American Modern

One of the biggest treats while in New York was being able to stop in and visit Thomas O’Brien at Aero, his studio in Soho.  He devoted an amazing amount of time to this near-stalker/blogger, giving me a tour of the shop and his design studio.

The shop is a wonderful jumble of vintage and antique pieces with O’Brien’s own designs seemlessly mixed in.  He is a collector.  Personally, and in the store. You can see his hand in everything.

When we sat down to visit I asked him why he thought he had been named as a designer who will “last” in my Enduring Style series.  “Huh.  I don’t know,” was his reply and then he went on to discuss his design process in everything from product to interiors to his book.

O’Brien wears his soul on his sleeve and his is not the manic creative energy that you might expect from someone who is executing this inspiring amount of work.  He is exacting and passionate, but in a very low-key way.  He talked a great deal about process and inspiration; he spoke not at all of himself nor did he ever mention the word “brand” though I am sure he is quite aware of this buzz word and its significance.

O’Brien had a copy of his new book, American Modern, there for me to flip through while we talked.  It is a beautiful book featuring some favorite projects, but also homes that have not been published.  As Dick Diver, O’Brien is a man with repose.  His gaze is steady and his hands are still even when he speaks intently about the need to be inspired.  Even though many of us are struggling he notes, “The great buildings still need to be built.”

Thomas O’Brien has new lamps for Visual Comfort that should be hitting retail locations by Spring.  His new collection for Target is rolling into stores now, including some very chic bedding.  He has several new pieces for Hickory Chair that will debut at Highpoint and be in stores by late Summer/early Fall.

You can pre-order his book, American Modern, here.  You should.  It’s terrific.

I received no compensation for this post other than the complete delight of the experience.  All images courtesy of Thomas O’Brien and Aero.

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27 thoughts on “American Modern

  1. I spend inordinate amounts of time looking at Visual Comfort fixtures and many of my favorites are Thomas O'Brien designs. Might just need to pre-order American Modern.

  2. One of my favorite NYC haunts. I spent 3 hours in there one day last fall. Delightful staff & store. Hope you are well.


  3. I am very excited to see Thomas's lines in the public eye, visual Comfort and Target" So happy you had the opportunity to visit with him.

  4. Considering your delight of this experience, I am off to order my own unpretentious copy. Wonderful illustrations and his designs are of course on the mark.

  5. I have long admired Mr. O'Brien's timeless style…so I was hanging on to every word. I have tear sheets that are so crumpled from review. But, I will love and take very good care of the book! And, more new lighting…thrilling! One thing I must point out though, is that you forgot to mention how handsome he is!

  6. I just ordered American Modern–and I can't wait til it arrives. This is truly a man with a sense of who he is and with amazing class. I loved this post. Thanks. Mary

  7. It's certainly a treat to visit Aero, but to meet the master himself? Lucky you! Isn't it refreshing to see someone who is so talented and so successful and so down to earth? That's rare these days.

  8. Hands down one of the most influential designers in my work. I'm glad you included his Visual Comfort lighting. This just may get me to go to Highpoint this spring afterall…

  9. As a designer who lives primarily in Lafayette, LA (but also in NYC part-time) it is SO comforting knowing I always have Circa Lighting to turn to as a great resource for inspired designs from TOB, Eric Cohler, Alexa Hampton, Suzanne Kasler, etc, etc…I use Circa for EVERY project…and have used TOB's lights more than any of the other designers….
    I have met Thomas and also know Andy Singer (owner of VIsual Comfort) and Gale Singer (owner of Circa Lighting)..all delightful folks and a joy to work with!
    Jeffery McCullough

  10. i do.
    i prefer american modern to euro modern.
    the euro is lacking in character and interest.
    i think anyway.

    his work is wonderful.

  11. One of my most favorite lighting designers. I have used his designs on several of my projects. I am excited about the new book and will review it on my blog coming soon.

  12. I adore Thomas and love that his designs have been made accessible to the masses.
    I have never had the pleasure of visiting Aero so thank you for sharing with all of us.


  13. Oh my! He is one of my design heroes. I even used a kitchen he designed as inspiration for my own. I used the same cabinet pulls as he did! Well…this book will be on my "must have" list!

    It seems everyone was in NYC last week! What fun!

  14. Thanks for this great post. How nice to hear that Mr. O'Brien is as lovely as his work! I'm so looking forward to his book — hoping it will knock Darryl Carter's The New Traditional off the top of my bedside stack for a bit.

  15. I just love everything about the look of the new book, and I cannot wait to get it! And aero, how cool are those columns in an otherwise modern loft-like space?

  16. Thomas O'Brien is one of my favourites. His work is a pleasing balance of serenity and freshness, his colour palette, muted with just the right amount of sharpness. He is so accomplished. I too shall order the book!


  17. Oh Mrs B, thank you! How jealous I am that you got to meet the man himself! And thanks for letting me know about his book, this one had somehow escaped my awareness.

  18. I'll be waiting for this book…thanks! OOO…it's so luscious!!

    Nice of him to show you around…always amazed the the open hospitality of bloggers…one big happy goup 🙂


    THE NEW WORK TRIP…I love it.
    'Pod' hotel! I think I know the one you mean. A dear friend used to stay there when it was the Pickwick. Great location. She said you could not actually walk around the bed, and if you had luggage you had to leave it in the hall, and two people would not work, and that you had to vault across the bed to access the bathroom. But it was cosy–and you were never there.
    Interview is brilliant!
    And…OMG…you have fifteen children, and a husband, and you're in the PTA, and you have a top blog, and you write for Elle Decor, and you decorate…and you do needlepoint …PLUS! You talk to people on planes. I must tell you one has to go and it is the last!
    Your needlepoint designs are fabulous…why am I only now seeing them? So witty and wicked.
    I left you a message with the de Vera post…

    MRS BLANDINGS: Your comment about 'going to church' when you visit de Vera's store is going to resonate next week!
    I will be showing some totally beautiful shots of his store–the collections, the details, the setting.
    You will be in heaven–and it will be a spiritual experience.
    Thank you so much for your great comment, best, DIANE

  20. Mrs. Blandings, thank you so much for introducing me to Thomas O'Brien and his incredible style. Lucky you to get to experience it in person.

    Best regards,
    Reynolds Still

  21. I would hide in TO'B's showroom & only reappear after closing time. Then I'd spend the whole night meandering around that wondefully welcoming space, just enjoying the ambiance & style that it just oozes. And pretending it was mine, all mine.
    Millie ^_^

  22. Absolutely elegant design and a treat to be with him. The book is a must(so is reading regularly your blog)

  23. One of my all time favorites. Well, two of my all time favorites (mrs. b + t O'b). Thrilled to here all your NYC news (esp. the texting part; ate dinner in SF on Thursday and B. Williams was at the table directly across the room…how I wanted to text you and tell you!).

    Besides that, you've got me thinking of picking up needle and canvas again (it's been forever). Looks luscious here…

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