Archive for the ‘Luxe Loves’ Category
Sometimes my Conversations with Friends blog feature is a way to meet new people who I’ve admired from afar. And, sometimes Convo is one-on-one with someone I know very well. Today’s Conversation with Friends falls into the second category. I’m happy to introduce Kathy Devereux. She’s an amazing friend, a business associate, and, as you’ll see all around interesting, smart and funny, a great trio of characteristics for friends and work cohorts. Kathy is an expert marketer and creative. She spent many years in corporate brand marketing. Today – to the delight of everyone who knows her and especially clients – she is forming her own agency with a focus on her own brand of creative storytelling to support small- and medium-size businesses. She’s very talented and I speak from first-hand experience. Kathy is an at-large member of the LSI team. She’s helped me step-back and think more strategically about what LSI is and, more importantly, what it can be. Curious to know more? Kathy promises a website very soon (we all know the line about “the cobblers wife…” you know the rest), but for now you can reach her at [email protected] In the meantime, read on …
LISA: Let’s time travel to the past. What did you want to be when you were twelve?
KATHY: Oddly, in my eighth-grade graduation newsletter I say I want to be a diplomat. Self-knowledge must have eluded me. I’m really the sort of person who likes to shake things up. Sometimes that means UN-diplomacy.
LISA: Okay, your childhood in 25 words or less…
KATHY: Chicago. Cubs. Free range. Lightening bugs and attic fans. Hat-making classes at Sayre Park. Failing Girl Scouts. Twelve is the new thirty.
LISA: Okay, I need a follow up question. Twelve is the new thirty…?
KATHY: At about twelve I rejected the whole premise of childhood. I thought I was grown and self-sufficient. Of course, I had the wonderful safety net of a big, sticky family and friends so I skirted disaster.
LISA: You are a brilliant marketer, in my opinion. You say your expertise is “strategy and storytelling.” Tell me more about that.
KATHY: My marketing approach is a little different. I work with clients to tease out the fundamentals of their businesses – who they are, what services or products are offered, what the company personality is and why, ultimately anyone should care … things like that. These points are not always well articulated, so it’s often a journey of discovery. Very fun. Then, we refine the brand proposition and develop natural strategies to advance. Storytelling is simply creative communication across fill-in-the-blank media to capture the end-user’s imagination and, if it’s done right, win their business.
LISA: Tell me about who would hire you? What do your clients look like?
KATHY: My favorite clients are small- to mid-size businesses with an entrepreneurial zeal. I like contagious energy. For the most part my clients are successful – they make great things or offer amazing services. Generally, marketing has not been a top priority, but there’s a sense that it should or can be. Often there’s the recognition that an orchestrated marketing plan can take them to the proverbial next level.
LISA: You’re a word girl and the “right word” never seems to elude you. Tell me what is your favorite single word.
KATHY: That is cruel question. Just one? I’ll pick YARE. It means nimble and flexible; a sailing term. I have yare on the brain because I just struck it from a piece of creative work. Alas, too obscure. But I’ll use it here!
LISA: And now, your least favorite word.
KATHY: I sorta saw that coming. I’ll take CERTAINTY. I think once we’re sure about things, we stop looking for answers. You know, batten the mental hatches and call it a day.
LISA: I must have an interiors question. Tell me what your office looks like.
KATHY: I love to work, so it’s critical that I love my space. I have wonderful modern white laminate partner’s desk from DWR. I sort of share it with my husband, Kenton Robertson, a brilliant photographer. My physical desk and my computer desktop are sort of cluttered (that’s why Kenton gets shorted). I so admire order, but it eludes me. The room has a bank of windows on two sides with lots of light, divans and chairs for guests and pets – Walter the cat and an imaginary poodle. I’m never more than ten paces from the espresso machine.
LISA: It’s my signature fantasy question. Always last. You are imbued with limited-time magical powers. You can transport yourself to any time and any place for one hour. Where will I find you?
KATHY: I knew this was coming! I’d like to bring Thomas Jefferson to the here and now. I’ll say no more. Just think of the possibilities.
I love Conversations with Friends. And, by that I mean everyday quippy banter AND this regular blog feature. The latter gives me an excuse to reach out to people I admire from afar. And, on the flip side, it’s a reason to reconnect friends and favorite people who are not spinning in my everyday orbit. So it goes with Stephen Pappas. A number of years ago, I found myself in a new city with a new job. Stephen was one of the first people I met. He was regularly flying in from one coast or another and we teamed up on many photography styling jobs. I adore Stephen. Over the years, he has been both mentor and friend. Stephen lives the Creative Life. And, the capital letters are intentional. Stephen has wonderful imagination, talent and creativity, expressed in so many ways. Read on now to learn more …
LISA: Let’s go back to the beginning. Where did you grow up? What was life like for young Stephen-the-Young?
STEPHEN: I grew up in Southern California in Downey. You didn’t ask for a little-known fact about my formative years, but here’s one anyway. I was a professional child singer from ages 9-13 with the Bob Mitchell Boys Choir. We made movies and records and we sang with the New York City Opera in their Los Angeles engagements in 1969 and 1970. Then, I was part of the The Young Americans from ages 15-18. That led to the world of modeling in my late teens early twenties in LA, SF, & NYC. I was always meant for a creative life.
LISA: Who is your favorite relative? Ah, pick only one. And why?
STEPHEN: My grandfather, Hamid Bey. He was always exciting to be with. He seemed to have no limitations; he was a constant source of inspiration and we were very close.
LISA: Another possibly polarizing question: NY or LA. You’ve done both. Pick one.
STEPHEN: LA – definitely! While some of my dearest and longest friendships are in NYC, the way of life here in LA suits me best.
LISA: You’re a shopper. Spill the beans on the latest, greatest shop you’ve found in LA.
STEPHEN: Garde in West Hollywood. It’s a Bohemian Zen with a wonderful mix of luxury items not seen anywhere else. The owner Scottie (tell him I sent you if you pop in) has a very refined eye. The store is uncluttered, imaginative and chic.
LISA: And now NYC … what’s hot on your personal shopping list?
STEPHEN: The next best thing!
LISA: What was your first real job? No paper routes or lawn mowing? The first job that introduced you to the IRS.
STEPHEN: Burger King. I could only go up from there!
LISA: I love that you are a photo stylist as well as an interior designer. That’s been my trajectory too so I think it’s awesome! Explain for my readers what a stylist does?
STEPHEN: Basically, a stylist brings the picture to life. You compose a room, a piece of furniture, or a client’s product and add or subtract within that composition – whatever it takes, to achieve an eye-stopping image.
LISA: How did your photo styling background prepare you for commercial and residential design?
STEPHEN: It actually happened the other way around. I designed my own room with the monies from a movie I did at age 10. I was always conscious of balance of color, furnishings and space. It seems to have been instinctive.
LISA: What’s on your bedside table?
STEPHEN: Boxes. On my Donghia side table I‘ve a Barbara Barry lacquer box, an orange Jonathan Adler lacquer box, an ebony wood sphere box and a white Crate & Barrel lamp. And, of course, and a lot of books and magazines.
LISA: It’s my signature fantasy question. You are imbued with limited-time magical powers. You can transport yourself to any time and any place for one hour. Where will I find you?
STEPHEN: In the future on a distant star! Plotting my next design phase – Intergalactic Design!
I’m switching time zones and going to the opposite coast for this next installment of Conversations with Friends. Meet LA-based designer Susanna Kost. According to mutual friends, Susanna fled the midwest many years ago after a particularly dreary winter. There are tall tales of sixty sunshine-less days that fueled her decision to Go West. Susanna says that she was simply correcting a geographical error and that she’d always been attracted to California sunshine and more. As an interior designer, she loves the sense of freedom, adventure and drama on the Los Angeles design scene. I had the good luck to catch Susanna just as the La Cienega Design Quarter annual design fête wrapped up. Won’t you come eavesdrop….
LISA: In a nutshell, what is LA design? Pretend I’m from Mars. How would you get me up to speed fast?
SUSANNA: Maybe this will be the screenplay I keep threatening to write – a team of Martian interior designers descends on LA … I have an opening! Well seriously, LA design: it’s fearless. Design precepts that are maybe taken for granted elsewhere, not here. We love color. Clients are open to shaking things up. As a designer, I love the latitude.
LISA: I know you are an accomplished shopper. What’s your latest, greatest find storewise? Do you have a new favorite?
SUSANNA: Such a timely question, Lisa. I love La Cienega Boulevard. The annual Legends of La Cienega just ended. I’m still recovering from 48-hours of shows, seminars and special events. La Cienega is a design destination in LA and two of my favorite shops are Dragonette – vintage Hollywood furniture and amazing jewelry – and my good friend Paul Marra’s shop.
LISA: If you were not an interior designer, you’d be …
SUSANNA: I’d orbit somehow in fashion, flowers or food. Perhaps all three together!
LISA: In my bones, I’m a monochromatic girl (but I love nice stretch into new tonalities). I love your feeling for color. It’s always spot on. Can you describe how a palette emerges?
SUSANNA: I wait for color to come to me and it always does, although never in quite the same way. For example, in a recent project I specified a sixteen-foot concave marble wall – with a fireplace for good measure. Nature gets full credit, of course, but the marble is mustardy-gold with splashes of opalescence onyx. That became the color leitmotif for the entire room. It’s gorgeous.
LISA: Just between us (and my readers) … you and I are both Midwesterners by birth. And we both left! But taking the long view, how has your Midwest provenance influenced your work?
SUSANNA: There’s a wonderful practicality about the Midwest, which I love unless it becomes stifling, of course. Upholstery must always be comfortable. Is that asking too much? I love beautiful things, but not too precious for life. Good lighting is a must. This kind of heartland common sense revved up with some west coast glamour can lead to some inspired designs.
LISA: If you could change one thing in your own house instantly, what would it be? (P.S. Budget and other pesky realities do not apply!)
SUSANNA: My kitchen. Please take it a way and bring me a new one.
LISA: You don’t need to name names, but what client project do you think is most reflective of your own personal aesthetic? In other words, what client home could you move into tomorrow?
SUSANNA: I love my home and covet no other. Even with a remedial kitchen. It’s my heart.
LISA: What is your most prized possession?
SUSANNA: I hate to name drop, but since you asked, I have a fainting couch – a Recamier to be precise – from Gene Kelly’s estate and a set of four Syrian side chairs from Kalef Alaton’s estate. I know I will never tire of these pieces.
LISA: What was your latest Pinterest pin? (P.S. I’m a follower!)
SUSANNA: Wallpapered ceilings – the fifth wall – my latest pin-fatuation. I like rooms that surprise.
LISA: It’s my signature fantasy question. You are imbued with limited-time magical powers. You can transport yourself to any time and any place for one hour. Where will I find you?
SUSANNA: The champagne is on ice. 31 Rue Cambon, Coco Chanel’s Paris apartment. She and I share the same August birthday, which I discovered as a child. I’ve always felt a kinship. It would be fab hour of bubbly and fabric chatter.
One of my favorite furniture designers is a name most people don’t know. That’s why I’m very excited to out John Black (www.jblackdesign.com) in the latest installment of Conversations with Friends. In my view, John is the consummate furniture designer. He is the man behind the curtain (or should I say drawing board?) on some of the most beautiful and iconic furniture designs of the last thirty years, engaging with names like Baker, Henredon, Councill, Artistica and Vanguard. John is also a student of design. A John Black chair, for example, connects to the ancient Greeks. Something to think about. If you’re at the High Point Market this week, John’s Compendium collection with Vanguard is a must-see. The LSI team had the pleasure of partnering with John Black and Vanguard on the showroom design. Such a fun creative tour de force!
For now, I invite you to be a fly on the wall for my conversation with John Black. It starts now….
LISA: You are a furniture designer. I think there may be little confusion about what that is. After all, today there are so may interior designers, stylist, actors, models – you name it – with furniture collections. Can you help clarify this?
JOHN: The name says is it all. I studied furniture design in school and have focused designing furniture my entire career. Furniture has such a long and diverse history, from all corners of the world, through thousands of years and it just captured my attention. Companies hire me to design for them, based on my point of view. And through that focus, I am able to take each product through the entire design and production process. At the end of the day no matter whose name is connected to a collection, it’s about connecting with an audience through a point of view.
LISA: What are you working on now? Be specific. Look at your drafting table. What do you see?
JOHN: Playing around with the form of a 17th century Italian table for an upcoming collection. It’s the part of the process I truly love, seeing the “modern” in something centuries old. And how in the 21st century, we still have this connection with the past, such as sharing meals around a table.
LISA: Speaking of drafting tables. Is that an anachronism? Where does creation take place – pencil or mouse in hand?
JOHN: Creation takes place between the ears. More often than not, I visualize pieces in my mind’s eye. Drawing is just my method of communication. I prefer a pencil; for me, it’s more intimate, accurate and much more efficient than a mouse.
LISA: What is your favorite single piece of furniture in your home – whether designed by you or someone else?
JOHN: A pair of No. 48 chairs designed in the late forties by Finn Juhl. They have this wonderful sculptural quality, made with a level of craftsmanship scarcely seen these days. And proof a delicate chair can be very comfortable.
LISA: You describe yourself as a modernist and classicist. Fascinating – I’m all about opposites! But tell me more about what this means. Or are you just crazy?
JOHN: I don’t consider them opposites. Practically every furniture form we live with today was invented in the 18th century, if not before. The difference is the styling. My modernist side loves simplicity, no matter the age. My classicist side embraces historical principles of scale and proportion. They feed and feed off each other.
LISA: I know you studied furniture design at the famous Kendall College. Can you give me a snapshot of what that was like? Even a list of adjectives is good.
JOHN: At that time, KSD was solely an art school experience, with classes in color theory, life drawing, art history and the like. It opened my eyes to a world of art beyond furniture. Although not a model student, it did plants seeds. But most importantly, it’s where I met my wife and partner, Joyce. There isn’t enough space to describe what that has meant to me.
LISA: Is there a style of furniture or a period that you would like to see GO AWAY? Poof. Wiped off the face of history.
JOHN: Not so much a specific style or period; I think all have something to offer, if you look close enough. What I find disappointing is when the soul of a period or style is bastardized beyond recognition, through the effort to be “different.” Most are just lazy interpretations and unfortunately, not a single style or period has been left unsullied.
LISA: This is a mind bender. What would John Black at 21 say to the John Black of today?
JOHN: Have no fear.
LISA: And, vice versa. What kernels of wisdom would John Black circa 2013 give your upstart self of 21?
JOHN: Pay attention, smartass.
LISA: It’s my signature fantasy question. Always last. You are imbued with limited-time magical powers. You can transport yourself to any time and any place for one hour. Where will I find you?
JOHN: Wow. A toss up between circa 500 BCE to witness the birth of the Klismos OR early November, 1961, at the Cavern Club, in Liverpool, for another birth of sorts.
To learn more: http://www.jblackdesign.com/
NYC-based Victor-Raul Garcia’s art speaks for itself: it’s passionate, tactile, dramatic, vivid. (And I could go on; I love his work.) But, when I snagged Victor-Raul for a one-on-one recently, I found that as a person he’s as interesting as his work. That’s how it should be. So without further ado, I’m happy to share my latest Conversations with Friends. Meet abstract contemporary painter Victor-Raul Garcia ….
LISA: On your website you describe your work as autodidactic. To be honest, I had to look it up. But armed with my Webster’s definition, I’m still interested to know more about what this means to you?
VICTOR: Autodidactic is basically ‘self-taught.’ Everything you see projected on my canvases is a result of years trial and error and sweat and tears. I never set foot in a class to learn how to paint. Instead I have relied on experience, relentless aspiration and the all-encompassing necessity to paint.
LISA: Tell me how you find what’s extraordinary in the ordinary. How do you discern?
VICTOR: Everything is extraordinary in its own way. If we just stop and take the time to observe, listen, feel, taste and smell things, we will discover how incredible ‘simple’ things can be. A lot of my work is influenced by microscopic images of some of the most ‘ordinary’ things. Beauty is not only skin deep but way below the surface as well! This quote sums it all up for me: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” (Friedrich Nietzsche)
LISA: How about a lighter question! Look in your closet. Is there a signature color palette in your personal wardrobe?
VICTOR: That’s easy!!!! 50 shades of black!!!!
LISA: You left Peru as a child. What do you miss?
VICTOR: I miss going to the Miraflores market with my grandmother, hunting for sea monkeys in the ocean (then realizing they can’t survive in water in a plastic bag), Sunday feasts with family which included chicha, papa á la huánquaina, ceviche, papa sorpresa, and turrón de doña pepa, and most importantly, I miss the innocence of it all…….
LISA: Residential or commercial commissions, what’s your preference?
VICTOR: I wouldn’t say I have a preference but I do enjoy the 1-on-1 interaction aspect of residential projects where u get instant gratification from clients’ eyes and words once the art is unveiled.
LISA: Tell me about your last self-directed undertaking. That is, for YOU, not for a client.
VICTOR: B&W photography of the countryside upstate. I’m working on a photography portfolio next.
LISA: Your grandmother must be a special person. You are going to gift her with a work of art. What is it?
VICTOR: The piece is entitled Gotham. It is my interpretation of the Incan ruins of Macchu Picchu with a modernist/brutalist take. She used to tell me stories of how the Incas communicated with extra terrestrials and built the city as a landing strip. I loved to hear those fascinating ‘fun facts’ about my people as a child! But mind you, she also told me that Peruvians are big chested because of the high elevation there and that we mated with the aliens as well. Lol!
LISA: Color. You are an adventurer. Are you smitten with any palettes right now?
VICTOR: Fire red and bittersweet chocolate.
LISA: What’s hanging on the wall of your living room?
VICTOR: A signed Gilbert & George print, a Reservoir Dogs poster, B&W Japanese paper art and a few of my own art works…..
LISA: It’s my signature fantasy question. You’ve been given a magic paintbrush – which is, of course, the artist’s version of a magic wand. You can transport yourself to any time and any place for one hour. Where will I find you?
VICTOR: Picture it, Macchu Picchu 1533….. I’m an Incan lookout riding my llama and just like Paul Revere would do centuries later, I gallop , trumpet and cry: “The Spaniards are coming! The Spaniards are coming!” lol
I love to make introductions. But odds are that most of my blog readers already know Patrick Cline very, very well through his work. Patrick, along with the amazing Michelle Adams, is the co-founder of Lonny Mag. Patrick is responsible for the beautiful photography you see throughout Lonny. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Patrick (and Michelle) on a number of LSI Lonny shoots. Patrick loves to innovate. In addition to his Lonny leadership, Patrick also recently launched a ground-breaking new photo sharing app called UPLO (uplo.com – you must check it out). Wouldn’t you love to know Patrick Cline better? Come join me as I chat him up.
LISA: Let’s dive into it. Do you think of yourself as an artist or an entrepreneur?
PATRICK: To be called any of these two things is a massive compliment I think. I have certainly been very lucky in the businesses that I have been involved with to get enjoyment out of both sides. I can get bored very easily, so I think as long as business gives me some involvement in the creative side, I’m happy, it’s a nice mix up.
LISA: I’m not telling tales out of school. It’s well known that you prefer to shoot interiors on film, as opposed to digitally. Yet, you’re a tech guru (witness Uplo). Why film?
PATRICK: Its true, for interiors it still has to be film for me. I shoot most everything else on digital and have owned a retouching house, so appreciate digital, but its just not quite there for interiors in my opinion. A little too stark, film, along with my beloved medium format camera gives me that natural soft look that I think can only be achieved by playing with digital files. Plus I think the fact that I can’t see what I’ve shot until way after the shoot, it makes me more productive. I see so many photo shoots grind to a halt whilst the team huddles around a laptop. I tend to work very fast.
LISA: I’m staying with interiors, but let’s move to the other side of the camera. What does your space look like?
PATRICK: We actually featured it in Lonny a while back. It’s very much the industrial urban loft, all white, lots of art on the walls, and pieces that I’ve collected over the past few years traveling for Lonny. I always had dreams of having a photo studio in the center of Manhattan, so it’s nice to tick that off the list. It’s a bit of a mix up of so many styles too though, which I love. Every accessory that I own has meaning to me, either a gift from someone inspiring, or a purchase from an amazing Lonny trip.
LISA: A professional photographer fell into a deep sleep 2000. (It’s the only significant Y2K snafu.) In a nutshell, what would you tell her (or him) about what’s happened in the world of photography in the last 13 years.
PATRICK: In a nutshell, I would just say “don’t be frightened of digital, as it has no implications on the way that you used to think about producing great photos. It’s still all about the basics, the way you look at things, composition, being in the right place at the right time. It’s just easier to share these days!” Big nutshell, sorry.
LISA: Uplo is still very new, even though you’ve been developing for some time. Can you tell me what your biggest Uplo surprise has been during the launch?
PATRICK: UPLO has been my most favorite venture yet. It seems as though everything I have done, and everything that I am has aligned for a business of this nature, so the surprises have been minimal. I guess from the top of my head, it still surprises me how much more time I can spend on my smartphone than previously thought! Its getting ridiculous, as if I didn’t spend enough time on it before, I go and make my own app!
LISA: What is the last picture you took?
PATRICK: As of right now, a picture of myself wearing a fancy camera strap made by a good friend, but that has my iPhone hanging off of it, as that’s the camera I now use the most. (I know, random, but that was the last pic.). I’m sure by the time you read this, I will have shot about 200 more on the phone, so my answer would be very different, although just as random.
LISA: One – and only one – of your images is going to be placed in a time capsule. What’s your pick?
PATRICK: This would be a picture I took in the studio of my first “photographer” boss. I first assisted a great guy, Dan Burn-Forti. I knew nothing, nor did I want to be a photographer at that point, but one Saturday I set up the lights etc., and shot my first still life, a Coleman’s mustard tin. It was literally after getting that slide film back from the lab that I got “the bug” and obsessed from that day forward. Basically, it would be something that I could leave behind that really sparked my love of photography, and therefore my whole life. I’m not sure what the person finding it in the future would think, but I’m sure I would find it fun trying to find out who took the picture.
LISA: People, places or things … what do you like to shoot best?
PATRICK: All, but in this order: places, things, people. This is simply because of my love of travel. Yes, I do enjoy portraiture, but mostly I love shooting places, and they don’t have to be pretty, as long as they are interesting to me, I can be happy shooting away on my phone. My dream retirement is to just travel and take phone pictures, and I’m sure that will include some people J.
LISA: I think most everyone knows that you are the London piece of Lonny, just as your partner Michelle Adams represents New York. I also know you are a constant traveller. Where is home from an emotional perspective?
PATRICK: New York for sure, there is no other place like it. I’m the most comfortable, secure, productive, inspired and energized. I must leave it regularly, for sure, but it’s a great feeling when you get back, every time. My family reside in London, a short flight away. I visit them often, and they come to NY pretty often, but I don’t see myself living back there. New York is not for everyone, but it is for me. London is now somewhere that I love to visit. I see it through different eyes than when I actually lived there.
LISA: You’ve been given a magic camera. You may step through the aperture and spend the day in a different era, a different time, a different place. Where will we find you?
PATRICK: 70’s for sure, probably driving around in an early 1970’s Porsche 911, black and chrome, and in the South of France. I’m a massive fan of this part of the world, but now that I think about it, you may still find me down there, and in the same car, if it still runs! But I do feel that everything that I respond to in the home décor, automotive and fashion worlds comes from the 70’s.
The creative life is amazing and daunting. I love surrounding myself with artists, designers and thinkers. Because I believe, if you’re open to it as I am, that creativity is contagious. So, with that thought I am so delighted to introduce you to LA-based artist Scott Waterman. I was lucky enough to engage him for the latest installment of Conversations with Friends. His amazing work speaks volumes. What fun to learn how articulate, thoughtful and engaging he is one on one.
LISA: Describe the perfect client.
SCOTT: In collage I started a program to prepare me for architecture school then switched to fine art but I have always had a great appreciation for fine architecture: classical, modern, and contemporary. I really enjoy keeping up with the latest in architecture from the work of the members of the Institute of Classical Architecture to the dynamic explosion of contemporary work in China and elsewhere in the world. I started my blog, Corbu’s Cave, in part to make the case for murals in architecture and the title is meant to suggest a range that covers everything from cave dwellings to le Corbusier. In fact I think a lot of modernists and contemporary architects are not completely aware that le Corbusier, the hero of modernists, liked and painted his own murals -Modernism’s really not all about white walls. My ideal client would have a fantastic work of architecture and allow me to paint a mural of my own design somewhere inside or out. In fact most of my clients come very close to that.
LISA: Your work is amazing and so diverse. I’m interested in this idea of diversity. You work in different mediums and your style seems to defy (easy) definition. That said, what is fundamental to a Scott Waterman design. Common threads?
SCOTT: I have thought this myself and expressed it -that my work is diverse but I think in the end its coherency will show through. I always appreciate a great economy of means and strive for that. My commission work is always about creating something that works in harmony with the architecture even if that means a kind of fugue. From a purely technical aspect I most often use a watercolor technique, that is layers of washes to create form and luminosity and I have been using only non-toxic materials since moving to California in 1989.
LISA: Do you work on multiple projects simultaneously or rivet all your creative attention on one at a time? And why?
SCOTT: I most always have multiple projects in mind but one has to be finished before another one can start. I think the multi-tasking is going to turn out to be a false notion.
LISA: Carte blanche. If you were not a visual artist, what would you be? I’m asking for career choice #2.
SCOTT: I might say architect but really it’s landscape design/gardening. I so appreciate beautiful gardens and enjoy working in my own and unlike architecture nature gives you a hand, plants grow and change. And it’s possible to do something quite satisfying even on a very small scale, which is what I have to work with at the present.
LISA: You’re a traveler. Some of your projects take you away for long periods of time. How do you feel at home when you’re not?
SCOTT: I love to travel but actually don’t have to chance to do it as often as I like. Most of my painting, even large-scale murals are finished in my studio then shipped to their intended location. If I go to supervise the installation and do a little touch-up painting that’s just a few days. I can’t think that I’ve even been homesick but I welcome the opportunity to experience that if a project dictates me being on site for longer usual.
LISA: What is your response when a client asks you to repeat yourself? That is, basically duplicate something you’ve already done?
SCOTT: I’ve been asked to duplicate a project a few times but in fact it has never come to be because of some reason on the part of the client. I would be happy to do a duplication because I usually think given another chance I could make improvements.
LISA: You describe yourself as a problem solver. What nut are you cracking now?
SCOTT: All of my projects involve a lot of problem solving but they’re a multitude of mundane tasks that I don’t think are so interesting to discuss. Often the most significant problem to solve is how to get my proposal idea across to the client. I’d much rather set out to do it rather than talk about it. But I understand the practicalities of getting my clients on board with something that exists only as an idea, a sketch perhaps, and expect them not to want to be reassured. In the end it really is a leap of faith on their part and mine too really but I have my body of work to back me up.
LISA: You talk about executing an idea “deftly.” Great word. Tell me more about what that means to you.
SCOTT: Deftly goes back to back to one of the terms I used to describe my through line and that is: economy of means. Paintings can be thick, impasto, and I like those but even more ones that are incredibly thin. I think it’s a miraculous thing when something so minimal, so hardly there can have so much substance.
LISA: Did you make a New Year’s resolution?
SCOTT: Not really. Just try to be better, make it better, that idea.
LISA:You’ve been given a magic paintbrush (A.K.A. wand). You may spend the day in a different era, a different time, a different place. Where would you travel on this flight of fancy?
SCOTT: No, I can’t say I relate to that idea. The goal for me is to be really present. When you’re really present you tune into the infinite and that’s the ultimate.
Do you know Verellen? If not, I’m delighted to make an introduction. And if you do know the name, get ready for a treat. Tom and Sabine Verellen are the husband-and-wife creative masterminds behind this wonderful upholstery brand. They are extremely talented and very private people. Tom and Sabine prefer their upholstery creations to take center stage. And Verellen upholstery always does. Verellen is all the things I love: modern and timeless, haute and everyday, picture perfect and oh-so comfortable. See more at verellen.biz. And come join me now for the latest Conversations with … Tom and Sabine Verellen.
Lisa: What’s the backstory? How did you launch Verellen?
Tom: Well, the true start of Verellen was a bit accidental. No, I take that back. It was meant to be. Here’s what happened. Sabine and I had another company. We imported fabulous one-of-a-kind Belgian antiques. We were getting ready for the High Point Market and realized we needed some upholstery to show with the wood – you know, to create an inviting setting and evoke an atmosphere. Well, the upholstery was a hit, a homerun as you say here. Our first style, Camille, was born and so was the Verellen of today.
Sabine: I’ll just add that our collaboration really started quite a bit earlier. Tom and I were born six months and six kilometers apart in Schilde. It’s just outside of Antwerp. We met in what would be your grade school, started dating in high school, and well, here we are today. Really, the essence of Verellen is based on our point of view, our aesthetic: Belgian conception and American perfection.
Lisa: So many of your styles just take my breath away. I wonder, “How do they do it?” So tell me where do you find inspiration?
Sabine: Oh, it’s everywhere. Actually, we don’t really have to look. The ideas that find you – that tap you on the shoulder or hit you over the head – are always the best. Travel. Travel is really important. We like to get out in the world.
Tom: Yes, and I’ll add that the world of fashion is a big inspiration. Verellen upholstery is tailored like clothing, custom, made-to-order. We love the furniture industry, but we don’t look inside the industry for ideas. Customers come to us for what’s new and next. Pressure! But we love it.
Lisa: So I have to ask. You are business partners and husband and wife. Not all couples could manage that. How do you make it work?
Tom: Simple. I always defer to Sabine.
Sabine: Is that what you call it?
Tom: Seriously, I could not imagine any other partner in business or in life. You ask about inspiration. Sabine is my inspiration. She is Verellen. Plus, she is a brilliant manager, CFO, tastemaker, mother, wife, and on it goes.
Sabine: Verellen is about the melding of opposites. I think that’s one of the things Tom and I bring. We are not the same people. But there is chemistry to how we manage the company together. Our team has been working on some new graphics lately – stay tuned for more on this – but shape-wise, Tom loves the square. I am solidly a circle. Maybe we’ll come away with an oval! You see, it’s that little bit of positive tension that can produce great and unusual things. At least I think so!
Lisa: What is your favorite piece in the collection?
Tom: That’s easy. The next new design is always my favorite. I love what’s next!
Sabine: Well, I do feel like they are all little like my children, but I do have a few favorites. Camille because she was our first, for example. Right now, I’m all about Owen – probably because he is a great new addition to our family room. Oh, and anything in Belgian linen, neutral with a great hand. Yes, love them all.
Lisa: Speaking of which, all Verellen styles have actual names, not numbers or SKUs.
Tom: Absolutely. Names not numbers. And, why? Because each Verellen is unique. Each style has a personality. We have a Lawrence – Larry would never do. Madeline has modestly flared arms. I think she looks best slipcovered. But, Alois must always be slipcovered and preferably in leather. And so it goes.
Sabine: Actually, there are many family members with namesake sofas. But the company’s grown and we’ve expanded the repertoire!
Lisa: Verellen is a family business. You have two children. What’s the plan for the next generation?
Sabine: We have two sons. One is a teenager with no interest in the family business. He wants to make his own way (just like his dad). The other boy still believes in Sinterklaas – Santa Claus, you know – so it’s too soon to say!
Tom: We are a family business, yes. Sabine and I put our heart and soul into Verellen. It’s a passion. But it’s one that is also shared by about fifty people here at our atelier. Building a team – sort of an extended famile – is one of the best parts of my job. The team is the future, the next generation.
I believe good conversation and creative ideas are exponential. The more you talk, engage, explore and meander, the more you get back in return. It’s even better when there’s exquisite food involved. Therefore, it is my supreme pleasure to introduce you to Farina Kingsley, amazing chef, author, teacher and entertainer. A San Francisco native, Farina started cooking as a child in her Cantonese grandmother’s kitchen. Formal training ensued at Tante Marie’s Cooking School. Farina’s passion for cooking then took her abroad where she trained at the Hong Kong Kowloon Restaurant school and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Thailand. This summer we colaborated on a little boho beach party at Bald Head Island where we both have homes. Farina’s food was amazing (I’ll rave more about this at a later date). Farina now resides in Singapore. I was lucky enough to snag this very busy and talented woman for an exclusive interview. Bon appetit!
Visit Farina’s Website, here.
LSI: What’s the difference between food and cuisine?
F: When I think of “food,” I feel it’s a generic term for filling your belly (like fuel for your car) while cuisine is much more the art of preparing, savoring and sharing food.
LSI: Your ideal meal: simple or lavish, gourmand or comfort? Pick your polar.
F: I have to say that my favorite type of meal is consists of simple home-cooked dishes prepared with local fresh seasonal ingredients; not to say I don’t appreciate a gourmet tasting menu that has been artfully prepared and tantalizes your taste buds. My favorites from simple to lavish would be slurping a bowl of “Laksa” curry noodles street side in Singapore to experiencing a “kaiseki” dinner at “Kikonoi” in Kyoto
LSI: You’ve been happily married for a while. What’s the very first thing you cooked for your man back in the day?
F: That’s a tough one…thank goodness Chris and I have similar palates and we both savor the range from a yummy bowl of pasta to wok tossed spicy shrimp. I think one of the first meals I prepared for us were lamb burgers loaded with feta, roasted peppers and tzatsiki with spicy sweet potato fries on the side…it’s still one of our favorite go to meals at home.
LSI: If you weren’t a fabulous mistress of cuisine, you’d be:
F: An acrobat with the Cirque du Soleil!
LSI: It’s noon. You impulsively invite two couples over for dinner that very night. What’s cooking?
F: Grill up a sliced levain bread and fresh asparagus. Top with a simple fried egg and shave fresh parmesan cheese on top with a grinding of black pepper. For dessert, buy some salted caramel ice cream and serve with roasted bananas.
LSI: We love food, but we’re all about spaces. Can you describe your dream kitchen? Remember, detail is our “spice.” Lay it on. Where do I begin?
F: Can’t think of a better combination than food and design. I’m still dreaming about designing my ultimate kitchen. I’m actually not crazy about huge kitchens. I prefer a well laid out kitchen that serves as a functional cooking and entertaining space and becomes the intimate hub of the house. My wish list:
* A wood burning oven for roasting chicken, pizzas etc.
* A commercial stove with a wok burner that have an output of 35K BTU (don’t know if its legal).
* A separate stove with induction burners for slow simmering
* 1 high suction exhaust fan
* 2 dishwashers
* A large see through glass fridge like a Traulsen (keeps you organized and inspires the next meal)
* A separate beverage fridge
* Open shelving for pottery, glasses and pots
* A lower marble counter for pastry work
* A deep stainless sink to wash stock pots and large pans
* Pot filler faucet above the stove
* A separate counter that serves as a beverage/wine bar with an ice machine and white and red wine fridge
* At least a 1 horsepower food disposal
* Great storage system for recycling bottles, paper and compost
* Bar seating that allows your family and guest to face one another
* A vegetable garden that is easily accessible from the kitchen
LSI: What single item – culinary or otherwise – bespeaks true luxury to you?
F: A manual spring piston lever espresso machine made by La Pavoni or Zerowatt.
LSI: What do you order when you eat out?
F: I love small plate dining. Eating at a tapas restaurant, gastropub or wine bar. A fan of Asian cuisine, it is much more appealing to enjoy a trying a variety of dishes versus one huge entrée. I love seasonal vegetables; salumi and cheese platters, anything braised and seafood; whether its steamed mussels or cracked crab.
LSI: Much like the world of fashion, there are culinary trends. Tell us what’s up and coming. Are corn-dogs making a comeback?
F: Food trucks and pop-up restaurants are here to stay. And, talented chefs making inventive and inexpensive specialties with local produce in small spaces. I love San Francisco’s successful “Off the Grid Food Truck Parties”. Seeing more gluten free-products and adding less common whole grains to your diet (quinoa, faro, millet and amaranth). More schools and restaurants will focus on healthy kids meals (not just carrots sticks and apple sauce either) and eating local, sustainable and artisanal foods from your area is will no longer be a trend, but is here to stay and will continue to evolve. Don’t know about corn dogs…were they ever a trend?
LSI: You’ve been given a magic spatula (A.K.A. wand). You may relive a day in your life. Do tell.
F: Bringing my daughters into this world and capturing the moment of pure joy and experiencing a miracle.
Lisa and Bill go all the way back to Minneapolis. They first met when Lisa was a young, up-and-coming photo stylist and Bill was the new creative director at Fallon, one the country’s hottest ad agencies (then and now).
Sometimes people just click and that’s what happened here. Lisa credits Bill with igniting her creativity. As friend and mentor, he encouraged Lisa to open up her site lines – to move beyond the world of set design and explore the immense creative potential of interior design.
And, as for Bill? Well, Bill being Bill, the glam and exciting agency world was not quite enough. So in addition to being one of the most accomplished ad men in the country, Bill also conceived and developed a town, planted and nurtured a vineyard, pursued photography and watercolor, and honed his craft as a writer (his very first love).
If there is one thing Bill just hates, it’s a boundary (in fact, one of his current creative endeavors is called “no fences”). He is a true visionary. We are delighted to snag him for Conversations With. Creativity is contagious!
Okay, you just got a new dog. What kind or breed? What would you name the new pooch (and why)?
Probably a Portuguese Water Dog. Call him Sailor Man. It keeps alive the fantasy of going to down to sea in a boat which lives (or should) within every man.
Solitude or in-the-company-of people? Where will we find you and why?
I enjoy company and get energy from being around smart people, particularly smart, creative people. People who show their emotions and put it out there and risk everything: their ego, respect, reputation, even their career for a creative line in the sand.
Tell us about the last time you questioned authority. Did you win or lose?
Clients, publishers, film producers etc.. have the ultimate authority in business/creative relationships. They have the checkbook. On the other hand, creative people want to produce work, of course, but here’s the thing: the bit between creating and producing is called selling. Selling turns an idea into a film, or a book, or a pillow with stripes. Show me a great creative person and I’ll show you someone who knows how to sell ideas to authority.
You and your identical twin were separated at birth (horror!) and are about to be reunited for the first time. You want to bring a small gift to make up for all those lost birthdays. What is it?
Each of us brings to the other a book of our lives…a compilation of photographs, bits and pieces etc along with written narrative. And a bottle of scotch. It would be interesting to see if the scotch matches.
What’s next hot thing are you seeing that seems absent from other radars?
The return of privacy as a virtue.
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