Category Archives: Magazine

Designer Friday: An Aspire Exclusive Interview With Eddie Maestri

The balance between remodeling a home and honoring its historic entities is hard to achieve. But for architect Eddie Maestri, it just seems to come naturally. Since forming Maestri Studio over 10 years ago, he has turned houses into homes from Texas to Oklahoma and has been featured in many major publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Love Happens Magazine and now aspire design and home. Introducing this week’s Designer Friday, Eddie Maestri.

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Andrew Joseph: What’s a guilty pleasure you have?
Eddie Maestri: Staying in nice hotels whenever possible. No matter my destination, staying at a posh well-designed hotel is something I can’t pass up. Aside from the amenities, a luxe hotel incorporates everything I love about design – from fashion-forward and cutting-edge design to soaking up the architecture, interior, and art details. The best hotels, whether they are revamped historical buildings or newly built, draw from the local energy of their locale and serve as a place to recharge from a long day exploring a new place.

Andrew: What’s your favorite cocktail?
Eddie: I am a sucker for a good Old Fashioned.

Andrew: What’s something you always travel with?
Eddie: A simple leather-bound sketchbook with a set of good pens. I’ve carried these things with me on every trip. Sketching the places I’ve been allows me to reconnect with my passion for design – studying the details, capturing the inspiration in spaces, and learning what makes it beautiful. When I sketch, unlike a quick photograph, I’m forced to sit and stay a while – even have a drink – and feel the space, live it, and hopefully capture it in a way that I take it home with me.

Andrew: How would you describe your personal style?
Eddie: I’m collected and eclectic – just like my design. I’m inspired by mid-century design, but find my roots in the formality of the grand homes I admired growing up in New Orleans – always with touches of whimsy and kitsch to bring it down a notch. The classicism from my time in Italy – the patterns, repetitions, and site lines – always pair with a splash of SoCal laid-back comfort.

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Andrew: What are you most proud of?
Eddie: Building Maestri Studio. When I moved to Dallas to start working for a large architecture firm, my days were filled with work, but my weekends were full of DIY projects. It was those projects, and a lot of trial and error, where I explored my own personal style and led me to branch out on my own. When my starter DIY home was published, a few design jobs came rolling in and I slowly built enough business to formally launch Maestri Studio in 2008. What started as a very small business has developed into a dynamic design firm that I am very proud of. We constantly set new goals, new aspirations, and raise the bar for our achievements.

Andrew: Style (or design) icon?
Eddie: Dorothy Draper. I love her use of patterns, repetition, creating very intentional focal points in a space, and her courage to be bold with no apologies.

Andrew: Favorite piece of clothing you own?
Eddie: A gray and white houndstooth dinner jacket. I am obsessed with houndstooth, and found the perfect dinner jacket to sport. It may be busy for some, but I love it…and better yet, I blend in with our sofa pillows and really don’t care.

Andrew: Favorite tea to decompress, and in what mug?
Eddie: Any hot tea served in my Hunmin Jeongeum mug brought home from a trip to South Korea to visit my sister. Its soft green color is soothing, and the inlaid streaks of gold give it a unique flair. Especially during a pandemic, it always makes me feel a bit closer to family and reminds me of sipping hot cider with my sis in freezing Seoul.

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Andrew: What’s your favorite quarantine candle scent?
Eddie: The scent of the Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Candle, inspired by the Baccarat Hotel in New York City, is truly one of a kind. It instantly takes me back to the times we could get away, sip cocktails in a classy bar or just sketch during tea.

Andrew: What’s one thing you hate admitting that you love about quarantine?
Eddie: Everything has slowed down and the hustle and bustle of juggling family, work, friends, and fun has died down – allowing me to spend more time with my kids. In the months pre-COVID, I had so many work events, dinners, and misc. outings that required a sitter and I was constantly on the go. Slowing down has been for the better and I am loving every minute with my little guys.

Andrew: How have you managed to grow your long-distance friendships?
Eddie: Like most people, we do a lot of Zoom calls. Zoom happy hours, group texts, and even Facetime cooking classes together. I recently spent a couple of Saturdays with my best friends learning to make bao buns, homemade pasta and Bolognese, and it was so nice to “hang out”

Andrew: Where will be the first place you will travel after COVID-19?
Eddie: All the places! But first, we have a family trip to Hawaii planned and I am anxious to book a trip to SoCal to visit one of my best friends and get a much-needed dose of California sunshine…seriously having withdrawals!


blankAbout The Designer | Eddie Maestri, AIA, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, started designing homes in Dallas in 2004 and officially founded Maestri Studio in 2008. Certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), he is a registered architect in Texas and Oklahoma. Eddie holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design and a Master of Architecture from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas with a certificate in Health Systems & Design. In addition, he spent a semester in Italy focusing on architectural and urban studies, as well as expanding his talents in freehand drawing and art.

Eddie delivers truly custom architecture and design that is tailored to his clients’ styles and needs and influenced by the grand, yet approachable, architecture of his home town, the clean lines and patterns of mid-century design, and his exposure to far away places through his love of travel. Eddie guides the firm’s team throughout the process of every project, while encouraging a collaborative design studio with independent and innovative thinking. He prides himself on his appreciation for design, attention to detail, and on building strong client relationships.


Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for aspire design and home magazine. See more of his work here.

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Barclay Butera Calls The Shots In This Las Vegas Vacation Home

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Nashville is all about the music. Milwaukee is brats and beer. And Vegas? We’re talking glitz, gambling and cutting loose, baby. So, when it came to kitting out this newly constructed vacation home on Lake Las Vegas, designer Barclay Butera played it like a high roller with impeccable taste. “I have always loved the Rat Pack vibe of the golden days of Las Vegas,” quips Butera, “and with this particular residence, we were able to infuse that level of cool into the mix.”

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That certainly didn’t mean casino kitsch. Working with a black-and-white palette dictated by the home’s existing finishes, Butera created interiors that, while not minimalist, exhibit a satisfyingly sophisticated restraint. “We wanted this space to feel glamorous, but absolutely warm and inviting,” explains Butera. “We chose really soft textiles with cozy patterns and used lots of layers to round out the mix. The artwork has soft circular motion, and you’ll notice a great deal of cylindrical lighting. Round softens linear, we were deliberate about that.”

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Keyed to the clients’ love of entertaining, the home’s mammoth kitchen features a large island for gathering, but rather than outfit this with the usual stools, Butera took a more formal (and more comfortable!) approach, opting for upholstered dining chairs. “Since the kitchen is almost always the room where people gather, we thought why not?” shares Barclay. “There is so much space in that kitchen and the vibe is decidedly sleek and chic, so we decided to go with that look even for everyday dining.” When it came to the formal dining room, Butera fashioned a spot as swank as anything you’ll see at Joël Robuchon in the MGM Grand, with silver leaf wallpaper on the ceiling and a dynamic, gray-and-white diptych from Left Bank Art that reads compellingly like a cross between a Rorschach test and an X-ray of Matisse’s “Dance.”

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While many of the rooms in the house are expansive, Butera’s deft sourcing and intelligent disposition of the furnishings reels them in, leaving one focused as much on tables and chairs as the impressive abundance of space. The sheer scale of the living room demanded large-scale pieces, but Butera’s eye for line, shape and fabric stamp these as eminently residential, not refugees from a hotel lobby. In the primary bedroom he developed a den-like sitting area, with a glass-topped coffee table and a sofa upholstered in a chic pinstripe from Ralph Lauren Home. Looks like a fine spot to settle down with a good book. After all, you can’t hit The Bellagio every night.

Photography by Ryan Garvin.

For more like this Las Vegas vacation home, be sure to check out this black-and-white home in Chicago

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Step Inside Mercedes Lopez Coello’s Rejuvenated Home Away From Home

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The satisfactions of the table spring from the larder and stove, but there’s more to the joy of breaking bread than what appears on your plate. The buzz of conversation, the clatter of silver, the clink of glasses (Salud! Cheers! Prost!) are the ingredients of any good gathering. And the aftermath of a meal – breadcrumbs on the tablecloth, empty wine bottles marked with the fingerprints of many hands, once sleek candles reduced to stalagmite-like stumps – is as beautiful a tableau as the moment that first delectable dish was passed.

It’s hard not to be reminded of this at Mercedes Lopez Coello’s rejuvenated farmhouse on Mallorca. Built of a local stone called calizas de Mallorca and graced with aquamarine shutters and a canopy of bougainvillea over the arched front door, the unassuming, 200-year-old structure stands like the architectural equivalent of a midday Arrós brut, a classic local dish of meat and rice. Although its crisp, white, minimally outfitted interiors suggest a plate more typical of the long-gone El Bulli, the warm, worn aspect of the furniture generates a homeyness and a sense of authenticity, the feeling that this old house might have looked much the same back in the day, when it was the heart of a working farm.

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“When we took it over, a heavy renovation had already been done by the couple who lived there previously, so the house was in good shape,” explains Coello. “But I wanted to bring back the old Mallorcan feeling to the interior, to keep the essence and character of the house. I wanted that everything new would feel as if it has always been there.”

Observing other old Mallorcan farmhouses – some of which have been turned into museums – Coello kept note of architectural and decorative details and made drawings which she presented to architect Cristobal Carrio, whose technical expertise allowed her to realize her vision. “To create a balance between the past and the present, everything new had to follow the same line of imperfection and organic feeling,” notes Coello, who shares the house with her husband and children. “I went by intuition and stayed true to natural local materials like stone, wood, straw, linen and natural paints.”

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With its plaster and lime washed walls and structural ceiling beams painted white, the kitchen projects a very contemporary vibe. Coello mediated that look by incorporating wood, straw, and ceramics. “I wanted to pay homage to the rural heritage of the island, so some of the ceramic pieces were used in the old days to store olives or wine; the baskets to harvest olives, almonds and figs; and I have a basket that I love that apparently was used for fishing. I used part of an old birdcage to store plates on the wall and the dining chairs were once used in an outdoor cinema.” Outside, a newly-installed patio – set with a vintage ‘60s table and rustic Spanish chairs – is an enviable spot for a quiet morning coffee, informal family lunches and lively evening repasts. Even unoccupied, it telegraphs the deeply nourishing essence of home.

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Photography by Montse Garriga Grau.

Designer Friday: An Aspire Exclusive Interview With Eilyn Jimenez

Sire Design, founded by Eilyn Jimenez has always upheld its title as an innovative and modernist studio that creates spaces with thoughtful and expert design. The royal word “sire” means to have respect and integrity for oneself and that’s exactly what Jimenez and her team strive for in each project. When transforming commercial and residential spaces, Jimenez focuses on luxurious, elevated elements that make the environment equal parts functional and beautiful. Her travels inspire her innovations and have led her to design spaces such as Caudalie Brickell and driven her to be featured in major publications such as Architectural Digest, The Wall Street Journal and now aspire design and home. Introducing this week’s Designer Friday, Eilyn Jimenez of Sire Design.

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Jimenez had the opportunity to design one of Caudalie Brickell brick and mortar stores. Sticking to the embedded history of the vineyard, you can see how she brought the outdoors in and made the space feel integrated into the surrounding natural environment.

Jimenez had the opportunity to design one of Caudalie Brickell brick and mortar stores. Sticking to the embedded history of the vineyard, you can see how she brought the outdoors in and made the space feel integrated into the surrounding natural environment.

Andrew Joseph: You’re the newest Crayola color. What color are you and why?
Eilyn Jimenez: Popcorn. I’m always looking for that perfect shade that is not too white and not too beige — I think of it as the color of popcorn.

Andrew: If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?
Eilyn: I would be an elephant – they have such a strong presence and stand their ground when it comes time to defend their family. Overall, they are so gentle and yet so smart. To me, they exemplify the saying, “Kill them with kindness.”

Andrew: What is the last book you read?
Eilyn: The Art of Strategic Leadership: How Leaders at All Levels Prepare Themselves, Their Teams, and Organizations for the Future by Stephanie S. Mead and Steven J. Stowell. As my team continues to grow, I am always looking for ways to strengthen my abilities to guide them and this book offers some great advice!

Andrew: What is something you hope to see trending in design in the future?
Eilyn: I hope to see more seamless, undefined interior and exterior spaces that bring the outdoors in. Now as we are spending more time than ever outside, why can’t we have the best of both worlds? This was a huge factor in the design of my personal home. A seamless transition brings nature into our homes, the most sacred spaces.

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This South of 5th apartment that Jimenez created is equal parts modern, sleek, and abstract, allowing you to comfortably enjoy the view while being surrounded by sophisticated pieces.

This South of 5th apartment that Jimenez created is equal parts modern, sleek, and abstract, allowing you to comfortably enjoy the view while being surrounded by sophisticated pieces.

Andrew: If you could guest star on any TV show -on or off air- what show would you guest star in?
Eilyn: Any show with Martha Stewart or Candice Olson. I watched them both growing up, and they played a huge role in evolving my love of design.

Andrew: What’s the best thing that happened to you this month?
Eilyn: We landed the largest contract that Sire Design has ever undertaken in our entire history!

Andrew: What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
Eilyn: I love to ski. I spend so much of my time in the Miami sun, that I relish the chance to get out on the slopes.

Andrew: Do you get your eight hours a night? – what is your schedule like?
Eilyn: Sometimes, but not always. I’m usually up by 6:30-6:45 am. Every morning, I enjoy some coffee with my husband, and then I head to the office — taking a lot of phone calls on the way! Studio time includes emails, design, project follow-ups, team meetings, phone calls and Zooms, job site visits, client presentations, more meetings, and somehow I manage to squeeze in some room for lunch. Usually, I am in the studio until 8:00 pm, except for Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays, when I am scheduled to meet my trainer. After that, I head home to have dinner with my husband and I’m in bed by 10:30 or 11:00 pm.

Andrew: Who is your dream date (alive or dead) and what would you do?
Eilyn: Vincent Van Duysen — I’d talk design the whole time, so I’m not sure if it would classify as a date!

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This posh and feminine space screams “Miami!” From the bold accented wallcovering to the plush magenta pillows, this Florida residence has everything a beach gal can dream of.

This posh and feminine space screams “Miami!” From the bold accented wallcovering to the plush magenta pillows, this Florida residence has everything a beach gal can dream of.

Andrew: Who was the nicest person you worked for? Dare you want to share the worst?
Eilyn: The nicest was one of my first clients, who really allowed me to spread my design wings and trusted me with her home. I will never forget her, she was a staple in my career.

The worst was a client whose contract we almost terminated. Thankfully, we were able to cut our services short and let them handle the rest on their own. It’s important to remember that not everyone is meant to be your client.

Andrew: What are you most proud of?
Eilyn: My studio. To reflect on where we are now, after starting this company 10 years ago, blows me away every day. I am so grateful for the journey and for my team.

Andrew: Favorite piece of clothing you own?
Eilyn: I have a vintage Chanel clutch that I absolutely adore.

Andrew: What might the design world look like in 10 years?
Eilyn: Think 1930-40s vibes — design is rewinding back in time and I can’t wait to see it.

Andrew: What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Eilyn: All the traditional trends being brought into modern design. This old-world-meets-new-world feel is so inspiring.

Andrew: What would you like to be remembered for?
Eilyn: I think Maya Angelou said it best: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I’d like to be remembered for how I made people feel.


blankAbout The Designer | With a firm name incorporating the word “sire” for its royal significance, Eilyn Jimenez believes that as a creative, her role is to transform and breathe new life into each project, while translating a client’s needs and desires into a beautiful, built environment. Her design approach, deeply rooted in the modernist principles of design and architecture, leads her and her team to take an analytical approach to their interior work, while having an open-minded view of innovation. Jimenez and her 10-year-old studio pride themselves on creating spaces that are stylistically and functionally everlasting with the use of premium materials and unparalleled craftsmanship.

Jimenez thrives on exploring how architecture and design can impact the way people live and feel, how the design of a space can so significantly impact mood and ambiance, and the ways in which design can dictate how a space is used. She loves to connect personally with clients and see their visions be realized in the places Sire Design transforms for them. Jimenez is also actively involved in using her design skills in pro-bono projects, helping those in need to have spaces that will benefit their lives. She has partnered with KidSanctuary Campus, a not-for-profit organization committed to providing a safe home for abused, abandoned, and neglected children in Florida.

22 Garden Designs That Will Make You Green With Envy

As flowerpowerdaily.com reported, there are now 16 million new gardeners as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re one of those 16 million, or if you’re still trying to figure out how to turn your thumb green, look to these 22 garden designs featured in the aspire design and home magazine summer issue for inspiration:

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GARTH ROBINSON
LOCATION: BEREA, KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA
Passionate gardener and bush guide Garth Robinson created his own garden to blend with his tropical modern house using an abundance of oversized leafy plants. Wherever possible he used native flora, but as the climate in KwaZulu-Natal is subtropical, he was also able to incorporate some exotic plants too, including a smorgasbord of lilies, palms, ferns, stag horns and orchids. His dream garden? “My great-great grandfather John Geekie was a cabinetmaker who came to South Africa from Scotland at the age of 20. He planted Benvie Arboretum in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal between 1882 to 1887. It is widely considered the largest exotic garden in the Southern Hemisphere.” Photo by Lar Photography / Frank Features.

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MABLEY HANDLER INTERIOR
LOCATION: WATER MILL, NY
Jennifer Mabley Handler and her mother, Cary Mabley, designed this garden together for Cary’s home in Water Mill. Jennifer explains, “The property connected with ours and we created the house and extensive gardens from scratch. The black pine was one of the first selections to help ground the house and it became the watchful eye on all the flowering plants below. This garden was inspired by the late Jim van Sweden of the prestigious landscape architect firm Oehme van Sweden. The sweeping clusters of colorful and wild looking flowers and grasses made for a natural and theatrical garden. We also assisted on hardscape details like the walled garden facing the pool.” Mabley shares that her dream garden would be beachfront, using native plants, or a desert garden, inspired by her childhood in the Southwest. Photo by Costas Picadas.

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GRACE DESIGN ASSOCIATES
LOCATION: SANTA BARBARA, CA
This hillside property, designed by Margie Grace, was burned in the Montecito Tea Fire of 2008. Grace explains, “With the exception of the native oaks, every stick of vegetation was burned down to the ground, and the fire burned right up to the exterior walls of the building, then moved on.” The owner wanted a “spool”— a water feature that Grace describes as “Larger than a spa, smaller than a pool.”The spool is cozy and warm in the cooler months and provides a place to cool down in the warmer months. But perhaps its most important function? It stores 3,600 gallons of water for fighting fire and is equipped with a gas-powered pump and a 2-inch fire hose. Photo by Holly Lepere.

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DAVID SCOTT INTERIORS
LOCATION: WATER MILL, NY
For his own home, David Scott collaborated with Chris LaGuardia and his colleagues at LaGuardia Design in Water Mill. The blue garden gates in the privet hedges echo the front door color and are inspired by the most beautiful mature blue hydrangeas that greet you at the entrance to the property and surround the house. Photo by Antoine Bootz.

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WORTHYdomes
LOCATION: MONTERREY NUEVO LEÓN, MEXICO
Reagan Rodriguez is the founder of WORTHYdomes: modular, sustainable dome-shaped homes that are made from recycled plastic and are both bulletproof and fireproof. The homes are perfect for installing a green roof, as Rodriguez created here for an Airbnb in Monterrey, Mexico. Rodriguez shares, “A green roof absorbs rainwater, providing insulation. Most of Mexico gets cold in the winter and Monterrey can be colder than Canada sometimes. The garden on the roof can decrease stress by providing a more aesthetically pleasing landscape. And since Monterrey is very industrial there is a great deal of pollution. A green roof can help filter both air and water. The lush green walls are attractive to look at, they reduce ambient temperature and noise, and they boost productivity. Exposure to greenery can enhance learning and improve decision-making skills.

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JANICE PARKER LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS
LOCATION: CONNECTICUT
Janice Parker created a practical yet beautiful and chic approach to outdoor living that allows for entertaining, dining, playing, swimming and sports, as well as privacy and seclusion for a young and active family. Parker shares that she loves to create gardens that are really outdoor rooms. “I feel strongly that a garden needs to be enclosed or it is not a garden, but a landscaped area. By enclosing a space, you create a sense of privacy and intimacy that relates to indoor rooms and floor plans. These enclosed areas can be a place of sanctuary and peace.” She used many native plants as well as ornamentals that are not native but suited to the site. “If non-native plants are not invasive, they give you a large and lovely palette of plants and colors to choose from,” she explains. Lavender, Agastache and flowering limelight hydrangeas add shades of purple and chartreuse, and fruiting apple trees bring a sculptural element along with delicious fruit. Photo by Neil Landino, Jr.

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NIEVERA WILLIAMS LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
LOCATION: PALM BEACH, FL
An overgrown site located on top of a natural coral ledge led Keith Williams to use traditional materials in a modern approach, creating an indoor-outdoor connection with functional exterior rooms while transitioning the gardens through changes in topography. While this garden is more structured, his own taste runs to “organized chaos,” and he shares that he prefers any ornaments that are “old and patinated.” As far as inspiration goes, Williams admires landscape architect Thomas Dolliver Church: “Everything he designed has meaning and he made it look so easy and obvious when he did it.” Photo by Michael Stavaridis.

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LAND MORPHOLOGY
LOCATION: REDDING, CT
Richard Hartlage captured the essence of the Connecticut terrain and flora. The eight-acre landscaped property has further evolved into a sculpture garden that Hartlage’s client intends to make public at his passing. The reconstructed meadows and woodland gardens incorporate many native plants, but also use a wide range of non-native species. Hartlage explains, “We are not purists; we strive to select well-adapted and sustainable plants for all our projects. This garden is expansive and immersive. We have tried to create a place that is beautifully engaging, offers deep emotional complexity, and leaves the client and his visitors feeling inspired and refreshed.” The property includes many sculptures, but Hartlage was so taken with a particular mosaic penguin from Italy that he bought one in turquoise for his own garden. Photo by Derek Reeves.

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CHANTAL DUSSOUCHAUD
LOCATION: GOULT, FRANCE
In Chantal Dussouchaud’s garden in Provence, she created an indoor-outdoor living space that includes covered terraces on the south, west and north façades of the renovated 1750 farmhouse. Dussouchaud planted the gardens with respect for the climate of the region. “We wanted a low-maintenance garden with native plants. I was brought up knowing that water is a rare commodity in Provence. My grandmother would cringe at pools surrounded by a manicured lawn.” She opted for natural grass around the tennis court and Linden trees (“we harvest the flowers in May and June for herbal tea”), along with London and mulberry plane trees for shade, as well as lavender bushes and other flowering plants for their delicate scent and ability to tolerate warm climates. She uses the lavender to create sachets she calls Knobags; small linen bags filled with dried lavender to hang on a doorknob and scent a room. Photo by Eugenia Daneri.

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SMITHHÖNIG
LOCATION: NORTHWEST GA
Melanie Hönig wanted to create the effect of garden rooms that had evolved over time behind her historic home. The house, located on a steep hill, had woodlands in the back which seemed to crowd and overpower the house. She explains, “We excavated and built stone retaining walls that were designed to look as if they’ve been there forever. The painted wooden gate is from India. It slows you down and invites you into the next space.” Hönig is inspired by both Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West. “I love that they were writers and artists as well as gardeners,” she shares. “Gardening was an influence on, and an extension of, their creative lives.” Photo by Melanie Hönig.

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ALAN BARLIS AND JESSIE GOLDVARG OF BARLISWEDLICK AND ANTHONY ARCHER-WILLS
LOCATION: ANCRAM, NY
This garden was designed to complement the adjacent water garden in the natural swimming pool. The pool and surrounding decks are rectilinear and modern, so Barlis explains that it was key that the planted areas offset the hard lines in an organic way. The outdoor space needed to feel as comfortable, casual and “informal” as the adjacent barn, and reflect the rural nature of the surrounding landscape. The plantings are a mix of native and non-native species. Barlis reveals, “Gardens can feel especially well suited to a landscape when their formality level is an extension of the home’s architectural style. As outdoor spaces extend further away from a home, it can feel very natural for these to be a little less formal and manicured, and a little wilder and more relaxed.” Photo by Reto Guntli.

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MARK WEAVER & ASSOCIATES
LOCATION: MONTECITO, CA
Mark Weaver used drought-tolerant native landscaping to create this highly designed oasis in his own backyard in Montecito. The property has a Mediterranean/Italian aesthetic. The house is adjacent to a creek and while sitting in the garden, visitors can hear the relaxing soundsof the water running. This project was his dream garden, and within it, he included everything that made him feel comfortable and nurtured by the beauty of nature. For this particular project, his favorite plant was the Agave Attenuata. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

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LOCATION: LODZ, POLAND
For a garden near Lodz, Poland, a homeowner worked with a designer to create a garden filled with plants that inspired joy. The garden area was originally a recreational space for the elderly, so there were already a lot of beautiful plum and apple trees, which they opted to keep, and they added wild trees and grasses to evoke a woodland forest. The plants don’t collide with each other and the homeowner was able to incorporate six types of grasses as well as a fishpond and an arbor. While the garden feels natural and organic, it also satisfies the homeowner’s need for a more manicured and organized space. Photo by Celestyna Król / Alicja Trusiewicz.

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NIEVERA WILLIAMS, PEMBROOKE & IVES
LOCATION: PALM BEACH, FL
Nievera Williams designed a simple, low-maintenance garden on behalf of their client. The symmetry works nicely to frame the swimming pool and the boxwood allows for privacy while also maintaining the view to the lake. Williams is inspired by the famous Marqueyssac Gardens in the Dordogne, France and exclaims, “They are playful, stunningly gorgeous, and like nothing you’ve seen before!” Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson.

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JACKSON PAIGE INTERIORS
LOCATION: FRYMAN CANYON, LOS ANGELES, CA
In her own home, Kristine Paige’s goal was to create a drought-tolerant, fragrant and magical environment by introducing native plants that transport visitors to the South of France. They completely uprooted the existing garden, which was not drought-tolerant and demanded an excessive amount of water. A redesign of the front entrance to the home created a direct pathway to the front door that branches off to pebbled walkways hidden within the garden. Paige explains, “I love a mixture of formal and wild. I think it’s important to include native plants as they will perform the best in your environment, but you must introduce your own personality and create a landscape that speaks to you and enlivens your senses.”

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KAA DESIGN GROUP
LOCATION: LOS ANGELES, CA
Michael McGowan designed this garden for a client who, “is blessed with one of the most spectacular views of LA.” This private roof garden off the master bedroom was designed with the goal to make the roof edge disappear and connect the garden to the landscape beyond. Similar to the way an infinity edge pool works to connect the pool to the ocean beyond, the gently swaying grasses at the border of this garden blur the edge into the planting beyond. McGowan explains, “Ultimately you feel like you are on a garden precipice and not on a roof. The carpet of succulents within the bounded area of the garden focuses attention, softens the hard decking edge and provides visual interest, changing color and texture.” Photo by Sharon Risedorph.

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DWB BOTANICAL DESIGNS
LOCATION: ROXBURY, CT
Client Michael Leva and designer David Bergman worked hand in hand to design a special and original garden. Bergman says that he prefers a mix of wild plantings but within a contained environment. “The combination of wild and wonderful needs some borders, otherwise it looks too haphazard and sloppy.” When it comes to famous garden designers that inspire him, he shares, “I am inspired by almost all of them. There’s something to learn from everyone throughout history. It’s the combination of ideas that propels us forward.” Photo by Gross and Daley Photography.

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DAVID SCOTT INTERIORS
LOCATION: EAST HAMPTON, NY
David Scott collaborated with Michael Derrig of Landscape Details in East Hampton for this vast modernist garden for clients. The garden has many native trees, bushes and grasses mixed with various hydrangea, boxwood and moss. Scott says, “This is a highly designed garden with several areas for contemplation and resort style living.” He shares, “I have been so fortunate to work with gifted landscape architects on gardens throughout the United States from the lushness of the Hamptons to the Arizona desert, but I would love to work on a garden in Europe; perhaps one that was established and then neglected just waiting to be re-imagined and brought back to life in a new modern way.” Photo by Joshua McHugh.

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HOLLANDER DESIGN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS
LOCATION: THE HAMPTONS, LONG ISLAND, NY
This house puts a contemporary twist on traditional seaside architecture, removing embellishments and stripping down the materials to a much simpler form. The landscape design responds in a similar way. Edmund Hollander shares, “The plant and materials palette are restrained and simple, frequently relying on the play of texture and concentrations of color. In the gravel garden, stone slabs create a rhythm that connect it to the house, while fragrant herbs planted into the gravel keep it from feeling too formal. A garden feels part of a home when it responds to the home’s architecture and the site – its location, topography and relationship to the adjacent residence.” Photo by Charles Mayer Photography.

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KAA DESIGN GROUP
LOCATION: MANHATTAN BEACH, CA
This garden was designed for a private client concurrent with the design of the home. Michael McGowan explains, “The site is rather steep, with different levels of the home opening out to different levels of the site. Garden spaces were used to mitigate the transition between levels.” A garden stair, located partially in the shade and partially in full sun, connects the indoor/outdoor room, with a play lawn beyond. McGowan continues, “The challenge was to design a plant palette that could thrive on each side of the space respectively but could also work together as one unified expression. This was achieved by matching the scale, texture and color of plants on each side of the space, while allowing lower plantings that can survive in both light conditions to hold the sides together. The result is a verdant stairway that beckons residents and guests to explore the mystery beyond.” Photo by Manolo Langis.

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JEJON YEUNG, WORRELL YEUNG; HANNAH EDMUNDS, GARDEN DESIGN
LOCATION: BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, NY
In a renovation of a brownstone garden in a historic landmark district, the design team was charged with updating historical details and creating a rich, layered garden environment. In keeping with Worrell Yeung’s overarching architecture and design practice, several discrete but similar cubic volumes were designed to organize space within the gardens, containing plantings and a spa in the back. “This is consistent with a lot of the interior architecture work we do, in which we deploy objects within a space. We treated these objects like vitrines, which helped us to organize the cubic hot tub with the plantings, for example,” explains Jejon Yeung, co-founder of Worrell Yeung. Instead of laying out a more traditional wall of hedges, the team layered multiple plant areas in the garden to achieve lushness while still maintaining privacy. Photo by Alan Tansey.

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Aspire Archetypes: Ed Hollander Creates Healthy, Striking Landscapes

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Every project Ed Hollander undertakes centers on three ecologies: natural, architectural and human. As the founder of Hollander Design Landscape Architects, his is ultimate goal is to create healthy, strikingly beautiful landscapes. “Whether it’s for our two-legged, four-legged or winged clients, there is a growing appreciation for the use of pollinators and non-toxic landscaping for families, children, birds and bees. We always want to be a positive part of a larger ecosystem,” he states.

blankHollander’s affinity for designing public spaces was greatly influenced by Laurie Olin and Ian McHarg, masterful landscape architects known for their environmentally sensitive approaches. “All of HDLA’s projects consider the natural ecology of the site, the architectural ecology of the buildings, and the human ecology of the people that will use and inhabit our landscapes. Both McHarg and Olin espoused these ideas, so their influence is seen in all of the public spaces we design,” explains Hollander. For instance, 11 Hoyt Street in Brooklyn is a residential building in the middle of a monarch butterfly migration path, so Hollander kept that in mind when designing a second-floor amenity deck. “We looked into food for the butterflies using plantings that maximize the benefits, and pollinators to attract butterflies and birds,” he explained. “It’s so important, even in an urban environment.”

Hollander’s design advice is poetic in its simplicity, “The real key thing is listening to nature; let the ecology of the architecture be your guide as to what to develop. Always think of the health of the landscape and the health of the people living there.”

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Rendering by Binyan

Rendering by Binyan.

“This or That?” with Ed Hollander

aspire design and home: Outdoor room borders: leafy boxwood hedges or composed tree lines?
EH: Mixed tree lines with different foliage.
adh: Accent pieces for the garden: bright modern forms or moss-covered ornamentals?
EH: It depends on the architecture; a contemporary home invites a bold piece, while traditional architecture is better suited for a mossy ornamental.
adh: Water features: serene lily pond or dramatic waterfall?
EH: I prefer to create a water feature that unifies the architecture and the land, and let that be my guide.
adh: Garden color scheme: bold reds, oranges and yellows or cool whites, blues and greens?
EH: In a garden generally blues, whites and greens grown in the shade and are more tranquil.
adh: Outdoor seating: vintage garden bench or put-your-feet-up lounge chair?
EH: Comfy lounge chair, always!
adh: Spotlighted landscapes or whimsical string lights?
EH: You want to create magic in a landscape with lights. String lights sparkle more and give the look of fireflies.

Coup D’œil: 8 Art-Oriented Projects At A Glance

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MODICA, ITALY
Interior Design | Anna De Cillia
Arhitecture | Viviana Haddad

Armchairs | 1950s Vintage From Udine • Floor Lamp | 1950s Brass/Black From Piazzola Sul Brenta Market • Coffee Table | 1950s Brass With Red Glass Top From Trieste Flea Market • Wall Mirror and Picture on Table | From Modica Market • Photo by Fabrizio Cicconi • Styling by Francesca Davoli

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WEST VILLAGE, NYC
Interior Design | Robert and Cortney Novogratz
Brittany Futon, Ciara Chair, Athena Plant Stand and Harrington Floor Lamp | All From The Novogratz Collection • Art | White Goose Estate Sales, Hamptons • Marble Table | Vintage Find • Rug | One-of-a-Kind Vintage • Photo by Matthew Williams

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LODZ, POLAND
Design | Magda Klimczak
Framed Photograph by Grzegorz Wełnicki • Armchair | Sofa Company • Candlesticks | H&M • Photo by Celestyna Krol/Alicja Trusiewicz

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DALLAS, TEXAS
Interior Design | Maestri Studio
Builder | The Ed Jarrett Company

Art | Whitney Avra, Mixed Media on Paper “Spirit Seeker Magic Maker” Maestri Gallery • Table | White Marble Pedestal From Wisteria • Umbrella Stand | CB2 • Lucite Side Table | Haziza • Lamps | Custom Made by Talulah & Hess • Dining Set and Sideboard | Heirloom Pieces 1930s Sears & Roebuck • Ceiling Paper | Jennifer Latimer • Entry Light Fixture | Kelly Wearstler for Visual Comfort • Dining Light Fixture | Arteriors • Interior Finishes | Katie Paulsen • Photo by Jenifer McNeil Baker

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BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
Interior Design | Kiki Dennis for Deborah Berke Partners
Architecture | Maitland Jones

Lighting | Ingo Maurer • Sofa | Holly Hunt • Coffee Table | Grey Furniture • Side Tables | Dennis Miller • Swivel Chairs | DDC-Minotti • Glass Side Table | Avenue Road • Accessories | Suite NY • Pillows | Fortuny • Photo by Chris Cooper

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CENTRAL COAST OF AUSTRALIA
Interior Design | Homeowners Emily and Dave Berlach
Stone Fireplace | 1980s Construction by Original Owner • Curtains | Fabric Imported by Bohemian Traders • Dress | Bohemiantraders.com • Photo by Pablo Veiga

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RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
Interior Design | Janie Molster Designs
Antique Chair | Kim Faison Antiques • Wallpaper | Nina Campbell • Artwork | Steven Cushner through The Reynolds Gallery • Antique Barometers and Antique Swedish Cabinet | Janie Molster Designs • Photo by Mali Azima

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Interior Design | Jeff Schlarb, Jeff Schlarb Design Studio
Wallpaper | Trove • Media Cabinet | Elvin Barahona Antique Restoration • Art Deco Accent Chair | Interlude Home • Circular Acrylic Side Table | Designed by Carnevale Studio, Sourced from 1st Dibs • Pink Lamp | Designed by Sabrina Landini, Sourced from 1st Dibs • Rug | Tai Ping • TV | The Frame by Samsung • Photo by Aubrie Pick

Designer Friday: An Aspire Exclusive Interview With Mark Lavender

Passion for clean and timeless design is what Mark Lavender continues to strive for, even after 30 years in the business. Carrying this philosophy to his very own firm, M. Lavender Interiors has been able to design unfading homes all over the Midwest and throughout the country. By accommodating his client’s budget, inspiration and timeline, Lavender is the go-to designer when creating inviting spaces that reflect your personal lifestyle and aesthetic. He has been featured in many publications such as Veranda, Good Housekeeping, and now aspire design and home. Introducing this week’s Designer Friday, Mark Lavender.

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In this humble Illinois home designed by M. Lavender, the homeowners’ heirlooms scattered throughout formal living space offer an English country aesthetic. Photo by Christopher Bradley Photography.

Andrew Joseph: If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?
Jaguar – sleek and fast and you have a beautiful brand of automobiles named after you.

Andrew: What makes you angry?
Currently, the political climate in this country and the fact that people I grew up with and respect are so gullible to internet conspiracy theories. I often say, we were raised better than this. Another thing that makes me angry are people that are late for appointments. I feel it is so disrespectful of my time.

Andrew: If you could live in any home in a movie or television series, what would it be?
Don Draper’s apartment on Mad Men. Such a great midcentury vibe and love the use of the trend colors. It is easy to imagine living in this era with the interiors on this show, the parties, the view, the beautiful people.

Andrew: What’s your favorite cocktail?
Hendricks Gin and Tonic on the rocks with a lime. This is my go-to drink year-round (I know, gin and tonic is a summer drink) but I just love the juniper taste all year. RL in Chicago makes the absolute best.

Andrew: What are three words to describe where you live?
Beautiful, Peaceful, “The Bubble” (At least that is what my friends in the City refer to it as but for context, I live in a bucolic suburb on Chicago’s North Shore called Winnetka).

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An eclectic multi-colored rug is the anchor of this large space. Used as a space to display their many travel treasures, this spot in the home carries the client’s whimsy and wanderlust without becoming cluttered.

Andrew: What would you like remembered about you?
He was always a nice guy with a funny personality and you could always depend on him.

Andrew: What’s the weirdest thing a client has ever asked you?
To install a trapeze over their indoor pool. I had a lovely client that I have done several homes for who was moving into a new home with a large indoor pool. She had recently started taking trapeze lessons in the City and wanted to install a trapeze above the pool so if she fell off, she would fall in the water. We engaged a local stage rigging company to design the apparatus and they installed it. We realized during the design that to get to the trapeze, we would need to create a floating platform to allow her to float out and then her house manager would need to pull the floating platform back for her to use the trapeze. I can say if anyone is looking for a trapeze in their home, we are your designer.

Andrew: What was your first job?
Lifeguard at our local Country Club when I was 15. I worked every summer in high school and college and can say I still miss being outside during the summer. I met a lot of nice people and later in my “swimming pool career” I coached the club swim team. I believe this job taught me so much about managing people and the logistics of things with this job.

Andrew: Who was the nicest person you worked for? Dare you want to share the worst?
I have several clients that I would put in the nicest category. It’s interesting, most are unique and have different qualities, and I would consider most all of my clients as nice, HOWEVER; I had a client that was referred to me by a friend when I was launching my business who was just a mean and nasty person. She was looking to renovate her downtown apartment and I was helping her from both a design and management perspective. We would schedule contractors for walk-throughs and after meeting her, they would all call back and were either down in their back or too busy or just not a good fit, the excuses kept coming until I ran out of people in my contacts list. I came to realize all of these contacts had a better sense of her personality than me and knew to steer clear. I was praying she would fire me and ultimately she did with the nastiest letter I had ever received. Looking back, I am thankful this happened early in my new adventure and it helped me to recognize traits in people that told me to walk the other way. Things like being rude to the waiter at the restaurant where we were introduced, to walking out of showrooms in a huff when someone said they had to look something up, to basically re-writing my letter of agreement. It was a great business lesson so I am actually grateful to her for her behavior and the life lessons it has taught me.

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The subtle mix of wildlife creatures, rustic wooden beams, and elegant furnishings all harmonize to create the perfect living area for this Evanston Tudor.

Andrew: What’s your current TV obsession?
Foreign Shows. Since signing up for Netflix and Amazon Prime, it has opened up a whole world (literally) of great television shows. I just finished watching Last Tango in Halifax and thought it was going to be a slow dramedy about a couple of elderly people finding love. My neighbor had recommended it. Wow, what a dysfunctional group of people for never a dull moment. We also loved A French Village from France and Ekaterina from Russia. Both historic dramas set in different times. I especially loved the interiors and the palaces in Ekaterina – we were supposed to take a tour of Russia this fall but unfortunately, it was postponed until next year.

Andrew: How would you define your work in three words?
Clean, Elegant, Cool.

Andrew: Must have clothing item everyone should have?
Checked or Gingham Shirts. They are a large staple in my wardrobe and I wear them everywhere. Dress them up, dress them down, under a sweater, with jeans or khakis or dress pants.

Andrew: What are some of the podcasts you listen to and why?
I listen to Kimberly Seldon’s Business of Design. She is a great business coach and I have learned so much from her and feel my business is better run because of her. I learn something from her or one of her guests weekly.


blankAbout The Designer | Mark Lavender is the principal of the Winnetka-based interior design firm, M. Lavender Interiors. He is an architecture graduate of the University of Kentucky – College of Design. Mark worked for several years at two of Chicago’s most prestigious architectural firms – VOA Associates and HOK prior to starting his own. While at these firms, he developed a reputation for managing large teams of professionals and contractors to create great designs that realized the client’s vision.

M.Lavender Interiors’ reputation is built on their passion for clean and timeless interiors. They see each project as a unique challenge and are dedicated to getting it right every time.

Running Toward The Magic: Natalie O Design On Finding Inspiration And Joy

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Pool patio designed by Natalie O Design with multi-colored bricks painted by Louisville artist Matt McDole.

If a design project can be summed up in a single thought, then “Transforming a Cape Cod in the heart of America: how a well-traveled, growing family renovated a Midwest home using a European essentials-only living approach” is an excellent summary of the recent creative undertaking by Natalie Officer and Julie Metzinger, Design Partners at Louisville-based Natalie O Design.

“Transition is often the catalyst to call upon design,” Natalie Officer noted. “The life that informs the need is walking through a migration into or out of a life season, and as designers, we usher through the bumpy unknown terrain of the process. Our hope is that the space lands them softly and comfortably in something familiar enough to cushion the ‘new’ of it.”

As they entered a new phase of their lives, these Natalie O clients put their complete trust in the firm. “For this family, multiple transitions happening at one time collided, and the extent of the trust in our relationship was the true joy of this outcome,” Officer revealed. “Still newlywed enough to keep a foot in that category, building a family home, readying your current nest for sale and the arrival of twin boys. It was a bit magical to pull off.”

In a recent conversation, Natalie and Julie discussed their design objectives for this home and the inherent joyfulness they experienced along the way.

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Moe’s Libby Dining Chairs surround a custom dining table by David Searfoss. Art by Brent Dedas.

Gwen Donovan: How did you begin the restoration process of this mid-century Cape?
Natalie Officer: At first we were tasked with scanning all of Louisville for potential – the right site to build a family home. Then we worked alongside the selected architect, another mother, planning a home while simultaneously sharing what elements would be required in raising twin boys – a new concept for them! From that first meeting to our final touches in the home, every decision reflected the couple: an easy sense of loose luxury that’s flexible, resilient and playful. The home is organic yet controlled in its customization, from the Waterworks fixtures to the iron handrail, each piece was crafted with a purpose: room for growth. Design was never sacrificed in this family home, with fine modern art and custom mohair upholstery resting adjacent to toy cars and blocks.

Gwen: How do you determine what a client ultimately wants and needs in their finished space?
Natalie: Our creed is to really listen to them, really hear how they live.

Julie Metzinger: Often Natalie has described it as doing a deep dive or an archival dig into people’s lives—who they are, what represents them well, and I think COVID was tough for us because we’re tactile people. We touch, we feel, we experience, and (due to COVID) that was hard to do. So even adding clients to your client list and getting to know people without being in their home and really seeing how they live, and who sleeps on what side of the bed, and how do your store your clothes, and what does your life look like on a daily basis. If you can’t know your client at that level, you’re not going to design well for them. The conversation and the listening and the learning about the client is as important as what colors make you dance.

Natalie: I ask questions like ‘What would scare you in your home? What would create alarm to you?’ And I ask those questions because you don’t want to go down a path where you suggest a zebra stripe and they had a high school teacher who only wore zebra. Or we’ve been known to put traffic signs in people’s homes, not a lot, once or twice, [and then you find out] they had a terrible car accident. You really have to know all the things…or at least get to a place where they’re willing to push back if something doesn’t feel right. A lot of designers just completely plow people and it’s why it’s intimidating to people, it’s not client-driven.

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A Gubi copper pendant hangs above a butcherblock island in the kitchen.

Gwen: How did the fact that this was a growing family influence the design of this project?
Natalie: These clients were very well-referenced; they travel a lot, so we kind of start with ‘What are a lot of the things you would actually put in your background?’. So it’s the very basics, and then knowing that they were about to become the parents of twins, you have to take that maternal role of ‘OK guys, you can’t not have storage closets, I know you don’t want any automated toys, and I know that you think that’s a toy chest, but there’s going to be double of everything.”

Gwen: It sounds like a bit of a balancing act; how did you combine minimalism and practicality?
Natalie: A lot of very punctuated clothes storage. Even the dining room table, varying the depth so that people can sit closer, [knowing] that the food will be plated before it goes to the table. This gentleman is a restaurateur who loves to be in the kitchen, and so making the dining room table less ostentatious than a standard American ‘let’s see how big and wide and tall we can make that.’ I think we were only about 36 inches across, which means that you better like the knees of the person across from you.

Julie: They are so conscientious about their footprint in the world. They have a dunking pool but it has a small footprint. Everything they’ve done has an awareness of the ecological impact. When you visit there—we had the joy of visiting last week—they live compactly and wisely with the things that they have.

Natalie: The stairwell is now visibly an apparatus vs. a handrail. It’s a climbing feature in the home. By the nature of the work that we do it seems silly, but the familial connection in a number of cases, but a family like that, you know, we’re connected. We get to see how their kids live on Instagram. We get to look and be like ‘Oh my God, the Montauk Sofa just took on Play-Doh!’ It’s nice to be able to paint those backdrops for people.

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A Muuto Five Pouf with Maharam Steelcut Fabric sits alongside the custom Montauk Sofa in the living room.

Gwen: How do you get to the point in your process when you know it’s ‘just right’?
Natalie: Our process is that we start with inspiration. We really layer it and layer it and layer it. And it’s kind of a safety net, you know? It’s like, ‘if not this, then this.’ Then we pull through and be very discriminating and honest, and pull up the things they really like and take away what they don’t. The one image they kept falling back to we pulled out of a magazine, and for two summers now, the homeowner has sent me a video of this one corner of the house where the light comes in and captures that exact image that we were trying to get to. And that’s just someone who really gets it, who really understands. I don’t care if the rest of the house falls down, the fact that he sees that and knows that we really achieved that is really important.

Gwen: As far as designing for young children, what did you incorporate to keep clutter at bay?
Natalie: We kept it as clean as we could, and gave them as much closed door storage as possible and let them learn how that works for them.

Julie: Also with kids, [it’s important to be] building whimsy into it. Part of that joy has a little bit of a juvenile feel to it because that’s when we’re free to be the greatest in our joy. So even using the custom-made coffee table as a stage is OK. It is long and has a curved end and is a beautiful piece of furniture and there was a whole dance thing happening on top of it—there’s whimsy and joy in having lived in the space but also how it is intended—the colors, the surfaces are meant to be loved and lived on and age well.

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The stage-ready coffee table was custom designed by NOD and made by SIOSI. Sofa by Ligne Rose Prado.

Gwen: Was this project a good representation of your style?
Julie: This project was probably in the top handful of design projects that offered the kind of freedom that allowed the beautiful work that we see in our heads to come out and be realized. Largely [it was] the trust of the client and [that] Natalie has a fire brain; if you really let her run, magic happens, and this was one of those projects. Some of the custom elements that we were able to incorporate using local artists, it did allow that full-scale, soup-to-nuts kind of beauty that we love most. As Natalie mentioned, this is a very referenced family whose taste is exquisite, and often what they brought to fill in the spaces that weren’t fundamental design elements were such beautiful complements to the design that it just made magic.

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Natalie O Design commissioned art by Letitia Quesenberry including, (left) A color-changing flush mount light fixture (shown in pink) in the entry, and a green circular painting in the Guest Bedroom.

Gwen: What personally inspires you in design?
Natalie: I think we’re really lucky that we have one another. I think that we know when we’re going through independent growth as humans and so we’re gentle with one another, which allows for a really nice space to try things and not be judged. So I think in the sanctuary of our space and our partnership we inspire each other. I can find inspiration in life in general. Specific to design, it’s to show people the best in them in their own spaces. But I can find inspiration on the back of a magazine cover or a milk carton. I can find [it in] fashion or a font or a flag or a kite—I mean, I’m completely like a kite in that anything catches my eye, but mainly I find people largely inspiring and puzzles to solve.

Julie: We both have the privilege, especially recently, to travel. And travel is always design inspiration for us. When we get to go somewhere together we come back really lit with thoughts and ideas. And it’s not necessarily that the travel was intended for design, it’s a meal that we eat together or a walk that we take, but there’s always something that triggers a thought.

Gwen: What have you learned about yourself since opening the doors of Natalie O Design 15 years ago?
Natalie: Something I’ve learned from Julie is not to share everything- don’t give everything away. The demand will come. All things happen in the right time. You always want things to happen fast (and it’s easy to get jealous and frustrated when they don’t) but I care less about that stuff. There’s a certain degree of arrival in knowing exactly who we are and what we do and we’re not trying to wear somebody else’s hat. We’re not going to wear those tight-fitting jeans if they don’t work. We’re no longer having an identity crisis.

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A wrap-around upholstered headboard in the master bedroom was custom made by Esposito Construction, with Maharam Twill Weave. Blue sconces by Louis Poulsen AJ Sconce.

“This or That?” with Natalie O Design

Traditionalist or going against the grain?
Julie & Natalie: The latter.
Potted cactus or vaseful of flowers?
Julie & Natalie: Both, but always a cactus and hold a space for peonies!
Choose your couch: modern geometric lines or sink-right-in curves?
Julie & Natalie: One of each! There’s a place for both.
Neutral tones or anything-goes color scheme?
Julie: I would lean more neutral, but I think a pop of color is always important, it just has to be very well played. I think you dress very much how your house looks if you’re creative—it’s an extension. I may wear all neutrals but there’s going to be some weird something—that’s me!
Natalie: I think that color and light are far more integral to the process and important than what color. It’s really about how the color plays in the light that determines how it’s placed. Also, I don’t use red, ever. No one needs more alarm in their life!
Dining room table, modernist Eero Saarinen tulip table or natural wood live edge top?
Julie & Natalie: Neither; we’ll design our own!
Distressed or streamlined finish?
Julie & Natalie: Streamlined, always.
Brass or black fixtures?
Julie: I’m never going to choose black. If we do brass it’s unlacquered brass, not shiny.
Natalie: Unlacquered brass for sure. Brass is meant to patina as it does in knobs and fixtures in England and other areas of Europe where people use brass. It’s not a trend. We never do rustic, but our one space where we get that variance in patina is definitely in the use of actual brass or actual nickel. Everything in its truest form is kind of our M.O.

Photography by Luke Metzinger.

Designer Friday: An Aspire Exclusive Interview With Juliette Calaf

With over 20 years of designing commercial and residential interiors in her back pocket, Juliette Calaf has spread her suave style, consisting of soft tones and bold colors, to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Since creating her namesake firm in 2018, Juliette Calaf Interiors has been designing tropical homes that perfectly reflect the environment they are situated in. Now, continuing her warm climate and Atlantic Ocean design trends, Calaf will be launching a Miami-based annex to continue to showcase her design in homes and varying establishments. Introducing this week’s Designer Friday, Juliette Calaf.

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Electric colors spark joy all over this living area! Accompanied by a handsome young Clint Eastwood pop-art piece, Juliette’s use of color and negative space are to be admired. Photography by Mark Roskams.

Andrew Joseph: What’s your design pet peeve?
Juliette Calaf: When you walk into a space and everything is new, or worse yet, purchased from the same vendor.

Andrew: Describe your design style as if you were explaining it to someone who cannot see.
Juliette: I would call my design style ‘collected’. Not to be confused with eclectic or boho. For me, collected is a good mix of a client’s special pieces that can be both old and new. I love layering these throughout a space making the home unique and personal to each client.

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Minimal lines, neutral colors, and varying textures are shared within this decorative breakfast nook. The fresh and non-invasive furnishings leave room for the client’s art collection to take center stage. Photography by Mark Roskams.

Andrew: Are you a good cook? If so, what’s your specialty?
Juliette: Oh god, no! My family can attest to that. But there is one thing I can actually make really really well — braised short ribs with creamy polenta.

Andrew: Are you a pet person? Why either way? Dogs or cats?
Juliette: I’m definitely a pet person. You name it, we’ve had it: horses, guinea pigs, hamsters, a baby duck, a baby chick, fish, cats, dogs, I’m sure I’m missing someone…

Andrew: What’s one ingredient you put in everything?
Juliette: Hard work.

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Juliette created this bedroom to be an escape. The soft tones and muted colors come together cohesively, allowing the integrated fixtures to give a nod to the surrounding contemporary architecture throughout the home. Photography by Mark Roskams.

Andrew: Favorite piece of clothing you own?
Juliette: Can anybody have just one? Living and working in South Florida and Puerto Rico, I have a few staples that I can’t live without — great-fitting jeans and really nice t-shirts; lots and lots of jackets in every style but especially tailored ones; and to pull it all together, really cool statement jewelry.

Andrew: How do you define beauty?
Juliette: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If it makes you happy, then that’s it!


blankAbout The Designer | A native of Puerto Rico, Juliette Calaf launched her eponymous Juliette Calaf Interiors in 2018. A graduate of Boston University where she studied advertising, Juliette was always drawn to the world of design, taking a variety of design and graphics classes that further inspired her ultimate career choice. Ultimately Juliette chose to study interior design at Parsons to refine her technique and add further dimension to her design acumen.

It was when Juliette and her husband moved back to Puerto Rico in early 2000, that Juliette began her work recreating environments – both commercial and residential – for family and friends. Her business grew organically through word of mouth and soon Juliette and her team became the ‘go-to’ firm in San Juan for interior design.

Juliette has proven herself to be an expert in designing and creating the ultimate spaces for tropical climates – simplicity mixed with splashes of color, pattern and texture, furniture that blends seamlessly into spaces while always allowing the eye to be drawn to the outside. In 2021, Juliette will also launch her Miami based annex of Juliette Calaf Interiors, working on a number of residential projects in Southeast Florida.