Photography lesson

Roman and Williams learn a lesson from the Met with the launch of Guild Gallery

As founders of architecture and design firm Roman and Williams, Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch amassed a clientele with a dramatic, multi-layered and lush, sometimes even sensual signature aesthetic.

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These elements play a central role in projects like Le Coucou and Veronika in New York, the British galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the residences of many famous clients like Gwyneth Paltrow. The firm’s four-year-old Canal Street boutique and design cafe, Roman and Williams Guild, has an equally transporting vibe with its textured and bountiful displays of furniture and accessories.

Their latest venture, Guild Gallery, takes them in the opposite direction: Opening Nov. 12 just a few doors down from their Guild storefront, the 2,000-square-foot space has a distinctly streamlined style and will be a meeting place for ceramists, sculptors, and other artists to showcase their large-scale decorative works. “The objects breathe and stand out, which contrasts with what people know us to be. Our shop has a sense of constant activity, while the gallery is for contemplation,” says Standefer. “Each work has room to shine and attract attention.”

The front of the Guild Gallery.

Photo: Adrian Gaut

Unlike its other outpost, which showcases an eclectic mix of designer objects and furniture, the gallery aims to celebrate individual objects and their artists, prioritizing form over function.

The designers tell AD PRO that they came up with the gallery idea during the Covid lockdown. “We represent artists who work on a large scale, and we like big, heavy objects ourselves,” says Alesch. “While we were at home, we increasingly realized that a separate space to display them made a lot of sense.”

Another factor that inspired the opening is the five years they spent redesigning the Met’s British Galleries, where they were steeped in centuries of decorative arts, especially ceramics. “We started thinking about different ways to elevate the design objects, which is what the Gallery is supposed to do,” says Standefer.