Welcome to General Assembly design studio

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Top left and right, bottom left: General Assembly project "Hudson Home" © Matthew Williams, bottom right: portrait of Sarah Zames and Colin Stief © Sean Davidson

Sarah Zames and Colin Stief are the people behind NYC-based design studio General Assembly. The studio's name summarizes a core value of their practice: they treat every interior design project as a complete work, handling everything from interior architecture to furniture. Join us as we chat with Sarah and Colin about their careers in design so far, their influences and their dream future project!

1. Hello Sarah and Colin! Can you tell us a little bit about your backgrounds in design and how General Assembly came to be?

General Assembly refers to the joining of all the parts that go into creating a successful space. We approach each project from the architecture to the interior as equal parts.

Sarah started General Assembly about 11 years ago, after leaving work in larger Architectural firms because she was looking for a shift in the scale of work and wanted to find more of a connection to the spaces she was working on. Colin joined General Assembly after graduating from RISD with a degree in interior architecture, and became a partner in the office about 4 years ago.

Over the years, the studio has refined its practice to focus on the intimacy of smaller moments within a space. Creating these moments within a home, involves both an architectural perspective with regards to light, circulation and use, and an interior level of finishing that focuses on texture and detailing.

2. What is one design project that you particularly enjoyed working on?

We recently completed a combination of two apartments in New York's West Village. The project is a real blend of classic New York and modern detailing. Having worked with the homeowner in the past, we had a very fluid and open dialogue during the design process. As a result, the project really pushed our office and the result is a really stunning space reflective of both us and the homeowner.

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On the left: General Assembly project "Bergen Street Townhouse" © Matthew Williams, on the right: General Assembly project "Catskills Barn" © Joe Fletcher

3. Being based in Brooklyn, New York, how much would you say that location affects your work and creative vision? Are you often inspired by your surroundings?

Being in Brooklyn, we are constantly inspired by the creative community around us and have been lucky to work with some super talented people. We recently opened a store front, Assembly Line, where we have put together a curated selection of some of our favorite designers, many of which are based in New York.

4. Would you consider yourselves art lovers? If so, could you tell us some artists that you have your eye on at the moment?

We are always inspired by the practical, and beautiful work of Agnes Martin. She creates such a big impact through her simple use of line and color.

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General Assembly project "Callicoon Stone House" © Matthew Williams

5. Is your design approach directly influenced by any past design movements?

I would say our approach is linked to the past, but not necessarily inspired by one movement. We pull from the nostalgic objects and interiors of our past and attempt to inject a bit of that imperfect and layered aesthetic into our work.

Each project is different and we pull inspiration from the site and who we are designing for. We are drawn to materials and textures that will wear and tell the story of the homeowners through time.

6. Is there one particular kind of interior design project that you would love to work on in the future?

Renovations of historical buildings are always a favorite. Being able to design a space that is rooted in the past gives us the chance to add one more layer to its life. You have to be sensitive and in many cases let the space make design decisions for you.

7. Finally, what do you think is the most important piece of advice you could give to an aspiring interior designer?

Don't be scared to follow a more intuitive approach to design. We think design education can get a little too practical at times. Find what you are interested in and continue to build on it.

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Their favorite artworks

Vivien (On Green) - Guggenheim Show Gathering 2022, Alex Katz

Vivien (On Green) - Guggenheim Show Gathering 2022

Alex Katz

Print - 31.9 x 24 inch


Saint-Tropez Boucherie - 1971 Slim Aarons Limited Edition Estate Stamped Print, Slim Aarons

Saint-Tropez Boucherie - 1971 Slim Aarons Limited Edition Estate Stamped Print

Slim Aarons

Photography - 40 x 60 inch