As usual, Calvin Tsao is not sitting at his desk. Perhaps that’s because the top is occupied by a giant printer? “It’s there to underscore the fact that Calvin never is,” Zack McKown says. “He works by roaming, whereas I need to sit and close the door to focus.” Luckily for McKown, Tsao’s partner in work and life, an office with a door is one of the perks afforded by Tsao & McKown’s new studio, a 5,500-square-foot ground-level loft in an 1885 factory in Brooklyn, New York.
"We are one part tinkerers, one part critical thinkers" —Calvin Tsao
This definitely isn’t gracious brownstone Brooklyn—the industrial Gowanus neighborhood boasts its very own Superfund cleanup site. That’s quite a bit, well, edgier than the Interior Design Hall of Fame members’ former location in Manhattan. “We no longer live in a pastoral, agrarian world, so get with the times!” Tsao says triumphantly, surveying the parking lot outside the window. McKown adds, “I’ve always wanted to be street-front.” Nighttime passersby often peek through the glass, thinking there might be a hip bar inside. Although the relocation was a forced issue, as the Manhattan building was being redeveloped, change was not unwelcome. “Moving offers a chance to reflect on how far we’ve come and where we’re going. We feel we’re maturing, not just as professionals but also in how we look at the world,” Tsao continues. Whether designing a retirement home for Bhutanese monks or a wellness center in China, the partners are trying to expand the very definition of what an interior is. In McKown’s words: “Design is not just about creating. It’s also about making life better.”
The partners love being connected to the thrum of Brooklyn, the epicenter of creative cool. “It’s full of writers, makers, photographers, fabricators,” Tsao notes. “It’s energizing to be in this emerging mix. There’s a real sense of community.” Plus rooftop yoga.