September 19, 2011
Magdalena Keck‘s interior design work spans retail, commercial and residential spaces and also moves up and down the east coast from Miami to New York. The homes she works on for her clients inevitably include a home office. Here the designer talks about a signature style and what inspires her.
You’ve been working as an interior designer for over a decade now and we see your work published widely. Do you have a signature look that typifies what you are trying to achieve with your residential work? I strive to create more space and light then the spaces have in actuality. I like a good functional use of space and an easy flow with one or two interesting pieces. No fuss really, but elegant simplicity and comfort. I love a really light or a really dark palette, you will not see much of in between in my projects. I am drawn to colors that are hard to define: blue grays, brown grays, black browns, brown aubergine etc.
Looking through the homes you’ve worked on I see a common thread of clean-lined simplicity and restrained color schemes. There’s a real serenity to your work. Is that a conscious choice on your part? I think it is subconscious, but I do believe we have enough stimulation in the “outside world”.
Tell us about some of the favorite home workspaces you’ve created. Do you find people ask for similar things in a home office? People want home work space to be integrated well into the home instead of being some forgotten isolated corner.The home office of Upper East Side Residence is one of my favorites (pictured below). I love the huge window one can look out from at NYC from 34th floor. It’s dark: a combination of browns, grays and aubergine, which I think it makes it sophisticated and warm at the same time.
How do you strike a balance between work and home life? Do you find yourself designing at your kitchen table or are your work hours clearly defined and contained to an office space? I like what I do, so I have no problem working at home when inspiration strikes. I do quite a lot of research in the evening if nothing else is going on. I think as a designer one never really stops working, the wheels are always turning.
What inspires you in your design? Many different things: it sounds like a cliché, but one of them is Nature. She has it all figured out: the light, the darkness, the textures and colors. I am drawn to “found objects” in nature as well as made man. Art history and European renaissance and baroque architecture are beginning to play a significant role as well.
September 8, 2011
Many of us travel for work. There’s no getting around that. Some of us may be lucky enough to stay in one of the hotels that made Wallpaper magazine’s Best Business Hotels list. I once did a story for Australian Travel + Leisure about hotels in Los Angeles. It meant I got to stay in a bunch of upscale spots including Sunset Tower Hotel and The Hollywood Roosevelt (pictured below). While the Roosevelt made Wallpaper‘s list, one of the best hotels I’ve worked from is the Westin in New York. As a writer it has all I need: a nice big desk, fast wireless and a great view! We’d love to hear about your favorite business hotel. What makes a good business hotel?
Above: A suite at the Hollywood Roosevelt complete with an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman.
Above: At the Anantara Bangkok Sathorn you can book a two-bedroom suite and feel like you never left home. You could work at the desk or the dining table.
August 16, 2011
Those back to school ads on TV keep reminding us that summer is well and truly winding down…not to mention the fact that it is getting dark earlier. While the warm days are still with us it feels good to take that laptop outdoors – even if it’s only for a short break. I came across this outdoor workspace roundup on Apartment Therapy back in June. What’s your ideal outdoor work space?
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
December 31, 2010
Meet Sandy Corsillo. He and his brother Emil are the masterminds behind Hickorees’s Hard Goods. I realize the interview is long but Sandy is really eloquent and I think this story warrants a bit of breathing space. See what you think. (All the office supplies I’ve used to illustrate this piece are available from Hickoree’s. And the sling shot at the end? Well, honestly who can resist a good sling shot?)
How long have you worked from home…and where is home? I began working on a nameless company in the beginning of 2007. I had taken a job in finance a year earlier and although I loved the company I worked for, the job itself wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So we set up a legal entity and called it Max Corsillo, after my childhood dog Max, and began talking to friends and family about ideas for the company. All I knew was I wanted it to be menswear related and I wanted it to have an online presence.
Fast forward to spring of 2008. After a number of false starts with graphic tees (they always looked like cheap homemade graphic tees), I pulled my whole family together (father, mother, sister, and brother — all artists except me) and made this proposal to them: I want to build a site with the objective of being a great menswear store that sells a small curated selection of the best brands in the world. Then I want to slip into that selection our own brands, products that we create. By doing so we could hopefully give the products we come up with an immediate legitimacy that they might take years to gain otherwise, and at the same time let the site itself feed off the exclusive ownership of the newest brands.
For this to work, I told them, we need two things: a great website (which I would build), and ideas for new brands that were unlike anything else being done at the time. Simple right? I told them all to come up with ideas and then I assigned the design/art direction of the site to my brother Emil. My mother managed the initial conversion to html/css and set up the domain and all that good stuff.
Next I began researching e-commerce design. I talked to a web designer friend who told me how much it would cost to have the site built. The number was too high. I bought a book on PHP and MySQL and spent the next nine months learning how to build the site myself. I was still working at my old job so this was all done before and after work and on the weekends at my apartment in Soho. Over the next 9+ months the site changed and morphed into what it is today. The name Hickoree’s Hard Goods was Emil’s idea. Originally it was the name he came up with for his vintage clothing collection, but it seemed to work even better for the whole store. We also changed our focus a bit and began to think of the site as a sort of modern day general store. Something that every town in America had in the 1950s.
During this time Emil started experimenting with ties made out of dead stock fabric. He made a few prototypes which were really well received by our friends, and before we knew it The Hill-Side was born. In March of 2009 our friend and soon to be partner, Hisashi Oguchi, sold 420 ties to United Arrows in Japan. The next day I put in notice that I was quitting my job and started planning to move into the apartment in Brooklyn next door to my brother. We made my new apartment our office. We launched the site in June. I stayed on at my job until the end of 2009, then in mid January we moved to our new office and apartment in South Williamsburg.
In other words, I have been working from home basically for around 3 1/2 years.
What does an average work day involve? How do you structure the day? We try to spend about half the day working together on all the little things that need to get done immediately. Things like shipping out packages and responding to emails. The other half should be spent on longer term projects. For me that means getting all our finances in order (a daunting task for one person), planning the production of next season’s The Hill-Side line, and working on new, upcoming projects. For Emil this means photographing new Hickoree’s products, researching new products, planning future seasons for The Hill-Side, seeking out new shops to work with for The Hill-Side, and also working on new projects.
This is the plan, but most days seem to begin with a plan and end with us feeling like we didn’t get enough done. We are at a place now where we need to hire people but we also need to invest everything in the growth of the business. This means each of us is overworked, especially Emil. Check back with us in a year and hopefully things will be very different.
What I’m really excited about is the future of Hickoree’s, from a tech perspective, beginning in the hands of a true web developer. I’m working towards this with a good friend from college who is on a totally different level than I am. Talking to him about what’s possible inspires me. It’s also a relief. Running a custom site by yourself, built by you, can be extremely nerve-wracking.
How do you organize your space? I’m thinking here of your physical space but also your virtual space. In terms of the spatial setup online, we want the site to be organized so that you discover something new when you come to the site. This goes back to the site being a modern day general store. We want the user to feel like he/she can comfortably peruse our shop and neither feel overwhelmed nor feel like the shelves are empty.
It’s more difficult to pull that off than it may seem. If you look at a lot of online stores they have like 50 brands all listed in a way that makes you feel like you’re in a generic department store. When I walk into a department store I feel overwhelmed. I want to go in knowing what I want and I want to get it and get out, quick. It’s fine for us if a customer knows what they want on our site and goes right to it; we are organized to make this easy. But we also want them to discover new things in the process. We are constantly striving to present an unexpected assortment of objects, yet when you look at the store as a whole it really makes perfect sense.
If I were a Hickoree’s customer, this is what would keep me coming back. I would be excited about the unexpected things I might discover on my next visit to the shop. It is important to have a diverse range of products and styles in the shop, but it all has to be coherent. We want each product and each brand to make the ones around it look better and in turn to be improved and enlivened by the products that surround it. This is what the front page is all about, and the “EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE” link is our favorite part of the site. I guess our goal is for a customer to feel like they walked into a small, uncluttered shop with a surprising selection of stuff. And we want them to want everything.
What item from your desktop can you not do without? I try to keep my desk stark. Everything on it should be necessary or it should be cleaned off. My cup of iced coffee I guess, although that’s a little bit like a pack of cigarettes, I wish I didn’t need it.
What music do you listen to while you work? Right now I’m listening to The Shepherd’s Dog by Iron & Wine
What inspires you? There are two things that I think of when I think about inspiration: Inspiration like when you see someone eating cake with their hands and think, “Oh my god, why not make palm sized cakes and call them cupcakes!” (I imagine that’s how it went down), or inspiration, which may be closer to admiration, like when you hear about someone quitting their six-figure salary job to move to Honduras and set up a non-profit to teach young adults how to be entrepreneurs.
In terms of the cupcake one, I have no clue what inspires me until it does and I can’t predict what that thing will be before hand. It’s kind of like when someone asks what type of a woman I’m attracted to. I don’t really know until I meet her, but when I do it makes perfect sense. This is all vague, but so is the process of inspiration in my head. I do know that when I am inspired by a new idea or a new way to do something better it is an incredible feeling. And when that inspiration turns into a completed project and is well received… there’s nothing better. I think both Emil and I are driven by that feeling.
In terms of the admiration type, I’m inspired by people who fail repeatedly but refuse to give up. For me, the important thing I now understand is that it is highly unlikely an idea that comes from a moment of inspiration will turn into a success. I think this leads a lot of people who could do really great things to get discouraged and give up. Three years ago I was silkscreening on American Apparel t-shirts in my parents’ basement and was convinced I was going to make a ton of money from it. It was a total failure. The designs were good, but so are a million other t-shirt designs.
I realized that something I had worked really hard on and almost staked my future on wasn’t going to work, and I got really discouraged. But from that I was able to see what could be successful from a much better vantage point. So I came up with another plan and when that didn’t work I came up with another and another. Along the way, bits and pieces of the earlier ideas informed the next ones. In other words, the failures made for the success. I talk to people who say, “I wish I had a really good idea like Hickoree’s or The Hill-Side” as if the idea for either came to us in a dream or out of one conversation. That’s not the way it works. So when I hear of success born out of failure I am inspired, it makes me feel like things are possible without relying on a once in a lifetime idea that comes to you out of the blue.
December 14, 2010
Jealousy. We all experience it. That wish for someone else’s work-life. Instead of spending time and energy coveting someone else’s job and all the trappings that come with it, let’s focus on reaching for the things that enliven you. This is the season for shopping so put your career on your holiday shopping list. Here’s a way to shop for a work-life you’ll love.
Name it Window shop all you want – give yourself full permission – you probably do it anyway. You might as well enjoy it or use it to help you get what you want in your life. Get curious about others who have something in their lives that you want more of. Name it! Get specific. What do you want more of in your work-life?
Work Truth When you think about what you are coveting in someone else’s work-life see what excites you and enlivens you. Now, take the attention off the other person and bring it back to you. Is this something that you’d really like to have in your life? Does it bring you joy, excitement or peace when you imagine having it yourself? If so, great. Then head to the next step. Don’t just stop here.
Choose It, Create It, Visualize It You too can have what you thought looked fabulous in the window. What can you do today, next week and next month to choose and create an energy, environment or situation for yourself that will help you get what you desire? What are you willing to change and do differently to get what you want? If you really want it, you absolutely can choose it and then create it. Visualize yourself having, doing, and being it!
Fears Aside Keep moving your fears, doubts or negative self-talk aside. They are just there to keep you feeling miserable, jealous, like a failure or ineffectual. Their job is to keep you away from living a life you love. Send them to the moon, put them in a box, bury them or just ignore them and keep enjoying that window shopping.
September 13, 2010
So many of us who work at home are writers. Many of us write for publications that are struggling with dwindling readership. The New York Times‘ publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., stated at a conference recently that he expects the Times will eventually move entirely online. (You can read more here on Mashable/Tech. And here at The Atlantic)
My background is in newspapers and magazines. I love a good magazine and subscribe to far too many. But I only get The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times on the weekend. The rest of the week I read my newspapers online. I just spent the weekend with a recent Harvard Business School grad who is now working at Bane. Where does she get her news? The Wall Street Journal and blogs like the Huffington Post.
It’s fascinating to look at how quickly our reading habits are changing. Growing up our breakfast table was strewn with newspaper sections. My brother and I would fight over the comics while my parents waded through the news. Today my children are confronted with their parents staring at the computer screen over a bowl of breakfast cereal and a coffee.
I hope I’m not the only one doing that. Where – and how – do you get your news? Do you still subscribe to a newspaper?