FROM POSH BEACH RETREATS IN THE HAMPTONS TO NEW YORK CITY’S SLEEKEST HIGH RISES, A DYNAMIC DUO OF INTERIOR DESIGNERS PUTS ART AT THE CENTER OF THEIR LIVES AND WORK
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI • PHOTOS BY KAREN FUCHS
The elevated interior and architectural designs of James Aman and John Meeks frequently grace the pages of Town & Country, Architectural Digest, and a host of international publications. Their work appears regularly on television broadcasts like NBC’s Open House New York, where high style is showcased and celebrated. The firm’s work is showered with effusive accolades (“sumptuous,” “visionary,” “witty,” “quietly elegant”) by industry experts, so it’s little wonder Elle Décor has named the firm to the magazine’s A-List every year since 2012.
The DNA at Aman & Meeks Interior Design is rooted in its founding partners: James, John, and James’s sister, Meredith, who are supported by five staff members. The team has created notable homes and public environments, both inland and by the sea, including high rise private residences, country estates, yachts, hotels, and corporate offices. They have completed projects in the Hamptons on Long Island, in Palm Beach, Florida, and throughout the Garden State in Alpine, Montclair, Short Hills, and on Long Beach Island. The firm has also contributed to the Kips Bay Designer Show House in New York City and the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art, & Antique Show.
Before starting Aman & Meeks in 2014, both men lifelong design professionals had decades long partnerships with other firms. Aman worked with Ralph Lauren, while Meeks grew up in a family of distinguished furniture designers who had worked in the trade since the late 18th century. At Ralph Lauren, Aman was part of the team that designed the fashion house’s flagship Manhattan store, on Madison Avenue, and designed Lauren shops internationally. Today, Meeks uses his vast legacy experience to design one of a kind furniture pieces for clients, along with custom embroidery and interior lighting fixtures.
“Through commercial projects, we can share our work with a broader audience, which is very fulfilling,” Aman said, adding that challenges arise when “designing by committee.” When the duo sought a waterside retreat where they could spend their own leisure time, they turned west from their New York City base to Green Pond Lake in Rockaway Township, in the northern corner of Morris County. There, a spring fed glacial lake surrounded by hundreds of acres of woodlands and mountains offers an array of recreational facilities and, most important, the opportunity to unwind by doing absolutely nothing at all.
The off the radar sanctuary maintains its low profile because the lake and facilities are private you have to own a residence there to use them. James and John, known affectionately as J & J by friends, heard about the site from family members who owned properties there. They visited, and fell in love with the setting and its surroundings. They purchased a three bedroom home (they describe it as a “Dutch Colonial cottage with an edge”) that was built in the 1930s and then custom renovated.
“It offers a reprieve from the city; it’s very serene, and the water has a calming effect after spending the week in New York,” said Aman, who grew up in nearby Short Hills with his sister Meredith, who now handles the administrative part of the business for Aman & Meeks Interior Design and lives in the Mendham area. “We enjoy summers there and try to spend as much time there as possible.”
Decorating their picturesque home was part of the enjoyment, he added, and a departure from the high style of their Manhattan residence. They also view the project as a foundation for expanding their New Jersey client list, which already includes urban, country, and waterside locales.
“New Jersey has so many beautiful lake areas, including the one we live on,” offered Meeks, who resided in the Garden State for 25 years. “We designed our getaway with the goal of keeping the geography and the historical appeal of the house. It’s a home with collections of things we love.
“We understand the lifestyle in New Jersey,” he continued. “When on vacation, you are in a certain frame of mind. We want those designs to be carefree and family friendly.”
They’ve also cultivated and refined a specialized niche in the design world creating personalized spaces that highlight and complement art. A home they designed in the Hamptons features a painting over the fireplace by Kehinde Wiley, whose recently unveiled portrait of President Obama now hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
Aman & Meeks’ association with art began when an early client recommended them to a collector friend looking to freshen her Park Avenue apartment. That client was Emily Fisher Landau, a board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art and owner of numerous works by modern and contemporary masters (think Picasso and Warhol). That commission attracted new clients, many of them Landau’s family and friends.
The association led to Landau writing the foreword to 2016’s The New Formal (Monacelli Press), a 240 page design book featuring 10 residences, written by Aman with Mark Stephen Archer and photographed by Jersey City based photographer Karen Fuchs. The publisher notes: “James Aman’s design goal is to integrate contemporary, often provocative works of art into brighter, more open spaces that inspire and delight the collectors. The look that has evolved is more open, streamlined, and tailored, but it is still respectful of classic details.”
“The New Formal is a direct reflection on how people prefer to live transitional interiors, with the things they love around them,” Aman said. “Working collaboratively with our clients, we apply the same artistic principles of light, color, texture, and scale that characterize the world’s best art.” Appropriately enough, the company’s offices are located next to New York’s Decoration & Design Building, at Third Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets, home to more than 130 showrooms housing some of their industry’s prime resources. No wonder Aman & Meeks was selected to design interiors of the Mandarin Hotel on Columbus Circle.
Currently, the team is working on a house in Aspen, Colorado. In New York, works in progress include a Park Avenue apartment, a townhouse on the Upper East Side, and a luxury residence at the 75 story One 57 on West 57th Street. The tower, which overlooks Central Park, is known as “The Billionaire Building.”
No doubt J & J’s days spent relaxing on Green Pond Lake will be especially appreciated this summer. But first Meeks will travel to his hometown of Amesbury, Massachusetts, where, in a gala ceremony, he will be honored by his high school for being a successful alumni/entrepreneur.
Aman & Meeks Interior Design
330 E 59th Street, Manhattan / 212.510.8482 / amanmeeks.com