CAREER FILES: INTERIORS

There is just something about dressing one's home that can feel more exciting than actually getting dressed. (One need only glance at our Pinterest boards for proof of that.) This month, Tatiana Hambro goes in search of the fabulous women who are shaping the spaces we love most. 

CAREER FILES: INTERIORS

There is just something about dressing one's home that can feel more exciting than actually getting dressed. (One need only glance at our Pinterest boards for proof of that.) This month, Tatiana Hambro goes in search of the fabulous women who are shaping the spaces we love most. 

THE IT-DESIGNER

CO-FOUNDER OF ROMAN and WILLIAMS

Robin Standefer

Le Coucou, Lafayette, The Ace Hotel, The Boom Boom Room, The Freehand, The Dutch, The Standard Grill: this is the list of famous spaces designed by Roman and Williams. And those are just the ones in New York City. 
 
Robin Standefer (the female half of this successful husband-and-wife-duo that make up Roman and Williams) always knew she’d do something creative. A product of downtown New York bohemia during the late ‘70s, she grew up painting by day and gallery hopping by night. “The gritty street life and glamour of those days has shaped my aesthetic,” she says. Her richly-textured work, universally celebrated for the way it artfully blends high and low, has kick-started countless trends (including the once-edgy-now-ubiquitous exposed brick wall). However, what really sets Roman and Williams apart is its ability to craft intimate emotion: people don’t just want to visit their spaces for dinner once in a while, they want to move in and call them home.

Standefer met her husband, Stephen Alesch, back in the ‘90s working on film sets in L.A. and it was there that the duo laid the foundations for their future company. While filming Duplex, an enamored Ben Stiller asked if they would consider designing his new home; Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson soon followed. With high profile clients lining up, the couple officially opened Roman and Williams (named after their maternal grandparents) in 2002. Fast forward sixteen years and they live an idyllic—if busy—life. Weeks are spent at the office in Manhattan; weekends are escapes to their “sea ranch” in Montauk to soak up nature and get inspired. “We are like farmers working together day and night” says Standefer, “Our relationship started like that, so we couldn't imagine it any other way.” 

CO-FOUNDER OF ROMAN and WILLIAMS

Robin Standefer

Le Coucou, Lafayette, The Ace Hotel, The Boom Boom Room, The Freehand, The Dutch, The Standard Grill: this is the list of famous spaces designed by Roman and Williams. And those are just the ones in New York City. 
 
Robin Standefer (the female half of this successful husband-and-wife-duo that make up Roman and Williams) always knew she’d do something creative. A product of downtown New York bohemia during the late ‘70s, she grew up painting by day and gallery hopping by night. “The gritty street life and glamour of those days has shaped my aesthetic,” she says. Her richly-textured work, universally celebrated for the way it artfully blends high and low, has kick-started countless trends (including the once-edgy-now-ubiquitous exposed brick wall). However, what really sets Roman and Williams apart is its ability to craft intimate emotion: people don’t just want to visit their spaces for dinner once in a while, they want to move in and call them home.

Standefer met her husband, Stephen Alesch, back in the ‘90s working on film sets in L.A. and it was there that the duo laid the foundations for their future company. While filming Duplex, an enamored Ben Stiller asked if they would consider designing his new home; Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson soon followed. With high profile clients lining up, the couple officially opened Roman and Williams (named after their maternal grandparents) in 2002. Fast forward sixteen years and they live an idyllic—if busy—life. Weeks are spent at the office in Manhattan; weekends are escapes to their “sea ranch” in Montauk to soak up nature and get inspired. “We are like farmers working together day and night” says Standefer, “Our relationship started like that, so we couldn't imagine it any other way.” 

In your own words, please describe what you do.
In the most fundamental sense, I make things.  Whether it be a building, a restaurant, a hotel or a collection of furniture, we are devoted to creating spaces that are engaging and alive.  Just this year, we launched the Roman and Williams Guild and La Mercerie café. So beyond interior design and architecture I now own a restaurant and shop.  
 
As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up"?
A creator.
 
What do you love most about your job?
How dynamic and challenging it is. Exploring how to bring spaces to life that have a powerful narrative and engage the audience.  Between Roman and Williams and the Guild we have an opportunity to travel the world constantly. 
 
What do you dislike about your job?
The constant struggle between creative authorship and economics.
 
What was the best advice you ever received?
Learn to be your own muse. Spend as much time in the garden as possible.
 
What would you advise someone today?
I always answer this the same way: I think Mohammed Ali said it best, “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”.
 
How would you describe your personal style?
Polished, personal, feminine and always black. I have a black Alaïa dress on rotation.
 
Describe 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
Determination, creativity and a fierce point of view.
 
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Designing the British Galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
 
How do you define success?
Finding freedom and peace of mind, and the confidence to know what to do with it.

In your own words, please describe what you do.
In the most fundamental sense, I make things.  Whether it be a building, a restaurant, a hotel or a collection of furniture, we are devoted to creating spaces that are engaging and alive.  Just this year, we launched the Roman and Williams Guild and La Mercerie café. So beyond interior design and architecture I now own a restaurant and shop.  
 
As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up"?
A creator.
 
What do you love most about your job?
How dynamic and challenging it is. Exploring how to bring spaces to life that have a powerful narrative and engage the audience.  Between Roman and Williams and the Guild we have an opportunity to travel the world constantly. 
 
What do you dislike about your job?
The constant struggle between creative authorship and economics.
 
What was the best advice you ever received?
Learn to be your own muse. Spend as much time in the garden as possible.
 
What would you advise someone today?
I always answer this the same way: I think Mohammed Ali said it best, “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”.
 
How would you describe your personal style?
Polished, personal, feminine and always black. I have a black Alaïa dress on rotation.
 
Describe 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
Determination, creativity and a fierce point of view.
 
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Designing the British Galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
 
How do you define success?
Finding freedom and peace of mind, and the confidence to know what to do with it.

Robin's Picks
THE APP ENTREPRENEUR

CEO & Co-Founder of Hutch

Beatrice Fischel-Bock

Upload a picture of your room, swipe between a range of design filters (a la Instagram), select your favorite and—cha-ching—it’s yours at the touch of a button. Or it will be when the home décor app Hutch releases its new feature in a few months’ time. Beatrice Fischel-Bock and her cofounders are on a mission to bring the “antiquated” multibillion dollar interiors industry into the future. "There are still furniture companies that take P.O. orders over fax—I don’t even know what a fax looks like!” says the 27-year-old. 
 
Like Facebook, Hutch began in the humble dorm room: Fischel-Bock and her friends started making extra money doing up their friends’ college apartments. Sensing an opportunity, the trio cobbled together a business plan and cold-called the TV show Shark Tank (they won the funding but chose not to accept it). By the time they graduated in 2012, Hutch (then known as ZOOM Interiors) was already up and running. “I’m good at executing” says Fischel-Bock. Yet, she’s the first to admit much of her success has depended upon the mentorship of Tinder co-founder Sean Rad. And so her mission has thus grown to give others a seat at the table. She says, “my mentor has brought me into the boys club, now my job is to bring other women in.” 

CEO & Co-Founder of Hutch

Beatrice Fischel-Bock

Upload a picture of your room, swipe between a range of design filters (a la Instagram), select your favorite and—cha-ching—it’s yours at the touch of a button. Or it will be when the home décor app Hutch releases its new feature in a few months’ time. Beatrice Fischel-Bock and her cofounders are on a mission to bring the “antiquated” multibillion dollar interiors industry into the future. "There are still furniture companies that take P.O. orders over fax—I don’t even know what a fax looks like!” says the 27-year-old. 
 
Like Facebook, Hutch began in the humble dorm room: Fischel-Bock and her friends started making extra money doing up their friends’ college apartments. Sensing an opportunity, the trio cobbled together a business plan and cold-called the TV show Shark Tank (they won the funding but chose not to accept it). By the time they graduated in 2012, Hutch (then known as ZOOM Interiors) was already up and running. “I’m good at executing” says Fischel-Bock. Yet, she’s the first to admit much of her success has depended upon the mentorship of Tinder co-founder Sean Rad. And so her mission has thus grown to give others a seat at the table. She says, “my mentor has brought me into the boys club, now my job is to bring other women in.” 

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up"?
I’m pretty much obsessed with animals, so I thought I was going to be a vet until I saw my dog after surgery and realized there was blood involved. 
 
What do you love most about your job?
My favorite part of the job is the team! There is nothing better than a day where we figure something out or finish a big sprint. 
 
What do you dislike about your job?
Dealing with the drama that inevitably occurs when you have a group of millennials working on something quite intense. 
 
What was the best advice you ever received?
Do things that scare you. I am a very shy person so most things scare me, especially in my position leading teams and publicly speaking. Although it’s uncomfortable at the time, you learn that you can do anything and that everything gets easier once you try it.
 
What would you advise someone today?
Dive in and go for it. Don’t wait for funding, don’t wait for the right mentor. Just start. Your path will begin to reveal itself naturally. I always tell people looking to start a business to print some business cards and buy a domain. Total cost: under $100. 
 
How would you describe your personal style?
A little boho, trendy and a touch of grunge.
 
Do people “get” your job?
People think it is A LOT more glamorous than it actually is. As a society, we only share our best selves. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. 
 
Describe 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
Strategic, organized, focused. 
 
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Keeping sane though all the madness!

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up"?
I’m pretty much obsessed with animals, so I thought I was going to be a vet until I saw my dog after surgery and realized there was blood involved. 
 
What do you love most about your job?
My favorite part of the job is the team! There is nothing better than a day where we figure something out or finish a big sprint. 
 
What do you dislike about your job?
Dealing with the drama that inevitably occurs when you have a group of millennials working on something quite intense. 
 
What was the best advice you ever received?
Do things that scare you. I am a very shy person so most things scare me, especially in my position leading teams and publicly speaking. Although it’s uncomfortable at the time, you learn that you can do anything and that everything gets easier once you try it.
 
What would you advise someone today?
Dive in and go for it. Don’t wait for funding, don’t wait for the right mentor. Just start. Your path will begin to reveal itself naturally. I always tell people looking to start a business to print some business cards and buy a domain. Total cost: under $100. 
 
How would you describe your personal style?
A little boho, trendy and a touch of grunge.
 
Do people “get” your job?
People think it is A LOT more glamorous than it actually is. As a society, we only share our best selves. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. 
 
Describe 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
Strategic, organized, focused. 
 
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Keeping sane though all the madness!

Beatrice's Picks
THE TEXTILE GURU

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up"?
Doris Day: she was surrounded by children and dogs and always in matching dresses and coats.
 
What do you love most about your job?
That I am always surrounded by beauty.
 
What do you dislike about your job?
When I cannot create new designs fast enough. It takes a lot of time from beginning to end.
 
What was the best advice you ever received?
Focus!
 
What would you advise someone today?
Do something you love. It is very difficult to do something well if you are not passionate.
 
How would you describe your personal style?
With great difficulty! I am constantly going from classic to gypsy and I guess I fall somewhere in between: I alternate between a vintage YSL safari coat and my Figue safari coat. I loved the style of Yves Saint Laurent.
 
Do people “get” your job?
I think people get my job but are often surprised that most everything is made in America.
 
Describe 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
Imagination, Patience, Intuition

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up"?
Doris Day: she was surrounded by children and dogs and always in matching dresses and coats.
 
What do you love most about your job?
That I am always surrounded by beauty.
 
What do you dislike about your job?
When I cannot create new designs fast enough. It takes a lot of time from beginning to end.
 
What was the best advice you ever received?
Focus!
 
What would you advise someone today?
Do something you love. It is very difficult to do something well if you are not passionate.
 
How would you describe your personal style?
With great difficulty! I am constantly going from classic to gypsy and I guess I fall somewhere in between: I alternate between a vintage YSL safari coat and my Figue safari coat. I loved the style of Yves Saint Laurent.
 
Do people “get” your job?
I think people get my job but are often surprised that most everything is made in America.
 
Describe 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
Imagination, Patience, Intuition

FOUNDER & OWNER LISA FINE TEXTILES

Lisa Fine
 
Were it not for her deep Mississippi drawl, you wouldn't know Lisa Fine hails from the South. Famous for her “bohemian” tastes (find her in a fringe YSL jacket and flares on the morning coffee run to Sant Ambroeus), the fabric designer is a far cry from someone who drinks Mint Juleps and stops wearing white after Labor Day. 
 
Shipped off to boarding school (her father was concerned about the “bad habits” she’d picked up at the local Dairy Queen), Fine eventually wound up in New York working at Condé Nast under the legendary photographer Deborah Turbeville. “You’d be out ‘til 4 or 5 in the morning, and then you’d eat breakfast and change clothes and head into the office” she recalls of those early years in the city. 

After a self-described (and somewhat premature!) “midlife crisis,” she moved to Paris without speaking a word of French, published a cookbook on aphrodisiacs and agreed to join a friend on a trip to India. While in Mumbai, Fine discovered—and completely fell in love with—embroidered fabrics. The rest, as they say, is history. 
 
The Indian-inspired fabrics that form the core of Fine’s textile business are born of her many travels. But it’s the unique way she mixes and matches them that makes her such a bastion of bohemian style: expect paisley and English chintz next to antiques and color pairings plucked straight from Indian palaces. Her knack for seeing the fabulousness in unexpected pairings is also the reason why her dinner parties—mixes of “kooky, crazy” and “old, stuffy” friends—are so fun. Like champagne and french fries, “most people would never think to mix them” she says, “But when you do everyone has a better time.”

FOUNDER & OWNER LISA FINE TEXTILES

Lisa Fine
 
Were it not for her deep Mississippi drawl, you wouldn't know Lisa Fine hails from the South. Famous for her “bohemian” tastes (find her in a fringe YSL jacket and flares on the morning coffee run to Sant Ambroeus), the fabric designer is a far cry from someone who drinks Mint Juleps and stops wearing white after Labor Day. 
 
Shipped off to boarding school (her father was concerned about the “bad habits” she’d picked up at the local Dairy Queen), Fine eventually wound up in New York working at Condé Nast under the legendary photographer Deborah Turbeville. “You’d be out ‘til 4 or 5 in the morning, and then you’d eat breakfast and change clothes and head into the office” she recalls of those early years in the city. 

After a self-described (and somewhat premature!) “midlife crisis,” she moved to Paris without speaking a word of French, published a cookbook on aphrodisiacs and agreed to join a friend on a trip to India. While in Mumbai, Fine discovered—and completely fell in love with—embroidered fabrics. The rest, as they say, is history. 
 
The Indian-inspired fabrics that form the core of Fine’s textile business are born of her many travels. But it’s the unique way she mixes and matches them that makes her such a bastion of bohemian style: expect paisley and English chintz next to antiques and color pairings plucked straight from Indian palaces. Her knack for seeing the fabulousness in unexpected pairings is also the reason why her dinner parties—mixes of “kooky, crazy” and “old, stuffy” friends—are so fun. Like champagne and french fries, “most people would never think to mix them” she says, “But when you do everyone has a better time.”

Lisa's Picks
THE EXPERT EDITOR

FREELANCE WRITER, EDITOR & CONSULTANT, formerly Design Editor of The New York Times Magazine & T Magazine

Pilar Viladas

It’s one thing to have talent; it’s another to be able to recognize it in others—and then amplify it. “I’ve tried to tell people that design is a way of looking at the world” says the writer Pilar Viladas (a name you’d recognize if you’ve ever picked up an issue of T Magazine or Architectural Digest or Town & Country). And she would know: the veteran journalist has made an entire career through the art of seeing, which is different from just looking. 
 
Viladas, now 64, remembers wanting to share “cool things” with the world as a child, but the naturally-gifted writer developed the eagle eye of an editor while at Harvard. A bedrock of expertise gleaned through Art History classes held in museums and more—underpinned by an encyclopedic knowledge of design and a critical approach—is what arms Viladas’ writing a unique ability to cut through the noise. (Because, as we know, not everything makes for a great story.)  
 
Still, in the age of social media, where everyone has an opinion (so long as it can be expressed in 140 characters or less), her point of view is more relevant—and more respected—than ever. Insiders look to her as a bellwether; one who has the power to launch careers and trends simply by writing about them. Of course, Viladas doesn’t see things that way. “I’ve never felt like a “trend-spotter”, I just find things that are interesting.” 

FREELANCE WRITER, EDITOR & CONSULTANT, formerly Design Editor of The New York Times Magazine & T Magazine

Pilar Viladas

It’s one thing to have talent; it’s another to be able to recognize it in others—and then amplify it. “I’ve tried to tell people that design is a way of looking at the world” says the writer Pilar Viladas (a name you’d recognize if you’ve ever picked up an issue of T Magazine or Architectural Digest or Town & Country). And she would know: the veteran journalist has made an entire career through the art of seeing, which is different from just looking. 
 
Viladas, now 64, remembers wanting to share “cool things” with the world as a child, but the naturally-gifted writer developed the eagle eye of an editor while at Harvard. A bedrock of expertise gleaned through Art History classes held in museums and more—underpinned by an encyclopedic knowledge of design and a critical approach—is what arms Viladas’ writing a unique ability to cut through the noise. (Because, as we know, not everything makes for a great story.)  
 
Still, in the age of social media, where everyone has an opinion (so long as it can be expressed in 140 characters or less), her point of view is more relevant—and more respected—than ever. Insiders look to her as a bellwether; one who has the power to launch careers and trends simply by writing about them. Of course, Viladas doesn’t see things that way. “I’ve never felt like a “trend-spotter”, I just find things that are interesting.” 

In your own words, please describe what you do.
I write about design and architecture for print and online publications; I contribute to books on design; I edit other people’s work; I offer advice when asked.
 
What do you love most about your job?
The flexibility of freelancing.
 
What do you dislike about your job?
The unpredictability of freelancing.
 
What was the best advice you ever received?
Never be afraid to ask a stupid question.
 
What would you advise someone today?
Design journalism is not exactly a growth industry these days, so I’d hesitate to urge anyone to go into it, but it still needs intelligent, informed, opinionated writers.
 
How would you describe your personal style?
Classic. My basic uniform is tapered pants in cotton, wool or silk, and a jacket or cardigan. I can dress these up or down.
 
Describe 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
A skilled eye; a solid background in your subject; the ability to write clearly and simply so that anyone can understand what you’re saying.
 
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I’ve had some amazing opportunities to explore the world of design, for which I’m very grateful. For instance, I got to interview Donald Judd in Marfa, Texas. I interviewed the director Billy Wilder, one of my idols, who was a design fanatic. I supervised the photography of Gio Ponti’s sublime Villa Planchart in Caracas, and I wrote about John and Dominique de Menil’s house in Houston, which was designed by Philip Johnson, decorated by Charles James, and filled with incredible 20th century art—while managing to be completely unpretentious.

In your own words, please describe what you do.
I write about design and architecture for print and online publications; I contribute to books on design; I edit other people’s work; I offer advice when asked.
 
What do you love most about your job?
The flexibility of freelancing.
 
What do you dislike about your job?
The unpredictability of freelancing.
 
What was the best advice you ever received?
Never be afraid to ask a stupid question.
 
What would you advise someone today?
Design journalism is not exactly a growth industry these days, so I’d hesitate to urge anyone to go into it, but it still needs intelligent, informed, opinionated writers.
 
How would you describe your personal style?
Classic. My basic uniform is tapered pants in cotton, wool or silk, and a jacket or cardigan. I can dress these up or down.
 
Describe 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
A skilled eye; a solid background in your subject; the ability to write clearly and simply so that anyone can understand what you’re saying.
 
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I’ve had some amazing opportunities to explore the world of design, for which I’m very grateful. For instance, I got to interview Donald Judd in Marfa, Texas. I interviewed the director Billy Wilder, one of my idols, who was a design fanatic. I supervised the photography of Gio Ponti’s sublime Villa Planchart in Caracas, and I wrote about John and Dominique de Menil’s house in Houston, which was designed by Philip Johnson, decorated by Charles James, and filled with incredible 20th century art—while managing to be completely unpretentious.

Pilar's Picks
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