Roman and Williams strives to create projects which consistently find the tension between spontaneity and rigor, refinement and rebellion, and past and future. The firm was founded by Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer as a vehicle to pursue these dichotomies and reflect their diverse aesthetic interests. From the world of film they cultivated a feel for specificity and storytelling, which the pair soon employed designing residences for notable personalities such as Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The firm opened offices in New York City in 2004 and soon expanded into commercial projects, starting with a provocative renovation of the Royalton Hotel lobby in New York City and including work with French cultural arbiter and architect Jean Nouvel on 40 Mercer, for Andre Balazs. Roman and Williams went on to complete the game-changing and award-winning Ace Hotel New York, boasting The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar, with renowned Michelin-starred chef April Bloomfield. Simultaneously, the firm collaborated on the design for the Standard Highline, creating all of the interiors for this, their second project with hotelier Andre Balazs. The iconic nineteen-story building straddling the High Line has continued to be a compelling draw for global taste-makers for almost ten years, with the Standard Grill at its base, and crowned by the legendary Boom Boom Room.
2010 marked the opening of Roman and Williams’ first ground-up building at 211 Elizabeth Street in Manhattan, with the building and interiors for this residential development earning the firm a Palladio Award. Shortly afterward they designed and opened the Dutch, the first of two restaurant collaborations with Andrew Carmellini, followed by the popular Lafayette. The firm was also awarded a commission by Facebook to design their most prominent indoor-outdoor dining hub for the entire campus, exploring working environments with the opening of a social and communal food hall at the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.
As the designers have gained more recognition for their multidisciplinary approach they have been encouraged to increase their scope. The first in a series of revolutionary Freehand hotel-hostels opened in 2012, with design and branding by Roman and Williams. In the fall of the same year the firm’s first ten years of work were highlighted in their monograph “Things We Made” with Rizzoli editions released in the US and in Japan, where they have a devoted following. They introduced their first commercially available products with R.W. Atlas for Waterworks, and are currently developing a line of chandeliers with esteemed French firm Lalique.
Another much-anticipated opening was the thirty-story Viceroy Hotel on 57th Street in New York City, a Roman and Williams-designed building from the ground-up with bespoke interiors and sweeping views of Central Park, featuring striking restaurant Kingside and a 29th floor bar, The Roof.
In 2015 Roman and Williams completed concept work for WeWork and finished interior work on an unparalleled landmark American building, The Chicago Athletic Association in Chicago, for client John Pritzker. Later in the year they proudly announced the transformation of a 19th century San Antonio brewhouse into Hotel Emma. In Paris, the firm is working closely with the renowned Costes family to design and introduce a restaurant in the 16th Arrondissement and, in another major coup, they were selected as the designers for a global food market at Pier 57 on Manhattan's West Side, with renowned food writer and television journalist Anthony Bourdain. In 2016 their impact on the business landscape was marked by Robin and Stephen's selection for the Fast Company "Most Creative People in Business" list. Their engagement in projects of cultural and civic significance is also apparent in their recently announced collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art for the re-design of the British Galleries. In this rare and competitive commission Roman and Williams are working with The Met to create a spectacular, narrative-rich, and profoundly sympathetic setting for the works of art, telling the highly relevant story of creativity in Britain's entrepreneurial society.
While the firm has responded to demand by expanding their range they have continued to build on established relationships, completing award-winning restaurants with Stephen Starr, designing additional Ace Hotels with two planned locations in New Orleans and Brooklyn in the works and launching a retail pop-up for Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop brand. They have also completed multiple projects overseas, working in Europe to design the Cantinery Restaurant in Istanbul and the Replay the Stage Restaurant and Octavius Bar in Milan.
2017 will mark the opening of a project that is as unique in the Roman and Williams portfolio as it is in the pantheon of New York City buildings: a luxury building near the High Line, clad in jade green terra cotta with interiors and exteriors designed for JDS/Largo from the ground-up. The Fitzroy is already being hailed as the vanguard of a movement towards the use of traditional, hand-made materials that express a new luxury, whose trademark is disciplined craft and quality.
Roman and Williams’ collection of work has been honored and recognized with numerous awards and accolades throughout the years, including the Lawrence Israel Award and three consecutive years as members of the prestigious AD 100. Most notably, in 2014 the firm received America’s highest honor for achievement in design, the Smithsonian’s National Design Award for excellence in Interior Design.