The Ace Hotel in New York. Photograph by Nikolas Koenig

The Collective Questionnaire

Robin Standefer of Roman and Williams

By Megan Deem
December 4, 2017

One half of the New York design duo talks creativity, sourcing, and finding inspiration in the everyday

Founded by Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch in 2002, Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors (it’s named after their grandfathers) has grown from being the interior design firm of choice for celebs looking for a residential redo, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson, to the sought-after visionaries behind everything from hot hotels (like the Ace Hotel New York) to buzzy restaurants (Le Coucou). They’ve even been retained to redesign the British Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their aesthetic blends the historical with the modern, custom pieces sitting alongside eBay finds—a democratic mix that’s warm, inviting, and utterly magical.

Roman and Williams’s Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch. Photograph by Sebastian Faena
Roman and Williams’s Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch. Photograph by Sebastian Faena

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: It’s a good question. I think that Stephen and I find inspiration in a vast variety of things—from remarkable objects, to food, to extraordinary locations to which we travel, to an incredible flower, to a spectacular vintage glass vase. I think the fundamental principles of our practice are about being very open to the signals around us and really allowing ourselves to kind of be these great sponges. For us, inspiration is constant and something that we find in so many different things, big and small.

Q: How do you use eBay to find ideas?

A: eBay to us is more about objects, although objects give us tons of inspiration. We mine inspiration and design from all kinds of things—from a tugboat to the most remarkable palace. And eBay is sort of a microcosm of that. You can buy a strange birdcage for $40 that’s incredibly interesting and a very crafty, simple object. And you can buy a Picasso. That’s sort of crazy.

Q: How can someone pull off hotel- or restaurant-inspired design in their own home?

A: It’s about activating the space. The main thing to think about is helping a home feel like it has a kind of energy. The lights are on, candles are lit; there are beautiful flowers on the table, fruit in the bowl. Make it feel alive.

Le Coucou in New York. Photograph by Ditte Isager
Le Coucou in New York. Photograph by Ditte Isager

Q: Can you offer a few tips for shopping for fine furniture and antiques online?

A: I’m very sensitive about communicating with a vendor and asking for details and extra photographs because you really want to feel like you have a connection with the object. When you’re shopping at a higher price point, you want to make sure there’s an education about the object, and that the vendors you’re buying from are both vetted and responsive. You don’t always get that everywhere, but you should. It’s very important.

Visit Roman and Williams for eBay Collective, a collection of pieces curated exclusively for eBay Collective shoppers.