Many of us think of a designer or architect’s work solely in terms of the final product; however, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to get a great project to the finish line. Work environment, team mentality, and long-term and short-term goals are just some of the ingredients that define a firm, how it operates and what it produces. Stewart-Schafer co-principals—and husband-and-wife team—Christine Stucker and James Veal understand that. GDG recently spoke with the two creative forces to get a closer look at the inner workings of their collaborative studio, which they describe as crisp, understated and elegant, and the many exciting projects they have in store.
GDG: What makes your design studio unique?
Christine & James: Our design studio is a true reflection of our brand ethos. As furniture designers, we love being creative and designing furnishings for our clients as well as for our own home and office. One of our favorite pieces in the studio is a custom-designed blackened steel conference table with thin legs—for a contemporary twist on the Parsons table. We designed a custom finish for the table to achieve a striking and unique matte look.
What is your favorite part of the design studio?
As architects and designers, art is a constant source of inspiration for us. Our studio features many pieces of art we have purchased over the years from auctions or through our travels, along with several of Christine’s original paintings and mixed media works. We also have a fairly large collection of work by our favorite artist, Victor Pasmore, with a few pieces sprinkled in throughout the studio. The beauty of the art is intensified with the natural lighting that shines through our windows.
Lounge area at Stewart-Schafer’s Brooklyn office
Waiting area outside Brooklyn office
What is your team like?
Our team is a unique group of individuals with different backgrounds and personalities. There is no formal hierarchy at our firm, and all team members are encouraged to voice their honest opinions. We foster a community of independent thinkers that nurture unique ideas and reward creative thinking. Several times a year, we have craftsmanship contests in the office. Each participant designs a custom furnishing or accessory that they think a specific client would like. That client is then invited to the showroom and selects his or her favorite piece among the entries. The client gets to keep the piece and the winner of the craftsmanship contest receives a gift certificate to their favorite New York restaurant.
What is the day-to-day like at the design studio?
Our day-to-day is constantly changing, and we often wear many hats. We’ll have days where we are running around visiting project sites, lumberyards or furniture showrooms. On other days, we are sheltered inside and are busy finding ways to further elevate a project or sketching design inspirations for our upcoming furniture collection.
Christine sourcing stones for a custom kitchen renovation project
What projects are you currently working on?
We have just wrapped up the total redesign of 12 Lovely Bride stores nationwide, and we’re now focusing on more residential endeavors. We’re currently working on a master floor expansion for an Upper East Side brownstone and two whole-house gut renovation projects in Brooklyn. Our upcoming furniture collection is also something that we are very excited about. This year, we will be debuting a brand-new furniture collection, which will include mirrors, seating, lighting, shelving, tables, garment racks and more. The collection will highlight our love of mixing bold material palettes and luxe finishes, including natural terrazzo, chrome and blackened cold rolled steel.
Material board from Lovely Bride stores
What is it like working as a husband-wife team?
Sometimes when two people collaborate and work together, something incredible happens. There is a level of trust and cohesiveness that comes with working with a spouse that is unlike any other partnership. We complement each other’s strengths and fill in each other’s gaps. It’s remarkable to see how we are growing together and as individuals. We’re better together in both work and life, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Do you have any advice for other couples working together?
Our advice would be to always respect each other’s opinions. It is really easy to fall into relationship mode at work, and you have to make sure to keep your business and home life completely separate. When forming a business with your spouse, you must follow your passions and do what makes you happy. Being passionate about what you do builds an unwavering foundation and helps you both learn and grow together as a team.
Do you have any plans for expansion in 2017?
As our business and client base grows, we plan to expand the team at Stewart-Schafer, which will enable us to work on larger-scale projects and developments. We strive to generate new trends and come up with exciting, out-of-the-box ideas when designing spaces, which is definitely something people can expect from us in 2017.