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.

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.

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.

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.

Whether you’re hosting a clambake on Nantucket, enjoying a procession of edible jewels at a Tokyo sushi bar or simply shopping for a suburban supper, the days of consuming seafood with careless abandon are gone. The oceans are desperately overfished, and seafood lovers must be conscious of their own personal impact on the aquatic environment.

The best known resource for both suppliers and consumers is Seafood Watch, a program created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Northern California 20 years ago. Its regional consumer guides, identifying the most sustainable and most threatened species, are valued by consumers, chefs and eco-conscious corporations. “We use a rigorous, scientifically-based standard to come up with recommendations, result-ing in the most up-to-date, credible information,” states Maddie Southard, content manager for Seafood Watch.

So influential are these guides—60 million have been distributed to date—that when a particular item moves from the red (“Avoid”) category to yellow (“Good Alternatives”) or green (“Best Choices”), millions of dollars can change hands. Reflecting the thoroughness of Seafood Watch’s recommendations, flounder appears four times as a “Best Choice,” 14 times as a “Good Alternative” and 18 times in the “Avoid” column depending on the exact species, geographic origin and methods of fishing or farming employed.

©Monteray Bay Aquarium, Photo by Tyson V. Rininger.

“Consumers help drive change, and when businesses recognize what’s import-ant to consumers they respond,” reports Southard of Seafood Watch’s ability to engage corporations like Whole Foods and Blue Apron. The program’s restaurant partners transcend economic strata, from trendy Farallon in San Francisco to family-friendly Red Lobster restaurants across the country.

In its early days, businesses viewed Seafood Watch as a fringe movement but today participation is embraced and display of the organization’s yellowfin tuna logo can be a marketing asset. A Blue Ribbon Task Force, comprised of honored culinary authorities, enhances Seafood Watch’s relevance with diners. “The public admires chefs and culinarians, and we realized the impact they have on consumers,” offers Southard, who adds, “Chefs were some of the earliest supporters of the movement so this was a natural partnership.”

“Whenever I’m making decisions about what to put on a menu, I always ask myself, ‘What would Sheila do,’” says Los Angeles chef Michael Cimarusti, referring to Seafood Watch’s Sheila Bowman, who oversees outreach to chefs. Cimarusti, who has earned two Michelin stars at his flag-ship restaurant Providence, became conscious of sustainable sourcing issues as a young chef in L.A. 20 years ago, when a Gourmet magazine review admonished him for serving bluefin tuna.

“As I learned more about issues relating to sustainability, I became really passion-ate about it and wanted to become more active in the movement,” explains Cimarusti. “I was honored to be asked to sit on the Task Force and have learned a tremendous amount from Seafood Watch,” says the chef, who shares all of the program’s recommendation alerts with his staff.

Éric Ripert, chef/partner of New York’s Le Bernardin, takes sustainability as seriously as Cimarusti. “I spend my days with many varieties of fish, considering which are best for the restaurant, he says. Ripert explains, “This means more than just judging by flavor and composition, but includes the ethics and politics surrounding how they’ve been made available to us.” The Michelin three-star chef cautions, “If we don’t support the artisanal way of catching fish, it’s going to disappear.”

Michael Cimarusti. ©Jennkl Photography.

Courtesy of Whole Foods Market. 

Hugh Acheson, author and James Beard Award-winning chef with a family of Georgia restaurants, also sits on Seafood Watch’s advisory board and is a strong advocate for local, sustainable ingredients. He recalls that in the 1990s chefs addressed a severe threat to swordfish through a voluntary ban and use of more sustainable alternatives, allowing stocks to replenish. “It made me realize how much clout we have, as chefs, to mandate change when we act as a plurality,” states Acheson.

“I think Seafood Watch has succeeded in being a valuable resource for consumers, chefs, wholesalers, and grocery stores,” says the Canadian-born chef who has helped reimagine Southern cuisine. Acheson, who notes that swordfish continues to face challenges, suggests Seafood Watch would have been an invaluable resource decades ago, when many chefs were oblivious to sustainability issues.

An affinity for bluefin tuna (maguro) and eel (unagi), both largely on Seafood Watch’s “Avoid” list, and adherence to centuries-old traditions makes sushi chefs among the most reluctant to adopt sustainable practices. One sushi chef committed to sustainability is Bun Lai, chef/owner of Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut and another member of Seafood Watch’s Blue Ribbon Task Force. Some odd ingredients—every-thing from insects and invasive species to edible weeds—populate his voluminous menu, and the James Beard Award nominee relies on guidance from Seafood Watch.

Éric Rippert. ©Daniel Kreiger Photography. 

Hugh Acheson. Photo by Emily B. Hall. 

“Miya’s started working on sustainable seafood very gradually in the early 2000s,” reports Lai, explaining that unreliable data made conscientious sourcing challenging. “Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch changed all of that by creating a tool that helped people choose sustainable seafood in a market awash with imported seafood of mostly dubious origin and quality,” says Lai. “When I first discovered Seafood Watch, it was as if a light beamed into the darkness I was surrounded by,” he says.

Bun Lai. ©Alan S. Orling.

“I admire my heritage, but we must question our traditions, too,” states Lai, acknowledging sushi’s popularity contributes to overfishing around the globe. He cites Jiro Ono, the revered sushi master featured in the documentary film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, who lamented the demise of the majestic bluefin while continuing to serve it to customers.

“There are, however, sushi chefs filled with a passion for sustainable seafood like those café owners who pioneered fair trade coffee decades ago,” says Lai with optimism. With Seafood Watch’s guides and app available to chefs and consumers alike, good choices can be made on both sides of the bar.

Sustainable Sources

Hugh Acheson
www.hughacheson.com

Le Bernardin
www.le-bernardin.com

Miya’s Sushi
www.miyassushi.com

Providence
www.providencela.com

Seafood Watch
www.seafoodwatch.org

 

Surrounded by the natural beauty of the pink himalayan salt blocks, salt spa visitors are encouraged to focus on their breathing as they embrace the benefits of the salt-infused air. 

Dry salt therapy, or halotherapy, is a practice that originated centuries ago in the natural salt mines of Eastern Europe. Dry salt therapy is thought to provide an array of health benefits, helping with stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as skin conditions, arthritis and asthma.

“People are seeking more natural and alternative ways to feel better and relieve pain,” says Maryann Corcoran, co-owner of the Corcova Salt Spa in Genesee County, Michigan. “They are tired of taking pills and getting little or no relief and often additional ailments due to the side eff ects from their medication.”

 

 

Royal Salt Cave & Spa. Photo by Rafal K Gdowski. 

“With medications you have to worry about side effects and short- or long-term effects on the body, but with salt therapy, there’s none of that. It’s simply a healing process that also throws relaxation into the mix,” adds Izabela Przybyla, founder and owner of the Royal Salt Cave & Spa in Frankfort, Illinois.

 

A man-made salt cave reproduces the climate of a natural salt mine. Surfaces are covered with layers of himalayan salt and saline aerosol is
dispersed into the room to create a space that feels authentic. 

“The salt cave is climate-con-trolled to recreate a micro-climate as if you were within a salt mine,” says Shannon Coppola, founder of Montauk Salt Cave in New York City. “Salt is super sensitive to heat and humidity. There is a very intricate climate-control system to ensure that the air is always moving and super clean to maximize the benefits.”

Chairs, whether recliners or loungers, are added for comfort and relaxation, while dim lighting is used to recreate a true cave-like experience.

One of the most well-known salt mines is the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, which draws tourists from around the world. It was also the fi rst location to off er salt-related health treatments. In the 1830s, Dr. Feliks Boczkowsk began off ering salt baths when he began to notice the surprisingly good health of the local salt miners.

Mei Leung, a holistic healer at Montauk Salt Cave, uses Reiki and sound to help visitors feel calm and balanced. Photo by Mike Vitelli.

The historic Wieliczka Salt Mine began offering salt-related health treatments in Poland as early as 1830. Photo by Ryszard Tatomir. 

United States spa owners draw inspiration from Wieliczka Salt Mine, which has played a pivotal role in the rise of halotherapy. Cheryl Krouse and Jim Fittante, owners of the Samana Salt Spa in Lewiston, New York, traveled to Poland to gain a deeper understanding of the ancient form of wellness therapy. “We were able to see firsthand how the Wellness Center in the salt mine has been operating since the late 1800s,” explains Krouse.

Another notable salt mine in Eastern Europe is the Salt Mine Berchtesgaden, which is the oldest active salt mine in Germany. The mine attracts visitors, who are able to tour the mine and learn of its history while taking in views of the natural salt. “Enjoy the underground, starting with a train ride. Go down two long slides (which were used by mine workers in former times), take a raft ride over a mystic salt lake, and see traces of colored salt in the rocks,” says Peter Botzleiner-Reber, tourism manager for Salt Mine Berchtesgaden.

“I’ve known about salt therapy my whole life, since I’m originally from Poland. Salt caves have been popular in Europe for more than 70 years,” says Przybyla, who has seen the trend grow in the U.S. in recent years. “There’s no doubt in my mind that salt therapy is on the rise simply because it’s relaxing and beneficial to your health.”

Salt Mine Berchtesgaden is home to two long slides, which are surrounded by salt and were once used by mine workers. Photo by Georg Grainer Fotografie, courtesy of Salt Mine Berchtesgaden, Südwestdeutche Salzwerke AG. 

The salt used in halotherapy is antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial, according to Shannon Coppola. To fully take advantage of its ben-efits, Coppola suggests a 30- to 60-minute session in a salt cave at least once a week — preferably two times a week.

While most salt therapy sessions are a solo experience, Montauk Salt Cave also offers guided sessions with experienced healers. The healers elevate the typical salt cave experience — whether it’s promoting peace and tranquility through the use of tarot cards and astrology, a meditative soundscape, or Reiki therapy.

Luxury developments and real estate properties are also experimenting with the benefits of halotherapy. “There has been an increase in awareness of the benefits of halotherapy and in turn a rise in demand for locations to off er it,” says Alison Howland, vice president of wellness programs and resourcing at Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences in Riviera Beach, Florida.

The luxury development will soon debut its inhalation halotherapy chamber, which will off er residents the opportunity to experience salt therapy from the comfort of their homes. “The concept of luxury is changing. No longer is standardized luxury acceptable. Personalized luxury is the new standard,” says Howland of the develop-ment’s decision to open the salt chamber.

For luxury spa owners, the choice to open a salt cave is often much more personal.

“My daughter was my biggest inspiration for opening this business,” says Przybyla. “She struggles with asthma and severe allergies, which tend to act up a lot seasonally. I wanted to help get her healthier in a natural way.”

Coppola echoes a similar message. “Ultimately, our inspiration for opening the spa was our son,” she says. Coppalo and her husband discovered salt therapy in 2014 when searching for a cure for their son’s respiratory issues. “We had tried everything under the sun — nebulizers, chambers, adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy, Flonase, Nasonex, and more. A friend suggested salt therapy. After one session, he slept through the night for the first time at 4 and a half years old,” says Coppola.

For years, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has been at the pinnacle of style, class and design. What people may not be aware of is the company’s dedication and connection to art. The iconic luxury car company continued its expansion into the art world for a good cause in September, teaming up with famous British artist Marc Quinn.

 

The production line of Rolls-Royce in the founding location of Goodwood, West Sussex, England provided the stage for the company’s “Evelina Art for Allergy x Dine on the Line” philanthropy event where a generous £1.7 million was raised through an auction to support allergy research by Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

“Rolls-Royce was introduced to the charity Evelina London via connections in the art world,” says Jessica Persson Conway, manager of Art Programme & Philanthropy. As the largest allergy service of its kind in Europe, Evelina London provides specialized care to children across the country who suffer with an allergic condition.

 

De Pury led the successful night featuring Quinn’s mesmerizing work. ©2019 David M. Benett.

“Marc is a world-renowned contemporary artist,” Conway continues. “Rolls-Royce has great respect for his work and particularly admire his Iris paintings, which is the subject chosen for this collaboration.”

Everyone locked eyes on the big prize of the night, a Phantom designed with one of Quinn’s pieces from his collection entitled “We Share our Chemistry with the Stars.” The ongoing collection features large, colorful paintings of irises from eyes.

Art auctioneer Simon de Pury, who led the vivacious auction compared the artwork to that of the psychedelic Phantom V owned by John Lennon, calling it “the 21st century equivalent.”

 

Phantom is the apex model of Rolls-Royce and the company, encompassing the luxurious experience of driving and owning a Rolls-Royce.

 

“The car has been the canvas of some of the most extraordinary expressions of bespoke craftsmanship,” Conway says. “The Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collective work hand-in-hand with patrons around the world to bring unique and highly personalized creative visions to fruition.”

The prized Phantom featuring Quinn’s artwork. Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. 

The winning bidder of Quinn’s creation won the opportunity for the artist himself to create his own bespoke artwork featuring the iris of the bidder’s daughter, using the Phantom as the canvas. The drivable work of art raised an outstanding £888,000.

Rolls-Royce’s affiliation with art stems from its beginnings as a company, with the different models of cars becoming an “expression of creative will.” Conway noted that for over 100 years the bonnet, or front-hood, of each car is “graced with the Spirit of Ecstasy, a figurine created by sculptor Charles Sykes.”

The “Spirit of Ecstacy” by sculptor Charles Sykes. Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. 

In 2014, the company founded the Rolls-Royce Arte Programme, an initiative made up of commissions with leading artists and institutions. Recently, the company announced a new vision for the program called Muse.

“Muse will further Rolls-Royce’s relationship with art through two new biennial initiatives, the Dream Commission and the Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge,” Conway says.

The company also prides itself with its devotion to philanthropy, emphasizing how events, such as “Dine on the Line,” bring important attention to charity organizations.

 

“Patrons of Rolls-Royce are often highly successful, noteworthy individuals, many of whom are major philanthropic donors,” Conway says. “It gives us great pleasure to introduce the Rolls-Royce network to such a worthy cause.”

Whether working in busy urban studios or quiet countryside spaces, there’s no denying that makers and creators remain an integral part of Ireland’s culture and workforce. From painted canvas and chiseled stone to woven tapestries and hand-sewn clothing, the art of the handmade item is alive and well.

In fact, General Paints Group is telling the story of what it means to craft and create in Ireland in the only way it knows how: through color.

The company’s new Curator collection features 144 unique paint colors developed and sourced from artists who focus their creative endeavors in Ireland. The palette presents everything from neutral hues that speak to the quiet woodlands of West Cork to bolder shades that evoke the country’s strength and spunk.

“From the very beginning, we wanted to make a collection that was authentic, special and genuine,” says Rachel O’Connor, expert director for General Paints Group and one of the developers of the Curator brand. “[The artists] all had colors that really meant something to them and inspired their work. And for a lot of their work, their muse was Ireland and our lovely landscape.”

O’Connor, who is also heading up Curator’s U.S. presence, says that develop-ing and sourcing the palette was a nearly five-year journey. After extensive searching, the team worked with 29 Irish designers and artisans to discover the history and heritage behind the colors that inspired them. Although the concept of the palette changed along the way, O’Connor says the goal of capturing “the passion they bring into their work” remained a driving force

 

O’Connor, who is part of the third generation of General Paints Group’s 65-year history, also points to her company’s own entrepreneurial spirit as part of the collection’s inspiration.

“We’ve always had an admiration for artists and craftspeople. Many are solo entrepreneurs who are doing what they love. We worked with a broad range of artists — potters, millers, sculptors — and although they’re all different, they had one thing in common, and that was color,” she says.

 

Ronnie Graham.

O’Connor speaks fondly of the stories within the pigment and describes some of the bolder colors in the palette. There’s Ancient Black, inspired from the creations of sculptor Ronnie Graham. O’Connor describes the lore of this deep, moody color as “haunting and mystical.”

“[Ronnie] works with what’s called buried oak — it’s oak that’s been buried in a bog for thousands and thousands of years. During the preservation process it turns a beautiful charcoal color,” O’Connor says. “Ronnie believes it emits a mystical power — and he tries to capture that in his sculptures. Interestingly, it’s been one of the most popular colors in our market.”

The Curator collection was intentionally designed to easily discover and combine complementary shades. Here, Ancient Black is paired with Kerr’s Pink and Rose Mantel.

Carol Cronin.

O’Connor also suggests the colors can be used seasonally — such as on flower boxes and planters, furniture or even doors; she describes charming Irish neighborhoods with bright pink, turquoise and other colors adorning the front doors of homes. “But we don’t like to be too prescriptive. There’s no such thing as a wrong color combination,” she adds.

Even the palette’s more traditional hues have a story that is anything but. Horseshoe, for example, is a stone-gray shade, aptly named for Horseshoe Mountain in County Sligo, Ireland, that inspires pottery artist John Ryan.

O’Connor’s personal favorite paint is also bright and bold: Running Tides, a bril-liant aquamarine unique to the seascape paintings of Irish artist Carol Cronin, who has captured the Atlantic Ocean on canvas for decades. (“You might think you could get bored of painting waves, but [her works] are stunning,” O’Connor says.) These brighter, livelier shades off er the “pop of color” that O’Connor sees throughout the commercial interior design market. 

“People are starting to be less afraid of taking risks with pops of color. We’re seeing a lot of restaurants, hotels and public spaces take bolder risks. We think it’s a great trend,” she says.

 

The collection boasts shades like Pulled Rhubarb, Tailored Tweed and Dried Kelp (painted on chairs left to right) that ad richness and depth to ordinary spaces.

John Ryan.

“[Ryan] is immersed in the landscape surrounding his workshop, and it inspires these stunning creations,” O’Connor says of the potter’s handmade ceramics. “The color really shines through in his work.”

The collection made its U.S. debut ear-lier this spring in Connecticut and arrives on the West Coast in the fall, including southern California, Portland, Oregon; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Seattle.

 

 

Ultimately, the collection aims to not only honor these artists, but to inspire others to use color to express creativity and passion, says O’Connor. And in a way, that allows the consumer to play curator and tell their own story.

“The collection [is a] showcase of Irish craft and talent, but it goes beyond that,” O’Connor explains. “I think home is deeply personal to people. You want it to reflect your identity and personal style. When you bring a color into your home, you’re looking for more than just paint. In our collection, every color has a meaning and personality. [It’s] allowing the customers to be their own curator.”

The collection is currently sold at Ring’s End as well as McDermott Paint & Wallpaper in Connecticut, and is also available for purchase at curator.com.

All photos and featured photo courtesy of General Paints Group / Curator.

This post originally appeared in the Fall ’19 edition of The High End.

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Aston Martin is once again wowing drivers with two new vehicles that have all the pizazz and none of the pollution.

The luxury carmaker held its inaugural Electric Future event in late June to showcase two all-electric models — The Rapide E and Lagonda Vision Concept — at Aston Martin Mayfair in London.

Relaunched as the world’s first zero-emission luxury brand in 2018, Aston Martin’s Lagonda line aims to leverage the latest advances in electrification and autonomous driving technologies while maintaining “a unique niche in the market,” says Marek Reichman, chief creative officer at Aston Martin Lagonda. 

Aston Martin Lagonda Vision Concept. 

“We set ourselves an ambitious target to be the world’s first luxury electric brand,” he says. “[Lagonda] is for the high-end luxury customer who wants to explore and be autonomous while remaining mindful of the impact they are having on the enviro-ment. Lagonda will achieve this but it will also delight the people who get to enjoy its unique internal environment.”

Aston Martin Rapide E.

The Electric Future featured the Rapide E, the company’s first electric sports car, as well as the Lagonda Vision Concept, the latter of which first turned heads at the Geneva Motor Show in 2018. The sleek vehicle’s four-passenger interior doubles as a stylish space, with cashmere interiors and swiveling fronts seats. The Vision Concept is designed as a self-driving vehicle, and it’s expected to enter production around 2022.

Meanwhile, the Rapide E has already delighted drivers across Europe and Asia, making a flashy debut in Morocco and Shanghai in spring. With a design that was based on its V12 predecessor, the Rapide AMR, it’s no surprise that the Rapide E clocks in at a max of 155 mph — all on an 800-volt battery. 

The car boasts twin electric motors that produce 610PS and 950Nm of torque, allowing it to zip from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds, and can manage the jump from 50 to 70 mph in 1.5 seconds.

On the inside, the car’s digital gadgets include a sleek display for battery and energy information, and Aston has also developed a smartphone app to monitor the car’s battery life and parking spot, among other features.

According to John Caress, vehicle line director, the Rapide E drives a little more than 200 miles on battery power alone, which can then be recharged from 0 to 80 percent in just 35 minutes — so you’re back up and on the road in no time. It’s expected to enter production at the end of the year, with a limited run of 155 vehicles.

Aston Martin Rapide E interior. 

Aston Martin Rapide E charges at its electric port. 

“Rapide E is proof of Aston Martin’s commitment to its Second Century Plan. Having an electric powertrain is no longer just a vision for our company, it’s reality. We are producing fully electric vehicles which will form part of our future strategy that will culminate when the first Lagonda vehicle enters the market,” he says.

Pricing is not yet available for these models. Explore all Aston Martin vehicles at astonmartin.com.

All photos and featured photo courtesy of Aston Martin. 

Early reports of the death of the townhome appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

A private garage for two cars; flex space ideal for teens, guests or an office; a light-filled interior with generous rooms between multiple levels. Decks, porches and patios, open interiors to the outside. The feeling is expansive and private. Welcome to the new townhome.

“Back down. The townhome is dead” was cautionary advice Jeff Benach, principal of Chicago-based Lexington Homes, often heard during the recession. But that wasn’t the experience for his firm, which, he says, always had been “pretty strong on townhomes.” They continued to offer this option. “A couple of years later in 2011 and 2012, all of a sudden the townhome is becoming the it property type,” he says. Few other types of residential housing have had a resurgence of interest as town-homes, and few others have undergone as many fundamental changes in architecture, floor plans and finishes. Elevated design and dynamic architecture are only part of this newfound appeal. Cost, location, and lifestyle — which often is more important than price for buyers — also come into play.

Long perceived as second best, town-houses are no longer viewed as merely a less costly alternative to single-family homes. Instead, the appeal extends to a surprising span of life stages and lifestyles from entry-level to move-up to affluent.

No Longer Second Best

“We’re starting to see, and I’ve seen more of lately, something I never saw in my 30-plus years of doing this, and that is families, young families with kids looking for a townhouse for school districts or other reasons,” explains Benach. “This obviously signals a shift in who is buying townhomes, whereas before it was first-time or move-down buyers.” Also, school districts have become a much bigger factor for potential buyers, which, Benach says, reflects a much greater acceptance of townhomes as a longer term, grow-to product.

 

 “Luxury townhouses in New York City are increasingly offering homeowners more options and choices when it comes to their lifestyle. A townhouse generally provides homeowners more living space and the opportunity to have a residential experience that is closer to a single-home lifestyle, which is hard to find in a metropolitan area. The townhouse can offer a family room to grow and more flexibility as needs change in the future,” explains David Dynega, CEO of Detail Renovations in Great Neck, N.Y.

PHOTO COURTESY KOBI KARP ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIOR DESIGN

Walls of glass bring the tropical landscape into the experience of this townhome on Fisher Island.

The ability to lock and leave without compromising on outdoor connections and privacy is another incentive. “Living in a townhouse-style building, I literally lock my door and leave. I’m walkable to downtown and I have no anxiety about maintaining or the lawn or yard or snow removal. It’s taken care of. I think that’s the benefit for a more transient society, especially people with multiple dwellings,” shares Michigan architect Wayne Visbeen, principal and founder of Visbeen Architects.

“The keyword in townhome is home,” observes Kobi Karp, principal of Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design. “It’s a very habitable home, a house within the town. That’s really the way we see it, and it’s traditionally, historically been as such,” he says reflecting on the tradition of grand urban residences from the era of the Vanderbilt and J.P. Morgan. “A lot of our projects are infilled in urban spaces, and people are using town-houses to be unique destinations for their family within the urban center,” he explains.

“The townhouses you see now are designed much more like a single-family home, and people want a single-family feel even to an attached home,” says Michael Stone, senior designer at Bassenian Lagoni Architects in Newport Beach, California. While attached multi-story dwellings, traditionally called row homes, are what many still envision at the mention of townhouses, this option today has a range of iterations. “It seems like each week we are seeing a new spin on the attached product,” shares Stone.

Today, townhouses can be clustered on small lots. Some are freestanding, like some historical homes in New York City, or they might be attached. They can also be part of a highrise building. “We create them on lanai decks; we create them on rooftops,” says Karp. Location is key and an address in a highly desirable, prestigious neighborhood in cities including New York or Miami adds to the appeal and the cachet of the property. Being part of a high rise also usu-ally enables townhome owners to enjoy all of the amenities of the building.

Even new master-planned communities — usually with diverse property types, prices and sizes — often include town-houses in walkable locations close to the hub of activity.

Getting More With Less

Kobi Karp lives in a townhouse. Wayne Visbeen lives in what might be considered a new vision for townhouses. His is a three-story live-work space. “I think the thing that is similar between townhouses and single-family homes is we’re all trying to figure out ways of getting more for less. So how do you use space efficiently, no matter how luxurious? It is something that even my very-high-end clients are looking for,” he says. His own home is only 20-feet wide; yet, he says, people are shocked when they learn how narrow the home is. What makes the difference? Ceiling heights give volume and expansive windows bring in light.

Visbeen, who has won design and architectural awards for both custom and production homes, tends to think about space innovatively. A good example is a large room in his home designed to be adapted to multiple uses, including a rec room, a guest suite and a conference room for his business. This type of space is something Visbeen says he is incorporating into almost all new designs from townhouses to single-family residences.

What makes a townhouse today differ-ent from one designed decades ago? Light, maximizing square footage, floor plans oriented for privacy and indoor/outdoor connections. Even entries have been reorganized with direct access to a residence from a private garage, which is more often than not, spacious enough for two cars and additional storage.

 

It’s All About The Light

Interiors infused with light dispel any sense of compromise regarding square foot-age or the size of a lot, even for attached homes. For example, in a recent plan created by Bassenian Lagoni, individual town homes were attached along the rear wall. The entries faced opposite streets and the orientation allowed for the placement of windows, large banks of windows, on three sides.

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Strategic positioning of stairs connect levels and enhance light in new townhome designs. 

Often, stairways are open and positioned to transmit light through two or more levels of the home and to also visually connect multiple levels without sacrificing valuable interior space. For upscale properties, elevators are becoming a non-negotiable item, particularly in new construction on sites where the enhanced value derived by the location and the land often more than exceeds the cost of an elevator.

A new spin on townhomes from Lexington Homes, is something Benach describes as a bit of a hybrid. “It’s a town-home in that the main footprint where people live is about a 40- by 22- or 21-foot footprint, times three stories.” In a typical old-style townhome, the garage would be in front or in the rear but still integral to the building. But in Benach’s hybrid model, the entire house is “all living space.” The back door opens to a rear yard and a garage that fronts on an alley. “So, it’s just like a city single family home, except they are attached. And there is a weathered-board fence between each one, so you’ve got your own little private back yard,” along with a garage, he says.

PHOTO COURTESY KOBI KARP ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIOR DESIGN

Whether a covered deck, garden, pool or simply a small patio, outdoor spaces are some of the most desired amenities in townhomes.

Outdoor Attachments

A small outdoor space, especially in urban centers, is one of the most desired amenities offered by townhomes. It’s something many do not want to sacrifice just because they live in a metropolitan area.

Equally fundamental to an experience akin to single-family are decks, patios and porches, often on multiple levels of the home. Not only do they provide an essential connection to nature, but they extend the square footage, often via stacking or telescoping doors that completely

 

merge inside and out. Often, for homes located above parking garages or in high-rise buildings, they create opportunities for outdoor living — even small gardens or play areas in locations and sites where such access is almost impossible. Being able to walk outside or dine, possibly in a covered outdoor room, brings an entirely new dimension to the townhome experience. The latest “must-have” outdoor amenity is a rooftop deck, which in many locations maximizes views. Outdoor kitchens and dinning, gardens, pools, and play areas make this amenity space even more desirable.

Outdoor Living Inside The Home

Another strategy architects employ to create outdoor connections and infuse natural light into the center of townhouses is interior courtyards, often sited next to a side yard or the rear, with the home grouped around it in a U-shape. In addition to opening ground-level spaces (often via disappearing doors) to the outdoors, they create opportunities for additional windows and even large expanses of glass on upper levels. In all price ranges, the use of transom glass at the top of walls or over windows and doors further opens interiors on upper levels.

Private courtyards within the townhouse also evoke historical ties to turn-of-the-century townhomes in New York. “Those homes were highly glazed with interaction and connectivity to the landscaping, and to the gardens,” says Karp.

In addition to outdoor living options, having square footage distributed between multiple levels is a main differentiator between a flat and a townhouse.

The interaction between indoors and outdoors also differentiates a townhouse from a flat as does having living spaces on multiple levels. Both create value and enhance privacy and the essential sense of home. “It gives you a little bit of separation. It’s physical and mental privacy,” says Karp.

“Additionally, particularly for high-end homes, taller rooms often found in town-homes are ideal to display art,” observes Karp, a feature increasing desired by affluent owners.

Even for the affluent, especially in urban centers, Karp says, “a big house and land isn’t necessarily as financially feasible as it is to maintain a luxury townhome in a town center where you live it and you use it in a more efficient manner. You live and you use every room of the townhouse, where I give you a sprawling house in the city and there’s rooms you never walk into.”

     

This editorial originally appeared in The High End Winter 2020.

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