Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch founded Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors in New York City in 2002. Having worked together for a decade designing sets for significant Hollywood films prior to establishing their firm, Standefer and Alesch have forged an ability to create projects that consistently find the tension between spontaneity and rigor, refinement and rebellion, and past and future. Without boundaries or borders, Roman and Williams employs a range of ideas, materials, objects, and references – from the unexpected to the pedigreed to the mundane – and, through the lens of their own singular viewpoint, create alchemy. They have an uncanny ability to mix seemingly disparate objects together in ways that “allow them to simmer to see if we can raise the temperature of a space,” as Robin and Stephen explain. “We try to communicate a voltage between time periods, cultures, and styles.” Never limited by what they designed last, the Roman and Williams aesthetic is constantly shifting and evolving, reflecting the diverse interests and profound curiosities of the firm’s principals, a practice that has earned them many devoted followers and accolades, including being honorees of the Architectural Digest Top 100 in 2011.
The result is an oeuvre of instant classics – projects that transcend architecture and interiors and rise to the level of cultural polemics. From the award-winning Ace Hotel, which has become a benchmark globally in hospitality, to the Standard’s glamorous Boom Boom Room, to the Facebook mess hall in California, Roman and Williams’ work consistently cuts a channel between history and today, weight and light, with gravity and articulation, all while tapping into some cultural collective memory.
Among the firm’s completed projects include: the renovation of the iconic Royalton Hotel, the Standard Hotel for hotelier Andre Balazs (including the Standard Grill and the lauded Boom Boom Room), and the Ace Hotel (including The Breslin Restaurant, a gritty interpretation of pub design, Stumptown Coffee Shop and the pop-inspired John Dory Oyster Bar) all in New York City. 211 Elizabeth Street, the firm’s award winning ground-up building in NoLiTa, a residential project for which they designed the interiors as well. It is a building of such weight, craftsmanship and humility that Manhattan Magazine wrote “Most passersby will think the building has always been there, and Roman and Williams built it as if it always will be.”
Standefer and Alesch ‘s own homes, in Manhattan and Montauk, are, perhaps, the purest expression of the couple’s interests and act as design laboratories and inspirations for the firm’s projects. The New York Times called their East Fourth Street loft, “an appealing hybrid, as if an apartment from the Apthorp had been reassembled by the furniture designers Pierre Chareau or Jean Prouve.” Residential projects, which Roman and Williams undertakes with the same sense of totality and holism as it does all of its projects, remain a priority and have been heralded across the board. From the project design to the interiors to the decoration, Roman and Williams has designed major residential projects on extraordinary sites around the world, many for A-list Hollywood celebrities such as Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson, and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as other pedigree projects, such as the renovation and expansion of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most significant Usonian houses.
In 2011, Roman and Williams’ wildly successful design of Andrew Carmellini’s new SoHo restaurant, The Dutch, joined The Breslin and the Standard Grill as a staple location on the New York food scene. Lafayette, the firm’s newest restaurant project with chef Andrew Carmellini, opened in April 2013 and has earned rave reviews for its spin on French brasserie fare and atmosphere. The firm’s other recently completed projects include the mess hall on the new Facebook campus in Menlo Park, California, and the Huffington Post Live studio set and offices in New York, which debuted Spring 2012.
Roman and Williams has also launched a product-design division and is designing several product and furniture lines, which range from the highly refined to the more accessible and reflect all aspects of the Roman and Williams’ psyche. Such work includes the R.W. Atlas line for Waterworks, released September 2012, which has been praised as luxurious and timeless and was featured in Architectural Digest. Roman and Williams + MatterMade, a line of custom light fixtures, accent tables, and a reader chair designed in collaboration with New York deign gallery Matter, premiered at ICFF in May 2013. The line was praised by the New York Times for having “laserlike attention to details.” Forthcoming products include a collaboration with the Ace Hotel and a partnership with world renowned luxury French company Lalique.
Projects slated to open soon include the firm’s second new ground-up building, the 57th Street Viceroy Hotel, a handsome black tower rising thirty stories above Central Park, as well as Pinch, a new restaurant with Chef Alain Ducasse, both set to open October 2013. Also opening this year is a major hotel development project in San Antonio, Texas, housed in one of the country’s oldest breweries. Currently on the boards is the restoration of an iconic 1949 building in Miami Beach, Florida, set to open as a six-star hotel, for which Roman and Williams has joined forces with an internationally renowned team. Roman and Williams is also hard at work on the conversion of the Chicago Athletic Association into a hotel on historic Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Roman and Williams is also expanding beyond the United States, with upcoming global work planned from India to Argentina.
Finally, in celebration of their tenth year, the firm recently released its first book, “Things We Made”, with Rizzoli, in October 2012. The monograph is an inside glimpse into the Roman and Williams world which features a collection of work over the past decade, as well as their previous work in film. Ben Stiller raves, “They understand viscerally how to make a space that you want to both inhabit and imbibe at the same time.” Readers immersing themselves in the monograph are treated to a full tour of the Roman and Williams’ world, where extraordinary things are created and ethos takes precedence over style.