Williamsburg Hotel
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Designed by London-based architecture and design practice Michaelis Boyd, the new 11-storey, 150-room Williamsburg Hotel brings a new after-dark hotspot to the neighbourhood. In keeping with its surrounds, the hotel has an industrial facade and creative underbelly; brick, glass and Corten steel feature on the exterior, while the interiors are infused with warm leathers and natural finishings in double-height spaces. A contemporary restaurant, rooftop pool, grand ballroom and three distinct bars, including one in a replica water tower, confirm its position at the centre of the local nightlife scene.