All posts by Samantha Myers

Changing with the Seasons

 ©istockphoto.com / Arita Cimermane

“The seasons in the landscape, much like the seasons of one’s life, are to be embraced, appreciated and weathered.” — Robin Kramer

When it comes to the seasons, an adaptable landscape is always a challenge. In northern climates, the focus is too often on the fleeting warmer months where blossoms are abundant and beautiful. Into late fall, the vibrant leaves have fallen and a bare winter — and landscape — sets in. In warmer areas, the challenge is less about the seasons and more about weather extremes such as droughts or rain.

We talked to luxury landscape designers about how they work through the challenges of the changing seasons and find beauty in the landscape all year long.

A Strong Framework

“I consider structure to be the most critical component in any garden. A successful garden design will look good in any season if the bones of the garden are well designed,” says New York City-based Landscape Designer Robin Kramer. “Paths, walls, edging, hedges, pergolas and water features are the permanent features that make a garden strong and confident. The flowering plant material is the dressing of the landscape and can easily be modified based on the desires of the gardener.”

“Ideally, a landscape is something that transitions throughout the year and it has its glory days throughout every season,” says Vermont-based Landscape Designer Ashley  J. Robinson. “They are rarely looking for a one-shot wonder with a full-on explosion of bloom in the spring.”

Robinson seeks out materials such as wood, metal or other elements that are not herbaceous in order to craft a composition that is visually intriguing despite the blooms, or lack of blooms. “Natural stone, boulders, outcropping in the garden. A well-intentioned feature is important for a winter garden.”

Similarly, Teresa Watkins, a Master Gardener and specialized horticulturist for over 20 years in Florida, relies on hardscape and garden art to design spaces that truly fit a client’s personality, while at the same time ensuring the health and sustainability of the landscape. “I have an ongoing two-year project designing a formal estate landscape with a rose garden with walls, a faux stone bridge, butterfly garden, water features, orchard, meandering pathways and poolscaping.”

An architectural framework is key to high-end landscape, and Pennsylvania-based Landscape Designer Donald Pell is an expert at finding a balance of this within a range of vernaculars — from English-style to modern. “Our work always includes thoughtfully designed architectural spaces. These can be simple and they can be very substantial,” he says. “Right now, I am building a very large promenade through a woodland 

A beautiful wild garden crafted by Vermont Landscape Designer Ashley J. Robinson. Photo courtesy of Ashley J. Robinson.

Donald Pell Gardens gave this 1700s Colonial Farmhouse garden an update with native and cosmopolitan plants used to evoke the regional landscape. Photo courtesy of Donald Pell.

that I would describe as very classical, and the plantings are very much impressionistic woodland. I specified hand-cut fieldstone curbing with paths that has a Pennsylvania Colonial feel, and I really like bond pattern paving details angled from the home, which tend to be very modernist.”

When it comes to warmer climates, such as those of the Sun Belt, structure has less to do with looking good throughout bare seasons, but more to do with a landscape that can sustain year-round outdoor living. “For contemporary homes in Southern California, the indoors rolls right outside,” says landscape architect Scott Zucker. “You’ve got enormous sliding doors with pocket entry, kitchen and family rooms that pour right out onto the terrace.” In designing these homes, materials that can withstand the outdoors, but also look just as beautiful indoors is the challenge. A huge trend, Zucker points out, is utilizing porcelain or ceramic pavers that not only keep a stunning transitional look, but also require very little maintenance.

Above, an outdoor portico crafted from stone at a Southern California residence designed by Scott Zucker of Zucker Design Associates, Inc. Below, an arbor for a Laguna Beach residence offers an eye-catching landscaping feature.

Top photo courtesy of Jeri Koegal. Bottom photo courtesy of Scott Zucker.

The Four Seasons

“The seasons themselves aren’t a challenge, but an exciting opportunity,” says Pell. “Even thinking about texture and emotion of the dead tissue of herbaceous plants can be an opportunity to compose something beautiful. It’s the same as working anywhere in the world — there are opportunities and constraints.”

While spring and summer’s spotlight is on the flower, that shifts completely when fall arrives. “I never focus on just the flower,” advises Pell. “They are just too ephemeral. They are, of course, an important component, but the structures of the plantings at their worst is where I start. I am looking for plants that look very beautiful in a given composition, and I want the composition to be able to hold up in extremes of weather.”

“Designing through the seasons takes careful planning and a thorough understanding horticulturally on the attributes of trees and plants,” says Kramer. “Floral succession bloom is created by selecting perennials that will create a parade of flowers from spring through to the first frost. This is supported by spring bulbs and flowering trees.”

“In fall, we plant thousands of spring bulbs. It is a late task in season, but such an important one,” continues Kramer. “In the spring, I want the ground to be punctured with green shoots pushing their way forward, poising for their bloom. After months of frigid temperatures and inches, even feet, of snow, New England begins to warm. Those rather odd-looking bulbs we planted are now a sure sign of spring and a reminder that we too, have survived another winter.”

“There’s a lot to be said for winter in the garden,” says Robinson. “It requires you to not do a lot of cut back or maintenance. Generally speaking, you should wait out the things you don’t want there, such as foliage debris and leaf litter — these things are good for increasing organic matter in the soil. You shouldn’t scrape landscape bare — it’s all about layering and allowing that to happen naturally.”

Warmer Climates

While places with warmer climates, such as Southern California or Florida, don’t have the challenges of designing through autumn and winter, they do have seasons of their own: dry season, fire season, and wet season.

“The water use in California really drives what we can and can’t do,” says Zucker, who mentions WELO (Modern Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance) and fire departments regulations, as well as restrictions on paving and the amount of non-permeable landscape a property is allowed to have. “One of the trends that is big in California these days — necessitated by lack of water — is drought-tolerant plants.” These include plants such as succulents or agaves that also offer stunning structural plant material that really create a powerful look for a landscape.

“When I’m working on my designs, I take into account not necessarily annuals or perennials, but the permanent flowers that clients especially desire so that at any time of the year it will be blooming,” says Zucker. “I tend to group plant material together to give a bigger impact. Instead of giving too many species, I pare it down so that aesthetically, from the front yard to the backyard, the whole landscape ties together.”

While Zucker is looking for colorful plantings that can withstand the lack of water, places like Florida experience the opposite — with a wet season that lasts at least half of the year. “Florida winter season can be dramatic. We can go from 85 degrees one day to 28 degrees the next, which is not enough time for tropical plants to acclimate to cooler temperatures,” says Watkins. “The other issues are temperatures averaging 85 degrees for six to seven months out of the year, where our plants can be growing all year, and over 50 inches of rain.” 

It’s in these areas where irrigation designers are needed most fevertly along with specialized consideration of the amount of sunlight, soil moisture, soil pH — all extremes associated with the tropics. Without seasonal change, there is also a shortage of compost, plant material and nutrients, which is easily received each fall with the turning of the seasons in other parts of the country.

“I often say, all of life’s lessons are learned in the garden,” says Kramer. “Each season delivers reminders and rituals. It is the moments on which lives are built and cherished.”

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Full Throttle

Exploring the world on two wheels offers an experience like no other, providing an addictive free-wheeling freedom that you just can’t get from the confines of a typical automobile. These high-end motorcycle models set in motion the future of contemporary riding. Designed by some of the most iconic American motorcycle manufacturers, and European competitors, these bikes promise a variety of devil-may-care cruising — from smooth, solitary highway grand touring to gutsy track-inspired journeying across unpredictable curves and stretches. There’s nothing like the open road.

Indian Roadmaster Elite. Photo courtesy of Indian Motorcycle. 

Photo courtesy of Indian Motorcycle.

Indian Roadmaster Elite
Starting at $36,999

The Roadmaster Elite from iconic American motorcycle manufacturer, Indian, is packed with the comfort and force needed for the open road, making it the ultimate master roadster. The luxurious machine features two-tone paint in “Red Candy” over “Thunder Black Crystal” that takes a whopping 30 hours to complete and fi nish by hand; and the logo badging is embossed in 24-karat gold leaf trim, sure to catch the sunlight in the passing lane.

Photo courtesy of Andy Mahr, Harley-Davidson Motor Co. 

Harley-Davidson CVO Limited
Starting at $43,889

An enduring symbol of Americana, Harley-Davidson ensures time-honored performance and design that lives in the realm of cultural icon. The 2019 CVO Limited offers loyal Harley-Davidson riders the grandest experience of American touring by fusing contemporary elements with classic design. Technology-forward integrations allow for a plugged-in cruise atop the most powerful V-Twin engine ever offered from the company — the Milwaukee-Eight Twin-Cooled 117 Engine, which is only available in CVO models.

Photo courtesy of Triumph Motorcylces LTD.

Triumph, Rocket III Roadster
Starting from $15,775

The signature twin-headlights look of British motorcycle manufacturer Triumph’s Rocket III Roadster has just as much impact as its powerhouse engine. This premium flagship bike’s blacked-out silhouette, chrome headers and detailing confirm that looks, can in fact, kill. If you live to start the engine, hold a solid grip because the world’s largest production engine has more torque than ever. Fit with a three-header exhaust that growls deep to make your presence known on the road, this cruiser is all about free and easy riding.

Photo courtesy of Arnold Debus.

BMW, K 1600 GTL
From $25,995

The K 1600 GTL by BMW is one of the fastest and most luxurious touring bicycles on the road. Prioritizing comfort, the motorcycle features a significant amount of space to easily conquer a long journey with a partner along for the ride. With cutting-edge sport touring technology, a six-cylinder in-line engine, and a multi-controller concept that allows you to switch functions without ever taking your hands off the handlebars, this bike was made to go the distance — in any weather condition. The K 1600 GTL is for the traveler who desires a reliable bike for a relaxing and equally high-end experience. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Photo courtesy of Ducati Motor Holdings S.P.A. 

Ducati, Panigale V4
Starting at $21,295

The Panigale V4 by Italian company Ducati is one of the fastest road-legal racing bikes to hit the market. The aggressive frame allows riders to throttle through curves and launch on straights; sophisticated electronic controls unlock the reigns beyond standard limitations. The bike is a true celebration of Ducati’s long-lasting racing spirit. Designed to treat the freeway like the track, this efficiently aerodynamic bike is for the true daredevil motorcyclist.

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Creating the Ultimate Audio Experience

These high-end, luxe speakers and audio consoles specifically for music lovers and audiophiles will make you feel like you’re listening to your favorite band rockin’ out at an ampitheater live, or let you experience your classic vinyls with authentic, high-performance sound. It’s time to hear what exceptionally engineered design and and audio quality can do for your home music listening experience. 

Renaissance ESL 15A by MartinLogan, $25,000 a pair

The flagship model in MartinLogan’s Masterpiece Series of high-end electrostatic (ESL) speakers, the Renaissance ESL 15A, is a revolutionary step forward in terms of performance, technology and design. Since 1983, MartinLogan has handcrafted speakers featuring electrostatic and thin-film technologies, achieving the ultimate in audio realism. Renaissance’s 15-inch-wide and 46-inch-tall electrostatic panel reproduces sound with unfl inching accuracy and is married to a pair of amplified high performance 1,000-Watt powered woofers which can deliver powerful bass sound. “The experience of listening to an electrostatic speaker for the first time is often described as transformative,” says Devin Zell, Martin Logan Marketing Manager. “If you set aside all of the evocative technology, close your eyes, and listen, these speakers disappear and transport a listener deep into the heart of music — accessing a shockingly intimate and emotional connection to the music and performers.”

Sonos Edition Console by Wrensilva, $5,000

“We wanted to design something specifically for smaller urban spaces,” says Debra Sayler, Chief Design Officer of Wrensilva of the Sonos Edition Stereo Console. “Something that combined natural elements, such as gnarled wood grain, and the clean, urban lines in the welded steel legs and crisp white outer finish.” Based in San Diego, California, Wrensilva was founded in 2016 by Sayler and her husband Scott. Together, they create modern stereo consoles dedicated to “reawakening the spirit of hifi.” Their mission of time-honored design combined with advanced audio technologies materialized in their collaboration with Sonos for this custom piece. In this console, Sonos speakers are incorporated into curved walnut enclosures. “We wanted to highlight the speakers’ curves, not disguise them. On the technology side, we incorporated a wirelessly synced volume knob that communicates directly with the Sonos app. This is a neat feature for Sonos users that are craving a more traditional analog experience.”

Persona 9H by Paradigm, $35,000 a pair

Persona 9H, Paradigm’s most ambitious design to date, leverages the company’s 34 years of acoustical development and innovative design. The speakers were developed out of research to explore the limits of audio engineering, and the results were staggering — an entire line of high-end loudspeakers utilizing cutting-edge concepts. The flagship line showcases vanguard materials such as the utilization of Truextent® Pure Beryllium, a rare chemical element, in the drivers to deliver high-resolution detail, depth and dynamics. While the use of Beryllium in the construction of the tweeters is not unheard (it has a “cult” status for the most expensive of audio equipment), the use of it in both the tweeters and mid-range divers is unique to Persona. The Persona 9H is not only the perfect speaker for audiophiles craving exceptional performance, but also for those seeking luxurious levels of fit and finish — available in 23 premium automotive finishes.

Modern Record Console by Symbol Audio

The Modern Record Console by Symbol Audio pays homage to the “all-in-one” HiFi consoles of the 1950s, integrating “old school” electronics with modern wireless capabilities. Since 2012, the company has been creating products for music lovers who value thoughtful craftsmanship in their audio home furnishings. With a mission to enrich the connection between the listener and their music, the Modern Record Console combines technology with traditional analog electrics into a beautiful piece of handmade furniture crafted from solid American Walnut wood. The sleek design makes this piece a focal point of any space. Lift the lid to expose a hand-built tube amplifier and turntable set into patinated steel plates that delivers a warm, pure signal to two 6.5” full-range speakers. Tucked out of view in the metal base is a second amplifier and subwoofer made to extend low-end frequency and add richness to any sound. Switch the selector from turntable to WiFi to stream from any digital source to control music selections.

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Your Drink of Choice Can Be Your Next Investment

You love nothing more than uncorking an expensive bottle of wine, or enjoying a nice glass of whisky. Have you ever thought about investing in these passions?

Always popular among the luxury class, passion investments such as wine and liquor, art, watches, or coins are non-traditional ways of putting your money into physical objects that give you enjoyment. In recent years, these luxury investments have experienced significant growth, with fine wine and liquor — specifically whisky — turning out to be some of the most lucrative passion investments.

©iStockphoto.com/MinervaStudio

Wine

When it comes to wine, Andrew della Casa of The Wine Investment Fund understands the profitability of this favorite drink of many, and provides investment management of fine wines to clients through a set of established methods to ensure low-risk portfolios. “You have to look at the number of millionaires and billionaires and realize that these numbers are increasing; and they are buying these wines,” says della Casa.

“The demand is increasing because there are more people coming to buy these wines. The only thing that can move is the price, and that tends to move upwards. If you look at the gold or stock exchange, since the 1980s, gold has gone up about four times,” he says. “Wine has gone up 20 times — that puts it in perspective.”

©iStockphoto.com/PaulGrecaud

For della Casa and his team, their focus includes only investment-grade wines that can achieve and deliver absolute high returns. “The thing that attracted us to the asset class was the specific characteristics that certain wines have. It’s not just any wine or any fine wine, basically it’s a specific number of Bordeaux wines from the French region of Bordeaux,” says della Casa. “There are delicious Italian, American, African wines, and that’s fine. But that’s not what we’re about. We’re about risk analysis and risk management.”

These wines include those from the finest Bordeaux chateaux, and those that are deemed low volatility — meaning to avoid wines at the en-primeur stage, trophy wines or ones nearing the end of their optimum drinking period.

“Burgundy is the area closest to having the characteristics to Bordeaux wines, but the quantities produced are minimal,” says della Casa. “Because we’re buying and selling Bordeaux wines, the characteristics of that wine is that it’s long living so you can keep it for 20 to 30 years. Also, formula clarity, so it gets better with time.”

Della Casa asserts the importance of understanding wine investment is an alternative, rather than mainstream investment. It’s important to think about a five-year horizon at a minimum, and a limited amount of money (no more than 20 percent) from your investment portfolio should go into fine wine.

“One of the biggest risks in any investment is liquidity — to get in and out of the market whenever you want to, not when the market dictates,” says della Casa. “Wines that we look at are wines that have a strong following. There is a demand for these wines from all over the world,” he says.

The demand for these wines comes from the traditional drinker, as well as a newfound demand from Asia, which is not as long standing — they drink the wine much younger. “You can buy any wine, but it’s only when you sell it that you crystallize your gain,” he says. “You can get a 20-fold increase in value with very low risk. Look at the volatility of our portfolio and compare it to gold, or even oil; we’re very much less risky. From an investment point of view, low risk and high return. Plus, you have a physical asset.”

Whisky

Liquor offers another realm of alternative investment — and one of the most lucrative investment liquors has been and continues to be whisky. For Andy Simpson of Rare Whisky 101, who was introduced to whisky — particularly scotch — at a young age by his father, it was an accidental investment at first. “I started holding on to bottles because I had too many to drink and then realized that what I had bought for 10 to 15 pounds started to be worth 40 and 50 pounds, and I thought, could this be an investment?”

“I’ve always said, it’s an investment of passion,” says Simpson, who has been collecting for nearly 30 years and helps collectors and investors all over the world source scotch and put together world-leading collections of whisky. “People fall in love with a category, the distillery, the spirit, the legend behind it. The rules are that first you love whisky — because then it’s going to be a fun investment. Second, patience is key. While there are significant short-term gains available, it is a medium to long-term investment.”

“From an investment perspective, age matters. The older the better. But from a flavor perspective, sometimes older whisky can be worse. It can be over matured, or develop an imbalance. Yet, generally, the further back the better,” says Simpson who has personally tasted the world’s oldest — a 75-year-old whisky — and many other pre-World War II bottles.

Photo courtesy of The Macallan.

Iconic distilleries Simpson directs his clients to include Lagavulin, Talisker, Dalmore, as well as silent distilleries (those no longer producing whisky) such as Port Ellen and Brora, both soon to be reopened, and Rosebank. Commemorative limited edition bottles, distillery exclusives offered only on property, or classic ones such as the Macallan Royal Marriage bottles are always great investments. “Macallan is the Rolls Royce of collectable whiskies by a country mile,” says Simpson. The Kate and William special wedding scotch was sold for 150 pounds in 2011, and now sells for 4,000 pounds a bottle.

“The overarching principle of whisky investment is to buy the best quality liquid. Someone’s investment today is going to be someone’s favorite drink tomorrow,” says Simpson. “It if wasn’t for collectors or investors, we couldn’t be drinking, buying, opening or sharing some of the oldest bottles of whisky in the world.”

Most collectors use the two-bottle approach: buy one to keep and one to drink. Yet, sometimes this is difficult to do, as some sellers may only allow one bottle to be purchased. “We deal with people who have meaningful collections of only 50 bottles; others have 10,000 bottles, some of the biggest collections in the world,” says Simpson. “You don’t need to spend more than a couple hundred pounds for a good investment.”

©iStockphoto.com/TWSTIPP

“We split the risks into your physical storage or logistical risks, and then financial risks,” says Simpson. “The main one being the “dreaded double D: drink it or drop it.” There are of course risks from storing as well. “Since whisky has a strong percentage of alcohol (it has to be 40 percent to be legal) the strength of the alcohol will corrode through the cork stopper, and it leads to leaking and evaporation damage. Therefore, whisky should always be stored standing up at room temperature and kept out of direct sunlight. Place it in a cupboard or closet and keep it out the reach of thirsty guests,” says Simpson.

Lastly, one of the main risks plaguing the whisky market — also seen with wine as well — are fakes, with most false bottle transactions occurring across peer-to-peer auction sites, and causing a potential for significant losses. Besides these risks, Simpson asserts that the market is especially buoyant with significant price increases for certain bottles and brands, and promises to be a wonderful speculative alternative investment. “If you get a great bottle, with a great closure, you can be sure it will outlast you and I,” says Simpson.  

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Travel Designers

The Internet may have killed the travel agent, but increasing demand for customized and curated experiences has created a new niche.

To some, “travel agent” may be a term of the past. Replaced in part by technological strides and the rise of the internet, travel agents have been in decline in recent years and that trend is set to continue over the next decade. Yet, a new class of travel experts altogether are gaining traction — travel designers, who offer high-end curated trips based on their own personal travel expertise.

“People spending a great deal of money on their vacations don’t just want a cookie-cutter experience. They want something really tailored to them, planned specifically for their likes and interests,” says Lia Batkin, co-founder of In The Know Experiences, a luxury travel and lifestyle agency in New York City.

 

Batkin and her husband and partner Seth Kaplan were inspired to enter the travel industry in 2007 after a disastrous trip to Argentina. “We enlisted someone to help plan a trip for us and that did not go so well. I realized it’s hard to rely on various recommendations and things you come across while planning on the web when you were truly looking for an elevated experience,” says Batkin. 

 

“For higher-end clientele, it’s not about the money — it’s about the time. This led us to believe that there was a gap in the market at the time,” says Batkin.

“Travel agents primarily sell based on either client instruction or on pricing. And often, they are booking things they haven’t seen,” says Doug Easton of Clelestielle, a Traveller Made-certified agency. “Travel designers, by contrast, are most assuredly getting the same benefits as agents, combined with an advanced degree of personal experience.

Principals of experiential travel company, Celestielle — Doug Easton and John Ziegler — personally visit each destination and stay at each hotel or property before they recommend it to their clients. Pictured here at Sala’s Camp in Kenya.

 

 

When it comes to experience, Easton and his partner John Ziegler are at the forefront, with visits to hundreds of countries and counting. “We started our company 13 years ago. Because we don’t have things that anchor us at home, we can be mobile for the whole year. It’s a crazy, nomadic life, but it pays off for our clients,” says Easton. “Our model is that we will sell anything that is luxury-based on client instruction. Yet, we would never propose to the client something that we’ve never seen. Anything we propose to the client is something we’ve visited or are in love with.”

 

Easton and Ziegler go on what they call “scouting trips” where they visit locations and hotels to inform their expertise. “We can see about 100 to 120 hotels in a year around the world. We keep something called the ‘to-visit list’ that has about 3,600 hotels on it,” he says. “You don’t want to buy anything from someone who doesn’t know what they’re selling. How can I plan a trip for you to a country without ever going there?”

A combination of personal experience and decision-making is what urges clients to seek out luxury travel designers to send them on a wonderful journey. Yet, it’s not always about the nicest hotel or the most luxurious place to stay, but rather the off-beaten path.

 

“It’s about traveling with intention, not just to share on social media,” says Michael Bennett, executive vice president of Nomad Hill, a Houston-based travel design company. “It’s about acquiring a perspective shift. The only reliable source of action is how to see the world, and travel can shift the way you see it.”

Michael Bennett, Executive Vice President of Houston-based travel design company Nomad Hill exploring in Alaska.

 

Bennett, who completed his doctorate concerning travel studies, helped establish the term “transformational travel” and utilizes his knowledge while crafting trips for his clients. “I explored people who had self-changing travel experiences and analyzed them and stories to see if there were things in common, and there were.”

 

Beyond location, travel designers also understand the mechanics of what makes trips memorable. Bennett seeks to bring variation to his custom itineraries, seeing the importance of fantastic on-the-ground guides, food and opportunities to meet people.

 

“We want to make sure that clients are getting to see what they want, but we also want to make sure they get out and explore,” he says. “So we intentionally craft spots that provide a good challenge.” This may include an engaging activity such as shark-cage diving, followed by a relaxing wine dinner. “Another thing I always try to bring in for my clients is to make sure they have ample down time. Time for reflection, journaling or prayer. Making sure that their days are exciting but not overly packed.”

 

“Everything is seamless down to the car service for you,” says Batkin. “Service also includes a dedicated person while you’re away 24-7. At times we get alerts that connections to flights were cancelled, so we go ahead and handle that mid-flight, change their hotel and give them a full brief when they land.”

 

“A lot of it is also managing expectations,” adds Easton. “For instance, if you’re visiting Jordan, there may be only okay places to stay, yet the areas are magnificent and completely justify the visit. And we let you know that.”

But in the end, it truly is about curating a life-changing experience for clients. “Research says that there is a peak/end model, in that essentially people will remember trips by one to two things that happened. But also, how it ends is important,” says Bennett. “You can have an amazing trip, but if something goes wrong on the last day, subconsciously it’s going to color your impression when you think about it a week, a month or a decade later. It’s really our job to make sure we don’t leave anything hanging in the end.”

Photos courtesy of Celestielle & Micahel Bennett

The following article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of ERA Real Estate Distinctive Properties Magazine.

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Wine of the Times

When it comes to wine, the passion runs deep.

By Samantha Myers

New figures indicate that British and American buyers lead the search when it comes to purchasing vineyards, specifically in France. “Demand for vineyards has never dropped — quite the opposite,” says Annick Dauchy, property business development manager for FrenchEntrée, an online purchasing buying guide for French properties.

“Much of the time, the decision on which area to buy in is led by budget,” says Dauchy. “The quantity of vineyards available in France means that buyers have plenty of choice — there’s a property to suit each buyer’s individual circumstances.”

Vineyards on the market include a range for every buyer from advanced to beginner ready to get a taste of the lifestyle — from a €13 million, 19th-century chateau in Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, to a €400,000, seven-bedroom home with a modest plot of vines.

Photos courtesy of FrenchEntrée

Photo courtesy of Patrick Alexander

Famed French chocolatier and culinary wizard, Patrick Roger, has launched his first exclusive wine, “L’Instant de Patrick Roger (2016).” Produced in Trouillas, in the eastern Pyrénées, the wine was harvested alongside four varieties of almonds on a vineyard that has been planted for 20 years. Saved from destruction after purchasing the estate in 2011, today, the vineyard is a stunning plot of land.

From vinification to bottling, every step of production of the wine was done by hand out of respect for the land, due to Roger’s priority in protecting the environment. “We have to save the earth if we want to survive on it,” he says. “We must fall in love with nature, with trees and wines, in order to make the rain come.” L’Instant de Patrick Roger is €69 per bottle or €282 for 6 bottles. www.PatrickRoger.com

Under the careful supervision of his father, Patrick Alexander began drinking wine with his meals at the age of five. “Although mixed with water, it was unmistakably wine and we would discuss the taste and bouquet while my father would explain where and how it was made,” says Alexander. “At the same age, with the warm encouragement of my mother, I began a lifelong love affair with books.”

Surrounded by vineyards from his early 20s on, from Bordeaux, to Piedmont to Santa Cruz, Alexander finally settled in Miami — a location with no vineyards at all. After teaching a wine appreciation course in a bookstore for more than a decade, Alexander said creating a book about wine and books was a natural flow. “Living in a region with no wine — I decided to write about it instead!”

The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine aims to teach an all-encompassing background to wine — what it is, where it’s grown and how it’s made. “Throughout the book, I have quoted extensively from poets, novelists and statesmen as they refer to wine from so many different perspectives,” he says. In a particular chapter, Alexander pairs different wine grapes with different writers; Dickens with Cabernet Sauvignon, Jane Austen with Chardonnay and JRR Tolkien with Albarino.

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Fabulous Finds: Timbers Residences in Hawaii Nearing Completion

Awakening the coast of Hawaii’s oldest island, Kaua’i, is the brand-new Timbers Kaua’i — Ocean Club & Residences at Hokuala, a 450-acre slice of paradise offering an 18-hole ocean course, 47 luxury residences and soon-to-be-completed clubhouse, dining and retail spots.

“On one of the most coveted sites in all of Hawaii, Hokuala is a natural oceanfront amphitheater at the entrance to the tranquil waters of Kalapaki Beach along the Pacific,” says Gary Moore, managing director of Timbers Kaua’i.

Due to its proximity to the cliff-sides, Timbers Kaua’i has been deemed the “last-of-its-kind” as construction regulations require new properties be at least 500 feet away from escarpments. “Timbers Kaua’i was grandfathered in due to the timing of its approval process…. Therefore, the residences are the last property to be built on the island with closer than close proximity to the ocean,” says Moore.

The residences at Timbers Kaua’i are offered in fractional and whole ownership opportunities, with prices ranging from $300,000 to $7.5 million. A $9.5 million penthouse also will be listed in the future. Overall completion of the property is aimed for June 2018.

While the property offers wonderful amenities such as oceanfront infinity-edge pools, an “ohana” pool with waterfalls and a grill, personalized services for families through the Keiki Club and island adventure guides, the standout amenity is “the wonder of the views,” says Moore. — Samantha Myers

photo courtesy Timbers Kaua’i

THIS STORY WAS FEATURED IN OUR WINTER 2018 ISSUE.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL DIGITAL VERSION.

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NYC Florist Delivers "Flower Flashes" To The Streets

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of The High End magazine. For more information about The High End, click here.

Known for enchanting floral “graffiti,” Flower Designer Lewis Miller Is Sought-After for everything from weddings in Aspen to Parties in Venice.

By Samantha Myers

Photo ©Don Freeman Photography

Usually Lewis Miller’s beautiful flower arrangements can be found decorating exclusive events for his clients, which include the likes of Chanel, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Vogue. But recently, Miller’s stunning designs have been popping up throughout the streets of New York City — beautifying city landmarks and otherwise unappealing trash cans in what he has coined “Flower Flashes.”

Despite his firm’s East Village location, Miller has not abandoned his country roots. “I’m living the closest thing to a country lifestyle in Manhattan,” Miller jokes of his situation — but it’s this specific city-meets-country aesthetic that has resonated with high-end clients enough to establish his firm as one of the premier floral powerhouses in the entire city.

Born and raised in California farm country, Miller developed an appreciation for nature at a young age and eventually moved to Seattle to study horticulture and landscape design. “I grew up as a farm kid and was always surrounded by flowers and growing things,” says Miller. “Then, it translated into floral design.” In 2000, Miller brought his discerning vision of country life to New York City, and worked for a successful floral boutique before launching his own company only two years later: LMD New York, Lewis Miller Design. “I have always loved growing flowers,” he says. “I love the immediacy of floral arrangements, and especially the effect they can have on a space.”

Beyond his roots, Miller’s inspiration comes from homes and gardens — “from the bucolic English garden, to the most formal,” he says. If versed in art history, one can also recognize the immediate influence of fine art on his designs. In fact, his book, Styling Nature: A Masterful Approach to Floral Arrangements (2016), which is filled with painterly photographs of his organic creations, discusses seventeenth-century Dutch still lifes as an influence.

“Art and painting are huge sources of inspiration for me,” he says. “The color, energy … sheer gut, visceral reaction it can give you. Whether it be a super modern, sloppy wet painting, or a really rich, sexy masculine Caravaggio, or a precious Flemish still life.”

The bulk of Miller’s work comes from creating arrangements for events — from travel and destination weddings in Aspen or the South of France, to cocktail parties for exhibition openings at The Met, to birthday parties in Venice. “We are primarily a social event business, but we do a select amount of corporate work,” explains Miller. He has decorated perfume shoots for the Italian luxury label Bulgari, and provided floral designs for an American Express Top 200 Member soiree. “My clients are not about the flash,” says Miller. “They want it to be gorgeous and inviting and warm, but they don’t want to look like they are spending the money. It needs to look completely organic.”

One of the more memorable celebrations Miller has worked on was a black-tie wedding at New York’s famous Katz’s Delicatessen, with a guest list donned in furs and tuxedos. “I had to do that one really quickly,” he recalls. “But I love doing things fast. So many things can take such a long time — you can excruciate over it for months, but it kills the energy.”

Flower Designer Lewis Miller

Photo ©Lewis Miller Design

To satisfy his love of immediacy, Miller has recently found an unexpected fusion of flower design and street art through his “Flower Flashes,” which has garnered immense, positive media attention. “I love art when it’s sort of one simple idea and it’s just done. And it’s there for whatever reason, and it’s not overly thought-out. As much as I love the country and fresh gardens, I love street art,” says Miller.

Using leftover flowers, Miller and his team complete these acts of floral graffiti at random spots throughout the city, thus earning him the nicknames “Banksy of Flowers” and the “Florist-Bandit,” among others. “It’s ethereal. It’s there and it’s gone. People take the flowers, and I like that. I want to see how it gets destroyed. People love flowers — you put a flower in front of them, and they are going to take it.”

“Doing something where no money is attached is really liberating,” Miller adds. “When you’re doing it as a gift and to brighten up someone’s day. Someone will walk around the corner and see the flowers and it’s so freeing. I had no idea it was going to blow up like it did.”

When it comes to describing his arrangements, Miller often uses the words “lush” and “sumptuous.” But when articulating overall style, he has crafted a definition with help from his clients. “You know, somebody once said that they were not only gorgeous, but also masculine gorgeous,” he says. “It feels rich, but completely unassuming. Thought-out, and abundant and inspired, but nobody feels like it was slaved over. Whether it’s a handle of weeds, or anything, I use it — it doesn’t have to be the most precious flower in the world.”

While Miller’s favorite kind of flower changes with the season, some of his choice ones include a Black and White French Anemone, fragrant garden roses and Black Hollyhock.

Photo ©Lewis Miller Design

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Artist Lissi Kaplan’s Delicate Porcelain Pieces

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of The High End magazine. For more information about The High End, click here.

Kaplan brings color and life to her fragile masterpieces, taking high tea to new heights.

By Roger Grody

Photos by Lindsey Baumsteiger

While most painters work with canvases, some apply their skills to wood or metal and others, sometimes controversially, transform buildings. Artist Lissi Kaplan’s work is preserved on fragile porcelain, often contemplated over tea service in opulent salons. She is one of the premier porcelain painters in America and her work is coveted by collectors and exclusive hotels.

Born into an artistic family, Los Angeles-based Kaplan was once an aspiring opera singer who studied voice in college but eventually embraced her creative spirit as an interior designer. With the passing of her mother in 1997, however, she found herself searching for a more personal form of expression, and when she discovered the porcelain collection her mother left her, she knew she had inherited much more than just table settings. 

When Kaplan began painting, it was not only therapeutic during a period when she needed healing, but was also a tribute to her late mother. “I had so many memories of sipping tea with her, so I was happy to be able to create artwork around that ritual,” says Kaplan, explaining that her mom was her first voice coach and they would warm up their vocal chords over cups of tea.

“That art form spoke to me… a little painting under glaze forever. I was attracted to porcelain painting because it’s functional art and an heirloom that can be passed from generation to generation,” explains Kaplan. “There’s something about applying a brush to that smooth surface that is very soothing to the spirit.… You almost become one with the porcelain,” says Kaplan, who notes the use of fire adds another layer of magic to the process.

Artist Lissi Kaplan

(Photo by Steve Reisch)

Kaplan has been in constant demand for two decades, commissioned by a wide range of celebrities and institutions. She created a collection for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, but her bipartisan career also included an exquisite set of porcelain designed for Hillary Clinton. Kaplan prepared hand-painted gifts — porcelain emblazoned with poppies, the State Flower — for visiting dignitaries to California Governor Gray Davis, and her work can be found in the collections of Deepak Chopra, Tony Blair and Madeleine Albright.

When creating tableware for individuals, Kaplan’s artistic approach is informed by personal characteristics observed through one-on-one interactions. The bold colors used for Secretary Clinton reflect her strong personality and convictions, while Mrs. Reagan’s collection features softer tones expressed through peonies, a flower beloved by the late First Lady. Kaplan continues to be commissioned by clients seeking table settings with family crests or initials incorporated into ornate designs. In the vanishing art of porcelain painting, a five-piece set can take four months to produce.

Nature has always been one of Kaplan’s greatest inspirations, but the flowers and butterflies that populate her table settings are not precise scientific representations. “I think my work resonates with people because the designs are more whimsical and ethereal,” explains Kaplan, who suggests that like Chinese brush painting, her art is more about the spirit than science. 

An exquisite hand-painted California wildflower collection elevates the elegance of tea service.

Roses, which Kaplan reports are among the most technically challenging images to create on porcelain, appear on a fluted dessert plate with 24-karat gold accents, an ornate Limoges tea table or even a whimsical hand-painted piggy bank that makes a unique baby shower gift. Images of tiger orchids create a dramatic effect and a leopard skin pattern appearing on vases and tea sets is created with gold leaf. Kaplan says this design, originally produced for actress Fran Drescher, is particularly labor-intensive as each of five separate layers of painting must be fired in the kiln separately.

Kaplan applies her art to a three-piece tea set with matching Limoges tea table.

Grand hotels are among Kaplan’s biggest patrons and she was recently commissioned to create a new silver-laced tea collection commemorating the 25th anniversary of The Peninsula Beverly Hills. Other hotels that have served high tea on Kaplan-designed porcelain include The Montage in Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara’s El Encanto resort. Today, many renowned hotels opt for mass-produced porcelain, concerned with breakage of the more precious handcrafted items.

Kaplan’s first book deal was the direct result of tea service at The Peninsula, when influential literary editor Judith
Regan admired the hotel’s porcelain, part of a 600-piece original collection Kaplan created for the Beverly Hills hotel. “She looked at my teacups and said, ‘This artwork is speaking to me’,” reports the artist, whose book The Power of a Teacup (William Morrow, 2003) is personal and heartfelt.

In an era when many of the world’s porcelain manufacturers make concessions to mass production — even some producers in the revered village of Limoges, France’s capital of artisanal porcelain, now use decals — hand-painted porcelain is truly appreciated. Artists like Kaplan are increasingly rare and their work viewed as exquisite treasures.

Kaplan is moving into new territories, with her delicate brushwork appearing on textiles and wallpaper. Her most recent book Light as a Feather (Little Finch Press, 2016) is an endearing coming-of-age fable whose illustrations create a world of Kaplan’s signature pastel etherealness. If the pages look like they were lifted from an opulent tea room, it is because they were, in a sense. Each image was painted onto a porcelain tile, the medium this artist has mastered with great intimacy, then transferred to paper for publication. “When you put your heart into anything you love, it will be felt by others,” says Kaplan, an alchemist and dreamer whose passion elevates a cup of tea.

Contact: Lissi Kaplan

lissikaplan.com | 818.517.5293

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Fashion Meets Food In These 3 Designer Restaurants

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of The High End magazine. For more information about The High End, click here.

Some designer labels have successfully expanded their style to include branded restaurants.

By Samantha Myers

Photo courtesy Burberry

In recent years, high-end fashion houses have begun expanding their brands into fashionable food ventures, ranging from fine dining locales to cultivated cafes and refined bars.

One of the most notable fashion designers to establish contemporary food businesses as a direct extension of a signature brand is famed American designer Ralph Lauren. In 1999, Lauren opened his first restaurant, RL, adjacent to the world’s largest Polo store in Chicago. Similar to his fashion ideology, the restaurant focused on American classics — but traded in its collared Polo shirts, cashmere sweaters and neckties for steaks, seafood, chops and sandwiches.

RL, along with his subsequent restaurants, The Polo Bar in New York and Ralph’s on Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris, all have found ways to embody aspects of his iconic style.

Lauren’s newest venture is Ralph’s  Coffee & Bar in London, located just next door to his flagship European store — a space that spans over 3 floors of product — on the iconic shopping stretch of Regent Street. The club-like atmosphere offers a decor that fits the designer’s equestrian aesthetic, and utilizes materials such as leather, brass and dark wood paneling.

“Ralph’s Coffee & Bar is a natural extension of the heritage of Polo and will add yet another dimension to the worlds we create,” said Lauren of the bar’s opening in January 2017. “I’ve always imagined our stores as a place for customers to experience a world. [This location] will add to that experience by offering a warm, friendly place to sit cozily with friends and family to sip a cup of our distinctive coffee or toast a special moment with one of our unique cocktails.”

 

Ralph’s Coffee & Bar

Photo courtesy Ralph Lauren

173 Regent Street
Mayfair, London W1B 4JQ
+44.(0)20.7113.7450

Jonathan Hatchman, food editor for The London Economic, believes Ralph’s Coffee & Bar meets its intent and holds up the Ralph Lauren image. “The bar completely epitomizes everything expected from Ralph Lauren: from the equestrian and polo themed accents, brass-topped bar, saddle leather seats and a palette of rich browns and bottle green,” he says.

While the menu follows suit with American classics, it has also embraced European elements. The bar sells three signature cocktails specifically created for the London location: Regent Street Sour, Ralph’s Winter Punch and Ralph’s Evening Roast.

During his visit, Hatchman indulged in the bar’s beverages and complementary snacks — especially the “ludicrously delicious” breaded and deep-fried olives. “I particularly enjoyed ‘The Chairman’ — a rye whiskey cocktail with an absinthe rinse, both typical Sazerac components and one of my favorite cocktails,” he says. “The bar’s take on an ‘Old Fashioned’ was good, too, served in a huge polo-etched glass, made with woody Eagle Rare bourbon.”

Photo courtesy Burberry

Thomas’s at Burberry Regent Street

5 Vigo Street
London W1S 3HA
+44.(0)20.3159.1410

A few minutes down Regent Street, another famed fashion brand has quite literally broadened its label into a culinary eatery. Known for its iconic trench coats and classic trademark tartan plaid, British luxury fashion house Burberry is also giving its clientele an equally posh spot to dine as their clothes have given them to wear.

Named for its founder, Thomas Burberry, Thomas’s is described as an “all-day dining destination” within the company’s flagship London store. This particular location offers a special gift area, as well as in-store monogramming services so that leather accessories and luxury goods can be embellished with one’s initials.

With a menu ranging from lobster to finger sandwiches and English cakes, Thomas’s is a sophisticated cafe for both a shopping break or a social meal. What’s better than concluding a Burberry shopping spree with a fine cup of tea and a locally sourced lunch?

“All of the produce is sourced from British small farms and artisan suppliers, while the decor is quite simple with marble-topped tables, dark-wood chairs and plenty of natural light that floods the room,” says Hatchman. “Inside, the cafe is, essentially, a continuation of the store, with friendly, unthreatened service, as expected from a high-end retail space.”

“Thomas’s is very much an extension of the store,” says Hatchman. “It would appeal most to central London shoppers — either customers of Burberry, or surrounding Regent Street shops.”

Hatchman visited the store-cafe for Breakfast at Burberry. “For me, the quality of carefully selected produce really stood out,” he says. “In terms of food, the full English breakfast is a million miles from the greasy spoon classic, but it’s a fair, refined version that doesn’t skimp on quality or on the meat. I remember the black pudding being particularly delicious.”

Yet, aside from the cafe’s quite literal connection with its store, the restaurant refrained from becoming a physical manifestation of its iconic Burberry clothes. “Thomas’s is very much an extension of the store,” says Hatchman. “It would appeal most to central London shoppers — either customers of Burberry, or surrounding Regent Street shops.”

Rather than extend its brand, Burberry has extended its store’s space into the realm of nourishment. “I wouldn’t say that the cafe is a complete embodiment of the brand’s style,” he says. “But — like Burberry — the cafe is staunchly British and proud.”

Jonathan Hatchman
www.JonathanHatchman.com
info@JonathanHatchman.com

Photo courtesy Burberry

Armani / Ristorante 5th Avenue

While Ralph Lauren and Burberry have effectively incorporated restaurants into their brand’s empire, others have been unsuccessful, with their restaurants disappearing quickly after the initial buzz diminished. Take Marc Jacobs Café in Milan or Cavalli Miami Restaurant & Lounge.

Armani, however, has not had a problem.

Across the sea, immersed in the heart of Manhattan overlooking New York’s own shopping stretch — 5th Avenue — is Armani/Ristorante, one of the slew of restaurants bearing the name of the Italian mega-designer. You don’t have to travel far to find a Giorgio Armani restaurant venture — Armani Restaurants have been steadily popping up across the Americas, Europe and Asia for years, and now have over a dozen locations.

Photo courtesy Giorgio Armani

 

717 5th Avenue
3rd Floor
New York, NY 10175
212.207.1902

This particular Armani restaurant can be found on the third level of the Armani/5th Avenue store. Designed by Fuksas, the heart of the building is the sculptural steel staircase that leads customers to and from Armani-curated shopping and dining. The restaurant incorporates an Italian-inspired trendy style through a commanding backdrop of black and white, sleek curves and straight lines and furbished LED lights that give it the edge it needs.

Armani/Ristorante is structured in true Italian fashion — antipasti, primi piatti, secondi, and also offers breakfast and lunch, most likely for visitors to its bustling store.

Although epitomizing Armani’s sleek, hard-edged style, Armani restaurants are beyond a re-creation of his style in restaurant format. In fact, his locations have bolstered into culinary expeditions and have seen partnerships with some of the world’s top chefs, such as Milan’s Armani/Nobu, where he created a restaurant with celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. The polished restaurant is unmistakably Armani, yet has a warm Japanese influence in both the design details and of course, the food.

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