Neither John nor Christine Gachot went to formal design schools, but it’s hard to imagine a more complete design education than the real-world experience enjoyed by the husband-and-wife team behind buzzy New York firm Gachot Studios. In the 1990s, Christine worked for artist Peter Max before landing at Studio Sofield (she met John there), then departed for the commercial design world with hotelier André Balazs. Meanwhile, John was polishing his residential bona fides: After leaving Studio Sofield, he worked for both David Easton and Thad Hayes before going out on his own; Marc Jacobs was his first solo client.
In 2012, the two finally united (as work partners; they had been married long before) to form the eponymous Studio Gachot. From the beginning, this was no tiny studio limited to boutique projects but a significant creative force executing not only magazine-ready homes but also hospitality projects like the Shinola Hotel in Detroit and the Pendry in New York. The drive to do residential, commercial and product work (the pair have designed fixtures for Waterworks) is part and parcel of an omnivorous creative vision—one that’s now executed by a studio of more than 40 employees.
“You take on projects for different reasons,” John tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “There are projects that you need to do financially. You have passion projects that might not pay anything but add that energy to the studio. You have projects you feel might create a publicity moment that will help spread the word and hopefully generate more work. Having enough people on hand [is crucial so that] … if something comes by, we’re not turning down a project that we really, really want.”
What does it take to build a big firm, especially in the time of COVID-19? The Gachots say that flexibility and an open mind are key ingredients. The pair keep a lively atmosphere in the studio and actively seek to hire candidates who may not fit the industry mold: A great personality and a willingness to work sometimes matter more than the right alma mater. Above all, the Gachots have aimed to hire around what they themselves don’t do.
“Most creative people are not great businesspeople. Knowing what you don’t know is as important as knowing what you do know. Have someone do your finances. Have someone do your billing. Have it set up properly. Get a publicist! Take the business end as seriously as the creative end.”
On the business front, another key aspect of the Gachots’ firm is that they charge a comprehensive flat fee but no markup on product. It’s a structure that comes from the commercial side of the firm but carries over to residential projects. Having no extra financial incentive in what product gets picked, says Christine, allows the duo to work freely.
“I want to do the job you hired me to do. I don’t want to also be selling you something; that just doesn’t feel right,” she says. “Are we leaving money on the table? Of course we are. But at the end of the day, we want to be called back. We’re not in this for today. We’re in it for a long-term successful business and repeat clients.”
Homepage photo: John and Christine Gachot | Courtesy of Gachot Studios