Chip Brian may look like he’s all business, but he’s a builder and a Californian with an inclination for all things sustainable. The founder of Design Development NYC (DD), Best & Co. and a new and experimental venture called Neue Atelier, Chip has managed to build a creative empire that, luckily for his busy clients, is a one-stop design/build shop that brings architecture, renovation and furnishings under one roof. We recently stopped by his Long Island City space where he gave us the grand tour of the studio.
Chip’s road to owning a design firm certainly wasn’t a conventional one. In the late ’90s, he was a finance guy who hired a contractor to update his apartment while he was away on a business trip. Chip poured nearly $40,000 into the project only to return to a home that had been torn apart, with beer cans and empty food containers strewn about. Rather than being letting the devastation overtake him—which he says he admittedly came close to doing—he decided to take on repairing the apartment himself. This first project, along with the accolades that came with it, inspired him to launch his own firm in 1997, which has since grown into three studios occupying a four-story industrial building in Long Island City.
DD’s creative space is surprisingly quirky, especially when compared to the clean, modern and classic interiors they produce. You’ll see local art decorating the walls, taxidermied animals, rubber stamps featuring the faces of his designers, framed doodles, a ping-pong-style conference table in the meeting room; you’ll find several (yes, several) restored motorcycles on different floors of the building including two in the Neue Atelier studio, the latest DD offshoot. Unlike DD and Best & Co., this expermental studio works backward, looking at a project from its finished state and dissecting each of the stages of production to figure out how things could have been done differently to improve on the work.
Chip’s wife and The Mill co-owner and director, Nina Sisselman Brian, behind the counter
Though Chip has had his hands in a number of renovations across the city, his greatest contribution to his local community of Long Island City might be The Mill, a sweet spot he and his wife opened this year for studio employees that eventually transformed into a neighborhood pillar. Here, the interiors are far less finished and boast an aesthetic akin to its more industrial neighbors, but like all of his projects, the coffee shop puts quality and considerate design at the forefront. Much of the interior is made from reclaimed materials like recycled wood blocks from previous projects and reclaimed subway tiles.
Chip’s ties to the neighborhood are strong and go beyond work. When he first moved to NYC from California as a child, he found himself directly across from Long Island City. In his view from the other side of the East River, he saw lots of changes happening and he knew wanted to be a part of that. Today, in addition to running several businesses out of the neighborhood, he and his family own a home just blocks away from DD. And though he admits the area is transforming, he holds that one thing remains steady: Long Island City is a close-knit, community-driven neighborhood that’s all about creativity and quality of life, not just a demo’d 5Pointz.
Some recently completed projects:
44-61 E 11th Street
Long Island City, New York, NY
Neighborhoods : Long Island City