24 Hours with David Shove-Brown
Up close and behind the scenes with the co-founder of Washington, D.C.’s //3877 design studio.
Take a quick glimpse around the //3877 studio in Washington, D.C., and you’ll instantly know that this is not your run-of-the-mill architecture/design firm. From the urban art-inspired characters spray-painted on the walls to the “Do Cool Sh!t Every Day” sign offering the daily dose of inspo, the office’s interiors and company culture reflect the vision of one of its humorous and talented founders David Shove-Brown (who leads the firm alongside fellow co-founder David Tracz).
//3877 is the force behind an impressive hospitality portfolio that includes design of the exterior and public space prototypes for Marriott Intl.’s Moxy in Europe and creating new interiors for the Momofuku /Milk Bar brand in D.C., the acclaimed restaurants' first outposts outside of New York City.
The firm also does design and architecture work for the healthcare and residential sectors in D.C. and across the country. In addition to his role as //3877 partner, Shove-Brown is a guest faculty member of Catholic University’s School of Architecture and Planning, husband, father of a busy six-year old (and dog dad to Harley the Vizsla) and an avid runner and sports fan who counts the Washington-based Capitals, Nationals, United and Redskins along with soccer teams AS Roma and FC Barcelona among his favorites.
Juggling all of the above involves copious amounts of coffee (good thing he has mad barista skills - having recently completed a professional espresso and milk frothing class), a creative mindset and a great sense of humor!
We shadowed Shove-Brown at his Georgetown office recently to see what gets his design mojo going and what makes for a typical (if there’s even such a thing) day in his shoes:
What’s your morning routine?
The alarm goes off at 6:10 am and starts a flurry of activity that involves sit ups, a possible run, numerous attempts to wake up my sleepy daughter, round one of coffee infusion and battling the notoriously awful D.C. traffic. I usually get to the office around 9 am (depending on aforementioned traffic) and I check in with my business partner, David Tracz, chat with team, check email, and make coffee #2.
What’s in your briefcase?
Laptop and cord
Solar-powered backup battery/charger
An array of pens, for all of those times you just need one…sketching, notes, writing down a phone number…
Water bottle (sometimes filled with tap, but ideally bubbly…I love my Soda Stream)
Top 5 songs in your playlist that get you in the creative mode:
I have music going ALL DAY. The playlist varies greatly based on my mood, time of day, my caffeine intake, etc. Favorite Pandora stations include The Airborne Toxic Event, The Police, Paramore, Deadmau5 and Hip Hop BBQ.
What do you do/where do you go when you need the creative juices kick-started?
Magazines. I love the process of flipping the pages and digesting the images and commentary. It is a good excuse to catch up on stacks of magazines that start to accumulate around my desk. For some reason, I have a hard time flipping through magazines online; ironic given that I really only read books on my tablet.
Describe your personal style: bespoke, high street, athleisure—all or none of the above?
It really depends on the day and time. Give me a comfortable pair of pants/jeans and a cool shirt with fun shoes and I am good to go. I have the hip suits to rock the right occasions and shorts and tee shirts to wear on the weekends. My wife has increased my fashion sense exponentially…I was strictly a tee shirt and jeans guy for a LONG time.
Any favorite hospitality projects you’re currently working on? Name one thing that in your opinion makes (and breaks) a successful project:
We have some fun projects happening right now from the Phoenix Park Hotel (D.C.) to the Alpharetta Marriott (Atlanta) and Succotash Restaurant to The Smith (both in Washington, D.C.).
The core of ALL projects and their success or failure is the people. If the team [client, design team, consultants, contractor, etc.] are all on the same page with common values, goals and schedules, the project is primed for success. The process, while challenging at times can, and should be, fun! With team members having open and honest discussion and listening to one another, incredible things can happen. When communication breaks down; failure sets in.
What do love the most about the day‐to‐day of design? What do you dislike?
I really enjoy working with our team of super-talented folks on design projects. We encourage everyone to speak up; in design sessions it is great to have an open dialogue with the goal of creating a solid project. I enjoy bouncing ideas back and forth and hearing what creative solutions people come up with. I feel like such a proud father seeing our teams produce great projects with happy clients, all while smiling; I get inspired just by being in the office.
I’m not a huge fan of insurance and tax documentation, but it is a necessary evil. I think the hardest part about the day‐ to‐day operations is finding 30 uninterrupted minutes to get work done; unfortunately this time normally happens at night.
Having said all that, that’s why we made a lightbox sign with the “DO COOL SH!T EVERYDAY” message. Even amidst insurance forms, it is nice to take a look at the sign and remember that there is a big picture to the firm doing great things.
What top 5 hotels (anywhere) are on your bucket list?
This is an insanely difficult question as there are so many brilliant hotels around the world with the list ever expanding…but here is my current five:
Aman Hotel, Tokyo, Japan
Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, Turkey
The Old Clare Hotel, Sydney Australia
Awasi Patagonia, Torres del Paine, Chile
The Thief, Oslo, Norway
What are the best and worst things about being a partner?
The people around me are, by far, the best part of my job. I love having a business partner who challenges me, supports me and helps grow a great business. We have an amazing team of people in our office who also support each other and try to create the best possible projects with the highest level of design. I did the sole practitioner thing for a while and it was not nearly as rewarding as working with an incredible team.
I am an eternal optimist so I do everything I can to spin “the worst” into better things. That being said, insurance paperwork, tax documents and 401k information all suck.
What’s your guilty pleasure when you surf the net at work?
I tend not to have too much time to surf. If anything, I am on ESPN or Bleacher Report (this time may increase during the World Cup or Fantasy Football season). That being said, I am a total sucker for crossword puzzles, and there is always at least one in the kitchen for everyone to work on.
Facebook, Linked In or Twitter?
All three plus Instagram… our younger team members are working at getting me to do more on all.
What’s a typical client meeting like at the //3877 office?
We have a great environment for meetings. We have a comfortable conference room with a TV and a white board, good coffee and beer on tap. Yes, beer on tap. Realizing that a meeting is a means to an end, we try to keep them comfortable to encourage communication and discussion.
Depending on the subject matter, we gather around the TV or white board and present. That’s followed by open, honest discussion. We want to help our clients succeed, and the core of this is through dialogue. We revisit the project’s goals and make sure we are on target. As we don’t want things to be missed or forgotten, we make it very clear to everyone involved what the next steps, deadlines and deliverables may be.
Once the client departs, we have a quick internal discussion making sure everyone is on track and understand what needs to be done. We set the schedule and are off to the races.
What do you (and your colleagues) do to celebrate a completed project?
Celebrating success is important. If the job is a restaurant, we try to get the team there for lunch or dinner toasting good, solid work. If the project is a hotel or residential, we walk through with the team and then go out for a brief moment of celebration.
We have been working more and more with clients to have post‐project discussions to explore what went right and what didn’t go as well. It is important in moving forward that we learn from our mistakes, whether we are working with the client again or not.
We also have a fun tradition for completed projects in our office where we design and have fabricated a custom skateboard deck featuring the client’s and our logos. We give one deck to the client and hang the other in our office. We haven’t found another design firm that does this; it is nice to be unique.
How do you decompress after work?
I LOVE being a dad. My daughter cracks me up and reminds me what is truly important. I do everything I can to get home at a reasonable hour to goof off with her, dog walk and help with dinner. I don’t mind cranking open the laptop after her bedtime and working for a few hours if I get to spend some time being silly.
I really enjoy spending time with family and friends whether it be sitting outside over burgers and beer or going out to dinner. The people around me inspire me, energize me and ground me.
David’s most recent travels took him to the serene shores of the Florida coast – pictured above. We can’t wait to see what he and the //3877 team are up to next!