All posts by Roger Grody

New Century

Los Angeles’ crescent-shaped Century Plaza Hotel was built in 1966 — hardly historic vintage by European (or even East Coast) standards — but with its significant role in the entertainment industry and presidential politics, the iconic building is a bona fide landmark. Local preservationists saved it from the wrecking ball, and now it is being reimagined as part of an ambitious
$2.5 billion project.

The 19-story midcentury hotel was originally designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the renowned architect for Manhattan’s now-defunct World Trade Center as well as a familiar pair of twin towers in Century City. The Century Plaza will be reopened as the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel & Residences, a new jewel in entertainment industry-saturated Century City.

Behind the 400-room hotel will soar a pair of 44-story high-rises accommodating some of L.A.’s most luxurious condominium residences, an homage to Yamasaki’s penchant for twin towers. The project, a venture of Next Century Partners, with primary funding from Century City-based Woodridge Capital Partners, reflects an ongoing renaissance of Century City, which was originally developed on the back lot of 20th Century
Fox studios.

Mary Ann Osborn, Managing Director of Sales & Marketing for the Century Plaza Residences, indicates Century City is evolving into a more 24-hour, walkable neighborhood. “We’re receiving considerable interest from people who work in Century City, so they have an opportunity to walk to work, which is quite a rarity in L.A.,”
she reports. 

 

A total of 268 residences will be accommodated in the two towers rising above the hotel. Condominiums in the north tower are currently being marketed, ranging from a 962-square-foot unit priced at $1.7 million to a 3,954-square-foot (3-bedroom/4.5-bath) condo on the 35th floor offered at $10.8 million. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide panoramic views from Hollywood to the Pacific Ocean, while generous glass-railed balconies capitalize on L.A.’s signature indoor-outdoor lifestyle. “Many buyers are downsizing from large homes in the area, but still demand the amenities of a luxury estate property,” says Osborn, who adds, “They want a lock-and-leave lifestyle with every need taken care of.”

The amenity package for the tower residences includes fully-staffed health-and-wellness facilities, children’s playroom, business center, screening room, game room with bar, wine lockers, and dining rooms. Also provided is an outdoor swimming pool, gardens that encompass a yoga/meditation lawn, dining terrace and dog park. Occupancy for the north tower is anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Hotel’s grand lobby. 

Exclusive event venue. 

The new Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel transforms a landmark for a new generation but recaptures the glamour of the former hotel, popular with celebrities and heads of state. The original architecture, a 20th century style known as New Formalism, is generally being retained by the new design team, but modernized both aesthetically and functionally.

Three acclaimed architectural firms — New York-based Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and L.A.-based Gensler and Marmol Radziner — are collaborating on the project along with international luxury hotel interior designers Yabu Pushelberg. Entrance to the hotel will be through a plaza anchored by a large-scale, interactive sculpture by celebrated Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and refreshed by water features.

Bedroom at Fairmont Residences. 

In addition to the tower residences, 63 Fairmont-branded luxury residences are offered in the new hotel, available for occupancy in the fourth quarter of 2019. The Fairmont Residences, accessed through a 24-hour security gate leading to a private building entry and dedicated elevators, will enjoy the services of a five-star hotel and privileges at all of its facilities. Currently offered at the Fairmont is a 2,550-square-foot unit at $5.7 million, while a one-bedroom, 1,539-square-foot condominium is priced at $3.232 million.

Homeowners at the Fairmont Century Plaza will appreciate state-of-the-art technology while residing in an iconic, historic hotel that represents the very essence of the Century City lifestyle. Each of the hotel residences reflects a blend of classicism and modernism, with usable terraces blurring the lines between indoors and out. These units represent ideal pieds-à-terre for international entrepreneurs, professional athletes or entertainment industry executives who insist on privacy and convenience, along with a subtle dose of Hollywood glamour.

Century City, overshadowed by Beverly Hills and West Hollywood a decade ago, has reemerged as one of the hottest luxury markets in L.A., and this Century Plaza development is occurring during an impressive renaissance of the district. The neighboring Westfield Century City shopping center recently completed a $1 billion renovation, making the venue a regional attraction for high-end boutiques, restaurants and entertainment.

Fairmont Residences duplex.

Osborn notes that an additional 100,000 square feet of retail space incorporated into the project will further ensure a 24-hour, amenity-rich experience, and that Century Plaza Residences is responding to Angelenos’ newfound appreciation for vertical living. Osborn also reports considerable interest from international buyers, both European and Asian, who are familiar with Century City through business or know it from shopping in adjoining Beverly Hills.

The Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel and Century Residences, with units commanding more than $2,700 per square foot, demonstrates confidence in the luxury housing market and overall economy of both Century City and Greater L.A.

Renderings courtesy of DBOX. 

Leave a comment
hello

Light On Time

Many contemporary luxury watches are inspired by the sleek aesthetics and seductive instrumentation of the automobile and aerospace industries, resulting in endorsement deals with Formula One drivers and marketing campaigns featuring test pilots. Some of the high-tech materials that make sports cars and fighter jets lightweight and aerodynamic are now incorporated into watches.

For many consumer products, there is a correlation between weight and value, a concept manufacturers have, sometimes misleadingly, reinforced. Watchmakers, whose sleek, svelte products have evolved into large, chunky ornaments per current style, have been forced to explore the use of lighter materials. Now the ethereal is being equated with value, and the race to lightness has produced some remarkable products.

Astronaut photo courtesy of NASA; Watch photo courtesy of Roger Dubuis.

Several lightweight watches later, Richard Mille introduced the RM 50-03 McClaren F1 model in 2017, a limited edition of 75 pieces priced at $980,000. At less than 40 grams (including the strap), it became the world’s lightest split-seconds chronograph tourbillon watch. That product introduced a new nanomaterial called graphene (aka Graph TPT) that is 200 times stronger than steel but far lighter. Noting watchmakers’ proclivity to mimic machines on the race track, Adams suggests, “Timepieces are often referred to by modern watchmakers, including Richard Mille, as ‘race cars for the wrist.’”

Lightweight materials like carbon fiber and titanium have been adopted by manufacturers of mass-produced watches, brands such as Citizen and Casio, but luxury watchmakers are consistently pioneering newer, lighter materials. The carbon nano-fibers employed by Richard Mille are similar to what are used for the U.S. Air Force’s stealth bombers, and graphene is being tested by McClaren for its Grand Prix race cars. “I’ve worn many lightweight Richard Mille watches and they’re very cool,” reports Adams. “The irony is that the more lightweight they are, the more difficult it can be to present them as the mega-luxury products their prices suggest,” he adds.

 

 

Ariel Adams, whose A Blog to Watch is a leading resource for watch enthusiasts, reports, “Watch brands typically are poor at selling anything new, and thus rely on other products and industries who have already created an appetite for particular materials or themes.” He cites comfort as a prime motivation for reducing weight, stating, “There’s a very real reason why a collector might prefer to wear a watch that’s barely noticeable as opposed to a ‘gold brick on the wrist.’”

Nancy Olson, managing editor at Inter-national Watch (iW) magazine, reports, “It’s all about expanding the limits of development and design to set themselves apart within a somewhat crowded watch market, as well as, in this instance, sturdiness and comfort—particularly in the sport watch arena.” Richard Mille, arguably the trendiest brand in watches, is particularly influential in sport-themed design.

At the French Open in 2010 Richard Mille debuted the RM 027 tourbillon watch, a limited edition designed for tennis superstar and brand ambassador Rafael Nadal. Able to withstand the violent gravitational forces he produces on the clay court, the watch weighs a mere 19 grams (0.670 ounces) with its strap, thanks to a carbon-based composite. The entire movement, crafted from titanium and a high-lithium content alloy — the light yet durable lithium is used in aircraft, rockets and race cars — weighs just 3.83 grams (0.135 ounces).

Oris Williams FW41: Limited Edition. Photo courtesy of Oris.

Richard Mille is not the only manufacturer with a connection to auto racing, and the FW41 from Oris is part of a racing-themed collection that celebrated the Williams Team’s 41st season on the Formula One circuit. The total weight of this limited edition watch, comprised largely of carbon fiber and titanium, is not disclosed but the middle case weighs in at only 7.2 grams (0.254 ounces).

Known for capitalizing on trends set by more expensive watchmakers, Oris brings greater accessibility to feather-weight watches, as the FW41 costs approximately $4,350. With its patterned black carbon fiber dial, the FW41 has a dark, sultry aesthetic, reminiscent of the aircraft that share the same materials. Roger Dubuis, which frequently collaborates with iconic racing brands Lamborghini and Pirelli, uses carbon and titanium to lighten its skeleton-style Excalibur Spider watches, both an automatic model and flying tourbillon.

Excalibur Spider Carbon Skeleton: Flying Tourbillon RD509SQ. Photo courtesy of Roger Dubuis. 

Montblanc, the legendary German manufacturer of writing instruments, is also a superb watchmaker and in 2016 it released a concept watch, the Time-Walker Pythagore Ultra-Light that weighed in at an extraordinary 14.88 grams (0.525 ounces) sans the strap. Montblanc achieved this lightness through skeletonization and the use of mineral glass, titanium and a Swiss composite material charged with car-bon nanotubes called Innovative Technical Revolutionary Resin.

For those who value a thin profile even more than lightness, the crown would go to Bulgari, which at Baselworld 2019 — the celebrated timepiece/jewelry exhibition held in Switzerland every spring — debuted the thinnest automatic wristwatch in the world. The venerable Italian brand has long specialized in ultra-thin watches and with a 3.3mm movement housed in a case just 6.9mm thick, Bulgari’s razor-thin Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT is the company’s latest achievement in condensing complex mechanisms.

Ariel Adams cautions that thin watch engineering differs from lightweight watch engineering in significant ways. “Thin watches tend to be a lot more diffcult to make because you aren’t just working with materials but also tolerances and moving parts that need to go next to one another,” he explains. While the Octo Finis simo secures a new title for Bulgari, Piaget (another specialist in slender timepieces) holds the record for mechanical watches. “While thin watches can also be lightweight, appreciating the effort that’s required to make them is an entirely different discussion,” insists Adams.

Nancy Olson, who professionally observes the often-fickle trends in watch-making, does not dismiss the flight-to-light or thin-is-in movements. “A trend always leaves something behind, even when the expression of it evolves,” she states, adding, “Every milestone in watchmaking changes the whole in some way.”

Light & Lean

Bulgari- www.bulgari.com

Montblanc- www.montblanc.com

Oris- www.oris.ch

Piaget- www.piaget.com

Richard Mille- www.richardmille.com

Roger Dubuis- www.rogerdubuis.com

 

Resources

A Blog to Watch- www.ablogtowatch.com

International Watch- iwmagazine.com

Richard Mille RM 027 Tourbillon – Rafael Nadal.
Photo courtesy of Richard Mille.

The Run To Ibiza

Roger Dubuis has created “The Run To…,” a series of extraordinary supercar adventures, with the signature drive concluding at the Monaco Grand Prix. Participants pass through unrivaled natural beauty in the world’s finest automobiles, enhanced with fine cuisine, lavish accommodations and world-class entertainment. The glamour of these journeys fuel the company’s inspired watchmaking. Photo courtesy of The Good Life Inc.

Leave a comment
hello

Luxury Longboards

Surfing has always been one of the most approachable, laid-back sports in the world, with no cost to entry beyond access to a public beach, a second-hand board and a pocketful of change for an after-wipeout fish taco. But with iconic luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Hermès creating boards for their exclusive clienteles, another side to the sport has emerged.

Among the most striking boards available are those from Haleiwa Surfboard Company, at which septuagenarian surfer and veteran artisan Mahlon (“Lon”) Klein typically crafts no more than 15 exquisite wooden boards per year. Located on Oahu’s North Shore, one of Hawaii’s most storied surfing destinations, Haleiwa incorporates indigenous hardwoods such as koa, mango, kamani, and monkey-pod into its unique boards. 

#68: Hand-crafted by: Lon Klein @ Haleiwa       

Dimensions: 7′-3″ X 18 1/2″ X 2 5/8″  
Surfboard Company                          Deck: Koa, mango
Shape Design: Dick Brewer              Bottom: African mahogany
Photo courtesy of John Bilderback.

Klein originally began crafting boards from lightweight woods, and some are used to this day by pro surfers Michael Ho and Roger Erickson, but he eventually sought out more attractive woods that are too heavy for competitive surfing. “My audience was no longer the surfing market but the art market,” explains Klein, who insists no two of his boards are alike. “I never thought of myself as an artist,” says the native Californian who moved to Hawaii for the surfing. “But I’m always trying to accentuate the beauty of the shape itself,” he adds.

Klein says that more than 200 hours of labor go into each handcrafted, triple-gloss-finished board, and the artisan has no interest in compromising his craft for mass-production. Haleiwa Surfboard Company’s worldwide following includes clients from Europe to Japan, and Klein reports that a member of the Moroccan royal family purchased a pair of the wood-clad “sticks.” The firm’s larger surf-boards are currently priced at $22,000 while a shorter ver-sion commands $14,000.

Far from the iconic beaches of Hawaii or California is England’s LUX Surfboards, a collaboration of Ellie Miller, the only female professional board maker in Europe, and artist Danni Bradford. “The Aureus,” is their ’70s-inspired board, entirely sheathed in 24-karat gold leaf and currently priced at the equivalent of $45,600. The deck features a triple elliptical pinline design and the hull includes a single gilded fiberglass fin. 

“A 24-karat gold surfboard had never been made before, and we were inspired by how unique it would be if we could achieve it,” says Bradford, whose studio is close to her favorite surfi ng spot in North Devon. “I’ve been riding Ellie’s surfboards exclusively for the last six years, and watching her grow as maker,” says Bradford, who adds, “It seemed only natural for us to combine our skills.” 

“The board took months to complete, and it was incredibly painstaking,” says Bradford, who explains the gold was integrated into the construction of the board, not simply applied to the surface. The artist, acclaimed for her imaginative work with glass, says of her partnership with Miller, “I definitely think we’ll collaborate again on another board.”

In Los Angeles, designer Elisabeth Weinstock covers everything from handbags to soccer balls in exotic anaconda or boa skins. Her surfboards ($5,600), clad in snakeskin or other exotic leathers, are popular even with people who never venture into the waves. “Whether you’re a surf enthusiast or just appreciate the California beach vibe, this is the ultimate luxury objet d’art,” says Weinstock, who notes, “It was designed for the lover of the art of the sport.”

Kelly Wearstler, a prominent L.A. interior designer known for her trendy Holly-wood Regency- or Art Deco-in-spired hotel commissions, has also waded into surfboard design. Handcrafted from shaved Russian birch and sealed with surf resin, her $8,900 boards display compel-ling patterns, some organic and others more structured, that bring artistic expression to the sport. While you could conceivably paddle out on one of these glossy boards, they are primarily decorative, designed to bring the spirit of surfing indoors. Wearstler reports they were inspired by her love of the Malibu beach culture. 

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com/EpicStockMedia.

Hawaiian artist Tim Nguyen, whose idyllic images of his fellow Islanders are expressed with rich tropical colors reminiscent of Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, presents his love of the Aloha State on a surfboard. His “Under Banana Leaves,” currently offered at specialty retailer Martin & MacArthur for $8,190, is the ideal piece of décor for a luxury Hawaiian estate — or even a Chicago penthouse whose owner yearns for the Maui sun.  

“Art on surfboards is my expression of Island beauty, my passion for the ocean and the depiction of Hawaiian culture,” says Nguyen, who resides on the tranquil, unspoiled west side of Oahu where local traditions endure. “My board represents a scene in my imagination about a lush tropical garden,” reports the artist, whose frequent images of banana trees capture the magical qualities of Polynesian culture.

Russian Birch Board by Kelly Wearstler. Photo courtesy of Kelly Wearstler. 

Roses surboard from Elizabeth Weinstock. Photo courtesty of John Milios.

The most expensive surf-board on record was created by New Zealand designer Roy Stuart in 2014 and priced at $1.3 million. The board, named “Rampant” was crafted from paulownia, an Asian tree known for lavender-colored blossoms and has a 23-karat gold lion emblem engraved into it. The hull of the board has a unique tunnel-shaped fin created from kahikatea wood, a towering tree native to New Zealand, along with a distinctive neon blue polycarbonate fin for further balance. 

The Aureus by LUX Surfboards. Photo courtesy of M. Corker / Shimnix Films.

In addition to iconic fashion labels delving into surf culture — Chanel currently offers an elegant board for $8,900 — auto manufacturers like Peugeot and Tesla have also applied their distinctive style and engineering to the once-pedestrian boards. Mercedes-Benz created the “Silver Arrow of the Seas,” an aerodynamic carbon-fiber board with the sleek good looks of a sports car, tailor-made for monster wave master Garrett McNamara. In 2014, the legendary surfer used the board to ride some of the most enormous waves on record off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal.

Sophisticated Sticks
Elisabeth Weinstock
www.elisabethweinstock.com
Haleiwa Surfboard Company
www.haleiwasurfboards.com
Kelly Wearstler

www.kellywearstler.com
LUX Surfboards

www.luxsurfboards.com
Martin & MacArthur
www.martinandmacarthur.com

Leave a comment
hello

In Closing: Stand-Up Success

“Real estate was not what I wanted to do,” states Los Angeles super-agent Gary Gold who explains “I always envisioned myself as a writer and/or cast member for Saturday Night Live.” But Gold applies his penchant for creativity — he spent years as a stand-up comedian and has written seven screenplays — to the rarified L.A. luxury market. In 2016, Gold sold the Playboy Mansion for a then-record $105 million.

“It was the most iconic home in the world and the highest-priced sale in L.A. history, so closing the deal gave me a whole new level of confidence,” says Gold, who adds, “It was like getting a Super Bowl ring!” Currently, Gold is a listing agent for the 25,000-square-foot Chartwell Estate in Bel-Air, priced at a staggering $245 million. The veteran real estate professional reports the home occupies the most coveted 10 acres in Southern California, offering a unique combination of privacy, acreage and views.

Gold, who approaches life with an infectious sense of humor, reports he entered the business at age 17. “I tried painting my car — Jews should never paint cars, by the way — and ruined it,” he jokes. “My brother was a real estate agent and said, ‘Come work for me and I’ll buy you a car,’” recounts Gold, who proceeded to create a marketable persona for his new boss. “Back then everybody was so square, like buying from your elderly aunt, so we transformed Rich into a compelling brand, which now, 30 years later, is very common.

Gary Gold, Hilton & Hyland. Photo courtesy of Gary Gold. 

 For more than five years in his thirties, Gold flexed his creative muscles, a passion more powerful than real estate. Encouraged by a Hollywood agent who saw him deliver a toast at a wedding, Gold began performing at comedy clubs and writing screenplays. “I loved it, but it destroyed my real estate business because all of my mojo and passion were being invested elsewhere,” he explains. “I asked myself, ‘What can I do in real estate that’ll give me the same buzz as a stand-up routine’ and eventually found ways to channel my creativity into the business,” he recalls.

With the emergence of Internet marketing, Gold discovered he had a gift for transforming the mundane business of real estate into something creative and sexy. “Now I get as jacked up preparing real estate marketing campaigns as performing at the Comedy Store,” he says.

 

The Playboy Mansion. Photo courtesy of Jim Bartsch.

Gold is very open about his former cocaine addiction, which began in his late teens and reoccurred in his mid-twenties. “Oddly enough, the drug had the effect of making me obsessive about work and success, and when I got sober I worried if I could function without it,” says Gold. “But I discovered that energy was actually in me,” he explains, and has now been sober for 33 years. “Those painful experiences gave me humility, and sharing them makes me a more effective public speaker,” suggests Gold, who is in demand for his humor-laced keynote addresses. The agent’s candor also inspires audience members struggling with their own sobriety.

Gold currently serves as Executive Vice President at Hilton & Hyland, the prominent Beverly Hills-based luxury agency for which he has worked for 25 years. He places a priority on providing consistent value to clients in the ultra-competitive L.A. luxury market, delivering insights and intelligence beyond the reach of other agents.

Most importantly, the influential luxury agent insists on bringing creativity, a powerful asset, to his profession every day.

Leave a comment
hello

Whiskey Grows to be Trendy Drink

Is any spirit currently trendier than whiskey? Its popularity nationally is reflected in elaborate bars dedicated to its discovery.

The history of whiskey dates back to the 15th century and in America its popularity has endured every beverage trend from flavored martinis to craft beers. As Americans embrace this brown liquor — originally from Scotland but now produced from Bangalore to Brooklyn — as a timeless indulgence, they increasingly patronize high-end whiskey bars showcasing the spirit’s remarkable diversity. In Los Angeles, one of the bars that set the whiskey revolution in motion was Seven Grand and its success led to spinoff s in San Diego, Denver and Austin. Steve White, general manager of the downtown Austin location, reports a current selection of just under 600 whiskeys, but insists that sheer numbers are not what motivates him. “My goal is to have the most curated collection of whiskeys that our bartenders can be proud to put in front of anybody,” he explains.

In addition to rare and exotic varieties like a 21-year Hibiki from Japan or Balvenie Tun 1509 single malt from Scotland, Seven Grand offers Texas-crafted whiskeys, including Garrison Brothers Distillery not far from Austin. White reports that customers are eager to discover local brands — a prevailing trend throughout the food-and-beverage industry — and insists Balcones Dsitilling, another Lone Star State label, is competitive on the world stage. In the back of the original Seven Grand in L.A., an exclusive tasting library called Bar Jackalope pours particularly rare whiskeys and give s regulars an opportunity to rent lockers to store their own valuable hooch.

With its mounted game heads, antler chandeliers and two-story whiskey bar, illuminated in a soothing amber glow, Butcher and the Rye is a popular hangout in downtown Pittsburgh. Owned by classically trained chef Richard DeShantz, a restaurateur whose four establishments have helped fuel a hot food scene in the Stell City, Butcher and the Rye stocks 600-plus varieties of whiskey, including more than 350 bourbons. Meanwhile, the kitchen offers specialties like beef tartare with black garlic aioli and truffled egg, duck liver pâté with Sauternes gelée, panseared halibut, and buttermilk-fried rabbit.

Canon in Seattle boasts America’s largest spirit collection (4,000 labels and counting), with whiskeys consuming about 150 pages of the 191-page Captain’s List. “We have a very fiite amount of space and when it’s completely consumed that will be our number,” says proprietor Jamie Bourdreau of the lists’s upside potential.

Reluctant to express personal preferences, the Seattle whiskey authority quips, “Whenever someone asks me for my favorite it can usually be translated to, ‘What should I drink or order?'” Bourdreau explains, “The proper reason to that question, in my humble opinion, is: ‘What are you using the whiskey for, what time of day, time of year, what have you enjoyed in the past, and what’s your budget?”

Canon’s list includes many century-old whiskeys priced in the stratosphere, such as a 1898 Canoe Club ($1,225 per pour).

Cocktails — many are memorialized in “The Canon Cocktail Book” authored by Boudreau — include classics like Sazerac and Champs Élysées, multiple mules and creative originals. “I enjoy classics and their history, but have an equal passion for coming up with new combinations and presentation styles,” reports Boudreau, who in spite of his mixology expertise insists Canon is much more than a bar. His kitchen turns out inspired dishes like seared foie gras on pain perdu with cocoa nib “soil,” sweetbread nuggets with agrodolce and barbecue sauce, and duck cassoulet.

Las Vegas’ The Whisky Attic claims to maintain the greatest whiskey collection in America, and whether or not that is actually the case, this off-the-Strip venue is certainly one of the best places to learn about different styles and explore new labels. Various tastings are offered by appointment only, and whether a customer’s interests lean toward Kentucky, Scotland or Japan, the Attic’s approximately 1,800 bottles provide fertile grounds for discovery.

As politics is often enough to drive anybody to drink, it should be no surprise Washington, D.C. offers several outstanding whiskey bars. The Next Whiskey Bar is ensconced in the historic Watergate Hotel, part of the property’s recent $125 million renovation. The space features curvaceous floor-to-ceiling shelving displaying 2,500 custom-made whiskey bottles, all dramatically and sensually illuminated.

Among the selections at The Next are a 23-year Pappy Van Winkle ($500 per pour), 25-year Macallan ($300) and 18-year Yamazaki Mizunara 2017 ($650), all excellent options for lobbyists with unlimited expense accounts. But there are whiskeys for everybody at The Watergate’s chic watering hole. “We’re shaking off the ‘appeal to only older men’ mentality,” says the hotel’s assistant food-and-beverage director Chad Gentile, insisting whiskey is a versatile ingredient that appeals to a diverse clientele. “We host men and women in their late twenties to more venerable guests wanting to relive the vivacity of the period,” he says of the capital’s cocktail culture.

Also in D.C. is the more traditional-looking Jack Rose Dining Saloon, where candlelit tables beneath a tin-stamped ceiling are enveloped by shelves containing approximately 2,700 bottles of whiskey for sampling. With 10,000 bottles a year sold by the dram, owner Bill Thomas is confident his establishment dispenses more whiskey than any bar in the world. Suggesting a demand for quality is driving the popularity of the spirit, he reports, “In the early- to mid-2000s people started paying attention to what they were consuming.”

Jack Rose Dining Saloon presents a sophisticated menu that extends well beyond whiskey-habanero wings to include ginger-glazed pork belly, scallops with black trues, and steak in peppercorn or blue cheese sauce — generally hearty fare that stands up to whiskey. Popular with diplomats, members of Congress and professional athletes, Thomas says of his diverse clientele, “On any given night a guy in a hockey jersey might be seated next to a Saudi prince.”

Leave a comment
hello

Luxury on the Golf Course

Golf has always been considered an elitist sport, but when precious metals and exotic leathers are introduced, it’s a whole new game.

With its expensive equipment and country club heritage, golf has always been considered a luxury pursuit, even though aggressive youth programs and some hip touring professionals have begun eroding the sport’s buttoned-down image. Nonetheless, players with unlimited resources or a penchant for fantasy are fueling demand for some over-the-top golf equipment and accessories.

The venerable luxury brand of Tiffany & Co. creates some of golf’s most coveted trophies, including those of the PGA Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It also produces an elegant sterling silver putter ($2,500), which is an ideal gift for any golfing enthusiast who likes to flash some bling on the greens. A more discreet way to glamorously accessorize one’s game is with the company’s sterling silver tee, which at $175 is a relatively inexpensive way to give a loved one a little blue box from Tiffany. Hopefully, it will not be lost on the course!

The Garia “Golf Car”

The most expensive regular-production golf clubs are the platinum-and-24-karat gold-accented Beres 5-Star series from Japanese manufacturer Honma. Veteran golf retailer Bill Stauff er of Las Vegas Golf & Tennis Superstore reports that a 14-club set with bag sells for about $65,000 and is popular with status-conscious Asian tourists who would pay more for these products back home. “There’s no question the quality is there,” states Stauffer, who insists Honma products are not simply for bragging rights. He explains the clubs are all made-to-order by seasoned craftsmen, which results in an eight-week wait for delivery. While the brand has traditionally been more popular with billionaire duff ers than PGA pros, superstar Justin Rose just inked a 10-year endorsement deal with Honma.

Transforming the clunky electric golf cart into a sophisticated driving machine is Garia, a Danish manufacturer whose top-of-the-line vehicle begins at $73,000. The Garia “Golf Car,” inspired by Mercedes-Benz, combines luxury, state-of-the-art technology and the true spirit of the game. For functionality, it features a scoreboard displayed on a touchscreen and handy tray for balls and tees, while comfort is ensured by the inclusion of that essential amenity on the golf course — a built-in refrigerator. And with an attainable speed of 43 miles per hour, albeit not recommended at stuffier country clubs, Garia has not overlooked performance. This aerodynamic Mercedes Benz-styled ride puts an end to the plastic buggy age and allows luxury golf enthusiasts to express themselves on the links.

Anders Lynge, designer and co-founder of Garia, explains the inspiration for the product was to take Mercedes-Benz design values onto the golf course, noting the iconic automotive brand has previously applied its sense of style to yachts and helicopters. All Garia golf cars are more than just your average golf cart,” insists Lynge, citing features like sports car-inspired double-wishbone suspension with disc brakes and an integrated instrument cluster. While it offers the functionality and simplicity of a golf cart, the designer maintains it drives more like an automobile.

“Buyers are wealthy individuals who need the car for golf and street usage inside their communities or on their properties,” says Lynge, who reports the car is street legal in both the EU and U.S. “Some are Mercedes collectors, some avid golfers who want the very best, others are athletes or entrepreneurs who have made it and now live in a golf community and want the best possible vehicle for driving and golfing,” says Lynge of his globally diverse clientele.

Par West Custom Golf Shoes is another brand that has gained traction among discriminating golfers. Paul Raddatz founded the business after making his first pair of shoes for PGA pro Payne Stewart — the game’s most flamboyant dresser in the ’80s and ’90s — from NFL football leather.

Currently, three of the top 10 ranked players on the Tour are wearing Par West shoes. The Wisconsin-based company custom-makes all shoes from a foot mold kit, taking into consideration clients’ sock preferences and habits on the course.

Honma Beres S-06 Driver

Sterling in Tangerine Ostrich

Reporting he has sold shoes with more than 5,000 distinct color and style combinations, Raddatz says many of his customers are simply unable to find shoes that fit in any pro shop. “Others are people who really want to look their best and care about quality,” he explains. Traditional styles are offered for conservative dressers, but for those more daring in their golf fashion, perhaps influenced by the PGA’s Rickie Fowler, Par West has plenty of eye-popping options to choose from.

Raddatz, a leather industry veteran, utilizes sharkskin, ostrich, American bison, crocodile, African elephant, and stingray for golf shoes, among other exotic leathers. He reports bold color choices like fuchsia, canary yellow or tangerine are surprisingly popular, and a pair of royal purple American alligator shoes is priced at $5,200. An avid golfer himself, Raddatz states, “I don’t care how much you spend on clubs or lessons. Stability on the ground is the basis for a good swing.” A large part of Par West’s business is corporate gifts, ideal for the Fortune 500 executive who fancies himself as the best dressed golfer at his club.

Some fashionable duffers may opt for a vintage Louis Vuitton golf bag, but among the most expensive currently available are ostrich, crocodile or carbon fiber bags from Barchi, handcrafted by Italian artisans. Customers should be prepared to spend more than $40,000 for these luxury bags, available in vibrant colors and accented with palladium hardware.

Considerably more modest but with plenty of cachet is Louis Vuitton’s golf kit clad in the design house’s signature Monogram canvas. The $850 item, which can be clipped to one’s golf bag or Garia cart, neatly holds three balls and four tees. Players with fancy accessories should probably consider membership at a country club that is equally selective, and the most expensive in America is Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, where the initiation fee is reportedly $500,000.

Riviera in Cognac Calf & Chocolate American Alligator

Leave a comment
hello

Real Estate Executive Commits to Giving Back

REAL ESTATE EXECUTIVE TAMI HALTON PARDEE IS COMMITTED TO GIVING BACK, EMPOWERING THOSE WHO HAVE NO ROOF AT ALL.

Founder and CEO of Halton Pardee + Partners, Tami Halton Pardee is one of the nation’s premier real estate entrepreneurs, leading her Los Angeles-based firm to sell more than $3.8 billion worth of properties since its inception in 2004. Halton Pardee is also a prominent philanthropist who created the Life Change Warriors foundation in 2017 after years of promoting a culture of giving at her company.

In 2001 Halton Pardee was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a devastating blow to a vibrant young woman just entering her thirties, but she drew inspiration and energy from this adversity. “That call from my doctor taught me I had to start planning my life, not just letting it happen,” recounts Halton Pardee, who adds, “I needed to start living my best life.”

Photo courtesy of Halton Pardee + Partners.

Halton Pardee founded Life Change Warriors to help people move beyond their own traumas, whatever those may be, and as a real estate professional and mother of four she focused her attention on homeless women and at-risk kids. The real estate executive had always been committed to returning some of her good fortune to the community, and Halton Pardee + Partners maintains a policy of donating a portion of all commissions to local charities, totaling more than $1.3 million over 14 years. But with her newfound sense of purpose, Halton Pardee yearned to be more hands-on in her giving, and those charitable proceeds are now directed primarily to Life Change Warriors.

The foundation translates Halton Pardee’s long-held philosophy of creating one’s best life through human connections, but presents it through a more structured methodology. Life Change Warriors offers six weeks of classes — she teaches them herself along with two life coaches — for people unable to get beyond their respective traumas, often relegated to living on the streets.

“Everybody lives in the past and believes that it dictates their future, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” insists the entrepreneur, who personally overcame her own traumas. “I want them to live their best lives,” reports Halton Pardee, who hosts students at her home for graduation dinners. The graduates receive a monetary gift to use as a deposit for an apartment or to pursue a degree or career goal, finally breaking the cycle of homelessness with a newfound sense of empowerment.

One of Life Change Warriors’ many success stories was a single, homeless mother named Sylvia, who after graduation from her six-week class went on to receive her high school equivalency certificate and was placed by the foundation in a job with a nonprofit affordable housing developer, where she has since been promoted to property manager.

“After selling a $10 million home, how can any agent not think of giving a portion of that commission to people who don’t even have a roof over their heads?” asks Halton Pardee, who notes the real estate industry is ideally suited to this kind of charity. “When you believe in someone, it can really change their life,” she says, noting that until many of her students begin classes, they have never before had anybody truly believe in them. “They need to know they’re worthy and that there’s a way out of homelessness, that they can escape whatever happened in their past,” explains the inspiring philanthropist.

Leave a comment
hello

Luxurious Pianos Become Grand Works of Art

Transforming the already luxurious grand piano into a genuine work of art requires both imagination and respect for centuries-old traditions.

Few possessions are as classic and exquisite as a grand piano, an accessory that complements an elegant residence as naturally as a tuxedo suits James Bond. Even if rarely played, that timeless piece of functional art makes a profound statement about the homeowner’s style and sophistication. And like yachts or haute couture, a grand piano can be customized to indulge the most extravagant tastes.

Meticulously handcrafted in Queens, New York or Hamburg, Germany, every Steinway & Sons piano is a masterpiece. The company’s defiant adherence to Old World craftsmanship — each grand piano takes up to a year to build — is rare in an era when manufacturers are rewarded for automation, cost-control and uniformity. Even a standard-issue Steinway grand is impressive, but the company’s collaboration with renowned artists and designers elevates the product to another level altogether.  

GOLD LEAF by Fazioli. 24-carat gold leaf completely covers this F228 piano model, giving it a touch of royal prestige. The transparent polyester that protects the gold leaf gives the surface a precious luminosity of iridescent shades.

Photo courtesy of Fazioli/Roberto Zava-Studio Step.

In addition to accommodating an exclusive clientele seeking something completely unique and willing to pay a premium for it, Steinway appreciates the excitement its exclusive art case pianos generate among a broader audience. “A very cool and unique limited edition that garners some press also brings attention to Steinway & Sons as a whole,” explains Director of Product Management Robert Polan, who oversees the company’s custom piano program worldwide.

“A lot of care is taken to find partners that are compatible with Steinway’s mission and principles,” says Polan, citing frequent musical associations like the “Imagine” John Lennon limited edition. “In other cases, the connection is more along the lines of a company with a similar dedication to craftsmanship and quality — a great example being what we’ve done with Lalique,” he says. Polan reports some partnerships are forged to commemorate a Steinway milestone, such as a collaboration with designer Frank Pollaro for “The Fibonacci,” which celebrated the company’s 600,000th piano in 2015, priced at $2.4 million.

 

 

 

 

THE HELICONIA Designed by Lalique. Originally designed in 1992 by Marie-Claude Lalique — the granddaughter of René Lalique — the heliconia flower forms the perfect decor for these fine instruments. Lovingly crafted at the Lalique manufactory in Alsace, 75 crystals make the instrument shine, while silver-colored inlays are decoratively arranged into the design creating interesting reflections as well as a sense of clarity. 

Photo courtesy of Steinway & Sons.

Most whimsical of Steinway’s limited editions is a $2.5 million piano created by pianist/painter Paul Wyse based on “Pictures at an Exhibition,” a masterwork by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky inspired by the paintings of fellow countryman Viktor Hartmann. “In this case, ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ was this unique and momentous occasion in history where visual art and music converged in a perfect way,” says Polan.

Like Steinway, Baldi Home Jewels has been creating luxury goods for more than 150 years, and the company’s use of semiprecious gems and 24-karat gold redefines home furnishings like bath fixtures or tableware. The Florence, Italy-based firm partnered with Steinway to create “Armonia Limited Edition by Baldi,” in which the cases, lids, music stands and legs of glossy ebonized pianos are embellished with Italian Renaissance ornamentation. Decorative bronze elements are hand-chiseled to perfection — an exacting process consistent with Steinway’s own commitment to craftsmanship — and plated in precious metals with a choice of nine different patinas.

PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION. Painted by Paul Wyse for Steinway & Sons. Photos courtesy of Steinway & Sons.

Steinway’s “Heliconia,” the product of a partnership with Lalique, is a black or white grand piano adorned with 75 jewel-like pieces of the renowned French glassmaker’s signature frosted crystal. 

Created from a design by Marie-Claude Lalique (granddaughter of founder René Lalique), the result is a stunning, understated marriage of two great artisanal legacies. “Lalique is a company with a very similar history and tradition of craftsmanship, so as ‘kindred spirit’ companies, this partnership made sense on many levels,” says Steinway’s Polan.

Gene Korolev, who learned the art of piano refurbishment in Russia’s cultured city of Saint Petersburg, reimagines Steinway grand pianos with his daughter, Katherine Banyasz. With his 40-plus years of piano experience and her background in interior and graphic design, their Piano Solutions XXI creates glamorous, over-the-top instruments from a studio in suburban Los Angeles.

The Piano Solutions principals are quick to distance themselves from the ostentatious rhinestone-clad showpieces Liberace made famous. “I like to tell a story, not just slap some patterns onto a piano case,” explains Banyasz, who reports her father’s craftsmanship is an appealing antidote to the prevailing culture of mass production. An early work paid tribute to French fashion designer Coco Chanel, an Art Deco design in which nearly 50,000 cubic zirconia crystals tell Madame Chanel’s story, with her silhouette appearing inside the lid.

When the Chanel piano sold for $250,000, the father-and-daughter entrepreneurs recognized the demand for elaborate, finely-crafted art case pianos. “Anybody who appreciates art, wants something unique to pass from generation to generation, or who finds meaning in the themes,” is how Banyasz characterizes the company’s exclusive clientele.

NEW YORK SERENADE by PIANO SOLUTIONS XXI. Photos courtesy of Piano Solutions XXI.

Piano Solutions XXI’s “New York Serenade” is a Steinway grand enveloped with images of Manhattan landmarks created through the application of about 165,000 cubic zirconia crystals. Its music rack features a couple seated on a park bench viewing the skyline and the entire composition represents a love letter to the Big Apple. A total of 2,880 crystals were affixed to the sides of the piano’s 36 black keys, which Korolev remembers consuming many of the 3,000 hours of labor invested in this project. New York Serenade is on the market for $1.5 million and Banyasz believes a luxury Manhattan hotel would be a natural buyer.

Fazioli was founded in Italy 130 years after Steinway but produces among the most coveted instruments in the world, and serious musicians dominate its clientele. Only about 100 are handcrafted annually at its factory near Venice, and admirers suggest playing a Fazioli is the musical equivalent of racing a Ferrari. Founder Paolo Fazioli insists that the drive to explore new techniques and aesthetics is embedded in his company’s DNA. “This is our life, experiments. You can increase quality and do a good job, but only if you continually experiment,” he says.

THE HELICONIA Designed by Lalique

Photo courtesy of Steinway & Sons.

MARCO POLO By Fazioli

Photo courtesy of Fazioli/Roberto Zava-Studio Step.

Among Fazioli’s experimental art case models is a grand piano entirely clad in 24-karat gold leaf, the ethereal “Butterfly” designed by architect Bing Thom, and the high-gloss red “Marco Polo,” originally commissioned by a client from China. The crimson instrument’s inside lid features a reproduction of an ornate Canaletto painting that celebrates the ancient connection between Venice and China

Showstopping Pianos

Fazioli: www.fazioli.com

Piano Solutions XXI: www.pianosxxi.com

Steinway & Sons: www.steinway.com

Collaborators

Baldi Home Jewels: www.baldihomejewels.com

Lalique: www.lalique.com

Leave a comment
hello

Real Estate Developers and Philanthropists Host Benefit

At a skyscraper in Times Square recently, real estate developers and philanthropists Douglas and Susanne Durst and The Durst Organization hosted a benefit to support The Everglades Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to protecting and restoring the Everglades through science, education and advocacy. 

The Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg and the Dursts were joined by renowned nature photographer Mac Stone, author of the award-winning book Everglades: America’s Wetland. Stone provided the event’s 150 guests — celebrities, politicians and business leaders among them — with a visual journey through the storied ecosystem. Guests were also treated to light fare from chef Claus Meyer (co-founder of Copenhagen’s renowned Noma restaurant), whose Michelin-starred cuisine is inspired by nature.

© Patrick McMullan

The images captured by Mac Stone helped encourage attendees to become involved in the protection of the Everglades, the largest subtropical wilderness in North America and home to 78 threatened or endangered species. Diking, damming and development have shrunk the wetlands to nearly a third of its original size and contributed to toxic algae blooms. Stone suggests diverse perspectives — including water policy, wildlife protection and urban planning — animate any conversation on the Everglades.

“The Everglades may not have the dramatic vistas of treasured national parks like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but is equally deserving of our adoration,” insists Stone. “Although the Everglades lives in Florida, it’s a national treasure — one of the most unique, and imperiled, places in the world,” he says, adding, “We all have a mutual stake in these wetlands, which are part of our natural heritage.”

“Florida is being ravaged by a perennial algae crisis that’s destroying our beaches, fisheries, tourism and real estate industries,” says Eikenberg, who explained to the guests in Manhattan that New York State faces similar algae blooms. “Our two states share so many important cultural and economic connections, so it’s only natural that we should come together in the interest of protecting one of the last truly unique wildernesses,” says Eikenberg.

© istockphoto.com/Vogariver

He notes that the Everglades, which is the source of fresh water for more than 8 million Floridians, is critical to the state’s economy and that new legislation for protection and restoration is required. “The Everglades is the only place where crocodiles and alligators coexist,” notes the Foundation CEO, who quips, “Members of Congress could learn from that!”

The Dursts are best known for building skyscrapers — projects like One World Trade Center and One Bryant Park practically define the Manhattan skyline — but they are passionate about preserving Florida’s endangered wilderness. “We have a home in Florida and have experienced first-hand the devastation that toxic algae blooms can have, not only on our environment, but on the local economy of communities connected to the ocean or waterways,” reports Douglas Durst.  

Viewing the Everglades as a canary-in-a-coal mine, Durst states, “They, unfortunately, are previewing what will befall all of our nation’s waterways if we don’t act quickly to combat this problem.” The environmentally conscious Durst adds, “We’re proud to join The Everglades Foundation in raising awareness of this vital issue and helping to tap new streams of support for their work.” Eikenberg responds, “The Durst family and Durst Organization demonstrate that development and environmental preservation are not mutually exclusive, and we were honored to be hosted by them.”

Leave a comment
hello

Equestrian Charity Assists Veterans, Special Needs Children

Therapeutic horseback riding is changing the lives of physically and developmentally disabled children and veterans.

Appreciating the profound relationship between horse and rider, Sissy DeMaria-Koehne founded Give Back for Special Equestrians in 2013 along with Dr. Heather Kuhl and Isabel Ernst. The organization raises money to provide therapeutic horseback riding scholarships for children and veterans suffering from physical or developmental disabilities — whether it be autism, cerebral palsy or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — so they can enjoy the benefits of horsepower that heals.

“I was approaching a milestone birthday, and even though I raised three wonderful daughters, I was thinking about how else I might want to be remembered,” says DeMaria-Koehne, president of Kreps DeMaria Public Relations in New York and Miami. “I’m proud to be a good mother and grateful to have enjoyed success in business, but I believe we’re called upon to do more to pay forward our blessings.” When DeMaria-Koehne, whose love of horses began at an early age, saw how individuals with physical or developmental disabilities responded to therapeutic riding, she knew she wanted to play a role.

DeMaria-Koehne, who reports equestrian therapy dates back to the ancient Greeks, originally named the organization “Give a Buck for Special Equestrians,” because her initial fundraising effort encouraged equestrians to give as little as a dollar every time they paid their boarding fees.

Give Back for Special Equestrians currently provides funding for therapeutic facilities including Good Hope Equestrian Center, Stable Place and Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast in Florida, and Gallop NYC in Queens. DeMaria-Koehne hopes to eventually expand her organization nationally.

These remarkable facilities offer extraordinary services for special needs equestrians, but often do not have the resources for effective fundraising. DeMaria-Koehne’s organization holds regular galas in the Hamptons, as well as at the Winter Equestrian Festival outside Palm Beach, Florida each year. With influential board members like Georgina Bloomberg (world-class equestrian and daughter of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg), the organization continues to grow and attract high profile sponsors like Rolls-Royce.

Last summer, prominent real estate developer Don Peebles hosted a fundraiser at his Bridgehampton, New York estate that raised $50,000 for Give Back for Special Equestrians. Inspired by his daughter Chloe’s love of horses, Peebles reports, “She helped us learn about the compassion, strength and courage of horses and how horses having these qualities can heal humans and bring joy to their lives.” He adds, “Hosting a fundraiser for an effort with such beneficial outcomes is very rewarding!” According to DeMaria-Koehne, everybody in the organization, from graphic artist to accountant, is a volunteer. “Nobody takes a salary, and, beyond minor operating costs, all funds raised go right back to serve these special needs riders,” she says.

Some riders are children who are totally non-verbal, explains DeMaria-Koehne, but recounts moments shared by Dr. Peggy Bass, executive director at Good Hope Equestrian Training Facility, who has seen the miracles of this therapy at work when young riders, previously non-verbal saying the words “giddy up” to their mounts. She further reports, “After spending their life in a wheelchair, when they get onto a horse they feel like they’re on top of the world. They’re literally walking and standing tall!” Horses selected for special needs riders are quiet, docile and patient, and tend to be older. “People with autism are often non-verbal, but so are animals, who communicate through their energy,” explains DeMaria-Koehne.

“I still get excited about helping our clients succeed,” states DeMaria-Koehne about her highly successful career as a public relations executive, but says of her nonprofit work, “This is different … this speaks to my soul.”

Photos courtesy of Give Back for Special Equestrians. 

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

Leave a comment
hello