All posts by Roger Grody

California Riviera

A desire for a serene coastal experience continues to fuel the luxury market in Orange County.

 

Orange County, California used to be defined by citrus groves and theme parks, but has evolved into one of the nation’s premier luxury residential markets. While some prices have begun to soften, several of the region’s top agents see strength moving into 2020.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties’ Mariann Cordova reports luxury sales activity eased in 2019, but submits low interest rates and a fundamentally strong economy provide a counterbalance to negative sentiment generated by political uncertainty. “When people are making money, they’re spending money,” insists Cordova, who reports coastal areas like Laguna Beach and Newport Coast hold value best, followed by prestigious inland gated communities like Shady Canyon and Coto de Caza. The agent currently lists a 9,400-square-foot Mediterranean estate — the seller is former hockey superstar Teemu Selänne — in Coto de Caza for $6.9 million.

“The luxury market has suffered more than any other sector,” maintains Surterre Properties’ Chris Valli, who notes the trend began at least two years ago. He suggests the Orange County market has been impacted by the new tax laws, which effectively penalize high-value/high-tax states like California, but also reminds clients the market is experiencing a natural cycle.

“For over five years we went straight up and buyers began thinking prices were getting too high,” says Valli, who expects activity to rebound in the second half of 2020. He believes buyers waiting on the sidelines will soon enter the market and reports election years are historically active. The agent currently offers a sleek 6,500-square-foot ocean-bluff home in Laguna Beach — the charming beach town is becoming a showplace for modern residential architecture — at $13.5 million.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SMITH GROUP

Newport Beach, a perennially fashionable community where yacht slips are as important as driveways, remains a strong market. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Tim Smith set the record last year for the most expensive sale on Newport Harbor, which he believes represents the quintessential luxury Orange County lifestyle — even more so than the region’s signature coastal bluffs. “There’s a connection to the ocean you experience when you live on the harbor that you can’t get anywhere else,” insists Smith, dubbing the area “Billionaires’ Bay.”

Characterizing the market as fragmented, Smith explains, “For new construction in great locations, we’re still setting records,” but acknowledges price pressures on less pristine properties. Smith currently offers a 9,609-square-foot, design-forward home in the oceanfront community of Corona del Mar for $24.995 million.

Jacqueline Thompson of Surterre Properties reports 2019 was among her best years and knows of many clients waiting to buy in 2020. “The number of international buyers, especially from China, has declined, but local money is very viable and results in many all-cash offers,” she says. Thompson concedes luxury purchasers still gravitate to the coast, and currently lists a two-estate compound on Newport Coast’s Pelican Point for $19.5 million. However, the agent closed two $11 million-plus cash transactions in Irvine’s amenity-rich Shady Canyon last year.

Orange County offers a wide range of properties, from glass-ensconced beach houses to palatial Mediterranean estates like La Casa Pacifica, listed by Compass’ Rob Giem for $57.5 million. While Thompson’s all-cash offers are illustrative, some agents insist that even super-affluent buyers can be motivated by low interest rates, choosing to put their own funds to work elsewhere. The cumulative effect of recent interest rate cuts, according to Coldwell Banker’s Smith, results in a 12-15 percent increase in purchasing power.

     

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.

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Dining Responsibly

Whether you’re hosting a clambake on Nantucket, enjoying a procession of edible jewels at a Tokyo sushi bar or simply shopping for a suburban supper, the days of consuming seafood with careless abandon are gone. The oceans are desperately overfished, and seafood lovers must be conscious of their own personal impact on the aquatic environment.

The best known resource for both suppliers and consumers is Seafood Watch, a program created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Northern California 20 years ago. Its regional consumer guides, identifying the most sustainable and most threatened species, are valued by consumers, chefs and eco-conscious corporations. “We use a rigorous, scientifically-based standard to come up with recommendations, result-ing in the most up-to-date, credible information,” states Maddie Southard, content manager for Seafood Watch.

So influential are these guides—60 million have been distributed to date—that when a particular item moves from the red (“Avoid”) category to yellow (“Good Alternatives”) or green (“Best Choices”), millions of dollars can change hands. Reflecting the thoroughness of Seafood Watch’s recommendations, flounder appears four times as a “Best Choice,” 14 times as a “Good Alternative” and 18 times in the “Avoid” column depending on the exact species, geographic origin and methods of fishing or farming employed.

©Monteray Bay Aquarium, Photo by Tyson V. Rininger.

“Consumers help drive change, and when businesses recognize what’s import-ant to consumers they respond,” reports Southard of Seafood Watch’s ability to engage corporations like Whole Foods and Blue Apron. The program’s restaurant partners transcend economic strata, from trendy Farallon in San Francisco to family-friendly Red Lobster restaurants across the country.

In its early days, businesses viewed Seafood Watch as a fringe movement but today participation is embraced and display of the organization’s yellowfin tuna logo can be a marketing asset. A Blue Ribbon Task Force, comprised of honored culinary authorities, enhances Seafood Watch’s relevance with diners. “The public admires chefs and culinarians, and we realized the impact they have on consumers,” offers Southard, who adds, “Chefs were some of the earliest supporters of the movement so this was a natural partnership.”

“Whenever I’m making decisions about what to put on a menu, I always ask myself, ‘What would Sheila do,’” says Los Angeles chef Michael Cimarusti, referring to Seafood Watch’s Sheila Bowman, who oversees outreach to chefs. Cimarusti, who has earned two Michelin stars at his flag-ship restaurant Providence, became conscious of sustainable sourcing issues as a young chef in L.A. 20 years ago, when a Gourmet magazine review admonished him for serving bluefin tuna.

“As I learned more about issues relating to sustainability, I became really passion-ate about it and wanted to become more active in the movement,” explains Cimarusti. “I was honored to be asked to sit on the Task Force and have learned a tremendous amount from Seafood Watch,” says the chef, who shares all of the program’s recommendation alerts with his staff.

Éric Ripert, chef/partner of New York’s Le Bernardin, takes sustainability as seriously as Cimarusti. “I spend my days with many varieties of fish, considering which are best for the restaurant, he says. Ripert explains, “This means more than just judging by flavor and composition, but includes the ethics and politics surrounding how they’ve been made available to us.” The Michelin three-star chef cautions, “If we don’t support the artisanal way of catching fish, it’s going to disappear.”

Michael Cimarusti. ©Jennkl Photography.

Courtesy of Whole Foods Market. 

Hugh Acheson, author and James Beard Award-winning chef with a family of Georgia restaurants, also sits on Seafood Watch’s advisory board and is a strong advocate for local, sustainable ingredients. He recalls that in the 1990s chefs addressed a severe threat to swordfish through a voluntary ban and use of more sustainable alternatives, allowing stocks to replenish. “It made me realize how much clout we have, as chefs, to mandate change when we act as a plurality,” states Acheson.

“I think Seafood Watch has succeeded in being a valuable resource for consumers, chefs, wholesalers, and grocery stores,” says the Canadian-born chef who has helped reimagine Southern cuisine. Acheson, who notes that swordfish continues to face challenges, suggests Seafood Watch would have been an invaluable resource decades ago, when many chefs were oblivious to sustainability issues.

An affinity for bluefin tuna (maguro) and eel (unagi), both largely on Seafood Watch’s “Avoid” list, and adherence to centuries-old traditions makes sushi chefs among the most reluctant to adopt sustainable practices. One sushi chef committed to sustainability is Bun Lai, chef/owner of Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut and another member of Seafood Watch’s Blue Ribbon Task Force. Some odd ingredients—every-thing from insects and invasive species to edible weeds—populate his voluminous menu, and the James Beard Award nominee relies on guidance from Seafood Watch.

Éric Rippert. ©Daniel Kreiger Photography. 

Hugh Acheson. Photo by Emily B. Hall. 

“Miya’s started working on sustainable seafood very gradually in the early 2000s,” reports Lai, explaining that unreliable data made conscientious sourcing challenging. “Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch changed all of that by creating a tool that helped people choose sustainable seafood in a market awash with imported seafood of mostly dubious origin and quality,” says Lai. “When I first discovered Seafood Watch, it was as if a light beamed into the darkness I was surrounded by,” he says.

Bun Lai. ©Alan S. Orling.

“I admire my heritage, but we must question our traditions, too,” states Lai, acknowledging sushi’s popularity contributes to overfishing around the globe. He cites Jiro Ono, the revered sushi master featured in the documentary film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, who lamented the demise of the majestic bluefin while continuing to serve it to customers.

“There are, however, sushi chefs filled with a passion for sustainable seafood like those café owners who pioneered fair trade coffee decades ago,” says Lai with optimism. With Seafood Watch’s guides and app available to chefs and consumers alike, good choices can be made on both sides of the bar.

Sustainable Sources

Hugh Acheson
www.hughacheson.com

Le Bernardin
www.le-bernardin.com

Miya’s Sushi
www.miyassushi.com

Providence
www.providencela.com

Seafood Watch
www.seafoodwatch.org

 

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Surf, Sand & Sophistication

An endless coastline, rich heritage and spirit of imagination converge in Florida to create the ultimate luxury lifestyle.

Photo courtesy of Fisherland Club

Fisher Island Club

 

Florida is a kaleidoscope of iconic images, from signature white-sand beaches and championship golf to Miami’s seductive skyline or theme parks encompassing much more than simply a Magic Kingdom. The entire world convenes on this alluring peninsula for every imaginable recreational experience, and its elite residents enjoy unparalleled luxury. 

Florida cannot be defined by a single place or attitude, as its communities represent an incredible spectrum of physical and cultural diversity. Some feel a bit like Savannah or Biloxi, others more spiritually akin to Havana, San Juan or Brooklyn with traditions, music and aromas to match the accents. The fourth-generation Pensacola fisherman and the South Beach fashion designer who recently emigrated from Brazil contribute equally to the state’s personality. 

Beachfront 

With its 1,350 miles of coastline, luxury residential and hospitality developers find Florida irresistible. South Florida, where the Atlantic Coast is almost continuously developed from Miami to Palm Beach, receives the most attention, but beautiful beaches are also found in less congested areas. 

Ideal for catching rays are Clearwater Beach outside Tampa and Atlantic Beach near Jacksonville, both offering wide expanses of white sand. The Space Coast’s Cocoa Beach is favored by surfers, while the dune-swept beaches of Amelia Island attract bird-watchers. The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island is preferred by amateur ornithologists seeking maximum comfort.

Florida’s Panhandle, whose oceanfront is appropriately referred to as the Emerald Coast, features uncrowded beaches with sugar-white sand. “Distinctly more Southern than South Beach, the area is a throwback to the uncluttered and carefree beach lifestyle of years past,” reports David Merryman, manager of a premier boutique hotel called The Pearl, whose Rosemary Beach locale is reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Photo courtesy of Venjhamin Reyes

The Penthouse at The Mansions at Acqualina

 

Tee Time 

It is impossible to overstate the significance of golf to Floridian culture and economics. The game is almost a religion here, despite competition from major league and high-profile university teams, not to mention watersports. Golf generates $11 billion annually to Florida’s economy, a figure surpassing the state’s portfolio of theme parks. With approximately 1,250 courses, Florida offers more opportunities for duffers than any other state, while touring professionals are attracted to the climate, amenities and absence of state income tax. 

Based in Palm Beach Gardens, PGA legend Jack Nicklaus is nearly as dominant in golf course design and development as he was on the links at the height of his career. The Golden Bear has designed courses throughout Florida, including King & Bear in St. Augustine, a collaboration with the late Arnold Palmer. The Bear’s Club in Jupiter features a 40,000-square-foot Tuscan-style clubhouse and $10 million estates line its fairways. In Naples, Nicklaus rival Greg Norman authored two courses at Tiburón Golf Club, paired with a Ritz-Carlton hotel. 

Luxury homeowners on the barrier islands — they trace Florida’s Atlantic Coast like a string of pearls — enjoy access to both championship golf and the water. Because it occupies a small island, the homes surrounding South Florida’s Indian Creek Country Club are both waterfront and golf course-adjacent, resulting in prices pushing $30 million. Less pricey is the real estate bordering Juno Beach’s Seminole Golf Club, but its membership is so exclusive it reportedly once turned down Nicklaus himself. 

 

State of Design 

While influences are imported from other regions, Florida has developed its own signature style, most conspicuous in its architecture. The charismatic skyline of Miami first gained attention during the opening credits of the iconic 1980s series Miami Vice, and things have only accelerated since. 

With flashy postmodern buildings and pastel-hued Art Deco jewels, Miami makes other American cities look gray and unimaginative. Celebrity architects from around the world — Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, to name a few — have contributed to the metro area’s skyline, which some experts consider the greatest design laboratory in the world. 

Much of Miami’s world-class architecture is driven by a competitive luxury real estate market in which developers use design to sell condos at a premium. In addition to those “starchitects,” residential towers are emblazoned with luxury brands — Aston Martin and Porsche from the automotive world, Armani and Fendi from the fashion world — to increase cachet value. Then-chairman/CEO Pietro Beccari stated at the project launch, “It fully expresses the codes, history and savoir faire that characterize Fendi.” 

Further honoring that creative spirit is the 18-block Miami Design District that combines luxury home furnishings (e.g. Bulthaup, Poltrona Frau) with legendary fashion labels Cartier, Versace and Hermès, as well as chic restaurants and the Institute of Contemporary Art’s sleek new digs. The Gulf Coast city of St. Petersburg has created multiple districts to promote local artists and artisans.

Photo courtesy of Bill Sumner

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on Biscayne Bay

Extended Stay 

Demand for luxury accommodations has fueled massive investments by premier hospitality brands, including a dozen-plus Ritz-Carlton properties throughout Florida. The Fontainebleau, an iconic landmark in Miami Beach since its debut in 1954, has been reimagined as a trendy, Vegas-style property for a new generation. More laid-back is Little Palm Island Resort & Spa on Little Torch Key, which will soon reopen after Hurricane Irma shuttered it for two-and-a-half years. Pat Colee, founding owner of Noble House Hotels & Resorts, states, “This restoration has been a true labor of love and we believe we’ve maintained the authentic character of Little Palm while ushering in added amenities.” 

Historic and stately are The Breakers in Palm Beach, a perennial high society retreat, and Miami’s Fisher Island Club Hotel & Resort, a former Vanderbilt estate located in America’s wealthiest ZIP code, a seven-minute ferry ride from the mainland. CEO Bernard Lackner says of the intimate hotel with private club privileges, 

“One of the few true private island sanctuaries, Fisher Island offers a lifestyle rich in leisure and recreational activities, yet just minutes from Miami’s world-class commercial, cultural and culinary offerings.” 

In Florida, luxury hospitality companies have experimented with their branding of condominiums, an increasingly popular trend. Fort Lauderdale, once famous for spring break, is the site of a glitzy Four Seasons Private Residences where a 3,965-square-foot unit commands $8.9 million. “Four Seasons Fort Lauderdale has captivated buyers with its beautiful, high-class design and comprehensive lifestyle experience in the yachting capital of the world,” states Nadim Ashi, founder of project developer Fort Partners. 

The Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, one of Greater Miami’s most exclusive hotels, offers luxury residences at the Mansions at Acqualina. A $38 million penthouse in that tower includes both a Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini.

 

Arts & Culture 

Most surf-and-sun destinations lack robust art scenes, but Florida’s cultural calendar attracts talent from around the globe. Even laid-back locales offer engaging opportunities such as Coral Springs Museum of Art near Pompano Beach, Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg and the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West. “Culture Builds Florida” is a statewide arts campaign designed to promote these assets. 

Art Basel is one of the world’s most prestigious art shows (and celebrity scenes), earning Miami the international stature usually reserved for much larger cities. Year-round, Miami offers the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and the stunning Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on Biscayne Bay while performing arts enthusiasts gather at the César Pelli-designed Adrienne Arsht Center or Gehry-designed New World Center. 

Tampa’s Straz Center — it is the largest performing arts venue in the state — has been a catalyst for downtown development. “The slogan ‘Culture Builds Florida’ is true and true for us in the Tampa Bay area as well,” reports Judith Lisi, president & CEO of the Straz Center. “The arts renaissance throughout Florida reflects a statewide sense of wanting more authentic, more alive experiences in local communities,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Bazaar Photo © 2013 Ryan Forbes

The Bazaar on South Beach

Culinary Clout 

With multiple cultures converging in a resort setting, it should be no surprise that the state’s culinary scene is diverse and imaginative. Pioneering chef/activist José Andrés draws inspiration from many sources at The Bazaar South Beach, incorporating foie gras into an elegant riff on Cuban coffee or winking at the Big Apple with a sophisticated, artfully presented interpretation of bagels and lox.

“Another day, another country,” is how Anthony Bourdain once described Miami, citing flavors from Africa, across the Caribbean and throughout Latin America. Florida is a Southern state, so a satisfying bowl of shrimp and grits is never far away, and regardless of cuisine, chefs proudly showcase the bounty of Florida’s farmers, ranchers and fishermen. 

The food hall craze has arrived in Florida, with Heights Public Market occupying a former streetcar facility in Tampa and the 50,000-square-foot Central Fare part of a six-block development in Miami incorporating a hub for high-speed Virgin Trains. Those trains are intended to make it easier for Floridians to traverse their state, akin to Europeans whisking through the French countryside on the high-speed TGV. In Orlando, a future Virgin destination, dining options include Bull & Bear, an elegant steakhouse at the Waldorf Astoria, and acclaimed Luma on Park.

Celebrity chefs like Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michael Mina are flocking to Florida. Joining them is New York’s Michelin-starred John Fraser, who is bringing The Loyal, his American brasserie concept, to an ambitious new development in Miami. “Esplanade at Aventura felt like the perfect fit because they’re creating an approachable upscale culinary experience that not only captures the essence of what I try to do, but also allows me to present my craft to an entirely new audience,” reports Fraser. 

The Aventura Mall was already one of the premier shopping/dining destinations in Miami, and the adjoining Esplanade demonstrates the confidence its developer, Seritage Growth Properties, has in the local economy. “Esplanade’s exciting and diverse offerings will truly resonate with both the local population and the large number of international visitors in this market,” says Meghan Kruger, senior vice president of leasing for Seritage.

Photo courtesy of José Andrés

José Andrés

 

Open for Business 

Florida is big business, and if the Sunshine State was a nation, its $1 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) would be eclipsed by only 16 countries. Tourism has an annual economic impact of more than $85 billion, but the Florida economy is much more diverse than manicured fairways, white-sand beaches and theme parks. 

Aerospace, which arrived with the Space Program, continues to be an economic engine, with aircraft and related parts now being the state’s number one export. With long growing seasons, agriculture contributes even more to the state’s economy than tourism, and it is not just citrus (in fact, Florida’s most exported commodity is meats). Greater Orlando’s economy is no longer dominated by Mickey and Minnie, and its burgeoning technology community contributes $12.5 billion per year to its economy. 

Another accelerating business sector statewide is health science, best represented by the world-class Scripps Research Institute in Palm Beach County. Florida’s growing economic influence naturally translates into greater demand for luxury amenities and residences.

     

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.

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The Art of Writing

Exclusive writing instruments elevate the tradition of putting pen to paper — a ritual technology cannot erase — into fine art.

Writing a check or signing a document is generally a routine task, one far too often facilitated by an 89-cent piece of plastic and aluminum. But a bejeweled, limited edition writing instrument can transform a simple signature into a truly artistic expression.

Nancy Olson, a leading authority on fine writing instruments, reports, “Unlike many other luxury collectibles, a pen is portable, user-friendly and has a cultural element because of its link to writing and the arts.” Olson, who is also a prominent commentator on timepieces, notes the parallels between the two instruments, stating, “Pens and watches are both small, mechanical objects that provide a healthy hit of extravagance and enjoyment when worn or used.”

Among Olson’s favorite designers are German manufacturers Pelikan and Montblanc, the latter the high-end brand with the greatest mainstream name recognition. Montblanc pens have long been considered luxury items, but many are surprised to learn that some of the company’s limited edition writing instruments cost not hundreds, but hundreds of thousands, of dollars.

Montblanc collaborated with elite jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels on a $730,000 pen bejeweled with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires to commemorate both companies’ 100th anniversaries in 2006. The manufacturer’s Meisterstück Solitaire Royal LeGrand fountain pen is copiously embellished with more than 4,600 diamonds and valued in excess of $200,000.

Olson reports the qualities collectors admire most in pens are craftsmanship, scarcity and the ability to convey a story. 

Les Quatre Couleurs from David Oscarson commemorates the evolution of playing cards. Courtesy of David Oscarson.

The 1010 Timekeeper by Caran d’Ache celebrates the watchmakers that share the company’s hometown of Geneva.           Courtesy of Caran d’Ache.

Few brands have mastered storytelling better than St. Louis-based David Oscarson, whose eye-popping writing instruments encompass a remarkable diversity of themes. In addition to celebrating the natural world, art or architecture, Oscarson pens commemorate historic figures such as the Romanovs of Russia, Lewis & Clark and Sir Alexander Fleming, the bacteriologist who discovered penicillin. Most Oscarson issues are priced at about $5,900, but special editions command more than $250,000.

One David Oscarson pen — a blue and silver piece featuring the Star of David and the Three Crowns of Sweden — honors Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who harbored thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. The limited production of each theme often involves a bit of trivia, such as the 63 pens honoring Alfred Nobel (the philanthropist’s age when he died). For most David Oscarson pens, enamel is applied over metal manipulated through the painstaking technique of guilloché, an ornamentation process pioneered by Fabergé.

“There aren’t a lot of choices for gentlemen who like accessories,” states Oscarson. “Beyond wristwatches, there are very few pieces of men’s jewelry that are sustainable in style,” adds the industry veteran.

A one-of-a-kind special edition fountain pen from the company, crafted from solid 18-karat gold and encrusted with nearly 35 carats of white, yellow and caramel diamonds, has been offered on the resale market for $755,000.

“I judge a manufacturer by the quality of its pens and its creativity in putting a fresh face on what, in essence, is a very small canvas,” says pen commentator Olson. She cites Caran d’Ache’s 1010 Timekeeper, a limited edition that cleverly pays homage to the art of watchmaking, the industry that dominates the company’s hometown of Geneva. 

That fountain pen ($11,500) features a reinterpretation of the elements of a watch dial. Its silver- and rhodium-plated cap was inspired by watch strap design and a piston pump with a ruby accent is reminiscent of a watch’s winding crown. This model follows a 2008 limited edition of ten 18-karat gold 1010 pens, currently priced on the resale market at about $150,000.

Caran d’Ache also produced an 18-karat gold fountain pen — another piece valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars — sheathed in more than 4,100 brilliant diamonds and accented by a band of 108 emeralds. This unique writing instrument, whose precious stones were set by Geneva jeweler Pierre-Yves Bonzon, took about six months to complete.

Gregory Hengesbaugh, national sales manager for Creative Art Materials, Ltd., the exclusive distributor of Caran d’Ache in the U.S. and Canada, reports the venerable firm enjoys a worldwide cult following. 

“The brand benefits from Swiss manufacturing traditions, whose exacting precision in watchmaking carries over to fine writing instruments,” says Hengesbaugh.

Top: Italian manufacturer Aurora is renowned for its meticulous craftsmanship. Courtesy of Aurora.

Above: David Oscarson’s elegant Russian Imperial series reflects techniques pioneered by Fabergé. Courtesy of David Oscarson.

The limited edition samurai fountain pen reflects Montegrappa’s elaborate themes. Courtesy of Montegrappa.

No company on the planet celebrates the pen as an objet d’art as well as Montegrappa, Italy’s oldest manufacturer of fine pens. Last year it released a limited edition Samurai fountain pen ($15,000) that is a wealthy grown-up’s version of a toy soldier. Each of the 177 sterling silver sets (packaged in a black lacquered box) includes an armored warrior, along with a katana sword case that contains a letter opener.

Aurora

www.aurorapen.it

Caran d’Ache

www.carandache.com

David Oscarson

www.davidoscarson.com

Montblanc

www.montblanc.com

Montegrappa

www.montegrappa.com

Pelikan

www.pelikan.com

Tibaldi

www.tibaldi.it

Prices of limited edition luxury pens can be stratospheric, but the $8 million reportedly paid at a Shanghai charity auction has remained a safe record since 2010. Commanding that astonishing figure was the Fulgor Nocturnus from Italian manufacturer Tibaldi (a subsidiary of Montegrappa), copiously embellished with 945 black diamonds and 123 rubies.

Aurora, another venerable Italian pen maker, claims its Diamante fountain pen — whose graceful platinum form is sheathed in 1,919 De Beers diamonds totaling 30 carats — is the most exclusive writing instrument in the world. Almost too exquisite to use, just a single Diamante, priced at more than $1.4 million, is available each year.

Nancy Olson reports many collectors place a premium on the provenance of pens, collecting almost everything produced by a specific brand. Acknowledging pen aficionados’ diverse motivations, she states, “Some use all the pens in their collections and really appreciate the art of writing while others keep their pens in their original boxes, never to see a drop of ink!”

Either way, luxury writing instruments are in no danger of going out of style. “There’s something about a fountain pen that’s majestic,” suggests pen maker David Oscarson.

Dining Responsibly

Seafood challenges chefs and delights diners, but a world of rapidly depleting resources requires conscientious choices.

A Guide to the Michelin Guide

Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts is proud to announce that both the hotel’s signature restaurants, the Italian Il Ristorante — Niko Romito and the Chinese Bao Li Xuan, have been awarded Michelin stars during the Michelin Guide Shanghai 2020 presentation ceremony.

The Spirit of Giving

Rolls-Royce auction raises over $2 million for children's hospital.

Tiles Traveling Through Time

Travel through time and admire seven handcrafted designs in the New World Collection designed by Sasha Bikoff for New Ravenna, America’s premier mosaic designer and manufacturer.

To Ireland With Love

A new color collection from Curator pays homage to the artists of the Emerald Isle.

Colorful Royalty

In an interview, Nelson De La Nuez discusses the incorporation of images from American pop culture, today’s advertising and high-end branding in his art.

Modern Midwestern Makes

These two Midwestern brands, both with a reputation for timeless design, craftsmanship, and innovation, will debut a new collection in January 2020.

Q&A with Sculptor Elena Colombo

Unique Homes sat down with the owner of Firefeatures, Elena Colombo, a sculptor whose biggest inspiration is nature, to discuss how this inspiration shines through in her one-of-a-kind designs.

Find Your Euro-spiration

These collections showcase a passion for design and creativity, all inspired by a European country or the style of that nation.

Candles are the new Trend in the Wellness Industry

With candles being the quintessential form of aromatherapy, luxury homeowners are making room for this new form of wellness.

Art Amenities Offer Limitless Creativity

Developments have been finding new and creative ways to elevate the standard of luxury living when it comes to amenities — and it’s through art itself.

Bringing the Outside In

While including more plants and flowers into the home is known to brighten up the atmosphere, some designers are taking this theme to the next level.

No Reserve Auction September — Exclusive Dallas Estate

Located in the sought-after rural city of Anna, Texas, Bodark Acres offers a wonderful relaxed quality of life.

One-of-a-Kind Residence on Lake St. Clair in Michigan

With approximately 445 feet of water frontage, this property is set on 4.3 acres in Grosse Point Shores, Michigan and showcases panoramic views of Lake St. Clair.

Big Gardens for Small Spaces

By focusing on a desire to nurture carefully grown fauna, this company has rethought the living wall by making gardening easy for small spaces.

You Have Arrived: Frank Aazami and the Private Client Group

The Private Client Group brand at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty has a passion for offering first-class service.

How To Make Your Home Sports-Friendly

Whether you’re looking to add a basketball or tennis court, or something more adventurous like a putting green, home golf simulator or bocce ball court, having the ability to play these sports while at home can provide countless hours of enjoyment.

In the Heart of Key West

Listed by Ocean Sotheby's International Realty, this is your chance to buy a bit of Key West history, along with a unique house with serious celebrity status!

Rise to the Top

Subscribed to REAL TRENDS 500? This year, Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate members were recognized more than 150 times in the REAL Trends 500. Find out more about these top agents!

A Modern Masterpiece: A Village of One’s Own

From the moment you turn down the drive, there is a sense of calm coming from this Pennsylvania home.

Under the Radar: North Cyprus and Canada

In honor of our annual Global issue, we highlight areas not always thought of at the top of the luxury real estate list — but they should be.

Selling Near the Stars

With neighbors including Sandra Bullock, Ricky Martin and Tony Pritzker, it’s no surprise this Beverly Hills estate recently sold for $42.75 million.
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TOP COACH

No matter how experienced, every real estate professional can benefit from training, and Tom Ferry is the gold standard in the industry.

Photo courtesy of Tom Ferry

Tom Ferry888.866.3377 • www.tomferry.com

Tiger Woods never stopped relying on a coach, and the most successful professionals in any field recognize the value of consistent training. Over the last decade, real estate has become such a dynamic, rapidly evolving industry that most agents are too busy chasing deals to capitalize on new trends and techniques that can make them more successful.

Tom Ferry, founder and CEO of Ferry International, specializes in coaching and training real estate agents through one-on-one counseling, experiential training events and online productivity products. Explaining that his specialty of motivating people is literally in his DNA, Ferry reports, “Most people were raised on milk and cookies. I was raised on Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy and my dad, Mike Ferry.” At 18 the younger Ferry joined the family business, learning everything from the ground up.

Acclaimed as charismatic and inspirational, Tom Ferry denies being naturally gifted, commenting, “When I first started out as a presenter, I was horrible.” He jests, “When somebody comes up to me and says, ‘I saw you back in ’93,’ I want to tell them ‘Oh, I’m sorry … I should probably give you a refund.’” Trained by renowned speech coach Ron Arden, Ferry developed his current style, reinforcing his belief that any skill can be taught. “There are no bad audiences, only unprepared presenters,” says Ferry, who enjoys both individual sessions and conference centers packed with 6,000 clients.

In his 30 years as a leading real estate coach, Ferry has perfected sales skills, marketing systems and team-building techniques that help agents not only succeed but dominate their markets. Ferry and his team have coached more than 30,000 agents, holding them accountable to fulfilling their greatness. “Today the key to any successful business is trust, and I help my clients scale trust,” states Ferry, who reports the best agents are keenly aware that closing deals and building a client base both depend on trust.

Insisting organizations sustain themselves through innovation, Ferry believes business professionals should reinvent themselves every 18 to 24 months. “At my large events, I deliver 20 to 100 strategies, techniques and marketing campaigns, but you need to pick the three that are right for you, your market and your maturity as a businessperson,” says Ferry. In his list of “superpowers” of successful real estate agents — items like effective negotiation, marketing and business development are naturally among them — the primary superpower is empathy, a quality that builds trust and relationships.

Addressing organizational philosophy, Ferry states, “Team leaders need to have the ability to transfer skills to maintain the continuity of the client experience.” He adds for emphasis, “I would never

invest in a company whose CEO had the attitude, ‘Nobody can do it better than me,’ because that’s a non-scalable business.” All of Ferry’s work is built on the premise: “The consumer deserves a higher quality real estate agent and experience.” 

The Orange County, California-based Ferry enjoys investing in a wide range of companies, from technology to spirits, and sits on the board of directors of Miracles for Kids, a non-profit serving families with critically ill children. And while he enjoys golf, the coach admits to a healthy obsession with business, believing every person should identify his or her natural skills and pursue them with intensity.

“I want to coach, create, connect, and contribute,” says Tom Ferry, who is uniquely qualified to teach you to maximize your own skills and passions.

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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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. 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.”

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