A Home Studios space is immediately recognizable. There is an element of mystery conveyed through time travel in the spaces designed by brothers Evan and Oliver Haslegrave.
you wouldn’t say it aligns with the typical ‘cozy’ or ‘minimal’ aesthetic we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, yet each space is thoughtful in every sense given their unique ability to blend craftsmanship with a brilliant level of experimentation.
one gets the feeling that Every inch is considered, as if Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium were scaled down and repurposed with the warmth and natural sensibilities of a Frank Lloyd Wright home. It’s almost as though one is stepping into another ethereal dimension but all of your friends are there, laughing amid food and drink.
How did you begin working together as siblings?
We were the 1st and 2nd, 3 years apart; we were always hanging out together and grew up in a really rural area, Killingworth Connecticut. There wasn't a whole lot to do. Our Dad was a residential architect and we were always on his job sites growing up and through high school, during summers, and then my brother began working for him full time.
We both lived in New York for a while and then he moved to Virginia, and I moved there in 2004 to work on a house with him, I had moved here after college and liked it but I was having a bit of a hard time and wanted to get out, so I went down to help for four months. Then Evan moved to NYC to go to Pratt and study interiors and began working on Elsa full time. I was working as a fiction editor at Little Brown and working on the project on the weekends. We lived together from 2007 - 2014, we had kicked around the idea of working on a company but I think that's the time when it came to be. We had our shop and studio in our loft, and we didn't really see it supporting us but then we got a 2nd job at Manhattan Inn and that’s when we started Home in earnest around 2009.
What is each of your strong points in the collaborative effort of Home Studios?
We both started by doing everything. The first six projects were just the two of us and a friend or two so all the design and build would just happen on site. If you’re only doing one project and you’re the only one doing the build, the design is seamless. We’re self taught, which is great because you can do a lot of experimentation.
You’ve been so busy the last year, just in New York alone. With so many projects on the go how do you maintain a sense of visual inspiration with such a tight schedule?
There are never ending sources, whether it’s taking time to travel or just read, New York has incredible architecture—interior and exterior so there’s always something to learn. Time for it is a challenge but now we have a really great team. Going from doing one project at a time to where we are now has been a big challenge, but it’s going well. I think now it’s about finding your own sources of inspiration, but we have a process in the studio that anyone who finds something interesting we put (it) into a folder and we try to go through it once a month. Having the entire studio contribute is very much the idea (behind Home Studios). The other great thing about hospitality as far as inspiration goes is that it’s a big part of the project. Depending on what city it is in and what neighborhood or what type of food program there is, who the owner is, all of that is relevant.
We’re doing a project downtown right now in a building that was made in 1932 so there was a book about it. There was so much to learn and be inspired by, just about the making of the building itself. Restaurants have such a narrative to them as opposed to residential. All of these narratives are very important, and that’s what we think of a lot. Whether it’s time, in terms of the era of inspiration or time in terms of how long it takes to make something. Just because it’s minimal and modern, doesn’t mean there’s not a ton of time that goes into making all the items. There’s a lot that goes into every detail, every table.
What eras and whom inspire your designs?
We try to be as diverse as possible. And a lot of early projects especially were dictated by budget and timeline so we worked with wood a lot because it’s readily available, especially salvaged wood, and with a few different tools you can do whatever you want to do as opposed to steel, stone, or glass for example. And now we’re trying to work with as many materials as we can.
Your spaces are so unique that they are identifiable immediately. What would you say are some of your specialties?
A few things, definitely function first. We both worked in bars and restaurants for a long time. When we do the ID set, the floor plan, the RCP it’s really important that the place is laid out correctly. Both aesthetically, and in terms of flow so that hopefully if there’s a lot of people in it at all times, staff and customers, they both need to be having a good time in order for the place to feel good and if it’s not laid out right life if the portions are off or the spacing is off or the equipment is not placed right for the servers. There are a lot of details that go into making a place feel effortless. That’s always the first thing.
And then (secondly) material. We’re extremely into craft based work and we try to do as much custom work and as many kind of original surfaces as we can. Then the narrative as I was saying before, we make in depth narrative and mood boards which is stuff that will save you time down the road. So I guess, communication of time, time going into the project, history of the materials and history of the custom work, it’s really experimental—it all boils down to details.
In a space like Sisters there is endless amounts of detailing, from the tiling to the archways, is all of this planned or do you allow the design to ebb and flow as you are building out?
It’s a little bit of both, and especially with bigger projects you can’t just improvise. Although we do sometimes with smaller projects. But there are certain things like finishes which are easier to improvise because you can do a sample but there’s no lead time. You’re painting a wall or putting a plaster on the wall, so if you like it great if you don’t you can just do another sample. There are certain spans of time where we’ll do the entire design for example, but once you get into the real space with the light there are always little changes and tweaks. So the short answer is if we’re able to make them we do. But if it’s something that took four months to make we’re going to have to be happy with it.
Our process goes from the client giving us inspiration in any form, photos whether literal or more abstract or they will take us around to places they like. And then we think about history, inspiration and materials, décor and lighting. Next, we do a schematic floor plan, and then we do our 3D model and photo renders so we can see up close what the space will look like. Finally, an ID set which are all the schematic drawings. Last, we go into construction and source, or make the fixtures, furniture and equipment. We have a pretty good network of specialists, but there are certain things we always want to do.
What’s the biggest challenge when designing a restaurant?
From a design standpoint, so much engineering is taking place and so many departments. A lot of different requirements that have to be satisfied, a lot of parameters. And there are people, especially in bars, who are drinking a lot so everything has to be engineered well and really strong. With residential a lot of people own their buildings, but with restaurants people rarely own the spaces so we want to make it as good as possible. It seems like if a place is done really well and the owners are putting a lot of time and effort into it the restaurants almost always work. I’ve rarely seen places that we thought were really good and really well run flop. So I think that’s encouraging. People always give doom and gloom about owning bars and restaurants but if a good one comes around people always seem to support it.
The unique thing about Sisters it is almost two different spaces. During the day you have light flooding in from a huge skylight above, and then there is the back room which feels like a cabin. Explain the feeling you were going for with the juxtaposing, yet complimentary spaces.
Damon was a great person to work with, he just welcomes all experimentation. As much as we want to take credit for the space, it’s just a great space and a big space. I think the feel more than anything we wanted to communicate was experimentation within form like the back bar, the stage, the tile patterns in the bathrooms. So it’s definitely specific in terms of material but I think there’s a visual continuity. We wanted materials and a palette that looked really good with light and at night. With something that’s open all day you have to think about what it’s going to look like when it’s open for brunch and then also at 3 in the morning.
Keeping in mind the detailing and extra care of your designs, there is a certain level of antiquity that meets the eye, not in that it's old but in that it stands outside of more mass, commercial production. It seems like so many of these small details take a great amount of time. Are there any hidden details or interesting stories to any of the spaces that you personally find special that might hold overlooked value?
One that comes to mind are the tables at Paulie Gee's. We made each one different, and for the standing table we created a recess with a small-hinged door on top. Pretty soon after opening people began writing notes to Paulie and putting them there, and it was great to see that detail be noticed and add a dimension to the restaurant
What would you say your studio ethos is?
Be excellent to each other.