Nationally recognized for his Target brand, interior and home furnishings designer Thomas O’Brien shared his secrets to managing and curating his New York home studio and boutique during the January Total Home & Gift Market. Sharing tales from his latest book Aero: Beginning to Now, O’Brien inspired retailers to look at design projects one thing at a time.

“Things aren’t props,” he writes in Aero: Beginning to Now. “They are and have always been, certainly in my own collecting, a means to establishing a style.” (182)

O’Brien told retailers how he came to establish the “warm modern” style that defines his store. O’Brien gained industry fame by decorating Ralph Lauren’s personal home and designing commercial interiors for Giorgio Armani. He was working with Ralph Lauren just before opening his store in 1992.
February 2013 store design

“We literally started with a dollar and a dream,” he said. “Aero went through this journey from idea to reality. And it really comes out of my love of looking at things. ... We can do things with our store and make it our own. For me it’s very personal. The furniture in the store becomes this other spirit.”
April 2013 store design
At the end of his presentation, O’Brien offered advice on managing a store. He noted the biggest challenges owners face today is being honest, especially with clients. He shared a tale from his early days when he fired a client for being mean to his staff.

“As you get older, you either get meaner or nicer. I want to be nicer and deciding that gives you a really positive outlook.”
December 2013 store design

Thomas is optimistic about the future of home design. His book Aero: Beginning to Now is a follow-up to his first publication American Modern. Both are available for purchase online.
-Kian Hervey