It’s possible that Evan and Oliver Haslegrave’s eventual design careers were in the making before even they knew it. As kids in Connecticut, they helped their father, an architect at a residential remodeling firm, with construction projects. They hadn’t intended on following his example when they moved to New York years later, though.
Initially, they each worked in bars and restaurants. Then Oliver transitioned into fiction editing, and Evan into his own handyman business. But after New York Magazine promptly featured Evan’s business in its “Best Of” services in 2008, work picked up, and the good press soon led to the chance to renovate Elsa, a bar that was then located in the East Village. The brothers worked together (Oliver joining in on weekends) to complete it, and the opportunity to design Greenpoint’s now-closed Manhattan Inn followed. It was then that Oliver, recognizing that storytelling needn’t be relegated to the page, left his editorial gig, and hOmE studios—now one of the city’s premiere restaurant design firms—was born.
A family affair
The brothers Haslegrave combined the first letters of their first names with those of their sisters (Hadley and Morgan) to found their acronymic venture in 2009. The Greenpoint loft they shared also functioned as their workshop and studio, run by just the two of them.
The brothers’ approach set their design-build operation apart from the get-go. Their understanding of how staff and guests move through a space, informed by their earlier employment in food service, emphasized the importance of usability, access and comfort above all. And material choices were highly considered, too. The experimentation that accompanied the collection and modification of salvaged materials in their apartment (which led to things like a chandelier made of croquet mallets, or an old window in lieu of a traditional shower curtain) were also applied to the sourcing and development of their earliest commercial projects. A furniture reuse warehouse in Astoria frequently supplied inspiration and raw materials: each table at Paulie Gee’s was built to look different from the next, and the stage that supported the piano at the Manhattan Inn was a modified one from an old production of The Little Mermaid.
Fast forward to present day. Budgets and experience levels have increased exponentially. Evan left the firm in 2016 to pursue personal projects, while Oliver’s become the studio’s director. His team now includes 11 people who divvy up responsibilities according to specific project needs. But the ethos behind hOmE’s humble beginnings still applies. The studio continues to be relentless in its dedication to detail and craftsmanship. Each project is approached as an original story to be told, and Oliver and his team are happy to narrate, not only to help create brand identity, but to also achieve physical environments that feed into visitor experiences as much as what’s being consumed.
And visting any of hOmE’s projects really is the architectural equivalent of experiencing a luxury tasting menu: no detail is overlooked, and all senses are engaged as design and food or drink prove to be collaborative endeavors. Whether you find yourself at Donna, Ramona, Sisters, Alameda, The Spaniard, The Loyal, Vini e Fritti, Mettā or Fausto (and the list really does go on and on), the intention behind every element is consistently evident. Each bar and restaurant, though distinct in its individual identity, is similar in the feelings it evokes. The hallmark of a hOmE design is an atmosphere characterized be being all at once masculine and feminine, sophisticated and subdued, comfortable and elevated. The lighting is always warm and welcoming, spaces are intimate (even when the ceilings are soaring), and customization abounds.
Take Greenpoint’s Tørst for example, where only draft beer is served and there’s no conventional back bar. There, the most typically mundane bar element has become one of the space’s most striking features. The 20 or so beers offered nightly range from light to dark, and so, too, do the handles that allow them to be served; Oliver carved each from light oak wood, then stained and arranged them in a gradient to reflect the identities of the beers they relased.
At June in Cobble Hill, the bar’s largely European wine list inspired the team to evoke a mood reminiscent of Parisian dance clubs, with an art noveau and bohemian flair. This French influence can be seen in details like the custom mirrors hanging on the walls, and the stained glass partitions with integrated globe lights between tables.
Doing their “hOmEwork”
More recently, hOmE’s expanded its reach, which now includes a Las Vegas residence, a restaurant in New Orleans’ Ace Hotel, a wine bar in Kingston, and a couple spots in LA, including bar Bibo Ergo Sum, where the black ceiling and plush seating, among other details, are meant to evoke the transportative experience of visiting an old cinema—fitting for the space’s West Hollywood address.
So what’s next? Global domination, maybe. Last year, Oliver founded his product line called— what else?— “hOmEwork” and began creating furniture and lighting pieces for residential interior use. As far as the design world is concerned, there’s no place like hOmE.