Historical Concepts’ New York Studio: A Decade of Growth in NoMad

February 2, 2024
By Keith Dale Gordon

Historical Concepts, an esteemed architecture and planning firm established in Atlanta in 1982, has enjoyed growth in NoMad over the past decade. Based in Kew Management’s iconic St. James building, the firm’s journey from a modest 400 square foot office to its current 1,600 square foot space mirrors its commitment to a culture of growth and architectural excellence here in the quintessential neighborhood of New York City.

A Unique Approach to Business: Cultivating Talent and Nurturing Growth

At the heart of Historical Concepts’ success lies its unique approach to talent acquisition and development. The firm focuses its recruitment efforts on recent graduates from the nation’s top traditional architecture programs. In fact, all principals at the firm, including Elizabeth Dillon, a founding Principal of the New York studio, started their journey with Historical Concepts right out of architecture school, exemplifying the commitment to cultivating talent and promoting from within.

Dillon emphasizes the importance of a “culture of growth” and learning within the multi-generational firm. Daily sketch exercises help all team members refine their hand drawing abilities, while monthly forums conducted by senior leaders ensure that lessons learned over the firm’s four decades are passed down to the next generation of architects.

Growth in NoMad
Photo: David Christensen

Times of Growth and Areas of Expansion

Since the Atlanta-based firm opened their office in NoMad, the New York studio has witnessed significant growth, evolving from having a few clients in the Hamptons to establishing a solid client base on Long Island, in Westchester and Dutchess counties, and in Manhattan. While the firm’s work leans toward more traditional architecture, that does not preclude contemporary or transitional styles. “We pride ourselves on precedent-based design,” says Dillon, “which means Historical Concepts can deliver a wide range of design aesthetics, dependent upon the location, context, function and desires of our clients.”

Over the past decade, Dillon and her partners focused on bringing more structure to their design process, encouraging their clients to assemble a full design team – to include architect, interior designer and landscape architect – as soon as possible. Establishing a visual vocabulary with the client and design team, by sharing conceptual ideas via sketches or using photos to better understand clients’ desires, has become a valuable exercise prior to sitting down with a pencil and starting work on a project.

This collaborative approach to realizing the client’s vision is essential. Dillon explains, “Collaborative design is a point of pride – taking a client’s unique vision and making it a reality is definitely a team sport.”

Growth in NoMad
Photo: Bryan Johnson (left), David Christensen (right)

The Evolution of the New York Studio: Organic Growth

Historical Concepts’ New York studio, initially comprised of two members, found its home in the St. James building in 2015. The decision to settle in the St. James was driven by the building’s rich history and architectural detail, aligning seamlessly with the firm’s ethos. Dillon notes, “The St. James really represents great historic architecture and character. It’s especially useful to be able to point out examples of its detail to clients – from its paneling and operable transoms to its mosaic floor and grand staircase.”

Kew Management‘s flexibility in providing spaces ranging from 200 square feet and up allowed Historical Concepts the freedom to expand as needed. In their original 400 square foot space, the firm’s buildout included millwork and built-in desks, with interesting architectural detail and a view of the iconic Empire State Building just outside the window.

Growth in NoMad
Photo: Eric van den Brulle

Over the next eight years, Historical Concepts’ presence in NoMad has grown fourfold, expanding its team to nine employees and its office footprint to 1,600 square feet. Since establishing its first office in the building, Historical Concepts incrementally acquired four more adjacent spaces in the St. James as they became available. To create a larger studio, they knocked down walls in one direction. In the other direction, they kept the walls and added openings to accommodate a conference room and reception area. The result is a bright, open workspace. “It’s been a good home for us,” says Dillon.

Growth in NoMad
Photos: David Christensen

Dillon goes on to point out that Kew’s Business Center is a great perk, highlighting it as a valuable resource, especially during Historical Concepts’ initial stages.

Being Based in NoMad, New York: A Creative Hub

Historical Concepts’ choice to establish an office in NoMad, New York has proven to be a strategic decision. When discussing its growth in NoMad, Dillon explains that having an office in NYC is a “force multiplier” – at some point, everyone comes through New York for design and work-related reasons. The recent office expansion provides several flex stations to accommodate team members from out of town and allows them to comfortably use the office for meetings and design sprints with clients and consultants.

Being based in NoMad is “good for the creative soul,” extols Dillon. She describes going on a walk with a new team member, pointing out details from structures like the St. James and the New York Life building to the interesting metal work in the neighborhood. “There’s inspiration everywhere you look – from the Flatiron building to Madison Square Park. Plus, there’s great outdoor dining. The whole of NoMad is such a good place to be. It’s more vibrant than ever.”

Historical Concepts’ journey within the St. James building reflects not just the growth of a firm in NoMad but a commitment to a culture of learning, collaboration, growth, and architectural excellence. As they continue to shape spaces and redefine architectural norms, the New York studio stands as a testament to the exciting blend of tradition and innovation within the heart of NoMad.