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Buon giorno!

Life has been nuts these past few weeks between signing new clients and moving. I still have twenty-five boxes of books and magazines to unpack.

I hope to publish a post on this blog the first and third Wednesday of the month, at least. I need get it on a schedule or else it will end up like Jeb!’s presidential campaign. Seriously, what’s happening there? He must be very annoyed. This is one of most unusual American presidential races I’ve ever seen, but I digress.

While Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, finding a hotel here can be tricky especially once you get out of the five-star range.

I tend to prefer smaller boutique hotels, so I was excited to check out Rome Luxury Suites on Via Babuino. I was invited, along with a few other guests, to tour the hotel followed by an aperitivi on the new rooftop. You know how I feel about terraces, more on that later.

The location couldn’t be better. Via Babuino is in the Trident area, close to the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. The sidewalks were recently widened. During the day there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic as this street is a popular high-end shopping destination. At night, it’s quiet. There are no bars, or clubs.

The hotel has twenty-four rooms. They are stylishly decorated without being too “done”.  On some floors it’s possible to connect rooms, creating a private suite. Perfect for a family.

This is a great place for someone who likes the idea of renting an apartment but would like the services of a hotel (concierge).

One of my favorite rooms was the Babuino Suite which has its own balcony.

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Now back to the roof terrace. It’s available for guests only. This was my favorite part of the hotel. I know that’s not logical but what can I say? I love a good roof terrace.

For more about the hotel (they have two other locations in the neighborhood) you can check out their website HERE.

The wonderful women at Italy Casa Mia asked me to write a guest post about where to have delicious cocktails in Rome.  It was hard work, very difficult research.

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Photo: Gina Tringali

However, somehow I was able to complete this assignment.

Quite a bit of ink has been spilled recenty regarding how the cocktail scene has improved in Rome. I don’t know what it was like before but I agree that yes, it is possible to have a cocktail in Rome. Anyone who tells you that the only thing to drink is wine or an Aperol Spritz (not that there’s anything wrong with either of them) is incorrect.

While a great bartender (or mixologist as they’re called today) is key, the atmosphere is just as important. There are some spots where the drinks are good but I cannot get into the vibe and/or décor.

Of course this list is very subjective. Below are the places my friends and I tend to go to time and time again. Not on the list are a few bars some of my younger friends love. To paraphrase Lethal Weapon, “I’m too old for that foolishness.” This is a grown folks list.

First up, in alphabetical order, the hotel bars. I’ve heard that back in the day (perhaps 2003?) the best chance for a decent cocktail was at a hotel bar but the prices tend to be higher.

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This hotel opened two years ago on the gorgeous Via Giulia. A former convent, the tiny downstairs bar is seriously sexy with its dark greys. They make a great French 75. In warmer months, head upstairs to the lovely rooftop terrace.
Note: On weekend nights, the bar gets very crowded. There’s usually a line (and a list) to get in.

To read the rest of my list, click HERE.  Buon drinking!

 

 

Hold up, how is it October already?  One of my friends in the States was complaining about seeing Thanksgiving decorations already.  I guess we should be grateful they weren’t for Valentine’s Day 2016.

I have started my apartment search.  It’s, well, a trip.  I don’t know what some of these landlords are thinking. The bathroom situation is not good.

I’m having a hard time finding smaller apartments that are unfurnished.  Most of the apartments in the neighborhoods I’m focusing on were built for families.  I don’t need a huge apartment and as a small business owner,  it wouldn’t be financially smart to take on that kind of monthly expense.

I hope to find something this month. We’ll see.

I took a quick business trip to Milan last month.  I got completely lost searching for a to-the-trade vintage furniture store.  Once i realized I was very close to the new Prada Fondazione, I had to check out Bar Luce.

Bar Luce was designed by film director Wes Anderson.  Anderson has directed several short films for the fashion house.

It’s 1950/1960’s Milanese style with a touch of Anderson’s quirkiness.  Opened everyday from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Bar Luce is the prefect spot to have coffee or aperitivi.

There are so many wonderful design details in this space.  I really need to return and spend a afternoon there, reading and writing.

ADORE these lights.  If I find an apartment with an ingresso/foyer that has overhead lighting, I’d love a fixture like this.

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The dark wood helps anchor all the pastels.  Without it, perhaps the décor would be too twee.  Pink and green are fabulous together. Back in college I used to have a rugby shirt with those colors. One day while walking across the quad, an upperclassman asked me if I were an AKA.  She said, “you do wear a lot of pink and green.”

I did.  Not because I belonged to that sorority but because I wore a lot of preppy clothes in the 80s.

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I didn’t have a chance to see what tunes were on the jukebox.

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One of my favorite Wes Anderson films. I must buy the soundtrack.

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I wonder what flavor the pink cake is.  So pretty.

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Hello, my name is Arlene Antoinette Gibbs and I have a Sicily problem.

It’s bad.  Every time I go, i wish I could stay longer.  There’s so much of the island I haven’t seen yet, for example the entire West Coast, the interior, and other islands like Stromboli, Lampedusa, etc. etc.

This time I was on the island for a week, Mt. Etna then Ortigia, for vacation (and to celebrate my birthday).

“It’s good to back,” I said to Rosa, the newish manager, when I walked into the reception room at Monaci delle Terre Nere.   Last year I wrote about Monaci and my first trip to the Sicilian mainland for FATHOM.

This time I stayed in the Floreale room.

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The bathroom!

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Photos: Monaci

The view from my balcony.

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Lunch was served by the pool.

The first time I went to Monaci, it was raining and winter so I had no idea how spectacular the views were. The grounds are gorgeous.

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The main villa at sunset.  I would like to decorate a Sicilian villa one day.

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One morning I jogged around the forty acre property.  Most of the food served at Monaci comes from their organic gardens. There is a huge chicken coop.  I hesitate to call it a coop.  It’s more like a palace as it’s bigger than my apartment. Lucky chickens.

The breakfast spread was serious.  On the other side were eggs, cheeses, salumi, cakes, breads, cereals, and many other things I didn’t have a chance to try.

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I had to buy a jar of their honey.  Fifteen percent of the honey made in Italy comes from this small town.

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I had some great Sicilian wines.   I love their aperitivi.  Although there were more guests during this trip (the hotel was at full occupancy) fewer people went to the aperitivi. Perhaps they thought it wasn’t child appropriate?

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Several rooms, located a few meters from the main house, have been renovated now. The atmosphere during high season was completely different from off-season. There were lots of families and half the tourists were American.

I had a moment with a fellow American guest who was so rude, it took my breath away.  I believe I had a strong reaction to her snub because it was completely out of context.  The vibe at Monaci is very friendly and chill.  The owners, Guido and Ada, are lovely and as are the other people who work there.  For this basic lady to not understand that said a lot about her.

As soon as I sat down with my book by the pool, I got over it.  I was in a beautiful place and no one was going to put a damper on that.

A slight scent of Sicilian jasmine, and lavender filled the air.  There were roosters in the background and sometimes the volcano “groaned”, loudly.  It was very relaxing despite the sounds coming from Mt. Etna.

A grazie mille to Rosa, Sara, Federico, Nujuan, Salvatore, and of course Guido and Ada for helping make this the best birthday ever.

Note:  My room was in the main villa and on the same floor as the kitchen. I’m an early riser, so I never heard a peep from the kitchen or from the downstairs reception area.

From Monaci, I went to Oritigia.  This time I rented an apartment on the other side of the village.  I couldn’t understand why it was cheaper than my place from last year.  It had a terrace with a partial sea view.

It’s because that side of the town wasn’t completely regentrified, yet.

As you can see in the photos below, some of the buildings are derelict and the empty former prison is on the left.  I liked being only two blocks away from the farmers market but can see how that might not be appealing.

I had to work a bit during my vacation but at least I had a view.

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Love the old faded tiles on the right.

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Before unpacking, I ran out to get pick up some yogurt, wine, and other important things.  All of a sudden I heard my name and it was X, Erica’s daughter.  Once again, without planning it, our apartments were only blocks away from each other.

The tiny piazza in front of my building at night.

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The architecture here is incredible.  Remember to look up.

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My friends at Casa Mia wrote about Tabaré (Sicilian dialect for tray) and I had to check it out.  It’s a must.

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On my birthday we went to Arenella beach.  We got there early and scored great beach chairs, second row.  It was my first trip to a Sicilian beach and I had a great time.  I love how people of all shapes and sizes rock bikinis and Speedos.

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Later that night we went to dinner.  In Italy when it’s your birthday and you invite people to celebrate with you, you pay.  It makes sense to me. You’re the host. I have some American friends who really have an issue with this custom but it’s not just an Italian thing. In the Caribbean if you invite people out for your birthday, you pay.  I get it if you’re in your early 20s and you meet at a bar or something. However, by your 40s/50s and up, the whole invite people to celebrate you and then expect them to pay is a little odd to me.

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After dinner Erica insisted on treating me to a post dinner drink in the main piazza.  This is probably one of my favorite churches and piazzas in Italy.  It is ridiculously beautiful.

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I was worked up about this birthday but in the end, it turned out to be a perfect day.  Thank you, Ms. Firpo and Ms. Arya.

I’ve been back for less than two weeks and I’m already trying to figure out when I can return. I’m tempted to join one of my friends in Rome who has to go to there for work in October.  Seriously.

Photos (except for the first two): me and my iPhone

Finally, my jet lag is over.  It was much worse in Los Angeles and ended shortly before my return flight to Rome.  How wonderful!

The LCDQ Legends interior designer conference is one of the most popular events in the industry. I’ve heard designers call it the Coachaella or the Oscars of interior design.  There were more than ten thousand RSVPs for the three-day event, with designers from over twenty-four states, and one hundred and fifty designers traveling to Los Angele from overseas.

This was my first year attending. It was fantastic. There were Interesting and informative panel discussions, fun parties, and over sixty-seven inspiring window displays.

Not only did I enjoy visiting some of my favorite (and new) showrooms, I appreciated the style of my fellow decorators. Folks were not playing. It does make sense that many interior designers/decorators have a great sense of style.  I forgot how super casual Los Angeles is until I saw someone walk into Urth Cafe in Beverly Hills wearing pajamas bottoms.  I’m talking about the sloppy, comfortable ones you sleep in, not the dressy ones you would wear to a party.

I also had Hollywood film/TV meetings but since this is not a screenwriting blog, all I will say is that everyone is talking about EMPIRE.  We’ll see how this hit show changes the landscape.

There were many highlights and I left feeling very energized (and determined to move to a new neighborhood).

Opening night gala.  My friend Corrina (an interior design junkie) came with me.  It was packed.  The food was delicious.  I felt drunk despite not drinking at all.  The jet lag struggle was real that night.

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The official kick off.  The Bloggers Breakfast.  I met Erinn Valencich from American Dream Builders. So nice. Perhaps my experience is not the norm, but I’m constantly surprised by how friendly and helpful people are in this industry.  At the conference I met some serious A-listers and they couldn’t be more down to earth. It’s shocking!

There were many famous design bloggers attending the breakfast but the room was so crowed it was impossible to move around. I found out who was at the event after seeing their Instagram feeds.

Yes, I took a photo of this Italian shower head. I love that other people were also taking photos of faucets and shower heads. I could spend hours discussing such things.

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I’ve written about Peter Dunham before. His showroom, Hollywood at Home, has moved to a new location. Beautiful. I ordered some fabric samples for my Anguilla beach house project.

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You know how I feel about Peonies.

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Peter’s famous Fig Leaf print.

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How gorgeous is this dark blue club chair at Mecox?

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This table? Perfect for a bedroom, entryway, or a small office.

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Everyone was so cheerful.  It really unnerved me. Ha!

This photo was taken at the ELLE DECOR Power Luncheon.  Very pretty and again, great food.

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Lulu Powers making Aperol Spritz before the “Entertaining – The Home As A Social Stage” panel, with Susan McFadden, Kathryn M. Ireland, Russ Diamond, and Lulu.

The take away?  Dining rooms are not obsolete, despite what developers of McMansions say. They’re being used differently, less formal.  I agree and wish I had one.

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I read Windsor Smith’s new book once I returned to Rome.  I highly recommend adding it to your library.  It was great to meet Windsor and to spend time in the Arteriors‘ showroom.

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I love that Arteriors was serving cocktails at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, I was driving non-stop in Los Angeles.  Still, I enjoyed the festive atmosphere.

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One of the most popular events is the Moore and Giles cocktail party, co-chaired by Harbinger LA and the Hearst shelter magazines (Veranda, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful) in the Harbinger backyard.

More Aperol Spritz.  The Italian inspired menu was catered by Lulu Powers and was delicious.

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My incredible experience ended with an intimate party at Kathryn M. Ireland’s beautiful home.  I forgot my phone (the HORROR!).

Paloma Contreras of La Dolce Vita blog wrote a post about it.

Ireland has moved her West Hollywood showroom next door to her textile printing shop on Washington street. Outside, it looks like any other nondescript industrial space. Inside, is a completely different story.

I cannot believe it’s been almost three years since I attended her Interior Design Boot Camp.  It was one of the best investments I’ve made in my career.  It was also a lot of fun.

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Work in progress.  Hand printed textiles.

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Photos: My and my iPhone.

Earlier I wrote about the interior design of La Bandita Townhouse.   Clearly the owners, John and Ondine, have put as much thought into the service as they did into the décor.

From the first email to book my room, until the day I left, the service was (as the young folks say) on fleek.  This is something I do not take for granted.  Unfortunately, too many people have no idea what it means to work in the hospitality business. Why they would open or work in a hotel/restaurant/spa, etc. is beyond me.

Pienza is small hilltop town with a population of approximately two thousand people.  It was the birthplace of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, who would become Pope Pius II. Piccolomini rebuilt the entire village, starting in 1459, after he became Pope.  He saw it as a lovely Renaissance retreat from the Papal capital.  In 1996 Pienza was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s a perfect base from which to explore this region of Tuscany (with a car).  Montapluciano, Siena, and other towns are close by.  If you’re a Pecorino cheese fan, a visit to Pienza is a must.

Since I was only staying for two nights, I didn’t rent a car and spent most of my time close to the Townhouse.  It was FREEZING.  I’m not exaggerating.  I haven’t been that cold since my days at Syracuse University.

I was elated to see these fire pits around town.  I love how in this country even a simple and functional thing, like a fire pit, is well designed.  I mean, look at the darn logs.  Did the person who built the fire make sure they were “just so” or what?  Also, as I said before, it was beyond freezing.  Who has time to worry about aesthetics in sub-freezing weather?   If the logs were janky, would the fire builder be called out?

I truly appreciate this attention to details.

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The views were spectacular.  Sunset.

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Sun rising. View as I started my epic walk three and a half-hour walk.

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Remember this road from the movie GLADIATOR?  No, I was not entertained. I was a little freaked out because I didn’t see a single person for kilometers.  I started to think, “what if a wild boar attacked me? Nobody could hear me scream. Where the heck is the next farm house?”

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Seriously, NOBODY was around.

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The top of this well, stylish simplicity.

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Pieve dei Santi Vito e Modesto Church.  It was built sometime during the 11th and 12th centuries.   Notice the distinctive carvings above the door.  Several of these small country churches were built above Etruscan sites and used some of the same imagery.

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I had a fantastic dinner at the hotel, after I defrosted.  The restaurant is open to the pubic (you need reservations).  Chef David and his sous-chef, Jacopo, knocked it out of the park.

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Martina pours some Prosecco.

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During high season, Pienza is very popular with tour groups.  This charming video about La Bandita and Pienza helps explain why.

A big Thank You to everyone at La Bandita.  Sometimes it’s not so easy to travel alone and they made me feel at home.

Photos: Me and my iPhone.

 

 

I’ve read about La Bandita, a country house near Pienza and have seen photos of it in various shelter magazines/design articles.

A little over a year ago, John Voigtmann and his wife Ondine Cohane opened La Bandita Townhouse converting a former convent in center of Pienza into a 12-room boutique hotel.

My friend Gillian and husband stayed there recently.  She told me I had to see it in person.  Gillian knows my taste and said I would love it.

She was correct.  I know people are sick and tired of decorators using words like swoon! obsessed! and dying! when describing interiors.  However, let me say, I swooned when I saw my room. I was obsessed with the design of the kitchen and was dying over the views.

I’ve written before about the mix.  It’s something you see frequently in French and Italian interiors.  It’s not easy to pull off.  Sometimes the space is too modern for the architecture and it feels cold.  Or the design is so faithful to the past, it’s dated.

Working with Florence based architects, Arianna Pieri and Ernesto Bartolini of DA.Studio, John and Ondine have created a lovely space. In a hotel, all the beauty in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the service is awful. It was fantastic and I will write about a post about that and Pienza soon.

I absolutely adore this type of décor.  The same architects worked on Monteverdi with interiors by Ilaria Miani.

i found out that one of the main resources for La Bandita Townhouse was the store Barthel.  No wonder it spoke to me as we sourced most of the items for the bathrooms in our Tuscany project from Barthel.

This was my room, number 12.  I arrived late afternoon.  The amount of light during the day is unreal.  I love that they retained the stone wall.  The view from the tub was sick.  The Ortigia products were a nice touch, as were the free water and soda in the mini-bar.

In my next apartment I would like a canopy bed. The colors, the lighting, the bed linens, I really didn’t want to leave this room after two days.

I have to ask if they have a room with a desk, because La Bandita is a perfect spot for writers.

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Tears of happiness when i saw this huge shower stall.  I really need to move.

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Gorgeous.  The main hallway is the first thing you see when you walk thru the door. The convent dates from the 1400s.

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Again, stone walls.  A lot of natural materials with pops of orange throughout.

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This kitchen is everything.  In the States open-plan kitchens are preferred but not in Italy (or the Caribbean).  Notice the overhead window over the bar?  It drops down.  Once you close the door on the left of the bar, you have a closed kitchen that lets in light.   A friend of mine, who lives in a loft in Rome, did something very similar.  It’s a brilliant idea.

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An old map of Italy in the library/lounge.

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I was very excited to see so many classic LPs in different genres. I could’ve stayed up all night listening to music.  I still have some vinyl and for my next apartment (I know, I know) I will buy a turntable.

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You know how I feel about books and magazines.  It was freezing outside.  It was nice to curl up on the sofa and just chill.

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John is former music industry executive.  Some of his gold records sit on top of the bookcase.

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Aperitivi time!

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John has said he and Ondine wanted to create a beautiful, comfortable hotel where people could come to relax and enjoy Tuscany. They have. La Bandita is a special place. I cannot wait to return during warmer weather so I can eat outside on their fantastic terrace.

Photos: (except for the one of the kitchen and of the bookcase) me and my iPhone.

Click HERE to see more from La Bandita’s great photo gallery.

La Bandita Townhouse

Corso Il Rossellino, 111
Pienza (SI) 53026
Toscana, Italia
Tel +39 0578 749 005
info@la-bandita.com

 

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