If you ever read Elizabeth GIlbert’s book Eat Pray Love, you may remember the chapter where the protagonists talk about each city and person having a single word that defines it. For the multidisciplinary design firm, ASH NYC, the word “evolution” comes to mind. What began as a real estate staging firm morphed into property development, into hotel design and operation, into residential design, into product design and production. Their role is ever evolving but regardless of the medium, ASH’s projects are often rooted in history, taking cues from the past and reimagining them for the present.
In the American city of Detroit, that meant rescuing a Renaissance Revival building from the brink of demolition and transforming it into a contemporary hotel that celebrates the city’s heyday. “Detroit was called the Paris of the midwest. It was the second wealthiest city after New York in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40s,” says ASH creative director Will Cooper. “The historical component is very important, to color within the lines of something that already has a story and bring back the soul.”
Dubbed the Siren Hotel, ASH drew inspiration for the color palette from local Pewabic pottery–seeing examples in Art Deco landmarks like the Guardian and Fisher buildings. Those brilliant blues, yellows, reds and greens top of mind, coupled with discovering original terrazzo in the building’s stairwell, and inspiration from a recent trip to Milan, they set about cladding the hotel bathrooms in a colorful new interpretation of terrazzo tiles. When the hotel opened in 2018, photos of the bathrooms sent the internet into a frenzy.
That same year, ASH was also transforming an old church, rectory, convent and school building in New Orleans. Called Hotel Peter & Paul, it is markedly different from Siren–leaning into the city's French heritage in its styling–but there is a thread of color that unites them. “I was looking at a lot of Le Corbusier’s architecture and the Bauhaus period,” says Cooper, “and I liked the idea of that primary color palette plus green being a narrative of how we tell our story through the hotels.” As such, you can expect to find the palette woven through their next hotel, slated to open in Baltimore, Maryland next summer, with references pulled from Cooper’s travels to Greece, Turkey and India also at play.
Cooper’s own home in New York’s East Village serves as a laboratory, exploring this mix of colors and historical references in a rotating collection of antiques alongside his own designs, like the voluminous striped Pillow chair. “It’s always changing with things coming and going,” he says. You can find pieces that Cooper designed along with ASH’s current inventory of antiques, scooped up on buying trips throughout Europe, on 1stdibs. And Balineum has now partnered with ASH to bring their terrazzo tiles to market as the Siren collection. Handmade in Italy, the line is available in ASH’s 6 signature colours.
Photographs © Christian Harder