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Interior design advice: Tell your own story

Insights from the award winning interior design firm Roman and Williams may boost your confidence for choosing furnishings.

Not everyone finds interior design enjoyable. Buying distinctive home furniture, art, and decor can be daunting. It’s a large investment and most of us have to live with our choices for quite some time before it’s time for another change.

Help can be found in an unexpected place: In October 2016, eBay launched the eBay Collective, offering select furnishings and decorative pieces from designers and dealers who are vetted and chosen based on their reputation and the quality of their items. By offering authentic, quality pieces and world-class inventory, those dealers, currently numbering more than two dozen, make finding and purchasing distinctive furnishings a little easier.

Interior design help from eBay Collective

Single Chair by Leon Jallot

Single Chair by Leon Jallot (1874-1967) Art Nouveau, France, circa 1906, $4,500. Courtesy of Roman and Williams/eBay Collective,

On the hunt but don’t know what for? Shoppers can browse by style, category, or dealer. For example, virtual shoppers who shop according to style currently can choose from the following themes: Scandinavian Cool, The Country House, Artful Décor, The Manor Reborn, American Classics, and Eastern Influence.

What’s even more fun is the “Shop the Room” feature, whereby the user hovers over an item in a fully designed space and the tool will search eBay inventory to suggest similar items.

The New York design firm Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors is one of the prestigious businesses that is offering inventory on eBay Collective. The principals of the company, Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, teamed up in 2002 to found the firm, which is named after their grandfathers. Since then, they’ve designed residences for the likes of Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow. The firm has also completed commercial design projects such as The Chicago Athletic Association in Chicago and the Viceroy Hotel in New York City.

Distinguished by their “blending of historical elements with modern references,” Roman and Williams has received international acclaim and accolades. Once such award is the Smithsonian’s National Design Award for excellence in Interior Design in 2014.

Antique Trader recently had a chance to get insights from the award-winning interior designers. Our goal was to seek answers about what makes pieces warrant inclusion in their eBay Collective marketplace? And what are their design goals?

About the designers

Antique Trader: Tell us about your personal history ... Have you always known that you wanted to be designers? What inspired you to found the Roman and Williams firm?

Robin Standefer (for Roman and Williams): Stephen and I have backgrounds that certainly helped to inform our future: I in fine art, and Stephen in architectural design. We met, however, during our time as production designers in film. Our experience within film was an inspiration and an additional education. That experience strongly informed our now focal point, and the creation of Roman and Williams.

In film work we would create an imagined world and environment that was so powerful, but its life was temporary. We eventually had a greater appetite for stylistic complexity, exploration, a desire to create something more permanent. With Roman and Williams, we are creating spaces, homes, buildings that have a larger, truer existence. Our hope is it to evoke a feeling or emotion, an engagement.

interior design statement piece carved african stool

Hand-carved African three-legged stool, available from Roman and Williams’ marketplace on eBay Collective, $849. Courtesy of Roman and Williams/eBay Collective,

Antique Trader: What recent design trends are you noticing in public and private spaces?

Robin Standefer: The trend we gravitate towards ourselves is mastering the mix. We strive to create a hybrid of styles, a spectrum of high and low, a rich mix of origins and time periods, all within what is contextual. We don’t ever want to be a slave to one style or perspective. And we see a warming trend continuing in design that will ripple through all interior and architectural realms.

Antique Trader: Give us an example of how you might “blend historical elements with modern references.”

Robin Standefer: We examine each of our projects as a story, understanding its past and developing a scheme for its future. We consider how to give it a certain voltage that resonates or challenges the current day. We study the space’s history. Metaphorically it’s a deep-dive excavation; we are seeking out a way to celebrate its integrity.

Our re-design of the Chicago Athletic Association is a strong example: We loved its history from the start. It was built in 1893, and we found references of Gothic Architecture dating back to the 13th century. In specific instance, we sought to mix its existing history with a collection of early 20th century pieces from Brazil and Scandinavia. They created a tension and drama to the space. We thrive off activating what was inanimate, and bringing a past life to new invention.

Advice from the professionals

Antique Trader: What are some of the questions prospective clients should get answers to before hiring a design firm?

Robin Standefer: There are plenty of questions that should be asked regarding deadlines, budgets, or the scope of the work. But we would think it’s more so about alignment, and understanding the needs of the client, do these sync? Are both parties able to speak the same language? It’s also about building a friendship and trust – we want to understand our client’s goals and how they want to live. As designers we are seeking how to help them in a way that animates their lives.

Antique Trader: What are some absolute “musts” and/or “must nots” when designing a living space?

Robin Standefer: There is always a need for beauty and function. However, setting boundaries with “musts” can be counter-intuitive.

Where interior design statement pieces come from

sheep sculpture

Francois - Xavier Lalanne Sheep, Flock of 5, available from Roman and WIlliams, $850,000.

Antique Trader: How do pieces come to be in your eBay Collective marketplace? Are they singular pieces that, although wonderful, you purchased but that didn’t find a place in an interior design project?

Robin Standefer: The pieces in our eBay Collective marketplace are curated selections that resonate with Roman and Williams and our eye. Each piece is derived from eBay’s trusted source of dealers. They have great value, a story, and inspire us – a diversified mix of high and low pieces.

Antique Trader: What are some of your favorite items in your eBay Collective market? Why do they stand out?

Robin Standefer: We wanted our favorite items to reflect our mastery of the spectrum and mix. Items include Belgium artist Jan Yoors’ charcoal drawings to Japanese Awaji pottery to the iconic Francois Xavier Lalanne sheep. Our choices span decades, genres. Each has their own varied education (an additional value all its own), but are unified by what we believe is beautiful and intriguing. 

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