On a recent Sunday evening I found myself perched at the marble bar in Tørst, sipping a delicate stout infused with Guatamalan coffee and chatting with a friend who recently moved to Greenpoint. It was her first time at the craft beer haven and she was admiring the way the marble harmoniously works with the reclaimed wood arranged in a herringbone pattern in various shades of brown. I pointed out the twenty-one taps that progress from light to dark and observed the way the tattooed bartender smoothly removed a stemmed glass from the hanging rack illuminated by soft, glowing light.
These are the kinds of details that Evan and Oliver Haslegrave carefully plan out when designing their spaces. And while you might not know their names, you undoubtedly know their work. The Brooklyn-based brothers are behind some of the borough’s most beautiful bars and restaurants. Tørst, Alameda, Ramona, Manhattan Inn, Paulie Gee’s, Donna, Sisters, Barano—the list goes on and on—not to mention cult favorites in Manhattan like the Wayland in Alphabet City and Rebelle on the Bowery. Though each place has its own distinct personality, they share the same polished, yet warm aesthetic. Among design aficionados, Home Studios has become known for its holistic, hands-on approach that results in the kind of gorgeous yet unpretentious spaces people want to spend time in, and they have the accolades to prove it. Tørst was named best designed bar in North and South America in the 2014 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. Eater called Alameda one of the five best-designed restaurants in New York. Dwell named Cherry Izakaya one of the ten best-designed restaurants in America. As a longtime admirer of their work, I would add that they are one of the most talented design studios in New York.
On a recent visit to their new studio in Greenpoint’s Pencil Factory, Oliver shared some insights on the firm’s growth. When he and his brother founded Home Studios in 2009, it was just the two of them working out of their apartment/studio designing one place at a time. Today they have twelve employees and work on six to eight projects at a time with clients who come to them for the end-to-end process that sets them apart. “We have a pretty holistic process,” Oliver explained. “We do the mood board, the floor plans, the ID set, the renders, and a lot of the custom fabrication in house, and we do all of our own sourcing.” This tends to make the design process go very smoothly, since they can easily tweak details that need to be changed. “The client has to approve everything, so we don’t stop designing until they get what they want,” Oliver added.
Albert di Meglio, chef/partner of the recently opened Italian restaurant Barano (across the street from another Home Studios-designed spot, Donna), confirmed what a pleasure it was to work with them. “It goes without out saying that Home Studios has exquisite taste when it comes to utilizing unconventional design, material, and feel to create a classic dining room experience. However, what truly separates them is an understanding of how to take full advantage of a space. Their vision with regards to floor plan and guest experience were a massive help during Barano’s upstart.”
The firm’s hard work is clearly paying off, as they’ve been commissioned for several high-profile restaurants. They recently completed celebrity chef Curtis Stone’s new restaurant Gwen in L.A.—an Art Deco-inspired stunner with custom lighting and seating they created in collaboration with the Nicaragua-based Maderas Collective. In New Orleans, they designed the Ace Hotel’s new restaurant Seaworthy, an oyster bar in a 19th-century building with a romantic, turn-of-the-century vibe. They’re currently finishing a soon-to-open restaurant in Fort Greene to be helmed by Norberto Piattoni, a protégé of famed Argetinian chef, Francis Mallmann.
Oliver told me they hope to design a hotel, and though most of their work is done in the hospitality sphere, they are getting more inquiries about residential and retail projects. They are also developing a line of furniture, lighting, and objects that they plan to sell in stores. “There’s a lot of things, like coffee tables, that aren’t required in a bar or restaurant, and a lot of materials or ideas that don’t necessarily work as well in those environments as they do in a residential or retail space,” he explained, adding that he likes the idea of creating a product people can have in their homes as another way to have a connection with fellow Brooklynites.
He and his brother have lived in Brooklyn for fifteen years and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon—they love it here too much. “We always wonder if we can make it that much better, but it’s great to see a place open and take on a life,” he says, referring to the bars and restaurants they designed in Greenpoint and beyond. “And go back years later and talk to the owner. It’s like a little community.”