ASPIRE House Princeton — The Dining Room

Using the homeowner’s collection of antique wooden panels depicting the 12 zodiac symbols, designer Sam Ciardi created a Southeast Asian designed dining room. The room is a warm and cozy space, according to Ciardi with Samuel Robert Signature Spaces, who chose to center the room around a custom dining table.

Every inch of the zen-inspired room breathes life into the space, from the abundant green plants to the dark, earthy ceilings, to the bespoke credenza painting. The “deep bold, ‘Palm Frond'” transports you to the perfect paradise that encompasses a tropical, tranquil elegance. 

For more information on the ASPIRE House Princeton Designer Show House, click here.

 

Sam Ciardi
Samuel Robert Signature Spaces
Rockaway, New Jersey

973.376.770
signaturespacesnj.com

Instagram: @samuelrobertsignaturespaces

Photography by Mike Van Tassell Photography
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Under Pressure

The following is a

Unique Homes Online Exclusive

During the mid-year height of the Covid-19 pandemic, real estate agents comment on how the market stood, and in some cases prevailed, under enormous pressure.

 

This past Fall, luxury real estate agents from across the country spoke on Unique Homes’ first Zoom panel to discuss topics from the recent article “Space: The New Currency,” from Unique Homes Magazine’s recent Fall issue, written by Camilla McLaughlin. On this exclusive virtual panel, agents were able to discuss how the real estate markets of America endured (and continue to endure) through the turbulence that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused. Throughout the discussion, these experienced panelists spoke on the changes their area(s) have undergone and the how the pandemic has affected the homebuying process. We’ve highlighted some of our distinguished panelists and their unique experiences below.

 

Mauricio Umansky, Founder/CEO of The Agency

Los Angeles, CA

In the beginning of “Space: The New Currency,” Mauricio Umansky, Founder and CEO of The Agency, notes that in the midst of the pandemic, consumers who were staying at home also found themselves asking impactful questions regarding their homes and their futures: where am I sequestering versus where am I at home? What do I want my home to look like? What do I want my second home to look like? 

As one of the opening speakers, Umansky adds that though many of these questions may not be answered right away, the pandemic proved to be a catalyst for many potential home buyers to start a dialogue with their local real estate agents. “Sequestering at home, stay in, shelter in place, whatever it is we want to call it, has caused a conversation that is equal amongst everybody, whether it’s politically driven, whether it’s answering ‘what do I want to do with my life?’ and understanding that we can now work and operate from anywhere.”

 

 

Courtney Hampson, Vice President of Marketing

Palmetto Bluff, SC

Palmetto Bluff is a community in coastal South Carolina that caters to a mix of primary and vacation homeowners. Courtney Hampson, Vice President of Marketing for Palmetto Bluff, says on the panel that at the beginning of the pandemic many residents were already staying in Palmetto Bluff due to Spring Break, and were mandated to stay due to the shutdown. Many stayed until May when the state began opening up again, and there were several instances where those who extended their stay ended up moving to Palmetto Bluff full time. About a particular couple from New York with young children, Hampson says “They literally walked down the street into our real estate office, went on our tour, looked at available homes, closed two days later, our fastest closing ever, and that was it. ‘This is where we are,’ they said, ‘This is the plan now.'”

During the panel Hampson also stated that the utilization of virual tours and showings became more widely utilized, so much that they had to include the option right away on their website.” She also noted that in the midst of everything, they found that buyers were buying almost like they were suffering from FOMO, or a Fear of Missing Out. “[Clients] are booking their stay at the hotel first, and … they have almost a fear of missing out. They’re not waiting to get here to look at real estate — they’re doing that virtually, going under contract and seeing their property the first time they come to visit.” 

Carrie Wells, Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate

Aspen, CO

Though located on the opposite side of the United States, Carrie Wells of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate in Aspen, Colorado, experienced similar situations as Hampson had in South Carolina. March is typically the latter part of the state’s skiing season, but due to the pandemic the season was cut short, and those visiting found themselves sequestering in Aspen — and staying. She remarked that you can see this reflected in the school district alone, where 175 new students were admitted and a wait list was created for the Aspen Country Day School, Aspen’s main private school. She also noted that with the help of Matterport virtual tour technology, many sales were able to happen, as clients wanted to be able to visit openings safely. 

Wells remarked about her own experience with a New York family who stayed in Aspen until the summer. “He said, ‘I never realized that Aspen is so enjoyable in April and May,’ which are normally our off-season months. … People have experienced being here year-round, when they normally would not be here, and there’s so much to do other than downhill skiing that I think regardless of what happens with our winter, we’re still going to see our market continue to be strong.”

 

 

Frank Aazami, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty

Scottsdale, AZ

The title of the article “Space: The New Currency,” as well as the main point of discussion for the panel, was inspired by profound statement by Frank Aazami of Russ Lyon Sothebby’s International Realty. During the panel Aazami notes that when the pandemic began and people were sequestering, he noticed that areas that were previously difficult to sell beforehand, regions outside of Phoenix and Scottsdale such as Fountains Hills, Cave Creek, et cetera, were now like beacons that buyers were gravitating toward. Previously, there were no sales north of $3 million, but eventually there were closings reaching upwards of $4 and $6 million. The reasoning for this market change? Space!

In the article, Aazami notes that from his region of Scottsdale, Arizona, his experience during the pandemic that no matter what buyers were generally looking for — a vacation home, relocation refuge, et cetera — the key point he saw was that consumers were looking for a safe haven, with plenty of space. Not only that, but consumers are also requesting specifics when it comes to this space in order to make their purchases personal and customized to their lifestyles, from multiple offices and indoor gyms to view decks and larger patios. 

 

 

Chris Bernier, Churchill Properties

Boston’s North Shore, MA

Located just 30 minutes outside of Boston, Chris Bernier of Churchill Properties notes during the Zoom panel that despite the usual trends of buyers looking for smaller, more minimalistic style homes, space really is the new currency. He affirms that many buyers in his market are flocking toward the larger homes. These market shifts are no doubt due to the pandemic shifting priorities. 

“Our listing inventory is down 52 percent for single family homes in Massachusetts, so we’re running on half of what we were this time last year. And it’s just made a tremendously imbalanced seller’s market. Prices are up in Massachusetts, it’s just driving the market up.” With as much uncertainty, he adds that it’s also been hard to know exactly what the real estate cycle looks like, even though it’s always been a very predictable real estate cycle in Massachusetts. That all being said, he notes that from the pandemic to American politics at play, “with everything that’s going on, it’s been one of the best years in Massachusetts for residential real estate.” 

 

James Torrance, Keller Williams Luxury International

Palm Beach, FL

James Torrance from Palm Beach, Florida, has much to say about the pandemic has shifted Florida into more than just a retirement or snowbird refuge, seen in these clips from the Zoom discussion. He notes further that in fact a large wave of buyers from California and more specifically Chicago brought interest to the area and helped close several sales, a rarity in his area. What was also interesting that he notices are the importance of the private schools and districts in South Florida, as he mentions that many buyers were finding schools they liked, then picking from available homes nearby.

This, alongside his points about the importance of homes with multi-functional spaces such as guesthouses and just the overall outlook on how the market has shifted, highlight just how much action Florida has seen in the past several months due to Covid-19’s effect on real estate.

 

 

Roxann Taylor, Engel & Völkers Dallas Forth Worth

Dallas, TX

As an real estate agent with 40-plus years of selling experience, Roxann Taylor of Engel & Völkers Dallas Forth Worth was a fountain of wisdom toward the end of the virtual panel. She highlighted much of what the other panelists had noted, including buyers prioritizing homes with large space as opposed to downsizing, and putting houses on the market through a near fully virtual process. 

 

 

For More Unique Homes Online Exclusive content, click here.

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Fairytale Setting in West Virginia

This exceptionally stylish and elegant home is in a private 6.8-acre wooded setting in Lewisburg, West Virginia, just minutes from downtown and the world-famous Greenbrier Resort.

“It has great quality and character, while maintaining the ease of a comfortable lifestyle,” says listing agent Paul Grist of Grist Real Estate Associates Inc. who is listing the property with Donna Stoner for $1.625 million

Its many noteworthy features include a living room with a 23-foot cathedral ceiling, four gas fireplaces, a large gourmet kitchen with an adjacent screened dining porch, five bedroom suites, a wine cellar, a dry sauna, and three-bay garage.

“The lower level family room features a stone fireplace and large windows, perfect for viewing the private wooded surrounding,” says Grist.

 

For more information, contact:

Grist Real Estate Associates, Inc.

Paul Grist, Broker — 304.661.6543

Donna Stoner, GRI, Agent — 304.646.6454

695 Jefferson Street, South Lewisburg, WV 24901

304.645.5000

www.GristRealEstate.com/LUX

 

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ASPIRE House: Princeton Designer Show House

By Jessica Ganga and Victoria Zielinski

 

Unique Homes Magazine had the opportunity to visit the Princeton Aspire Show House, where designers showcased their elegant and creative designs for each room and area of the home. Located just minutes away from downtown Princeton, this home seamlessly blends modern design with art, creating the perfect balance of the two.

Foyer

Foyer of the home that leads to the offices.

Walking into the home, the first thing you can’t help but notice is the accent wall that travels from the bottom to the top of the staircase. It’s designed by Joe Berkowitz of JAB Design Group. Inspired by a black and white photo he saw, the basis of the foyer is a mix of “edgy” and “traditional contemporary.”

It’s warm and inviting despite the accent color being black and white. The textured wallpaper is a subtle twist, which adds an eclectic focal point. An added touch: Walk up the steps to find the exact image Berkowitz admired for his design. 

Library

From the foyer, to the right, is the library, a “dark, mesmerizing, and thought-provoking room,” as described by the designer, Amy Manor of Red Bank Design Center. Manor drew from a childhood memory to create a space that welcomes diversity and is a space without judgement. Continuing with the theme of the home, Manor incorporated art from artists featured in Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park, N.J. 

The home’s library featuring art from Parlor Gallery.

His & Hers Offices: 

Gentleman’s Office: When designers Vivian Hung and Joe Giamarese approached the design of the masculine office space, they took into account the pandemic of 2020. What was important to them when creating the space was keeping in mind how this place will function as a work-from-home space. According to Hung, the design duo loves texture, but didn’t want to be bold with it. They incorporated pattern and texture with the carpet and the drapery that created a calming energy throughout. The main centerpiece of the office? The desk that played with the mix of materials, contrasted well with the carpet and fit perfectly into the space. 

Lady’s Office: A true creative escape. This space is one that evokes fun, creativity and a place to genuinely retire for work. Designed by Vicki Kelly Gindy and Tram-Anh Poprik of Red Bank Design Center, the use of color and art combine to make this escape for the “mind, body and spirit.” At the center of the office sits a piece by artist Ray Geary that brings the whole look and feel of the office together. The flow of the colors can’t help but make anyone entering the office stop and say “wow.”

Kitchen + Mudroom 

 “Overall Asian styling with a cool California modern flare” sets the tone of the home for designer Ginny Padula of Town & Country Kitchen and Bath, providing the cabinetry and permanent fixtures for the kitchen, butler’s pantry, mudroom, bathrooms, and more. The kitchen, showcasing design elements that are sleek, earthy and natural, creates a modern, yet comfortable and warm space for cooking, dining, and entertaining. Unique touches, such as the cozy breakfast area, matching countertops and backsplash, and large island, add to the cohesive flow of the space, making it the perfect space for gathering with family and friends.

The lady’s office featuring art from the Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park, NJ.

The kitchen and breakfast nook look out to the backyard featuring a small pond.

Moving toward the mudroom, designer Tamu Rasheba Green of Lux Pad Interiors sought to create a transition space offering a calming atmosphere from the outside world to inside the home. The mudroom, featuring custom built-ins, closets, and an enclosed powder room, allows for the homeowners to “remove physical baggage” and “release tension of the day” by providing a personalized space to decompress before entering the home’s main quarters. 

The Great Room

Designed by Anna Maria Mannarino from Mannarino. The great room flows seamlessly from the kitchen and features a floating stand-alone fireplace that is the centerpiece of the room. For more photos and for Anna Maria’s contact information, click here!

The floating fireplace is the great room’s focal point.

Dining Room

Designer Sam Ciardi of Samuel Robert Signature Spaces was tasked with incorporating the homeowner’s 12 antique wooden panels that depict the Chinese New Year zodiac signs. The result: an earthy room filled with plants, earth tones and “the ultimate expression of minimalist design.”

Drawing Room 

Celebrating the atypical and unexpected, the drawing room, the work of designer Alirio Pirela of Pirela Atelier, creates an inviting space with a medley of different styles that blend together seamlessly. From American Art Deco to European Mid-Century masters and modern emerging artists, the result is a multifaceted space perfect for a serene retreat from the day-to-day. 

 

The dining room was designed around the antique, Chinese wooden panels.

The drawing room features stunning art and sculptures.

Master Bedroom + Bathroom

A truly opulent and sophisticated space, the master bedroom, designed by Judy King of Judy King Interiors, embraces comfort and style. A soft mural wall blends with a striking full-wall fireplace and unique accent pieces drawing attention to the room’s distinct decor, and an impressive walk-in closet and master bath highlighting the experience of getting ready for and ending the day. 

 

Boy’s Bedroom

A 9-year-old’s imagination and curiosity about the world, travel, and life inspired designer Diane Durocher of Diane Durocher Interiors to create a timeless bedroom that will grow with him. A walk-in closet and bathroom provide plenty of space, and the decor, such as a large canvas map hanging from the ceiling above the bed, create infinite possibilities for discovery. 

The master bedroom features a warm and inviting sitting area with a fireplace.

Carefully curated pieces add some fun to the home’s guest bedroom.

Guest Bedroom

Designed by Gail Davis of Gail Davis Designs, the guest bedroom of the home is a warm and inviting, en suite space for guests. The warm space is accented by the statement bed that features the soft and comfortable linens by Deborah Sharp Linens. For lighting, the room utilizes the natural light that floods in through the large windows, but also uses shorter, standing lights, creating a cool-toned atmosphere. For more photos and Gail’s contact info, click here. 

Lower Level — Wet Bar and Gallery Space

The lower level of the home is a large, open space with plenty of amenities. Designed by Ginny Padula of Town & Country Kitchen and Bath, the area was envisioned as “an entertaining space that was both cool and modern yet comfortable and soothing.” Features of this level include a yoga studio, simulation golf room and a theater. The main space, where people would gather, is relaxed with soft-toned fabrics, which perfectly contrasts the main staple of the floor: the bar. 

The downstairs bar is the perfect spot for family and friends to gather around.

Acting as an art gallery, the lower level features a painting by American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.

For the Showhouse, though, the lower level was transformed into a pop-up art gallery featuring work provided by Chelsea Art Group, which is based in New York City. There were so many interesting and beautiful pieces in the space, featuring a painting hung up near the bar area by famous pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.

The 2020 Princeton Designer Showhouse was sponsored by the following: Benjamin Moore, Cosentino, Kallista, Kohler, Florense, Signature Kitchen Suite, and LG Signature

 

Featured photo: A perfect entertaining space, the lower level features a nice sitting area, golf simulation room, and home theater.
Photography by Mike Van Tassell Architectural Photography
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Under Pressure

The following is a

Unique Homes Online Exclusive

During the mid-year height of the Covid-19 pandemic, real estate agents comment on how the market stood, and in some cases prevailed, under enormous pressure.

 

This past Fall, luxury real estate agents from across the country spoke on Unique Homes’ first Zoom panel to discuss topics from the recent article “Space: The New Currency,” from Unique Homes Magazine’s recent Fall issue, written by Camilla McLaughlin. On this exclusive virtual panel, agents were able to discuss how the real estate markets of America endured (and continue to endure) through the turbulence that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused. Throughout the discussion, these experienced panelists spoke on the changes their area(s) have undergone and the how the pandemic has affected the homebuying process. We’ve highlighted some of our distinguished panelists and their unique experiences below.

 

Mauricio Umansky, Founder/CEO of The Agency

Los Angeles, CA

In the beginning of “Space: The New Currency,” Mauricio Umansky, Founder and CEO of The Agency, notes that in the midst of the pandemic, consumers who were staying at home also found themselves asking impactful questions regarding their homes and their futures: where am I sequestering versus where am I at home? What do I want my home to look like? What do I want my second home to look like? 

As one of the opening speakers, Umansky adds that though many of these questions may not be answered right away, the pandemic proved to be a catalyst for many potential home buyers to start a dialogue with their local real estate agents. “Sequestering at home, stay in, shelter in place, whatever it is we want to call it, has caused a conversation that is equal amongst everybody, whether it’s politically driven, whether it’s answering ‘what do I want to do with my life?’ and understanding that we can now work and operate from anywhere.”

 

 

Courtney Hampson, Vice President of Marketing

Palmetto Bluff, SC

Palmetto Bluff is a community in coastal South Carolina that caters to a mix of primary and vacation homeowners. Courtney Hampson, Vice President of Marketing for Palmetto Bluff, says on the panel that at the beginning of the pandemic many residents were already staying in Palmetto Bluff due to Spring Break, and were mandated to stay due to the shutdown. Many stayed until May when the state began opening up again, and there were several instances where those who extended their stay ended up moving to Palmetto Bluff full time. About a particular couple from New York with young children, Hampson says “They literally walked down the street into our real estate office, went on our tour, looked at available homes, closed two days later, our fastest closing ever, and that was it. ‘This is where we are,’ they said, ‘This is the plan now.'”

During the panel Hampson also stated that the utilization of virual tours and showings became more widely utilized, so much that they had to include the option on their website right away on their website.” She also noted that in the midst of everything, they found that buyers were buying almost like they were suffering from FOMO, or a Fear of Missing Out. “[Clients] are booking their stay at the hotel first, and … they have almost a fear of missing out. They’re not waiting to get here to look at real estate — they’re doing that virtually, going under contract and seeing their property the first time they come to visit.” 

Carrie Wells, Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate

Aspen, CO

Though located on the opposite side of the United States, Carrie Wells of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate in Aspen, Colorado experienced similar situations as Hampson had in South Carolina. March is typically the latter part of the state’s skiing season, but due to the pandemic the season was cut short, and those visiting found themselves sequestering in Aspen — and staying. She remarked that you can see this reflected in the school district alone, where 175 new students were admitted and a weight list was created for the Aspen Country Day School, Aspen’s main private school. She also noted that with the help of Matterport virtual tour technology many sales were able to happen, as clients wanted to be able to visit openings safely. 

Wells remarked about her own experience with a New York family who stayed in Aspen until the summer. “He said, ‘I never realized that Aspen is so enjoyable in April and May,’ which are normally our off-season months. … People have experienced being here year-round, when they normally would not be here, and there’s so much to do other than downhill skiing that I think regardless of what happens with our winter, we’re still going to see our market continue to be strong.”

 

 

Frank Aazami

Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty

Scottsdale, AZ

The title of the article “Space: The New Currency,” as well as the main point of discussion for the panel, was inspired by profound statement by Frank Aazami of Russ Lyon Sothebby’s International Realty. During the panel Aazami notes that when the pandemic began and people were sequestering, he noticed that areas that were previously difficult to sell beforehand, regions outside of Phoenix and Scottsdale such as Fountains Hills, Cave Creek, etc, were now like beacons that buyers were gravitating towards. Before there were no sales north of $3 million, but eventually there were closings reaching upwards of $4 and $6 million. The reasoning for this market change? Space!

In the article Aazami notes that from his region of Scottsdale, Arizona, his experience during the pandemic that no matter what buyers were generally looking for, a vacation home, relocation refuge, etc., the key point he saw was that consumers were looking for a safe haven, with plenty of space. Not only that, but consumers are also requesting specifics when it comes to this space in order to make their purchases personal and customized to their lifestyles, from multiple offices and indoor gyms to view decks and larger patios. 

 

 

Chris Bernier, Churchill Properties

Boston’s North Shore, MA

Located just 30 minutes outside of Boston, Chris Bernier of Churchill Properties notes during the Zoom panel that despite the usual trends of buyers looking for smaller, more minimalistic style homes, space really is the new currency. He affirms that many buyers in his market are flocking toward the larger homes. These market shifts are no doubt due to the pandemic shifting priorities, and continues to show 

“Our listing inventory is down 52 percent for single family homes in Massachusetts, so we’re running on half of what we were this time last year. And it’s just made a tremendously imbalanced seller’s market. Prices are up in Massachusetts, it’s just driving the market up.” With as much uncertainty, he adds that it’s also been hard to know exactly what the real estate cycle looks like, even though it’s always been a very predictable real estate cycle in Massachusetts. That all being said, he notes that from the pandemic to American politics at play, “with everything that’s going on, it’s been one of the best years in Massachusetts for residential real estate.” 

 

James Torrance, Keller Williams Luxury International

Palm Beach, FL

James Torrance from Palm Beach, Florida has much to say about the pandemic has shifted Florida into more than just a retirement or snowbird refuge, seen in these clips from the Zoom discussion. He notes further that in fact a large wave of buyers from California and more specifically Chicago brought interest to the area and helped close several sales, a rarity in his area. What was also interesting that he notices are the importance of the private schools and districts in South Florida, as he mentions that many buyers were shopping around different homes once they had found a school system they liked, then picking from available homes nearby.

This, alongside his points about the importance of homes with multi-functional spaces such as guesthouses and just the overall outlook on how the market has shifted, highlight just how much action Florida has seen in the past several months due to Covid-19’s effect on real estate.

 

 

Roxann Taylor, Engel & Völkers Dallas Forth Worth

Dallas, TX

As an real estate agent with 40-plus years of selling experience, Roxann Taylor of Engel & Völkers Dallas Forth Worth was a fountain of wisdom toward the end of the virtual panel. She highlighted much of which was similar to what the other panelists had noted, including buyers prioritizing homes with large space as opposed to downsizing, putting houses on the market through a near fully-virtual process, and much more. 

 

 

For More Unique Homes Online Exclusive content, click here.

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The Magic of ‘Layering Light’

Bette Ridgeway creates magic. She pours her heart and soul into the artwork that she creates. When the American abstract artist felt the rush of loneliness during the COVID-19 lockdown in her Santa Fe, New Mexico home, she turned that feeling into a work of art. With tones of grey, blue-grey, and white, Ridgeway let the paint (and gravity) speak for itself. She stepped back and knew that the name of the painting was Loneliness.

Ridgeway doesn’t use any paint brushes. Her canvases don’t sit atop an easel. Instead, she uses acrylic paint, a canvas, stools and plastic cups. The rest, she leaves to gravity. 

 

“I call the technique ‘pouring’ and use the phrase, which I copyrighted, ‘layering light,’” Ridgeway explains.

 

 

Bette Ridgeway

Lonliness

The artist accomplishes the “layering light” look by mixing her paints in her nine-inch plastic cups, where she then pours the colorful mixture on her canvas. Ridgeway explains that she manipulates the canvas by stretching it over stools and ladders, allowing the paint to create her signature style. “If you look at the work, you’ll see there’s motion in it and that’s achieved by the speed of the pour, the angle of the pour and that’s what makes it unique, no brush work,” says Ridgeway.

Fandango — Inspired by New Mexican flamenco dancer María Benítez. The twists and turns of the orange and red reminded Ridgeway of the dancer flowing and dancing the flamenco.

With over 30 years of experience as a commercial painter under her belt, Ridgeway has an endless portfolio of paintings, each with its own look. “Every single one of them is so different,” she explains. “Some are really bold and strong. Some are lighter and more transparent. Transparency is what makes the work different because when you pour a watered-down color over another watered-down color, you get a third color. You compose as you go.”

 As an abstract artist, Ridgeway says, she pulls inspiration for her pieces from a memory, a feeling, or simply a color combination she envisioned or saw. “I don’t set out to paint something,” she says about when she approaches her canvas to paint. “I don’t set out to paint happiness or joy, or anything like that.”

Instead, Ridgeway takes what’s inside of her at the time and lets the colors and the pour shape the painting. This is one of the things that led Ridgeway to transition from figurative painting (painting an object or subject that is real) to abstract painting. “Abstract work is harder because it comes from inside you, you’re not looking at anything. You’re painting a thought, a feeling,” she says. “You’re painting a certain thing that’s come outside of you.” 

Harvest Time — “When I started out, I wanted to use earth tones — amber and gold and a little bit of gray — more earthy than primary colors.” Ridgeway explains that when she threw the deep raspberry color and the white on the canvas, it reminded her of the rainforest. She squirted water in the center of the painting and let it drip. “A lot of people don’t know rainforests, but it’s like a soft, misty rain the whole time, so moist,” Ridgeway says. “Fruit everywhere, flowers everywhere, so you get that feeling of Mother Earth, just so abundant and rich and lifegiving.”

When a dear friend of Ridgeway’s passed away in 1999, the feeling that came out of her was sadness. To cope, she took this feeling and created a masterpiece. “I did this gigantic piece with only red and black, on a white canvas and I named it, Mi Corazón Roto, which means ‘my broken heart.’ And it looked like that, to me — an abstract broken heart.” It hung in her studio for a long time, until a best friend and collector of hers lost her husband. Ridgeway gifted the painting to her “and she hung it in her living room and it was like her broken heart,” she says. Ridgeway got the painting back after her friend passed away, saving it from being sold in a consignment shop. “So each piece kind of has a life of its own,” she says, going on to share that the piece recently found a new wall to call home.

 

 

Mi Corazón Roto

One of the best parts of what Ridgeway does is when people get to see her paintings. “The viewer is actually the one that completes [the painting] because they see what they see and it might not have anything to do with what I did,” she says. “It’s so much fun to hear what people see. It’s never what I see.”

A Day in the Surf — “You know, with this COVID, we’re not able to travel, at least I’m not, and so I’m missing going to a beach this summer, I’m missing the water,” Ridgeway explains about this piece. Inspired by the water, Ridgeway created this piece that is reminiscent of the beautiful ebb and flow of the waves on a beach.

In a way, Ridgeway has come full circle in her career. In the mid 1970s, the artist visited a big gallery in New York to see the work of abstract artist Paul Jenkins, who used the same method of pouring in his work. “The paintings were enormous and they were in primary colors — red, blue, green, orange, yellow, a lot of black — and it just brought me to my knees,” Ridgeway says. “I had never seen anything like it and it was so powerful, and this entire gallery, with huge walls, was filled with this magnificent work, that I just stood there and cried. It was so beautiful.”

It is Jenkins, according to Ridgeway, that led her down the path to finding her creative voice. “I owe so much to my friend Paul who became a mentor over the years,” she says. “He passed away in 2012 and was a master, his work is in all the major museums in the world.”

Although Ridgeway has accomplished so much during her career and continues to show in galleries and paint commissions, she acknowledges she still has room for growth, “I’m learning every day. I don’t have all the answers,” she says. “And that’s the beauty of this work, it’s so different and every single day I learn something new. And that’s what’s exciting…. I’m just having the time of my life.” 

For more information on Bette Ridgeway, upcoming showings, and paintings, go to RidgewayStudio.com or BetteRidgeway.com

Photos of artwork and Bette Ridgeway courtesy of Bette Ridgeway. 

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Wallpaper’s Wizardry

Arabella by Tempaper. Photo courtesy of Tempaper. 

Penchants usually gravitate to the latest and greatest, but one tried and true material continues to be a magical catalyst for lifestyle.

Subtle or bold, classic or contemporary, shiny or opaque, wallpaper has evolved to be design’s magic wand — able to add pizzazz, lend a mellow undertone or inject just the right touch of coziness to any room.

Uniquely versatile, it enables consumers to fashion an interior that captures their individuality. It allows for unlimited customization as well as the creation of personalized living spaces, even adapting for children and pets without compromising on aesthetics. And for every budget from DIY to bespoke, there is a product.

“People want to LOVE their home. They want comfort and convenience, but do not want to sacrifice chic,” says San Francisco designer Jay Jeffers.

“There is a strong desire among consumers for original, authentic design that goes along with their vision for their house,” explains Joyce Romanoff, CEO of Maya Romanoff, a manufacturer of luxury wall coverings.

Ask designers about wallpaper and they invariably chorus, “it’s not your grandmother’s wallpaper,” a truism heard so frequently that it’s almost become a cliché. What is truly amazing is how much wallpaper ends up in homes today, adding a visual depth impossible to achieve with paint. Murals are back. So are individual walls showcased with a stunning texture or print.

And walls are only the beginning of today’s wallpaper story. “Trends indicate that the consumer is looking to personalize space through the creative use of wallpapers beyond the walls. Backings for bookcases, shelves, customized furnishings and ceilings all enter the realms of possibility.

While full room wraps, murals and feature walls still dominate the world of captivating designer installations, these small impact pieces allow for strong style statements without huge pattern or space commitments,” explains Carol Miller, content marketing manager for York Wallcoverings, a manufacturer with 125 years of innovation.

If the mention of wallpaper conjures visions of the flat, one-dimensional rolls common little more than 10 years ago, it’s time to refresh that image. “For many years wallpaper was something many of our clients avoided, but today, it is being rediscovered as an exciting way to introduce the color and patterns many homeowners are now embracing. And there are more wallpaper options out there than ever, thanks to advances in technology,” shares Elissa Morgante, founding partner of Chicago architecture and design firm Morgante-Wilson. 

Dating back to decorated rice paper in China as early as  200 B.C., wallpaper has a long history that continues to evolve, with each century, each decade, adding innovations in materials, finishes, production methods and artistry. The most recent reinvention of wallpaper began more than a decade ago, but changes over the last few years have been especially remarkable. Old-school techniques such as block printing and silk screening continue, but the end result seems entirely new. Modern machinery creates precise designs, and new dyes impart richer vibrant hues. Diverse materials from wood and sand to crystals, shells, fibers, beads, even glass add depth. 

Left: Jewel Tones; Middle: Metallic; Right: Soft Organic

Wallpaper sample photos courtesy York Wallcoverings.

“Manufacturers can now digitally create the beautiful, luxurious look of expensive hand-painted or hand-blocked papers, or embed wallpapers with materials such as mica, glass beads, or even capiz shells to add interest and texture,” says Morgante. 

“Over the last decade, we have diversified our product mix by expanding the types of materials we use. We have focused on making our processes more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable, while maintaining our handcraft and luxury appeal,” explains David Berkowitz, EVP of product development at Maya Romanoff, the largest manufacturer of handcrafted wall coverings in the U.S. Their gallery includes wool, burlap, silk and other natural fibers as well as precious metals and wood. Designs are often intricate, requiring an artisan’s touch. For example, papers in the precious metals collection often employ a time-honored method in which metallic leaves are hand applied to a paper backing with chopsticks. An ultra-modern topcoat prevents tarnishing or oxidizing, allowing for easier maintenance.

Textural papers continue to be in demand. The effect can be rustic or refined. In addition to traditional hemp, jute, sea grass, bamboo and raffia, grass cloth might integrate a variety of other materials. Additionally, says K. Tyler, partner and designer at Morgante Wilson, there are woven papers that look like linen on the wall or a variation of silk.

Schemes inspired by traditional designs (dare we mention chintz) have returned, but today’s execution is nothing like the dingy muted tones of yesteryear. Colors are vibrant, often using multiple shades of the same hue. Botanicals have also blossomed into an important trend, inspired by a growing passion for nature and biophilia. Look for splashy leaves and fronds or impressionist-inspired trees and flowers in soft tones. “I am also seeing a change from the crisp, bold large-scale patterns into a more abstract brush-stroked look. But with some of these styles, you’ll need to be aware you won’t have a side match, and each panel is distinguished,” says Christopher Grubb, president of Arch-Interiors Design Group in Beverly Hills.

Top left: Precious metal inlaid; Top right: Hand-finished wood veneer, Ajiro Fanfare. Bottom: Tribal Print from Ronald Redding Handcrafted Naturals collection.

Photos of wallpaper production and sample by Maya Romanoff.

“There are so many things technology has allowed us to do today. We can do wall covering now that looks like the real material, but it’s made out of vinyl,” says Tony Sutton, owner of Est Est, Inc., an award-winning design firm in Scottsdale. Sutton illustrates with examples of wallpaper made from ultra-thin cork or micro-layers of slate. Additionally, he says, “I can take any photograph and then make a giant custom wallpaper out of it.”

Options today range from rugged vinyls to bespoke designs and hand-painted silks with prices that can exceed $1,000 a roll. “Vinyls are typically less expensive, but super durable. Many of them are rated for commercial use and sold in wider widths,” says Mondi.

“I am a huge fan of using vinyl wall coverings,” says Grubb, who does commercial as well as residential projects. “The color palette is enormous. There are silk and grass cloth looks, wovens, textures and embossed patterns. It’s incredibly durable and easy to maintain.”

“On the other end of the spectrum, you would find hand-painted wall coverings. There are custom made, high-end and truly artisan products that typically replicate a faux finish or mural. In between is where most wallpapers reside. Digital printing is typically very affordable and can often be done on different background materials,” says Mondi.

Design is only part of what consumers want. Sustainability and ease of use are equally important. Upmarket to DIY consumers demand sustainability, which includes efforts to minimize the footprint of manufacturing, observes Miller. Beyond no VOCs, ozone-depleting chemicals or cadmium or mercury, York Wallcoverings also uses water-based inks and coatings and smokeless, non-polluting inks. Additionally, there is a push toward sustainable materials, including cork, natural grasses, leaves, wood veneer, even glass beads made from recycled windshield glass.

Ease of Use

“Now every level and type of wallpaper concerns itself with ease of application and removability,” says Miller. “Even nonwoven unpasted backings used most often by designers remove in full strips.”

A potential game-changer for the industry came with Tempaper, which has revolutionized the concept of peel and stick papers. There is nothing stodgy about these designs, which run the gamut from traditional classics such as chinoiserie to glam to bohemian. They also tap into creations by well-known designers such as Bobby Berk and Genevieve Gorder. The company also offers panels and murals as large as 8 feet by 10 feet. Some designs such as Arabella, part of the Zoe Bios collection, are inspired by artists such as Jean Michel Basquiat. 

Founded by twin sisters Jennifer Matthews and Julia Au, Tempaper is an ideal solution for someone renting, as designer Jewel Marlowe discovered. “Recently we rented a high-end beach home in Jamestown, Rhode Island, for 10 months. This was just long enough that I wanted to add some personality to some of the spaces in order for it to feel like home. However, I was very aware that whatever I used needed to be quickly removable. Luckily, I found some beautiful Tempaper designs to personalize and beautify some of our rooms,” she shares.

Birds are flocking to wallpaper this year. Graham & Brownexpresses this theme in Tori Teal.

Photos courtesy of Graham & Brown.

New additions to Tempaper’s line up include designs from Wright Kitchen and holographic decals from Bobby Berk. This year, the company also introduced a collection of vinyl floor rugs. 

Tempaper does seem to add a “now you see it, now you don’t” ability to wallpaper’s extensive resume, making it a truly magical material.

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Streetwise

Slick, a native of Hawaii, painted this mural on the exterior of the Museum of Graffiti in Miami. 

Photo courtesy Museum of Grafitti. 

Its earliest practitioners were considered criminals, but now the work of some graffiti artists hangs in the nation’s most prestigious museums.

After society’s initial outrage over acts of vandalism in the name of creativity, art enthusiasts begrudgingly acknowledged that some wayward, urban painters were genuinely gifted. Over time, graffiti and street art earned a place in prestigious collections, private galleries and museums like the Museum of
Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

While graffiti is often viewed as an American-born genre, Michael Rooks, a curator of modern and contemporary art at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, provides some historical context. “Graffiti and street art have their origins in the history of 20th century art — from Dada wherein text replaced image to inveigh against WWI on the streets of Zürich, to the Mexican muralist movement’s large-scale murals in post-revolution Mexico City, to Les Affichistes artists whose affiches lacérées (layers of torn posters and advertisements) were literally sourced from the streets and walls of post-WWII Paris.” 

The evolution of American street art has been well documented in L.A. and New York, but the acceptance of this form of artistic expression has also occurred in Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco. 

“Bunny Kitty’s Dreamstate Room” is a vibrant, playful work from artist Persue.

Photo courtesy Museum of Graffiti. 

Some street artists are commissioned as muralists, a transition that monetizes and legitimizes their work, before eventually being discovered by curators. Ultimately, gallery representation leads to their art appearing in chic restaurants, hotels and private collections. Artists like Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Shepard Fairey — all once confined to the fringes of the art world — became creative celebrities. In L.A., the exclusive fashion boutique of Elyse Walker features artwork by RETNA, one of the most prominent local street artists, while superchef David Chang hangs the work of David Choe in Majordomo, his popular downtown restaurant. The city’s Mayfair Hotel features the work of a different street artist on every floor — resulting in diverse visual experiences for guests — and is a tribute to the depth of talent in the region.

The historic Mayfair, site of the first post-Academy Awards party in 1929, has been transformed into a trendy setting showcasing street art, curated by artist-in-residence Kelly “RISK” Graval. The Louisiana-born artist became one of L.A.’s most influential graffiti stylists and was among the pioneering artists to transition from the street to the gallery, as well as entering the worlds of fashion design and music video.

RISK’s own work is represented by a Buddha-inspired installation on the second floor and one of his murals will eventually soar above the 15th-floor pool deck. “I selected my “Metallic Tissue” series, which consists of a body of work that I paint on panels built out of repurposed spray cans,” reports RISK, who states, “They’re my imprint on society as an artist, my DNA.” He also installed some of his unique neon work in the lobby, which suits the vintage of the building. Overall, nearly 100 pieces throughout the hotel represent the diversity of L.A.-based graffiti artists and muralists like DEFER, Billy Morrison and Shepard Fairey, whose breakout work was the Barack Obama “Hope” imagery from the 2008 presidential campaign.

“There was a time when graffiti artists were a small underground subculture,” explains RISK, but adds, “The powerfully dynamic art sparked a younger generation and it exploded.” He acknowledges that street art festivals and museum exhibits helped elevate the genre within the polite corridors of the art world, but that true recognition has been stubborn.

Neon work from RISK, the artist-in-residence at The Mayfair Hotel in L.A.      Photo courtesy the Mayfair Hotel. 

This untitled painting of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $110.5 million at auction. Photo courtesy Museum of Graffiti.

“It was time for a new generation to take over. The old guard and practices of art began to change,” insists RISK, who suggests progressive hoteliers are helping idiosyncratic artists to find an audience. “Hotel art was becoming stale, kind of like Muzak in elevators in the ’80s, and needed a new approach,” says the veteran artist. “Boutique hotels like The Mayfair are ahead of the curve and breathe fresh air into an exciting future for art, artists, and art enthusiasts,” says RISK.

 Roger Gastman, an urban anthropologist and historian, is a leading authority on street art who counts The History of American Graffiti and Street World: Urban Art and Culture from Five Continents among his 50 books. Gastman remembers his own discovery of self-expression — through a spray paint can in the early 1990s — as a defining moment in his young life.

Gastman, whose first book, Free Agents: A History of Washington, D.C. Graffiti, documented the local culture he experienced in his youth, reports there is a distinction between graffiti and street art. “Graffiti is very name-based, very ego-driven, while street art is more image-based and involves additional tools and techniques,” says Gastman, but notes that both have their roots in vandalism. “Street art is a safer name and is more digestible to the public, but graffiti and street art are kissing cousins on the same playing field,” he muses.

“So much of this work is fantastic and deserves to be seen in a different light, collected and respected,” says Gastman, who laments, “A majority of galleries and museums still don’t accept this kind of art, look at it seriously or believe it should be shown.” Demographics, however, are driving attitudes, suggests Gastman. “People in their 30s and 40s grew up with graffiti, tattooing and skateboarding — it’s everywhere, in fashion, music and advertising — and it resonates with them.”   

Last year, Gastman spearheaded the New York edition of Beyond the Streets, a massive 100,000-square-foot exhibition of prominent graffiti artists in Brooklyn, following a similar event in L.A. in 2018. “We basically built our own museum and 200,000 people walked through the doors,” he explains, adding, “It showcased graffiti and street artists, giving them respect and presenting their history in the proper light.”

Miami, whose Wynwood Arts District is defined by vibrant, multicultural murals, is a city with a strong tradition of street art, and its Museum of Graffiti pays homage to the approachable medium. Museum co-founder Allison Freidin explains, “Our goal is to celebrate a group of artists previously marginalized because of the stigma associated with graffiti,” and reports the Miami institution is the only one in the world exclusively dedicated to graffiti art. “Previously, there was no place to learn about these artists,” she adds.

Above: The “Wet Paint” exhibit at the Museum of Graffiti in Miami, from artist Persue. Photo courtesy Museum of Graffiti.

At Right: “Party Felix” by Seen, one of many artists showcased at L.A.’s Mayfair Hotel. Photo courtesy the Mayfair Hotel.

Explaining its location in a former shoe warehouse in Wynwood, Freidin reports, “The district’s relevance in the past 10 years is a product of the graffiti art that transformed a sleepy industrial neighborhood into the world-class arts destination it has become,” noting the windowless warehouses made ideal canvases for street artists. The Museum of Graffiti’s own building is entirely wrapped in 14 different murals by acclaimed local and international artists like Shoe, EZO and Abstrk. 

The museum’s interior galleries feature rotating exhibits such as a recent compelling vignette from artist Persue, who famously removed the “Wet Paint” signs that New York City transit workers used to tape to subway cars after painting over graffiti art. Persue sent more than 70 of those very placards to artists around the world to use as canvases, all of which were incorporated into an exhibit whose physical design resembled a New York subway station platform.

Freidin explains that Miami’s graffiti art movement began in the early 1980s when some youth who got into trouble in New York were sent to South Florida to live with grandmothers or aunts. Insisting there is no way to repress the energies of an artist, Freidin reports, “The art erupted like a vengeance.”

The museum co-founder applauds the success of local graffiti artists like José Parlá, whose work moved from the streets of Miami to a mural inside Manhattan’s One World Trade Center, as well as multiple museum exhibitions and commissions in Tokyo, London and Havana. “He was immensely talented and continued to put in the work despite the stigma associated with graffiti art as vandalism,” says Freidin, who adds, “He’s probably one of the biggest names in contemporary art in the world.”

It was not easy for some museum curators to persuade their boards of directors that people previously labeled as vandals should be showcased in world-class fine arts facilities, but Freidin maintains society has evolved. She offers the former criminalization of marijuana as an analogy, citing its progression from disdain to broad acceptance. “It takes forward-thinking arts enthusiasts to take a risk,” and reports major corporations are hiring these artists as creative directors. “They recognize the power of this art,” says Freidin. 

Robert Michael Provenzano, professionally known as CES, is a leading graffiti stylist whose signature aesthetic is now influencing the generation of artists currently emerging from the streets. His art, which began almost 40 years ago in his native Bronx, repeatedly got him into trouble as a young man, but after being flown to Munich to demonstrate his craft at a museum he realized there was a market for his skills. “My friends and I used to have to steal supplies, but now I’m a sponsored artist by a paint company in Barcelona,” says CES of how attitudes toward graffiti art have changed.

CES has since earned commissions from Nike and Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, in addition to collaborating on a mural adjacent to Miami’s Museum of Graffiti, where he was recently headlined. He finds it ironic that the artistic expression that was so strongly discouraged when he was a teenager is now a source of pride for his family. “I had no idea that if I stuck with it all those years, the whole world was gonna dig it,” reports CES.

The High Museum’s Michael Rooks notes, “The migration of some graf artists into the mainstream via museum collections and exhibitions underscores a familiarity with the language of the street that is widely recognized among urban audiences, as well as the influential role it has on global visual culture today.”  He adds, “A fulcrum point in the migration from the street to the museum has to do with an artist’s knowledge and understanding of this legacy and ability to speak with urgency and artistry to contemporaneity.” 

The ultimate measure of acceptance of art is the monetary value it commands in the marketplace. In 2017, an untitled work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, who began his career spray-painting walls in Lower Manhattan, sold for $110.5 million to a Japanese billionaire at auction, eclipsing his own personal record of $57.3 million.

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High-Tech Fitness

From high-tech gadgets to digital exercise classes, technology continues to change the way we work out.

Tonal is an all-in-one fitness system that uses machine-learning to curate a personalized workout.

Whether you’re at home or visiting the gym, technology plays a crucial role in modern-day fitness. Fitness studios and gyms across the world have embraced technology — like virtual reality or integrated LED lighting — to create innovative, immersive workouts.

As the fitness industry continues to adapt, the home workout evolves even more rapidly. With virtual kickboxing classes, adjustable dumbbells, or comprehensive fitness apps, there are thousands of ways to work out from the comfort of your own home. “Technology has allowed the convenience of an at-home workout,” says Chris Stadler, CMO of Tonal. “At-home fitness equipment gives people a lot of time back, and time is increasingly our top commodity.”

While technology may decrease the need for face-to-face contact with a trainer, it offers a level of unmatched personalization. Technology can curate your fitness plan, track your form as you run, and adjust your weights digitally as you work out. “At-home fitness technology has evolved to meet consumers where they are and on their own terms,” says Amanda Murdock, director of fitness at Daily Burn. “Working out from home allows people a new level of convenience and customization when it comes to meeting their fitness goals.”

Live-Streaming Fitness 

Digital workout videos — particularly live-streaming fitness classes — are a great alternative to guided, group fitness instruction. Working out alongside a
personal trainer in real time adds a level of personalization and comfort to a workout. Programs like Daily Burn make it easy to get the workout you want when you want. “At home, you can find any type of workouts that work best with your schedule and at your specific level,” says Murdock. There are many ways to stay active — whether it’s with Pilates, yoga, or high-intensity interval training. “Streaming and on-demand fitness programs like Daily Burn allow more people to begin their fitness journeys without a sometimes-pricey gym membership or access to boutique fitness classes.”

Total-Body Workout Machines 

High-end technology allows for a superior workout with much less equipment. An innovative, compact device can remove the need for a room of exercise machines or a basement filled with big, bulky weights. Tonal uses digital weights that can be adjusted easily by a single pound — making for a more precise workout. Smaller than a flatscreen TV, the device makes thousands of calculations a second to deliver up to 200 pounds of electromagnetic resistance. “Tonal will know you better than any personal trainer would at a fraction of the price,” says Stadler. “We’ve seen Tonal completely change people’s lives and their fitness routine. It takes all the guesswork out of strength training.”

If cardio is more your speed, there is Peloton — another well-known, high-tech, total-body exercise machine. Whether you prefer the Peloton Bike or the Peloton Tread, the built-in touch screen and sound bar will make it easy to immerse yourself in the live-streaming workouts.

A subscription with Daily Burn offers digital workout classes and live-streaming fitness.

Fitness Apps 

Modern-day technology has led to the creation of countless fitness and health apps, making it easier to work out from home. “Gym time can be hard to find, but more often there is time for a quick workout at home,” says Lisette Fabian, co-CEO of 8fit — a holistic health app that offers a number of fitness plans. A quick self-assessment on 8fit will help to match the user with a fitness plan, and interactive elements help to further predict your preferences and needs. “Apps like 8fit are providing a very personalized experience, so that the user gets the best results possible,” says Fabian. The app curates fitness plans that consist of 6 workouts — from yoga to boxing — within a 2-week period. Users also have access to healthy meal plans, as well as self-care guidance, stretching exercises, and sleep meditation.

Virtual Reality 

High-tech fitness, like the power of virtual reality, is a great way to create an immersive, full-body workout for those who bore easily while exercising. The world’s first virtual reality gym, Black Box VR pairs virtual reality technology with resistance training, gaming principles, and high-intensity cardio to redefine your workout. Step into a Black Box room with a customized headset, where your fictional reality will come alive. “We are big believers in pairing the immersive power of virtual reality technologies with modern exercise science principles to help people stick to their fitness goals and ultimately level up their lives,” says Preston Lewis, CCO and co-founder Black Box VR — which has its first boutique gyms in San Francisco with plans to expand. “Innovations in the technology will also drive prices down, allowing Black Box technology to be accessible from the comfort of your own home,” says Lewis regarding the future of Black Box VR.

Fitness Trackers

Fitness trackers and watches have made it easier to work out on your own without the help of a trainer. Whether you’re biking, running, or swimming, devices like Moov Now can track your form, offer encouragement and suggest improvements.

High-tech equipment like the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells make it easier to workout at home.

Adjustable Dumbbells

Whether you don’t have the space to store a full set of weights or you simply love the ease of high-tech fitness, it may be time to invest in adjustable dumbbells. The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells will replace 15 sets of weights; technology allows the dumbbells to easily adjust from 5 to 52.5 pounds. Users can quickly modify their resistance and gradually increase strength while using the app. “Right now, adding structure is more important than ever — especially when it comes to staying active,” says Tom Holland, Bowflex fitness advisor. “It’s vital for your well-being to establish healthy habits now, which is where technology steps in to support.”

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The Audacious Artisan

Photos courtesy Katrien Van Der Schueren.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What do you usually draw inspiration from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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