13 (Great) Questions: Architects Gachot Studios
With common experience in hotel and store design, Christine and John Gachot of Gachot Studios in New York take a very individual approach to their work. User, not style, comes first – which is never a bad strategy for private homes or hospitality projects like the Shinola Hotel in Detroit, which the company completed in 2018. We asked Christine Gachot to share some ideas:
- RM: Opposites attract: what pair of materials do you prefer?
- CG: We often play with contrasts as regards the frame rather than the material. Our own Shelter Island, New York weekend home is a 1920s central lobby filled with contemporary, mid-century modern furniture: Charlotte Perriand bookcase table, Alvar Aalto stools. Or think of an old Parisian apartment filled with new rooms – it works every time. Historic architecture can serve as a theatrical setting and a wonderful juxtaposition with more refined furniture.
- RM: The essential lighting.
- CG: Akari rice paper lamps from Noguchi. Not only do these light fixtures give the warmest glow, but they are works of art in a room.
- RM: Concrete, yes or no? Preferred use and finish?
- CG: Yes! It can be a really rich texture. We’re currently working on a house with Walker Warner Architects in San Francisco, and they use concrete as their primary interior material; we try to achieve a warmth balance with the joinery and furniture. Ten years ago, I led the design development for the Standard High Line Hotel in New York City, which is a preferred benchmark for paneled concrete on a contemporary exterior. Seeing it live was like watching an episode of Modern Marvels – we all had seats lined up to experience it!
RM: The best countertop material.
CG: Well, playing on your last question, we used a teal concrete bar top for the Royal Palm Shuffleboard Court in Brooklyn. But our choice for residential design is Imperial Danby marble from Vermont. It’s super durable and goes with everything.
RM: Your neutral paint color.
CG: Wimborne White of Farrow & Ball.
RM: An unsung hero in your work?
CG: A basic material like tile, used in interesting ways, always succeeds – it’s a work horse. We made a custom Delft tile for a residence based on artwork from the client’s young family members. We also cross-pollinate ideas from commercial projects to residential projects. This is the top-bottom.
RM: What do you like to exaggerate and why?
CG: Operate first. In our hospitality work, the spaces at the back of the house are as important to the end user as the customer experience at the front of the house. This results in private residential projects. You want the burger to pass from the kitchen to the dining room without getting cold.
RM: What are you downplaying and why?
CG: Ego! It’s all about collaboration. The best ideas can come from anywhere, and we’re open to it. Customers are so knowledgeable; their knowledge and access to design is endless in the age of Instagram. We also take advice from people who are competent in their profession – the person who installs the tiles, etc.
RM: Your signature move into the kitchen?
CG: We love a good pantry and you don’t need a lot of room for that. But I like a little counter space for goodies. I rock a candy display!
RM: What material is worth madness?
CG: It’s always wise to save your money for key parts that will grow with you. I still don’t have a coffee table in our New York loft because I can’t afford the one I want – I’ll save up and wait. We suggest customers invest in what you touch: hardware, switches, plumbing fixtures and fittings. We just designed a collection for Waterworks called Bond – it’s a full line of lights and accessories. Our goal was to design pieces that were modern in shape but unique and inviting. It was important to us that the line strikes a balance between distinctiveness and timelessness – because ultimately these things are investments in your home that you want to last a lifetime.
RM: The smartest “smart home” function.
CG: Nest and Sonos have made home technology accessible and affordable. They are user friendly and easy to install. Nest is known for its thermostats, but they’re also a great home security system, and the sound quality with Sonos is top notch.
RM: How small can a bedroom be before it gets claustrophobic?
CG: Small! Our “master” in New York is 10 feet by 10 feet, but he feels super comfortable because you enter through a paneled door. There is just enough space for the bed and a small dressing table. We only have one bathroom in the family loft, so it was important to get creative with extra space for our morning routine.
RM: What gesture do you often repeat in a house?
CG: While we like to have an underlying architectural backdrop, we look at the individual areas from a user’s perspective. It’s not a design thesis, it’s thinking about the people who inhabit space.
The boys have the real master bedroom! One guy is a musician so we hung all the guitars on the wall for easy access. Our other guy is a filmmaker and a skateboarder; it has shelves for cameras and standing parking for boards. Getting creative with storage is important, especially in an urban environment.