Atelier Cho Thompson layers Victorian architecture, New Haven topography, and Korean design for hotel Co.House

Colored in Culture

green room in Co.House, a hospitality venture

A 1905 Victorian home in New Haven, Connecticut, just a four minute walk from Yale University, was originally built as a single-family home for a well-to-do merchant. In the ‘20s, it was a boarding house; in the 21st century, a commercial office. But in the ‘60s, it was purchased by Dr. Kwang Lim and the first Asian woman to teach at Yale, Dr. Hesung Chun Koh, where it became the headquarter for the East Rock Institute, the first American institution dedicated to Korean diasporic culture. Now, it is Co.House, a new hospitality venture from Nigerian and American sisters Oyere Onuma and Ulo Onuma who sought to convert the historic property without forgetting its cultural significance.

East Rock in Co.House, a hospitality venture
The East Rock is named after the red rock formations that shape New Haven and thus, the hues of the unit are warm oxblood tones (Jared Kuzia)

The duo tapped Atelier Cho Thompson, cofounded by Christina Cho Yoo and Ming Thompson, to lead the project’s branding, architecture, and interiors—including the property’s own name. The studio approached each scale of the project with the house’s history itself: “The story of this home is a story of a century of brilliant immigrant women,” Thompson told AN Interior. As such, the designers named the destination Co.House, as “‘Co’ refers to the paired ownership of sisters over the years, to the shared housing in the rambling old building, and to a play on the name ‘Koh’ to honor the matriarch of the home.”

East Rock sink vanity in Co.House, a hospitality venture
The East Rock’s bathroom features wooden, textured accents to ground the red hue (Jared Kuzia)

gridded ceiling in Co.House, a hospitality venture
A gridded ceiling alongside vintage rice paper screens layers Korean culture to the interior (Jared Kuzia)

In Co.House, Victorian architecture, New Haven landscapes, and Korean design merge. The designers divided the property into five units, each named after a New Haven site and designated with a distinct color palette. After stripping the carpet and millwork that made up the property’s past life as a commercial office, the designers restored the original wooden ornamentation, and slotted new bathrooms and kitchens to each unit to implement programming required of a hotel.

blue tiling
The Dragon River unit is named after the moniker early settlers gave the Quinnipiac river and aptly shaded in pale blues (Jared Kuzia)

living room with fireplace in Co.House, a hospitality venture
The living room is anchored by a restored fireplace (Jared Kuzia)

The five units—Elm Grove, Beacon Cove, East Rock, Haven Harbor, and Dragon River—are a blend of past and present, American and Korean, featuring contemporary furniture alongside vintage pieces, and objects influenced by Korean design. In Elm Grove, for instance, deep moody green walls and tiles recall the historic trees of New Haven from which the unit is named, yet the local references fall alongside Korean craft, such as the rice paper screens that frame the windows

rattan headboard in elm grove room Co.House, a hospitality venture
In the Elm Grove unit, moody greens are accented with a rattan headboard and Asian art (Jared Kuzia)

The tiled bathroom‘s green tone recalls the trees in the area (Jared Kuzia)

“We decided to overlay this Korean history on the rich topography of New Haven,” said Thompson. It’s a fitting approach, as, the cofounder continued, “New Haven, like all great American cities, is an ever-changing landscape, where immigrants from other countries come to make new lives and make new contributions layered on top of centuries of history.”

sun on wooden beams
Exposed wooden beams float next to paper lanterns in the Beacon Cove unit (Jared Kuzia)

sloped roof interior view
A sloped roof and ivory color scheme define this unit (Jared Kuzia)

The contemporary and vintage furniture choices pull from Ikea, Bemz, AllModern, Pottery Barn, H&M, and Crate & Barrel (Jared Kuzia)

While the design juggles cultures and temporalities, it still feels cohesive. In Beacon Cove (which is named after the historic Lighthouse Point), for instance, ivory and brown define the space. It creates a calm, elegant interior that better accentuates the home’s Victorian origins, like the dormer windows, sloped roof, and exposed historic wooden beams. The unit, like the rest of them, includes signage and graphics inspired by Korean calligraphy to denote and welcome each space.

haven harbor Co.House, a hospitality venture
The Haven Harbor unit, named for the historic New Haven Harbor on Long Island Sound, is clad in bold blues (Jared Kuzia)

haven harbor showing light fixture in Co.House, a hospitality venture
A pillowy light fixture softens the dark blue bedroom in this unit (Jared Kuzia)

Sensitive and nuanced design make Co.House feel right at home with Atelier Cho Thompson’s other work, so too does its economy and scale. “Like many of our projects, we were working with small business owners who don’t have endless budgets. In our firm we often say that we can create beautiful design by doing uncommon things with common materials,” explained Thompson. “Here, careful low-cost interventions, like strong and unexpected paint colors, repurposed rice-paper screens, and careful architectural interventions allowed us to create a high-impact project with real-world constraints.”