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Unique Homes Online Exclusive
During the mid-year height of the Covid-19 pandemic, real estate agents comment on how the market stood, and in some cases prevailed, under enormous pressure.
This past Fall, luxury real estate agents from across the country spoke on Unique Homes’ first Zoom panel to discuss topics from the recent article “Space: The New Currency,” from Unique Homes Magazine’s recent Fall issue, written by Camilla McLaughlin. On this exclusive virtual panel, agents were able to discuss how the real estate markets of America endured (and continue to endure) through the turbulence that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused. Throughout the discussion, these experienced panelists spoke on the changes their area(s) have undergone and the how the pandemic has affected the homebuying process. We’ve highlighted some of our distinguished panelists and their unique experiences below.
Mauricio Umansky, Founder/CEO of The Agency
Los Angeles, CA
In the beginning of “Space: The New Currency,” Mauricio Umansky, Founder and CEO of The Agency, notes that in the midst of the pandemic, consumers who were staying at home also found themselves asking impactful questions regarding their homes and their futures: where am I sequestering versus where am I at home? What do I want my home to look like? What do I want my second home to look like?
As one of the opening speakers, Umansky adds that though many of these questions may not be answered right away, the pandemic proved to be a catalyst for many potential home buyers to start a dialogue with their local real estate agents. “Sequestering at home, stay in, shelter in place, whatever it is we want to call it, has caused a conversation that is equal amongst everybody, whether it’s politically driven, whether it’s answering ‘what do I want to do with my life?’ and understanding that we can now work and operate from anywhere.”
Courtney Hampson, Vice President of Marketing
Palmetto Bluff, SC
Palmetto Bluff is a community in coastal South Carolina that caters to a mix of primary and vacation homeowners. Courtney Hampson, Vice President of Marketing for Palmetto Bluff, says on the panel that at the beginning of the pandemic many residents were already staying in Palmetto Bluff due to Spring Break, and were mandated to stay due to the shutdown. Many stayed until May when the state began opening up again, and there were several instances where those who extended their stay ended up moving to Palmetto Bluff full time. About a particular couple from New York with young children, Hampson says “They literally walked down the street into our real estate office, went on our tour, looked at available homes, closed two days later, our fastest closing ever, and that was it. ‘This is where we are,’ they said, ‘This is the plan now.'”
During the panel Hampson also stated that the utilization of virual tours and showings became more widely utilized, so much that they had to include the option on their website right away on their website.” She also noted that in the midst of everything, they found that buyers were buying almost like they were suffering from FOMO, or a Fear of Missing Out. “[Clients] are booking their stay at the hotel first, and … they have almost a fear of missing out. They’re not waiting to get here to look at real estate — they’re doing that virtually, going under contract and seeing their property the first time they come to visit.”
Carrie Wells, Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate
Though located on the opposite side of the United States, Carrie Wells of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate in Aspen, Colorado experienced similar situations as Hampson had in South Carolina. March is typically the latter part of the state’s skiing season, but due to the pandemic the season was cut short, and those visiting found themselves sequestering in Aspen — and staying. She remarked that you can see this reflected in the school district alone, where 175 new students were admitted and a weight list was created for the Aspen Country Day School, Aspen’s main private school. She also noted that with the help of Matterport virtual tour technology many sales were able to happen, as clients wanted to be able to visit openings safely.
Wells remarked about her own experience with a New York family who stayed in Aspen until the summer. “He said, ‘I never realized that Aspen is so enjoyable in April and May,’ which are normally our off-season months. … People have experienced being here year-round, when they normally would not be here, and there’s so much to do other than downhill skiing that I think regardless of what happens with our winter, we’re still going to see our market continue to be strong.”
Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty
The title of the article “Space: The New Currency,” as well as the main point of discussion for the panel, was inspired by profound statement by Frank Aazami of Russ Lyon Sothebby’s International Realty. During the panel Aazami notes that when the pandemic began and people were sequestering, he noticed that areas that were previously difficult to sell beforehand, regions outside of Phoenix and Scottsdale such as Fountains Hills, Cave Creek, etc, were now like beacons that buyers were gravitating towards. Before there were no sales north of $3 million, but eventually there were closings reaching upwards of $4 and $6 million. The reasoning for this market change? Space!
In the article Aazami notes that from his region of Scottsdale, Arizona, his experience during the pandemic that no matter what buyers were generally looking for, a vacation home, relocation refuge, etc., the key point he saw was that consumers were looking for a safe haven, with plenty of space. Not only that, but consumers are also requesting specifics when it comes to this space in order to make their purchases personal and customized to their lifestyles, from multiple offices and indoor gyms to view decks and larger patios.
Chris Bernier, Churchill Properties
Boston’s North Shore, MA
Located just 30 minutes outside of Boston, Chris Bernier of Churchill Properties notes during the Zoom panel that despite the usual trends of buyers looking for smaller, more minimalistic style homes, space really is the new currency. He affirms that many buyers in his market are flocking toward the larger homes. These market shifts are no doubt due to the pandemic shifting priorities, and continues to show
James Torrance, Keller Williams Luxury International
Palm Beach, FL
James Torrance from Palm Beach, Florida has much to say about the pandemic has shifted Florida into more than just a retirement or snowbird refuge, seen in these clips from the Zoom discussion. He notes further that in fact a large wave of buyers from California and more specifically Chicago brought interest to the area and helped close several sales, a rarity in his area. What was also interesting that he notices are the importance of the private schools and districts in South Florida, as he mentions that many buyers were shopping around different homes once they had found a school system they liked, then picking from available homes nearby.
This, alongside his points about the importance of homes with multi-functional spaces such as guesthouses and just the overall outlook on how the market has shifted, highlight just how much action Florida has seen in the past several months due to Covid-19’s effect on real estate.
Roxann Taylor, Engel & Völkers Dallas Forth Worth
As an real estate agent with 40-plus years of selling experience, Roxann Taylor of Engel & Völkers Dallas Forth Worth was a fountain of wisdom toward the end of the virtual panel. She highlighted much of which was similar to what the other panelists had noted, including buyers prioritizing homes with large space as opposed to downsizing, putting houses on the market through a near fully-virtual process, and much more.
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Inspired by various cultures around the world, this perfectly crafted, custom-built home exudes luxury. Priced at $1.15 million and located in Plano, Texas, 5317 Catamaran Drive features four bedrooms, four full baths, an office and a remarkable outdoor space.
Elegance and comfort can be found throughout the home, each room blending the two elements seamlessly. The seller, who travelled and worked around the world, wanted to bring pieces of each culture that they saw and kept in mind into the design of this home. From the Greco-Roman inspired front entry, to a Thai culture-inspired kitchen and family room, the story of each room can be felt and admired throughout.
The chef’s kitchen is fully equipped with modern appliances and boasts custom-painted kitchen cabinets and a full wet bar. Don’t miss little details in the home, such as the wet bar that features accent pieces from Walt Disney World’s Swiss Family Robinson’s Tree House.
“A part of the classic style of this immaculate home is the ability to adapt the space to your desire. No detail was overlooked, from the luxury features to the graceful and seamless connection of the interior through the sublime exterior spaces,” says listing agent Mark Bradford with Coldwell Banker Realty in Dallas-Fort Worth.
On the first floor, the living room and Egyptian-inspired master bedroom connect to the outdoor area, which is perfect for entertaining guests. Take a dip in the diving pool or sit under the covered deck. The space also features a jetted tub and gazebo area. The property sits on half an acre and offers plenty of privacy with the lush and beautiful landscaping.
For more information, please contact Mark Bradford at mark.bradford@cbdfw or 214.395.2999.
Photos courtesy of Mark Bradford.
Photos by John A. Peralta
John A. Peralta began taking things apart long before he was compelled to truly pursue art. “I was always breaking things open to see what was inside. I’ve had such wonder for the tiny components that make something work,” he says.
Now a self-taught artist based in Austin, Texas, Peralta has a unique taste for both science and how things work as well as art. While working as a business consultant, he began painting as a way to tap into and satiate his creative side. The exploded diagram, which has been an essential engineering tool, melds Peralta’s contrasting interests and inspired his work.
An exploded diagram of a bike on the back of a magazine was Peralta’s original inspiration, but since then, his work has begun to evolve over the years. “It’s more about a concept that imagines that these machines we use — that we often take for granted and use every day — they hold our memories,” according to the artist. “And sometimes in literal ways. The typewriter has an imprint of every letter, every document permanently imprinted on it. It could never be deciphered today, but nevertheless it’s in there.”
Peralta’s art reveals the inner workings of a time in history or a memory. The contrast between machinery and emotion creates enchanting displays and elicits a feeling when you see them. The idea of machinery holding memories extends to all of our objects, according to Peralta. “It’s why we become nostalgic years after for antiques or whatever it might be. We attach emotion to these things and they hold our memories and it’s sort of two-way relationships with the objects in our life.”
Peralta describes a large pile of items in his studio that he might one day choose to take apart, but there is a method to deciding which items he will display. “I usually choose something that would be considered iconic. Something highly recognizable, and familiar, but most of the time, it’s also something that is no longer in use,” he says. Often, he chooses items that people may have seen in their grandparents house or in an antique store. “Those items have a lot of emotion and nostalgia connected to them. I’m also looking for things that the designers and architects put a lot of time and careful thought into.”
“For some reason, it has a strong appeal. I’m not entirely sure why,” Peralta says about the exploded diagram concept, explaining that most people see them in their everyday lives without realizing, but their eyes still light up when they see it displayed like this. “Because it’s not like you can’t see the string. At first, I tried to hide it. I tried all different things to try and hide the suspension. But I began to realize that I actually shouldn’t hide it. The string really contributes to the piece.”
In the Future
Working mainly on commissioned pieces these days, Peralta is still working on a few ideas that continue to push the boundaries of the exploded diagram concept. When asked what his dream projects are, he says, “There’s actually two. I’ve been wanting to do — and I haven’t really gotten anyone to pull the trigger yet — and that’s a grand piano. I think it would be very impressive. I imagine it in a large hotel with a high ceiling or something like that. And the other one is a fighter jet, which would obviously be a very big piece. It would need a superstructure to support it. But I have some really cool ideas of how it would look.”
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.
A modern traditional masterpiece of privacy and perfection. An exquisite Mediterranean work of art and appeal. An elegant estate designed with soaring ceilings and refined finishes. Their common denominator? All located in the Lone Star state, and sold through Supreme Auctions, known for accelerating marketing for luxury real estate. See these exclusive sales below.
Piney Woods Edge – Houston Texas
Piney Woods Edge is a modern traditional masterpiece of privacy and perfection showcasing pristine lines of modern architecture, and the impeccable mastery of Houston’s premier homebuilder, Randy Ratcliff. Each corner of this home is filled with exquisite detail and opulent features. Located in Piney Point Village within the prominent Houston suburbs of the highly desirable Memorial Villages communities, just minutes from the heart of Houston for both business and pleasure.
Even though the property was located in a highly sought-after community called Piney Point Village in Houston, it lingered on the market for over two years with the listing agent doing all that was available to market the property to potential buyers with little to no activity. Supreme Auctions implemented our 45-day Accelerated Marketing Program which drove prospective buyers to take action.
Catina Hollow – Dallas Texas
Catina Hollow is an exquisite Mediterranean work of art that will dazzle you with its serene setting and abundant appeal. Designed with distinguished architectural elements and refined finishes throughout, this outstanding property is positioned in one of the premier estate neighborhoods in Dallas within the highly sought after Preston Hollow Community. Located a brief 15 minutes from Dallas Love Field Airport and downtown Dallas with all that the city has to offer.
The property was on the market for about a year and not stimulating any new buyer activity. With summer fast approaching, which is not the best time of year to sell in Dallas, plus the fact that the seller had already purchased another home, they chose an expedited sale with Supreme Auctions.
Starwood Creek Manor – Frisco Texas
Privately nestled on over an acre, Starwood Creek Manor is an impeccable Traditional estate designed with soaring ceilings and refined finishes throughout. Located within the gated Starwood Community, this exquisite home is positioned overlooking the creek and walking paths with access to the Community amenities. Situated within 25-minutes away from DFW International Airport.
The property was on the market for a little under a year, during which it received only seven viewings. The listing agent conducted three months of research as to which auction company to select, she contacted Supreme Auctions.
All photos courtesy Supreme Auctions.
Located in Spring Valley Village, this spacious estate sold due to the proprietary Accelerated Marketing Process of Supreme Auctions.
Supreme Auctions announced the recent closed sale of Westview Heights in West Houston, Texas. This luxury home is conveniently located within minutes of Memorial Park, as well as being a short 20-minute drive to Interstate 10, which will put you in the heart of downtown for business, the Galleria, City Center, and Memorial Shopping Center.
The results of Supreme Auctions’ accelerated marketing program for Westview Heights produced over 24,602 unique views to the website from 104 countries and 153 direct inquiries were made about the property. Supreme Auctions also received 11 registered bidders for the estate and the property sold on auction day.
“We are thrilled that the sale of Westview Heights represents our third successful transaction with John Daugherty Realtors in Houston this year,” stated Jennie Heal, President of Supreme Auctions.“With Supreme Auctions’ proprietary sales and marketing efforts, we garnered the attention of motivated buyers for this contemporary estate. In addition, our knowledge of the luxury market allowed for heightened interest and ultimate sale , which elated the seller as this home was on the market traditionally for over two years with little to no activity. The entire Supreme Auctions team is proud of having the highest success rate, at 96%, in the luxury real estate industry this year among all auction companies.”
“We decided to use Supreme Auctions for our listing because we had heard so many good things about them and they had just finished two auctions within our company, which were very successful,” stated Judy Mousa of John Daugherty Realtors. “The experience with Supreme Auctions was superb, very professional and everything about it was over the top… the marketing, the details, the feedback, and just being able to understand how it all works was wonderful. As an agent, I would definitely recommend Supreme Auctions because we feel like through this experience, not only did we sell and please the seller, but we gained so much more knowledge. There are so many properties right now in our market; we are experiencing a soft market so the high-end luxury homes are sitting longer than we expected them to. With Supreme Auctions, we felt we could get the property sold quickly. If I could give sellers and agents some positive advice, it would be to use Supreme Auctions when you want your property listing sold.”
Photos courtesy of Supreme Auctions
Some of the most affordable beach towns to invest in for 2019 lie on the Gulf Coast, especially in Texas.
In four-season coastal communities such as Port Aransas, Texas on Mustang Island, the average 50-foot Gulf front lot costs under $1 million — well under the $4 million to $5 million-plus average found in coastal California and Florida. “In addition to the bottom-line profits, people fall in love with our island. We’re an authentic beach community with a laid-back lifestyle more in tune with life in the tropics,” notes Keith McMullin, broker/owner of Port Aransas Realty.
In 2019, Texas housing sales recovered after second-quarter declines, trending upward amid lower mortgage interest rates and a robust economy. Mortgage applications for home purchases and refinances continued to rise, nudged by further dips in interest rates. “The construction of high-end, luxury homes and condos in Cinnamon Shore, Palmilla Beach, and Sunflower Beach have played a significant role in our expansion to new markets. We remain somewhat of a secret outside of Texas, but that is changing as more people discover the affordability and allure of Mustang Island,” according to McMullin.
Texans capitalized on lower rates, pushing mortgage applications for home purchases up 15.6 percent year to date (YTD). Refinance mortgage applications (more sensitive to interest rate fluctuations), have nearly doubled over the past six months. “Large areas of Mustang Island were undeveloped until recent years. Of the 367 miles of Texas coastline, the bulk of the land available for development is located on Mustang Island. We simply are not as widely known as other more mature beachfront communities,” says McMullin.
Investing in Texas real estate has been a no-brainer. Since 2010, the population has grown by 3.5 million, a million more than either Florida or California — converting into one and a half million new homes. Some 2 million of those people came from elsewhere attracted by new jobs, a fast-growing economy, more reasonable home prices, no state income tax, and a state ranked among the world’s ninth strongest economy.
“When compared to investing in other vacation/second-home markets, our story is very compelling. Lower property acquisition costs coupled with the vibrant Texas economy and steady population growth has created a healthy investment opportunity through appreciation and vacation rental income,” says McMullin.
For small coastal communities like Port Aransas, 2019 visitor arrivals from Texas and around the U.S. have so far exceeded last year’s numbers by 40 percent. Those arrivals are expected to rise, thanks to 3,300 out of 4,200 lodging units (up from 2,200 last year) that are now open for business (since Hurricane Harvey) with elevations of 10 to 11 feet above sea level.
Port A is definitely on the upswing, with new developments that include:
- The destination’s first conference center, slated to open in 2021 for gatherings of 500 to 2,000 attendees.
- 225-room conference center hotel, slated to break ground in February 2020.
- A new beachfront/bayfront marina and resort
- Cinnamon Shore, an upscale 1,000-acre master-planned beachfront, family- and pedestrian-friendly community that will add Cinnamon Shore South, a $1.3 billion, a 300-acre expansion that will more than quadruple the existing community. It will include luxury homes, Town Center residences, community pools, a dining district with several restaurants, a retail destination, a health and wellness center, and a boutique hotel.
- Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community opened a new golf course on June 1st with 9 holes of links-style play, plus THE LOOP – a 3-hole, par 3 course, plus a driving range. Palmilla Beach’s homes range from condos and townhomes to cottages and custom homes. Homesites begin in the $200s and completed homes from the $500s.
- Sunflower Beach Resort & Residences, nestled among 50 acres of protected dune preserves, features beach homes, several lots and 21 single-level poolside condos. It has nearly completed the first phase of 25 new ultra-luxury one- and two-bedroom beach cabins priced from $382,000 to $499,000 at The Camp.
Photos courtesy of Cinnamon Shore
With the guidance of experts, travelers are able to experience more than simple sightseeing.
Spanning across Africa, Europe and The United States, these expert-led trips — curated by Architectural Adventures — blend world-class vacations with a deep appreciation for culture, history and architecture. Serving as the official travel program of The American Institute of Architects, Architectural Adventures plans each trip alongside knowledgeable architectural experts — unlocking the historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance behind the world’s most notable architecture.
©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck
©istockphoto / TomasSereda
“In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city.”
Whether she’s embracing the local language, indulging in local cuisine, or exploring historic architecture, Sophia Gruzdys — an Architectural Adventures expert since 2017 — brings her own perspective to each tour she plans.
The licensed architect and educator has led tours in Barcelona and Rome, and will lead two Barcelona tours in 2019. “In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city,” Gruzdys explains.
In Rome, travelers explore a wide range of architectural styles — including Contemporary, Fascist-style, Art Deco, and Renaissance. Meanwhile in Barcelona, travelers visit Antoni Gaudí’s iconic Sagrada Família and recently opened Casa Vicens, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famed Bareclona Pavillion, and the modern urbanism of the @22 District. “It’s fascinating to compare the styles that emerged in our culture in different periods of history in different cities,” Gruzdys says.
Gruzdys, who encourages travelers to engage with local languages and embrace local culture, values the importance of hands-on experience. “It’s so rewarding to travel with people who are interested in the architecture — and to share their enjoyment. Each time I visit the sites, I’ll notice something new, and continue to learn from the experiences of others,” she says.
©istockphoto / TomasSereda
“I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures.”
San Antonio, Texas, United States
First discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1600s, San Antonio’s identity has always been strongly rooted in Mexican culture, history, art and architecture. From exploring the city’s Spanish colonial past at the Alamo and other UNESCO World Heritage Missions to cruising along the San Antonio Riverwalk, those who travel to San Antonio will be deeply immersed in local culture.
Jane Martin — architecture educator, historian and resident of San Antonio — will lead her first trip with Architectural Adventures in 2019 in her hometown. “I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures,” she says. “There is a lot to see in San Antonio, and I am constantly discovering new things. There are a great variety of architectural styles — with everything from Spanish Colonial, all the way to International Modern.”
Travelers will also visit Sir David Adjaye’s cutting-edge Ruby City, the newest of the city’s world-class museums, and learn about historic Pearl Brewery, now a 22-acre complex with housing, retail and fine dining. “I hope this trip helps to bring San Antonio to the world, encourages people to sign up for the tour and enjoy the city,” Martin says.
©istockphoto / Marco_Bonfanti
From marveling at Milan Cathedral, touring Santa Maria delle Grazie (home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper), to visiting the UniCredit Tower, those who travel to Milan will surely learn a great deal from Architecture Adventures expert David Rifkind.
Leading a nine-day tour in 2019, the architectural history professor and practicing architect will explore the city’s range of historic architecture, as well as its recent cultural renaissance — which led to the creation of new museums, sustainable architecture, and Contemporary art exhibits. “I was surprised to learn that architects tend to be very interested in Contemporary architecture,” notes Rifkind, who also finds that non-architects tend to be more interested in historic structures.
Rifkind’s trip to Milan will bring together a unique group of travelers, consisting of both architects and non-architects from around the globe. “The dynamic of the people on the trip really does impact the experience in a really positive way,” Rifkind says. “Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical. It has been rewarding to learn how travelers experience places that I thought I understood.”
While Rifkind understands the importance of an informative lecture, he also highly values hands-on learning. “It is really fascinating when a relatively small group of people experience a city together,” says Rifkind, who made unique contributions for this trip to contrast classroom learning.
“Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical.”
©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck
“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture.”
From volunteering in Tunisia for the Peace Corp to lecturing at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan, Architectural Adventures expert Stanley Ira Hallet’s range of cultural experiences has prepared him to lead a tour throughout Morocco in 2019.
“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture,” says Hallet. The trip will include visits to the Hassan II Mosque, the French-designed Habous Quarter, and the Majorelle Garden (a two-and-a-half-acre botanical garden).
Whether travelers are exploring the ancient capital of Mauretania, Volubilis, visiting the medieval school of Bouanania (which was built in the 1300s), or marveling at the Sahara Desert, Hallet says they will partake in a “completely different urban experience.”
Hallet, who also has a passion for photography, hopes the trip will offer travelers a more complete story of Morocco.
For years, the coastal town of Port Aransas, affectionately called “Port A” by its residents, has seen visitors from other areas of Texas and from all throughout the U.S. In fact, the amount of visitors so far in 2019 has exceeded last year’s numbers by 40 percent.
This influx of new visitors is only expected to rise with the new festivals Port A is involved in over the summer. The location has long been described as an ideal fishing destination, and the 84th Annual Deep Sea Roundup is a reflection of just that. As the oldest fishing competition on the Gulf Coast, the Deep Sea Roundup, taking place from July 11 to July 14, brings people from all over to enjoy fishing in this relaxed atmosphere. Also attracting fishers from across the nation is the Texas Legends Billfish Tournament, taking place from August 7 to August 11.
The Beachtoberfest is a seven week-long festival involving a 5K run, a music fest, fishing tournaments, chef competitions, craft beer tastings, an art walk and other events as well. Also located at Port Aransas, the festival is taking place from September 13 to October 27.
Port A’s underrated food scene will also be showcasing itself during the Texas Super Chef Throwdown Series, occurring from September 18 to October 21. Consisting of 30 chefs from all around the state, the event qualifies the winning chefs to the World Food Championships in Dallas, Texas, consisting of 450 chefs competing from around the world.
All these events, taking place in Port Aransas, are a reflection of the culture and lifestyle in this coastal town — one where breathtaking luxury meets a casual atmosphere and invites all families to join in on the festivities.
Photos courtesy of Cinnamon Shore
Red McCombs, the developer of the Palmilla Beach Resort and Golf Community, says “the damage to our golf course caused by Hurricane Harvey gave us a great opportunity — not just to rebuild the golf course, but to reinvent it to be much better, especially for vacationing families.”
Palmilla Beach Golf is open to the public year-round, and everyone is invited to join the grand opening celebration from 10am-3pm on Saturday, June 1st.
Festivities will include:
- Live music
- Demonstrations from Callaway and a Dulce Vida tequila tasting tent
- Guests can ride the new golf boards.
Palmilla Beach appeals to families looking for a luxurious community or vacation stay and has made changes to the golf course to include all types of golfers, including children, beginners and more.
“The improvements to Palmilla Beach Golf were influenced by changing consumer and golf trends,” commented Joe Shields, McComb’s grandson. “Play at traditional courses is down and Port A visitors want more variety, entertainment, and fun from their vacations.” The new course is a terrific activity for friends, families and novice golfers, yet still challenging from the tips for serious golfers, according to Shields. “It’s designed to be fun for everyone. And we are excited to bring these positive changes to the great game of golf.”
Additions to the course:
- 9 holes of true links-style golf (still the only of its kind in Texas)
- The LOOP, a 3-hole short course
- Class A driving range
- Electric golf boards (plus traditional golf carts)
In addition to booking a 9-hole round of golf, Palmilla Beach Golf is introducing the 12PACK and 21PACK. The 12PACK combines the 9-hole course plus The LOOP, a 3-hole, 85-100 yard pitch and putt. For avid golfers, the 21PACK allows players to play the 9 holes twice, followed by The LOOP. The course also includes a full-size Class A driving range with five target greens, plus a short game practice green.