All posts by Kristen Ordonez

The Audacious Artisan

Photos courtesy Katrien Van Der Schueren.

Katrien Van Der Schueren is the founder and creative visionary behind Voila! Creative Studio, a visual laboratory where she envisions, creates and fabricates a full range of bespoke fine art, objects, furnishings, lighting, event and stage sets, and accessories.

In the grand scheme of her career, designer/artist Katrien Van Der Schueren says that her move to America in 2002, specifically Los Angeles, was the first main challenge she met that led her to where she is now. With her experience working in a variety of fields, from the European Commission to marketing, she says that she felt obliged to reinvent herself and that this new world gave her “the opportunity and the audacity to follow a new path.”

Through perseverance, courage and a “huge learning curve,” she remains the leader of Voila!, known as a visual laboratory with endless possibilities. “We are storytellers and translate it into material form. We are creative problem solvers that make the project happen,” says Van Der Schueren.

What about art and design draws you into doing it every day?

It’s an intuitive thing, I think.… I didn’t really think it through. It just felt natural to me and I followed my path of learning and exploring and fine tuning the direction as I went along.

I love working and exploring materials and their possibilities. I love discovering new textures, new techniques, new colors, new color combinations, new designs, new styles … and in my job the learning and discovery is endless. I love the storytelling [aspect] when we work on projects. Imagining the environment pieces will go to, who will use it, look at it and how to tell that story and make that story happen with shapes and form and materials.

What influence, if any, do you get from living in California?

So many things. California is such a melting pot of cultures providing so many creative impulses on a daily basis. There are so many different influences to draw from here that it’s hard not to get inspired every day. I still strongly feel like an immigrant on Discovery Road. 

Since we arrived in LA, the city has evolved so much. It breathes artistic energy in so many domains, from food to music to artisanal crafts to high-end design. Nature is another big part of California’s inspiration. The ocean, for example, I mean who can resist its magic? And what about the vastness of land in between places when you drive out of the city and what about the evenness of the light and its brightn

To keep inspiration alive, Van Der Schueren says she needs to connect with the outdoors, whether it’s taking a drive, traveling abroad or spending time with her family outside the studio, “so when I step back in I feel re-energized and spin my wheels on the right things.”

 What do you usually draw inspiration from?

Literally everything or anything that kind of stops me in my tracks. That can be the shape of a leaf in the garden, a lyric or beat in a song, a shade of a ceramic cup, my kids’ world, an art installation, a set of a movie I am watching. Anything that stops me and draws my attention.

Tell me about Voila!’s conception and how it operates today. What was the original mission/goal of the studio?

I started as a picker. As that’s where it intuitively felt right for me to start. Learning styles, periods, et cetera. Then my intuition just led me to start making, first by combining finds and turning them into either art or furniture. Basically, I do have a lot of something I found and it inspired me to make something with it. Then I wanted to learn more techniques and what I could do with materials, started hiring people and learning about that process and its ups and downs with growing pains. Clients would ask me to custom make furniture and art for them and I gradually learned what I liked and disliked, and it all evolved like that with some very risky steps in between, just out of some gut feeling that that was the next step to take. A lot of mistakes on the way, of course, getting back up and moving forward towards a clearer direction.

When it comes to designing art for a project, what is the most important element you have to remember? Does this differ depending on the type of space you are working in?

Each project is its own. When we start an art project, I look at the story first. The visual story (the interior design choices and the environment and architecture) as well as the audience it’s for. Those parameters will define the art choices. Of course, the location and the environmental conditions are often key as well when it comes down to choosing the materials to work in, and the type of use will also define possibilities.

Is there a piece of art in your
own home that you would never consider selling?

Almost all of them. The pieces I have at home are part of the fabric of my life. I am emotionally connected to them and they make a lot of sense in my home visually.

What would be your dream project or a piece you’ve always wanted to start (or finish)?

Oh boy. A dream project would be that I get unconditional creative freedom and unlimited budget to design and fabricate all the art, and custom-make all the furniture for a unique experiential boutique hotel that also has a music venue on the premises as well as some original and unique culinary opportunities (restaurants/bars, et cetera).

What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in art or design?

Follow your gut feeling. Only by working your way through you can achieve results and fine-tune direction. Be you

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Maximalism

Zany patterns. Punchy palettes. Combinations of materials from the concrete to metallic.

As Claire Elsworth of Claire Elsworth Design notes, the eccentric spirit of Maximalism is both magical and rebellious. It encourages traditional rules of design to be broken and conventional boundaries to be overstepped. From patterned wallpapers and dark paint to a velvet sofa with an eclectic mix of textures pillows, the goal is to be courageous in your design, and to love the “more” aesthetic.

“‘More’ is a love and appreciation of pattern, color, collection and curation,” Elsworth notes, “with a sheer joy of fusing, contrasting, styling and layering all that gloriousness together.”

Sasha Bikoff

Photos courtesy Sasha Bikoff.

Maximalism has been embracing “the more” of design since the 1980s with the creation of Memphis Milano in the 1980s, a legendary postmodern design group that championed the style and made it a staple in the industry. Author and design journalist Claire Bingham notes in her book, More is More: Memphis, Maximalism and New Wave Design, that after experiencing the “riot of color and pattern” indigenous to styles like Memphis, the 90s saw a rise of Minimalism, a stark contrast with designers such as John Pawson and Calvin Klein focusing on purity and simplicity.

“There has always been minimal versus maximal throughout time, but the rise of the Memphis/80s style was a kickback from the elegance of mid-century design and a desire to rethink how objects could look,” Bingham writes. Although minimalism has been an ever-developing presence in today’s world, the Memphis style and Maximalism as a whole has found its way back into the hearts of young impressionable designers looking to become expressive in a more vivacious, free-spirited way.  

In More is More, Bingham spoke with a host of contemporary designers, as well as Peter Shire and George Snowden, some of the original founders of the Memphis group, who truly embrace and understand the spirit of Maximalism. “It’s not so much to do with a style,” she says. “Maximalism could look like anything — romantic and frilly, graphic patterns, disco … It’s like playing dress up for the home.” To quote the vivacious Iris Apfel, “more is more and less is a bore.” 

Famed New York designer Sasha Bikoff was dubbed the “interior designer for the young and wealthy” by The New York Times. Bikoff affirms that she was at the forefront of Maximalism’s revival when she started her firm seven years ago, a revival she credits to the growing millennial culture. She says that like anything in history there’s an action and a direct reaction. Instead of creating simplistic looks that can be easily replicated for the masses, younger designers and people want to create spaces and live within spaces that are unique, that share a likeness of themselves, a desire that has stemmed such creative outlets as Instagram, Pinterest and other social media channels.

Claire Elsworth

Photo courtesy © Claire Elsworth 2017

To heighten the effectiveness of Maximalism, Bikoff says that one of the most important aspects of this style type is the use of color, noting that in her own designs color helps bring out an emotional response. She notes that it’s important to surround yourself with colors and objects, patterns, and textures that make us happy and bring life into your home. “The same way I dress with fashion — as my fashion choices are bold and confident — is how I want my rooms to feel,” she says.

Just like personal fashion, each Maximalist designer and design is different and based on both creative taste and what each designer finds inspiring. For example, Bikoff’s aesthetic can be derived from 18th-century French Rococo, 1960s Space Age Modern, 1970s French Modernism and 1980s Italian Memphis Milano. An affinity for new experiences, her love of travel helps add to her ever-developing color palette, which you can see in her projects. “Marrakesh is a place I travel to all the time, and the colors of the spices you find there are so amazing you can see them all in a color palette, from bright turmerics to smoky paprikas,” Bikoff says.

Photo courtesy Claire Bingham.

Elsworth’s firm focuses on luxury wallpaper and home décor, and is known for intricate yet bold Maximalist features in every design. She hand sketches her designs, which are inspired by her short concept stories about an imaginary Duchess called Violacea Macrobothrys and her beautiful old aristocratic house — “a Maximalist treasure trove paradise!” she says. These stories weave through six collections of wallpapers and cushions, displaying both Elsworth’s love for drawing as well as her favorite aspects of Maximalism.

“I’ve always been drawn to anything ornately detailed, whether it be textiles, interiors, art, or historical architectural details,” Elsworth says. “So, I was naturally drawn to the Maximalist style long before I even knew there was a name for it.”

To embrace Maximalism in an everyday space there is a variety of ways one can incorporate aspects of the style. Bikoff says that some of the best Maximalist interiors are just showing off pieces from trips you’ve taken all in one space, even if they do not particularly go together. “The whole idea of Maximalism is that it’s the kind of space for a true collector, a space that tells a story.”

Photo courtesy Sasha Bikoff.

Photo courtesy Claire Bingham.

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Enjoying the Stay

Residents of AKA Beverly Hills can enjoy the outdoor residents-only lounge, a spacious landscaped terrace with spectacular views of the Hollywood Hills.

Photo ©2014 Eric Staudenmaier.

In these times of social distancing and working from home, any amount of travel feels like an enormous reprieve from the new normal. Those needing or looking for high-end lodging away from home, for work or otherwise, might feel anxious striking out into a new city or living in a safe, clean environment. One brand is offering luxury, semi-permanent rental spaces in cities around the country that feel safe and more than comfortable.

The AKA brand originally formed in 2005 with the idea of recognizing an “unmet need in major cities for luxury extended-stay apartments with hotel services,” according to Elana Friedman, chief marketing officer of AKA. Founder Larry Korman and his family conceptualized furnished apartments that would satisfy residents’ need for flexible living arrangements without sacrificing luxury. Since then, according to Friedman, these innovative ideas have grown to incorporate the best in cuisine, design, wellness and technology in metropolitan locations all over, including London, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

AKA specializes in weekly and monthly stays, therefore creating a “home away from home experience for our residents, no matter where they are traveling from,” Friedman says. She adds that to meet the demand of those who are looking for a self-sufficient living experience, AKA offers luxurious furnished apartments with modern kitchens, spacious floor plans and services as requested, all furnished in a contemporary style by renowned designers.

Each AKA location offers a diverse range of services designed to provide residents with comfort, choice and luxury for any length of stay. All locations provide on-site services such as a 24-hour front desk, dedicated doorman, meticulous housekeeping, valet and laundering, in-suite dining, secure transportation, and more. Private amenity spaces are included as well, from thoughtfully designed fitness centers and lounges, to cafes and cinemas.

With the developing public health crisis, priorities over privacy and cleanliness have grown, as well as a need for safe workspaces. AKA has not only recognized these concerns, but has adapted to remain open and flexible to residents. 

“We concepted flexible office suites that will allow a person to book a suite to work, rent as a socially distanced office, or have the bed removed to create a workspace for two employees,” Friedman says. These suites also feature a full kitchen, private bathroom, copier/printer/scanner, complimentary WiFi, and can be booked on a weekly or monthly basis.

Flexible office space at AKA Central Park in New York.

Photo courtesy AKA Hotel Residences.

AKA Beverly Hills offers a contemporary residential oasis boasting suites with custom furnishings, private balconies and more.

Photo ©2018 Eric Staudenmaier

Private workspace at AKA University City.

Photo © Halkin Mason Photography

When it comes to traveling in today’s world, finding a balance between privacy and engaging activities can be difficult and have the potential to change the hospitality industry at its core. However, brands like AKA that are already seeing changes in what was “normal” prior to the pandemic, are finding ways to stay ahead. “People are now and will continue to be more hyper-focused on the cleanliness and safety of their surroundings, and these facets are taking the lead when planning a trip or experience,” Friedman notes. “Given that, we anticipate travelers will look for more extended-stay or serviced residence options coming out of the downturn as a way to have greater control over their accommodations.”

With AKA’s Live It! Program, AKA residents are encouraged to uncover new experiences like a local, while keeping safe in socially distanced settings. “From custom fitness sessions, improv classes, trapeze lessons, cooking classes and more, AKA connects travelers with the fabric of a city,” Friedman says. She adds that another new opportunity exclusive to AKA is an East Coast road trip package that offers travelers a chance to experience New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., all in one trip. With two to three hours of driving between each destination, the getaway gives residents the opportunity to embark on a journey of sightseeing, outdoor activities, photo opportunities, local eateries, history and iconic stops along the way to the next city, all in a custom, outdoor, social-distanced activity itinerary.

For more information on the AKA East Coast Road Trip, visit the link here.

For more information on AKA’s Flexible Office Spaces, visit their website here. 

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Nap Bars

Khaliah O. Guillory, Owner of Nap Bar

A new set of businesses aims to help a sleep-deprived society relax and rejuvenate.

Nap bars. Upon hearing about this concept, various images come to mind, from a series of bedrooms with designated time slots for napping, to a pillowy oasis set in the clouds. While some ideas are more fantastical than others, the meaning behind many nap bar businesses and their missions is far more down to earth.

Whether naps are offered as a complimentary service or finely curated in a luxury setting, the importance of sleep has been reinvigorated by companies like these who know that the benefits of napping are nothing to sneeze (or snore) at in today’s world. 

In recent years, with the rise of globalization and businesses running 24/7, productivity can and has for some time become a priority. Maria Jose Hernandez of recharj, a meditation studio headquartered in Washington, D.C., says the needs of the human body should take precedence, however. 

An avid lover of naps since childhood, Guillory developed her company as a way to keep herself from “taking naps in [her] car.” 
Photos courtesy Nap Bar.

“Science has proven that sleep is how you are able to learn, retain memory — all these functions that we need to be productive.” 

Many nap bars and sleep-oriented businesses have been developed by busy business professionals and entrepreneurs who found themselves suffering from sleep deprivation or sleep-related issues. For example, Khaliah O. Guillory was working at a Fortune 500 company and struggled with getting restful sleep when she was inspired to open Nap Bar in Houston. An avid lover of naps since childhood, she developed her company as a way to keep herself from “taking naps in [her] car,” and engage other young professionals to rest, relax and feel rejuvenated through a curated, white-glove napping experience.

Top: Zen – Bar à Sieste Weightless Chair and VR.

Photos courtesy Zen – Bar à Sieste

Christophe Chanhsavang and his wife, Virginie, have had similar trials and tribulations. From Virginie’s corporate work hours to Christophe’s long hours of study, he realized from his experience working in the UK, China and Greece how much the concept of wellness was nonexistent in the French society. To avoid taking more naps in the office bathroom, Chanhsavang says they founded Zen – Bar à Sieste in 2011 in Paris and have since approached wellness from a holistic perspective by promoting sleep, nutrition, physical activity and mental health. 

Professionals in the wellness industry have noted and continue to highlight the importance of sleep, which in turn has led to research and results into the benefits of napping. Guillory offers facts that have helped fuel the educational aspect of Nap Bar, including a NASA statistic that suggests shorter nap durations are better for reducing the impact of sleep inertia, a physiological state of impairment that affects cognitive and sensory-motor performance.*

Mauricio Villamizar, CEO of Pop & Rest in London, takes these findings a step further, noting how a lack of sleep can ultimately lead to disruptions in workflow. “Sleep deprivation is linked to lower productivity at work and it’s one of the main drivers of absenteeism … in the workplace. If we translate this into working days, we are looking at around 200,000 working days being lost each year in the UK only. In terms of economic consequences, it’s around £40 billion, almost 2 percent of the UK’s GDP,” Villamizar says.

Wellness overall has seen a resurgence in strength from businesses like these, as health has come to be the utmost priority of nations around the world. And just like there are many types of methods of getting and staying well, there are a variety of ways to nap.

Pop & Rest is a London-based wellness startup that connects locals and travelers with sleep and meditation pods, offering clients safe and secure spaces to unwind, rest, and work peacefully. According to Villamizar, customers can visit one of the company’s various locations throughout London and become immersed in a calm environment where the pods are situated.

“Once you are inside, your pod will be like a box that features a single bed, small table, along with accessories to change lights, music and the aroma,” he says, noting that everything is built to ensure the best relaxation experience. The pods are movable and soundproofed, and only require a power supply and WiFi connection to function, an enticing offer for companies looking to purchase these pods for their own offices.

The aforementioned Nap Bar curates a luxury napping experience for customers, which Guillory says is ensured by engaging all five senses. For sight, all of the custom suites are outfitted with mood lighting that is adjustable; for taste, a duo of raw juice shots are offered with rich nutrients and ingredients that aid in relaxing the body pre-nap, and waking it up post-nap; for hearing, exclusive brain waves are curated for each client and played inside suites that increases the release of melatonin in the body by 97 percent; and for smell, an aromatherapy pillow mist infused with lavender is available.

recharj – D.C. meditation room and class.

Photos courtesy recharj

Pop & Rest sleep pod for napping.

Photo courtesy Pop & Rest.

The final sense, of touch, goes a step further, as all suites include an organic, locally sourced mattress, linens and sheets, and each room is painted with toxin-free paint. All of these inclusions are accompanied by a full-service concierge who will guide customers through the experience and help them on their wellness journey

According to Chanhsavang of Zen – Bar à Sieste, wellness is the future of humanity, a future he aims to advance with the Siesta Bar, which combines technological and traditional means of treatment for sleep deprivation. For nap services, customers can choose from a luxurious memory foam retreat, a zero-gravity massage chair or a Shiatsu bed; for aiding in relaxation and overall wellness, complimentary services include massages, virtual-reality meditation and even a fish spa.

As a meditation studio, recharj has been offering premier restorative practices to help clients, which includes the use of power naps. According to Hernandez, during open hours these power nap sessions are curated to be 25 minutes long and offered in large Yogibo chairs, a favorite for many. “A client once described them to me as if you’re laying down in a cloud,” Hernandez says, which only adds to the whole-body experience.

Binaural beats are also incorporated into the nap session, a type of music melody that registers at different frequencies that are meant to relax your body and get it ready for sleep. Overall, the studio aims to bring a sense of relaxation as well as mindfulness through meditation to its clients. “We offer workshops about mindful leadership, mindful communication and mindfulness in general,” Hernandez says, which in turn helps clients learn ways to de-stress and regain focus on whatever tasks lay ahead.

Unlike the typical fad that comes and goes, wellness is rooted in a deep need for comfort and stability. As we write this, we’re in the midst of a public health crisis, and brick and mortar locations may not be open. But there are ways to implement the wisdom of these businesses from your own home. Studios like recharj continue to offer online meditation classes, in an effort to keep a consistent schedule that is based solely on keeping well. And though the future is uncertain, businesses like Pop & Rest, Nap Bar and Zen – Bar à Sieste continue to work and create solutions for customers, from promoting online educational sessions and tips to developing applications, products and services for when businesses are fully up and running.

“Wellness is not just a fashion, but a fundamental trend in our societies,” Chanhsavang asserts. “Hopefully the nap services and related businesses will become a game-changer in the hospitality industry.”

*Source: NASA conducted a study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts and found a 26-minute nap increased productivity by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent.

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Jump for Jubilado

©istockphoto.com / SimonDannhauer

Government-sponsored incentives are drawing retirees to Panama.

From superior benefits for retirees and an assortment of visa options, to the captivating sights and real estate options available, there is much to see and even more to experience as a resident of Panama.

For retirees in particular, the benefits offered through Panama’s programs have crowned it as “one of the top retirement destinations in the world,” according to Stephanie Villarreal, president and Realtor for Your Panama Real Estate Connection. She notes that the government-sponsored “Jubilado” retirement program provides impressive discounts on a range of expenses, including dental/eye exams, medical consultations, restaurant bills, airline tickets and even car purchases. What is needed to qualify is an annuity/pension-like income of $1,000 USD per month. Having good, affordable medical services like, amongst others, the Johns Hopkins-affiliated hospital in Panama City is another added benefit, Villarreal says. New residents find themselves taking on the Panamanian lifestyle in no time at all.

The process of immigrating to Panama is relatively simple as well, Villarreal says, and with the help of experienced law professionals, the process is straightforward and easy.

Basilica of the Mother of God is prominent in Casco Viejo, where churches dating back hundreds of years blend with activities for those of all ages.

Photo  ©istockphoto.com / rchphoto

“We work alongside attorneys to assist our clients with immigration and residency,” she adds. The Panama Friendly Nations Visa, for example, is also a popular special immigration program for citizens of selected countries who have professional or economic ties with Panama.

Those exploring their immigration options should also understand the differences in lifestyle of Panamanians, from “slower pace of life” to the fact that Spanish is the country’s main language. However, every difference also offers an opportunity to learn and experience the unique nuances of Panama. “Things in Panama move slower than in North America and Europe,” says Villarreal, “but with our team’s extensive knowledge and experience of how things work in Panama, we can assist our clients to adjust to life in the country.”

Adjusting to life in Panama can come easily with the help of the right brokerage team who will help guide potential buyers to their dream home or neighborhood. Villarreal says her team recommends that buyers should visit the country first to get a feel for what Panama is all about. “There are established ‘expat’ communities in Panama City, various communities at the beaches … there are many clubs offering get-togethers, bingo, Spanish courses and more.”

Add this to the plethora of good restaurants, cafes and bars amidst the cobblestone roads and churches of Casco Viejo, Panama City’s old quarter, and the amazing beaches and archipelagos, and there’s too much to fit into one trip. So, perhaps, make it a trip to last the rest of your life?

 

This article originally appeared in the Unique Homes Spring ’20: Elite edition

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Commanding California Escape

Stunning Bay Views!

Commanding wide angle vistas are ever present from this superbly elevated Sausalito hillside home. Most interior rooms are appointed with large view windows framing sailboats in the Sausalito Marina, the Mill Valley hills, and spectacular skyline panoramas. The continuous change of colors throughout the days and changing seasons, provides a joyous ambiance year round.

The first floor, with easy access from the street and carport, consists of delightful public rooms flooded with light through wall of windows. Pristine hardwood floors compliment this level, an ideal space for entertaining with viewing deck attached. The large dining area adjoins the living room with  newly installed gas fireplace and hearth.  The adjacent kitchen is highlighted with all new appliances and sunny breakfast area.  A well placed powder room serves guests.

Lower level with 3 Bedrooms, 2 baths features panoramic bay views and attached exterior deck.

Master bedroom with en suite bath and walk-in closet.

2 Additional bedrooms and 1 full bath.

Workshop level presents potential for expansion.

4-car parking deck. 

 

Price: $1,949,000

For more information, contact:

 

Jean Mastagni – CalRE #00479256

Broker Associate – Global Luxury Specialist
415.310.7386 | jeanlmastagni@gmail.com | JeanMastagni.com

Anna Roberts – CalRE #00854780

Associate Broker
415.331.7355 | anna@cbsausalito.com | Anna.cbintouch.com
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Centered on the Earth

Photo by Sally Guillaume.

These three travel companies offer sustainable opportunities to see — and even help save — the planet.

Aracari

Ahead of its time when it was originally founded in 1996, South American travel operator Aracari is highly regarded in the sustainable travel industry. Founder Marisol Mosquera defines sustainable travel simply as travel that does not destroy the
destination, which in today’s standards means low impact, low-volume tourism. These pillars of tourism have been part of Aracari’s mission since it began, in order to promote natural landscapes.

One of the most important ways Aracari maintains such high standards of sustainability is by educating guests throughout their trips, to “treat the local communities and sensitive environments with great respect,” Moquera states. To follow through, the company works tirelessly with the other businesses they work with to help ensure their self-imposed regulations are effective across the board. For example, Mosquera says the company seeks boutique hotels that are more stringent on standards like waste management, energy consumption, community involvement, et cetera. With these methods incorporated into their business model, Aracari is able to fulfill
clients’ travel needs while making a smaller impact on the surrounding environment.

“People travel to learn and experience new things, and our region is very rich with cultural and natural attractions,” Mosquera says, attractions that they strive to find new ways of highlighting through their bespoke travel tours. One upcoming tour in May 2020 is an eight-day excursion in Bolivia, hosted by National Geographic photographer Max Milligan, based in Kachi Lodge which is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. Nestled next to Tunupa Volcano, these transparent igloo tents afford wonderful views and a unique sense of isolation while guests enjoy delicious food, hot water and comfortable accommodations.

Kachi Lodge | Bolivia

Kachi Lodge is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.

Photo courtesy of Aracari.

Machu Picchu

Guests can travel to archaeological sites like Machu Picchu with Aracari’s Peru tours.

Photo by Marcella Echavarria.

Another tour featuring Milligan is an adventure through the mountains of Peru at El Albergue Ollantaytambo, where guests can visit local communities, archaeological sites like Machu Picchu, and an organic garden that stretches from the glacial snowline to the tropical cloud forest.

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya

Photo by Stevie Mann.

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya

Cottar’s Safari Camp provides an authentic and individualized safari experience by ensuring a legacy of wilderness, wildlife, comfort and security.

Photo courtesy of Steppes Travel.

Steppes Travel

Steppes Travel creates eco-luxury holiday trips that are tailor-made for people who are interested in wildlife. While it highlights giving a behind-the-scenes look into many different sensible wildlife environments and discovering different cultures, at the core, Steppes Travel focuses on giving back to the environment and communities their teams visit. An avid traveller himself, Rob Gardiner fit in perfectly at Steppes Travel as the Commercial Manager for the Africa sector with his overall knowledge and love for travel. “I love the people that you meet, I love the lessons that you learn from it, and I think it breaks down barriers, changing our perception of different places and alters our prejudices,” Gardiner says.

Gardiner says that the company’s focus on sustainable travel is driven by a need to look after the communities they visit and keep those wilderness areas as pristine as possible. Steppes Travel also works with community members and conservation groups to ensure proceeds are given back to those areas, noting that, as a whole, travel can be a force for good. “If you’re lucky enough to go to Zambia, Tanzania or Botswana on safari, for example, there should be money that goes back into the local economy so they too are incentivized to look after what they have.”

Regarding the tours, Gardiner says that the wildlife aspect is what helps keeps sustainability in mind for both guides and travellers. He notes that often these trips provide a unique educational experience, granting travellers a new, real perspective on conservation while taking part in projects like tracking rhinos in South Africa or working on a jaguar safari project in Brazil. Tourists can go further by becoming ambassadors for certain regions and work with communities around the world to be more conscious of endangered environments.

“As much as possible, we don’t believe in cocooning our clients away from the streetlife in Delhi or living with a nomadic family in Mongolia,” Gardiner affirms. “I think it’s about getting to know the people and about having that personal human connection.”

Undiscovered Mountains

According to Sally Guillaume, owner and founder of sustainable travel company Undiscovered Mountains, her reasons for starting the company were driven by a personal drive to create a better world, “to do things in a way that everyone benefits without exploiting people or environments.”

Focusing on trips located in and around the French Alps, Guillaume wanted to steer away from mass tourism and “build a sustainable approach to tourism both for the communities and the rich natural environments they live in.” In doing so, she built a business that not only focuses on preserving natural environments, but also helps clients to discover authentic Alpine communities, not usually found in mainstream Alpine travel.

Guillaume’s vision of a sustainable world includes less consumerism and a deeper appreciation for experiences. And while Undiscovered Mountains, Steppes Travel and Aracari are all model companies, there is a long way to go in sustainable tourism — from updating local infrastructure to promoting lower-impact travel methods such as train or “green” vehicles. She notes, however, the ethical standards of travel companies have become more and more important consumers in recent years, as well as the destination and activities involved.

From touring preserved natural environments with abundant wildlife and flora on the southern French Alps, to immersive tours in both Nepal and Norway that are launching soon, Undiscovered Mountains will continue to make its mission about serving the environment, which has always shaped the culture around them. “The type of food people eat, the architecture of old buildings, the choice of where villages are situated is all to do with how people have survived living off the land of the mountains for centuries.”

The French Alps

Travelers can learn to paraglide and fly above the mountains on one of Undiscovered Mountain’s paragliding courses.

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

The French Alps

From ski touring to dogsledding with huskies, …

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

The French Alps

Undiscovered Mountains offers a wide assortment of winter activities that are fully customisable, all in the French Alps.

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

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The Southwestern Spirit

Photo courtesy of Troon North Golf Club

With art museums, golf courses and luxury architecture, Scottsdale, Arizona is more than just a desert town. 

Known as The West’s Most Western Town, Scottsdale, Arizona, is certainly more than just a desert town as it is annually rated among the nation’s most desirable communities to live in, visit and conduct business. Three focuses in particular are art, golf and architecture, each a key draw for the luxury sector and ones that have shaped the culture of the city. 

Among Scottsdale’s 80 art galleries are museums that not only showcase fantastic creations from artists, but also provide an insight to the city’s past. One in particular is Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, located in Old Town, which offers high-quality exhibitions reflecting the arts and dynamic cultural exchanges in the city’s history. Dr. Tricia Loscher, assistant director of collections, exhibitions and research at Western Spirit, says that the Scottsdale art scene started at the Arizona Craftsmen Center in the 1940s, where skilled artisans could work and collaborate together, and customers could watch art being created in front of their eyes. These artists in turn helped to elevate Scottsdale’s cultural standing by showing and selling their unique creations. 

 

Photo courtesy of © Loren Anderson 2018

Museum of the West

Today, artists are continually drawn to Scottsdale, a place that is recognized worldwide as a destination for art collectors and enthusiasts. The diversity of the city’s artistic community, says Loscher, leaves visitors remarking on how much there is to see, and that it cannot all be viewed in one trip. “You’ll want to come back again and again because you can’t possibly do justice to what Scottsdale has to offer.”

Photo courtesy of © Jill Richards Photography

Taliesin West

The distinctive landscape of Arizona, punctuated by giant granite boulders strewn across the rugged Sonoran Desert, is the perfect playground for those who live and breathe the golf lifestyle. There are several key points as to why Scottsdale is such a popular golf destination, according to Mike Friend, director of sales at Troon North Golf Club, from wonderful weather to the beautiful desert itself. “The unique desert layouts are so different from typical tree-lined golf [courses],” he notes, adding that players love how the green grass contrasts from the desert browns. 

This culture began in the 1990s as many courses over the last 30 years were built around luxury residential developments and communities, which also stimulated the growth of resorts and travel interest overall. “The growth of this type of traveler created a need for more golf,” Friend says. The travel fever has not stopped since, and from the variety of activities and sights, Scottsdale is bound to experience growth and diversity for years to come.

Also nestled in the desert, along the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, is an architectural mecca — Taliesin West, known to historians as Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert laboratory in Arizona. Taliesin West was Wright’s beloved winter home and the headquarters of the Taliesin Fellowship, an architectural marvel that has since become a National Historic Landmark, as well as the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin. 

“[Wright] found the site in 1937 and with his apprentices began experimenting with new materials and building techniques to create a desert camp that embodied his principles of organic architecture,” according to Foundation president and CEO Stuart Graff. The Foundation works to preserve the site and Wright’s legacy through programs that bring more than 110,000 visitors to Scottsdale. Here Wright’s experimental camp is open to the world as a living expression of his ideal vision for how he wanted humanity to live in harmony with the world around us.

Photo courtesy of © 2016 Andrew Pielage

Taliesin West

     

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.

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Selling Near the Stars

star property itself, this private estate offers incredible attention to detail and elegant interiors that exude sophistication.

Patrick Fogarty of Hilton & Hyland represented the buyers, German national Ekkehart Hassels-Weiler and his new husband Omar Romero, who were eager to acquire this unique home. Fogarty says the home was on the market for less than a month and bought in under four.

Externally, the home is almost mysterious at first glance, as the long driveway affords complete privacy from the street. That mystery transitions into pure awe once the house is in full view, as Fogarty says the home’s proportions and classic design give it a grand feel that enhances with every meticulous detail. “The style is timeless rather than of the moment,” he says, adding that the overall aesthetic is tasteful yet opulent.

Built and developed by the seller, British property developers Ian and Richard Livingston, the estate greets visitors with a graceful motor court that features both trees and fountains. The front doors open to a striking grand entry with 30-foot ceilings and walls of marble, all opening up to a grand staircase and detailed floor plan. A strong yet beautiful harmony is felt in every room, from the dramatic kitchen to the tasteful master bedroom and baths. Interestingly, Fogarty notes that though “the home is grand in scale, [it] still manages to feel like a home.” Other features of this estate include a master wing, gym, theater, guesthouse, staff quarters and bocce court. The expansive backyard also boasts an ozone pool that highlights the perfect California indoor-outdoor lifestyle.

Only approximately five minutes from Rodeo Drive, the 8-bedroom, 11-bath home remarkably reflects a sense of tranquility and serenity, allowing the new owners to relax with complete privacy. The blend of rich landscaping and natural materials, such as stones, wood, steel, and brass, also enrich its character and depth, making it a true sanctuary.

Photos by Berlyn Photography 2019.

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE GLOBAL 2019 ISSUE OF UNIQUE HOMES. TO SEE THE DIGITAL VERSION OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE.

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The Perfect Balance

The perfect home finds a balance between style and substance.

Style or substance? The perfect home finds a balance between both of these concepts, and this newly built mountain residence is no exception. 1548 Explorer Peak Drive, located inside the Red Ledges residential development in Heber City, Utah, was carefully sited on a dynamic hillside to optimize unobstructed views of Mt. Timpanogos. Its architectural design pairs with hand-selected materials and luxury finishes, perfect for retreat seekers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. 

Every detail of this home creates a seamless transition from indoors to out. Abundant natural light is cast through the home’s soaring windows, while the vast outdoor living areas are situated to connect the home to nature’s beauty. The expansive indoor/outdoor living spaces, featuring a custom spa, fire pit, fireplace, and more, make this home perfect for both entertaining and relaxing, with stunning mountain views as the ideal backdrop. Interior features that capture attention as much as the surrounding beauty include French oak flooring, a gourmet kitchen with a waterfall quartz island, and a large main-floor master suite.

With its coveted location in the Heber Valley in the heart of Utah’s Wasatch Back mountain recreation mecca, Red Ledges offers an active outdoor lifestyle, according to Mitchel Burns, Red Ledges chief operating officer. “Members come together and immerse themselves in some of the most beautiful — and accessible — natural habitats in the world.” Red Ledges offers such outdoor attractions as world championship mountain biking, world-class fly fishing, boating, hiking trails and more. 

Management at Red Ledges agrees that those who find a place at Red Ledges not only share in the coveted mountain lifestyle, they also form close kinships with their neighbors. “Lifelong friendships develop as members laugh and play together and create the real personal connection for which Red Ledges is known,” says John “JJ” Johnson, Red Ledges Club general manager. For $3.595 million, one can find peace of mind at this contemporary mountain haven with enough style and substance for all. 

     

 

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.

 

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