Creating the Ultimate Audio Experience

These high-end, luxe speakers and audio consoles specifically for music lovers and audiophiles will make you feel like you’re listening to your favorite band rockin’ out at an ampitheater live, or let you experience your classic vinyls with authentic, high-performance sound. It’s time to hear what exceptionally engineered design and and audio quality can do for your home music listening experience. 

Renaissance ESL 15A by MartinLogan, $25,000 a pair

The flagship model in MartinLogan’s Masterpiece Series of high-end electrostatic (ESL) speakers, the Renaissance ESL 15A, is a revolutionary step forward in terms of performance, technology and design. Since 1983, MartinLogan has handcrafted speakers featuring electrostatic and thin-film technologies, achieving the ultimate in audio realism. Renaissance’s 15-inch-wide and 46-inch-tall electrostatic panel reproduces sound with unfl inching accuracy and is married to a pair of amplified high performance 1,000-Watt powered woofers which can deliver powerful bass sound. “The experience of listening to an electrostatic speaker for the first time is often described as transformative,” says Devin Zell, Martin Logan Marketing Manager. “If you set aside all of the evocative technology, close your eyes, and listen, these speakers disappear and transport a listener deep into the heart of music — accessing a shockingly intimate and emotional connection to the music and performers.”

Sonos Edition Console by Wrensilva, $5,000

“We wanted to design something specifically for smaller urban spaces,” says Debra Sayler, Chief Design Officer of Wrensilva of the Sonos Edition Stereo Console. “Something that combined natural elements, such as gnarled wood grain, and the clean, urban lines in the welded steel legs and crisp white outer finish.” Based in San Diego, California, Wrensilva was founded in 2016 by Sayler and her husband Scott. Together, they create modern stereo consoles dedicated to “reawakening the spirit of hifi.” Their mission of time-honored design combined with advanced audio technologies materialized in their collaboration with Sonos for this custom piece. In this console, Sonos speakers are incorporated into curved walnut enclosures. “We wanted to highlight the speakers’ curves, not disguise them. On the technology side, we incorporated a wirelessly synced volume knob that communicates directly with the Sonos app. This is a neat feature for Sonos users that are craving a more traditional analog experience.”

Persona 9H by Paradigm, $35,000 a pair

Persona 9H, Paradigm’s most ambitious design to date, leverages the company’s 34 years of acoustical development and innovative design. The speakers were developed out of research to explore the limits of audio engineering, and the results were staggering — an entire line of high-end loudspeakers utilizing cutting-edge concepts. The flagship line showcases vanguard materials such as the utilization of Truextent® Pure Beryllium, a rare chemical element, in the drivers to deliver high-resolution detail, depth and dynamics. While the use of Beryllium in the construction of the tweeters is not unheard (it has a “cult” status for the most expensive of audio equipment), the use of it in both the tweeters and mid-range divers is unique to Persona. The Persona 9H is not only the perfect speaker for audiophiles craving exceptional performance, but also for those seeking luxurious levels of fit and finish — available in 23 premium automotive finishes.

Modern Record Console by Symbol Audio

The Modern Record Console by Symbol Audio pays homage to the “all-in-one” HiFi consoles of the 1950s, integrating “old school” electronics with modern wireless capabilities. Since 2012, the company has been creating products for music lovers who value thoughtful craftsmanship in their audio home furnishings. With a mission to enrich the connection between the listener and their music, the Modern Record Console combines technology with traditional analog electrics into a beautiful piece of handmade furniture crafted from solid American Walnut wood. The sleek design makes this piece a focal point of any space. Lift the lid to expose a hand-built tube amplifier and turntable set into patinated steel plates that delivers a warm, pure signal to two 6.5” full-range speakers. Tucked out of view in the metal base is a second amplifier and subwoofer made to extend low-end frequency and add richness to any sound. Switch the selector from turntable to WiFi to stream from any digital source to control music selections.

Constantly shaking up the St. Louis dining scene is chef Gerard Craft, whose collection of restaurants features global influences and Missouri pride.

By Roger Grody

It may lack the culinary notoriety of San Francisco, New Orleans or the Big Apple, but St. Louis has quietly been developing a serious food scene. In addition to benefitting from a large Italian-American community and a geographic flirtation with the South, talented young chefs from around the country are arriving. Largely responsible for St. Louis’ dining renaissance is chef and prolific restaurateur Gerard Craft.

Craft, who grew up in Washington, D.C., opened his first restaurant in St. Louis knowing very little about the city except that it offered affordable space for a struggling 25-year-old chef. That restaurant, Niche, ignited the local dining scene and his Niche Food Group now operates five restaurants in the Gateway City.

“I still wasn’t that interested in food, but fell in love with the kitchen’s energy, comradery and instant gratification. “I loved the idea that you could produce something, serve it and see the impact it has on people, then clean up and move on to the next day,” recalls the young cook. After spending some time in France, even enrolling in a work-study program at the Ritz in Paris, Craft was feeling confident enough to talk his way into a line cook position at Park City’s well-respected Bistro Toujours.

“It was a disaster,” reports Craft, explaining, “The chef sat me down and told me I had no skills and that I could either leave or work as a prep cook in the basement.” Now recognizing this as a turning point in his career, Craft says, “Being demoted was the best thing that ever happened to me. After I got some hands-on experience down in the basement, I was able to work my way through every station on the line.” After an apprenticeship at the upscale Ryland Inn in New Jersey, Craft earned a sous chef position at Chateau Marmont, a celebrity haunt on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip.

Hearing that prominent chef Larry Forgione and some other talented chefs had opened restaurants in St. Louis, Craft flew there to look at an old wine bar for a potential restaurant of his own. “It had boarded-up windows, a dirt floor and no electricity,” recalls Craft, who took possession of the space in February 2005 and reopened it as Niche later that year.

Craft had little interest in cooking as a young boy, recalling, “My family was really into food, but I was probably the pickiest eater in the world.” Despite that self-characterization, Craft’s most meaningful food memories revolved around the cooking of his Brazilian nanny. “She was like a second mom to me, and I grew up eating simple, rustic Brazilian food like black beans and feijoada,” says Craft, who adds, “She had such a touch with food and was able to make anything taste great.” He honored that influential nanny by offering contemporary versions of pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) and brigadeiro (confection) at Niche. “Having her visit the restaurant before she died was a big moment for me,” says Craft.

As a kid, Craft’s heroes were not Wolfgang Puck or Emeril Lagasse but Russell Simmons and Richard Branson, as the fledgling entrepreneur sold paintballs to classmates in fifth grade, a clothing line in high school. He attended Westminster College in Salt Lake City, a choice driven by his passion for snowboarding, but dropped out after two years. To supplement his income as a snowboard photographer, Craft began washing dishes and cooking at a local diner.

Niche was originally conceived as an unpretentious contemporary American restaurant, but an older clientele with fine dining expectations forced Craft to reinvent it as more of a special occasion restaurant. The servers, originally wearing tee-shirts, switched to collared shirts and pressed aprons, while the china was upgraded, explains Craft, who admits, “That slippery slope into fine dining pushed me to become a more creative and ambitious chef.”

Craft subsequently opened Brasserie by Niche, an authentic French bistro that reflects his love of Paris, Porano for quick-service Italian cooking, Pastaria for organic pastas, and mixology-driven Taste. While he acknowledges St. Louis lacks the wealth of dining found in its rival Midwestern city of Chicago, he contends, “There may not be a chic modern restaurant on every block, but the ones that succeed here are special.” In the pipeline for Craft is Pastaria Nashville, his first venture in neighboring Tennessee.

The James Beard Award-winning chef is perhaps the greatest single ambassador for Missouri-sourced ingredients. At the height of Craft’s commitment to local foods, 97 percent of the ingredients on Niche’s menu were produced in the Show Me State, including the onions going into stock for sauces, caviar from local rivers and even wine from Missouri vineyards. “It definitely generated a sense of pride in home-raised Missouri products,” says Craft. Insisting Missouri remains an unpretentious, approachable place, he suggests, “The hot summers and cold winters produce real people, and the vegetables are the same way, more humble and less precious.” Because of the movement that Craft spearheaded, there are now farmers and ranchers offering to grow vegetables or raise animals specifically for the needs of local chefs.

Craft shuttered Niche last year after a decade-long run, citing the intensity of maintaining standards at the city’s top-rated restaurant. “The competition begins to wear on you, and you begin to forget why you decided to cook in the first place,” says the chef, who converted the space into Sardella, a less expensive restaurant that celebrates his passion for Italian cooking.

A signature dish at Sardella is charred butternut squash with roasted garlic custard, Calabrian chile vinaigrette and basil that Craft describes as having bright flavors and a spicy, almost Thai-like quality even though all of the ingredients are Italian. “It’s an Italian dish that you’d never find in Italy,” quips the chef.

Gerard Craft and St. Louis have been good for one another, with the 37-year-old chef offering a diversity of local restaurants that may be the product of global influences but are true to their Missouri heritage. 

 

Niche Food Group

Photos courtesy of Greg Rannells

An increased appetite in healthy living and the age-old desire to explore are satiated by companies crafting custom journeys for active travelers.

By Sarah Binder

In his autobiographical book Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, American writer Edward Abbey wrote, “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”

With an increased focus on health and wellness, a need to unplug from daily life, and a desire to go off the beaten path, more and more travelers are booking active luxury vacations. Once centralized around destinations where physical activity is inherent, such as Machu Picchu or Alaska, active journeys today combine fitness and culture in unexpected locales such as Spain’s Mallorca Island and Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.

Through their worldwide luxury tours that engage all five senses, award-winning travel providers such as Gray & Co. and Trek Travel live by Abbey’s timeless observation and help their adventure-seeking guests do the same.

To Cari Gray, founder and director of Gray & Co., active journeys surprise and delight, causing guests to wonder what they will see just around the corner.

“When you’re biking and kayaking, you’re actually watching a living museum. You’re listening to the birds, looking at the constellations, looking at the people in all of their glory. You’re wondering what fruit it is that is hanging off of the trees,” Gray says. “The world is unfolding in front of you and you see it in a very flowing and beautiful way.”

Gray, who spent 14 years with Butterfield & Robinson, noticed a developing niche — an opportunity to serve a clientele seeking higher-end active trips than what was available on the market. Gray & Co. hosted its first trip in 2009 and has focused since its inception on luxury-level service and a higher ratio of drivers, vehicles, and guides to guests.

All of Gray & Co.’s trips are private and designed from scratch — from the drinks guests want in their cooler to the type of hotel room they prefer. Throughout their itinerary, guests dictate the pace that works best for them.

“Whether that means only riding in the morning or the afternoon, or only having bistro-style meals, we get to know our travelers very well to anticipate the needs they don’t even know they have,” she explains. “We don’t design a trip for anyone thinking that it will be the only trip they will take with us.”

Gray & Co. regularly visits new destinations so the team is posed to craft well-rounded itineraries. A trip to South Africa in early January featured a visit to Timanfaya National Park to explore the lava fields and an optional round of golf at Arabella Golf Club. Numerous bike rides highlighted South Africa’s picturesque villages, coasts, valleys, and vineyards, with accommodations in Lanzarote, Canary Islands; Hermanus; Franschhoek; and Cape Town.

“South Africa is not highly popular from a biking perspective; however, from our perspective, it has good pavement, amazing hotels, and super-high-quality food,” Gray says. “When we were in Cape Town we managed to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. It was a big highlight to see this mega project that is not going to open until September.”

Even with its heavily researched itineraries, the Gray & Co. team occasionally has to improvise to take its customer service to the next level. “We were touring with a family all around Sydney. To get them out of traffic, we chartered a jet boat to pick them up close to Bondi Beach and drop them off right at the Park Hyatt Sydney. It was a neat opportunity for them to see the harbor and have a jet boat all to themselves, making the transfer a bit of an adventure itself.”

As for new adventures, the team recently took journeys to Bergen, Norway; Sri Lanka; and will visit Australia’s Sunshine Coast Hinterlands this spring. “We’re eagerly awaiting the new lodges that will open in Bhutan; Six Senses is opening up amazing new lodges there later this year. And the Galápagos Islands is definitely on our list as well; we want to check out Pikaia Lodge,” Gray notes.

Photos courtesy of Gray & Co 

Suitable for travelers of all riding abilities, from beginners to experienced cyclists, Trek Travel, born of Trek bikes, offers luxury biking vacations around the world. Each guest is provided with an award-winning Trek bicycle, such as the all-new Trek Domane SL 7 carbon fiber road bike with electronic Di2 shifting, the Trek FX hybrid, and the electric-assist XM700+.

Trek Travel’s expertly guided trips can be booked privately and modified to suit guests’ preferences. Alternatively, the company’s trip design team can work with travelers to create completely customized tours. For example, the team recently designed a 22-person trip to Switzerland, intended to celebrate the family’s heritage and introduce everyone, from ages 6 to 80, to the town their matriarch and grandmother hailed from.

“When you slow down and get on a bike you are able to immerse yourself in a region more than if you’re on a bus from point A to point B. You can feel the terrain, stop on the side of the road and take pictures, and smell the lavender fields you’re riding by,” explains Meagan Coates, Trek Travel’s trip design manager. “How you’re welcomed by locals when you arrive in a tiny town in Italy on a bike is a different experience. You’re able to connect more easily.”

While some destinations, such as Yellowstone or California wine country, sound ideal for a cycling vacation, others may surprise. “Time is of the essence to get to Cuba,” Coates explains.

Launched early this year, Trek Travel’s eight-day, seven-night Cuba itinerary welcomes all abilities for a trip that starts in Santa Clara and ends in Havana. One day’s ride, for example, covers approximately 40 miles with 1,200 feet of climbing, pedaling through the Valle de los Ingenios, the lush green valley once the center of the island’s sugar industry. The trip’s wide variety of non-cycling activities includes visits to the Bay of Pigs museum and Manaca Iznaga Sugar Plantation, people-to-people exchanges such as meeting a local author in Trinidad, and savoring traditional homemade dinners at paladars — private, family owned restaurants.

All tours allow guests to set their own pace — it’s encouraged to skip a ride in favor of a spa treatment, if desired. Last May, the company launched a new collection of trips designed to maximize the relaxation portion of one’s vacation. A partnership with Scenic luxury river cruises allows Trek Travel to offer tours on the Danube and Rhine rivers.

“The ships are like floating luxury hotels, and at every port there is a spot where you can get off and ride,” Coates says. Day three of the Rhine River Cruise, for example, features an afternoon ride through Germany’s romantic Neckar Valley to the foothills of the Odenwald Forest, followed by a classical concert in the Baroque Mannheim Palace.

“With the support that we offer, you don’t have to worry about anything,” says Coates. “The biggest thing I tell beginner or non-riders is ‘Just go.’ More often than not, when you want to start doing anything new, the hardest part is just getting started.”

Photos courtesy of Clockwise: Norway ©Tony Ferlisi; Ojai courtesy of Trek Travel; Yellowstone ©Zack Jones Photography; Cuba ©Leanne Welbourne

Since 1925, Art Deco has been known as a glamorous, global style characterized by lavish ornamentation. “Ordinary” items found in the everyday home become extraordinary when embellished with gemstones, crystals, and precious and semi-precious stones highlighting their sumptuous designs.

By Kristen Ordonez

Lalique Masque de Femme — THG-Paris

“From the beginning, Art Deco embraced modern luxury through exquisite craftsmanship and precious materials,” says Pedro Uranga, North American director of THG-Paris. “THG’s Profil collection, designed by the legendary Jamie Drake, and our Masque De Femme collaboration with Lalique both emulate these aspects of the beloved design style as well as utilize the celebrated geometrically patterned inlays of the time.” THG has had a relationship with Lalique for more than a decade, creating beautiful works of art that mix turn-of-the-century designs with modern sensibility.

The Masque de Femme Collection features a bas-relief pattern with Lalique crystal set atop each handle. Enamel adorns the handles on all four sides with a palm-frond motif either in black, gray and white or red and beige, a pattern especially reminiscent of the 1920s. Available finishes include polished gold and polished chrome. Starting at $18,125

Profil — THG-Paris

Also from THG is the Profil faucet, by legendary designer Jamie Drake, whose work showcases a penchant for the traditional and American glamour. The eyes are drawn to the sculptural handles of the Profil, embellished with inlays of black onyx or metal, as well as Lalique Clear Crystal and Lalique Black Crystal. Starting at $3,907

Albion — Hudson Valley Lighting

“To me, the Art Deco movement embodies the lavish look of the 1920s — the embrace of modernism and optimism of the times expressed through the simple form and glamour of the style,” says Malaina Matheus, vice president of business development at Hudson Valley Lighting. “Hudson Valley Lighting’s Albion sconce with its rows of polished glass rods is a nod to that important part of history and design while at the same time embracing our own modernity through the LED light source.”

The Albion LED sconce features a glittering array of crystal rods beveled on each end. Fluted cast metalwork clasps the collection of rods, which are arranged in a tapered order around a frosted glass diffuser. A powerful LED driver marries Albion’s twentieth-century glamour with the energy-efficient technology of today. The sconce comes in two sizes and is available in aged brass and polished nickel finishes. $1,725

Blur Collection — Corbett Lighting

Hailing from Corbett Lighting’s summer 2016 collection, Blur is an elegant interplay of mixed materials, evocative of the Art Deco style.

“Blur’s bold geometric forms and mixed textures exemplify the rich depth eternally sought after within the Art Deco movement,” says Steve Nadell, president of Troy-CSL Lighting Inc. “The sconce features a diamond-shaped pattern of varying sized circles made up of rock crystal and clear optical discs.”

These materials, along with opaque iron discs finished in modern silver leaf, create a beautiful configuration enhanced by the warm glow of a dimmable LED light. The palette of materials is fastened to a diamond-shaped, stainless steel backplate. $590

Updated traditional kitchen with herringbone floors, brass accents and a La Cornue range in Beverly Hills. Photo courtesy Lou Trapp.

The allure of interior design was not always at the forefront of Lindsay Chambers’ mind.

By Kristen Ordonez

Growing up in Palo Alto, California, she had ambitions of being a history college professor, pursuing a PhD at Stanford University. But while attending, something happened that would ultimately change her career path.

“One day, I got a knock on the door from a couple who worked at Google asking to buy my house. I didn’t have anywhere to move, but I realized I had an idea of what people wanted design and home-wise in Palo Alto,” shares Chambers. With this idea in mind, she bought a nearby home, gutted it out and updated everything in the home, even adding a basement.

That home was just the start. Enthralled in the process so much, Chambers then finished getting her masters degree and became a full-time custom home developer, founding Hazel.Wood Design Group. “The custom homes sold so quickly, and people were asking me to design their home like my houses,” says Chambers.

It did not take long for her to realize her strengths and love for interior design. Hazel.Wood was renamed Lindsay Chambers Designs in 2015, and rearranged its focus to both home and interior design. Now, along with home development, Lindsay Chambers specializes in interior designing with a focus in the transitional style of mixing contemporary trends with classic pieces, and vice versa. Much of her work is inspired by her surroundings, particularly the modern styles of Los Angeles and the “Old is New” aesthetic of San Francisco, blending together effortlessly to create what she coins “understated elegance.”

“I prefer clean lines, and a highly edited aesthetic,” Chambers notes. “I prefer to work with materials, textiles, and furnishings that are of a high quality but are also understated.”

When it comes to the business side of running her firm, Chambers has found that her clients tend to understand the simple yet sophisticated elegance she loves to incorporate. “Most of my clients are on the younger side,” Chambers analyzes. “They like the traditional aesthetic, but they want something cleaner, younger, hipper — but not in the cold modern genre. That is why I think the transitional style has become so popular.”

“A room in someone’s home should not feel like a museum. It needs to be a place that is beautiful as it is warm and welcoming,” she says.

Accommodating the client while also catering to her own likes and tastes is almost as easy as breathing for Chambers, whose choices in textures, fabrics, colors and pieces marry well in a style that is supposed to be a union of different eras and their corresponding aesthetics. And like any true designer, she knows how to bring a balance of both her vision and the interests of the client without the space feeling disjointed or cold. “A room in someone’s home should not feel like a museum. It needs to be a place that is as beautiful as it is warm and welcoming,” she says.

Chambers’ favorite spaces to design are kitchens and master bathrooms because of the freedom open spaces like these provide. “I love to work on both because, as the designer, you are often creating your own design from scratch and get to influence the interior architecture as well as the finishes. Whereas in other rooms, you are taking other people’s art, whether it be a sofa or table design for instance, and harmoniously putting them together.

Since her firm launched, Chambers has designed multiple homes in California and received well-deserved recognition. Her favorite project so far is the Hollywood Hills home in Los Angeles she is currently designing — for herself. “It is so exciting to try out new products and finishes that I have never gotten to work with before but have always wanted to,” she says. She has also come to find her love for art transform with every addition made into an ever-growing art collection, one she swears to never sell. “When I move into a new place, I can’t get comfortable until the art is up on the walls.”

Committing to designing a home for oneself has proven to have its highs and lows, according to Chambers, but ultimately she is loving the challenge of fitting into the shoes of a client. Her only complaint about the project so far has been over her own self-instituted standards. “I’m a perfectionist and since it’s my own house, everything has to be perfect.”

If reimagining the space for her own home was not exciting enough, Chambers is also taking opportunities to handcraft her own materials. 

Photo courtesy Christopher Stork.

“I designed my own cabinet hardware, which is being manufactured by Waterworks, for instance. I’m also importing some bespoke light fixtures from France.” These practices have fortunately not stopped just with her home. In the past, Chambers has designed her own line of fabrics with Guildery, but these achievements have reached a whole new level, as she is planning on launching her own furniture line.

Light, spa-like master bath with chevron marble floors and a Waterworks Margaux burnished nickel freestanding tub in a Tudor home in Palo Alto, California. Photos courtesy Roger Davies.

This summer, Lindsay Chambers will debut a 25-piece furniture line at a new showroom located in the West Hollywood design district. She says the collection will keep a soft contemporary taste and will feature coffee tables, woodwork-based items, dining room tables, beds and other basic fundamental pieces. Similar to the size of her firm, her furniture line will remain boutique-sized, making it easier for Chambers to stay involved with all her projects and “keep [her] hands on everything.”

Her hands will have lots to do as she continues to work on getting the showroom ready for the summer debut, as well as working with clients. She is currently working on helping a Stanford history professor renovate her home on the university campus.

With so much happening presently, Chambers still keeps a determined eye on the future and where she would like to see Lindsay Chambers Designs go, which is not too far. When asked where she would like to be in five years, she says “right where I am” with her offices in West Hollywood and in the San Francisco Bay area. Along with her desires to design a restaurant or hotel, she hopes to reach farther with the furniture line and expand the number of showrooms across the U.S.

Q&A:

Favorite and least favorite aspect of the job?

Favorite aspect: Defining a vision with the client.

Least favorite: Invoicing.

What is the most important element you have to include or remember to keep in any home?

Durability of the kitchens and baths. Some of the most beautiful design materials are not always the most durable. For instance, if a client wants to incorporate white marble as a countertop in the kitchen, I encourage them to have a portion of the counter in  another material so they have somewhere to chop vegetables and pour red wine that won’t stain.

What kind of design trends do you want to see in the future?

Master bedroom with gold and white washed tin ceiling tiles applied as the accent wall, in Palo Alto. Photo courtesy Roger Davies. 

I hear the 90s are back which means green should be coming back in. I like green so I am happy to see it starting to show up in design again in a significant way.   

What colors do you like to play with the most?

I have to admit I am a fan of gray, which is no surprise if you have seen my work. When I bought the book 50 Shades of Gray at the airport, I honestly thought it would be about an interior designer. First 10 pages into the book and I start to hide it from the man sitting next to me on the plane because I realized how wrong I was! 

What advice would you give to someone going into interior design or starting his or her own firm?

If you are going to start your own firm, don’t dip your toe in the water to test it out. Dive in with both feet and give it your best shot from the beginning. Go for it!

This Newport Beach, California project was under a tight deadline, leading Blakeley to customize pieces from retail stores. Photos courtesy James Blakeley. 

Designer James Blakeley’s practicality has appealed to celebrities such as Tom Selleck and Kiefer Sutherland.
By Kirsten Niper

It’s no surprise to hear interior designer James Blakeley stress the importance of designing a space that reflects the people living in the home.
“Living environments need to nurture, inspire and grow with their occupants,” Blakeley says. “Creating a home, complete and individual, requires a single vision that can be felt and sensed from any room, during any occasion and time.”
In the design process, his first steps are asking the clients what they’re looking for, what their lifestyle is, and how/what they do in their home for entertaining.
“A superb use is to design a ‘box within a box,'” Blakeley explains. “Thus, one particular area in a room must standalone in its integrity, but when all of the elements combine into a seamless design, then the space can be viewed as a whole. The resulting compilation of spaces evolves together, ever reflecting a client’s personality.
“The living room is a big box, with different boxes in that room. You think it’s one room, but then it’s another and another, like those [Matryoshka Nesting] dolls,” shares Blakeley, a principal of Blakeley-Bazeley Ltd.
Blakeley uses hand-sketched, black and white drawings when illustrating his designs for clients. “I used to do a computer program to show ideas, flybys and all that stuff. By doing that, they got an image in their head and its never the way the completed project looks. Now, I find that they’re surprised by everything they see.”
Blakeley has worked with celebrities, including Tom Selleck, Kiefer Sutherland, David James Elliott, Don Bellisario and Raffaella De Laurentiis, and average Joes. No matter the client, he strives to further Los Angeles’ reputation of iconic style and classic charm.
Some of the buildings that inspire him are L.A.’s Union Station, “a wonderful Mid-Century Classical building,” Hollyhock House, the Stahl House and the interior of the Bradbury Building. “The city has a lot of diverse looks, we move with different concepts, and clean, crisp design,” he explains.
In order to deliver a finished product that pleases his client, Blakeley relies on his strong partnerships with artisans, craftsmen and carpenters. “If you go to individuals who specialize, you’re getting a better product, of better quality and more quickly,” he explains. “I have three upholsterers, each with a specialized skill.”
Often, he entrusts his tradespeople to refinish or refurbish pieces found at stores like Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware to make them customized pieces.
For what turned out to be one of his most challenging projects, Blakeley and his team had six weeks to fully redesign a client’s home that was to be rented out fully furnished. Due to the time constraint, much of the furniture came from retail stores. Blakeley picked up the dining room table from Restoration Hardware because he liked the style, but didn’t like the finish, so he took it to his refinisher who then stripped it and restained it. “I made what I needed, and then tweaked everything. It was made to fit — they re custom pieces, but not custom,” he says.
Throughout his projects, Blakeley is constantly modifying his concept. “As long as you tweak it, it leads you somewhere. A blueprint, it’s not the actual project, it’s just a guideline for what you’re about to build.” The constant evolution of a project is an example of why designers are needed in the first place.
“The reason a designer is hired is, number one, because they have the expertise to find things at a price you can’t find them at, and number two, your time is worth something. Hire a designer to do work for you, and in the long run you will save money and time,” Blakeley states.
He further drives the point home with a story of a client who while shopping with his wife, saw a coffee table he liked that was 60-percent-off. “He called me up, with the code on the piece, and I found the source for him. I found it for $1,800 less than the advertised 60-percent discount.”

His Favorite Project:
Blakeley was involved in a custom project, from the top down, in Coachella Valley, Rancho Mirage. “They didn’t know exactly what they wanted — they liked Contemporary, but felt like Contemporary could be cold.” So he ended up doing a Bali meets Japan theme, with Balinese wood ceiling in the great room, lots of exposed concrete, exposed stones from the mountains, muted colors and lots of steel. A standout from that project was the fireplace. “I made it the whole wall, almost 25 feet wide and 22 feet high. I layered three kinds of wood and had a stone hearth and mantel. It was one of the most exciting projects.”
Inspirations:
A dear friend of the family, Tony Duquette, got me started in all of this. He was a local designer — a stage and set designer who won a Tony. He’d take things you couldn’t do anything with and make something great.”
On the Importance of the Color Black:
One of his idols, Billy Baldwin, used the color black often. Blakeley uses it as an accent, in some form, somewhere in the room; or it can be throughout the whole room. “Black is striking, enticing and sophisticated. And a black room looks bigger than a white room. It adds a sense of style and mystery.” When people walk into a black room, they have no sense of where the walls are, so it looks huge to them, he says.

Pagoda Large by Ruiqi Dai. 

These designers have blended the lines between functional design and sculptural art with their completely original, handmade luxury objects. 

By Samantha Myers

 

Michelle Jones: Britannia Silver Jug
The graceful silver vessel boasts a unique shape that aesthetically resonates most when the effortless flow of metal is viewed from above. “There’s a sense of simplicity to it,” says designer Michelle Jones, who has a background in metalwork. “It has clean lines and is completely functional. It has a Zen feeling to it.”
Made from Britannia silver, which has a higher constitute of silver than sterling silver, the shape of the jug was handcrafted and then decorated with purposeful hammering marks. “Metal represents permanence,” says Jones. “It’s going to be around for some time. If you buy a piece, it will outlast you; it has longitude and it is passed through generations.”
The Britannia Silver Jug has the option of being sold as a set with its accompanying “tots,” or separately. £1,800.

Ruiqi Dai: Pagoda Large
Inspired by pagoda architecture, this one-of-a-kind series of 10 stackable porcelain tableware pieces includes a wine cup, teacup, four small bowls, two larger bowls and two plates, all designed for a formal dinner. “The form of the pagoda is expressed by stacking thrown porcelain, which echoes the silhouettes of Buddhist temples,” says designer Ruiqi Dai. “I also used soft fading glazes to create the gradual change of color to emphasize the feeling of the sky as light and dark transfer through the rotation of the earth to illustrate that there are only ever-changing, ever-moving processes.”
Originally from China, Dai studied Three Dimensional Design at the University of the Arts London, where she found her passion in ceramics “to make sculpturally functional objects that can both serve an aesthetic purpose and be useful.” £580.

Olivia Walker: Black Porcelain Wrapping Accretions Bowl
Created by Barcelona-based ceramist Olivia Walker, this bowl was thrown in black porcelain on a potter’s wheel, then decorated with individual, paper-thin shards of porcelain to create a lively pattern, taking over a month to complete.
“Starting from a set point on a bowl, I let the organic accretions spread out and grow,” says Walker.

“Unsure of the exact form it will take, I create pieces that evolve in the making process and which, when finished, present themselves to me as something new.”
Walker believes the piece is “more decorative than functional,” whose “life comes from the subtle tones of black [and] the way the light plays on the burnished surface in contrast to the stone-like texture and the way the accretions wrap and flow around the piece.” £1,400.

Naomi Jacques: Shards
Made from the shards of transparent, clear bullseye glass, this sculptural art bowl was created by artist Naomi Jacques.
Although the bowl appears precarious to handle due to its blend of glass pieces, a process Jacques calls “glass frit fusion” that took several years to master, she explains it to be “very tactile and can be held delicately, but it definitely will not cut you.”

“This piece in particular depicts an evocative balance between fragility and strength. I wanted to create something that celebrates a beauty that can often only be found resurfacing from darkness,” says Jacques.
Likened to a sheet of raw-cut diamond by viewers, Jacques imagines her piece to function as a “conversation appetizer, a thought-provoking creation that people can talk about and reflect upon its meaning.” £2,025.
 
**All of these items were available for sale through VeryFirstTo.com. VeryFirstTo.com touts itself as the world’s only site enabling one to be the first to know about, and have, the best of newly launching luxury products and experiences.

A New York City-based interior designer draws upon her travels around the world and involvement in the art community to create crisp, elegant and comfortable living spaces.

By Kim Quevedo

Story transformed this 2,400-square-foot industrial space into a perfectly tailored modern loft in New York City’s Tribeca. She used a neutral palette accented with contemporary art and splashes of color and pattern; Tribeca loft photos ©eric laignel

Born in Japan and raised in Singapore and Texas, interior designer Sara Story aims to bring a worldly approach in her design work. Not only does she include crafts of artisans from all over the globe, but Story also encompasses some of the different and unique transitions of spaces she has observed on her travels. Since founding her design firm in 2003, Story has worked on residential and commercial projects worldwide, including Singapore, Texas, California and New York City, as well as created two wallpaper collections. With an energetic, free-flowing style, Story is also inspired by art, fashion and architecture.

What motivated you to get into the interior design world?

After being in the corporate world, I took a step back and thought about what my passion was and what I wanted to spend my time doing. Looking back on everything I love, I gravitated toward design and architecture. That is what made me go back to school. Once I got a degree in interior architecture, I moved to New York, worked for a prominent designer and went out on my own when I thought it was time.

How have your travels inspired your projects?

I think when you travel you learn so much about different cultures and their design aesthetic, and that is always in my repertoire and definitely in my mind for projects. I just got back from Asia, and Japan, in particular, was inspiring with the scales of design, use of materials and the transition between everything, particularly in the way they resolve how materials meet each other.

Some of what I saw outside of Tokyo lends itself to a project in Sun Valley, Idaho, I am working on, specifically in the ebonized vertical wood on the exterior and how that transitioned into the interior, and how they installed this beautiful tile vertically.

It was also interesting to see the different way they use their light fixtures and how they are integrated into the beams. That is something I am working on with that project. It was interesting how it all corresponded at the same time.

How does the art world influence you in your interior design work?

New York City has a wealth of inspiration in all its galleries, architecture, art and different shows, and it always keep you on your toes. You keep learning about different artists and their different techniques. It all interplays together with interior design.

What was the inspiration for your wallpaper collection?

For my wallpaper collection, I would go through so many different paintings for inspiration of color combinations and texture. I also drew upon fashion. I went through old vintage Christian Dior. It is so interesting to see all the different color combinations and variations. It is really fascinating.

In a residential area outside of the city center, this three-story bungalow in Singapore is a mix of traditional Colonial architecture and contemporary Asian design. 

Plaster molding, refined paneling and exposed ebonized beams highlight the double-height ceilings in the living room. Photos courtesy Singapore bungalow photos ©masano kawana

How did everything come together for the bungalow in Singapore?

That was a really interesting project because it was my first project in Asia. Part of the inspiration of the house was taking the old black and white Colonial houses that were built in Asia, and are kind of national landmarks in Singapore, and doing a contemporary version of a black and white house — so having lots of beams, latticework, marble and teak — and thinking about the environment and what is sustainable there for materials. Lastly, I brought in a European vision too with European antiques. It was a combination of European antiques, architectural black and white house, and contemporary elements like art and light fixtures. It was an eclectic mixture from all over the world.

Can you share your thinking behind the Tribeca loft project?

This project was for a really young bachelor, so it was thinking about Tribeca and bringing interjections of fun, cool patterns. There was a graffiti wallpaper on the ceiling in the entry vestibule and this inside-out pharmacy in the entry powder room, like a medicine cabinet with no doors. That was inspired by Damien Hirst.

Then we built this little office and, in the back, there is this doodle wallpaper I really like. We also took this old air compressor from a scuba tank and made into a vanity. It was fun, and about creating these energetic, cool moments.

Do you have any advice for people going into interior design?

Always keep your eyes open, keep learning about things and explore the cultural aspect of where you live to the fullest.

Usually viewed as the nemesis of brick-and-mortar shops, technology is now being employed by retailers to draw people back to the mall.

By Roger Grody

With RFID technology, fitting rooms become interactive. Photo courtesy Oak Labs.

Adjusting to a fundamental shift in how the world shops, retail establishments are struggling to retain customers who have become accustomed to shopping online in their pajamas, or while sipping a latte at their neighborhood café. To get people back to the mall, retailers must offer a more compelling experience, and for some, technology is not the enemy, but the answer.

Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, who parlayed a flirty “downtown romantic” style into a global lifestyle brand, is also one of the most technologically ambitious retailers. At her boutiques in New York, San Francisco and L.A., the experience begins at a large touchscreen from which customers can order cappuccino or Champagne, delivered to them as they browse.

At her boutiques, Minkoff has also introduced technology to the dressing rooms, equipped with mirrors doubling as interactive touchscreens that allow customers to adjust the lighting and request alternate sizes or styles. In addition, the “smart mirrors” detect the radio-frequency identification (RFID)-tagged garments and suggest matching pieces or accessories. “The amount of embedded tech that has gone into this retail embodiment has given us the opportunity to reach our ultimate goal in catering to next-generation shoppers,” says Uri Minkoff, the designer’s brother and company CEO.

Burberry, the iconic British luxury brand, also has demonstrated a strong commitment to technology, first at its global flagship store on London’s Regent Street and subsequently at its Shanghai flagship, the largest of seven locations in that city. The illumination of the sleek Shanghai façade changes with the natural light, while 40 strategically placed video screens and 130 speakers reinforce a decidedly high-tech interior.

Using RFID technology, a multimedia experience is triggered every time a customer steps into a dressing room at Burberry Shanghai. Not only are mirrors transformed into video screens — displaying images from a Parisian fashion show, for instance — but product specs and other relevant information are also presented to the customer.

William Toney, vice president of global RFID market development at Avery Dennison, a leader in the field, reports retailers are rapidly embracing this technology. His company manufactures tiny ultra-high-frequency RFID antennae with integrated chips that are adhered to price stickers or sewn-in labels, unnoticed by shoppers. 

Oak Labs’ smart mirrors transform shopping at Ralph Lauren boutiques. Photo courtesy Oak Labs.

These stickers, which can be scanned from a distance, have revolutionized retail inventory management. Recognizing that customers’ greatest frustration is not being able to find what they’re looking for, retailers welcome the opportunity to increase inventory accuracy from an industry average of 65 percent to 95-plus percent, explains Toney.

By collaborating with high-tech companies like Oak Labs, Avery Dennison’s RFID tags can trigger the interactive experiences pioneered by Rebecca Minkoff and Burberry. “Retailers are beginning to realize the definition of ‘mobile’ is quickly moving away from mobile apps and towards a reality where patrons keep their heads up as the store changes around them,” says Oak Labs CEO Healey Cypher, whose full-length touchscreen mirrors are live at selected Ralph Lauren stores.

“Without anybody having to scan anything, a garment comes to life in the dressing room,” says Toney, who explains the mirror identifies what the customer has brought in and gives her or him an opportunity to interact with the store’s resources. “The greatest contribution of this technology is that it elevates the shopping experience for the consumer,” he maintains.

At its stores in New York, San Francisco and London, outdoor apparel and equipment retailer The North Face offers customers a virtual reality (VR) experience through a collaboration with Jaunt, a Silicon Valley startup. The content, filmed with Jaunt’s proprietary cameras and microphones, provides a fully immersive experience of trekking in Nepal with professional rock climber Renan Ozturk.

“Virtual reality is a powerful medium that has the ability to introduce audiences to incredible people in amazing places,” says Cliff Plumer, president of Jaunt Studios. For The North Face, VR represents an innovative way to share its passion for the outdoors and inspire customers to equip themselves for new adventures.

On The Web

Burberry: www.burberry.com

Ralph Lauren: www.ralphlauren.com

Rebecca Minkoff: www.rebeccaminkoff.com

The North Face: www.thenorthface.com

Avery Dennison: www.averydennison.com

Jaunt: www.jauntvr.com

Oak Labs: www.oaklabs.is

At The North Face, virtual reality transports customers to Nepal; Photo courtesy The North Face.

All photos ©J Grassi.

New York City’s luxurious Sky tower reveals new design options.

By Stacey Staum

Sasha Bikoff Interior Design: “I tried to bring a European moody element to the space. I suspect the renter at Sky to be well-traveled and intellectual,” Sasha Binkoff says.

Interiors by Erik Galiana: Erik Galiana’s design has pieces of furniture serving multiple functions, creating a space that is both beautiful and efficient. “One of the major design elements we used was a bookcase that divides the space’s public and private areas,” he says.

For some of New York City’s most discerning tenants, designing their homes just became more convenient. The Moinian Group is partnering with six designers to offer in-house services at Sky, its 71-story tower in the coveted Midtown West neighborhood.

Sky recently unveiled a cluster of model suites designed by a handful of both up-and-coming and established New York City designers. The model suites show prospective tenants the luxury afforded to residents of Sky, and allow them to envision how their future homes at Sky might look.

The six design teams working on the model units each developed a completely different aesthetic for their apartment, yet each apartment exudes refinement and class in its own unique way.

Sasha Bikoff of Sasha Bikoff Interior Design describes her style for the project, explaining, “I tried to bring a European moody element to the space. I suspect the renter at Sky to be well-traveled and intellectual. The Timothy Oulton deep red tufted velvet couch against the Slim Aaron’s photograph of Lake Como kind of take you to another world, and created an escape from city life.”

For Bikoff, the residence lies at the intersection of form and function. “New Yorkers care a lot about a comfortable couch and a place to kick back after a long day at work. I wanted to have that in my space, and not just have it be stylish, but also offer maximum functionality. In model units, we often see people using settees as opposed to couches or consoles for dining tables, and this isn’t what the lifestyle is about. It’s not just for show; it’s for daily use.”

For Erik Galiana of Interiors by Erik Galiana, his design seeks “to appeal to the largest audience possible by creating something that multiple people would walk into and say, ‘this feels like home to me.’”

Galiana’s design of his model residence has pieces of furniture serving multiple functions, creating a space that is both beautiful and efficient. “One of the major design elements we used was a bookcase that divides the space’s public and private areas,” he says. Galiana also added additional drawer space by having one dresser under the television, and an additional dresser as one of the nightstands beside the bed.

Churchill Living’s design utilized neutral tones to maximize the natural light and views, and incorporated multifunctional furniture. Eileen Guinnessey explains, “We chose furnishings with clean design elements to match Sky’s design ethos. Design elements were chosen to maximize the functionality of the space while maintaining the ambiance from the natural light of the floor-to-ceiling windows. We went with subtle design choices that do not distract from the views, but someone with a discerning eye will see the details and recognize luxury living instantly.”

Jack Ovadia of Ovadia Design Group cites the residence’s clean lines and open spaces as “the driving force to my design. You can walk into my apartment and it feels like an extension of the Sky brand.”

Ovadia’s design is geared towards young New York professionals, but feels that the Sky brand really is for people of any style. His residence allows decorative features to make the boldest statement. “In this project, we provided all the furniture and decorative features in the apartment. The idea was to give a neutral backdrop and let the artwork and cool furniture pieces express themselves with individuality, such as brighter patterned fabric and artwork that pops,” he says.

Churchill Living: “We chose furnishings with clean design elements to match Sky’s design ethos. We went with subtle design choices that do not distract from the views, but someone with a discerning eye will see the details and recognize luxury living instantly,” Eileen Guinnessey says.

Ovadia Design Group and Bijou Covering: Jack Ovadia of Ovadia Design Group worked with Bijou Covering, wallpapering the wall and ceiling above the bed to make it feel like a custom built-in. “Wall coverings create detail where none exists,” says Jason Kaen of Bijou.

Daniela Schneider, founder and chief designer officer of Quadra FS, paid close attention to layout in the design of Quadra FS’s model residence. “We wanted to present the space in the best possible layout, which we achieved by creating two distinct yet cohesive spaces. The open-flow floor plan from the living room to the bedroom was married through color, texture, form and light, creating the best solution for this unique space,” she explains.

Quadra’s design aesthetic marries Sky’s clean lines with a softer touch. “You can see the straight lines and hard elements of the architecture from the unit, so we wanted to juxtapose those features on the interior through soft colors in warm tones, an assortment of textures and curvilinear shapes to bring the unit to life. The multitude of woven fabrics creates a rich, creamy palette to contrast with the natural materials of concrete and metals,” Schneider says.

While each unit is unique in style and design, certain elements are evident in all of the spaces. Foremost in this trend is an unwillingness to block out breathtaking city views from the floor-to-ceiling windows lining the walls of each apartment. Schneider and Guinnessey used clear glass or lucite furnishings to provide unobstructed views, while Ovadia used low furniture to achieve the same effect. On the 43rd floor of Sky, it really is all about the view.

High-end materials and interesting textures also dominate each model residence design. Bikoff used Brazilian agate geode slabs to form occasional tables, and incorporated restored antiques from the 1920s and 1940s to complete the design style. Galiana included a pouf made of cowhide, providing additional seating for guests. Ovadia worked with Jason Kaen at Bijou Covering, wallpapering the wall and ceiling above the bed to make it feel like a custom built-in. “Wall coverings create detail where none exists,” Kaen says.

Quadra FS: “We wanted to present the space in the best possible layout, which we achieved by creating two distinct yet cohesive spaces. The open-flow floor plan from the living room to the bedroom was married through color, texture, form and light, creating the best solution for this unique space,” Daniela Schneider explains.

Sky offers prospective tenants the option of furnishing their apartments through the designers, allowing for a turnkey experience upon move in.

Rockwell Group: David Rockwell, founder and president of Rockwell Group, describes Sky’s design as a “contemporary interpretation of modern loft living. We developed a luxurious, but more informal, materials palette with natural and handcrafted materials and finishes, such as marble, walnut, brass and stone.”

“We create lifestyles and vertical neighborhoods for sophisticated renters that could purchase condos at this point in their lives, but choose to rent with us,” says Natasha Vardi, senior vice president of residential properties at The Moinian Group, which developed, owns and operates  Sky. “With every property we develop, we always set our standards high. As the renter becomes more sophisticated, we need to not only meet expectations but to far surpass their expectations. Sky is not only different from Moinian’s other projects, it is different from every rental in New York City at large.”

This difference can be found in the unrivaled amenities offered at Sky, including lifestyle concierge and art displayed throughout the property, inviting the feel of living in a gallery. Perhaps the most sought-after amenity at Sky is the Life Time Athletic club, a one-of-a-kind fitness and lifestyle center. The 15,500-square-foot training space includes two outdoor pools with lounging decks; cycle, Pilates and yoga studios; wood-paneled dining rooms; a refreshment lounge; and a residents’ lounge with a pool table, library wall and a fireplace.

The design aesthetic created by Rockwell Group lends contemporary sophistication to the Life Time Athletic club, as well as the lobby and residential units. David Rockwell, founder and president of Rockwell Group, describes Sky’s design as a “contemporary interpretation of modern loft living. We developed a luxurious, but more informal, materials palette with natural and handcrafted materials and finishes, such as marble, walnut, brass and stone.”

The residential units boast open kitchens with rich walnut cabinets, plank flooring and custom marble kitchen islands. The bathrooms offer showers with vertical-striped tiling, sculptural surface-mounted basins and custom vanities made of blackened metal with timber drawers and shelving.

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