The entrance to Watson & Co. is unassuming—not exactly what you’d expect for an award-winning NYC-based creative agency. Nestled in the heart of New York’s bustling Chinatown, it’s not until you’ve made it through the building’s front door—hidden between food and off-priced vendors—its somewhat drab hallway and old elevator that you understand the true vision of William Richmond-Watson, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of the namesake agency.
“[The original space] was a cross between a nightclub, a massage parlor, and a dumpling house. There was a maze of dividing walls, 90% of the windows were sheetrocked over and much of the interior was painted black. The first thing I did [when I got the space] was let light into the studio, open it up, and reveal a lot of the integrity of the existing architecture,” explains William, who started Watson & Co. in 2008. The firm now offers 360-degree creative consultancy and brand building for the hospitality, publishing, real estate, retail, wine and spirits industries.
“Architecture to me is about a feeling of lightness achieved through space and light. As well as the space itself, I designed most of the furniture. The big shelves are inspired by Donald Judd shelves from the ‘80s. The vitrine table in the conference room that houses a lot of our work was inspired by the cabinet of curiosities my grandmother had in her house. And our front desk design is drawn from desks you find in museums or art galleries (we just have a more friendly receptionist).”
The now bright open-concept space shows little semblance of its prior tenants. Long rows of desks line the interior, and a creative clutter of art books, photographs and objets line the walls. And the space doesn’t end there—up another set of stairs and you’re welcomed onto an light pink-painted rooftop, fitted with a grassy floor, looming water tower, built-in bar, and views spanning the city.
“The roof garden has been an ongoing project; it is a communal space that I wanted to build for the entire building and it comes alive in the summer and fall with concerts, parties, and figure drawing. It sounds a bit grandiose to say down here in Chinatown, but I was inspired by the rooftop at The Met.”
We spoke to William about his keys to design, his favourite pieces, and when art became an interest.
“I think subconsciously I became interested around six or seven. I redesigned (and often repainted) my bedroom on weekly basis, ongoing amateur paint and construction, a parent’s dream!”
On designing around art and furniture
“If you are lucky enough to have both art and furniture before you start [designing a space], then one feeds the other. More often than not, it’s about getting the space right and then adding in art and furniture. It’s usually a question of budget—sometimes you’ll have one key piece, like the Iván Argote painting or the shot we took with Pamela Hanson hanging in our conference room, and that can lead a space.”
On his favourite piece on his bookshelf
“The photographs of my two-year-old daughter Lola and I.”
On his office artwork
“[The painting behind my desk] is an Iván Argote piece, who is now represented by Perrotin Gallery. I like it because it’s inspired by his freehand graffiti pieces but has been made graphic in a very literal sense. It simply breaks the confines of the canvas.”
William Richmond-Watson is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Watson & Co., an NYC-based creative agency. He’s also a painter, collector and father to the adorable Lola.
Photography by Stephanie Noritz.