Designer Friday: Up Close With Workshop/APD

Founded in 1999 by Matt Berman and Andrew Kotchen, Workshop/APD is a holistic design studio based in New York City. Located in Midtown Manhattan, the studio takes on projects as a whole- from the inception, to the architecture, to the furniture, Workshop/APD keeps things within the family. Their team consists of 50 design pros from various sectors, who team up to build and furnish some of the most sought-after properties. Recently, product collaboration with major design houses have ushered Workshop/APD into a new chapter; one where they are tackling every aspect of the design world in the most forward-thinking way possible. Aiming to make every design timeless, the team bases their designs on the location of the space, making for some undeniably delicious homes and commercial interiors. Meet founders Matt Berman and Andrew Kotchen in this week’s Designer Friday, and check out two of their spaces below!

Marble makes it better! This Workshop/APD kitchen is calm, cool, and Californian. Photo by Evan Joseph.

Andrew Joseph: What’s your wakeup ritual?
Matt Berman: I start every morning with a glass of cold water with lemon, eat my first breakfast and then head to the office around 6:30. I use the quiet time to catch up on my emails for an hour and then go to gym from 7:30-8:30. When I get back to the office I eat second breakfast. By 9 am I’ve usually eaten about a dozen eggs. Which I know is unusual.

Andrew Kotchen: I wake up really early (around 4:30), and do a bit of emailing while lying in bed. I call it “out of the gates”, getting work done before the workday begins. I’m not a coffee person, so I get up and go. I’d never work out if I didn’t have an appointment, so I see a personal trainer several times a week. I walk from home (in Irvington, NY) to the train and head into Manhattan. By the time I get to the office at 8:30, I’ve usually done 2 hours of work.

Andrew: What modern design trend makes you cringe?
AK: The fact that everything has to be categorized as a “trend” makes me cringe. It’s never just one thing – it’s the notion that anything that gains a bit of momentum has to be a trend. Good design should be timeless. Chasing trends just means work is quickly outdated.

MB: I’d say the global adoption of a “Brooklyn” aesthetic- this faux-industrial hipster chic look.

Andrew: Dream country to work in? Or dream project to take on?
AK: The Australians really seem to really appreciate great modern design. I’d love to design a residential community there, on the side of a mountain overlooking the ocean, with a series of pavilion-like structures that are open to nature and the views.

MB: I’d love to do a ground-up resort in Spain. CALL ME, SPAIN.

Andrew: What’s one ingredient you put in everything?
MB: A cooking instructor in France once admonished my mom, who warned her that she was sensitive to garlic and onions. “Madame, the basis of all cooking is onion, garlic and oil. Otherwise it would be flavorless.” So, unless I’m cooking for my mom, those three are key. Design is like a recipe, too- there are crucial base elements, and then we build upon them. A focus on the connections is key in my design recipe – a reveal between beams, the place where wood and stone meet.

AK: I salt everything. I know it’s not a great habit, but I grew watching my father “read a book” while shaking salt into everything. It went on forever. My palate has adjusted, and I need the flavor.

Industrial accents only add to this upscale atmosphere in an apartment by Workshop/APD. Photo by Donna Dotan.

Andrew: How do you define beauty?
AK: To me, beauty is a deep and personal emotional connection. It strikes you at your core and makes you want to engage the person, place, or thing that has captivated you. It’s a thing that leaves you wanting more

MB: I don’t believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is something that comes from years of study and refinement. Most artists put thousands of hours into understanding and mastering light, proportion, color and tone. Cross-culturally we can all connect to and appreciate certain things, even if they are not our own.

Andrew: Best way to take a rest/decompress?
MB: The gym is a daily opportunity to decompress, but snowboarding is almost meditative for me. I love that it requires you to focus and be in the moment- the present and future don’t exist, and you can’t let your mind wander.

AK: There’s nothing more relaxing to me than sailing or boating- just being on the water. And I love skiing in fresh powder. Both are a release, which in turn creates a restful state in my mind.

Andrew: A skill you’re working on mastering?
MB: Finding balance in life and work.

AK: Mindfulness is very popular, for good reason. We live and work in a fast-paced, competitive world. Finding balance across all aspects of my life is something I am always working on. I have a long way to go.

Andrew: If you made a documentary, what would it be about?
MB: I would love to understand why – at the most basic level- design is so important and intrinsic to certain cultures (like the Italians and the Japanese). Why is that not the case in the US and elsewhere? What switch flipped so that everyone has a higher-level expectation for design and presentation?

AK: I’d focus on Family Dynamics. However, you define family, we all come from one and the dynamics, relationships, challenges, and ups-and-downs are fascinating. And they affect all of us every day on conscious and subconscious levels.

Andrew: Are there specific qualities in potential clients that tell you to run away?
MB: There’s a good chance you should run when someone asks for way too much detail in the proposal stage. And a potential client who treats us like service personnel is not going to respect the creative process.

AK: It’s usually a bad sign when someone says “I’ve done this many times, and I’m an expert”. RUN.

Andrew: Best gift you’ve ever received?
MB: I treasure out-of-the-blue correspondence from past clients who write to tell us how much they enjoy their home. When that happens, it sticks with you for a very long time. It means so much to be a part of someone’s life and it reminds us how long-lasting and far-reaching our work’s effects are.

AK: My wife purchased a great back scratcher for me once. There’s nothing worse than an itchy, unreachable spot in the middle of your back. This little extendable fork-like tool comes in handy.

Andrew: Favorite app? Why?
MB: I use Good Notes to mark up pdf’s on my iPad, and Trello to coordinate large and complicated tasks and projects.

AK: I’m a big fan of E-Wallet, a password app that has a great organizational and search structure. Everything in the world today has a username, password, and code. Who can possibly remember all of them? I am lost without it.

About The Designers | At Workshop/APD, an award-winning New York City-based multidisciplinary design and architecture firm, each project is uniquely defined by a sense of place and purpose and a desire to ultimately enhance the user’s experience through exceptional design. From sleek penthouses and seaside retreats to luxury residential developments and groundbreaking hotels and restaurants, the Workshop/APD aesthetic is timelessly modern but site-specific, unbound by project type or a singular style. Led by founding principals Andrew Kotchen and Matt Berman and principal Thomas Zoli, a collaborative team of more than 50 architects, interior designers and product designers leverages vast and highly varied experiences to solve complex design challenges, resulting in spaces that are exceptionally beautiful and accessible.

Through a unique, vertically-integrated service offering that spans all aspects of architecture, interior design and product design, Workshop/APD can own every step of the process from inception to completion. The firm is known for embracing technology and celebrating craft, actively pursuing materials with a worked hand and creating one-of-a-kind furnishings and finishes to bring texture, materiality and contrast to luxurious modern spaces. Committed to designing places that celebrate a project’s location and history, the team demonstrates a profound respect for the physical and contextual environment in which projects are realized, extending the experience beyond the structure to merge landscape, neighborhood and architecture and furnishings in a beautiful, synergistic unit. The firm’s award-winning product designs include luxurious, coastal inspired rugs with Warp & Weft, a modern hardware collection for SA Baxter, Aster Cucine kitchens, and upcoming collaborations with best-in-class partners including Arteriors and JANUS et Cie.

Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine. See more of his work here

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