Exclusive Interview: Wettling Architects

Today we are excited to announce our exclusive interview with Jack Wettling, Founder of Wettling Architects. Wettling Architects is an architectural firm based in Soho, New York City. The firm delivers impeccably thoughtful design tailored for each clients unique lifestyle. In our interview, Jack gives us insight into his design process while detailing how one can best utilize space to make it your own. Big thanks to Jack and his team for taking the time to have this interview with us!

Photo credits: www.themorrisonsphoto.com 

1. Can you tell us about the story behind starting Wettling Architects and the progression of the firm as it stands today?

After college, I worked for six years at an award-winning, high-end residential design firm.  When I moved to New York, I shifted gears and took a job with a company that did mega-projects where I worked on design teams producing bank towers, the UN building, and the like.  At some point, I was asked to work on a side project designing a residential project for a high profile client in the Carribean.  It was working on this project that I came to understand that my true love with design resides in the ability to craft really incredible spaces that people can call home.  Soon afterward, in 1991, I left the world of corporate architecture and began my own firm.  When I started out, it was basically just me in my kitchen, working on small renovation projects.  Over the years, I've had the immense privilege to work with a great diversity of clients on some spectacular projects around the country.  

2. What is the design process like when designing or renovating a space upon acquiring a new project and client?
I always begin a project by taking two thorough inventories.  The first is an inventory of the existing space, looking for conditions, circumstances, opportunities, challenges, limitations.  The second inventory seeks to really assess the individual clients' needs and desires for their space.  There are three essential components to any residential design project: the context, the client, and our interpretive vision, which manifests as a translation of ideas into form.  The goal is to marry these three components into the happiest of unions.  

The nuts and bolts of the process: having acquired a clear understanding of the project, I always begin with a series of schematic designs which I review with the clients for feedback, and early leanings.  These schematics begin in plan form, and move to three-dimensional work-ups.  They outline the way a person will move through the space, where the rooms and major features will exist and how all the parts will relate to one another.  We then begin to incorporate more specific design ideas, working with the client to develop an appropriate sense of their tastes. These inform how we detail out the surfaces, and which materials and finishes we incorporate.  We have finishes, materials, and details that we favor, but there's a lot of back and forth throughout the process, and the result of each project is always very personal.

3. Since modern design is constantly innovating at a fast pace, what would you describe are the trending elements within the design field today?
I find that a lot of design today recalls the early simplicity of the 1930s, when a kind of rigorous editing began to move toward simplicity of form and structure.  Material innovations offer great opportunities to take advantage of new ways of building familiar forms.  It all comes back to editing for me, and I think that's a modern theme.    

4. Working with a variety of clients, do you notice any design similarities in how people request their home to be decorated or renovated?
My firm does a lot of projects in Manhattan.  Here, as in other places of course, there is a real sense that the home is a haven of calm from the storm outside.  Regardless of how they articulate it, my clients are almost always looking to shape or reshape their space to maximize this calm within their home environment.  We work to create designs that take advantage of every asset of a space and its location, ever simplifying.  

5. For many of our clients who are moving into a new apartment, what design tips would you give them when decorating a blank canvas?
Choose a very limited selection of beautiful materials, and utilize them throughout the space, with restraint.  
Once in a while, I have a client who loves saturated colors, or intense patterns.  The problem with these is that they demand attention.  By nature, the eye is drawn to contrast, so a room full of contrast creates a sort of visual cacophony--not often a calming experience.  The idea is not to steer the client away from their favorite attention grabbing finishes, but rather to utilize them to their best effect. Instead of painting each room a different color, maybe introduce pops of color.  In a project for Lance Bass, we painted the back walls of bookshelves and nooks in bright colors.  Those little background accents had a tremendous effect on the tone of each room, without dominating.  

6. Imagine a renter who is not permitted to paint their walls, how can they make their apartment look modern and inviting?
Buy the fewest pieces of furniture of the best possible quality you can afford.  Select simple window treatments. If the floor's aren't great, cover them with large simple planes of carpet--anything from inexpensive sea grass to lush designer rugs.  Edit and store anything not needed.  

7. What aspects of design should never be overlooked?

1. Lighting: Aim for two to three layers of light in each space, making sure to highlight specific areas where desired, and always to flatter the occupants.

2. Adequate storage: It probably cannot be emphasized enough: ruthlessly edit and store away anything you don't want to see.

3. Limit materials: Exercise a stringent level of restraint when selecting and incorporating materials.  I often witness a common impulse to make each room in a dwelling different from the next--different colors, different patterns, different textures.  In fact, a space feels most modern and cohesive when there's a common thread of materiality connecting and unifying a space.  Often, we'll paint the entire interior of an apartment or house in one expertly chosen hue.  It looks and feels great.

8. What advice would you give to those interested in redecorating their homes to make it feel fresh and new again?
Can I say it again?  Edit out anything not necessary!  This is my tried-and-true editing trick: stand at one end of a room and squint.  When everything's out of focus, you will be able to notice the things that should not be there.  Make those things go away.  If you're planning to begin replacing things, be sure to develop a cohesive plan before you begin making purchases.

9. Are there any modern brands in particular that you recommend to your clients?
For lighting, we love Lucifer, Apparatus Studio, and Flos.  These companies excel at design, and the finishes are impeccable, which can be a real tricky thing with lighting.  For plumbing, we continually return to Dornbracht and Toto, and prefer Bain Ultra tubs.  There is a nicely edited selection of stone and ceramics at Stone Source.  Boffi and Balthup do great kitchens.  I also like to remind people (and myself) that some of the larger, and often more affordable brands, are worth perusing.  The simplest pieces from CB2, Room+Board, and DWR can be fantastic.     

10. Where can we find Wettling Architects?
We're in Soho, New York.