Will Cooper is always looking for a project. The creative director of the design firm ASH NYC was just in New Orleans wrapping up photography for the opening of Hôtel Peter & Paul, a four-year undertaking that involved the restoration and renovation of a historic church, schoolhouse, rectory and convent.
It’s the latest jewel in the crown of the boundary-breaking Brooklyn studio, which Cooper has been running with his two fellow cofounders for the past seven years.
Earlier this year, the team also debuted the Siren Hotel, a lavish 106-room spectacle housed in a landmark building in downtown Detroit. And this past spring, he launched the firm’s furniture line, ASH x WC, featuring functional, streamlined designs, ranging from angular daybeds to tables that reference Le Corbusier. Cooper’s work, to say the least, demands his undivided attention.
All this busyness (and business) explains the 31-year-old designer’s precisely minimalist approach to his own home, which is in stark contrast to the extravagant hotel interiors ASH creates.
“I like a bit of reality because I create fantasies all day,” says Cooper of his calming one-bedroom apartment in the East Village, where he has lived since 2016. “This is the only part of the city that still feels somewhat gritty and authentically New York to me at this point.”
As he recalls, “I walked in and knew this was the place. I like rectilinear spaces that are without complicated jogs in the floor plate. It was long and narrow, with windows on both sides except in the middle. But I knew I would paint it all white, including the floors, and it would just feel like one big, open space.”
Amid the apartment’s pristine backdrop (the floor and walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White), Cooper brings together a pared-down mix that spans from French and Danish mid-century designs to sculptural accents and evocative works by contemporary artists to pieces from the ASH x WC line.
Elsewhere are furniture prototypes for projects that Cooper might be working on at the moment. In the case of these raw designs, the apartment serves as a conceptual playground for Cooper to test out the livable nature of the pieces. Naturally, many of them come and go. “It changes all the time,” he says. And that’s very much how he likes it.
“Sometimes, I trial run new pieces of furniture and lighting in my apartment to see if I can live with it. If I can, it makes it into a project,” the designer says. “The red-stripe chair, for example, is something we are working on for a project and for production to sell, so I’m testing it out.”
That cushion-stacked chair is upholstered in Ralph Lauren fabric and makes for a bold statement piece alongside a 19th-century American bench with primitive joinery. The vintage brass ashtray is by Arne Jacobsen.
“I like my space to suit my current mood or to tie to a big project I’m working on, so I move things around all the time and try out combinations of fabrics and colors to see what works,” Cooper tells us. “We have a huge warehouse full of goodies that come and go.”
A vintage bamboo and ceramic cocktail table by Adrien Audoux and Frida Minet anchors one corner of the living room, while an antique Chinese ceramic lamp with a custom-painted shade and a photograph by Ingrid Olson bring bright focus to the artful spot.
“My bedroom is probably my favorite part of the apartment, because it’s calming to me,” Cooper explains. “When I’m home, I’m usually at the dining table working or else sleeping. I’m in bed pretty early and wake up everyday just before seven.”
The oak bed and nightstand table/stool are both from the ASH x WC furniture line, and the 1950s Pinocchio sconce lamp is by Herman Theodoor Jan Anthoin Busquet for Hala Zeist. A plaster piece by artist Alexander May and a drawing by Quentin Jones are displayed above a Børge Mogensen Spanish chair from 1958.
“I work on so many projects with such different creative directions, so in contrast I like to keep my space simple and personal,” Cooper notes. “I only keep things in my apartment that I touch or want to see nearly every day.”
A John Henderson painting hangs above the fireplace, which Cooper uses to store design, travel and art tomes. An Isamu Noguchi table lamp and ceramics by the Detroit collective Hamtramck Ceramck, rest on a 1970s Italian dresser in oiled white oak. The limited-edition WC4 chair was created for Collective Design in 2016.
“The bathroom was existing, but I was able to bring in a pedestal sink and faucet from our friends at Waterworks. The vanity light is a prototype for our hotel in Detroit and residential project here in the city,” explains Cooper, who also pulled in two WC3 stools, in red and green, to serve as mini bath stands. “The tiles are peel-and-stick linoleum! We used them to cover up those ugly slate tiles developers think is an upgrade just because it is stone.”