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Caribbean

First, I’ve just returned to Rome from a business trip to the States and the Caribbean.  Below are some random observations:

Los Angeles traffic continues to get worse. How is this possible.

Target is great.

J.Crew.  What is happening? I’ve been a fan since the 80s. Something is amiss.

Why is Ben and Jennifer’s former nanny in the press so much? What is her end game? Reality show?

Speaking of reality shows, what the heck is Hollywood Cycle?

Ina Garten.  Adore.

Guy Fieri. Why so many shows, Food Network? Why?!

My friend Erica posted this TIME magazine article that said Americans dressing like slobs equals freedom.  Perhaps I have lived in Italy too long or I am turning into my Caribbean parents because I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.  Freedom? From what? The tyranny of Dior?

The GOP debate. Fascinating.  Trump was peak Trump.

The flight attendants on Air France were very friendly and cheerful.  It’s a long flight from St. Martin to Paris (8.5 hours).  Meanwhile, the American Airline attendants on the Miami to St. Martin flight (only three hours) not so much.  Why?

Portions in America are too big.  I couldn’t finish a single meal.

The newish Restoration Hardware showroom in West Hollywood is odd. I don’t get it.  Is it just for the trade? Who thought it was a good idea to have a 40,000 sq ft store where you have to buy everything online or from the catalog? The scale is huge. How can any shopper, who doesn’t live in a castle, envision that massive furniture in their home?

It would never occur to me to combine these two things:

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Second, in the past I have written about my Ferragosto issues.  Despite living in Italy for seven years, I was very American when it come to vacations and/or taking a break from work.

I said, “was” not “am.”  Finally, this year I get it.  I cannot wait for August 15th.  Truly.

My trip was intense.  I recently signed a Los Angeles based client and flew to Los Angeles direct from Rome. I have NEVER in my life been so happy to sit in a freezing cold plane for a thirteen-hour flight.  The six week heatwave in Rome was warping my brain. There were rumblings about Alitalia striking that weekend.  Thankfully, they didn’t and I got an upgrade to Business Class.  Nice.

That upgrade made a huge difference.  I had horrible jet leg during my trip to Los Angeles back in May.  This time it was much better.  I think it also helped that I walked to the Century City Mall shortly after arriving and stayed up until 10.30 p.m.

While I was running around Los Angeles with my client, I had deliveries and construction happening in Rome for another client.  Given the nine hour time difference, things were a little hectic.  I was only in Los Angeles for a few days and on my client’s schedule so I didn’t see many friends or “do meetings”.

Then I fly to Miami.  It was my first trip to the city.  I need to return and see more of it.  I really liked the vibe. I stayed at the Viceroy which was fantastic.

Unfortunately, the design district is shrinking after LVHM bought out several blocks.  It was still a productive trip. I sourced some great items for my Anguilla project.

From Miami I flew to St. Martin.  I said hello to my parents, and the next day took the ferry to Anguilla.

After all the flying, unpacking, repacking, shopping, meeting with contractors, painters, carpenters, project managers, receiving texts from clients in Rome about things we need to do ASAP, etc. etc., I hit the wall on Saturday.

While packing (again) I watch Flipping Out.  Can we talk about this show?  I have so many questions.  I wish Bravo aired in Italy.

I’m not complaining but a very strange thing happened during this trip.  I do not feel guilty about looking forward to August 15th. Not one bit.

Of course I’m not going completely cold turkey. There are quite a few back office things I need take care of during the break and meetings I must attend.

I bought a stack of shelter magazines in the States and the book The Bee Cottage Story.  I’m going to cut way back from the Internet and chill. I know September is going to be off the charts busy.  Everyone returns to town and I’m looking for a new apartment.  The latter will be an interesting process.

I may not be able to Dolce Far Niente for two weeks but can try for at least two days.  To prepare I need to put together a killer playlist which will include one of my favorite summer jams from August 1990.

Buon Ferragosto!

I woke up today to the news that one of the most important fashion designers of our time had passed away.

Despite his five decades in the industry, de la Renta was not one to live in the past.  He made classic, yet contemporary clothes.  It is rare to see a designer dress society ladies, Fortune 500 ladies, movie stars of all ages, and women who are not famous nor rich but love beautiful things.

Born in the Dominican Republic, he apprenticed at Balenciaga, under Cristóbal himself (unreal), and at Lanvin under Antonio Castillo.  I know a lot of people dismiss fashion as silly.  Perhaps some people in fashion are over the top but to me fashion is very interesting because it’s a combination of art, craft, and commerce.

There are so many celebrities out here on these streets calling themselves designers.  Please.

De la Renta was truly a designer.  He made clothes.  Beautifully.

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Mr. de la Renta will be missed.

Anguilla is quite the A-list celebrity/VIP destination these days.  However, the small island has managed to retain it’s relaxed, quiet charm.

My most recent piece for FATHOM Magazine went live today.

 

ANGUILLA – I wish I could say I have always appreciated this beautiful island. That would be untrue.

When my family moved from New York City to the leafy suburbs of Verona, New Jersey, I knew I had to become a true American teenager. I was hampered by my parents’ insistence on raising their children as if we were a family living in the Caribbean.

My parents are from St. Martin (totally different from the Dutch side, St. Maarten) and both my grandmothers were Anguillian. Whenever we went to St. Martin to stay with my paternal grandparents, we ferried over to Anguilla to visit family and friends. When I was a child it, was fun to hang out with my cousins, go the beaches, and stuff ourselves on Johnnycakes, rice and peas, and salt fish cakes. But as for the stunning white beaches of the island, they were lost on me when I was older. I mean, I was a teenager. Visiting relative after relative while sitting on their verandas for hours drinking Ting was boring.

The final anti-island straw happened one night when I was walking back to my aunt’s house and a mongoose ran across my foot. I was done. I thought, “I could be chilling at the Short Hills Mall with my friends instead of being stuck on this tiny island.”

It wasn’t until my parents moved to back to St. Martin after retirement and I moved to Rome that I began to understand why those trips back home were so important.

To read the rest and see more pictures, click HERE.

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The beach at Cap Juluca with the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten in the background.

Photo: Me and my iPHone

A few weeks ago I went to Anguilla to check in on one of my projects.  The build is going very well.

When I think of the mood for a beach house, the first thing that comes to mind is relaxation.

I’ve been looking at books in my library and pulling images from the internet for inspiration.  The bathrooms don’t have to be from a Caribbean beach house but must have some elements that would work in that environment.

There are many decisions that have to be made. What kind of finishes? What color? If we use tile, what size?

While this is a house in Anguilla, the style will not be British Colonial.  It’s too formal for a beach house.  There will be touches (like a mahogany four-poster bed) of course but mixed with a contemporary spin on Caribbean design.

Below are few spaces that caught my eye:

This bathroom is from a home on the tiny Island of Mustique.  I love the natural feel of it.  We’re already using poured cement for the kitchen counter tops. To use it again in the bathrooms might be too much.

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Photo: Elle Decor

This large en-suite bathroom in a Sicilian villa has a stone sink.  Love the simplicity of the shower stall and the use of wooden stools.  This is a newish boutique hotel.  I must see Rocca delle Tra Contrade in person.  The photos are stunning.

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Photo: Rocca delle Tre Contrade

I’m not a fan of shower caddies.

Our clients for the Tuscany project were very clear that they wanted built-in spaces for shampoo, soap, etc.   If it’s early enough in the build/renovation, I recommend going in this direction.  Just make sure there’s a slight slope, so water doesn’t pool in the space.

A partial wall works for this project.  It never gets cold.

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Photo: Elements Of Style

Getting away from the neutrals for a minute, this bathroom from the La Banane hotel on St. Barths is very bright and colorful.

A fun design like this might be a great idea for one of the smaller bathrooms.  Or the powder room.  In a large space this color and pattern would be not be relaxing to me.

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Photo: Villa La Banane

Brass fixtures are having a moment.  I like them in this bathroom.  I look at all this tile and worry about cleaning the grout.

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Photo: Habitually Chic

I LOVE outdoor showers.  The ones at Cap Juluca in Anguilla are fantastic.

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Photo: Cap Juluca

A more traditional style at Oscar de la Renta’s former home in the Dominican Republic.

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A shower in Marrakesh.  Fantastic built-in bench.

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Photos: Mark D Sikes

I don’t know where this house is but I like the contrast of the stone-tiled floor with the black contemporary trim on the windows and with the lines of the tub.

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Photo: Pinterest

Please forgive my geek out over Stromae (aka Paul Van Haver).

Last week I was in St. Martin to see my family and in Anguilla for work.  All week my sister, brother-in-law, and I, kept hearing this killer French song… in the car, at beach bars, etc.  The first time I heard it I was hooked.  It was so different from anything else out there in pop.

This morning I woke up to an email from my sister saying she Shazamed it but the clip didn’t show up until she returned to DC.

I went to iTunes because I had to buy the single. While I was there I noticed there was another single that was number one. I clicked on it and “discovered” it was  a song I’ve been hearing a lot in Italy lately.  I’ve been trying for weeks to track down it down.

Stromae was born in Belgium to a Belgium mother and a Rwandan father.  You can hear the influences of Euro dance music, African music, Caribbean music, and American hip hop in his work.

I am OBSESSED with his album Racine Carrée.   Obsessed.   It has been a monster hit in Europe, including the non French speaking countries.  I wonder if he will have a hit in the States.  I cannot remember the last French song to do so.  It also reached the top ten in Canada.

I will always associate this song with being in Caribbean.  It’s only March but it’s in the running to be my summer of 2014 jam.  The drums are giving me life.  Seriously.

 

Stromae studied music and film in school.  This video moved me.  His father was killed during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

 

And the song that is currently a huge hit in Italy.  Stromae showing both sides of a relationship.

Despite studying French for seven years in school, I speak at most ten words.  I looked up the translations to Stromae music.   His lyrics address a variety of issues, most of them pretty heavy.  There is substance to go with the beats.  I get why he has received both critical and commercial success.

I haven’t been this excited about a new (to me) artist since the first time I heard Amy Winehouse.

 

 

How funky are these chairs?

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I am a big fan of Kelly Wearstlers commercial work, yet the Viceroy in Anguilla took me by surprise.

A few years ago I met clients for a drink at the bar.  At first, when I walked in, the décor seemed so “uncaribbean” to me.

Then I walked around.  It IS very Caribbean.  Wearstler’s use of natural materials, her color palette, and the subtle nod to more tradition Caribbean design makes the Viceroy one my favorite hotel spaces.

This hotel is huge and could easily feel very corporate (thinking of a certain hotel on the Dutch side of St. Maarten that ruined one of the best beaches on the island).

Instead it’s unique and jaw dropping gorgeous.

Not a bad place to meet for drinks, especially with a locals’ discount.

I have more meetings this weekend about my Caribbean project.

Feeling very inspired

Buon weekend!

 

 

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