i+D - May/June 2019 - 51
ICONic Profile: Stanley Felderman & Nancy Keatinge - By Ambrose Clancy
The Los Angeles-based firm of Felderman Keatinge
& Associates covers design and architecture in
all its forms. Known for a distinctive, innovative
style, the firm has no boundaries, working in
residential as well as commercial design, including
large corporations, such as Disney, Samsung-they
designed the headquarters in Seoul-and Sony,
to name a few of many. Nancy Keatinge, a child
of southern California, and Stanley Felderman,
a New York kid, have blended styles and concepts
into a beautiful, organic unity of design with
groundbreaking and often-copied work, as diverse
as the MTV network offices and the Shibuya train
station in Tokyo. The married couple are winners
of numerous awards in the field, and their
work has been showcased in The Museum of Modern
Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
i+D spoke to the couple from their office
in Culver City, California.
i+D: You're known for your design of offices.
Can you speak about the feeling of entering an
office and having a sensation that the design is
screaming at you?
Felderman: Some spaces are loud acoustically, but
also visually. In life, we need balance and a sense of
calmness, and that's what we want to bring to offices.
Keatinge: We focus not just on the visitor, but also
the employees, understanding what's important to
them. We hear, "I love coming to work," and others
talking about a sense of security. It's been a focus
of ours for 20 years, since the MTV network.
i+D: Have you ever received pushback from
executives for being too employee-centric in
Keatinge: Yes. And, we've said, "If you can't find
the money in your budget, we can change things
and make the experience for your employees a
Felderman: We have an expression: Spread the
wealth. We ask clients, "How can we enrich the
employees' experience? How can we help them be
Keatinge: Retention of employees is so important,
when today they're always looking to see what else
is out there.
Image: Danilo Agutoli
i+D: The trend in offices is lots of open space to
encourage collaboration. Do you ever consider
making the talented introvert comfortable?
Keatinge: Always. There are people who need
privacy. It's critical, for example, to provide places
where you can go and have a phone call so
you don't have to go outside. And, quiet places
for quiet conversations.
i+D: You two are living proof opposites attract.
Nancy, you're from L.A. What's interesting to
you about New York besides the pace?
Keatinge: Seeing what's going on in art, in the
galleries and museums. It's inspirational.
i+D: Stanley, what do you like about L.A.
besides the weather?
Felderman: (Laughing) Let's see. The weather?
"Nobody will ever get money from a machine."
People wanted someone to handle it, holding on to
it physically. And, someone to talk to.
i+D: At least you didn't say, "Nothing."
Felderman: Oh, okay. There's a real sense of
community here. There's that idea that in Los Angeles
there's this laissez-faire attitude, but it's really quite
the opposite. I find it invigorating. When I go to
New York, it's nonstop explosive. I love it. But here,
I see the Pacific Ocean every day. It's a nurturing
place. My brain functions in a more quiet way.
i+D: No one thinks about it anymore, getting
money on any street corner in the world so
quickly and efficiently.
Felderman: The design had to change the status
quo. And, it did.
i+D: Are you collectors, besides art?
Keatinge: We collect chairs.
Felderman: In our home, we have chairs by
Frank Gehry, Hampton, Maya Lin, and others.
We feel the presence of the designers.
Keatinge: It's like having a conversation with them.
Felderman: I also collect coffee cups and re-purpose
them. Go to my Instagram page. Other designers
are now collecting my cups.
i+D: How often do you travel for work?
Keatinge: About once a month.
i+D: Any guilty pleasures to soothe the experience?
Felderman: My weakness is chocolate. In airports,
I'm always buying specialty chocolates. Or, ice cream.
Keatinge: And, if we can get it, a more
i+D: You've spoken about the concept
of "total design."
Keatinge: We design everything for our clients,
down to customizing furniture, light fixtures,
the artwork, so it reflects who they are and their
brand. We've done industrial design for different
companies over the years, so we're looking at the
total space, not just one piece of it.
i+D: What are you reading?
Keatinge: "Grit," by Angela Duckworth, a book
that says sometimes it's not just about talent, but
it's perseverance that moves you forward, and
having passion for what you do. Not standing still,
but reinventing, looking forward to what's next.
The people who are the creative ones are the ones
who won't be replaced.
i+D: Paper or screen?
Keatinge: Paper. I enjoy sitting in my Knoll womb
chair and reading books.
i+D: It's all about chairs?
Felderman: I'm with that.
i+D: Stanley, you designed one of the first ATMs.
Felderman: Back then, the future was that you'd
have a card and were going to get money from
a machine-very Flash Gordian. Mosler was in the
bank business and they were thinking that way.
I was hired to develop the ATM. People said,
i+D - May/June 2019
i+D: Running a business, what's the essential
tool for a successful leader?
Keatinge: Integrating your employees into what
you're doing. We bring our team into client
meetings so they hear and understand what's going
on in the project. Nothing is lost in translation.
People know they have value.
Felderman: Delegate to empower.
i+D: What's the worst advice you ever received?
Felderman: A high school teacher told me I wasn't
good in math so I shouldn't pursue architecture.
Keatinge: Coming from a family of attorneys,
I was told not to be an artist of any kind, you'll
never make money. Wrong.
i+D: Stanley, you're known for sketching by hand.
Felderman: I can't get through dinner without a pen
in my hand. I'm always drawing. My mother was
stabbed in the hand with a pen when I was a little
kid when she reached in my pocket for something.
Keatinge: Our kids, Kate and Sara, do the same
thing. When we go out to dinner, we're all drawing.
i+D: Better than staring at your phones.
Felderman: Our kids complain we're on our
phones more than they are.
i+D: You're obviously doing something right.
Keatinge: They're at Rhode Island School of
Design. Kate's a jeweler and Sara's a painter, an
activist who wants to use art to make a change.
i+D: What do you always have with you?
Keatinge: A small notebook. I like to write
and always carry one with me.
Felderman: I have a necklace that Kate made
when she was nine-years-old. A silver twist.
It's about togetherness. At nine, to come up with
that concept...I never take it off.
i+D: Living together, raising children together,
and working together-how do you keep from
killing each other?
Felderman: (Laughing) We have a deep love of each
other. We enjoy being with each other. It takes being
a good listener and having a passion for what we do.
Keatinge: And, a sense of humor.
Felderman: (Laughing) That, too.
is the editor of the Shelter Island Reporter and a novelist,
nonfiction author, and journalist. His work has appeared
in GQ, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.
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