West Chin, 55: We Are All The Same

West Chin's boundless positive energy drives his thriving architecture practice and furniture stores as well as his roles as a new dad, home gardener, and chef/host for his friends. From feeling “othered” as a child to seeing all people as equal and getting a charge out of togetherness.

“Ok, but no nudes.” – is what West Chin said when we invited him to be on the cover of AGEIST.  In 9 years and hundreds of profiles, his response was a first; and the quirky surprises only continued. Growing up Asian in very “non-asian” Westchester County, being the “other,” the only Asian kid around, gave him a way of seeing all people as the same; there is no “other” in his world — age, color, gender, are not things he registers.

West is bouncing with energy, which helps as he is a new dad at 55, just opened 2 new home furnishing stores this year, has a thriving architecture practice, is obsessed with gardening, and is a shimmering lover of all people everywhere. Gregarious, generous, and down-to-earth, wearing his 5 shirts at a time because, well, layering is everything, and then there is the obsession with water management…

west chin
Image by David Harry Stewart.

How old are you?
55 and a half.

And where did you grow up?
Westchester, New York. 

What was it like growing up in Westchester?
Different. I am ethnically Chinese. Father’s from Canton, and my mother is Chinese from Malaysia. I think we were one of the very few, if not the only Asian family in the town at the time, especially in the 1970s/80’s. It was very different. 

I’d say, in the county, it was very rare to see another Asian. My brother was eight years younger than me; by the time he left high school, there was a lot more Asians. But there wasn’t a lot.

“We definitely felt like we were the ‘others’ in that part of the community”

That must’ve given you a sense of otherness.
For sure. We definitely felt like we were the “others” in that part of the community. Croton-on-Hudson is a pretty open-minded, liberal town, but there are definitely some old-school mentality processes and that went on when I was growing up, and some people were not shy to share their perspective.

west chin
Image by David Harry Stewart.

How did you become a trained architect?
My father was an architect. That wasn’t really easy for Asian architects to be successful unless you came from a family like I.M. Pei. My father wasn’t really social, and you have to have a social network, espescially in his pre internet time.

He did a lot of government work. He also did some low income housing, and a lot of things for Catholic charities, which is one of the things that makes my experience unique, as I work in the high-end luxury market right now. But my first office job was working with my father trying to fit as many single homeless women with children into a floor plan and make it comfortable, and accommodating, and give them a sense of privacy and foundation for the future. If you look at the space we’re sitting in right now, it’s about 3000 square feet. And in the world I live in now, 3000 square feet would be a two-bedroom apartment for a wealthy family. On one of the first projects I worked on with my father, this would have been a temporary home for 15 single women.

I fell in love with architecture, but my family wanted me to be a doctor. I can’t spell penicillin. I can barely pronounce it. A lot of people would have been dead if I had been a doctor. So, thankfully, I got to do this.

“I’m a very layered man. I have lots of layers in my life”

west chin, superage quiz

How many shirts are you wearing today? 5 or 6?
Yeah, I’m a very layered man. I have lots of layers in my life. When it comes to clothing, my mother used to always stress: stay warm. It was freezing in the northeast, and my mother, instead of buying us a really warm down jacket, she would say, “Wear seven layers” and gave us a cheap jacket. Then you can peel them off, as you get warm – she was kinda right. 

I find that in my work we also have layers like, we’re not just a modern, clean architectural design firm. We have layers that are visibly built into the process.

We’re in one of your furniture showrooms now. How did you get into this?
I’m 55, and lived through enough recessions where every time a recession comes, I’m like: Why am I in this business? And you try to figure out what you could do better for the next recession to protect my family and my team. 

In around 2004, I started producing a furniture line. Accessories, and furniture that were designed for private clients. This included everything from door handles to coffee tables to trays to kitchen islands.

west chin
West’s furniture company, West Out East.

“In around 2004, I started producing a furniture line”

By chance, in 2013, I was looking at a space in East Hampton to open up an architecture office, and I saw this building that used to be the office of the famous architect out there, Francis Fleetwood.  And it was really beautiful, a 1900’s farmhouse in the middle of East Hampton village – great juxtaposition for our practice and products 

This real estate broker calls me and says, “It’s available.” And I’m like, “It’s amazing, but I’m getting divorced. I can’t do this right now.” He goes, “If you don’t take it right now, you won’t see this again for five years. Someone’s going to sign a five-year lease, and you’ll never see it.” I did whatever I could, signed a lease, took the space.

When I went in to measure, I realized how big it was (classic -cobbler with holes in his shoes). And like, shit, this is too big for an architecture office. So then I started calling our favorite brands that we like to specify in our projects, because we do a lot of interior architecture, architecture design. 

We called brands mostly in Europe, and we called De La Espada, Living Divani, Porro, Boffi, all the big ones, and because it was outside New York City territory, they were like, “My God, it’s amazing.” That went well, so we started to do more.

west chin
West Out East showroom in Manhattan.

“My goal right now is to eat better, behave better, live longer”

You have a new wife and a new baby.
From my first marriage, I have an amazing 23-and-a-half-year-old son who just applied to law school. That has always been such a special part of my life; being a dad is just amazing – would not trade it for anything. And then, miraculously, somewhere late 2019, I met somebody who actually liked me, and got me, and that’s my wife, my love Daria.

We married last year and we have a baby who is seven months old. She’s been amazing; like, the sweetest little girl — always happy, doesn’t cry (except traffic), likes to sleep and eat a lot. 

At 55, to have a seven-month-old — when she’s in college, you’ll be 75?
Yeah. These are things I think about, every night. My goal right now is to eat better, behave better, live longer, and try to be there for her when she goes to college and starts a family.

It’s different now; 75 is going to be like 55 used to be. I have all this energy. My wife would tell you right now that she thinks she married a 12-year-old, because I have the energy and attention span of a 12-year-old boy. As long as I keep that energy going and I don’t fall horizontal, I think I’m okay. 

“I have all this energy. As long as I keep that energy going and I don’t fall horizontal, I think I’m okay”

And what are the new behaviors you’re doing or not doing?
It’s more what I’m not doing, because, you know, everyone in NY is actually kind of a workaholic, hopefully by passion like me. I’m definitely passionate about my job and what I do. Knock on wood, I am very, very fortunate that I am in a business environment like this. It’s still not complete and it’s not easy, for sure. I’m actually hoping to open more new stores this year. In the last month, we opened a new one. I have another one coming up this year — three stores in one year; three locations; I am not crazy:)

west chin
Image by David Harry Stewart.

I somehow have been able to have the good fortune of having a great team to work with. I am less needed. I’m no longer really important, maybe less important – a lot of the team have been with me for a while and all of them have a great deal of passion, ownership, and belief in what we are building. I’m not the most important person anymore. I can unplug or step away for one hour or two hours, two days, and things can move on without me – typically it is to work on another project or part of the biz, but hopefully, it will be to spend more time with my wife and kids and get a little healthier.

Last night, I went home at 6:00 and I was able to put my baby to sleep and make dinner for my wife, super rare. In New York City, that’s not normal for self-employed people, and it felt very good. I’m also cutting down on the bacon. I used to have bacon every day. No more- maybe 2x a month, maybe – steak still on the menu weekly.

“When I was younger, music was the way I found a connection to other people”

What music are you listening to?
When I was younger, music was the way I found a connection to other people, I was shy for a while and especially in the awkward teenager years. It started with The Kinks, Beatles, Rolling Stones, and I’m still heavy into The Rolling Stones, but U2 really took me to another platform with my first concert experience: Unforgettable Fire.

And I don’t know how many concerts I saw over the next 8 to 10 years between U2, The Smiths, the Cure, R.E.M. Then I really started to focus on my work; it became about my passion for working, not the passion of trying to assimilate. Music took a backseat for me, but I still loved it, but more as a complimentary part of my life – especially when driving on the LIE

I like to listen to mostly positive music. I mean, so you don’t misread me with “Good Morning” Mr. West; I know Kanye has some ugly baggage, but the guy just gets me going. Then I listen to “Empire State of Mind” — Alicia Keys and Jay-Z —and a little Biggie. And then I kind of flow into “Start Me Up” right out of Rolling Stones. And there’s a whole bunch of others in there. But those are the five or six I start with pretty much every day riding the F train.

West Chin
West Chin’s pre-coffee mix.
West Chin
West Chin’s post-coffee mix.

Talk to me about the non-negotiables in your life. What are the three non-negotiables in your life today?
First, there is family, esp my wife and 2 kids. Whether it’s my immediate family or my extended family- my brothers and sisters are very tight, up to recently we all lived in the same zip code in NYC.

Two is being happy. For me, it’s a balance btw work/family/friends. And surprisingly, also gardening and plants, especially when I can cook and feed friends.

The third kind of correlates to letting my mind disappear from the day, and this sounds very superficial, but it’s a tie between Knicks, Yankees, Giants and water management.

West chin
Image by David Harry Stewart.

“I get really crazy about wasting water. Don’t ask me why”

Water management?
I get really crazy about wasting water. Don’t ask me why. Something my father put in my brain when I was a kid. We would save rainwater for the garden and “not flush the toilet if #1.”

If I have one dream come true, besides the ones that are my health and my family, it would be that every person in America would only flush one time a day. That would save over a billion gallons of water a week. It’s a weird obsession thing I have.

What’s in the garden right now?
I have a bunch of blueberry bushes in the back of my car to plant this weekend. Then we’re going to start some seedlings, and I started building an arch for the tomatoes, the string beans stuff.  From last year I still have parsley, arugula, swiss chard, chives, and scallions, and just found a bunch of carrots.

“Nothing makes me happier than for me to be able to feed people”

Is your garden meant for produce?
One of the things that makes me happy is for me to be able to feed people. I love cooking for people. I love entertaining; whether it’s food and alcohol, I love having people over.

I could do that seven days a week and that’s the reason why I always think I should open a restaurant. Of course, that would be suicide, I would give everything away and not charge. Well, I love, I love, I love cooking for people. I love entertaining. Social engagement through food is the best

West chin
West Out East showroom in Manhattan.

How does that intersect with having a new baby?
Outside of the baby’s sleep time, my wife is super, super understanding (she probably will punch me for this comment – love you). I seriously can go out seven nights a week or cook seven nights a week for people and be very happy. I love being around people, exchanging energy and learning from each other.

Somehow by cooking, feeding people, and doing it together, it feels really satisfying in the energy exchange process. I think that kind of comes from my parents’ open-house nature. My parents, when we were growing up, they always said our house is that place where anybody can always come sit down and eat. My sister actually brought a homeless person home from Grand Central Station once. It was that type of place.

“I treat everyone as one; like, I don’t think anyone is the ‘other’”

How does your experience of being the “other” inform your experience today?
I treat everyone as one; like, I don’t think anyone is the “other.” I went through a lot of ups and downs, from feeling like the only Asian person in the world to going to college with Asian people telling me I wasn’t Asian – that was strange and super heartbreaking. 

I really don’t know the difference between two people, whether it’s race, sexuality, color, anything. I really don’t. This is really sad for me to talk about. I thought that, me growing up in the seventies / eighties, that I would never imagine my son would be in a world where there seems to be almost as much hate going around as it was 30 years ago. We share all this information through the internet, and still there is all this hate; ironic and sad. I hope media, politics, religion, people in general especially in a country like the US can find happiness and peace with each other, on their own and not listen to the ones who want to divide us for their strength and benefit.

I think there will always be people that think that the others are always the “others.” And there’s people like myself who think everyone is a person, not anything about “other.” And I gravitate towards those people, to be in that environment, be with friends who get it, who understand that we’re all the same – but different in a contributing way.

Connect with West:
West Chin Architects & Interior Designers
West Out East Furniture

Main image by David Harry Stewart.

See medical disclaimer below. ↓


  1. My step dad is Ronald Chin out in California —he grew up in Connecticut and escaped Canton smuggled out as the “son ” of cousins that posed as parents in order for him to leave the repression going on 20 years ago or so —I think we are cousins ! At least by marriage and as professional Performing artist ( I love NY too – as I starred in many Bway shows in the 70’s ) I really enjoyed your article – your energy and your philosophy. Performing has allowed me to work travel or live in 41 countries —and I could not agree with you more —that we as humans are the same —and like Anne Frank says too —“people or basically good !”


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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.


David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


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