Interview: Brad Ford on Craft, Minimalism and the Cast Iron House

Cast Iron House at 67 Franklin Street was built in 1881 by James White. It is one of New York’s most notable cast iron buildings, an architectural style that immediately elicits 19th Century New York design. The building features an astonishing neoclassical façade, rising six stories over which the intricate ornamentation shifts subtly from one floor to the next.

In 2014, Japanese master architect Shigeru Ban oversaw a complete renovation of the building in which he preserved and restored these historic details whilst modernizing the interior volumes and adding two glass and steel penthouse units that offer the finest in contemporary luxury living.

Cast Iron House Façade
Brad Ford

We recently featured the ongoing sale of two apartments in the Cast Iron House. To delve into the significance of these homes, we caught up with Brad Ford, the interior designer who finished the model apartment for this remarkable building. Ford’s design perfectly compliments Shigeru Ban’s modern aesthetic and his appreciation for traditional arts and crafts.

"The skill and passion in something made by hand brings a certain soul..." - Brad Ford

Through his own studio, Brad Ford Interior Design, Ford has orchestrated countless top-tier interior projects and earned numerous professional awards for his leadership in the design community. In extension to his design practise, Ford also runs his Manhattan showroom, FAIR, and Field + Supply, an upscale modern makers fair in Stone Ridge, New York.

Cast Iron House

Ford’s work demonstrates commitment to both minimalism and the contemporary craft movement. We asked him about how these ideas guide his design philosophy. “We're living in a culture of instant gratification, from ordering lunch to a piece of furniture. But sacrificing time often requires sacrificing value and quality. People are realizing this and looking for something more lasting. I also believe people have started to value experience over possessions.”

Study, featuring desk by Poritz & Studio

In terms of his own approach to design, Ford strives for balance between architecture, furnishings and art. “It should never be a competition," he explained. “You want to be careful not to create a boring space, so some of the elements should be nuanced. That's what I love about craft. You can have a really simple form, but the way it's made might encompass a beautiful detail or a unique finish. The skill and passion in something made by hand brings a certain soul that can add warmth to a potentially cold, modern space. I really do believe "less is more", but it requires a bit more strategy.”

Cast Iron House - East Penthouse

We asked Ford about his collaboration with Shigeru Ban on the Cast Iron House. “Shigeru has always been fascinated by the traditional work of carpenters as well as arts and crafts,” Ford explained. “It seemed like a natural fit to try and furnish the Cast Iron apartment with handmade furnishings from local artisans. The details he brought to the building were so subtle and beautiful and I wanted to make sure we didn't do anything to compete with his vision.”

"I always say you can get someone’s attention just as much by whispering as you can by shouting" - Brad Ford

To achieve this unity, Ford looked back through Ban’s vast body of work, taking note of the natural materials he has chosen for certain projects, including his extensive explorations with local timbers and structural paper tubes. “I wanted to bring a similar earthiness to this project to contrast with the modern architecture and the existing Cast Iron building,” Ford said. “I felt like everything needed to be softened a bit so I chose pieces that had organic forms and warm woods such as walnut and oak.”

Model Unit Living Room

Ford originally hailed from a small town in Arkansas before he came to New York to study at FIT. We invited him to reflect back on his career and share advice for the next generation of designers seeking to elevate their craft. “Tame your ideas. When you’re young and just starting out you should experiment with different ideas and see what comes naturally but eventually you need to show some restraint. It requires a bit of effort, but I always say you can get someone’s attention just as much by whispering as you can by shouting.”

Photography by Scott Frances.