These five emerging studios are reshaping the hospitality industry in the United States:
Parts and Labor Design
(picture above: interiors from the Grey, a diner-bar in Savannah, Georgia. The building was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.)
Ask Andrew Cohen and Jeremy Levitt of Parts and Labor Design to list the projects they’re working on and there’s a good chance your head will start spinning. Though their studio in New York’s Flatiron neighborhood is on the small side, their output borders on prolific, encompassing projects from Hong Kong to Savannah. It makes you wonder how they get any sleep (let’s just say that’s a work in progress).
It helps that the duo, who met working at AvroKO, have complementary skill sets—Cohen is an architect and Levitt is an industrial designer. “We’ve always worked back–to–back—that’s our thing,” says Cohen. “You need a yin and yang, a balance in the project, so that one person is pushing things to places that the other isn’t going to take them.”
Since they began their partnership in 2009, the gregarious twosome’s designs have shaped all manner of hospitality spaces, from restaurants and bars in New York to hotels in New Orleans and Nashville. What’s more, they also custom-design about 90 percent of each project, including furniture, lighting, and art installations. While it makes each job significantly more labor-intensive for the studio, it’s an essential part of their process. “Custom works are something thoughtful—objects that are edited and designed to solve a design or aesthetic problem in a way that purchased things wouldn’t,” Cohen says.
Parts and Labor’s custom lighting, for example, evokes a turn-of-the-century industrial vibe, but it is as suited to the studio’s design for the Grey—a sleek diner-bar in a historic Art Deco Greyhound bus terminal in Savannah—as it is to the glamorous 224-room Thompson Nashville hotel (a departure from the hotel brand’s usual aesthetic), which opened in October 2016.
A booth at the Grey, complete with overhead luggage rack. Courtesy Parts and Labor Design
When pondering how best to describe their approach to their hospitality spaces, Cohen recalls a quote he recently read online: “If you’re not making anybody nervous, you’re not doing anything special.” They always work hard to manifest a client’s vision, he says, but they’re not afraid to suggest something out of the ordinary. “If no one’s taking any risks, then you’re not pushing any boundaries,” he says. “You can be relentless and not be reckless. You can be responsible and thoughtful even though you’re pushing it.”
Recent and upcoming Parts and Labor projects include the New York–based coworking space Blender, and collaborations with several renowned chefs, including Marcus Samuelsson (for whom they’ve already done a restaurant in Bermuda) and Michael Symon. They’re also creating three restaurant spaces for the Rosewood Hong Kong, a multiuse tower that will open on the Victoria Harbour waterfront in 2018.
All this to say that things aren’t likely to slow down anytime soon. But Cohen and Levitt—who anticipate their team of 17 will expand this year—are at ease with the growth, and both are hungry for new opportunities to “reinvent the wheel.”
“I think that no matter how old we are and how long we’ve been doing this, we will always be learning,” says Levitt. “The point where we’ve stopped learning is the point that we just need to retire.”
Parts and Labor designed almost all of the furniture and lighting for the Thompson hotel in Nashville, including its restaurant, café, and rooftop bar.