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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On the Water, For the Water

Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design recently revealed an innovative 112-meter superyacht — the first of its kind to be powered by liquid hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

Aptly named, AQUA embodies a seamless connection to the ocean, voyaging at a speed of 17 knots with a range of 3,750 nautical miles. “AQUA is inspired by one of the elements of nature that it is closest to: water. Water is the life-sustaining force that makes planet Earth habitable,” says Sander Sinot, founder of Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design. From the cascading swim area that can be experienced at sea-level to the hydro massages in the indoor health and wellness center, water is the inspiration at every turn.

Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design created in collaboration with Lateral Naval Architects a superyacht that produces fewer emissions, yet far exceeds in luxuries. “We consider AQUA to be a major step forward in the application of new technologies aboard a superyacht, while at the same time showcasing an integrated and highly poetic design approach,” says Sinot. The yacht’s sleek exterior mimics the lines of a wave, which is merely one example of the team’s goal to utilize safer and environmentally conscious technology while taking inspiration from discerning owners’ lifestyles. “Our challenge was to implement fully operational liquid hydrogen and fuel cells in a true superyacht that is not only groundbreaking in technology, but also in design and esthetics,” adds Sinot.

Unforgettable Features

Guests will experience relaxation in the highest manner on AQUA. The superyacht’s interiors meld effortlessly with the exteriors, allowing guests to glide between nature and luxury. The five-deck configuration affords the opportunity for guests to experience the water at every level. Cascading platforms allow guests to swim at sea level on the beach deck, while the top deck offers unforgettable views of the horizon as well as the AQUA room. Even the superyacht’s yoga space and workout floor have a gym-wide hatch that opens at surface-level for stunning views that can be enjoyed while using the equipment.

Grand Details

Integrated into the heart of the superyacht, just one of the awe-inspiring features is the grand circular staircase that travels from the top deck to the lower deck. The cylinder of open space in the center of the staircase creates a floating sensation, along with the flowing art piece at the bottom, which reflects the open skies above. “At the lowest level, two vast liquified hydrogen tanks reveal their hexagonal textured surface structure behind a giant facade of strengthened glass,” according to Sinot.

Fit for a King and Queen

The owner’s pavilion — designed with the superyacht’s finest luxuries — is at the front half of the upper deck and features floor-to-ceiling viewing windows, a jaw-dropping central skylight, a private spa section, and plenty of privacy and space. According to Sinot, “we always integrate all aspects of design into a new build: this means acknowledging key questions such as ‘why build a yacht in the first place?’ and ‘how can we ensure that you will enjoy your investment and enrich your sense of freedom?’” AQUA as a whole embodies the openness of the ocean and makes it readily accessible for family and friends aboard.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

The beach deck lounge transforms any morning, afternoon, or night to magic with a series of interlocking spaces that masterfully dictate the atmosphere. Handcrafted wooden screens create the perfect opportunity for dining on every scale from a fine dining setting for 14 to an intimate smaller party. The lounge also includes a circular seating area that is ideal for entertaining or conversation. The area easily rotates and transforms into a top-of-the-line home cinema with light-blocking window covers to ensure total comfort.

According to Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design, “the AQUA room, located at the bow, at the far end of the owner’s pavilion, offers top-of-the-world feeling and endless views from the best position on board.” The private room boasts uninterrupted floor-to-ceiling views, which can be enjoyed in privacy and comfort on the custom-designed floating daybed. Though spectacular views are possible around the superyacht, the AQUA room is a heightened experience altogether.

Super Accommodations

The superyacht has a guest capacity of 14 people, with one beautiful owner’s pavilion, two VIP staterooms, four staterooms for guests, family, and friends to relish in. With a crew capacity of 31, there are 14 double crew cabins, two officer cabins, and a captain’s cabin available on board. There is also space on the superyacht for one 10-meter limo tender, three wave runners, and more.

Renderings and featured photo © Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design

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Maximalism

Zany patterns. Punchy palettes. Combinations of materials from the concrete to metallic.

As Claire Elsworth of Claire Elsworth Design notes, the eccentric spirit of Maximalism is both magical and rebellious. It encourages traditional rules of design to be broken and conventional boundaries to be overstepped. From patterned wallpapers and dark paint to a velvet sofa with an eclectic mix of textures pillows, the goal is to be courageous in your design, and to love the “more” aesthetic.

“‘More’ is a love and appreciation of pattern, color, collection and curation,” Elsworth notes, “with a sheer joy of fusing, contrasting, styling and layering all that gloriousness together.”

Sasha Bikoff

Photos courtesy Sasha Bikoff.

Maximalism has been embracing “the more” of design since the 1980s with the creation of Memphis Milano in the 1980s, a legendary postmodern design group that championed the style and made it a staple in the industry. Author and design journalist Claire Bingham notes in her book, More is More: Memphis, Maximalism and New Wave Design, that after experiencing the “riot of color and pattern” indigenous to styles like Memphis, the 90s saw a rise of Minimalism, a stark contrast with designers such as John Pawson and Calvin Klein focusing on purity and simplicity.

“There has always been minimal versus maximal throughout time, but the rise of the Memphis/80s style was a kickback from the elegance of mid-century design and a desire to rethink how objects could look,” Bingham writes. Although minimalism has been an ever-developing presence in today’s world, the Memphis style and Maximalism as a whole has found its way back into the hearts of young impressionable designers looking to become expressive in a more vivacious, free-spirited way.  

In More is More, Bingham spoke with a host of contemporary designers, as well as Peter Shire and George Snowden, some of the original founders of the Memphis group, who truly embrace and understand the spirit of Maximalism. “It’s not so much to do with a style,” she says. “Maximalism could look like anything — romantic and frilly, graphic patterns, disco … It’s like playing dress up for the home.” To quote the vivacious Iris Apfel, “more is more and less is a bore.” 

Famed New York designer Sasha Bikoff was dubbed the “interior designer for the young and wealthy” by The New York Times. Bikoff affirms that she was at the forefront of Maximalism’s revival when she started her firm seven years ago, a revival she credits to the growing millennial culture. She says that like anything in history there’s an action and a direct reaction. Instead of creating simplistic looks that can be easily replicated for the masses, younger designers and people want to create spaces and live within spaces that are unique, that share a likeness of themselves, a desire that has stemmed such creative outlets as Instagram, Pinterest and other social media channels.

Claire Elsworth

Photo courtesy © Claire Elsworth 2017

To heighten the effectiveness of Maximalism, Bikoff says that one of the most important aspects of this style type is the use of color, noting that in her own designs color helps bring out an emotional response. She notes that it’s important to surround yourself with colors and objects, patterns, and textures that make us happy and bring life into your home. “The same way I dress with fashion — as my fashion choices are bold and confident — is how I want my rooms to feel,” she says.

Just like personal fashion, each Maximalist designer and design is different and based on both creative taste and what each designer finds inspiring. For example, Bikoff’s aesthetic can be derived from 18th-century French Rococo, 1960s Space Age Modern, 1970s French Modernism and 1980s Italian Memphis Milano. An affinity for new experiences, her love of travel helps add to her ever-developing color palette, which you can see in her projects. “Marrakesh is a place I travel to all the time, and the colors of the spices you find there are so amazing you can see them all in a color palette, from bright turmerics to smoky paprikas,” Bikoff says.

Photo courtesy Claire Bingham.

Elsworth’s firm focuses on luxury wallpaper and home décor, and is known for intricate yet bold Maximalist features in every design. She hand sketches her designs, which are inspired by her short concept stories about an imaginary Duchess called Violacea Macrobothrys and her beautiful old aristocratic house — “a Maximalist treasure trove paradise!” she says. These stories weave through six collections of wallpapers and cushions, displaying both Elsworth’s love for drawing as well as her favorite aspects of Maximalism.

“I’ve always been drawn to anything ornately detailed, whether it be textiles, interiors, art, or historical architectural details,” Elsworth says. “So, I was naturally drawn to the Maximalist style long before I even knew there was a name for it.”

To embrace Maximalism in an everyday space there is a variety of ways one can incorporate aspects of the style. Bikoff says that some of the best Maximalist interiors are just showing off pieces from trips you’ve taken all in one space, even if they do not particularly go together. “The whole idea of Maximalism is that it’s the kind of space for a true collector, a space that tells a story.”

Photo courtesy Sasha Bikoff.

Photo courtesy Claire Bingham.

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Better Than Streaming

In 1932, when the impressive Grand Rex Theatre opened its doors in Paris, 80 doormen donned in white gloves and tails greeted guests for a night of glamour and luxury. A night at the theater was an occasion for fine attire, lively socialization, and entertainment. Today, although streaming services have taken technology to the next level and brought the big screen right into our living rooms, the experience is far from the same.

The Open Air Cinema Kamari in Santorini, Greece is a stunning outdoor theater that is surrounded by eucalyptus trees and offers a variety of locally produced wines and ice creams to enjoy alongside movie showings. The owner, Ina Koutroubilis, says, “Our guests tell us that the cinema is like an enchanting secret garden that harks back to the Golden Age of cinema. They come for the whole experience.”

The Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was constructed with details from Indian, Moorish, Islamic, and Byzantine architectural styles and is known today as Milwaukee’s Historic Movie Palace. Karina Henderson, marketing director of Milwaukee Film, notes, “You can watch a lot of movies on your screen at home, but the experience of going into a magnificent building, sitting in a dark theater, putting away your glowing screens for a couple of hours, and letting yourself be immersed in someone else’s story — that’s an amazing thing in this day and age.”

In a world of commercial-free marathon-watching, a night out at the theater is even more of a luxury than in the past. These otherworldly theaters around the world take entertainment to a higher level.

Open Air Cinema Kamari

Santorini, Greece

Open Air Cinema photo by cinekamari.

The Oriental Theatre

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Photo by Jake Hill / milwaukee film.

Foreign Cinema

San Francisco, California

Photo by Charlie Villyard Photography.

Elevated with Flavor

Foreign Cinema in the Mission District of San Francisco, has been a San Francisco Chronicle “Top 100 Restaurant” for 18 consecutive years and is first and foremost a restaurant. Yet the added 35-millimeter films displayed nightly on their outdoor courtyard screen transforms the establishment into an intriguing combination. This pairing of food and film is not a new one, but one that continues to appeal to guests. Gayle Pirie, co-owner/co-chef of Foreign Cinema, explains that at Foreign Cinema, they united culinary and cinematic experiences in an honest way that proved successful.

“At the restaurant, visual media collides in such a way that the aesthetics of the screen flicker easily alongside the vibrancy of the plates,” says Pirie. “This pairing makes sense since the Mission neighborhood, where the restaurant is located, has a rich theatrical past. In the 1950s, it was the city’s hub for movie theaters. In many ways, we’re honoring this legacy while spotlighting the ideals and flavors that have come to define California cuisine.”

Foreign Cinema’s refined menu elevates the experience to an even higher standard. Keeping with seasonal and local ingredients common in California cooking, the restaurant also draws on inspiration from the Middle East and Africa. “Our sesame fried chicken with madras curry and spiced honey is a signature dish we nearly never take off the menu,” says Pirie.

Another example of food and film can be found at the Edible Cinema in London, England, where each guest is supplied with a variety of mystery boxes containing a small tasting menu tailored to specific moments in each film. The element of taste enhances the experience and entertainment without competing for attention.

Inspired Settings

The Paris Theatre was the last single-screen movie theater in Manhattan. With its history and overall classic atmosphere, many were highly disappointed when the doors closed in August 2019. According to The New York Times, the theater was a favorite among locals and tourists and was known for playing foreign films in their original languages.

Although the venue closed, a surprising new owner has reopened its doors — Netflix. The streaming company will use the theater for Netflix-original movie debuts, special events, and other screenings. The venue is over 70 years old and instantly brings to mind the Golden Age of cinema as it sits across from The Plaza in bustling Manhattan.

The Grand Rex Theatre

Paris, France

Top photo from Picasa.

Bottom photo courtesy The Grand Rex.

The setting of these theaters begins the journey for guests and sets the tone for the afternoon’s entertainment. For the Foreign Cinema, “The long corridor leads to an unexpected oasis, much like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, with a climactic courtyard scene illuminated by the flicker of our 35-millimeter projected films and juxtaposed with the roaring hearth centered in the main dining room, all encompassing the warmth of our community of diners,” according to Pirie.

When entering the Open Air Cinema Kamari, “You will find yourself in a lush green garden, surrounded by eucalyptus trees and fragrant night-blooming flowers. We usually play ’50s Jazz music and together with the decoration and lighting design, guests are already enchanted,” says Koutroubilis.

Glitz and Glamour

It was not uncommon for guests to arrive at theaters in sequined ball gowns and tuxedos at the start of cinema and for many years to follow. Although there are more casual options for viewing movies today — such as the living room sofa — the idea of luxury is still a defining component for theaters around the world. According to Henderson, “The grandeur of our building makes any movie into an event,” she says about The Oriental Theatre. “It’s uplifting to be surrounded by the beauty of a gem like the Oriental Theatre, and then sit down and watch an amazing film.”

Similarly, the decadence at The Grand Rex has stood the test of time and continued to draw guests in, only to convince them to return time and time again. Along with the balcony seating and fine finishes, the star-covered ceiling gives the illusion that guests are outside, adding to the glamour of the venue.

There was a sense of community and conversation that stemmed from early theaters when guests would dine, enjoy a film, and then go dancing afterward, making it a whole night of glamourous entertainment and socialization. The theater was a way to experience and learn about far away people and places, which not everyone had the opportunity to enjoy and is still a part of the appeal today. “In 2019, we brought 349 titles from 45 countries over 15 days to our film-loving Festival-goers. It’s truly a community event, and the Oriental Theatre is always busy during the Milwaukee Film Festival,” says Henderson. “Watching a film in a theater is still a special experience that you can’t replicate at home on your TV or tablet.”

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Sweet Sustainability

Some of the world’s finest hotels have accepted hundreds of thousands of new guests: honeybees that reflect a commitment to sustainability.

In an era when chefs and consumers are obsessed with conscientious sourcing and sustainability, restaurants are turning to local artisanal producers of cheeses, vegetables and meats. For a natural, sustainable sweetener that cannot get more local, luxury hotels around the world are converting rooftops into honeybee farms, a movement embraced by environmentalists and hotel guests alike.

Author Leslie Day, a naturalist who is passionate about her native New York, has spent a career documenting the city’s birds and trees. Her 2018 book Honeybee Hotel chronicles the rooftop garden and beekeeping operation at Midtown Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. The book is a loving celebration of the iconic hotel, now undergoing a $2 billion renovation, and the natural world that doggedly prevails in the Big Apple.

Dr. Day — she holds a doctorate in science education from Columbia — was inspired by the Art Deco property’s conversion of its 20th floor rooftop into a bountiful garden and honeybee farm in 2012. The transformation not only enhanced the hotel’s culinary offerings, but brought together a community of humans to care for colonies totaling approximately 300,000 apis mellifera honeybees. Pleased to see other hotels emulating the Waldorf Astoria’s efforts, Day suggests, “This is a strong statement that a hotel cares about the environment and cares about the ingredients they serve their guests.”

Mandarin Oriental Paris

Ojai Valley Inn

Day reports bees thrive in urban settings and notes even Manhattan is surprisingly hospitable to bees. “Before the chefs and staff put in the garden, the bees would fly to Central Park — about a beeline of a mile away from the Waldorf Astoria — to forage on flowering plants,” reports Day. “The city offers a veritable feast for pollinating animals,” she insists. A strong proponent of urban beekeeping, Day observes, “City beekeepers develop a relationship with these amazing little animals and help them stay healthy by monitoring the hive throughout the year.” She says of the challenging hobby, “It’s a relationship that brings you close to the natural world, even in an urban environment.”

David Garcelon, the chef Leslie Day features in Honeybee Hotel, arrived at the Waldorf Astoria after previously nurturing bees at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. His beekeeping at the Royal York, starting in 2008, was the genesis of a worldwide “Bee Sustainable” program adopted by more than 20 properties in the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts organization. Now hotel manager at Fairmont Banff Springs, Garcelon is attempting to overcome a restriction of introducing honeybees, a non-native species, into Canada’s Banff National Park.

“It’s not often you’re able to do something groundbreaking in a hotel over 100 years old,” recounts Garcelon of his bee program at the Waldorf Astoria. “There was a great deal of excitement when we added the hives, a lot of ‘buzz’ in the media as well,” he says. “However, the most rewarding aspect for me was seeing the look on guests’ faces when we told them we produced our own honey in Midtown Manhattan, then being able to take them to see the hives,” explains Garcelon, who appreciates any ingredient that has a story to tell.

Thanks in part to Fairmont’s aggressive program, the practice of hotels caring for honeybees is not confined to North America. In London, 350,000 bees reside on a third-floor garden at St. Ermin’s Hotel and in Paris, the very chic Mandarin Oriental — it is located on the fashion-forward Rue Saint-Honoré in the 1st arrondissement — has been honeybee-friendly since 2012. The honey produced by those Parisian bees is used in the hotel’s various restaurants and bars, including the Michelin two-starred Sur Mesure under the direction of chef Thierry Marx.

The Mandarin Oriental’s legendary beekeeper, Audric de Campeau (pictured with his companion on the rooftop of the hotel on page 26), has also introduced beehives to iconic Parisian monuments like Les Invalides and Musée d’Orsay. “Bees are an important part of the pollination cycle and often thrive in urban environments such as Paris, which has been a pesticide-free zone for the past ten years,” explains Mandarin Oriental’s general manager Philippe Leboeuf. To help restore the decreasing honeybee population and to contribute to biodiversity, the hotel maintains two rooftop hives hosting 100,000 Buckfast honeybees, a breed that adapts well to city life.

“Due to the specificity and the diversity of Parisian flowers, the Mandarin Oriental honey has a unique flavor, rich and complex,” reports de Campeau, describing it like a master sommelier. “It has a powerful and persistent scent of red fruits, and tastes wonderfully round in the mouth, with a bright, fresh finish,” he assesses. In addition to chef Marx and pastry chef Adrien Bozzolo, bartenders use the house honey in a cocktail of Champagne, yuzu liqueur and jasmine tea.

  Most people outside the state are unaware of it, but Utah is known as the “Beehive State,” and the Waldorf Astoria Park City continues the practices of its flagship property in New York. Master beekeeper Debrah Carroll, who also serves as kitchen manager at the hotel’s Powder restaurant, maintains approximately 60,000 honeybees adjoining the onsite herb garden. Looking to become more sustainable in its food practices, the Waldorf Astoria initiated the program in 2014, complementing its emphasis on utilizing local ingredients. “The local sourcing is plentiful in our mountains, but we also wanted to have something, literally, from our own backyard,” explains Carroll, who concedes Utah’s dry climate presents challenges for beekeeping.

Carroll reports guests respond well to the uber-local honey, particularly when presented in the honeycomb. “The Waldorf Astoria honey has a wonderful wildflower flavor that works in various dishes and cocktails,” says the master beekeeper, citing seasonal fruit plates, salad dressings, candied pecans, and cheese or charcuterie boards, as well as a signature cocktail called the Astoria Tonic. VIP guests are treated to tours of the hives and garden, dressed in protective gear.

Dedicated to educating people on the virtues of beekeeping, Carroll reveals some extraordinary facts about honeybees that engender a greater appreciation for the house-made honey hotel guests drizzle into their tea. For instance, it takes 12 honeybees an entire lifetime (which is typically six to seven weeks) to generate a single teaspoon of honey, and in order to create a pound of honey, a hive of bees must travel 55,000 miles.

One might not expect 4,200 acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains to be a magnet for sophisticated epicureans, but Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm most certainly is. Almost everything that arrives on the dining table is produced on the premises, and that includes honey overseen by farmstead manager and beekeeper Dustin Busby, whose resume includes celebrated restaurants The Fat Duck and The French Laundry. He manages at least seven hives of European honeybees with access to tulip poplar, wildflowers and sourwood.

Most prized is the honey from sourwood tree blossoms, known for its sweet and spicy qualities, a hint of anise and agreeable aftertaste. Busby explains that factors such as time of harvest, weather conditions and even the specific portion of the hive from which the honey is extracted can influence taste. He is constantly developing new recipes for using the honey in the resort’s preserve kitchen and recently created a blueberry-elderflower jam using the house-made honey in place of sugar.

“Seeing the hives and talking about our bees are part of our garden and farmstead tours,” reports Busby. He adds, “More involved tours of the bees, including suiting up and looking at the hives or even collecting honey, are conducted from time to time on special request from guests.” Blackberry Farm honey is one of the many artisanal food products sold directly to hotel guests.

Blackberry Farm raises virtually everything served at the resort, including house-made honey.

Honey produced at Ojai Valley Inn reflects the flavors of lavender, avocado, and citrus. 

The Ojai Valley Inn is just 80 miles from downtown Los Angeles, but feels like another world. From its 220 acres in an idyllic coastal valley, guests enjoy access to the ocean and vineyards, as well as championship golf on site. The Farmhouse — this is a culinary event center directed by acclaimed chef Nancy Silverton — reflects the Inn’s commitment to food and wine. Guests who tour the retreat’s apiary in protective suits enjoy tastings of different honeys whose flavor profiles result from pollination of local plants like avocado, lavender and citrus.

“We’re extremely proud of our beekeeping program at Ojai Valley Inn, not only because it provides us with an amazing estate-curated product that we can offer our guests, but also because we believe strongly in good stewardship of the natural resources of the Ojai Valley,” reports executive chef Truman Jones. Emphasizing the positive ecological impacts yielded through the care of those prolific pollinators, he adds, “It gives us a huge return on our efforts by propagating the flowers and various fruits of the Inn and the entire Valley.”

In San Francisco, nearly a dozen hotels maintain rooftop beehives, including the Clift Royal Sonesta, which uses honey from its “Bee Sanctuary” in craft cocktails at its legendary Redwood Room. The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, ranked among the world’s finest resorts, has also developed a strong apiculture program and Philadelphia’s Sofitel at Rittenhouse Square accommodates 480,000 honeybees on its rooftop garden, showcased in dishes at the hotel’s Liberté Lounge.

The beekeeping operations at these luxury hotels are an offshoot of an urban beekeeping movement that has become trendy in the last 20 years. The tasting notes of backyard honeys, sometimes sold at farmers markets and gourmet shops, mirror the flora of an area, even a specific neighborhood, much like a wine reflects its vineyard’s own terroir.

In addition to mesmerizing guests, keeping bees at hotels helps alleviate a crisis-level decline in the honeybee population that threatens entire ecosystems and adversely impacts food production for a hungry world. Master beekeeper Debrah Carroll reports that 80 percent of all flowering plants must be pollinated to survive, and that more than a third of the world’s food supply is dependent on pollination by insects like honeybees.

Addressing her nostalgic Waldorf Astoria, scheduled to reopen in 2022, naturalist Leslie Day comments, “I’m very hopeful the new management will read my book and bring the bees back.”

Honey from the rooftop of the Clift Royal Sonesta is incorporated into cocktails at the historic Redwood Room.

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Diagram This

Photos by John A. Peralta

 

John A. Peralta began taking things apart long before he was compelled to truly pursue art. “I was always breaking things open to see what was inside. I’ve had such wonder for the tiny components that make something work,” he says.

Now a self-taught artist based in Austin, Texas, Peralta has a unique taste for both science and how things work as well as art. While working as a business consultant, he began painting as a way to tap into and satiate his creative side. The exploded diagram, which has been an essential engineering tool, melds Peralta’s contrasting interests and inspired his work.

An exploded diagram of a bike on the back of a magazine was Peralta’s original inspiration, but since then, his work has begun to evolve over the years. “It’s more about a concept that imagines that these machines we use — that we often take for granted and use every day — they hold our memories,” according to the artist. “And sometimes in literal ways. The typewriter has an imprint of every letter, every document permanently imprinted on it. It could never be deciphered today, but nevertheless it’s in there.”

Peralta’s art reveals the inner workings of a time in history or a memory. The contrast between machinery and emotion creates enchanting displays and elicits a feeling when you see them. The idea of machinery holding memories extends to all of our objects, according to Peralta. “It’s why we become nostalgic years after for antiques or whatever it might be. We attach emotion to these things and they hold our memories and it’s sort of two-way relationships with the objects in our life.”

Peralta describes a large pile of items in his studio that he might one day choose to take apart, but there is a method to deciding which items he will display. “I usually choose something that would be considered iconic. Something highly recognizable, and familiar, but most of the time, it’s also something that is no longer in use,” he says. Often, he chooses items that people may have seen in their grandparents house or in an antique store. “Those items have a lot of emotion and nostalgia connected to them. I’m also looking for things that the designers and architects put a lot of time and careful thought into.”

“For some reason, it has a strong appeal. I’m not entirely sure why,” Peralta says about the exploded diagram concept, explaining that most people see them in their everyday lives without realizing, but their eyes still light up when they see it displayed like this. “Because it’s not like you can’t see the string. At first, I tried to hide it. I tried all different things to try and hide the suspension. But I began to realize that I actually shouldn’t hide it. The string really contributes to the piece.”

In the Future

Working mainly on commissioned pieces these days, Peralta is still working on a few ideas that continue to push the boundaries of the exploded diagram concept. When asked what his dream projects are, he says, “There’s actually two. I’ve been wanting to do — and I haven’t really gotten anyone to pull the trigger yet — and that’s a grand piano. I think it would be very impressive. I imagine it in a large hotel with a high ceiling or something like that. And the other one is a fighter jet, which would obviously be a very big piece. It would need a superstructure to support it. But I have some really cool ideas of how it would look.”

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