FEATURES : DESIGN

The Brothers Haslegrave

By Raven Keller

Published April 18, 2011

Oliver and Evan Haslegrave of hOmE in their Greenpoint studio

Photo: Rose Callahan

Oliver and Evan Haslegrave of hOmE in their Greenpoint studio

At play

Photo: Rose Callahan

At play

hOmE's 1,200 square foot live/work space

Photo: Rose Callahan

hOmE's 1,200 square foot live/work space

hOmE's 1,200 square foot live/work space

Photo: Rose Callahan

hOmE's 1,200 square foot live/work space

No space is left unused, an upright piano fits perfectly between the two bedrooms.

Photo: Rose Callahan

No space is left unused, an upright piano fits perfectly between the two bedrooms.

The entrance to their workshop

Photo: Rose Callahan

The entrance to their workshop

Natural lighting floods in from the skylight.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Natural lighting floods in from the skylight.

A lantern hangs from the column.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A lantern hangs from the column.

hOmE

Photo: Rose Callahan

hOmE

Left: A barrel of whiskey from Kings County Distillery Right: The Bar

Photo: Rose Callahan

Left: A barrel of whiskey from Kings County Distillery Right: The Bar

There is order and symmetry amongst the rough texture in the studio.

Photo: Rose Callahan

There is order and symmetry amongst the rough texture in the studio.

A small designated sign.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A small designated sign.

The "soda fountain"

Photo: Rose Callahan

The "soda fountain"

John Lemon aka Jack Lemon

Photo: Rose Callahan

John Lemon aka Jack Lemon

An Edison record player sits in front of the workshop

Photo: Rose Callahan

An Edison record player sits in front of the workshop

Evan and Oliver Haslegrave

Photo: Rose Callahan

Evan and Oliver Haslegrave

Photo: Rose Callahan

Evan sketching

Photo: Rose Callahan

Evan sketching

Objects of all sorts sit above a cabinet.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Objects of all sorts sit above a cabinet.

Prototype chair for Goat Town

Photo: Rose Callahan

Prototype chair for Goat Town

Evan outside of his bedroom

Photo: Rose Callahan

Evan outside of his bedroom

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While the name hOmE would lend itself well to a pair of residential designers, Evan and Oliver are more interested in working on public spaces than homes. “Restaurants are wonderful and thematic,” said Evan. And who better to design the layout of a restaurant than two brothers with experience waiting tables and tending bars?

Evan and Oliver’s experience in the food service industry has proven to be one of the secret weapons of their design. The brothers know that the organization of a restaurant or bar, the size of its tables and the orientation of its seating are all factors that affect the ease with which its occupants can navigate the space. Oliver explained, “If you go in [to a restaurant] and have a nice time and everything is smooth and everybody’s happy… It’s very much like a suspension of disbelief you’re entering a world that’s different. If you start seeing the cracks in how it’s working and not working, then your reverie is broken a bit. There is a lot that you can do, and often in seemingly small changes, that can really affect how people feel in the room. Ideally you can make enough of those changes that the room becomes as cohesive as possible.”

Manhattan Inn, hOmE’s piano bar and cafe in Greenpoint, is a successful demonstration of this objective. From the sidewalk, Manhattan Inn appears first as a warm wooden door and an unassuming tin sign. At the bar in the entryway, the smell of grits, morning muffins and sausage bleed from the kitchen while sunlight casts in from the adjoining back room. When guests are seated in the back hall during weekend brunch hours, natural light spills through the ceiling window and focuses on the open body of an ivory grand piano. An unshaven man in his mid-twenties animates the keys as visitors are assigned a seat in the conch-like spiral of tables which spread over two separate levels. From either the ground or the elevated stage, patrons can make eye contact with nearly every other person in the room.

“Our idea was to make that room totally focused on the piano,” said Evan. “And we raised the seating so that… every person has an equal vantage point.” On the day that Evan and Oliver decided to circumscribe the Manhattan Inn’s back room with raised seating, they went to Build It Green!, an environmentally-friendly non-profit in Astoria that salvages refuse materials from local building projects and sells them at a discount. “Some staging company on Broadway had just dropped off the stage to the Little Mermaid, which was 4′ × 8′ panels with feet on them… It wrapped all the way around the space, like just two feet shy. It was perfect,” Evan said with a wide smile. “You’re literally sitting on the stage to the Little Mermaid with hardwood flooring on top of it,” he added.

Whenever possible Evan and Oliver use old materials in place of new ones. Many of their supplies, like long beams of Douglas Fir, tin ceiling squares and dented door knobs, come from Build It Green! “Ideally, we don’t rule out using anything,” Oliver said.

Evan sat on the edge of his chair, adjusted the fine suit jacket that he wore with faded black denim trousers, and narrowed his eyes. “It’s funny that sustainability is a question… There’s so much material out there that just should be used… and for the projects that we do, it feels totally natural,” he said.

Reused materials do indeed feel very natural in the rustic spaces that hOmE has created. But while their designs up unto this point have had a unifying visual presence, Evan and Oliver are in no way married to any certain aesthetic. “More than anything we like to create a space that is comfortable within the dynamics of the neighborhood, and then push it,” Oliver said. He added, “We try to create something that has character and a history.”

Historical locale have a deep appeal to Evan and Oliver, which is one reason why they so exuberantly accepted their most recent assignment, which is housed inside a 19th century landmark building in Tribeca. Once completed, Little One will include a basement kitchen and two stories of dining halls capped by two floors of apartments. This combination restaurant and residential space is their biggest project yet. “It has a really cool history in that Yoko Ono and John Lennon spent a lot of time there and tried to make the building the Nutopian Embassy so that he could have diplomatic immunity or something to that effect,” Evan said. He illustrated the space with his hands while he talked about it. “It’s a brownstone that’s only about 15 feet wide and 50 feet long, so essentially it’s like a boat.”

Comparing a building to a boat is the unusual sort of re-imagining that pervades Evan and Oliver’s work. At the bar of Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in Greenpoint, which hOmE designed in 2009, the brothers replaced the handles of the beer tap with junkyard emergency sprinklers, the kind with flower-like metal hats that poke down from the ceilings of commercial buildings. Metal fireplace grates host a drink menu near the restaurant’s entrance and square tables made of recycled wood are held up on the legs of retired pianos. “A lot of salvaged pieces you find, like that old beer tap,” Oliver began, while gesturing to a large metal tap that sat disembodied atop a wooden butcher’s block in his kitchen. “I would be really amazed if they still made them like that. And it’s not a qualitative thing, it’s just that there were certain times when certain kinds of things were made. New materials come along as a quicker means of production,” he added. “And if you want to create a feeling of warmth and history or character, then a new material will not give it to you. Used materials just lend themselves better [to that sort of ambiance.] Inherently, salvaged materials have all of these restrictions, but to use them in a more abstract way, to create something new from them—that’s the best part of the job,” Evan said.

COMMENTS

Adele
said at 9am
April 18, 2011

Visiting one of the Haslegrave's spaces is on my bucket list for my next NY visit.

nathan
said at 12pm
April 18, 2011

this may be my favorite feature so far, thanks Tom, Raven, and Rose!

Jane
said at 8pm
April 18, 2011

Great article. I live close to the location of Nutopian Embassy in Tribeca and am thrilled (and relieved) to learn the building is in the hands of two young and talented artists. Can't wait for Little One!

Walter
said at 12am
April 19, 2011

Great feature. I like the cut of their jib.

Calvin
said at 5am
April 19, 2011

Awesome article.... just like Adele... that's my next visit to NY.

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