Where I've Been: Paris

Last week my husband and I headed to Paris to celebrate his birthday.  It was a quick four day trip but we managed to pack in the right amount of everything.  From picnics in Jardin Luxembourg to seeking out the best pain au chocolat to drinking plenty of champagne to taking full advantage of their amazing bicycle sharing program, we had the most incredible time exploring the city of lights.

Here is a list of our favorites discoveries:

Pain au chocolat from Gerard Mulot

Dinner at Spring- where we indulged in a six course meal with one of the best wine parings we've ever had

The organic farmer's market on Sunday at Marché Raspail where we picked up gorgeous radishes, two kinds of amazing cheese, a baguette and a variety of charcuterie for a perfect picnic

Drinks at Prescription, and Le Ballroom du Beef Club.  The masterminds behind the newly open Experimental Cocktail Club in NYC.

Baguettes from Au Levain du Marais



Wrapping It Up: 2011

2011 was an epic year in so many ways.  I feel like there is no better way to honor it than by presenting....

My Top Ten

One: Brazil. Three weeks discovering my love for maracuja, hours sifting through forgotten record shops frequented by few in the cities of São Paulo and Salvador and exploring the amazing beaches on the tiny island of Boipeba.

Two: My amazing clients that allowed me to collaborate on projects like this and this and this.

Three: Japan: freshly roasted Chestnuts, hiking around temples in Kyoto, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Japanese Maples at their peak fall foliage, underground whiskey bars and 20 course sushi meals.

Four: Lots of dinner parties in our house including platters of paella, tagines and a Cinco de Mayo feast for 25 people complete with homemade enchiladas, budín de elote, albóndigas and plenty of tequila.

Five: Celebrating my Grandfather's 94th birthday.

Six: My new Specialized road bike that led to numerous trips over the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges and long rides out to the Rockaways for tacos from this place.

Seven: India: My first Indian wedding, camel trekking mere miles from the Pakistani border, afternoons reading overlooking Lake Pichola in Udaipur and getting lost in the blue city of Jodhpur.

Eight: Celebrating three years of marriage to my kick-ass husband who has an amazing company, which despite his crazy travel schedule (platinum status is an understatement) makes me incredibly proud of him.

Nine: Sunsets.  I have never seen more beautiful sunsets than the ones I saw this year, regardless if I was is Brooklyn, Austin, Kyoto or Jaisalmer.  They have all blown my mind.

Ten: Matilda Uni Rose, our 4 year old pug, who is quite honestly, the. best. dog. ever.

So thanks 2011 for all of this amazingness.  2012, bring it.




Where I'm Going: India

In just eight days I'll be touching down in Mumbai for three weeks of celebration and exploration.  This amazing photo that is making the rounds on the internet is only making me more impatient to board the plane next Thursday night.

This is a NASA Satellite image taken over India as Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, begins.

via Jetset Farryn


Welcome: Welcome Beyond

One of my favorite design sites, Yatzer, interviewed Berlin based brothers Chris and Oliver Laugsch that are the founders of  Welcome Beyond.  It is an amazing collection of unique hotels and homes all over the world.

Welcome Beyond

By Lauren Del Vecchio,

Welcome Beyond is a new travel site with a fresh perspective and delicious eye candy in the form of architecture, design and ambiance. Founders (and brothers) Chris and Oliver Laugsch curate one-of-a-kind places to rest your head across the globe. A villa in Majorca, a modern chalet in Austria, the architectural marvel that is the Treehotel in Northern Sweden… only a few of the many destinations that can be found throughout the site. Explorers by nature and avid world travelers, Laugsch brothers founded Welcome Beyond with the intention of sharing their philosophy that ''where you stay is as vital to the experience as what you see and do''. One look at the images that pop up and you can’t help but agree with them.

How was the idea for Welcome Beyond born?  What was your inspiration? Our dream was always to start a business together, to do something a bit more meaningful and rewarding with our lives. Both my brother and I were at a point where we were fed-up with our jobs and Welcome Beyond really was the culmination of our favorite past-times. We have both lived abroad for many years, we love to travel and we have a passion for good design and architecture.  So it only seemed natural to combine these elements in one place.  We did not go about it in the traditional manner, doing market research and all that. The idea or concept just seemed right, so we went for it. There are, of course, difficult moments, but looking back it has been incredibly rewarding. Every day we deal with fascinating people who all love what they are doing.

How do you find these spectacular properties and architectural beauties?  I know there are a few boutique hotels, have any been built specifically for Welcome Beyond or were they all built originally as residences? They are all the product of passionate owners who often spent years developing, restoring and decorating their properties. And through our personal interviews with the owners, we try to tell their story – how a couple sailing around the world fell in love with a small island and ended up adopting it, how a single mother went on holiday, bought a derelict property and never went back home or why the British building authorities were not amused by the name ‘Love Shack’.  Initially, we found the properties by spending many months looking through newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. Today we have a number of people scouting and recommending properties to us, and more and more owners are approaching us as they want us to list their property. Unfortunately, we can only accept a small percentage of them in order to keep our collection to the standard it is today.

At Yatzer, we find your philosophy refreshing.  You explain that it is about gaining new perspectives:  "...Not just geographically, but beyond the obvious, the predictable, the expected. It’s about gaining new perspectives on regions, cultures and places of incredible beauty."  As a design site we’d really love to ask your opinion, what is it about one's surroundings that transcends an experience to another level? Absolutely, I believe it is about gaining new perspectives. We are all immersed in our day-to-day lives, the usual, the familiar – it is hard to break out of the routine. It requires time and effort to create a truly inspiring space.  And that is what all of the owners of the properties we have listed, have done. They have invested a lot of time and effort into creating a very personal space – often a reflection of their own character. The owner of Casa de Madrid put it this way:  “The decoration of each room is very different yet on the whole, when you walk through the house, you can feel the harmony. It is like the same person with a different sense of humor. It’s my personality, from one day to another, and that’s carried over into the rooms themselves.”

Guests appreciate that. People who use our website regard shelter as a meaningful part of their travel experience. They are looking beyond the obvious, predictable and standard hotel you find in every corner of the world. Because being in beautiful surroundings helps recharge the batteries.  So, people do love beautiful and functional things. But we are simply overwhelmed with impressions, everything is constantly changing. It is difficult to find a calming and soothing spot, to find the time to appreciate something beautiful and be inspired by it.  Wilber Das, Creative Director of Diesel and the owner of the Uxua Casa Hotel, is a very good example. The fashion industry is constantly changing, things don’t last. The Uxua Casa Hotel was a reaction to that, a longing to create something that lasts.

Welcome Beyond is also about giving back. You call it a ''social business''. Could you tell us a little bit more about that? *Editor’s note:  This is something that the owners have planned to roll out in their next “phase”.   More to come in the near future! Welcome Beyond is all about finding amazing places to stay and promoting great locations. In order to put some greater meaning into the enjoyment of these luxuries and to be able to give something back, we have decided to operate Welcome Beyond as a social business. In the future we will use profits generated through Welcome Beyond to support those who are less fortunate. We don’t want to simply give away the money to a charity, though. We want to put it to a better and more immediate use. We are already thinking about some ideas and projects but none of them are confirmed yet. It is incorporated into our phase two and is still some time away.

Where I Am: Austin

I'm in Austin for a few days to soak up everything that is Austin City Limits.  It's a three day marathon of all things music in the 45 acres of Ziker Park.  Some of the bands I'm most looking forward to check out are Arcade Fire, Foster and the People, TV on the Radio, Empire of the Sun, Chromeo, Cut Copy and some new to me--Beardyman, Gary Clark Jr, Young the Giant and Bomba Estereo.



Image via Dan Thibodeau

Habit: Beachcombing

I remember waking up on beach vacations as a child and being able tell my mom had returned from her routine early morning beach walk.  There would be an accumulation of treasures on the deck - sea glass, rocks, drift wood.  As my sister and I got older, we would join my mom on these walks.  The three of us spread along the coast looking for our own meaning of beauty.  I've continued this tradition of beach combing on nearly all of our travels.  I've found pieces of porcelain on the shores in Japan, sea urchins on Martha's Vineyard, sand dollars on the Oregon coasts and shells of varying shapes on shapes in Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia, India and Guatemala.  The collections are always subtle reminders of our various trips and travels past.  So when I came across photographer Jennifer Booher's store on Etsy, I was in my own little bit of beachcombing heaven.  I love way the way that she has documents her findings in these simple graphic images. Spend some time on her site and check out her other photographs!

Moment: Rockaway Beach

A few days ago we decided that the best thing to do on a glorious 85 degree day would be to hop on our bikes and head to the beach.  15 miles out and we found ourselves in Fort Tilden and Rockaway Beach.  The day was filled with fish tacos, Pineapple Mint juice, swimming in the Atlantic (first dip of the season), cruising the boardwalk and the general feeling of pure enjoyment that often takes place when one is at the beach.


*Big thanks to Chrysanthe Tenentes and her article on Jauntsetter for inspiring the mid-week escape!



Welcome: Jetsetter's iPad App

I'm super excited to announce that Jetsetter's iPad app launched yesterday. It's been an amazing experience working with such a talented team over at Jetsetter to make this app come to life.  When the app was approved and went into the app store at 6pm last night, I was thrilled. What's even more exciting is that in just 12 hours, we've already been listed as the #1 app in the travel category and are #31 overall in the free app section. It's a huge accomplishment and I am stoked that I could be a part of it.  You can download the app here.

You can read more about the app here and here.

Monday Morning Inspiration: Brazil

I just spent the last three weeks exploring Brazil.  They will host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 and the country is in the midst of a massive transition as it prepares for the millions of visitors it expects over the next five years.

We started our trip in the lively city of Rio and then headed north to Salvador, the center of Afro-Brazilian culture.  After a week on the island of Boipeba, we finished our trip in Sao Paulo.  It was an incredible experience on many levels--the people, culture, music, food and general way of life gave me perspective and left me enthused and inspired to explore more.  I'm excited to share some of the highlights with you in the coming weeks.

Yes Please: Ten Broeck Cottage

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bill abromowitz.12 copy

How gorgeous is this house?  We've been having a bit of a heatwave here in NYC that has left me dreaming about heading upstate to jump in cool crisp lakes, eat homemade blueberry pies and catch up on the stack of magazines that is continuing to grow on my coffee table.

The Ten Broeck Cottage by Messana O’Rorke Architects located in Hudson, New York, is the perfect juxtaposition of old and new; I love the reclaimed pine floor boards and richly oiled wood against the stainless steel and slate.  The farmhouse sits on eight acres, four of which are filled with Rome apple trees and the Taghkanic Creek runs alongside the property with “plunge spots.”  It's pretty clear that this three bedroom house would be the perfect getaway with some of our dearest friends.  Lucky for us, you can rent the house here.

Yes Please: Dunton Hot Springs

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May and June are extra busy months for us.  To keep us going, we're dreaming of quiet mornings with a ceramic coffee mug in hand, afternoons with nothing more than a book and each other and evenings spent outside enjoying clear skies, bright stars and a good glass of wine.  After spending weeks scouring which beach I wanted to spend my mornings on, I came across the amazingness that is Dunton Hot Springs, which quickly shifted my mind from ocean to hot springs and which just happens to be on sale this very minute on Jetsetter.

Described as a meticulously restored 19th-century ghost town whose tin-roofed, hand-hewn log cabins are fitted with heated slate floors, cozy furnishings and wood burning fireplaces.  Some of them even have their own private hot springs.  The rate includes all meals, which focus on locally sourced organic ingredients served at a communal fireside table or in the open kitchen where guests can watch the chef prepare the day’s meal and even lend a hand.

Sounds like we may be heading to to the Colorado Rockies in June...

An Interview: Alex Calderwood

PSFK Talks To Alex Calderwood Of Ace Hotel PSFK recently sat down with Alex Calderwood, founder of the Ace Hotel chain to talk about collaboration, inspiration and intuition.

Piers Fawkes: Alex, I wonder if you can talk to about the collaborations you do. It seems like there’s a kind of fantastic leverage which seems to be very on the pulse of what’s going on in terms of the culture and everything else. Why do you do these collaborations? What’s in it for you?

Alex: It’s a good question. I think in general that the company’s very much rooted in a very collaborative spirit in just the way we work. So in terms of how we create the properties, we try to involve amazing artisans or craftsman or design professionals as much as possible in their respective sort of expertise or art. And so it’s kind of in the DNA at the plan in a sense.

Piers: Why is that?

Alex: I think I’ve always been drawn to the sense of community that develops around the project. So, for example, if you come to a new city. We started in Seattle and then we went to Portland and a couple of other cities, New York and Palm Springs.

But you’re coming to a new city and so you want to create a sense of kind of emotional involvement and creative involvement from different people who are in the community. For example, like we went to New York, we felt it was very important for us to collaborate with a New York firm or New York entity that would help us develop the hotel or design the hotel for a couple of different reasons.

One, that the scale of it, it was a large scale. We just needed to have that, without us having to recreate a whole staff in New York and create a whole design office here. We felt it was more beneficial to collaborate with a firm here as well as just from a timing and logistic standpoint it made more sense just to not recreate the wheel ourselves.

And so we teamed up with this firm, Roman and Williams, and it was a very, very synergistic and very satisfying working relationship with those guys. And we felt like they really were rooted in New York and really represented what our take would be on this particular building we were working with and in this particular context.

And in the same way, when we went out to California, we chose some friends of ours and some people in Los Angeles who we felt really represented that sort of California experience.

And so anyway, to get back to your original question, for me I think that it really engenders this sense of community and kind of, again, emotional investment or emotional involvement in the project. I think that’s kind of where it starts.

And then I think that also a lot of good ideas come from various places. We’re very much a company based on the value that good ideas can come from really anybody.

Piers: Could you tell me a little more about the generation of good ideas in your company? How do you know that the relationship with Stumptown or Opening Ceremony or an artist is a good idea? What gives you that sort of sense?

Alex: Oh, sure. That. Well I think two things. For us, A) it comes down to a little bit of instinct. We’re big believers if something feels right, you at least pursue the conversation and see if it fits. And a lot of times in these things when something feels right the kind of pieces to the puzzle will start to fall into place.

Like for example, Opening Ceremony or Project No. eight or Stumptown. First of all we have a space. We reach out to them. They know what we’re doing. We know what they’re doing. You can start a dialogue. You can kind of get a sense in the beginning of the dialogue if a lot of the positive buttons are starting to kind of be pushed or starting to respond.

So part of it is interesting. But I think the more important part of it is it really comes down to people. So, really getting a sense of all of those examples, as I just mentioned, it really was the kind of direct action between our crew and them and getting the sense that the people felt right. You get a sense of where someone’s intention is coming from.

For us, if it feels like there’s a very genuine intention behind what they’re doing, and a genuine intention for us to work together, then usually kind of all the right answers will show up to have a sense, does the puzzle fall into place.

Piers: I do want to get a sense of where did you focus before that conversation happens? How do you even get the sense of who the right people are to talk to?

Alex: Right. That actually comes through a variety of different channels. Sometimes people reach out to us, and they’ll just say like, “Hey, we heard you’re doing a project, and we’re interested to be involved.”

I think, for example, with Stumptown, when we started the hotel project in Portland, kind of word got out on the street. And I can’t remember if Duane called us first — Duane’s the owner of Stumptown — or whether we called him. But basically, Stumptown is very much kind of hometown favorite in Portland, and we knew we had space, and we liked the idea of a coffee shop. So I believe in that particular instance, he had kind of contacted us first.

Sometimes it comes through other channels. For example, with Project No. eight and Opening Ceremony, there is a gentleman who’s involved in our company, named Michael Bisordi, and he also happens to own a retail brokerage firm.

So he and his staff did a really, really good job of kind of scouring through a lot of different possibilities in Manhattan that could be candidates for the various retail spaces that we had, and distilled it down to kind of like the ones that we thought were the most aligned and sort of the best fit, and really shepherded those conversations through to open up a dialog. So I, in those particular two cases, have to really try to even do a great, great job.

It’s not an easy challenge. So he and his staff did a great job of kind of going through and just really sort of handpicking various different candidates that would be good possibilities.

Piers: I imagine, you don’t suddenly then go into a round of market research to make sure it’s the right sort of company. You use some of that intuition…

Alex: Yeah, for us… I mean, let’s see here. I don’t know if we do, necessarily, a lot of deep analysis or market research, per se. We certainly do a certain level of research. But again, it is so nuanced and comes back to having your ear to the ground, and having a sense of kind of the ebb and flow of what’s going on out there, at least in terms of retail or restaurants or coffee, or whatever the particular area is. So it’s kind of a combination of, like I said, having your ear to the ground, instinct, and a certain level of research.

So it’s not like we went to a traditional retail-marketing firm and said like, “This is our demographic, and please come up with a list of [laughs] candidates that fit that.” It’s really so much more of a psychographic. It’s more nuanced than that.

The Boarding Pass, Reconsidered.

On a recent flight From Seattle to NYC, Tyler Thompson, the creative director at Squarespace, decided to tackle the boarding pass -- an object used by many, yet often overlooked and rarely reconsidered. After some sketches in his Moleskine, Tyler came up with these:

pass-blue-1 copy

pass-designed copy

Tyler's efforts sparked a conversation and others jumped into the ring.  What is important about the designs that follow is that they take into account design limitations, such as the fact that boarding passes are printed with thermal printers and international flights require longer bar codes.  I think too often people redesign products that end up being sexier but don't really consider the critical elements or the importance of function and usability.  I like that the design community brought these facts to Tyler's attention and more importantly, I applaud Tyler for opening it up for discussion.  It's these sorts of conversations that make life interesting.

This is JJ at Graphicology take:


And Timoni Grone's version:

Timoni Grone

And one of my personal favorites from Yoni De Beule:


See more designs and read more of the discussion here

An affair with Italy.

20091106_Italy_002 We just got back from a much needed, much appreciated and what I'm now deeming the *perfect* trip to Italy.  From the history we encountered in Rome to the olive groves of Umbria to the grittiness in Naples to the charm in Positano, we covered our basis and had an amazing time.  Lots of posts to follow but in the mean time, I want to thank Angela Liguori and her 100% fantastic Rome design guide on Design*Sponge as well as Heidi Swanson for her 20 Things I Encountered in Rome, which led us to amazing cappuccinos and life changing biscotti that was so good we brought some home with us.