Texas-born New York-based designer, Will Cooper, is the Chief Creative Officer of acclaimed design studio, ASH NYC, and the owner and designer behind some of Cabana's favorite hotels, including Peter & Paul in New Orleans and the newly-opened Ulysses in Baltimore. He sits down with Cabana to share - among many things - his greatest challenges, guiltiest pleasures, favorite fabrics and interior design preferences.
The best party I’ve ever been to:
My first birthday party. My mom hosted my friends at home, and the theme was 'cleaning'. I was born obsessed with cleaning; everyone got personalized cleaning buckets and outfits and we cleaned and ate cake. On family holidays I would often stay at the hotel with the housekeeping staff in lieu of going on the planned activities. To this day, I still love to vacuum. The [best] gift was a personalized mint-green hoover emblazoned with, 'Will’s Carpet Service'.
The most memorable trip I’ve taken:
A grand tour of India right before the pandemic. I was taken on a wonderful journey by a friend who lives in Mumbai. With me were two work colleagues and we were treated to many fantastic experiences and excursions as we were developing the look and feel for [our new hotel], Ulysses. We ended up using many of the sources there to execute work on the hotel, including block printing in Bagru, beading in Jaipur, and so on. Many, many points of interest - the most fun ones are the ones less seen by the masses — like the Bombay Yacht Club, which is a treasure stuck in time, and where we met a man as old as time that had successfully sailed around the world solo. We had lunch with the Surana family in Jaipur, preeminent jewelers who also own the Raj Mandir, which was the first cinema in India, and which we toured with great awe. No visit to Jaipur is complete without a visit to the Kasliwal family of Gem Palace, where we laid eyes on magnificent creations in process. At the recommendation of the inimitable Lisa Fine we visited the “Baby Taj,” which might have been my favorite outing in Agra.
A moment that defined or changed my career:
I don’t like to think about these things really as I find them artificial memories of a moment in time. I begin everyday by grounding myself in the present and pushing to try new things, to take leaps of faith, to not be scared of change.
The greatest challenge I’ve overcome:
Understanding who I really am. Since I was a child, I have been plied with myriad books on the world of self-discovery thanks to my mom who is a life coach. I still put in the work everyday, so there is no real challenge to overcome other than to keep digging.
My proudest achievement:
One of them is certainly having the residential project I worked on for four plus years published in the Cabana Issue 18. A real dream come true.
My guiltiest pleasure or greatest extravagance:
I don’t feel guilty about this, to some it might be extravagant, but I do sleep at least eight hours per night. Enough sleep has proven to be essential for people that function at a high intensity every day. If I am unable to get my eight hours the prior night, I will take a nap midday to catch a quick REM cycle to carry through the rest of the day.
I would describe my childhood as:
Foundational. Both of my parents instilled so many great things in me as a kid. My dad taught me the value of hard work and my mom encouraged me to follow my passions, however disparate they may be. Such that I started my first business when I was 10, Party Players Productions, my very own DJ company. I haven’t stopped since…
An object I would never part with:
My passport. It is the key to discovering the world.
The best gift I’ve ever received:
It is never a thing but always an experience or gesture. The best gift you can give is presence. That shows up in being with someone or thinking of someone. Everyday is a gift, don’t forget that!
My favourite flea market or antiques fair:
I love shopping the fairs in the south of France: Beziers, Avignon and Montpellier, as well as the Parma fair in Italy. For me, it is like a game of 'Supermarket Sweep'. The gates open at 8am and all the dealers from around the world are there sprinting to find the best deals coming off the trucks to take back to Paris or Houston. There are amazing deals to be had, with necessary restoration once you receive them.
My next weekend-away destination:
Home to Texas. I am excited to see my family and eat some Tex-Mex at Joe T’s and visit the Kimbell Art Museum.
I feel most confident when wearing:
The same things everyday so I can focus on my work and not picking out an outfit. I like simple white pants from Stan Ray or Carhartt WIP. A white t-shirt, sweater. I usually wear monochrome to make it easier. All white or all blue. Never black. And colored socks.
My signature scent:
Golconda by JAR. Joel’s parfum shop has an exquisitely appointed interior designed in collaboration with François-Josef Graf. The walls are rendered in JAR’s signature pink-ish-lavender silk velvet gainage and are showstopping. The scent is the first that he created, and when I wear it, it brings back beautiful memories of Paris.
My go-to recipe:
I don’t really cook, but fortunately I know a lot of really good cooks.
My all-time favourite fabric:
A simple white cotton duck. It doesn’t get more classic than that - [you can] make slip covers, hang it on the wall, drape it on a table, paint on it…
Ideal interiors in three words:
Personal. Minimal. Maximal. It doesn’t really matter what it looks like so long as it reflects the energy of the person living there and brings them joy.
Distasteful interiors in three words:
Unoriginal, copied, replicated.
The person I call for good advice:
A person I won’t mention by name but knows they are the one. Among the best pieces of advice is to not care what anyone else thinks and to keep moving forward.
The person I call for a good time:
My pillow. This is not an ad, but, the best pillows are from a friend of mine in Norway who has a company called Norvegr. Sleep is essential to ensure I have a good time everyday, so I call on my sleep - a minimum of eight hours a night - and the pillow makes it worth it.
My dream dinner party companion:
It would be fun to sit next to Maria Callas at a dinner party - the talent and stories.
An artwork or exhibition that took my breath away:
Chaim Soutine / Willem de Kooning at the Orangerie in Paris last year. There were so many important Soutine works in one show; the paintings are so visceral you can’t help but feel [moved] when looking at them. And the conversation with, and/or how they informed, the de Kooning works; it was a match made in heaven.
A new artist or designer whose work excites me:
A friend of mine, Mara de Luca. She's not 'new', per se, but [has an] energy I immediately felt comfortable around the second we met. Her work is meditative and essential. The complexity is represented with simplicity, flatness, and that is the brilliance.
Just one more thing...
One master: Maison Jansen
One muse: Changes every day
One city: New York
One artwork: Caravaggio’s The Cardsharps
One book: You Are Here, by Thich Nhat Hanh
One museum: Kimbell Art Musuem, Texas
One shop: The Conran Shop
One song: Maria Callas singing Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen
One color: White
One flower: Tulip
One word to describe your style: Uniform
One word to describe Cabana: Evolving