Men about Town
Today's quintessentially "downtown" sensibility wouldn't exist without Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode
Rima Suqi -- Interior Design, 10/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
The penthouse suite at the Maritime; photo by Gregory Goode.
You would expect Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode to epitomize the crowd that flocks to their red-hot New York properties which, at last count, were six including the Maritime and Jane hotels and the Park and Waverly Inn restaurants. Yet neither partner strives for boldfaced status in gossip columns or sports self-conscious hair. Perhaps it's age—MacPherson is 45, Goode 51—or their combined decades of experience in the nightlife world, but both exude a calm thoughtfulness that no doubt contributes to an ability to spot hospitality gems in the rough, waiting to be discovered by someone who "gets" their potential.
That real-estate eureka moment is when most entrepreneurial hoteliers and restaurateurs hand over their nascent projects to an independent designer. Not Goode and MacPherson, who have become designers in their own right. They have CAD programs installed on computers in the office, so freelancers can come in to draft, and an out-side architect of record rubber-stamps the plans. Here, the duo describe how their shared vision allows them to bring out each place's history, whimsy, and, most important, soul.
Eric Goode in Ojai, California. Sean MacPherson at the Maritime.
How did it click for your first collaboration, the Park restaurant in New York?
SM: Eric and I were mentally in the same time and place, exploring 1960's hippie craft in California—we both grew up there. That's why the Park has burl furniture and Heath ceramics.
EG: We micromanaged together, and we were very in line about creating a natural oasis in the city, with a wonderful garden. A merging of urban with hippie and country.
Once you choose a space, what's your design process?
SM: With a project like the Maritime, it's the simplest. The architecture was so powerful there—it dictated the direction of the whole renovation.
EG: We tried to make additions that honored the work of the original architect, Albert Ledner. And we did. Ledner was really pleased with how we installed new terrazzo flooring in the lobby to look like his original from the '60's. He stays at the hotel whenever he's in town.
A king room at the Bowery Hotel; photo by Katie Sokoler.
What about with a new building, for example the Bowery Hotel?
SM: Basically, we bought an exceedingly ugly semi-modernist building and had the facade redone in red brick to feel more contextual with the neighborhood, what a building on the Bowery would want to be.
EG: Inside, we channeled an old-world, Algonquin feeling.
And how about with the Jane?
SM: I love the idea of faded glamour. One of the places you see it today is India. The Brits were there for so long. Then, when they left, many of the grand hotels and estates remained. Now those sites have colonial roots with Indian flourishes on top of them. To me, that's kind of magical. We aimed for a similar aesthetic in the ballroom at the Jane, even though, as a former seaman's hostel, it didn't start out that way.
The ballroom at the Jane hotel; photo by Katie Sokoler.
How do you find your furnishings?
SM: That's one of the elements I'm most focused on. We don't have pickers running around. When you're looking for something and you don't know what it is, it's hard to send someone out for it. There's no single source. We go to flea markets—Brimfield, the Rose Bowl—and junk stores, and we shop online. We try to duplicate the sensibility of home-owners who've acquired pieces over time, through travel. Take the ram on top of the fireplace in the Jane ballroom. I wasn't looking for it, but I encountered it at a shop in Hudson, New York, and realized it would look fantastic there. The huge disco ball was in the house where I used to live in L.A.
Neither of you studied design?
EG: I started in the fine-arts program at the Parsons School of Design in New York, and then I went to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. I used to make giant Joseph-Cornell-meets-Damien-Hirst pieces and even had a solo show at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1989.
SM: I was a business and philosophy major at the University of Southern California.
One of the 15 guest rooms at the Lafayette House hotel; photo by Gregory Goode.
SM: We're still finishing up the Jane. On my own, I just opened the Roger Room, a lounge in L.A. And there's another potential L.A. project that I can't talk about yet.
EG: I'm finishing a book about my years running the club Area. I'm also making documentaries for the Behler Chelonian Center, a turtle conservancy I cofounded.
No more hotels?
SM: This instant is not about doing a hotel in New York. I'm happy to take some time off.
EG: I'm not in expansion mode right now either. If the right project came along, though, I'd be open. Maybe something in a more natural setting, an eco resort or a spa.
One of the 15 guest rooms at the Lafayette House hotel. BBar and Grill, originally called Bowery Bar, Goode's last remaining project from his pre-MacPherson days; photo by Gregory Goode.