Will Cooper and Ari Heckman:   Finding diamonds in the rough

With magazine tears and colour swatches lining their walls, and design books and renderings their desks, it’s no secret what business Will Cooper and Ari Heckman are in. The two partners, along with Jonathan Minkoff and Jenna Goldman, head up the Brooklyn-based firm ASH NYC, whose work spans from large-scale development and refurbishment projects, to residential interior design and staging, and most recently, a furniture line.

Ari “We met through mutual contacts; at the time Will was working at Ralph Lauren. It was in the early days of ASH as a company, and we had two completely siloed departments: real estate and interior design. When Will joined, it catalyzed the joining of the two different areas into one integrated company.”

Will and Ari’s work crosses a lot of territory, both in the real and figurative sense, exploring forgotten buildings and neighbourhoods and breathing new life into them.

Ari “Location is super important—we like to buy buildings in neighbourhoods that have a lot of positive indicators in terms of their future. The basic stuff, like seeing trends of interesting tenants moving into the neighbourhood. We tend to work on a lot of buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places—that’s a key component. In terms of uses, we find a location or building we like and then try to envision uses for that real estate.”

From America’s oldest open-air market to a Renaissance Revival hotel in Detroit, to a New Orleans church, ASH sources structures throughout the US long overdue for an upgrade and revamps them into unique hotels, residential and commercial spaces.

“It’s more interesting to listen to a building and let it speak to you, and design into and celebrate that.”

Will “It’s easier to design for old buildings because you already have confines to work within. You have limits obviously, but it’s more interesting to listen to a building and let it speak to you, and design into and celebrate that. New buildings can be beautiful, as well, but often are soulless—there’s no historical component.

“Regardless if it’s a private home for a person or a hotel, we always start [designing a space] with what it is saying to us. We look at the period of the building, the style of the building, and then we kind of go from there. We extract inspiration from everywhere—we’re looking all over the world, all of the time, so looking historically at what was going on in the space, or if it’s a client, what their background is, what their world is, and what they like to do, and designing into that. For hotels, we specifically create a brand narrative around the city and the place.”

In 2012, the duo was approached with a unique property: an old strip club in Providence, Rhode Island. Now known as The Dean, they turned the derelict building’s 60 rooms into their very first hotel venture, now a cornerstone of their business.

Will “Hotels touch on everything we do from the development and financing, to operations and design, to the branding and management of the property. We create that experience and then turn it over to the public to inhabit—there’s this humanity component. I think one of the most exciting things for us is looking at how people are experiencing it, and how the local people, or the ones travelling from all over the world, see it. We have the original idea, but then everyone else has their own idea when they’re there.”

“We create that experience and then turn it over to the public to inhabit—there’s this humanity component.”

Ari “It’s an enduring and evolving thing that you’ve created and you get to watch people occupy it in a very public manner, like visiting it on social media, so that’s really cool.”

Will Cooper is Chief Creative Officer, and Ari Heckman is Chief Executive Officer, of ASH NYC, a Brooklyn-based design and development agency.

Kotn NYC, opening August 10th at 112 Mercer Street, SoHo.

Worn by Will Cooper and Ari Heckman

Will and Ari are both 6'1". Will is wearing an Essential Crew T-shirt in Large, Ari is wearing a 90s Sweatshirt in Medium

Essential Crew T-shirt in White

90s Sweatshirt in Navy