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Thomas O’Brien

March 21, 2010

Formerly of Ralph Lauren Home, Thomas O’Brien struck out on his own in the early 90s. He opened (initially with Bill Sofield) Aero Studios, an interior design firm and store in New York. Sofield left the partnership a few years later, and O’Brien has been running Aero ever since. He has completed both commercial and residential projects for a number of fashion designers, including Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren.

I first encountered his products in the flesh when I was in Chicago in 2005 and saw them in the late Marshall Field’s, where an Aero shop-in-shop was located. I was blown away by the beauty and uniqueness of the line. Vintage finds were mixed in with new product, and it all flowed together. I particularly remember loving a vintage Danish card table and chairs set that cost about twice of what I paid for my car. The stuff was definitely not cheap, but unlike a lot of “designer” products, the quality looked like it could actually justify the price. A few months later, business brought me to New York and I was able to visit the Aero store itself. Stunning. The store and Thomas’s designs walk that fine line between masculine and feminine, luxury and lived-in. It’s not girly or precious, so men will like it, and it’s not to hard edged or ultra-modern, so women like it as well.

I actually could afford some sheets that were on sale from his now-defunct “Thomas O’Brien” line that was carried exclusively through Aero and Marshall Fields. They are fantastic and have stood up to numerous washes in our apartment complex’s crappy laundry room. Strangely, the sheets were manufactured by Target, though the quality is much better than sheets from the Vintage Modern line at Target.

For 10 years, Hickory Chair has produced a high-end line of furniture under the Thomas O’Brien and TOB labels, all made in the US. His Vintage Modern line can be found in Target stores everywhere. I recommend the lamps and dishwares, and advise caution on the bedding and bath.

Products aside, it’s his firm’s interior work that puts him on my “if-I-ever-win-the-lottery” list. This interview showcases some of that work, though it was filmed probably 9 or 10 years ago, as he has since moved his Aero store from the location in the video.

The stained glass rotunda that Thomas is staring at in the beginning of the video belongs to this unbelievable loft that he did:

You see Thomas walking through the loft in the video, but it is in the construction phase. The other living room/game room as fantastic. I want that custom pool table in limed-oak!

images from House & Garden, September 2002 issue. Photography by Francois Halard. The full article can be downloaded as PDF via Aero Studios in the Signature Press Articles section.

An interview with Thomas.

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