Designer. Story Teller. Glen Coben.
Glen Coben was a principal at The Rockwell Group who believed he could see into the future of his career. He was comfortable with what he saw in terms of recognition and reward. Still, something in his sensibility as a creator forced the question, “Am I meant to go out on my own and do this? I wonder if the dots in my career connect well enough for me to start a firm?” The answers (yes and yes) led to the beginning of his design firm, Glen and Company in 2000, where clients find a design process more like the telling of a cohesive story than like the making of a series of isolated or formulaic decisions. Starting a firm in New York in 2000 turned out to be more risky than Glen imagined, due to the events of September 11th, 2001 and then one each of a mini and major recession in the years to follow. A few substantial early projects buoyed Glen and Company long enough for him to find his voice as a design story teller and to become a sought after group for hospitality design in New York.
“One of the reasons I started the group was because I missed the craft of design. I want to be closer to actual design work from beginning to end rather than managing projects. Chefs and hoteliers have captive audiences for storied design. Hospitality projects are a good fit for us.“
Are designers style makers, or do clients’ taste or vision drive design? Glen believes different firms offer different answers.
If you go to Richard Meier, you know that you will likely build a white building. Admirers of his work seek that out, and that is okay – good even. If you come to Glen and Company, you’ll find craftspeople seeking to understand the theme and story you want to tell, and you’ll find diverse buildings and projects in our portfolio. We designed a restaurant named Carbone, which got positive design reviews from a friend of ours who didn’t recognize it as our design. It was a sincere compliment.
What makes design good?
Good design comes down to a client being confident in who they are. Archer and David Burke are good examples of clients prepared to create good design. They both know themselves and their teams well. That makes their style huge within their own walls.
Was the design process for Archer different than others you’ve participated in?
With Manhattan’s inherent space limitations, Archer wanted to create a new hotel concept including understated, tailored, albeit industrial luxury which will appeal to international clients. He was inspired not to follow the design of other New York hotels, but by the concept of creating a “New American Classic.”
The ideas behind making Archer Hotel New York comfortable for many types of travelers and full of surprises led a natural progression toward creating four distinct room styles. We informally call the room styles: “Masculine,” “Feminine,” “Metro” and “Archer’s Style.” Inside every room, we creatively offer singular experiences for guests with our choice of bedding and bathroom materials, textures, design and placement.
“We have worked hard on our story with Archer. We stayed true to the story. I think it shows.”