On Location: Castello di Casole, Tuscany, Italy

On the sloping Tuscan hills, San Damiano is a turnkey, custom-built farm home where old world meets new.

By Mark Moffa

Q: What do you get when you combine an unbeatable location in Italy’s Tuscan hillside with impeccable service, enviable accommodations and authentic culinary experiences?

A: Castello di CasoleA Timbers Resort (Europe’s No. 1 Resort, as ranked by Travel + Leisure), which recently hosted Unique Homes for three beautiful nights to experience its magic firsthand. What we discovered was a perfectly placed paradise offering the finest level of service imaginable.

The setting is storybook. Through a cypress-lined drive up to a hilltop in Siena, a Middle Age castle from the 10th century serves as the core of the hotel and resort. “We are very, very lucky, because we are in the heart of Tuscany,” says Gabriele Olla, senior sales manager. Some of the world’s best wineries are very close, as are Michelin-starred restaurants — Florence is an easy 45-minute drive. But visitors and residents hardly have to leave the 4,200-acre estate.

The resort is breathtaking. General Manager Federico Galligani, hired by Timbers in 2015, deserves credit for running a seamless operation that allows his guests to indulge without a concern. We were treated to an aperitif on the hotel terrace while enjoying the sunset over the Tuscan countryside. And Executive Chef Daniele Sera wowed us with a memorable tasting menu at Tosca Restaurant (modern molecular gastronomy meets traditional Italian goodness here).

The draw is universal. Folks are coming from around the world (such as the United States, Brazil, England, Russia, Germany, the Middle East and Singapore) to enjoy inspired cuisine; indulge in spa treatments inspired by ancient Etruscan beauty rituals; sip on a bottle of exclusive estate-grown Dodici wine; immerse themselves in culture with an Italian language, art or cooking class; explore winding country roads behind the wheel of a Ferrari; or simply bask poolside under the Tuscan sun.

The real estate is heavenly. Jo Ann Hawley, senior sales executive, drove us around the dreamlike grounds, explaining that buyers can purchase Farms at Castello di Casole with an existing ruin to be restored, or build a new “reconstructed” farmhouse. Prices are two-phased — figure on land costs around 3 million, and another 3 million to build. Italian VAT can be steep, but Hawley says these properties offer a break. “You have significant tax advantages and entitlements with the farms.”

The opportunity is unique. Produce your own wine or olive oil on your own land, while enjoying the amenities of a five-star hotel. The farms offer 120 to 150 acres of cultivable land with crops consisting of vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and wheat fields along with a customized luxury farmhouse at the center. The winemaking opportunity is “really tailored to how much involvement the owner wants to have,” Hawley says.

Photos courtesy Timbers Resorts

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Traditional Feng Shui by Dee Kelly

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

Trained in Traditional Feng Shui by an authentic Taiwanese master, Dee Kelly has been practicing the art and science of Feng Shui for 20 years — and her mastery of the subject is sought by clients far and wide to both improve their lives and business ventures.

By Samantha Myers

Photo by Nick Johnson

Dee Kelly was one of 16 students out of a group of 400 to be chosen by her Feng Shui master to continue her practices. Now a Traditional Feng Shui master herself, Kelly is one of the only people in the U.S. to offer Feng Shui services for residential, corporate, retail, or hospitality-driven real estate as well as land development. “Feng Shui has been the best kept secret weapon of successful people for hundreds of years,” says Kelly, who has a diverse, highly successful clientele to which she aids in confidential real estate situations.

For those unfamiliar with Feng Shui, the practice is rooted in a complex, technical mathematical science and art originated in the Tang Dynasty over 1,000 years ago, and has been passed down through a master-to-student tradition since then. In fact, Feng Shui is responsible for the invention of the earliest magnetic compasses by Chinese practitioners who wanted to harmonize buildings. The practice encompasses eight directions and is based around the Five Elements: water, wood, fire, earth and metal. Today, despite simplified interpretations or misconceptions of Feng Shui, Traditional Feng Shui is still kept alive in select individuals like Kelly, and promises real solutions to everyday problems.

“Feng Shui is defined as the practice of planning or design that harnesses or optimizes the energy around a space, such as a home, office or building,” says Kelly. “It’s about finding the best relationship between the energy of the surrounding landform and the inside of a space. By deepening our understanding of nature, seasons and cycles, and applying Feng Shui to our lives, we can access the best in nature and become much healthier, happier and more successful.” 

In simpler terms, for Kelly, Feng Shui is a wellness tool: she defines her job’s main objective as helping people, whether in their homes, real estate or other applicable ways.

“When dealing with a residence, whether it’s $31 million in Southampton, located in Miami, or anywhere in the world, we still want the house to be healthy for us,” she says. “Just because it’s very expensive, doesn’t mean we still don’t have to be concerned about the environmental energy. Traditional Feng Shui is the best tool to maximize and optimize the environmental energy of any home.”

Kelly’s ambition is to transform the relationships people have with their home or work environments. To complete this, she trademarked a system titled “The House Is You.” “The idea is that you are inextricably connected to your home,” she explains. “You are in a relationship 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with your home, whether we realize it or not,” says Kelly. “What I really want people to understand is that you pick the house you are living in because of your own energy and body. Whatever is happening in your life, you picked a house with the same issues.”

“When dealing with a residence, whether it’s $31 million in Southampton, located in Miami, or anywhere in the world, we still want the house to be healthy for us.”

Photo courtesy Dee Kelly

Natural materials promote a relaxed interior, despite the home’s bustling city location. 

This living room is exemplar of the penthouses’ cool, serene palette throughout its designer furnishings.

Although Kelly knows how to mediate pre-existing homes through Feng Shui, an ideal state for her process is choosing apartments and homes for her clients from the start. Kelly gets to know her clients through birth information, and then evaluates real estate opportunities to know what is the best option for them. This includes examining the windows and doors relative to the flow of energy from the outside among other complicated principles. “When people pick things on their own, they’re going to pick the one they are comfortable with or a reflection of themselves. This is where we come in, to offer a better, more improved relationship with the home you’re living in.”

One of the more accessible takeaways from the complex system that is Feng Shui is the idea of “Yin” and “Yang.” Yin is defined as dark, bottom, moist and Yang is the opposite: hard, dry and bright. Kelly explains that your bedroom, should take in more Yin traits, while rooms such as the kitchen, or fitness area should adopt Yang characteristics, but yet all should achieve an effective balance and nothing should outweigh the other.

“If you lived in a basement for three months, how do you think you’d feel or look? We don’t build garbage heaps next to hospitals. These kinds of common sense ideals are important and embedded in Feng Shui,” says Kelly. “There’s something very powerful about being in a relationship with your home, property or apartment — to make changes in our physical environment and understand that we are changing the energy not only there, but in our physical and emotional selves.” She promises that any home can be great, with the right transformations.

In terms of commercial projects, Kelly’s job typically involves searching for or analyzing potential land to determine the most
lucrative option for developers, either now or down the line, by examining cycles and timing. She also often assumes roles on core design teams — working with architects, landscape designers and interior designers — for projects being built from the ground-up.

“In a commercial job, our primary objective is money,” says Kelly. “In a residence, money is still important, but health is number one, followed by relationships and then money.” Although a majority of Kelly’s projects are confidential, she explains that she has a high success rate.

“The most beautiful thing is regardless of your status, everyone still wants to be healthy. Everyone still wants to have a balance and harmonious relationship and marriage, and want their kids to do well in school. All of these things, once we become in better relationship with nature and are able to access that inside of our built environments, can actually enhance and improve your life and the life of your family.”

A Positive Place In NYC

The Grand at Sky View Parc in New York City’s Flushing neighborhood, in Queens, is a residential community that has incorporated Feng Shui principles into its designs.

“The biggest opportunity for Feng Shui came in our 7-acre rooftop garden,” says David Brickman, director at Onex Real Estate. “We really put a lot of effort into designing something that felt special. You’re in Downtown bustling Flushing, and you take an elevator up to the sky lobby and you’re suddenly in an oasis; the energy changes completely.”

The garden utilizes landscape components representing The Five Elements, maintains a balance between Yin and Yang through shaded and sunny areas, and seeks to encourage a positive sense of place overall.

Photo ©David Cheung

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10 Concepts Shaping Homes

To shine some light on what’s ahead for homes, we take a look at 10 ideas, products and attitudes that promise to impact homes as we head toward the end of the decade.

By Camilla McLaughlin

What’s driving innovations for homes is a synchronicity between evolving consumer attitudes, new products and emerging technologies. Today, consumers play an important role in this process. Rarely are consumers cited as change agents, but consumers themselves have changed.
Instead of being recipients of what the market offers, they have become savvy, active participants in the process. When it comes to homes of the future, nothing matters more than the consumer.
Photo courtesy Chris Mayer Photography and Bassenian Lagoni Architects

Millennials Are Change Agents 

Expect to see millennials become luxury players. Right now, their impact on high-end markets is minimal, but this demographic is already a force shaping future home designs, particularly regarding energy efficiency and sustainability. “This is the homebuyer of the future and builders should be constructing homes to meet their desires,” says Lee Ann Head, vice president of research for the Shelton Group. “According to our Energy Pulse studies, millennials want more energy-efficient homes and the technology to easily monitor and control their energy consumption. Millennials are also more discerning about certifications and prefer certified energy-efficient homes.” Also, they are “very aspirational about solar energy and are adopting solar panels at a much higher rate than the overall population.”

Approximately 35 percent of U.S. homebuyers are millennials, and 67 percent of them are first-time buyers. But having delayed a first-home purchase, many millennials do not fit into the typical first-time-buyer profile. “It’s important to note that the first-time homebuyer is not what it used to be. Many of these folks are better established in their careers and many are more upscale. Therefore, many of them are in the market for their ‘dream home’ not their ‘starter home.’  Therefore, the list of features I’ve noted, which could drive a home price up, is not necessarily out of the question for these buyers,” explains Head. And, she adds, the greener homebuyer tends to be a better-educated, somewhat more upscale buyer.

Still Debating Whether Size Matters  

If there was any given in the world of upscale real estate, it was bigger is better. Today, any consideration of home sizes opens the door to an entirely new dialogue based on diverse and changing consumer attitudes. For trophy homes, there is still nothing modest about square footage; uber properties are getting larger with increasingly lavish amenities. But designers, Realtors and architects also say clients want smaller homes and plans that engage every square foot. “People want to use their whole house. Fewer and fewer people are willing to have spaces just for formal occasions,” shares Elyssa Morgante with Morgante Wilson Architects in Evanston, Illinois.

Even the tiny house trend has found a luxury expression with what Florida developer Frank McKinney is calling a Micro Mansion. With just under 3,000 square feet under roof, McKinney’s tiny home is hardly micro, but it is still smaller than some luxury master suites. The inspiration he says came from Miami condos and also clients desiring a single-family residence in South Florida, but not another large estate they might only use a few weeks a year. Still, they expect a level of quality and finishes worthy of a mansion. McKinney has not compromised on finishes, design or drama in this ultra-luxurious home that includes unique features such as counters made of sea glass.

Photo courtesy Chris Mayer Photography and Bassenian Lagoni Architects

Functionality & Finishes      

“It’s more about really functional spaces and higher-quality finishes,” says Chicago designer Donna Mondi. “Some people don’t want a living room. Instead, they’d rather have the space be a home office or a really beautiful study or library. A lot of it is more the function of the space than less space,” she explains. Like many designers, Mondi says consumers are becoming more discerning. “There is an appreciation for how a great faucet feels in their hands or a great doorknob feels versus a cheap one.”

Getting Smarter  

Interactive design has completely altered the way we engage with our homes. “It has been a real cultural change that’s permeated through all product design. People are more demanding and more aware of the ease of use of interactive design because of their experience with smart phones,” says Marc Hottenroth, director of Industrial Design at GE Appliances. “We are starting to see the trend moving from tap and select on the phone to gestures and voice and then having a conversation with the product via a digital assistant.”

The addition of artificial intelligence takes interactivity to a new level. Already, it is boosting the IQ of smart homes by enabling protocols such as geofencing in which a predetermined series of actions (security disabled, lights turning on, music playing) are triggered when an owner (and their smart phone or watch) reaches a preset distance from home. Looking ahead, Hottenroth speculates on scenarios in which we might purchase say a rack of ribs at a grocery store and artificial intelligence would call up recipes and transmit them to a kitchen appliance. “There are all sorts of interactions that could take place that we never even thought about,” he says.

Photos courtesy Ed Butera, IBI Designs and Frank Mckinney

Can You Hear Me Now?

“We are moving toward rich interaction and the next wave is having no interface,” Hottenroth explains. Instead of using manual or digital controls to operate an oven, washer or other appliance, we will simply talk to them. Currently, GE has a digital assistant, Geneva, which meshes with Alexa or Google Home and enables consumers to control a number of appliances using voice commands. They can add minutes to a wash cycle, extend time in the oven or turn on the dishwasher from their bedside. They can ask if their laundry is clean or how much time is left on a cycle. Or Geneva — with a little help from her digital friends — can keep clothes tumbling in the drier a little longer. Unfortunately, folding clothes is not an option. Yet.


Wellness as a concept for homes has been around for a few years, and most of the emphasis has been on construction materials and air quality. Now consumers and builders are turning attention to other aspects of wellness and materials that compromise air quality. The WELL certification for homes has been available for a few years, and new nonprofit advocacy groups such as Wellness Within Your Walls and the Sustainable Furnishings Council bring attention to furnishings and other products brought into the home. Expect to see more certifications for homes such as Indoor airPLUS.

More Than Cooking

Steam ovens, introduced a few years ago, tapped into new consumer preferences for healthier food prep. Following that trend, several new products take wellness and kitchens in a new direction, which expands on the idea that a kitchen can be a place to grow as well as prepare food, a concept often spied in one version or another of kitchens of the future. “Maybe it’s just California being healthy eaters, I say we’ve definitely seen steam ovens as well as composting as a trend. We integrate a lot of composting. Not only do you have your garbage and your recycling, but you also have your compost. That’s involved in every kitchen now,” says San Francisco designer Kriste Michelini.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, a new appliance from WLabs of Whirlpool Corporation, the Zera Food Recycler, took home awards in several categories including Eco-Design and Sustainable Technologies. Using an automated process, Zera can break down a week’s worth of food waste from the average family into ready-to-use homemade fertilizer in 24 hours. All it takes is a push of the button or the Whirlpool mobile app.

The Urban Cultivator, a residential version of a commercial product, brings the ability to grow herbs and greens into the kitchen. The product can be free standing or installed to blend with existing cabinetry and looks very much like an undercounted wine refrigerator. It includes automatic air circulation, watering and custom formulated organic plant food. Growing potential include greens such as kale and arugula as well as herbs.

The Urban Cultivator
Photos courtesy the urban cultivator

Flexibility & The Sharing Economy 

Today, homeowners typically stay in their homes for an average of 8 to 10 years, so it’s no surprise flexibility has emerged as a desired attribute for homes. While most attention is focused on rooms that can be adapted in multiple ways, architects are focused on ways homes overall can adapt to the changing needs of homeowners. For the 2016 International Builders’ Show, Newport Beach architects Bassenian Lagoni (BL) designed two homes geared toward changing lifestyles. “We wanted a home that can morph and flex over time,” says architect Hans Anderle, who was on the BL design team. In both models, the entry-level Contemporary Farmhouse or move-up Contemporary Traditional, fluid floor plans enable rooms to be used in a number of ways and are enhanced with seamless indoor/outdoor connections on multiple sides of the homes. Additionally, both homes incorporate spaces giving families options to adapt the home to their own lifestyle. A first-floor suite with a mini-kitchen is suited for adult children, grandparents or visiting family. But an outside entry also makes it ideal for Airbnb guests or for a home office. Both homes include another separate space for rentals or guests or a home office. Not only do these designs accommodate changing spatial needs of a family, but the intent was also to include ways for entry-level owners to afford the home initially and then adapt it as their lifestyle changed.

Changing Architecture 

Architecture is not static. Instead it’s always evolving. Right now, contemporary holds sway, but still it’s rooted in regional vernaculars, which syncs with the growing consumer desire for authenticity. Look for more transitional styles in new homes as well as existing homes as more owners opt to renovate rather than move. Even hard-edge contemporary styles are softening in some regions.


Traffic and gridlock aren’t often mentioned as change agents, particularly for homes. However, in some cities, both — along with access to alternate transportation — play a role in home values, pumping up prices and demand. Self-driving cars are often cited as a potential solution, but even urban planners don’t have a solid take on the impact on cities, let alone housing. Some believe autonomous transportation will create more demand for suburban locations.

The recipe for a home of the future: indoor/outdoor merger, authentic materials, and dramatic design.
Photo courtesy Chris Mayer Photography and Bassenian Lagoni Architects


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Interior Designer Kriste Michelini on Getting to Know Clients

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

Kriste Michelini goes through “mini marriages” with clients before designing their spaces with an eye toward both purpose and aesthetics.

By Kristen Ordonez

Fulfilling a passion through one’s career is not a priority for everyone, but it was for Kriste Michelini.

Originally from Evanston, Illinois, Michelini first moved to California at age 10. Later in life, after working for 10 years in the tech industry and specializing in business development and sales, Michelini decided to redirect her focus and pursue her passion for interior design. In 2002, she launched her own firm, Kriste Michelini Interiors, in Danville, California.

Michelini’s interest in interior design started out fairly simple through personal home remodels. These remodeling projects were well received by her friends who then encouraged her to pursue this more creative field of designing. Her background in business, Michelini says, definitely helped when it came to starting and running a firm. “My business grew organically and I was able to build a successful design firm, along with having a family.”

Kriste Michelini Interiors specializes in creating classic, contemporary interiors that are “as alluring and welcoming as they are utilitarian,” Michelini states. “Our spaces are well-edited and thoughtfully designed — beautiful, functional and delivered with a smooth, streamlined process.” What is also smooth, albeit extensive, is the interview process and work relationship that she aims to build between her team and clients.

“We meet clients at the studio and we interview them just as they interview my team. It is like a mini marriage.” Her team members utilize design questionnaires to get a sense of their clients’ lifestyle, preferences, entertaining activities, et cetera, as well as online social media tools, from Houzz profiles to Pinterest accounts, to “try to get a good sense of their style and their vision for their home — then we fine tune it and get started,” says Michelini. For her, it is all about the  relationship between designer and client: “It needs to be a great fit and we want to earn our clients’ trust as well as be empowered by them to create beautiful spaces.”

Creating these beautiful spaces takes inspiration, of course, and to find inspiration takes a keen eye and sense of adventure for Michelini, who says travel is a big part of how she stays motivated. “You see more clearly when you get away from your day-to-day life.” On the flip side, though, she also notes how sometimes finding new sources of creativity can be easier than we think. “Inspiration is all around us at home,” she says, “but we are often too busy to look up and take notice.” Also incorporated into her work ethic is taking into account the surrounding area and how our indoor/outdoor lifestyles affect how we live and entertain.

Michelini relies on both her knowledge of business and a helpful mixture of creativity and design tricks when it comes to designing. Her interior work focuses mostly on reinventing spaces to make them “highly functional yet beautiful,” through the use of neutral colors and textures in everything from paint to furniture. To help a room stand out, adding “a piece or two that is unique can really elevate a room,” she says, finding these one-of-a-kind pieces on websites like 1stDibs, Coup d’Etat, Blackman Cruz, and others. Ultimately, Michelini’s goal when designing is to make a space feel fresh, modern and classic, a true representation of her style.

“We meet clients at the studio and we interview them just as they interview my team. It is like a mini marriage.”

Looking back, Michelini does not have a favorite project she has worked on, relating the act of choosing one to the impossible task of choosing a favorite child. “I would say my favorite projects are ground-up, when you can design the shell as well as the furnishings for all the rooms,” admits Michelini. Her favorite rooms, however, tend to be kitchens or great rooms, which are the main hubs of a house. And though she has not gotten the opportunity yet, a dream project for Michelini would be the chance to design a boutique hotel and restaurant.

As with her dream project, Michelini hopes to see different trends emerge in the interior design industry, including a larger use of wood materials in homes, “to create warm, clean, organic spaces that are simple and easy to live with.” Michelini has a few projects on the horizon, mostly ground-up construction projects ranging from a modern farmhouse, a Hamptons-style home and a modern glass house. For herself, she hopes to grow more as a designer and get her hands on a few boutique hotel projects. As for her firm, her aspirations are as classically simple as her style: “That we continue to grow and enjoy the journey. It is important that I continue to foster a group dynamic that is productive, fun and full of trust.”

It was passion that led Michelini to a career in interior design, an industry that allowed her room to embrace her imagination. “I love the creative aspects [of design], and transforming spaces is fun. I pinch myself from time to time [as a reminder] that I get to do this as a professional and get paid to do what I love.” For anyone aiming to find success in this field by starting their own firm, she advises to not only attend show house events, but to also read and learn as much as you can about both design itself and business. “At the end of the day, 80 percent of it is running a business and 20 percent is the actual design work.”

Photography by Thomas Kuoh

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Tiny Home, Big Impact: Earth-Friendly Alternatives to Traditional Homes

As concerns for the environment grow, tiny homes have emerged as an earth-friendly alternative to traditional homes.

By Stacey Staum

In years past, the motto has been “the bigger the better.” The idea lent itself to every part of life, especially in the square footage of a luxury home. But as modern homeowners become increasingly aware of environmental issues, a new trend is emerging:

tiny homes.


Tiny homes can be as small as 200 square feet, and provide homeowners with a significantly smaller carbon footprint than traditional homes. Features like solar power, water catchments systems, and composting toilets have made tiny homes the premier housing option for an environmentally conscious lifestyle, and the luxury market is embracing this movement. 

Jason Francis, co-founder and president of Tiny Heirloom in Portland, Oregon, has brought high-end materials and amenities to the forefront of his designs. Francis explains, “We take pride in starting each project with a blank page and assuming everything is possible until proven otherwise.” Tiny Heirloom’s projects have included an $8,000 toilet, a $40,000 custom sculpted rock wall, Jacuzzi tubs, and rooftop decks, all incorporated into tiny home designs.

In a tiny home, it is of the utmost importance that all of the area is well utilized. “Using the space effectively is absolutely crucial. To do this well, we start with the right mindset. Every square inch is valuable space that can’t be wasted. When we have this truth in mind, we look at the design differently and begin to think outside the box of ways to maximize space and use or create dual purpose features wherever possible,” Francis says.

Part of the excitement of building a tiny home is deciding where to put the home once it is complete. Tiny Heirloom has finished projects in exciting locations, including the ocean shores of Hawaii and a 9,000-foot bluff overlooking the Rocky Mountains. Many tiny homes are portable, so homeowners don’t have to commit to only one location. Tiny homes offer the unique opportunity to move the home to different locations without having to pack up for a traditional move.

Customizations are limited only by the imagination. This home features a $40,000 sculpted rock wall on the exterior.

Wheelhaus in Jackson, Wyoming, also offers exceptional tiny home options, featuring top-of-the-line, energy-saving appliances. The company achieved a Gold standard with the U.S. Green Building Council. Sustainability is the goal at Wheelhaus, as is evidenced by its use of High-R-value insulation, windows for abundant natural light, space-saving design, and sustainable building practices. The Wheelhaus aesthetic blends rustic and modern design styles. Wheelhaus’s most remarkable model is the Stack-Haus, with a base price of $365,000 for 1,400 square feet of living space — a mansion by tiny home standards.

The future of the luxury tiny home market looks promising. Francis explains, “The idea and belief goes beyond just tiny homes. The truth is starting to spread like wildfire — that a bigger house, nicer car, and more things don’t equate to happiness. Eliminating waste and simplifying life within one’s respective means creates a lifestyle where you can truly enjoy what you do have and who is around you.”

Photos courtesy Wheelhaus


Q&A With Dart Real Estate President Jackie Doak

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

As the president of a firm that has developed more than $1.3 billion of property on the Cayman Islands, Jackie Doak has been instrumental in the region’s progress.

By Kelly Potts


Jackie Doak traveled what she calls a “very wandering path” that led to her becoming the President of Dart Real Estate, a Cayman Islands investment, development and management company. Doak has been with the company since its flagship development, Camana Bay — a 650-acre commercial and residential master-planned New Urbanist town — and has helped the company break barriers on the island ever since.

What are some major developments you’ve worked on with Dart Real Estate?

I worked on Camana Bay from its teaser, to announcing that it was open, to now celebrating our 10-year anniversary. Building a town in itself was a great experience, but hospitality and the way people feel is part of my DNA. I was part of the creative, collaborative design team of Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, and I also had the benefit of working on the Cayman Islands Yacht Club, which we acquired in 2011.

What was the design process like for Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa?

Kimpton was the first new resort in the Grand Cayman in 10 years; we’d been fairly static as a tourist destination since 2005. We acquired the land that Kimpton is on in 2011 and spent a year master-planning going up five additional stories on the existing structures and adding additional buildings on the site. Although there was value in building up, we realized that if we demolished the hotel and started fresh, we’d have a much better product. We’re very proud of the decisions we’ve made and innovation is one of our values. Interior Designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard has the perfect personality for the residences at Seafire, which will be finished later this year for occupancy.

What do you hope that guests or residents of your developments will experience during their stay?

When I travel with my family, I come back with moments that really resound with me. And that, to me, is what I would like our visitors or customers to take away — meaningful moments that impact their life. It’s great to come to Camana Bay and buy a beautiful dress, but it’s more impactful where you went in that dress and what you experienced. We also want to create and capitalize on the infrastructure of the Cayman Islands. We surprise and delight many who come here for business, and we want to supplement that.

Location photos courtesy Camana Bay

Can you tell me about the placemaking approach used in your projects?

We really say that greater than the sum of our parts is our design excellence. If you don’t think about the experience of your customers or clients as they move through a property, as they park their car or as they walk around, you can be very functional, but not successful in making an impact. We focus on places that inspire you to live your best life. We take into consideration where the breeze comes from, how the sun moves over the property and how landscaping and water and shading will cool areas. We strive to make a place as inspiring as we can to promote health, activity and wellbeing.

Does Dart Real Estate have any exciting plans or projects coming up?

We recently completed a three-day workshop for Camana Bay in regards to a new commercial office building, a supermarket and doubling the capacity of the school. We’re going to have a very busy development cycle over the next few years, as we are also working on a 5-star resort in the Cayman Islands, where we have the opportunity to create multi-generational experiences including things like a lazy river and slide, kayaking, ziplining and a museum. We’re also talking about Phase Two of the Kimpton Residences, with 17 of 62 residences already pre-sold. The sales velocity has been very rapid, so we’re looking at creating an additional tower of residences at Kimpton Seafire.

What is your favorite aspect of being President of Dart Real Estate?

It’s great being president of an amazing company, but I was also the first female president of Dart. No day is the same and that’s what thrills me about working with this company. We have a very diverse group of individuals with many different life and education experiences, and we have a visionary and amazing shareholder in Mr. Dart. Being able to be a part of this company and inspire future generations is what makes it more than a job; every day I’m given the opportunity to leave an impact in the Cayman Islands.

Photo courtesy the Residences at Seafire/Dart Real Estate

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A Patented Philosophy by Fitness Trainer Mark Harigian

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

The “Architect of Anatomy,” Mark Harigian trains and builds gyms, but stresses that “fitness should not be your life.”

By Alyssa Apuzzio

Photo courtesy Teresa Harigian-Nielson of HyeStyleshots Photograph

Ranked fourth in the nation for tennis, Mark Harigian was confident he would become a professional tennis player. However, Harigian’s dream took a hit when he blew out his knee and needed surgery, ending his sports career, but also forming a new career.

“During rehab, I became intrigued with the anatomy of the body. I saw the body like pulleys and cables,” Harigian remembers. “After this revelation, I changed my major to exercise psychology; I ended up becoming a strength and conditioning coach for the 1984 Olympics in L.A.”

This is how Harigian landed in Los Angeles with Roy E. Disney as his first client, among other corporate studios and celebrities.

“Going back, I never knew my background in engineering and physiology would merge together and that I would make crazy custom equipment,” Harigian says.

Today, Harigian is not only a successful workout trainer and gym builder, but he has created multiple patents over the years.

“I came up with a new system for aligning the pins in workout machines, and sold it to Live Fitness, making everything slide better with no noise or clang when using weight stack,” says Harigian. “K Bar is another patent, which was worked on for three years. K stands for Kinetic Energy, it’s a more dynamic workout.”

Harigian’s gyms have also been patented — Harigian Fitness — and have been in high demand from clients for Harigian’s personalized touch, from machines, to color schemes, to customized letters on machine pads.

“My first step with clients, aside from determining a deadline, is to be a psychologist and ask them if they have any injuries,” Harigian says. “I also ask what their short- and long-term goals are for fitness, and what their recreational activities are seasonally.”

After Harigian speaks with them, he will address the client’s injuries and find out what they want and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Ultimately, Harigian says the machines come down to what the clients will enjoy using.

“I take that space [where they want their gym] and fit it to their needs, making it appealing, just like their kitchen or theater room, so they want to go into it and be there,” Harigian says. “I design the equipment according to their goals, recreational activities and injuries. They will have a full-blown gym in a condensed version.”

Harigian adjusts the lighting and ambience of the gym with his design, using mainly natural ventilation, creating a stimulating environment. In addition, Harigian offers his clients two layouts, one that matches the client’s budget, and an over-the-top design if budget is obsolete.

“My product has become a selling point. When left in the home, the leather pads are changed and the names are re-personalized,” Harigian says. “Harigian Fitness became marketing in house listings.”

Harigian allows himself three months to complete custom work. “I don’t just make the gym, but the Harigian workout environment,” he says. “Harigian Fitness is a lifestyle, my motto is ‘fitness should not be your life, but make you fit to go live life!’”

Harigian’s work doesn’t consist solely of gyms; he has also been making “man caves” for clients and athletes.

“One has $3 million worth of baseball memorabilia, and another was built as a 1950s replica with a jukebox, and diner with parlor seats,” Harigian says. “I also build custom garages for collectible cars, as well as bowling alleys.”

At first, Harigian didn’t view his work as an accomplishment. He would ask his A-list clients why they were driving to Harigian, when he should be traveling to them.

Harigian created this multi-station for a contest at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. It incorporates every major upper and lower body part without ever needing to change a pulley or cable. It won for both its function and aesthetics.

“I’m just a normal American guy. I’ve only used American-made steel, everything is made in the U.S.; I’ve been doing that since the beginning,” Harigian says.

Over the past 25 years, Harigian believes he has become a better trainer each year of his life, with his product continuing to improve.

“The biggest change since I started Harigian Fitness would be the mind-set,” Harigian says. “People are more educated now about physical well-being and realize their health is more important than anything.”

Harigian’s future endeavors include Harigian Fitness suites in high-end hotels, where people won’t recognize celebrities and distract them from exercising.

“Your home is your castle, I want to make the gym the go-to resort destination in a home,” Harigian says.

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Ethnic Inspirations in American Cuisine

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

American chefs appreciate French tradition, but are increasingly inspired by ethnic communities in their own backyards.

By Roger Grody

Photo courtesy Antonio Diaz

There was a time when young chefs in America were primarily influenced by French masters like Paul Bocuse or Joël Robuchon. While classic technique remains important, eclectic global flavors have become equally influential. Conveniently, chefs no longer need to travel the world to discover exotic fare, because it is simmering in the diverse ethnic neighborhoods of most American cities.

The practice of incorporating ethnic elements into familiar dishes used to be referred to as “fusion,” a term that has fallen out of favor with contemporary chefs, and today’s cross-cultural combinations are more nuanced and less frivolous than in the 1980s. Today, chefs tend to use local ethnic cuisines as accents or pay tribute to their own families’ immigrant roots. The presence of Middle Eastern falafel on a French menu or a dusting of Japanese togarashi seasoning on potatoes at an all-American steakhouse does not compromise the integrity of their respective cuisines, but certainly makes them more interesting. 

A master of infusing local ethnic flavors into his dishes is celebrity chef José Andrés, who borrows Latin American and Asian elements at The Bazaar by José Andrés in Los Angeles. In multicultural Miami, he incorporates Caribbean elements into his menu at The Bazaar South Beach. Given his own Spanish heritage, incredible versatility and expertise with complex molecular gastronomy techniques, most Andrés menus feature some unusual culinary mashups.

At South Beach, Andrés honors the local Cuban community with colada Cubana, a play on Cuban coffee turbocharged with foie gras, and pollo al ajillo (garlic chicken) slow-cooked with black garlic. As a tribute to South Florida’s Jewish community — largely comprised of transplanted New Yorkers — the chef offers a clever riff on bagels and lox: dill cream cheese-filled bagel cones topped with salmon roe. And for dessert, Andrés playfully deconstructs another local specialty, Key lime pie.

Bazaar South Beach chef de cuisine Tito Vargas, a native of Puerto Rico, says he and Andrés draw inspiration from a wide variety of Latin American and Caribbean cultures. “It’s important that I keep true to José’s vision, showcasing the main ingredient and transforming it without sacrificing the flavor and integrity of the product,” he says. Vargas notes that even when applying high-tech culinary tricks, the essence of a dish is respected and preserved. “In no way, shape or form does it look like a Cuban sandwich, but when you bite into it you get all the flavors that compose a Cuban sandwich in a more fun, inventive way,” says the chef of The Bazaar’s molecular gastronomic version.

Despite Los Angeles’ reputation as a bland, immense swath of suburbia, its location — on both the Pacific Rim and threshold to Latin America — ensures diverse ethnic communities that constantly fuel the imagination of local chefs. In L.A., where California Cuisine has morphed into a more global fare, crossing culinary borders is almost routine. At Wolfgang Puck’s celebrity-favored Spago in Beverly Hills, for instance, the menu includes elements from nearly a dozen cuisines.

Bryant Ng was trained in classic French cuisine — he cooked with celebrated chef Daniel Boulud in New York — but at his own restaurant, Cassia in Santa Monica, California, he cooks French brasserie fare with an ethnic twist. At first glance, Cassia’s menu looks like it was borrowed from a Parisian brasserie, but the young chef tweaks traditional dishes with accents from his father’s Singaporean roots and his wife’s Vietnamese heritage.

Todd Kelly

Bryant Nig

Jason Nibb

Ng’s charcuterie platter includes items like Singaporean candied pork and Vietnamese meatloaf, while escargots are scented with lemongrass. Cassia’s take on the French comfort dish of pot-au-feu has a pho-inspired broth and the bistro staple of steak frites is bathed in a Phú Quôc Island peppercorn sauce. Kaya toast, a signature of Singapore’s street vendors, is not likely to be found in a 14th arrondissement brasserie, but is a specialty at Cassia.

“It’s a very personal menu because it combines the food of my heritage, but also has influences from my professional experiences,” explains Ng. “Understanding the ‘soul’ of a cuisine is the greatest challenge,” says the chef, who dismisses the practice of simply adding a single indigenous ingredient. “Trying to incorporate multiple culinary influences requires a lot of self-editing and discipline,” adds Ng, who believes any composition must respect the referenced cultures.

Anita Lo is one of New York’s most honored chefs and her restaurant Annisa is a reflection of the diverse influences inherent in contemporary American cuisine. A second-generation Chinese-American, Lo’s passion for food can be traced to Paris, where she first fell in love with the art of cooking. She polished her skills in revered French kitchens and classic technique has always been essential to her approach.

At her Manhattan restaurant, those French sensibilities are applied to some ingredients from her own family’s heritage, as well as other global influences discovered in New York’s rich patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods. Since Annisa’s opening in 2000, Chinese dumplings filled with foie gras mousse and jicama have been one of Lo’s signature dishes. A Chinese-French mashup way too cool to be called “fusion,” the dumplings are topped with seared foie gras and a beguiling black vinegar reduction.

At Orchids at Palm Court, an opulent dining room in the Art Deco Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, executive chef Todd Kelly is contributing to getting the food scene of the Midwest — a region often neglected outside of Chicago — noticed. As a boy, the native New Yorker lived in Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar, and that experience, as well as the chef’s naturally curious palate, results in a menu with eclectic influences.

Kelly’s cuisine, built on a solid classical foundation, is laced with intriguing ingredients like Buddha’s hand, lemongrass, paneer, and sudachi. He is adept at making familiar preparations suddenly exciting without excessively altering their essence. For example, a dash of harissa (a spicy North African chili paste) gives a dish of white asparagus with traditional French velouté sauce some zing, while red snapper en papillote, a characteristically South of France preparation, receives an exotic Indian accent with vadouvan curry.

“I like to pull in flavors from my past or things I really crave,” says Kelly, noting that the cultural melting pot of Mauritius and ethnic neighbors on Long Island both contributed to his culinary wanderlust. Recently, the chef has been experimenting with Indian ingredients like nigella, fenugreek and mango powder, insisting they need not distract from the classical roots of a recipe. “The lesson is all about balance and learning that sometimes it’s the simplicity and restraint that controls a dish,” says Kelly.

In La Jolla, San Diego’s chic oceanfront district, executive chef Jason Knibb is known for his molecular gastronomy and globetrotting flavors at Nine-Ten Restaurant & Bar, which celebrates the Golden State’s finest seasonal ingredients. His Jamaican heritage may account for the jerk-seasoned pork belly on the chef’s menu, but his ethnic influences also extend to Latin American, Japanese and Middle Eastern traditions.

“San Diego is a tapestry of rich ethnic diversity, and the local food scene is no exception,” says Knibb. “There are so many chefs who have come to town from other regions bringing their own ethnic influences,” he adds, and makes a point to experience their cuisines firsthand. As a young chef in San Francisco, Knibb lived next door to a quick-service Mediterranean restaurant, and says, “They had some of the best falafels I’ve ever had … I still crave them today.” That unpretentious Mission District eatery was the inspiration for Nine-Ten’s spice-roasted carrots and carrot falafel with harissa yogurt and carrot hummus.

The recently announced James Beard Awards — the Oscars of the restaurant business — reflect a renewed respect for ethnic inspirations. The big winners were Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav and Chicago’s Topolobampo, where celebrity chef/restaurateur Rick Bayless is energized by his frequent travels to Mexico.

Photo courtesy Antonio Diaz

Photo courtesy Jason Knibb

Photo courtesy Rick Poon

Photo courtesy Greg Powers Photography

Photo courtesy Todd Kelly

Global Influences

Annisa, New York; www.annisarestaurant.com
The Bazaar by José Andrés, Los Angeles; www.sbe.com
The Bazaar by José Andrés South Beachwww.sbe.com
Cassia, Santa Monica; www.cassiala.com
Orchids at the Palm Court, Cincinnati; www.orchidsatpalmcourt.com
Nine-Ten Restaurant & Bar, San Diego; www.nine-ten.com
Spago, Beverly Hills; www.wolfgangpuck.com
Topolobambpo, Chicago; www.rickbayless.com
Zahav, Philadelphia; www.zahavrestaurant.com

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Ferrari Introduces Most High-Performance Vehicle Yet

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

Ferrari introduces the 812 Superfast, the most high-performance vehicle the brand has ever launched.

By Stacey Staum

At the intersection of unprecedented engine technology and sleek modern design awaits the Ferrari 812 Superfast. In a nod to Ferrari’s 70-year history, the 812 Superfast features a 12-cylinder engine, the power unit that fueled the first vehicles bearing the Prancing Horse name in 1947. The 800 CV engine makes the 812 Superfast the most powerful road-going vehicle Ferrari has ever built.

While the 812 Superfast boasts unrivaled engine capabilities, Ferrari took care to ensure that the vehicle delivered a class-topping performance. The F1 dual-clutch transmission complements the engine’s performance by slashing response times, creating a feeling of power and speed in acceleration, and generating the auditory perception of rising rpms.

The 812 Superfast is also an aesthetically eye-catching addition to a brand with an unparalleled reputation for beauty and form. The muscular wheel arches create an appearance of power that is justified by the V12 engine under its hood. Where form meets function, the sculpted vents along the front bumper and along the wheel wells are a testament to the car’s unrivaled performance abilities.

The interior of the 812 Superfast matches the sporty character of the vehicle’s exterior. The dash elements appear to float and are angled towards the driver, creating the appearance of a cockpit that highlights the relationship between vehicle and motorist. The steering wheel, with commands, satellite pods, and contrasting materials, provides a unique driver experience that exudes class and sophistication.

Under the hood and within the cabin, the Ferrari 812 Superfast boasts unprecedented performance and style for the discerning motorist.

The manufacturer’s base suggested retail price is $308,000.

Photos courtesy of Ferrari 

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Taking Luxury Tours to the Next Level

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

Bespoke Experiences is “your friend in the city,” creating your customized, luxury private journey from Nashville and New Orleans to San Diego and San Francisco.

By Sarah Binder

Photo courtesy  ©istockphoto.com / SeanPavonePhoto

It’s vacation time, and you’re heading to a city you have never been, but one of your friends lives there. What do you do? Chances are, you called that friend weeks ago to help you plan where to go and what to see, and they know exactly where to take you because they’ve known you for years.

Even if you don’t know a soul in Nashville, New Orleans, San Diego or San Francisco, Bespoke Experiences is ready to fulfill that role for you. The New Orleans-based luxury travel company crafts private and completely customized journeys led by licensed local tour guides dubbed Experience Architects (EAs).

“We consider them more ‘your friend in the city’ who just happens to be exceptionally knowledgeable and well-connected. They are our guests’ local link to everything that is currently going on, as well as to the regional history, explaining the cultural narrative in a language and style that is compatible with the guests’ interests, demographic and pace,” explains Jennifer Simpson, the company’s founder and chief experience officer.

“Our EAs are first and foremost hospitable, always looking to make the guests’ needs their first priority. They have a vast, broad and diverse regional knowledge of the city, the surrounding region and its people,” she adds. “They are charming and charismatic, can adapt on the fly and are exceptional problem-solvers.”

Experience Architects provide guests with an intimate look at their desired destination, but first, the Bespoke Experiences operations team establishes a personable, open and collaborative relationship with every client to learn their travel style, preferences, interests, budget and additional considerations. This process entails an extensive initial phone interview followed by many phone and email exchanges between the guest and the team.

“This one-on-one effort, and the attention to detail required to execute each diverse experience requires an inordinate amount of time and a Herculean effort,” says Simpson.

Combining close attention to their guests’ details with extensive local connections, Simpson’s team creates multi-faceted activities that connect clients to a destination in the most personal ways. To call these experiences “tours” would be doing them a disservice.

“Recently, a guest celebrated a milestone birthday in New Orleans with a few of her closest family and friends after overcoming a major health crisis. We arranged for a personalized Second-Line parade through the French Quarter with her own brass band, umbrella, police escort and courtyard lunch reservation at the conclusion. At the finale of her time in the city, we arranged for her birthday dinner in the private home of a local celebrity musician whom she happened to admire,” Simpson says. “There, he and his band performed a private concert and served them a home-cooked meal that he and his wife prepared. Then, everyone relaxed and chatted like they’d all been long-lost friends. She, and all of the guests, wept with joy when she learned of the surprise.”

Simpson draws on her previous professional experiences to cater to a well-traveled, well-educated and affluent clientele — she used to own and operate a pharmaceutical event/meeting planning business that served a similar audience. At one point while living in New Orleans, she was attempting to convert her Canadian pilot’s license to an American one at the Lakefront Airport. While talking with a fixed-base operator, she learned that more than 1,500 private aircraft were flying in for the impending Super Bowl, which led to an “aha moment.”

“We realized there weren’t any organizations in place to service this small, elite market once they were in town,” she explains. “There really wasn’t anyone catering to the luxury niche.”

In many cases, the ultimate in luxury travel means gaining exclusive access to experience top landmarks in unique ways. Through connections with the Louisiana State Museum, Bespoke Experiences has been able to provide guests with unique opportunities to enjoy Jackson’s Square, the city’s most popular attraction.

“A local physician had a visiting Catholic colleague who’d never explored St. Louis Cathedral, and he wanted to go above and beyond for his guests. We coordinated to gain behind-the-scenes access with the Archdiocese. Unexpectedly, the timing of our visit corresponded with the burial of a recently deceased Archbishop, so the guests were also able to witness aspects of an in-church burial that no one typically sees,” she says.

In addition to the birthplace of jazz, Bespoke Experiences launched services in Nashville — the Music City — in April 2017. The company has helped guests snag prime seats at the Grand Ole Opry (where, if you’re lucky, a star like Blake Shelton might pop up). For those who are unsure what to do, but have a particular interest, Simpson can design an itinerary focusing on Nashville’s influential history, visiting sites from the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, or its eclectic architecture, including the “Mother Church of Country Music:” the Ryman Auditorium, constructed with flawless acoustics.

As Bespoke Experiences looks toward the future, it is focusing on both short- and long-term goals. The team has an ambitious “26 by 26” goal to be operational in 26 North American cities by 2026. In the near future, it will roll out its custom, luxury private tours in Chicago and Toronto this year.

Simpson and her team implement a strategic approach to selecting new destinations, asking several questions to evaluate the possibilities. “We look at several factors: What destinations are our clients requesting? What destinations are making the ‘Top 10’ North American travel lists domestically and internationally? What destinations align with our key guest offerings (history/culture/culinary/lifestyle/landscape/architecture)?” explains Simpson.

Regardless of location, she will continue to guide her team and ensure positive client experiences by emphasizing a simple principle: the Golden Rule.

“Bespoke Experiences is aspirational to me. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’” she says. “Bespoke is how we wish to be treated while we travel: with kindness, courtesy and friendliness. With respect for my time, my money, my interests, my style of travel and my family dynamic. This honesty, integrity and sensibility influence our business acumen.”

Photos courtesy Bespoke Experiences

New Orleans


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