How Glen Coben is Designing for Social Change
July 26, 2017 11:10
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