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.

Leave a comment
hello

A Cut Above The Rest

For Anna Bario and Page Neal, designing jewelry meant more than choosing the perfect stone — it meant making a lasting impact. Their company, Bario Neal, was born from the idea that “our most precious things come with a story,” and the beginning of that story is of utmost importance.

Sustainable fashion has eased its way into the growing culture of being environmentally mindful, and with this movement came an increase in jewelry companies focusing on how to source gemstones and metals without causing a devastating impact on the environment. For Bario and Neal, the principal and lead designers of their company, they sought to create jewelry with a meaning, saying, “to us, creating objects of lasting value means understanding their full impact and origins. [That means] the places the raw materials come from, all the hands that touch the materials and the jewelry as it’s made.”

The Philadelphia-based company creates all their jewelry pieces by hand, with all their diamonds and colored gems being traceable, mine to market products. The design process starts with the aesthetics of the piece, then to how it will be crafted and its functionality, says Bario and Neal. “Then we work out how to make it responsibly. That can mean researching new sources, new materials, or custom cutting.”

Along with supporting sustainable jewelry, the company, which mainly creates engagement and wedding bands, also supports LGBTQIA rights, working to “undermine and eliminate the presumption of heterosexuality that pervades much of the wedding and jewelry industry,” says Bario and Neal. “Supporting unity and advocating for human rights within the jewelry industry is a non-negotiable part of our mission.”

©Bario Neal Jewelry

Bario Neal

Photo by Daniel Johnson

Caitlin Cimino

Like Bario Neal, for Caitlin Cimino and her namesake jewelry company, the story of her ethically sourced pieces is essential to her craft. Cimino, who started her company in 2010, takes a hands-on approach when it comes to her creations. “When I create jewelry, I tie a mindful practice around the entire process — from collecting plant material to sifting through mine debris for gemstones.” Cimino started her ethical business knowing the connection between the jewelry industry and the gemstone and metal mining industries, two industries that are “environmentally and ethically damaging,” Cimino says.

All the gemstones Cimino finds are collected from a privately owned mine in California where her company is based. According to her website, unlike other mines that neglect their surrounding environment, the mine Cimino visits encourages local ranchers to utilize their mining debris in their orchards. The metal she uses is high-quality, up-cycled sterling silver with its impurities removed, making the quality similar to newly mined metal. Cimino describes her jewelry as “Medicine Jewelry™” and has created a process surrounding this ideal. “When I sit at my workbench, I perform different ritual practices like lighting herbs and incense, saying prayers or mantras and setting intentions,” Cimino says. “I do this because everything we involve ourselves in has a story and energy intertwined within, and I believe in the importance of making the story of my jewelry pure and positive.”

For co-founder of the jewelry company Puck Wanderlust, Ranelle Chapman, a core mantra pulls together the focus of her brand with it being “one of collaboration and the shared wealth of skills to create something unique yet mindfully made,” says the company’s website. “The interest in sustainability is at the heart of the brand — from packaging to production.” Founded in 2015 in London, the name is derived from “Puck,” a mischievous fairy in English folklore, and “Wanderlust,” a strong desire for travel and adventure. The company’s team traveled outside of its home country to India and Bali where its jewelry is handcrafted.

Sun Mandala bracelet in silver
by Puck Wanderlust.

A mix of different gold rings with onyx and moonstone by Puck Wanderlust. 

Photos courtesy of Puck Wanderlust

Moon Mandala pendant necklace in gold
by Puck Wanderlust.

 Puck Wanderlust works with small family-owned suppliers in these countries, their suppliers using recycled materials where possible while providing fair wages for their staff. According to the company, “we are committed to the ethical sourcing of our semi-precious stones and work closely with suppliers to ensure that they adhere to our code of conduct, which outlines strict standards of business behaviour.”

Puck Wanderlust also draws design inspiration from the countries that provide them with their materials. The latest “Bombay Deco Collection” is inspired by Indian Art Deco with geometric motifs and vibrant colors and patterns, according to Puck Wanderlust. In this collection, every design is handcrafted using 100-percent recycled silver and 18-carat gold vermeil, with each stone being “lovingly set.”

Niki Grandics, founder and designer of Enji Studio Jewelry in California, also sources her materials from around the world, buying them as close to the source as possible, she says, with rutile coming from a Pyramid mine in Bahia Brazil and her rich red rubies from Liberia. Grandics, who has always loved fashion and design, chose to ethically source her materials after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013. The devastating event killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured over 2,000 more people, shaking the fashion industry to the core and causing companies to change where they source their materials. “The factory produced clothing for large brands I shopped with at the time,” Grandics says, “and it was shocking to me that so many young women — most garment workers are women age 18 to 35 — died so that young women like me in the West could buy the latest trends.”

Puck Wanderlust

Photo courtesy of Enji Studio Jewelry

Grandics’s favorite recent creation, the Ankoma Pendant. It’s made of rutilated hematite stone and hand-fabricated with recycled gold. 

Enji — its name derived from Grandics initials “N” and “G” — goes beyond making modern and minimalist styles, but looks to shed light on issues in the industry that people may not be aware of, supporting projects that help end the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury, which is harmful to people and the surrounding environment.

Grandics’ future plans include putting together a map of where all the gemstones come from, creating “radical transparency,” something she believes fashion companies should start doing, along with becoming completely sustainable. “We only have this planet as far as I know and, given the scale of climate change, I think it’s imperative,” Grandics says. “If it can’t be reused, recycled, or biodegraded, it shouldn’t be in production, period.”

Photo courtesy of Enji Studio Jewelry

Aline Pendant: 2.25ct rutilated quartz and recycled 14k gold.

Paavo Studs: Recycled 14k gold, Montana sapphires and Canadamark diamonds.

Photos courtesy of Enji Studio Jewelry

Faustina Ring: Ruby slice, Montana sapphires and recycled 14k rose gold.

Upon learning that her engagement ring possibly contained a conflict diamond, CEO and founder of MiaDonna Anna-Mieke Anderson knew she had to make things right for herself and the jewelry industry. “I started sponsoring Ponpon, a 7-year-old boy in Liberia, Africa,” Anderson says. “It’s through our letters that I got a first-hand look at the realities of living in a diamond mining community. I will never forget the day he wrote to me and said, ‘I had a great summer because only one of my classmates was killed.’”

Anderson set out to source conflict-free diamonds the best possible way she could find: growing them in a lab. MiaDonna has led the evolution in the lab-grown diamond industry, with the company debuting the largest USA-grown diamond at the time, at 6.28 carats in 2016. To help combat the issue, Anderson created a foundation, The Greener Diamond, that works together with MiaDonna, and empowers communities to grow food instead of mining diamonds. With each purchase of a piece from MiaDonna, the money goes toward programs that restore the lives and lands of people in sub-Saharan Africa affected by mining.

©2016 Alex Milan Tracy

Anderson’s company, MiaDonna, is named after the two most influential people in her life: her daughter, Mia, and her late mother, Donna.

According to Anderson, people should become more aware of where their jewelry is coming from because “every time we make a purchase, we are voting with our money.” Anderson is proud of where her company is headed, recently becoming B Corp certified in America, the first lab-grown diamond retailer to do so. But she isn’t going to stop there, looking toward the planet, her cause, and more importantly, the people, as her reason for making a difference. “As for the little boy, Ponpon, he just completed University and runs our foundation projects in Liberia, Africa.”

Custom lab-grown diamond ring by MiaDonna.

Photos courtesy of MiaDonna

Paris ring set with natural recycled diamonds by MiaDonna.

Leave a comment
hello

Safe & Sound

When it comes to kitchens, the popularity of all things smart and sanitary is soaring, as consumers gravitate toward antimicrobial features.

Almost a sous chef, innovative, hands-free faucets such as U by Moen fill pots with exact amounts of hot or cold water or anything in between.

Seemingly overnight, touchless faucets, easy-open drawers and an ever-growing array of kitchen tech morphed from “nice-to-have” amenities to “must-haves” as the desire for cleanliness and safety eclipsed convenience.

Indoor air quality, purified water and clean surfaces rank high with consumers. Before the pandemic, interest in wellness at home was on the rise; now, amenities that bring a hygienic benefit, particularly in the kitchen, top wellness demands. A desire for simplification with easy-to-clean cabinets and counters along with healthy living are micro themes expected to steer product development and design in the future, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

Even trusted materials such as wood, cork and brass are now considered for their capacity to shed germs or resist contamination. “All our faucets are solid brass construction and therefore, by the very nature of the metal, have additional antimicrobial properties,” points out Noah Taft, senior vice president of marketing and sales at California Faucets, noting the benefit of brass over less costly materials

Pure Water

As the desire for healthy homes builds, so does interest in water quality. Filtration has become an important focus, according to experts at Kohler, who say more than 75 percent of customers already take measures to filter their drinking water. In January, Kohler introduced a four-stage reverse osmosis purification system designed to fit in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. The system reduces contaminants, including lead, mercury, chlorine, bacteria, virus, arsenic, copper, fluoride and more. With a capacity of 27.5 gallons per day, it would replace approximately 200, 16.9 oz. bottles of water.

Water Appliance

Sinks used to be, well, just sinks, until Rohl and other manufacturers elevated the status to “water appliance.” According to estimates, the kitchen sink used to be frequented 10 to 30 times a day. Now, after weeks of sheltering at home and a hyper-focus on handwashing, the sink is getting more use than ever and receiving lots of scrutiny regarding design, ease of use and even appearance.

“Kitchen sinks and faucets are on the front lines of keeping a home clean and safe — used continuously for food preparation, hand and dishwashing,” says Edyta Drutis, director, brand and communications, at Blanco North America. Blanco’s Silgranit stone-like sink material is nonporous, resistant to stains, scratches, chips, acid and heat. Acting as a shield against dirt and contaminants, it reduces bacterial growth by 98 percent. The hydrophobic surface pushes away dirt and water, so it drains easily and cleans with soap and water or baking soda.

When it comes to sinks, bigger continues to be better. Even before the pandemic, experts at the National Kitchen and Bath Association noted increased demand for large sinks to accommodate tasks as diverse as washing fresh produce and jumbo pans, to babies and the
occasional pup.

More Power Per Drop

Look for faucets designed to do more than deliver water. Lenova introduced a model that takes washing produce or the dog’s bowl to the next level by integrating ozone into the flow. Recognized as a safe, non-toxic way to kill viruses, bacteria, mold, yeast and algae within seconds of contact, aqueous ozone has been extensively tested and clinically proven, according to Lenova. Not only does it sanitize surfaces, but it can be used to wash produce, and it even removes pesticides. 

Adding more cleaning power to each drop, particularly for sprays, is another objective for manufacturers. Kohler recently introduced options such as a faucet sprayer with nozzles aligned to create a forceful blade of water to sweep away stuck-on food. Another, a soft spray, preps berries without bruising. Moen optimized its sprays to deliver 50 percent more spray power while containing the splash — great for messy pots and messy hands.

Look Ma, No Hands!

Touch-free faucets have been around for a few years. In the first versions, sensors would activate the flow in response to a motion. Then, voice control was added. The most recent innovation enables homeowners to activate faucets via Alexa or Google Home. Turning the water on and off is only part of what U by Moen — a Best of KBIS 2020 winner — delivers. Instead, it can fill a baby bottle with just the right amount of water at the right temperature or load a pasta pot with precisely four quarts of hot water, freeing the cook for other tasks. Metered dispensing ranges from one tablespoon to 15 gallons, and temperature commands can be exact degrees or merely hot or cold. “Baby bottle” and other customizable presets simplify commands.

Hard As Glass

“Glass tiles are not porous and do not possess characteristics that allow or promote the growth or life of microbes, bacteria, or germs,” explains Jim Stevens, brand manager for Lunada Bay Tile. “Keep in mind that the grout between each tile is porous and does not have these same characteristics. However, grout is usually set down, below the top surface of the tiles, so direct contact is less likely. And grout could be sealed with an antimicrobial sealer to create a safe and sanitary surface.”

Glass tiles, which are nonporous, also mesmerize.

Leave a comment
hello

Enjoying the Stay

Residents of AKA Beverly Hills can enjoy the outdoor residents-only lounge, a spacious landscaped terrace with spectacular views of the Hollywood Hills.

Photo ©2014 Eric Staudenmaier.

In these times of social distancing and working from home, any amount of travel feels like an enormous reprieve from the new normal. Those needing or looking for high-end lodging away from home, for work or otherwise, might feel anxious striking out into a new city or living in a safe, clean environment. One brand is offering luxury, semi-permanent rental spaces in cities around the country that feel safe and more than comfortable.

The AKA brand originally formed in 2005 with the idea of recognizing an “unmet need in major cities for luxury extended-stay apartments with hotel services,” according to Elana Friedman, chief marketing officer of AKA. Founder Larry Korman and his family conceptualized furnished apartments that would satisfy residents’ need for flexible living arrangements without sacrificing luxury. Since then, according to Friedman, these innovative ideas have grown to incorporate the best in cuisine, design, wellness and technology in metropolitan locations all over, including London, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

AKA specializes in weekly and monthly stays, therefore creating a “home away from home experience for our residents, no matter where they are traveling from,” Friedman says. She adds that to meet the demand of those who are looking for a self-sufficient living experience, AKA offers luxurious furnished apartments with modern kitchens, spacious floor plans and services as requested, all furnished in a contemporary style by renowned designers.

Each AKA location offers a diverse range of services designed to provide residents with comfort, choice and luxury for any length of stay. All locations provide on-site services such as a 24-hour front desk, dedicated doorman, meticulous housekeeping, valet and laundering, in-suite dining, secure transportation, and more. Private amenity spaces are included as well, from thoughtfully designed fitness centers and lounges, to cafes and cinemas.

With the developing public health crisis, priorities over privacy and cleanliness have grown, as well as a need for safe workspaces. AKA has not only recognized these concerns, but has adapted to remain open and flexible to residents. 

“We concepted flexible office suites that will allow a person to book a suite to work, rent as a socially distanced office, or have the bed removed to create a workspace for two employees,” Friedman says. These suites also feature a full kitchen, private bathroom, copier/printer/scanner, complimentary WiFi, and can be booked on a weekly or monthly basis.

Flexible office space at AKA Central Park in New York.

Photo courtesy AKA Hotel Residences.

AKA Beverly Hills offers a contemporary residential oasis boasting suites with custom furnishings, private balconies and more.

Photo ©2018 Eric Staudenmaier

Private workspace at AKA University City.

Photo © Halkin Mason Photography

When it comes to traveling in today’s world, finding a balance between privacy and engaging activities can be difficult and have the potential to change the hospitality industry at its core. However, brands like AKA that are already seeing changes in what was “normal” prior to the pandemic, are finding ways to stay ahead. “People are now and will continue to be more hyper-focused on the cleanliness and safety of their surroundings, and these facets are taking the lead when planning a trip or experience,” Friedman notes. “Given that, we anticipate travelers will look for more extended-stay or serviced residence options coming out of the downturn as a way to have greater control over their accommodations.”

With AKA’s Live It! Program, AKA residents are encouraged to uncover new experiences like a local, while keeping safe in socially distanced settings. “From custom fitness sessions, improv classes, trapeze lessons, cooking classes and more, AKA connects travelers with the fabric of a city,” Friedman says. She adds that another new opportunity exclusive to AKA is an East Coast road trip package that offers travelers a chance to experience New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., all in one trip. With two to three hours of driving between each destination, the getaway gives residents the opportunity to embark on a journey of sightseeing, outdoor activities, photo opportunities, local eateries, history and iconic stops along the way to the next city, all in a custom, outdoor, social-distanced activity itinerary.

For more information on the AKA East Coast Road Trip, visit the link here.

For more information on AKA’s Flexible Office Spaces, visit their website here. 

Leave a comment
hello

Nap Bars

Khaliah O. Guillory, Owner of Nap Bar

A new set of businesses aims to help a sleep-deprived society relax and rejuvenate.

Nap bars. Upon hearing about this concept, various images come to mind, from a series of bedrooms with designated time slots for napping, to a pillowy oasis set in the clouds. While some ideas are more fantastical than others, the meaning behind many nap bar businesses and their missions is far more down to earth.

Whether naps are offered as a complimentary service or finely curated in a luxury setting, the importance of sleep has been reinvigorated by companies like these who know that the benefits of napping are nothing to sneeze (or snore) at in today’s world. 

In recent years, with the rise of globalization and businesses running 24/7, productivity can and has for some time become a priority. Maria Jose Hernandez of recharj, a meditation studio headquartered in Washington, D.C., says the needs of the human body should take precedence, however. 

An avid lover of naps since childhood, Guillory developed her company as a way to keep herself from “taking naps in [her] car.” 
Photos courtesy Nap Bar.

“Science has proven that sleep is how you are able to learn, retain memory — all these functions that we need to be productive.” 

Many nap bars and sleep-oriented businesses have been developed by busy business professionals and entrepreneurs who found themselves suffering from sleep deprivation or sleep-related issues. For example, Khaliah O. Guillory was working at a Fortune 500 company and struggled with getting restful sleep when she was inspired to open Nap Bar in Houston. An avid lover of naps since childhood, she developed her company as a way to keep herself from “taking naps in [her] car,” and engage other young professionals to rest, relax and feel rejuvenated through a curated, white-glove napping experience.

Top: Zen – Bar à Sieste Weightless Chair and VR.

Photos courtesy Zen – Bar à Sieste

Christophe Chanhsavang and his wife, Virginie, have had similar trials and tribulations. From Virginie’s corporate work hours to Christophe’s long hours of study, he realized from his experience working in the UK, China and Greece how much the concept of wellness was nonexistent in the French society. To avoid taking more naps in the office bathroom, Chanhsavang says they founded Zen – Bar à Sieste in 2011 in Paris and have since approached wellness from a holistic perspective by promoting sleep, nutrition, physical activity and mental health. 

Professionals in the wellness industry have noted and continue to highlight the importance of sleep, which in turn has led to research and results into the benefits of napping. Guillory offers facts that have helped fuel the educational aspect of Nap Bar, including a NASA statistic that suggests shorter nap durations are better for reducing the impact of sleep inertia, a physiological state of impairment that affects cognitive and sensory-motor performance.*

Mauricio Villamizar, CEO of Pop & Rest in London, takes these findings a step further, noting how a lack of sleep can ultimately lead to disruptions in workflow. “Sleep deprivation is linked to lower productivity at work and it’s one of the main drivers of absenteeism … in the workplace. If we translate this into working days, we are looking at around 200,000 working days being lost each year in the UK only. In terms of economic consequences, it’s around £40 billion, almost 2 percent of the UK’s GDP,” Villamizar says.

Wellness overall has seen a resurgence in strength from businesses like these, as health has come to be the utmost priority of nations around the world. And just like there are many types of methods of getting and staying well, there are a variety of ways to nap.

Pop & Rest is a London-based wellness startup that connects locals and travelers with sleep and meditation pods, offering clients safe and secure spaces to unwind, rest, and work peacefully. According to Villamizar, customers can visit one of the company’s various locations throughout London and become immersed in a calm environment where the pods are situated.

“Once you are inside, your pod will be like a box that features a single bed, small table, along with accessories to change lights, music and the aroma,” he says, noting that everything is built to ensure the best relaxation experience. The pods are movable and soundproofed, and only require a power supply and WiFi connection to function, an enticing offer for companies looking to purchase these pods for their own offices.

The aforementioned Nap Bar curates a luxury napping experience for customers, which Guillory says is ensured by engaging all five senses. For sight, all of the custom suites are outfitted with mood lighting that is adjustable; for taste, a duo of raw juice shots are offered with rich nutrients and ingredients that aid in relaxing the body pre-nap, and waking it up post-nap; for hearing, exclusive brain waves are curated for each client and played inside suites that increases the release of melatonin in the body by 97 percent; and for smell, an aromatherapy pillow mist infused with lavender is available.

recharj – D.C. meditation room and class.

Photos courtesy recharj

Pop & Rest sleep pod for napping.

Photo courtesy Pop & Rest.

The final sense, of touch, goes a step further, as all suites include an organic, locally sourced mattress, linens and sheets, and each room is painted with toxin-free paint. All of these inclusions are accompanied by a full-service concierge who will guide customers through the experience and help them on their wellness journey

According to Chanhsavang of Zen – Bar à Sieste, wellness is the future of humanity, a future he aims to advance with the Siesta Bar, which combines technological and traditional means of treatment for sleep deprivation. For nap services, customers can choose from a luxurious memory foam retreat, a zero-gravity massage chair or a Shiatsu bed; for aiding in relaxation and overall wellness, complimentary services include massages, virtual-reality meditation and even a fish spa.

As a meditation studio, recharj has been offering premier restorative practices to help clients, which includes the use of power naps. According to Hernandez, during open hours these power nap sessions are curated to be 25 minutes long and offered in large Yogibo chairs, a favorite for many. “A client once described them to me as if you’re laying down in a cloud,” Hernandez says, which only adds to the whole-body experience.

Binaural beats are also incorporated into the nap session, a type of music melody that registers at different frequencies that are meant to relax your body and get it ready for sleep. Overall, the studio aims to bring a sense of relaxation as well as mindfulness through meditation to its clients. “We offer workshops about mindful leadership, mindful communication and mindfulness in general,” Hernandez says, which in turn helps clients learn ways to de-stress and regain focus on whatever tasks lay ahead.

Unlike the typical fad that comes and goes, wellness is rooted in a deep need for comfort and stability. As we write this, we’re in the midst of a public health crisis, and brick and mortar locations may not be open. But there are ways to implement the wisdom of these businesses from your own home. Studios like recharj continue to offer online meditation classes, in an effort to keep a consistent schedule that is based solely on keeping well. And though the future is uncertain, businesses like Pop & Rest, Nap Bar and Zen – Bar à Sieste continue to work and create solutions for customers, from promoting online educational sessions and tips to developing applications, products and services for when businesses are fully up and running.

“Wellness is not just a fashion, but a fundamental trend in our societies,” Chanhsavang asserts. “Hopefully the nap services and related businesses will become a game-changer in the hospitality industry.”

*Source: NASA conducted a study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts and found a 26-minute nap increased productivity by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent.

Leave a comment
hello

Luxury Waterfront Property on Hilton Head Island

Only once in a lifetime does a legacy property like 136 Fort Walker Drive become available! A unique home with spectacular water views on 3 sides, a stunning great room featuring floor to ceiling windows with 270-degree views. This elegant 2-story waterfront home features 2 master suites, 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, gourmet kitchen, granite counters, 3-car garage and a boating dock. This private enclave is perfect for entertaining and enjoying. Located where Port Royal Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean, delight in brilliant sunrises and sunsets from multi-level decks, swim in the sea or the pool, or relax in the spa or on your own private beach surrounded by nature. $4,395,000

Click here for a virtual tour of this stunning South Carolina property! 

For more information, contact:

Wayne McDonald
Premier Island Properties
hiltonheadluxuryproperties.com
info@hiltonheadluxuryproperties.com
843.384.5764

Leave a comment
hello

Lifestyle and Longevity

The trends changing houses in 2020 and beyond.

By Camilla McLaughlin

New values, shifting demographics and technology are all transformative agents in 2020, and each will shape real estate and design well into the next decade. Some, such as outdoor living, are not new, while others, including the importance of ancillary spaces or a desire for slightly smaller but highly customized homes, are just getting underway. Farmhouse is out; contemporary, along with modern interpretations of traditional styles, is finding favor with architects and home buyers. Attitudes about what’s important in a home beyond an open floorplan, and even the open concept itself, are being reconsidered and revised. Color is back. Experts tell us the passion for grey and all-white kitchens is waning, although in practice designers also say neutrals still dominate.

Got all of that?

Even the term “move-up buyer” has a new meaning. “Move up doesn’t necessarily mean move into a bigger home as it did for previous generation,” explains Leigh Spicher, national director of design studios for Ashton Woods. “Today’s move up buyers expect quality and are willing to invest in special features in their home.” For upscale owners, preferences are likely to lean toward diversification in favor of several properties in different locations rather than a large estate home.

Each year, The Best in American Living program (BALA), an annual design competition held by the National Association of Home Builders, showcases award-winning design and architecture and pinpoints current and growing trends. Awards this year, based on homes built in 2019, showcased a range of styles from midcentury modern to transitional to contemporary expressions rooted in traditional styles or regional aesthetics.

Another change, according to Don Ruthro , principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning and this year’s judging chair, is more homes with the same style inside and out, which he says conveys a greater sense of authenticity.

Even in production homes architects are pushing for more character and uniqueness with thoughtful, well edited design elements. Well edited, according to BALA, means a genuine purpose of place and points of interest that draw the eye across the facade without all of the fussiness of past decades.

Curated design details are another design trend BALA judges highlight. “It’s clear that buyers want their home to feel personalized to their taste. From ceiling textures to shelving choices to mullion size. Every detail matters, and today’s educated buyers won’t settle for anything less,” they explain.

Other trends play into the desire for personalization. Anything that adds texture is on trend, especially wallpaper. Also enhancing personalization are unique applications of wood to highlight forms and also warm up interiors. Compared to prior years, the use of wood, often a dark hue with a matt fi nish, mixed with other surfaces, was very much in evidence in homes, new and remodeled, constructed to showcase current trends at the International Builders Show. Adding to the depth created by an overlay of textures in a home is the use of mixed metal finishes, with gold tones very much in evidence.

No facets of design are left to chance or convenience, even lighting. “Like other design details, just installing what’s on hand without added thought about placement just won’t fly with the 2020 buyer,” further advise BALA judges. Curated design details, personalized lighting design and texture were all highlighted as trends buyers can expect to see in homes over the next few years.

Even though kitchen, great room and dining — casual or formal — combined into a central living space continues to dominate, how that space is organized and expressed in an overall fl oorplan is slowly evolving. “Open space plans for the family room, kitchen, and dining area are still going strong. Our challenge in open plans is how to defi ne each space and give it some separation while still maintaining the overall open feel,” says Chicago designer Donna Mondi.

In California, designer Christine Markatos Lowe says the open plan is going strong, and perhaps the biggest change has been the addition of a second functional space to kitchens. For higherpriced homes, the presence of a back kitchen, whether a full-blown kitchen, a large walk in pantry or a butler’s pantry, has become a must have, central to keeping the main kitchen streamlined and clutter free.

Colorful kitchens? Maybe.

Examples at the national kitchen and bath industry show refl ected forecasts calling for color to punch up kitchens. Dark blues and earthy greens combined with wood finishes often clad lower cabinets and islands. Still, a number of designers express reservations regarding too much color. Wood cabinets continue to be on trend, mixed with other finishes.

“There has been a shift back into furniture-style cabinetry, exposed appliances (there’s always a place for LaCornue!), and especially statement marble countertops. European influences have made their way into the modern kitchen and I couldn’t be happier,” adds Mondi.

Another trend in renovations, Lowe says, is to open sightlines so rooms feel more connected to each other but still have their own language. “So it’s a combination of both things we’re seeing.”

“The main living spaces are getting bigger and more integrated with each other, but a good architect will design in such a way so they feel like individual spaces even though it’s part of one room,” says Bob Zuber, AIA, who is a partner at Morgante Wilson Architects in Evanston, Illinois.

Tricked Out Extras

Chances are what makes a house special for most buyers is not the number of bedrooms or even a great open plan but extras, what K. Tyler, also a partner and head of Interior Design at Morgante Wilson, dubs ancillary spaces. From tricked out mudrooms and laundry rooms to glass-enclosed wine rooms to pantries and second kitchens, what might be extras are essentials to buyers often shaping a unique living experience and often tilting them in favor of a certain house or floorplan. Offices, dens and studies will continue to be important additions to open plans. Nine times out of 10, homes with these features are going to be preferred over ones that just have big rooms, says Tyler.

Signature front entries are also gaining prominence. Expect to see continued emphasis on front entries. Foyers are designed to be functional but also to make a dazzling first impression.

Preferences for these features and quality over square footage extend to a range of price brackets. According to the National Association of Home Builders annual survey of buyer preferences, more buyers overall are likely to choose less square foot but higher quality homes with desirable features such as large walk-in master closets and energy efficient windows and lighting over large homes with fewer features.

Innovative materials continue to be important change agents. Consider outdoor living, one of the most transformative trends of the last decade. The modest pool and patio is now an array of open air venues and outdoor rooms. Pools and fire features are equally artful and functional. Rather than just an amenity tacked on to the house, outdoor connections are now the main orientation and organizing element for plans. Transitions between the two are hardly noticeable thanks to new materials and finishes, extending flooring beyond interiors. Master bedrooms morph into full blown retreats with their own outdoor spaces.

Innovative plans further bring green spaces deep into the home via interior courtyards. Expect to see more ways to bridge inside with outside as the decade progresses. Most recently, super large panes of glass and larger glass doors, further enhance visual connections and light-filled interiors. In most regions of the country, an indoor/outdoor sync is considered a “must have” for luxury, and there are no indications the penchant for outdoor connections will diminish. Among BALA trends, expansive largeformat windows along with sophisticated indoor/outdoor connections figured prominently.

Thinking Long Term

Beginning with the recovery, the tenure of homeownership increased. Instead of the 4.21-year average, typical from 2000 to 2007, ownership extended to 8 years or longer, hitting a record high in the end of 2018, with some cities — Boston, San Francisco and Hartford — charting tenures of 10 years or more. Whether or not this is a trend worth watching or simply a blip on the charts remains to be seen, but it is a solid indicator of changing attitudes toward home that spills over into design, interiors, even furnishings. Increasingly owners in almost all price brackets are thinking long term and lifestyle when it comes to their homes.

Resale seems to have moved to the back burner. Instead, consumers look for features and fi nishes that uniquely sync with and enhance their lifestyle. “I would say people are tailoring the house more specifically towards they way they want to live,” explains Zuber, noting sometimes those same features will also enhance resale.

According to Ashton Woods’ 2020 design trends survey, 86 percent of today’s buyers said home personalization is important.

Another indication of consumers anticipating longer ownership is growing interest in fl exible spaces and also in accommodating a range of ages. The term flexible spaces is taking on a new meaning. Instead of extra footage for a mancave or teen hangout, it’s viewed as versatile rooms that can change over time, explains Spicher. Perhaps a nursery today and a home o ce tomorrow. Or as many owners (55 percent in Ashton Woods Design survey) say, space that can transform into additional living space in the future for an aging family member or boomerang children.

More clients even in the 40s are looking to use the house when they are older and are planning to these accommodations with wider doors and space for an elevator shaft, say Tyler and Zuber.

Smart Home Challenges

In the next decade, smart home technology will change homes more than any other factor. Already new homes beyond a certain price point include a range of apps and devices, particularly in the kitchens, where manufacturers are already adding connections among appliances such as the hood with a range top. Also, voice control. Some brands also incorporate technology that enables some repairs to be made remotely. “What’s exciting is that every passing second, we get one step closer to a context-aware smart home. Manufacturers are pushing the boundaries. Developments in the areas of sensing technology and AI will result in appliances, fi xtures and systems that automatically respond and adapt to our home and environment changes,” says Kate Bailey, senior director of Category Management at Ferguson Enterprises.

“It’s not so much about new things as it is about things getting smaller, faster, lighter better integrated, so they get to the point where smart becomes livable and something you want to put in your homes,” says Melissa Morman, client experience officer at Builders Digital Experience.

Looking ahead, the key, the most transformative feature will be the development of an operating system that will integrate diverse function which will enhance integration and connection of devices and enable a home to further adapt to changing conditions.

Also on the horizon is a desire for homes to be a nurturing center for wellness, a capability that will be enhanced by new technology.

Leave a comment
hello

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

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

The mid-century modern main house features four bedrooms and a heated terrace. Most of the main rooms have beautiful views of the lake. The house has been expanded and undergone extensive renovations to create what is now a 5,490 square foot home. The charming mid-century modern ranch style was retained and the great room features a stunning wood-paneled cathedral ceiling, two fireplaces, and floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors, which provide fantastic views of the lake. The open floor plan, along with the skylights, allows the home to be filled with even more natural light. The master bedroom suite includes two baths, an office and a walk-in closet.

The current owner purchased the adjacent property, which was then razed to create the gigantic 4.3-acre lot on the water. The property also includes a charming guest cottage with lake views and a quaint 1,065-square-foot farmhouse with two bedrooms, plus an additional carriage house.

The estate, listed for $9.5 million by Kay Agney of Higbie Maxon Agney Realtors, is one of the largest estates in Grosse Pointe — and the scenic home is the ideal place to lead a quiet life, surrounded by trees, with a perfect view of lake St. Clair.

For more information about this property, contact:

Kay Agney-Broker/Owner

Cell: 313 460 3041

83 Kercheval Avenue, GP Farms, MI

www.higbiemaxon.com

This property was featured in the Unique Homes Ultimate 2020 Issue. Click the link to learn more!

Photo courtesy of Kay Agney.

Leave a comment
hello

365 Days of Summer

With summer in full swing, vibrant colors and shining sun make spending long days outdoors a treat. Nature’s textures, sights, and patterns boost your mood and energy, enhancing the feeling of a perfect summer day. Why not bring the outdoors in, and create your space to enjoy a summer state of mind all year round?

Koket’s artistic and product designers have crafted summer decor perfect for creating an indoor retreat. Forget minimalism, Koket says to go big and go decorative for a maximalist approach to pattern, color, texture, and accessories. 

Incorporating natural materials, such as the classic white marble in Koket’s Vengeance Table Lamp, are a perfect way to capture pieces of nature. The shape of the golden hand on the lamp also adds unique flair to the piece. 

The vibrant colors of the Seville Pouf from the KK by Koket collection make it a fun, playful accent seat that is sure to add a summer feel to your space. Next to the swirling curves and glass top of the Kiki Side Table, this set-up is the perfect destination for enjoying a summer cocktail.

Curling up in the cozy Koket Audrey Chair in your favorite reading corner will make you feel like you are enjoying light summer reading on your favorite beach. Or, bring some of the outdoor summer sky indoors, with the uplifting sky blue color of the Tayma Chair from the KK by Koket collection.

Exotic animal touches can help your space get in touch with the great outdoors. A perfectly placed, subtle piece of exotic decoration will make a statement in your home. Koket’s Serpentine Collection adds allure and glamour to any space, such as the Serpentine II’s apple-shaped mirror or Serpentine Chandelier. Feathers also add a one-of-a-kind, soft touch to pieces. Koket’s natural feathers are combined in patterns of waves, natural stripes, and diamond crisscross, and are available by the panel or as a finish on numerous furniture designs.

By utilizing bold, summer touches in your interior decorating, you can bet that summer feel will stick around all 365 days of the year.

Photos courtesy of Koket 

1 Comment
hello

Furniture Shopping Made Simple

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, people and businesses have had to adapt to a “new normal,” with daily life shaken up by social distancing and limited physical contact. Making changes to adhere to guidelines while keeping people safe often requires some creativity, and MY Furniture, a luxury, high-quality furniture retailer, has made it easy for customers to enjoy furniture shopping without ever having to leave their homes.

First, MY Furniture introduced a Video Call Facility for customers, a video call-in appointment that allows people to easily visit the company’s virtual showroom. By navigating to the website and clicking the “Request Video Call” button, a member of the MY Furniture team will be able to call the customer at a suitable date and time via FaceTime, Skype, or WhatsApp depending on the customer’s preference to show them the item they are interested in. This is also helpful for busy customers who would rather skip out on viewing furniture pieces in person in a showroom.  

To control the flow of customers in and out of their showrooms, MY Furniture has also introduced an appointment system, adhering to social distancing and capacity guidelines. Deliveries are handled by couriers that deliver to the front door, and not inside the property, to maintain cleanliness.

Increased social distancing and personal appointments have proven to fare well for MY Furniture, with the changes resulting in a 30-percent increase in online business and an increase in older customers shopping online who previously would not have shopped this way. With new adaptations like virtual shopping and private appointments becoming the norm, customers can rest assured that furniture shopping can effectively be a safe, enjoyable experience.

Photos courtesy of MY Furniture 

Leave a comment
hello
Style Selector
Select the layout
Choose the theme
Preset colors
No Preset
Select the pattern