Glen & Company is a New York-based architectural and interior design firm that specializes in commercial, hospitality and retail designs. Glen & Company projects have been lauded internationally and published in Hospitality Design, Metropolis, Interior Design, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The firm has received many designs awards since they opened their doors in 2000. Recently, the firm placed papercuts by ArtLifting artist Allen Chamberland at the Ames Hotel in Boston, MA. We talked with Glen Coben to learn more.
1. How did you get the role you have and what is your day to day like?
I began with studying architecture at Cornell. That set off a long, and somewhat fortuitous path to get to where I am today. But I never set out to get to where I am today; it was always about learning different methodology and processes behind using design to solve problems. I worked at a lot of different architecture firms of different sizes, including SITE, where I really began to realize collaboration was necessary in design. So that realization, that collaboration is the guiding principle of design, became the connective tissue that led me through the industry. The thing about this profession is that you are always learning and always striving to solve the problems in all different ways. My role now is deliver on the promise of why clients hire us, which is to really tell their stories through design.
2. How did you get into interior design?
As an architect working in New York, we spend a lot of time inside. I love taking the rigor or architect and applying that to interior project. I don't necessarily say I’m an interior design. I say I’m an architect and interior designer; we are not afraid to merge the two. The initial philosophy 17 years ago when i started the firm was that i didn't want to have specific roles, i wanted them to be great at all different areas. I wanted interior designers who could also be architects sans the license, and vice versa. I wanted an interior designers who can hang a wall and architects who knew the difference between pinch pleat or ripplefold drapes. It allows us to really shape the entire environment from all angles.
"Boston Customs House" by Allen Chamberland
3. Why did you decide to create your own firm and what was that experience like?
I was a principal at Rockwell Group and before that was the Director of Store Design in the Retail Division at Nike. I’d worked in the industry for my professional career, but taking the leap to start your own business feels like one of the more insane things you can do. But at the end of the day, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try it. It’s an incredibly challenging thing to do and there’s no manual for how you navigate, but you see it through.
4. What recommendations do you have for interior designers thinking of going out on their own?
If you are passionate about it, just go for it. There’s no recommendation on timing. My dad has a saying: there are many ways to get into a pool and taking the stairs is not an option. If you try to rationalize it, you’ll realize that for every great rational reason to do it, there’s a really stupid one too. At some point, you just have to do it. You start with one project, and then add another, and another, and build it from there!
"Boston Customs House" by Allen Chamberland
5. How often do you chose artwork?
Art is hugely important for all of our projects. Some projects, we are the ones selecting, but for others the client is. But I’d say for every project we are intimately involved in the artwork selection. Artwork is sometimes the last decision made. For Ames Hotel, because of the history of the location, we wanted to embrace American manufacturing. So Allen Chamberland's work in the hotel represents that story and represents Boston.
6. How did you find ArtLifting, and how have ArtLifting services complimented your work?
One of the ownership groups of the hotel was a previous client of yours (John Keirnan from Invesco) and he suggested that we look into ArtLifting. We had never heard of you before, but my team and I in the office at the time huddled around the computer and checked out artlifting.com. We just said, “my god, this is amazing.” The artwork was fantastic, and the icing on the cake was the mission behind and the local work. The quality of artwork itself was the reason we chose ArtLifting, and it all worked out perfectly.
All six of Allen Chamberland's purchased by the Ames Hotel. Clockwise: "Superior Court,” "Dead Eye,” “Rigging,” "South End,” "Boston Customs House,” and "Sea of Glass."
7. Why would you recommend ArtLifting to other interior designers?
It’s the double meaning behind ArtLifting. If you don’t have compelling artwork, you miss out on a compelling story. And if we have the opportunity to help others while getting top art, then why not? Interior design is so visual. We are always looking for content. The fact is that you have two really important things that are wonderful, but you have to deliver the quality. Beyond those two things, you just made it so easy for us. It was a one stop shop, no framing, no difficulties, no trouble with pricing or purchasing. You guys were so willing to work very closely with us in creating something that was better than we what we had come up with. And ArtLifting has so much value because of the mission.
8. Was there a certain perception of the art based on ArtLifting’s mission?
We really had no preconceived notion. We were impressed by the website and just went from there. We were pretty specific about the type of art we were looking for, and ArtLifting was very accommodating to make that happen. And we learned from that that you are now on our very short list of art consultants we want to work with.
"Sea of Glass" by Allen Chamberland
Mikhael Banut is the environmental graphics project and program manager at LinkedIn. He’s worked as a graphic designer for over 10 years and received the 2014 AIA Design Award. Mikhael recently led an initiative to feature 15 original works of ArtLifting art at the LinkedIn office in Sunnyvale, CA. All of the artwork is created by artists who are homeless or have disabilities. ArtLifting co-founder Liz Powers spoke with Mikhael to hear about his role at LinkedIn, his design principles, and how ArtLifting fits into them both.
How did you get the role you have and what is your day to day like?
When I started at LinkedIn, I was designing applications for our spaces. I graduated with an art degree, so I had a real appreciation for the arts. Once I had the opportunity here at LinkedIn to start designing, they gave me another opportunity to start creating environmental graphics, and I now manage that program. I work with all the LinkedIn spaces around the world.
What inspires your design process?
What inspires me is making the connection with the local talent, and showcasing them in our spaces. Part of that comes from my personal knowledge of how challenging it is to get your foot in the door as an artist, and showcase your artwork.
What made you decide to work with ArtLifting?
I went through the website and saw the artwork, a lot of which was really amazing. I wanted to see how we could incorporate that into our space and showcase some of that work. Plus, I connected with the stories behind the art. That’s how we try to design our spaces; start with the story and grow from there. It’s tied into the foundation of design, as most of our designing is based on our culture and our values. With the art program, it’s a way for us to reach out locally and provide opportunities in different regions.
Do you see that as a growing trend right now?
I know that the values within a company are very important. If you could use art as some reminder of what our values are, then there’s a huge platform on every wall to showcase that. If values are the foundation of a company, then why not use our values to create the company’s space
"Tim's Dream" by Tim Strouss
"Bright Eyes" and "Dancin Feet" by Judi JMW
What do you see as the benefit of having subtle designs showing values?
Thinking of it in that way, it gives us more flexibility. So for example, if our value is a specific phrase, without using that phrase directly, that shows how the value can blend into any situation. So it’s more of a way to align ourselves.
How does ArtLifting fit into your belief that values can be shown in a multitude of ways within a company environment?
At LinkedIn, ‘relationships matter’ is one of our values, so building relationships is important. Linkedin is a platform for people to connect to opportunity. When we are providing that opportunity, it’s a device to build deeper relationships. When we find artists like yours, and they are trying to make a living or do something that they are passionate about, I’m totally onboard supporting that.
Why did you choose the works of ArtLifting artists for the LinkedIn office?
We’ve always wanted to showcase local artists in our spaces, and what better way to do that than with someone with an inspiring a story who is still passionate about art after going through hardships. We purchased a series of artwork from local ArtLifting artists in the Bay Area for the new office in Sunnyvale.
What’s been the reaction from LinkedIn employees?
I do have people come up to me who are curious and want to know what ArtLifting is about. That’s why we have the plaque, to be able to show the story. It’s always about the story.
How did you hear about ArtLifting?
I first learned about ArtLifting through a colleague. That's what sparked me to take a look at your website, and the rest followed!
What value does ArtLifting bring to its clients?
I think you guys have a really great service going. There’s plenty of walls out there and a lot of people who want to get involved in something like ArtLifting. We’re at work all the time, and with ArtLifting art you can bring the gallery to that space. That’s powerful.
"Ore" by Marc
Renita Falana Woodson has a fascinating story. She is a computer scientist turned award-winning interior designer. Renita received a "Best of the Best" award from the International Interior Design Association for her work designing Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, FL. In 2009, she started her own company, Renita Falana Designs, a full service interior design firm specializing in multi-family and pediatric healthcare design. She’s also a proud ArtLifting customer who’s purchased over 30 different works of art. Her sister's fight with Multiple Sclerosis has fed Renita's passion for supporting artists who are facing disabilities. I sat down with Renita to hear more about her evolution as an Interior Designer, her tips for other interior designers, and why she’s such an ArtLifting fan.
1. What is your specialty in interior design?
In my own firm, I do a lot of multi family. I also have an extensive background in healthcare design, but I do a little bit of everything.
2. How did you get into interior design?
By way of a varied path…. I have a degree in Computer Science from Spelman College and worked in the engineering & IT industries. While I was working at Boeing, the company paid for employees to go to school, so I tried an interior design certificate program. I thought it was a good mix of technical and creative, and it sparked my interest. I decided I liked it, and decided at some point later I would go back to school to get an Interior Design degree. I worked a few more years in IT, then I quit my job and moved to Chicago for design school.
3. What was it like when you created your own firm?
I graduated from design school in 2008. It was not a good year for any of us, but especially for a luxury industry like interior design. I had friends tell me to at least get my enterprise set up, so I would be prepared should anyone want to hire me. I started my own business 2009, but until 2015, I worked full time for other firms by day and ran my business by nights.
4. Do you have any recommendations for other interior designers?
If you are considering starting your own interior design business, there’s nothing wrong with starting it and still holding on to what you need in order to get through. The same way you work for somebody else, you have to work for yourself. No one else is there to push you; you have to decide to make it happen. Do it, but assess your situation. There is nothing wrong with taking calculated risks. For 6 years, I worked full time while networking and taking on smaller projects, while getting my own business going. That way I was able to start my own business on the side but lessen the risk. I started mine in 2009, and I didn’t go full time until 2015. It was six years of side work.
5. How often do you chose artwork?
Pretty much every project they at least ask me about art. If I’m not selecting it, I will at the minimum be involved in the process. When I found ArtLifting, I thought ‘now this is great.’ As an interior designer, to me, ArtLifting is a creative project designer. Art is the finishing touch that makes clients love the space and makes it feel complete.
6. How do ArtLifting curation services compliment your work?
Being an interior designer is a lot like a project manager. We manage a lot of different facets of design, from the building of the space – interior architecture and finishes, to the finishing of the space- furniture, art, and accessories. I don’t think or claim to be the expert on everything. My husband likes to say, “Let the plumber do the plumbing.” I know enough to know I don’t know some things. I am not an art specialist. So to find a group like ArtLifting to whom I can convey my project goals, and what I’m doing with the interior, and for them to take that, and in turn interpret it, and then provide me with things I can review is a whole lot better and makes my job a whole lot easier.
7. It seems like you are juggling a lot as a project manager. What makes your job easier?
It makes my job a lot easier when I have a team like ArtLifting. We discuss, ArtLifting goes back and does the work, we communicate, and keep up updated with the timeline. ArtLifting is aware of my timeline, and knows what has to be delivered the clients on what dates. It definitely compliments Interior Design, and just makes my job easier. To me, I use ArtLifting more so as an art consultant. Yes, I make the selections in the end, but I’m not the one pulling all of the pieces together. I don’t have to go out and review all the art, because you curate and find ones that work for the project. And that just makes my job a little easier.
8. How have your clients reacted to the ArtLifting art?
They have been very impressed and enjoy the pieces. My clients are commercial, so it’s a little less personal, but I hear more from their clients or residents who really get to see the art. It’s to the point where I’ve gotten calls from the property managers asking for the link to the art, so residents interested in ArtLifting can buy the art for their own space. They like it so much, they ask to see where they can purchase it personally.
9. Was there a certain perception of the art based on ArtLifting’s mission?
At first, they were unaware of the origin of the art. So actually, my clients found out I used ArtLifting only when we put the information on the plaques. When my client, who manages complexes large and small all over the US, read the mission, she decided they definitely wanted to use ArtLifting. If we have to buy art anyways, why not support a mission that’s helping someone else, instead of just buying more retail? My clients are continuing to use ArtLifting, even as we both start on new projects.