We chatted with Christine Gachot from Gachot Studios about the recent re-imagination of Smyth Hotel. Read about her design philosophy, where she finds inspiration, how to transform your own home, and more.
How would you describe the design philosophy of Gachot?
Warm, friendly, accessible, thoughtful and modern are words that always come to mind with thinking of the studio. We embrace the client’s vision and problem solve. We act as editors looking for solutions that are functional and exciting in order to bring out the best personality of the space.
When did you decide it was the right time to combine forces?
It was all about timing…over the last two years there has been a lot of excitement over new projects and a number of exciting opportunities were coming our way. Plus John had an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with Marc Jacobs and I had just completed a decade-long tenure with Andre Balazs. The stars aligned and here we are.
Do your personal design tastes differ? Do they enhance or hinder your collaborations?
John and I have always complemented each other which is why we can work so closely. He is all about the details and his drawing skills are phenomenal – he is an artist. I, on the other hand, am all about the big picture. I want to know what my clients are passionate about and help bring their ideas to fruition. The conversation always goes deeper than the general design concept – I want to know what it means to be in a space.
Where’s the most surprising place you found inspiration for this project?
Bill and Elliot, the building’s owners. They had a vision that I bought into. They both live in walking distance of the hotel and wanted to create an environment that would be welcoming to all of Tribeca which is how we came up with the idea of “Tribeca’s Living Room.”
What three words best describe the new lobby at Smyth?
Let’s make it two – Welcome Home.
What excited you most about transforming this downtown New York location?
The property was due for makeover. There was so much potential and we were dying to “pull up the blinds and open the door.” We felt passionately about the need for the space to fit within Tribeca’s vocabulary – family, finance, business travelers and, soon to be home of Condenast. The project provided an enormous opportunity to cultivate a meeting place for the neighborhood in its entirety.
How do you hope guests and visitors will feel in the space?
We want them to feel a sense familiarity, like they are in their own homes – but with perks. The notion of being too cool isn’t interesting anymore. Accessibility is important.
Do you hope strangers will interact with each other? If so, how do you design to encourage that?
I was recently in the space and witnessed a wonderful interaction between a group of very well-dressed young women in a meeting with wine and laptops while on the floor, adjacent to their conversation , was a little girl drawing. She was admiring the women and they were admiring her. It was lovely to see the space work for people at different places in their lives – it’s the making of a good culture.
How to you make a more public space feel intimate and welcoming? How can someone recreate that at home?
We used many local artisans and shopped local furniture stores to tell the story of Tribeca. Whether it’s a playful KAWS sculpture or a special collection of books, creating this feeling in your home has to be done by familiarity, starting with local talent who you can meet and interact with on a personal level. When you’ve taken the time to purchase pieces that are special to you, your space tells a very personal story and that is the best design.
New York has a very unique (sometimes chaotic) energy, did you want to welcome that inside Smyth or not? Did that element influence the design?
It’s not New York that is chaotic. I prefer to describe it as exciting. It is people who are busy and have busy lives, therefore, when they are in a hotel here the experience should be sane. Great service in the Living Room can offer a reprieve from a hectic day – the hotel can be a sanctuary.
What elements of historical Tribeca influenced the design? Did you want to push against expectations of what a New York hotel lobby is meant to look like?
We created the quintessential Tribeca loft living room, not an Upper East Side living room. It is all about being contextual. We did the research and the lobby says “I am in Tribeca. I am in New York City.”
What’s the first thing you notice when you walk into a space?
The bellmen – Danny Alba, Tom McMenamin, Tsotne Khabuliani and Sandy Alegria – everyone has a smile. They acknowledge everyone walking through the door including the visitor’s children. They are what you notice first and they set the stage for the entire experience.
What are the simplest ways to transform your own home if you want to try to do it yourself?
Make sure things fit! Measure, measure, measure! Once your furniture is to scale you can get as eclectic and as playful as you want.
What design magazines and blogs inspire you both?
1stdibs, Pinterest, Kinfolk….. The New York Times Real Estate Section is my bible…….Monocle, Fuckyournoguchicoffeetable.