Pattern Players: Translating Design for TV into Real Life With Anthony Carrino
If you've ever watched HGTV or DIY Network (guilty!), you've more than likely seen Anthony Carrino, along with his cousin, John Colaneri, who make up the home-renovating duo known as The Cousins (or, as they were first known to fans, the Kitchen Cousins). Born and raised in New Jersey, Anthony grew up in the home building and design world, restoring and repurposing old industrial buildings. From private projects to life on the small screen, Anthony has created an illustrious career out of his knack for space planning, creative design solutions, and seeing past what a home is, and instead seeing what it could be - and then making it so.
We caught up with Anthony to learn more about his love for restoring and repurposing old industrial buildings, how designing homes on TV translates to real life, and, of course, how we lives and works with pattern.
Hygge & West: Tell us a little bit about your background, your work, and what led you to where you are today.
Anthony Carrino: I am a self-taught designer with a business education. I have always loved this duality and found it very useful. My father and I decided to start our company together after we renovated a one-off brownstone in Hoboken, NJ. We gutted the building, and in 12 months had a finished product that consisted of four units. We designed each of them individually, taking the time to add unique touches that would separate our product from the cookie-cutter mold of all the other inventory that was on the market. It worked in a big way; we sold out the entire building in just three weeks, with a list of people asking for more units, so my father and I decided this would be our new business. We ran that business for 12 years together; our focus was on the adaptive reuse and restoration of architecturally significant buildings within the urban core of Jersey City, returning these once great structures to their former glory, while transforming the interiors into updated, well-designed condo apartments.
In 2011, my cousin, John, and I tripped into HGTV, and while we never looked to be on television, it is a part of my career that I am very grateful for, as it has allowed us to share our passion, designs, and knowledge with so many more people than I could have ever imagined; not to mention the experiences we have had along the way!
With the success of our various HGTV series and my father nearing retirement, we closed our construction company, as we couldnt execute the projects we wanted to while on the road. It was at this point that anthony carrino design was born. With ACD, I am able to do site visits when I am home and the GC (general contractor) can make progress when I am not. I have a cloud-based workflow, which allows me to design and have access to all my design materials from wherever I am, so my clients, or their GC, are only a call away if they need me.
H&W: You've designed and built countless spaces on television, often under tight budgets and even tighter deadlines. What are some lessons you've learned from design TV that translate into real life design?
AC: Organization and planning has always been a big part of what I do; television brings this to a whole other level. It has pushed me so far beyond what I thought I was capable of that no problem seems insurmountable to me anymore. It is an oddly sadistic life, where you almost begin to crave that level of insanity. At the height of Kitchen Cousins, we were working seven days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day, for about a year and half straight; I forgot how to downshift and relax. That said, planning for private jobs, anticipating problems before they happen, and paying attention to the details (which is what it's all about) seems like it is in slow-motion now, which makes for a really great working environment.
John and I have recently launched a new podcast, Home With The Cousins, and it is born out of the idea that so few homeowners are actually familiar with the process of a home renovation, that we wanted to give them a true play-by-play to help them avoid the pitfalls and time-sucks that will chew up their budget and keep them living on a construction site instead of a completed project. The podcast will evolve to be much more than just this, but this is going to be our initial series of episodes, and we will be including downloadable templates of different spreadsheets to help folks accomplish their goal of a home renovation with the least amount of pain possible.
H&W: How does your background in building (and the knowledge and expertise that comes along with it) inspire and influence your design work?
AC: The biggest thing my building experience influences is my communication. ACD is a design and construction management (CM) firm, so when you hire us to design your project, we are also interfacing with your contractor on your behalf. This does two things: 1) It takes a huge stress and worry off my clients, who dont know the construction language, the questions to ask, and if they are being told the right answers or not. 2) It makes the contractors happy because they are talking with someone who is used to the process and can get them fast answers in a format that they can work with. Most homeowners are likely to go through one, maybe two, renovations or building projects in their lives, and there is a lot to learn for this process; I love knowing I can take that off their shoulders. In short, I am a bridge - I speak contractor and I speak homeowner.
H&W: You recently used Daydream and Foret in a stunning SoHo loft. Why did you choose these patterns and colorways? What do you think they each brought to the spaces in which you used them?
AC: Foret is probably my single favorite paper you guys make (so hard to have a favorite!). My client wanted a super luxe feeling powder room. As it is a tiny space, I wanted it to have lot of detail one could experience and discover. I find that bold pattern works very well in small spaces, especially when it is a space you dont live in, but a space that you experience in shorter bursts, so Foret was an obvious choice here. I went with the charcoal colorway because of the brass fixtures and accents we were using; grey and brass play so well together. I had my kitchen manufacturer in Italy reach out to a friend to hand-make the sink inside the vanity that he created for us; the subtle grey veining in the Carrera also playing with the charcoal in Foret. I love that this tiny space is packed with design, and Foret has this transportive quality that, for all its busyness, is very calming.
The master suite is meant to be a getaway, and for me there is nothing more calming than passing clouds in the sky. Daydream allowed me to recreate that feeling through pattern, and considering the other industrial design elements within the space, the blush colorway is most certainly a nod to the feminine, with the grey paint to balance it out and keep that cool vibe.
H&W: How do you use pattern in your work? What about in your own home?
AC: My favorite places to use pattern in my work are rugs, wallpaper, and pillows. The biggest thing with pattern is to use it well, as too many competing or clashing patterns can go very wrong very quickly, so I definitely use pattern with restraint.
In my own home, I use pattern in each of the areas I mentioned above. I have large over-dyed rugs on my concrete floors that have vintage patterns on them, but because of the over-dyed nature of the rugs the pattern is very subtle, and almost a background element to the color itself. In my entryway, I have a geometric wallpaper which defines the entry that opens up to the entire loft space. Lastly, the pillows on the living room couch also have a geometric pattern on them, but pick up the colors from the over-dyed rugs on the ground, so each element pulls from the other and all the layers work together seamlessly.
H&W: One of your specialities is layout and spatial design. What are your tips for creating a high-functioning, but also aesthetically pleasing space?
AC: You need to consider how you are going to use the space, and you need to do it honestly. You might think you want to throw a lot of parties or cook big dinners, but will you actually do that? You want to design your home for a great everyday experience, which may be very different from how you would see if for a party. You can always rearrange things so they work for an event, but you want to design for life. My initial meetings with clients usually last about two hours and our conversation is all over the place. This allows me to get to know them in a more personal way in order to dig into life and how to design the home around that.
As far as advice, everything is a matter of perspective. Photography has taught me to look at the same scene in multiple ways, from multiple angles. I have translated this to my design life and always look at a room or a space in multiple configurations, even if I am happy with the first one I develop.
H&W: Many of your designs have a decidedly urban, industrial-modern sensibility. How do you balance the industrial aesthetic with the comfort and coziness we all crave from our homes?
AC: Guilty, and I love it! This balance is what I love about design. The word "juxtaposition" is used so much, but I guess thats because it is appropriate. The way in which I go about creating this is using the industrial elements in the shell of the space, and then softening up as I layer inwards. This is made much easier by the nature of where I do most of my work. When you are in these great old buildings in Jersey City and Manhattan from the late 18th, early 19th centuries, that shell canvas is present for you. The trick here is uncovering it, as many developers cover these things up. Perfect example: in the Tribeca loft (above), I did a raw concrete ceiling in the living and dining rooms; this already existed, and when I told my clients we were going to scrape their ceiling down they near fell over. But their trust in me, and my knowledge and experience working in these structures delivered an incredible and unexpected result. The home feels incredibly soft and inviting, and because that raw industrial concrete is such a departure from the soft, it instantly stands out as a design element with a storied past from New Yorks bygone era.
H&W: Hygge is the Danish concept of coziness - mental, physical, spiritual, or otherwise. How do you find or create hygge in your home and in your everyday life?
AC: As I mentioned above, I worked for about a year and a half straight, so it took some doing for me to find my hygge. I was on the road so much, constantly working, that the feeling of comfort and relaxation was not a focus for me. As I was nearing burnout, we were just wrapping our second season, so I headed out for some travel, which always fuels and recharges me. Taking some good introspective time and realizing that time away makes me better when I am present. I never let go of this again. I now make it a point to go and do something interesting on almost every shoot, no matter how busy it gets. The camera is my vehicle for this; I absolutely love shooting photographs, so I seek out interesting places to capture, and I make sure I am present and experiencing them for what they are at the same time. I also meditate for 10 minutes every morning. Ok, thats a lie I try to mediate for 10 minutes every morning, with the goal of getting to a 30-minute meditation. I usually do it a minimum of three times a week, but that 10 minutes (usually right when I wake up, before coffee) is incredible. I highly recommend trying the Calm app for iPhone.
My home is truly a reflection of myself and my lifes experiences, so there is an innate sense of belonging. When I designed this space, I took the time to really think about what I wanted and I created it, so I always look forward to coming home. One of the main elements that creates my hygge at home is my hanging fireplace. Sculpturally it is beautiful, and in the winter when we have fires, which is almost every night, the smell of the burning wood and the dancing flames puts me at ease. Aside from that, being that I am in a loft, I have very tall ceilings: 18 feet 7 inches to be exact. This volume of space with the massive arched windows (11 feet wide x 13 feet tall) is always flooded with light and never feels heavy or closed in. The last, and probably most important component of my hygge are the pieces that create the story of my life, whether it be large format photographs I have taken, a stack of Instagram prints of my girlfriend and I on our coffee table, or the myriad items we have from our travels. Everything reminds us of what we have done and where we have gone. We are firm believers that life is a collection of experiences, not things, so while we do collect these little things they are meant to evoke the memory of the experience and that is my hygge.