Our collaboration with Barbara Littman—a true design diva—and our team produced some of our best work.
Recently, Barbara Littman passed away, but her enduring passion for design and how she integrated design—including fashion, interiors and architecture—into her daily life remains an inspiration.
I met Barbara after she decided to formally pursue architecture. She already had a degree in interior design, yet yearned for more. She had the tenacity and brilliance to pursue an architectural degree at that point in her life (dare I say 50 years old). Upon her graduation, I had a chance to really get to know her; I invited her to assist me while teaching an overseas program in Venice. Barb put forth a riveting presentation on Carlo Scarpa’s Olivetti showroom located in St. Mark’s Square, an architect that she had admired. The students were jazzed!
She later approached me, during the height of the financial meltdown, to work with her on an apartment—a penthouse that she and her husband, Lenny, bought in New York City. At that point, she was a grandmother and felt she earned the right to design a ‘dream space’ in the sky and chase her muse. She wanted to surround herself with everything that she collected and loved about design. She had furniture by Ron Arad, Ettore Sottsass, and Michele De Lucchi, and artwork by our favorite artist, Louise Nevelson.
We began to collaborate on the interior design; her only requirement was to make it reductive and modern. We came up with a spatial design that celebrated the reason they purchased this particular apartment: the bright light and city views. I suggested a fashion runway that took you from the front door, up a stairway, bringing you to the rooftop sculpture garden. It was a simple axial procession of entry-path-goal.
Barbara’s personal design aesthetic is restricted to black and white, with an occasional shade of gray. This prescriptive pallette encompassed everything she pursued: Fashion + ID + Architecture.
I encouraged her to bring a little color into her life! So we chose an accent wall that divided the private from public space; the circulation armature that led you to the upstairs rooftop garden. I suggested an acid yellow. “Are you insane?” was her reply. After she left the site that evening, I had the painter hit it with a brilliant Van Gogh yellow. The next morning I got a phone call: “You jerk, I love it!” Later in her New York Times interview, she described the color as a really unexpected pleasure, introducing a strong statement that was both powerful and yet calming.
For her, it was a “lifestyle by design.” She remains an inspiration to her students, colleagues, and collaborators, and continues to inspire all of us to chase our muse!
Whether you are contemplating a renovation to your personal residence, your business, or hospitality venue – hotel, restaurant, spa – it’s very important to hire an architect and an interior designer with experience in that area. (more…)
Our last blog, Healthy Home Part 1, we talked about the healthy renovations a City apartment dweller has made to her home. This attention to personal health and well being has also made it to the suburbs, as Part II demonstrates.
Healthy Home – Part II
A young couple who have two children recently approached us to design a new house for their family in Rumson, New Jersey. It is a beautiful estate property that offers views to the Navesink River with a full dock, episodic gardens, and terraced pools. They want to create a place for entertaining friends, family and business clients.
We designed the lower level to be a dedicated entertainment and relaxation space with a comprehensive spa, fitness, and wellness enclave, with walk out “social garden space” with a 10’h green wall and a 20’ long fire place. The design also contains a grand relaxation room, wine tasting room and home theater, complimented with a fitness room and nurturing couples massage room.
We designed a pool that combines several features:
– A lap pool
– A waterfall Jacuzzi for 6 integrated within the pool
– A water aerobics space with aqua-bike and resistance equipment
– A deluge experiential shower that massages and invigorates sore muscles
From the lounge and pool areas, you can visit the outdoor garden area where a dynamic green wall and stairs guide back to the upper level gardens connecting to the rest of the property. The pool, lounge and even the fitness room, focus out to this green wall and light filled outdoor space. This sunken garden brings light down into the lower level spaces and provides a calming view of nature.
We are finding that people are becoming more invested in their sense of personal health and well being. They are taking proactive measures by asking us to design their home and integrating wellness into their lives for them and generations to come.
We are finding that we are getting a lot of response from residential clients who have visited our spas, hotels and resorts and have had such a memorable experience that they’re asking us to design a spa inspired home for them. They are investing in their personal sustainability by integrating wellness into their own daily lives and creating home sanctuaries.
Healthy Home – Part I
We recently completed a home spa on the upper West Side of Manhattan for a client interested in creating a master bedroom suite in a healthy, nurturing environment. Since she has asthma and allergies, we designed a 5’x 5’ experiential shower and steam room with a bench where she could sit and relax while inhaling curative steam. An experiential shower allows her to control multiple water jets from a rainwater shower head at the ceiling, and body sprays along each side.
She also loves taking baths, so we integrated a steeping tub within the plan that allows her to soak up to her shoulders in water infused with restorative minerals and sea salts. She can recline and relax aching muscles within that deeper tub or pep up the water with invigorating eucalyptus or pine infusions. This bathing area opens up to the master bedroom with wrap around views to the city beyond.
As part of her master bedroom, we incorporated a very large library and reading area connecting to an outdoor deck and terrace. We surrounded her with what she loves- books and art that nurture her mind and soul. We have motorized shades and sheers that provide a complete blackout to ensure a good night’s sleep. About one in three New Yorkers have sleep issues so, we carefully orchestrated her bedroom to provide the utmost in sleep hygiene eliminating even small LED “on” lights, even alarm clock lighting was diffused ensuring a higher quality of life.
In our next blog, we will discuss another design project that emphasizes the benefits of integrating health and wellness elements into a home.
Are you incorporating elements in your home to increase your health and wellness?
Recently, I spoke at the 8th Annual Global Spa and Wellness Summit (GSWS), held in Marrakech, Morocco. The Summit shines a light on the $3.4 trillion wellness industry and was attended by futurists, economists, and wellness experts. I presented ” Peek Into the Future” about the impact the design of architecture and interiors can have on the emerging trends within the wellness sector.
People are looking for authenticity in terms of a wellness experience. When you’re visiting Marrakech, you want to experience Morocco. As goods and services from around the world become nearly identical, it’s the unique culture, history, people and natural surroundings that differentiate and create a memorable experience. This experience becomes the new currency, which people are craving. The experience itself makes the destination.
For architecture, that means creating something that is regionally relevant and born out of the site. A design that embraces innovation ultimately creates an inspiring environment for guests. Designing an all-encompassing experience is our signature design approach. We planned an eco-centric resort in Costa Rica so that the building seems to hover within the canopy of the trees and lightly touches down on the landscape. The tidal water moves in and out below the building, allowing the building to symbiotically “dance” with nature. So we will see this focus toward communing with, experiencing, and visiting nature as a counterpoint to the more compressed, hectic, urban, city life. Preserving a country’s natural beauty and cultural character, while integrating that into an experience in terms of one’s stay, therefore, is supremely important.
Another important insight is that, by the year 2030, 80% of people will be living in urban settings. Currently, the world is made up of 200 countries, but that’s quickly going to shift to 600 cities. Within urban settings, we’re trying to design and create healthier environments. Here, programs and all one’s needs will be condensed and, ideally, within your living environment. This harkens back to our Canyon Ranch Living in Chicago, where we designed the interiors for a “wellness tower”, a mixed-use building containing, living, relaxation & wellness all within the building. There will be a 220-unit residence, a restaurant managed by a chef and a nutritionist, a wellness support system with doctors and staff focusing on both physical and mental health, and there were fitness and relaxation areas with spa treatments, all that support within your domicile. Rather than travel to these destinations, they are all under one roof.
Both aspects focus on integration: Rooting an experience within a unique “experiential landscape” or integrating programs and activities within a single building providing efficiency and convenience. We are designing an emerging architecture of wellness buildings and communities promoting a healthy lifestyle.