Ashley's Window /

April 23, 2020
Inspiration, Origins, and Industry Trends with Ingrao Inc
Inspiration, Origins, and Industry Trends with Ingrao Inc
Courtesy of INGRAO, inc
Ingrao Inc. is a New York City based design and architectural firm, led by Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper. Since their founding in 1982, they have redefined the modern luxury world, bringing their unique style and sense of refinement to residential and commercial spaces alike.
Our Creative Director, Ashley Stark Kenner, recently had a wide-ranging discussion with Ingrao and Kemper on Instagram Live. Touching on everything from the design challenges of the current global crisis to their origins in the industry itself, Ingrao and Kemper offer fascinating insights into design that could only come from true design masters.
Please enjoy the following excerpts taken from Ashley Stark Kenner’s conversation with Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper.
image 1 Courtesy of INGRAO, inc

ON STARTING IN DESIGN

Tony Ingrao: "We were both made to be designers from the beginning. We were always so excited about everything design-wise from a young age. I [Tony Ingrao] studied architecture at RISD and Randy studied fashion at NYU and we both ended up living in France, which had an enormous effect on how we look at things and how we do things currently. I would say our aesthetic has a huge European influence."

ON HOW THE INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED

TI: “It’s changed dramatically. Back in the early 80s, you're either a traditionalist or a modernist. And in the old days people bought a look. Like say you were a modernist, you were either one of two types of modernist—you were either classic modern, with mid-century style or you were a Donghia, Spectrum modernist, which had a more decorative approach to modern design.
Or you could fall into the traditionalist camp. There was either the very popular Parish-Hadley, Billy Baldwin, take on things with a French-English twist or the Mario Buatta version of an English country house.
Now it's so different because it's so much about interpreting people. Everything is an option and there isn't just one way to do things. People want to make their own statement. They're not looking to buy a look. It’s more individual with wanting you to create for them. They don't want what their friends have.”
Image 2Courtesy of INGRAO, inc

ON THE BIGGEST DESIGN LESSONS THEY’VE LEARNED OVER THE YEARS

TI: “There's never any one solution to things. There are many ways to do things and if you're too rigid, it never really works out. You have to be very flexible as a designer.
A big thing is the clients are always right. (laughs) That is something you learn.
Styles and tastes do change dramatically. And people's perception of those styles is constantly evolving, and you have to represent what your client's philosophy is in life because they always take it very personally, and they want to make sure that you understand how they want to appear.”

ON TRENDS

TI: “Color has been out of fashion for so long, where everything was kind of silver for the last 10 years. We're starting to finally see people asking for color again. And we used to do so much color 20 years ago. But now it's starting to creep itself back in. I really think that's because of the sign of the time we're living in, people feel that they need cozy. They want to feel better.
I also think that people want a naturalness to their interiors. People want things that feel more natural, more earthy.”

ON HOW LIFESTYLE AFFECTS DESIGN

TI: “People dress much more casually and their lifestyle is much more open and casual and that has to be reflected in how they live in their interiors. I love antiques and I love incredible furniture but I don't like everything from one period.”
Image 3Photo: Thomas Loof, Courtesy of INGRAO, Inc.

ON BEING AT HOME

TI: “We’re all living in our houses 24/7 now. It’s very apparent what you like and don't like. We've had to set up home offices. I just think it's very interesting that everything's changed. All of a sudden the open floor plan doesn't work as well. It makes you think of rooms in a different way, and it also makes you realize that you need quiet and simplicity.”

ON ADVICE FOR DESIGNERS

TI: “I think they have to really process the reality of where we're living today and stay calm. They definitely have to have a positive outlook because it will turn around. It will change. We've been in business 40 years, we’ve seen trends come and go, we’ve seen economies come and go, we’ve seen clients pull back and it's going to happen again.
No one knows how long it's going to take for the world to get back to normal, but eventually it does. We can move forward knowing we can rely upon each other. We know that the industry will continue. And I think it's good for designers to realize that the people you work with are your partners when you're designing projects.
And it is essential that you stay in touch with each other and go forward with each other.”

ON MOVING FORWARD

TI: "You know, sometimes through adversity, good things happen. We've been in this forward momentum push since Reagan, driving forward and forward on a 40-year run. And you know what, maybe it's a good time to take a breath and think about everything. Think about how we're living. Because we all have these big firms, we have a lot of overhead, we have all these things that all of a sudden you start saying, well maybe I don't need the new car right now."
“At the end of the day, design is for solace and design will always nurture. And your environment takes care of you. It’s important that we realize that. I think what we've learned too through all of this is that privacy is the ultimate luxury. We've learned the new need for privacy.”
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. Watch the full interview here.
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