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The New Roman and Williams Guild Is a Design Wonderland

The new SoHo shop from the too-cool design duo wants you to eat, drink, and shop merrily.

If you have ever yearned for the irrepressibly cool look of the Ace Hotel, The Chicago Athletic Association, Le Coucou, or any number of killer spaces designed by Roman and Williams, fate has smiled upon you. Masters of the historic-with-an edge style, Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch have just opened Roman and Williams Guild, a 7,000-square-foot space in SoHo providing a fully leaded immersion into the duo’s rarified aesthetic.

Don’t call it a concept shop. This is not another faceted, bleached temple devoted to esoteric streetwear and incense holders that were sourced on Instagram. In a statement, the designers said, “We are establishing our own modern-day guild, a guild of the senses, that gathers the best of everything we make, and everything we love, and helps others to do the same.” The pair has happily cut ties with the idea of monotheistic retail, going instead for gracious overlap. Guild is a multi-hyphenate: It houses La Mercerie—a new French café and restaurant featuring celebrated chef Marie-Aude Rose with partner Stephen Starr—as well as a flower shop helmed by local favorite Emily Thompson and a “library” stocked with tomes from design-art publisher Phaidon.

There is also furniture. True to the Roman and Williams collected vibe, Guild has artisan and vintage furniture pieces, objects, and vignettes, but it’s studio’s own line that deserves a look. After years of shaping the hotel and restaurant scene with their signature wood, leather European-inflected attitude and playing with design concepts in their own home, the husband-and-wife team has unveiled the Founding Collection. Enlisting their favorite craftspeople and specialty studios, Standefer and Alesch have unleashed 40 furniture designs with all the requisite trappings—metals, finishes, woods, leathers—and featuring ultra-luxurious fabrics from the premiere houses of Fortuny and de Le Cuona. The seating is deep and generous. Tables and storage pieces remain quiet and unadorned, keeping the focus on materials. Lighting and accessories are also part of the Founding Collection with a few memorable sculptural objects, artisan made pieces, and curios imbued with can’t-fake-it rusticity.

The Roman and Williams studio is known for undeniably moody and transporting interiors, but those are almost exclusively for private owners and hospitality clients. With Guild, the designers are finally in control of the entire storyline. You get the feeling that Chef Rose’s indulgent contributions to the place—her fresh baked brioche, homemade viennoiseries, and eggs dishes—are her own delectable feats that satisfy the palate but also permeate the air as a visitor might wander from the café toward the library or vice versa intoxicated by the aromas. All the plates and tableware are available for purchase, like a culinary version of try-it-before-you-buy it.

Florist Emily Thompson’s exuberant floral creations make for a beautiful visual display, but customers can actually purchase the blooms and/or the vases that hold the flowers. The Roman and Williams imprimatur covers every inch of the space: all the faucets and fixtures— the café, flower shop, bars and bathrooms — are from the R.W. Atlas Collection, designed with Waterworks. The architectural door and cabinet hardware was created with New York company H. Theophile.

While it’s clear Standefer and Alesch have created their own universe, the distinction is in how commerce is gently built in. You can buy virtually anything—and you’re encouraged to do so—but you can easily just sink into the furniture or thumb through a design biography. It’s a unique convergence, where food, design, flowers, and style come together, and hang out, and just take in the scenery. Not unlike the feeling of sitting in the lobby of an R&W designed hotel, people-watching the afternoon away.

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