You talk about your first apartment pretty extensively. As one of your first projects in this book you mention how deliberately you changed the space. Did that process influence your work as a designer?
I think so. That is very much why that story is featured first in the book. First of all, it’s a very small, very modest kind of project and it set the values—it set my internal values—for how I thought about things and how I personally approach a project, and even this idea of a book about the collaborations I’ve had. So my very first collaboration was with myself—understanding what it is I wanted and understanding how I wanted to approach a project. And it had to do with having a deep understanding of what the real issues are, and needs are, no matter how simple or how small a project is.
So that’s what you’d say you bring to a collaborative project?
I think so. Because a lot of our projects are in New York there is always a need for more space. And understanding this idea about how to be incredibly efficient and affective with space grew out of that apartment. One of the things, I think, that is true about that project, even looking at it now, is that there’s something a little eccentric about it at the same time. The choices aren’t everybody else’s choices on how to live in a place like that. Your more typical approach might be to have a sofa that’s convertible and to have a table that is folding and do things like that so you sort of pack everything in there. And my approach was: no, I want fewer things but I want them to be luxurious and over the top.
What about collaboration do you find most difficult?
I think, actually, if you come to the realization that some people are really not on the same plane as you, don’t have the same values as you, then that can be difficult. I like to focus on the opposite – the really rewarding ones where together with someone you create something really special. You can have a talented person, but unless you get the project you don’t get something really happening. It really is an alchemy that occurs—that’s what’s exciting, when it all comes together, when you have someone who is open, interesting, and trusting but also inspiring in their own point of view and you work together to create something wonderful.
You work closely with Susan Weber, who supplied the introduction to your book. She has an extensive Art Deco collection, which is not necessarily your style—
See that’s the interesting thing—to me style is never the question. For the most part there are good examples in almost any style that I love. She of course always has the best of everything. To me it’s not about style—modern, traditional, classic, art deco—it’s really about a personal approach. It’s about creating something with great quality, character, uniqueness, and telling a story. That’s what’s rewarding about doing what we do.
When you look at the book, how do you feel?
The first thing to do is to explain maybe the reason we did the book. Technically I think what happens is that once you get on the AD 100 list every publisher comes at you wanting to do a book. So I was getting these offers and it made me start to think about it, and I decided that the thing that would be of value here would be to really take a good, hard look at the work we’ve done so far, figure out what it is that is of value to us and use that to figure out what we do going forward. Now that’s really what this book is about. It was really spending a lot of time and effort and figuring out what are the best projects that we’ve done, why, and what that means to us in terms of how we work from this point on.