“I like practical and useful things as well as fine and rare things…”
Thomas O’Brien is an interior and home furnishings designer based in New York City. He is the founder and President of Aero Studios, one of America’s leading design firms, and the proprietor of Aero Ltd., the iconic home boutique that is the retail face of the studio, open to the public at the same address.
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Since establishing Aero in 1992, O’Brien has been celebrated for translating modernism into a warm and livable style. From private residences to commercial properties, product design to brand and fine art consulting, his work is known for its collected, vintage elegance, even as it is sympathetic to the most practical ideas of home. His sense of the modern comes from filtering together elements from different historical origins, in combinations that can seem at once familiar and revealing: the shared simplicity between 20th century and classical forms; the balance of rustic and refined, comfort and rarity.
In such connections and in his love of the local, O’Brien is an American designer at heart. He draws from the farmhouse as much as the townhouse, and he is a lifelong student of American vernacular antiques and architecture as a foil for modern generations of design. His mix of the modern and traditional extends to the eponymous Thomas O’Brien brand of home furnishings, with furniture, lighting, tableware, textiles, carpets, and bedding and bath collections for both fine and daily living.
As both merchant and designer, O’Brien chooses the old-world model of a design enterprise: keeping a one-of-a-kind store with a curated viewpoint as the anchor to a popular lifestyle brand. This approach allows him to continually create a world unto itself for people to discover, and a laboratory in which to work out the ideas that find their way into his many projects and interiors.
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Thomas O’Brien published his first, best-selling book, American Modern, in 2010. His follow-up, Aero: Beginning to Now, was published in 2013. He lives in New York City and Long Island.
Design laboratory, enterprise central, the studio houses O’Brien’s interiors and architecture practices along with his product design group.
The heart of Aero is the studio, a master design office that supports every aspect of O’Brien’s business. The studio covers three practices: architecture, interiors, and product design. These function in an interdisciplinary model, where crossover and collaboration are the rules rather than the exceptions among the office’s many types of projects. In architecture and interiors, O’Brien’s work is well documented. Residential commissions range from reconfigured lofts to formal apartments; historic country houses and modernist beach homes to new architectural additions and buildings.
Commercial work in Manhattan includes the downtown Soho hotel 60 Thompson and most recently, master interior design planning for the large-scale redevelopment of the Greenwich Village Saint Vincent’s hospital site, a mixed use complex of restored old and new residential buildings. The studio is also currently working extensively in retail design around the world with all of the Williams-Sonoma Inc. brands – West Elm, Pottery Barn and its brand extensions, and Williams-Sonoma itself.
In product development, the studio oversees Thomas O’Brien’s extensive brand of licensed home furnishings, his home collection for Target, and all of the special Aero-made goods for the store. Behind the scenes, the studio is also a master storehouse compiled by O’Brien over many years, containing an amazing library of vintage furnishings, dishes, books, pottery, textiles, lighting, and exquisite samples of, basically, everything designed.
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