All posts by Michelle Lampariello

Unique Perspectives: What’s Cookin’?

Kitchens and bathrooms are established markers of luxury — without updated, high-end versions of these important rooms, a home is likely to quickly decrease in value regardless of how elegant its other elements may be. However, the most luxurious homes need more than just above-average indoor spaces to be considered grandiose.

An entertaining, opulent addition to a large backyard, outdoor kitchens have become popular staples among luxury homeowners. From small-scale pizza ovens accompanied by an understated seating area to a fully furnished kitchen tailored to outdoor cooking, having access to a means of preparing food in an outdoor space is crucial to high-end homebuyers, especially in warm
weather states.

Arcadia White Pane. Photo courtesy of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

Photo courtesy of Brantley Photography. 

Kalamazoo Gaucho Grill. Photo courtesy of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

Russ Faulk, Chief Designer and Head of Product at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, says that one of the biggest outdoor culinary trends is cooking on a live fire. 

“Live-fire cooking isn’t new; in fact, it is the oldest form of cooking,” Faulk says. “But more recently, people are re-embracing wood-fired cooking and its primal nature. It started with the chef community. Restaurant menus described dishes as wood-fired or wood-grilled steaks, seafood, vegetables, and even dessert. It was all about capturing the char, smoke and unique flavor that comes when you grill using wood. Now people can capture that same experience right in their backyards.”

Outdoor kitchen design used to capitalize on the novelty of the out-in-the-elements nature of the space, but lately, Faulk has seen homeowners transition their outdoor kitchens to mirror their indoor ones.

Photo courtesy of Brantley Photography.

“We’re seeing indoor kitchen trends move into the outdoor kitchen. That includes more transitional designs, more cabinetry drawers versus doors, and more color,” he says.

These spaces can serve as a poolside dining area made for entertaining, or more simply as a peaceful place to cook on a summer night. The versatility and unconventionality of an outdoor kitchen makes a statement even among the most luxurious of homes.

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Catering to Today’s Food Trends

The attendee of a modern upscale event expects more than a standard plate of meat, potatoes and vegetables. This year’s catering trends address the demand for a more exciting, sustainable and updated take on the culinary soundtrack to an elegant event. With an ever-growing selection of vegan fare, an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and the visual appeal of station-based catering, partygoers have more choices than ever when it comes to fine dining.

Whether it be for health or other reasons, many have recently chosen to restrict their diets to avoid animal products. Caterers have not missed a beat in having options for the growing vegan population, and have also created custom menus for diners with other dietary restrictions. While an all-vegan menu may be perceived as a hurdle for a host concerned about the satisfaction of non-vegan guests, hearty vegetable-centered entrees like roasted eggplant have become popular solutions that please all guests.

Guests have an array of vibrant vegan options to choose from.

Veganism is not the only movement to emerge from growing concerns about healthy and sustainable food; providing locally sourced foods is critical to the environmentally friendly host. In 2019, caterers showcase their local sources of produce, meat and dairy products to appeal to guests striving to limit their consumption of food that requires ecologically costly transportation to arrive on their plate.

While it has long been known that we eat with our eyes, trendy showstopping presentations are relatively new to the catering scene. Engaging and interactive stations with visually appealing options are beginning to bridge the gap between food and entertainment at events.

Left: Flame-seared steak is prepared live in front of guests. Right: Molecular cocktails add an innovative twist to catered beverages.

The Chicago-based company Catering By Michaels presents custom stations where foods like ramen or flame-grilled steak are prepared in front of the consumer. These awe-inspiring showcases of elegant cooking elevate the experience for guests at high-end gatherings. Catering By Michaels has found that stations are the perfect way to wow a crowd looking for a diverse array of options, each with its own charming twist.

Catering By Michaels’ unique Ramen Station.

Photos courtesy of Catering By Michaels.

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Boxes Worthy of Your Bling

The word jewelry brings to mind beautiful, valuable accessories that elevate the wearer to a status reserved for those fortunate enough to afford these precious embellishments. As jewelry owners begin to amass a collection of fine adornments, there becomes a need for a place to keep their valuables organized and protected from potential damage.

There are several luxurious options for a refined gem collector. These opulent jewelry boxes, which retail for more than $3,000, prove that high-end jewelry is deserving of a home that matches its elegance.

Jewelry Box In Royal Ebony Macassar


Only a limited quantity of these boxes have been manufactured with rare wood that features a never-before-seen grain pattern. This product is designed to serve as two jewelry boxes in one, as its lower tier is easily removable for travel purposes. Two keys adorned with tassels unlock a top tray with an internal mirror, making this jewelry box an elegant gift that doubles as a means of both storing and displaying the owner’s jewelry collection.

Russian Karelian Birch Jewelry Box


Handmade from a Russian royal wood that was previously used exclusively to make furniture for Russian tzars, this jewelry box’s modern aesthetic is enhanced by the rich nature of Karelian Birch. It also features a two-in-one design with a removable tier, and is lined with cream suede complimented by nickel-plated hinges.

Japanese Tamo Ash Exclusive Creations Jewelry Box


Japanese Tamo Ash wood is one of the most rare and luxurious woods in the world — known for its unique and eye-catching grain pattern, the wood used to be used to decorate only the finest Samurai swords on the island of Hokkaido. Now, it is used in luxury items including the dashboard of Bentley cars, and this stylish, versatile jewelry box.

Photos courtesy of iWOODDESIGN. 

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Going Global: More Splendor in Vietnam

On nearly 700 acres of coastal Vietnam, Laguna Lang Cô — one of the most luxurious resorts in Asia — is slated to add the palatial Banyan Tree Residences over the next few years to the ambitious resort. Incorporated seamlessly into the oceanfront jungle, each of the 40 new mountainside residences will include its own outdoor infinity pool.

Located on the northern end of the sprawling property, the luxury villas will vary in size from 1,636 square feet for a one-bedroom layout to 2,799 square feet for a three-bedroom. The residences also boast breathtaking views of Laguna’s nearly two-mile stretch of private beach property.

“These residences really showcase everything that is special about this property — its combination of mountains, forest and ocean,” said Gavin Herholdt, Laguna Lang Cô’s managing director. “Not only will owners get to savor the nature and the amenities here, they will also enjoy attractive arrangements at properties around the globe.”

The design of the new residences is inspired by the architecture of Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital city, and is complemented by contemporary accents, including specially chosen artwork. Owners of these world-class villas also gain access to amenities including exclusive access to spas, golf courses, excursions, and watersports.


Photos courtesy of Laguna Lang Co.

This story previously appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of Unique Homes Magazine.

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Innovative Spa Shower Promotes Sustainability

Moen, a leader in water experiences in the home, has partnered with Nebia, a Silicon Valley-based startup, to work together on shower innovations that will impact how people around the world enjoy and conserve nature’s most precious resource.

To kick off their relationship, Moen and Nebia launched the Nebia Spa Shower 2.0 on Kickstarter last month, the first of many collaborations between the companies. This partnership includes joint product development and distribution plans. Moen is also leading a Series A investment in Nebia.

“Moen is changing the game when it comes to helping consumers better understand and appreciate water. Whether it’s partnerships like Nebia, or the development of new technologies, we’re using innovation and artful design to transform how people interact with this resource — and this is just the beginning,” says Mark-Hans Richer, senior vice president, and the chief marketing and innovation officer of Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group.

This latest endeavor is a new and improved version of Nebia’s original spa shower and provides a hotter shower with the feeling of more pressure, while saving 65 percent of water compared to a conventional shower. It’s available in two brand-new finishes of high-grade powder coated aluminum, Matte Silver and Matte Black.

“We are on a mission to build a more sustainable future, by building products that people love to use. Moen has long been a leader in our industry and together we can bring meaningful innovation and provide even greater impact for people around the world. Nebia customers have already saved an estimated 100+ million gallons of water, and are on our way to saving one billion gallons in the next two years,” says Philip Winter, Nebia’s co-founder and CEO.

The Nebia collaboration is another important example of Moen leading the charge into a new era of monumental change in how people encounter water every day. Earlier this year, Moen announced its partnership with another startup to offer more consumers innovative ways to detect leaks and manage their water supply.

Photos courtesy of Moen.

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Luxury Garages: The Ultimate Leisure Space

Well-designed luxury garages are a far cry from the cluttered, dusty rooms where most standard vehicles are kept. For high-end homeowners, their garage upholds the elegant aesthetic found in the main home; but instead of sheltering people, the garage protects their luxury vehicles.

Widely considered to be the perfect extension to a dream home among car enthusiasts, luxury garages are strategically designed to show off the homeowner’s collection of vehicles and related items. Some manufacturers have developed materials specifically to be used for cabinetry in luxury garages, removing the need for kitchen-like cabinets to ruin the sleek, yet rugged vibe of the space. This cabinetry can be complimented by a stainless steel sink and counter space to increase functionality.

Slatwall panels are another popular storage strategy — they double as a finished wall covering and place to store tools and accessories. Similarly, a polyaspartic floor coating not only contributes to the polished look, but also serves as a durable protective layer to prevent damage due to abrasions, spills or moisture.

When designing a luxury garage, consider shades of blue, gray, red and black. Metallic accents, such as a diamond plate backsplash, add depth to this look. Choosing a color scheme that mirrors that of the luxury vehicles will help you achieve a put-together, distinguished design.

Some luxury garage owners choose to install a car lift. This can help homeowners store more vehicles in an area with limited space, or keep seasonal vehicles out of the way during the winter. Other popular amenities include upgraded garage doors that can be controlled remotely via smartphone, as well as year-round climate control. Especially in climate-controlled garages, many hobbyists choose to include a workshop, as well as a TV or sound system to turn their luxury garage into the ultimate leisure space.

Photos courtesy of BIR Luxury Garages.

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Barely There?

Nude shades can add warmth and subtle sophistication.


Whether it be an accent piece or the color of the whole room, nude tones add subtle warmth to any living space in need of an update. Calming, earthy shades of beige, pale pink and light caramel can set a refreshing tone with barely-there hints of these trendy colors.

Nude shades work particularly well in living rooms and bedrooms, but nude-colored kitchen walls can also set a friendly and inviting vibe in contrast to past trends of gray, black and white. Since most neutral tones pair well together, shades of light pink, brown and even some very light blues can be mixed together to create your ideal wall color.


Photo by

Photo by

Photo by Sweetpea & Willow.

Photo by

Photo by Chaplin Furniture.

Nude-colored furniture — particularly seating, rugs, and accent pieces — add a touch of understated glamour to a bland room in need of color. These muted shades of beige and pink add a soft pop of vibrance on their own, but can also serve as the backdrop for a more boldly colored accent pillow, curtains or piece of wall art. Try pairing a sand-colored sofa with wine-colored cushions to add depth to your living room.

There is no need to stick to one shade when adding nude colors to a room — try adding a pale pink couch to a room with beige walls, or light caramel ottoman to a linen-colored living room. The variety of hues will make the room more intriguing.

Without creating a convoluted or gaudy aesthetic, nude shades add warmth to spaces that lack personality. Maintaining a clean and chic vibe, they are the ideal interior design choice for a homeowner in search of subtle sophistication.

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Florida’s First Zero-Energy Community

Partnering with sonnen, a worldwide leader in smart solar technology, residential development firm Pearl Homes announced its plans for a zero-energy community in the small fishing village of Cortez, Florida.

Hunters Point Pearl Homes & Marina will include 86 performance homes, 62 lodges, and 47 boat slips. Comprised of a network of solar-powered smart homes, each smart home in the innovative community will share excess renewable energy with its neighbors and to a larger grid, which creates a virtual power plant that produces clean electricity.

Construction on the fully furnished green homes will begin in late 2019. Hunters Point is the first residential community established to help decarbonize southwest Florida, and also makes history as the first time an energy storage system will use Google Home to intelligently maximize renewable energy in each household.

“We have an opportunity and responsibility to improve our impact on the environment, and this is our chance. Hunters Point is about luxury living and sustainability, but also about the larger picture — creating a world that is better for our kids and grandchildren,” said Marshall Gobuty, president and founder of Pearl Homes.

In addition to a 600 square foot open-air entertainment space, 600 square feet of interior living space, and a 1,200-square-foot garage that doubles as a basement, each home uses sonnen’s energy management technology to control rooftop solar panels, a smart Nest thermostat, and an electric vehicle charger, ensuring that the home is powered by the cleanest possible energy source.

Photos courtesy of Hunters Point Pearl Homes & Marina.

This story previously appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of Unique Homes Magazine.

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You Can Eat The Rainbow

Appetizing images creatively pair color and food.

When social media marketer Lucia Litman moved to California, she was blown away by the colorful variety of fresh produce that was now available to her. Pleasantly surprised by her new normal, Litman, who also goes by her nickname Lucy, began to document her encounters with fruits and vegetables on her Instagram page.

“There were fruits I hadn’t heard of and vegetables that came in colors I didn’t know was even possible,” she says.

In search of a way to get a larger audience excited about healthy food, she started a series of “#PantonePosts” — a blend of design, nutrition and lighthearted appreciation for everyday luxuries.

Lucy aims to match fruits, vegetables and other foods to Pantone swatches as closely as possible. Captivating her followers with strikingly similar pairings, she not only features superfoods, but some treats as well. Everything from leafy greens to chocolate-covered fortune cookies has made an appearance, as well as some inedible, but naturally beautiful phenomena like sunsets and flowers.

“I don’t try and push any sort of diet on people, which I think is important,” she says.  “There are so many people out there who say that ‘x diet’ is the best, when in reality, it really depends on your body. So I just hope that my photos can bring people together and make them appreciate food and be able to enjoy it online without being preached at about a certain diet or lifestyle.”

Despite her carefully curated page that suggests she’s a professional artist, Lucy describes her popularity as “a big surprise.”

“It started off as just a hobby, but I get so excited anytime someone shares my work and it makes me so happy to know that people enjoy it,” she says.

Photos courtesy of Lucia Litman via Instagram. 

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Luxury and Efficiency on ‘Deck’ in Colorado

Energy efficiency is a top priority for many architects, but Scott Rodwin, founder of Rodwin Architecture, seamlessly blends green building techniques with elegant contemporary aesthetics to design breathtaking residential and commercial buildings.

His Colorado-based firm is responsible for the creation of multiple near net-zero energy homes, and makes energy efficiency a priority in all of its structures that shine against the mountainous landscape.

Among the projects that the Rodwin Architecture team has completed, “Deck House” stands out as an imaginative and whimsical hillside residence.

The 4,200 square foot home, which was originally built in the 1970s, was completely remodeled by Rodwin Architecture and Skycastle Construction. The home’s previously choppy and confined floor plan was switched out for a brighter, more airy design with new views of the surrounding mountains, higher ceilings and of course some added outdoor decks.

There are plenty of places to entertain in Deck House, including the elegant dining room and large great room, which are anchored by a double-sided gas fireplace. Hosting social events at Deck House is made even easier by the home’s gourmet kitchen, complete with a bright breakfast nook, and a jewel-box wet bar, accessible behind a custom barn door.

Deck House features several quirky amenities that delight homeowners and visitors of all ages. Next to the home’s great room is a raised platform bed called a “bonco,” which serves as a cozy reading nook. The bonco has a hidden door that leads to a secret playroom for the kids of the house, but adults can enjoy some of the home’s secret features too. In the master bathroom, there is a secret window that offers stunning views of the Flatirons, and there is a hidden laundry chute in the main hallway that is concealed by a picture frame.

The home’s settings are adjusted to the owner’s liking via smart home technology, while passive solar design, LED lights, high-efficiency HVAC and “Tuned” Energy Star windows help Deck House score high in energy efficiency.

Deck House is one of many dreamy Colorado creations for Rodwin Architecture and Skycastle Construction. However, the project stands out for its transformation into a sunny, expansive home rich in mountain views that maintains hidden treasures from its past.




Photos courtesy of Scott Rodwin. 

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