What has since become a long personal and professional relationship for Christine and John Gachot began one day in the mid-1990s when the pair met at Thomas O’Brien’s influential Aero Studios: John came by to pass off his sketchbook; Christine was working at reception. After rising in the ranks together at Studio Sofield, John went on to be the design director at several top firms, and Christine worked for the celebrity hotelier André Balazs, helping to design the Château Marmont, the Standard, and Chiltern Firehouse in London.
Today they have parlayed that training into their own rising firm, Gachot Studios; they now design hotels from scratch—including the Pendry Manhattan West, set to open in New York City in 2021—and are launching a new collection with Waterworks in April called the Bond Series.
In addition to the commercial projects they work on (they also designed the Shinola Hotel in Detroit and the oh-so-Instagrammable Glossier headquarters in SoHo), the Gachots take on a select number of residential projects, including this Upper West Side Renaissance Revival row house for clients with a shared appreciation for art. Working together with homeowners Eric Richter and Charles Schoener, the Gachots created a gallerylike home for the couple’s art collection, which ranges from 17th-century Rembrandt etchings to contemporary mixed-media works by Sophie Calle.
“Eric and Charles wanted a home where the art came first,” John says. “It was all about form, light, material, and space—even the furniture was treated like art.”
Richter, who works as an equity portfolio manager at Capital Group, and Schoener, who focuses on data analytics in the culinary industry, like to return home from their travels with pieces of inspiration, like a bed linen from a stay at the Ritz in Paris or a dining-table detail from their favorite restaurant. That sensibility provided a source of inspiration for the designers.
“We were speaking the same language,” Christine says. “They are forever traveling and are passionate about hotel experiences, which is something we share.”
Here, Christine and John tell us about their experience designing a home around an art collection, and how the two of them formed Gachot Studios.
ELLE Decor: You’ve designed many projects—commercial and residential—that are oriented around art collections. How does this project stand out?
Christine Gachot: We’ve been lucky to design for clients with incredible artwork, both commercial and private residential. For Eric and Charles, they are capital C collectors. That defining curiosity—and pride in the fruits of their discovery—ended up informing every decision we made.
ED: What do you aim for when you design a space with an art collection in mind?
John Gachot: Eric and Charles wanted a home where the art came first, which I think is evident in the final product. We avoided adding too many layers to cut down on noise. It was all about form, light, material, and space. Even the furniture is treated like art; everything is either custom or carefully specified by its placement to be viewed as its own object.
ED: Tell me more about this project.
JG: We designed this 1893 Renaissance Revival townhouse for Eric and Charles by fusing their desire for a gallerylike space with our own conviction that a home should be comfortable, livable, and generous regardless of aesthetic preference. Historic details such as the staircase on the parlor floor are stripped down to their essence and rendered in shades of white, while expanses of light-colored parquet floors and accents of crisp millwork provide a backdrop of sturdy luxury for an edited yet diverse collection of art and design.
ED: Many of the rooms in this row house have white walls and neutral window treatments with dark pieces of furniture or light fixtures. What are you going for when you create this sort of contrast?
JG: Throughout the home, the subtlety of the architectural finishes allowed for the furniture to take center stage, like sculpture in a gallery. The contrast between the lighter walls and darker furniture and fixtures draws attention to form. We selected many pieces for their shape and balance with the other objects in the room; it really was like curating a living exhibition.
ED: How did you approach a 19th-century building with a modern design?
CG: There is a unifying sensibility of educated, composed grace that allowed us to pull from many different places in order to create something cohesive without sticking to one aesthetic note.
ED: You only work on a few projects a year. What drew you to this one?
JG: Eric and Charles are wonderful! We consider them friends. They both have an incredible eye for art and design and truly appreciate the process. They are collaborators as much as clients—we’d work on anything they brought us. Most of the time when we are considering a project, we ask, “Do we want to spend time with these people?” If the answer is yes, we’re 70 percent of the way there.
CG: We were connected with them after Charles tracked us down! And I have to say, I think we just got along right from the beginning. The meetings were often held in the evening due to their busy schedules, so we would have wine and food, and our conversations went far beyond design. Charles and I would get each other little gifts; John and Eric would talk about art. It was sincerely one of the loveliest experiences. If that’s work, we’re blessed.
ED: How did you all collaborate with one another?
JG: Charles probably should be a designer!
CG: I love to collect design the way they collect art, so it was easy to merge those two conversations. Some clients need a push, but they were quick to see the value in a pair of Gio Ponti club chairs that we sourced for the living room at auction, as well as the Jorge Zalszupin desk we acquired for Charles’s study.
ED: And how did the two of you start working together?
CG: John and I met at Aero Studios. I was working reception when this handsome designer asked me to pass off his sketchbook to Bill Sofield. We both worked for Bill when he opened Studio Sofield, and we moved up the ranks together. We were a team, and then we were friends, and then it just became so much more.
ED: How does your experience at Studio Sofield influence your work today?
CG: Working for Bill was such a rich education. His talent, work ethic, charisma, and kindness is infectious and widely known. Collaboration is a buzzword these days, but it was truly the way Bill steered his ship. When you take care to work with people you respect, it just makes sense to give those people a seat at the table. Bill cultivated a sense that everyone in the studio was part of this big family. John and I are both still dear friends with many people from that time.
JG: It was also a very exciting time to work in the interior design industry. It was not yet democratized by the Internet, but there was this sense that the industry had a prominent voice dictating culture. There was this infectious, bubbling energy.
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