hOmE – The Explorers



Deserted streets lined by plain brownstones. A disconcerting silence interrupted only by an icy wind whistling a monotonous tune through the dismal cityscape. In the distance, the silhouette of the Empire State Building can be made out. The elegant spire of the building seems to throw a disdainful glance down on Greenpoint, a district in Brooklyn. Just a stone's throw away from the city's finance and fashion epicenter, here nothing reminds you of Manhattan’s polished image. Living in Greenpoint means trading glamour for authenticity, designer threads for coveralls.

Evan and Oliver Haslegrave made this trade-off in 2009, the year they launched "hOmE". The name is an acronym of the Haslegrave sibling names which, besides Oliver and Evan, include sisters Hadley and Morgan. The brand name is more a homage to the family that an accurate label of their professional activities. In everyday terms, "hOmE" is an architecture firm. Yet thanks to an unconventional approach, it is so much more than just that. Oliver and Evan Haslegrave do not simply draw up plans and concepts. Here, in the heart of urban Brooklyn, is where craftsmanship melds with interior design.

An odd sensation

A steep wooden staircase leads to the top floor of the old factory warehouse. The door at the end of the corridor stands wide open. At the end of a long, brown oak table, two young men are seated and eating breakfast. "Hey, I'm Evan," one of them introduces himself, getting up as the last bit of a croissant disappears into his bushy beard. For a brief moment, the entire scene is reminiscent of a movie about the musketeers. Evan and Oliver bear an astonishing resemblance to the 17th century heroes of the royal French garde du corps. Both have thick beards and long hair, but, thankfully, they seem to have traded their swords for two large black laptops. It is eleven o'clock in the morning and the two Haslegraves have just returned from a business trip to Las Vegas. Hence the late breakfast. Neither wants to reveal what they were doing in the entertainment capital on a business trip that lasted several days. Only this much: a restaurant owner is looking for an extremely unconventional concept for his venue.

At the end of the day we are creating a feeling. We compose a place where people want to go because of its unique identity.

Assignments of this nature have become commonplace for Evan and Oliver. Since founding hOmE in 2009, the brothers have continuously realized nonconformist restaurant concepts. Their approach is unusually holistic. If you turn to the Haslegraves for an interior design concept, you get more than a mere architectural model. The two men in their mid-thirties will create an entire concept in which interior design is just the starting point. A concept that may include the style of menus to set on the tables and even suggest a name for the venue. More so than with design objects, a restaurant concept by hOmE conjures up a special emotion and conveys a unique atmosphere. Only customers who feel at "home" will be back to repeat the positive experience. "We create that feeling," says Oliver, putting the concept behind their firm in a nutshell. "We stage a setting that attracts people by its unique identity."

The purpose of working as a bartender in the hospitality industry was not to study common Interior Design concepts: I just needed to pay rent.

From manual laborer to expert craftsman

Oliver discovered early on that a perfectly staged restaurant can be a magical place. His first encounter with the hospitality sector occurred in their hometown in Connecticut where he worked as a waiter. Yet it has been a long haul from waiting tables to becoming an interior designer for restaurants. Originally, Oliver came to New York toward the end of the 1990s to study film. He continued work in the restaurant trade on the side – a necessity dictated by the outrageous cost of living in the metropolis. “The purpose of working as a bartender in the hospitality industry was not to study common interior design concepts: I just needed to pay rent.” His brother Evan has a similar background. A short intermezzo at the Pratt Institute, the renowned School of Art and Design in New York, to study architecture was also financed by odd jobs in local bars. After dropping out of school, Evan went on to find employment as a laborer on construction sites around New York – which is how he acquired his manual skills.

The fact that we both have the ability to design and built at the same time makes our concept unique and sets us apart from most other Interior Designers.

Precisely these manual skills are what now complete hOmE’s unusual approach and give the brothers an edge over their competitors. For whoever thinks that Evan and Oliver's job ends when their concept has been approved, has drastically underestimated the two musketeers who are involved hands-on with the actual execution of the assignment. Though both generalists also delegate to trusted subcontractors, the pair can frequently be found in their professionally equipped carpenter's workshop. Quite practically, this is integrated directly into the loft they occupy in the old industrial warehouse in Brooklyn. Yet, again, whoever expects to see industrially standardized wooden beams and other conventional sawmill products, will be disappointed once more: the Haslegraves also follow an unusual concept to construct the furniture they design. A concept that begins with their choice of raw materials.

The rule is simple, really: new from old. Every single new piece of furniture, however small it may be, is made from something that previously was a part of, or once was, a different object altogether. Occasionally, the brothers even use parts from their own furnishings. "Our long oak table could probably be turned into a useful part of a bar counter," Evan says as he gives it a hard knock. But only if the material is in keeping with the overall design concept. This recurrent reinterpretation of pre-existing objects keeps them mentally agile. And something new is what they are perpetually on the lookout for. “I’d rather have been an explorer because you’ll constantly discover something new. It’s actually kind of the same thing with interior design too, isn’t it?”

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