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The Dean / ASH NYC

American Made Since 2014
2014 Design Finalist
Providence, Rhode Island
ASH NYC, a Brooklyn-based design and real estate development firm, opened The Dean, a 52-room hotel in Providence, RI, in early 2014.
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Tell us about your business.

Since our founding, ASH NYC has fused real estate development and interior design to create buildings and spaces with a unique sense of purpose and place, noted for their organic, neighborhood-centric approach, use of natural materials and balance of modern and historic design elements. Our most recent project, The Dean Hotel, was named one of the best new hotels in the world by Conde Nast Traveler. The Dean is a culmination of many pillars of ASH, from acquisition to preservation to design to sourcing to programming to brand development to management. We started with no business plan, but as a group of young entrepreneurs interested in investing in old buildings in interesting areas. As we evolved, our focus on design set us apart, and it became a large part of how we create well-loved places. We continue to innovate on our business model, including doing design work for others seeking our point of view, a line of custom furniture, and pushing our hotel model into other cities.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

Our studio is a 4,000 square foot loft space in the heart of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Outside, we are surrounded by some of New York’s most exciting artists, restaurants and businesspeople. Inside, we have created a serene white canvas that can be both a peaceful place for solitary work but also a space for intense collaboration and conversation. Around our office are dozens of pieces of fine vintage furniture that we have acquired from around the world, and use in our projects or sell or rent to our clients in New York or beyond. We are also focused on building a company art collection focused on emerging artists around the world, which is constantly being rotated in and out of the studio.

What inspires you?

So many things! We’re inspired by our role models, designers, artists and builders around the globe who are doing work—designing rooms, creating spaces, building neighborhoods—that we can marvel at and hope to be working at their level someday. This is a diverse crew: from Axel Vervoordt to Tony Goldman to Joseph Dirand to Dan Gilbert to John Pawson—people who are harnessing resources to implement an authentic version of their vision. We’re inspired by places near and far (Antwerp, London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Tribeca, Greenpoint, Providence, New Orleans, Sag Harbor,) where through design or history something beautiful and interesting and unique has been created. We’re inspired by the juxtaposition of new and old, where things ancient and modern can coexist and mutually enhance one another. We’re inspired by one another, by the team assembled to do our daily work and bring our projects to fruition. We’ve learned that big projects require teamwork, conflict and ultimately collaboration.

What makes your business stand out?

Our business is unique because of our focus on synthesizing design and real estate, two concepts that are often at odds with one another. We believe that good design creates better real estate, and the constraints of economics can often create better design. We are also a strange animal in that we do so many activities occurring simultaneously under one roof---we buy and develop buildings and hotels, we design them, we design spaces for other clients, we design and manufacture furniture and products and we have built one of New York’s largest inventories of fine furniture for rent. And our median age is about 27.

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

Connect your vision and dreams with on-the-ground reality. Work in places with great suppliers, spaces, and connectivity to people who can help you implement and scale. Surround yourself by mentors who motivate you. Bring on partners and colleagues who enjoy doing what you do not and make you better at what you do. Allow your vision to evolve and develop organically without compromising your core intentions. Push yourself to learn how to manage people in a way that makes everyone better, including yourself. Aim for fidelity of vision so that your output never feels forced or artificial. Enjoy your work so it never feels like a job.

What does American Made mean to you?

We believe that America is having a moment of renewal. We see all around us entrepreneurship replacing corporate drudgery. We see the idea of cheap and disposable goods and buildings in the interest of short-term profit being replaced by durable, sustainable and vibrant alternatives that are more beautiful, more fun and ultimately more valuable over the long term. We think we are witnessing a rebirth of the ideals that made America so hopeful and mighty a century ago, and we instill those ideals into all of our projects and products. For us, The Dean was an encapsulation of something that could only occur at this moment, as people rediscover the intrigue and beauty of local places, of walkable neighborhoods and of value being measured in ways other than only money.

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