Here at The List, we’re ever-curious about the culture of design, so who better to survey about the field’s current state than those currently working at the top of it? In Need to Know, we pick the brains of best-in-class creatives to find out how they got to where they are today—and to share an insider’s perspective on the challenges and highlights of their particular perches in the design world.
Luxury: As capital continues to flow uphill and millionaires and billionaires continue to add zeros to their net worths, the definition of it keeps changing and the sky that was once its limit keeps getting higher. The shift has certainly been felt on the real-estate and interior-design levels as not only do the price tags, demands, and properties grow ever larger, the sheer amount of potential projects does as well.
It’s an upswing that interiors firm Pembrooke & Ives adapted to with great success. Founded over 30 years ago by Andrew Sheinman, the company has only flourished as it’s gone from being somewhat of a niche concern, to the go-to choice for a wide customer base of top-tier architects, developers, real-estate companies, and, yes, billionaire private clients.
And it’s little wonder that Sheinman’s firm was tapped to provide interiors for premiere properties including The Chatsworth, 212 Fifth Avenue, The Astor in New York City, and countless prime residences and retreats for the members of the top tax bracket. At a time where the definition of luxury keeps changing, their stewardship, continuity, and taste, makes sure that, whatever it happens to be, it looks good.
We spoke to Sheinman himself about his beginnings in the industry, his client collaborations, and a surprising new sector of the luxury market below.
I’d love to hear about how you got your start in the industry.
It was this chair to which I owe the beginning of my interior design career. It was the inspiration for my first company “Clothing for Furniture”—designing slip covers for rather ordinary chairs. If fashion could change seasonally, why couldn’t furniture? A New York Times article from 1987 quotes me, rather embarrassingly in retrospect, saying: “Chairs will definitely be showing more of their legs later in the season.” The ordinariness of the chair inspired a concept that elevates the experience of a chair. Out of this concept, Pembrooke & Ives was born.
I’m wondering if your upbringing had a strong influence in the way you think about or experience design?
My physical surroundings certainly influenced where I am today. I grew up in London in a house covered in floral prints. At school, the linoleum, rigid walls, the dark rooms and endless corridors were thoroughly uninspiring and, in retrospect, perhaps a contributing factor to my dropping out.
Looking to show me the ways of the world, my father once took me to his offices in central London. One cubicle after another, it was repetitive and, again, completely uninspiring. I couldn’t imagine working in place like this. Luckily for me, my first professional gig was in the world of design. At a young age I got a job at a couture clothing store, surrounded by beautiful fabrics, exquisite tailoring and well-made product.
Design, it appeared to me, made people behave completely differently. When customers would try on a piece of this clothing, it would transform them. When the company with whom I worked moved to New York, I went with them to Madison Avenue. New York opened its arms to me and the city opened my eyes to the expansive world of design.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Architecture, product design, fashion, textiles. Design is about osmosis, and when you live and breathe design in the way that I do, inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere if you keep your eyes open.
How would you define the Pembrooke & Ives style?
An artisanal approach is integral to our work. We are doing our best to integrate artists’ work into the interiors—into the furniture, materials, decorative finishes—that we are creating and conceiving. We are trying to make things more unique and bring more craftsmanship into our interiors. One of the things that speaks to me is a freeform style; something recognizable but at the same time distinctive and individual. I don’t think our work is steeped in one particular style.
What aspect of the brand are you most proud of?
Our team and our clients. We are only as successful as the people we work with and the projects that come to us. I am very proud to have such a dedicated, hardworking, and talented staff and a diverse range of clients that give us the opportunities to work on such a variety of project types and scales. The biggest compliment is when a client continues to hire you for projects. We have many clients that have been working with us now for many years and have passed us along through their family and now onto new generations.
Walk us through some of the more recent projects you have worked on.
We are incredibly busy right now with many exciting projects in the works. At the larger scale, we are currently working on the High Ridge Country Club in Florida, a 54,000-square-foot new construction project, a 28,000-square-foot private home in Palm Beach, and the conversion of a Tribeca parking lot into a residential building at 24 Leonard Street. We are just about to start working on a gut renovation of a very prominent 40-foot-wide Upper East Side townhouse.
New projects we should know about?
A new sector that we are beginning to work in is in luxury senior living facilities. It is a vastly growing market that we are excited to be involved with and to be able to make real impact on this population’s lives.
Do you have a dream project you’d love to work on, but haven’t yet?
A dream project is about a dream client. To work with people that love design, challenge you and give you space to innovate and create, that is the dream.
What advice do you have for young professionals in the field?
Great design is in the details, whether in fashion, furniture, interiors or architecture—details drive design.