Living in the Time of Quarantine: Defining Home in a Troubled Time…

What is “Home”? How do we live in the times of a global pandemic and how do we organize and prioritize differently in this uncertain time? How do we experience a living space when we are now home 24/7?
Most of us here in NYC are in the third or fourth week of a directive to stay indoors. Non essential businesses and most larger companies have shut the doors leading to many who were fortunate to telework from home and some less fortunate who found themselves instantly unemployed.
The paradigm shift has not been kind to us, so many of our family and friends becoming ill, and so many sadly passing from this horrible virus. We look to each other for comfort in normal times, and now we are physically separated from our family and friends to protect ourselves and slow the rate of infection. What we do have is technology, the ability to be together even though we have such a distance.
We are home. We are among the lucky ones if we have a space to live in. How are we transforming or modifying our homes to support and facilitate what is now maybe a home school, office, living space and peaceful oasis. If you have a family, they are all in the same space for days at a time, where privacy may now be a luxury and where everyone in the family needs that space to function for their needs.
Nothing is certain except that we will be forever changed and so will our living spaces. Pre Corona normal may not return for us, some experts say. So now is the time for transformative thinking and that applies in a large way to our homes. If you have a family with school aged children who cannot physically attend school but are receiving lessons online there now needs to be an area for learning and maybe a quiet place for meetings with colleagues or clients for working parents.
What really makes “home” is what makes us feel good in our environment .Maybe it is a plant or flowers that bring joy. So you can order a plant for your desk or start a small herb garden in the kitchen. Now is the time to take a look at that closet that is full of clothes and organize it and cleanse some of your things that you don’t use anymore. Do some mini refreshers with decorating, create artwork to have some calm, this is good for mental health. Storage becomes very important. It is uncertain when food and essential products may be in stock, so we buy more, and need places to store them.
Reassessing the current layout, rearranging the room layouts and furniture may better serve a family unit that is now home. Lighting is also a concern, especially to now do school work and job tasks.
During this time of confinement, there is the slippery slope of being too lax and regressing from productivity. A tidy and organized space will assist in the day to day life where you can still have some semblance of a routine. A messy space can be a deterrent . We need to tap into our ingenuity and creativity in these times. Take a yoga or fitness class online or use the time to learn computer science or a language, something that can benefit you after we are over this steep hill. Imagine an astronaut whose job it is to be confined for months at a time and imagine how they must channel their energy to do their job.
I would love to know how other professionals and families have readjusted their living spaces in these Covid times? Share your ideas in the comments, we can all share tips and stay connected. Design is transformative, how can we design this new life style so that it is enriching and fulfilling even through a global crisis.
Be safe, stay healthy and design for a new way to live, and
and don’t  forget to dream…!

send us your ideas of what “home” is,  and I will publish them in a future piece or video!

Women’s History Month: A Tribute to Architect Zaha Hadid

As we celebrate the myriad accomplishments of Women this month, I want to pay a special homage to a force in Architecture, a pioneer who blazed a trail that did not exist in a historically male dominated profession, Zaha Hadid. Her passing during Women’s History Month (March 31) 2016 was a devastating blow to our industry and to women around the world.

She was at the peak of intense creativity and global success. Zaha was in the prime of her career, her most prolific period of her life with global recognition, renowned projects, and the highest accolades. Zaha catapulted to the heights of success and esteem in the design field, with her boldness and strength and by her boundless imagination, technical skill, and vision. She shattered the glass ceiling for women Architects and Designers and then rebuilt it in her own way with her own unique vision.

The obstacles she faced in her career based solely on her gender seemed to propel her further. She used those struggles to create her path without hesitation and gain the respect of her peers.

A designer without limitation, she created vast wonderlands of space with organic curves and influences of nature and a glimpse into what the future looked like through her eyes. She merged her Iraqi culture and inspirations into her designs weaving artistic aspects with functionality. Whether it was residential, commercial, hospitality or public spaces, it is hard not to recognize the “Zaha” signature. This is what made her a legend and a force in the world of Architecture.

She will remain an inspiration to women Architects and Designers all over the world, because of her tenacity and talent. Women in the industry will follow her lead, paving their road to succeed in a profession that is challenging and demanding.

The quest for  gender equality in the world and workplace cannot stop. It is time that women receive equal pay for equal work and are treated with the respect that is given to their male counterparts. As women become leaders in the new fields like tech, design and engineering, now more than ever it is essential that women are recognized for all of their accomplishments and duly given their credit.

As we honor all these warrior women, it is most fitting to honor Zaha Hadid this month who made enduring contributions to women in Design and Business and never took no for an answer. Nevertheless, she persisted…

For Woman Powered Architectural and Design Services, go to: http://www.orastudionyc.com

 

 

 

 

Love and the Power of Color…

 

While the human being has 5 senses, most perceptions are deemed by sight. We are visual beings, so color has a great impact in our daily life, our moods and ever-changing emotions. Color has power over us, to create an ambiance of joy, peace, or even chaos… Color is visual hieroglyphics to illustrate a theme or emotion.

Color carries with it an emotional reverberance, so when designing with color, we must carefully consider the color we select. How color is placed in a space can affect the overall energy and mood of the people inside. Understanding color’s psychology can greatly enhance the beauty and function of an indoor space or a garden. Identify how the client wants to feel and want others to feel? Are they looking for a joyful space, a serene oasis or an energetic and passionate vibe?

Good design comes from well-rounded knowledge and how to utilize color is one important component. The history of color can be of help to understand the use of color in the past and to evolve it into a modern application. Color has been present in history on many levels; socially, economically, and politically. Conveying to the client the effect of hue, saturation, brightness and light and how they can determine the overall mood and feeling of the space is a key task to guarantee that what they choose is really what they need.

Today is February 14, Valentine’s day… where LOVE is the theme. In the weeks and days before today, we are seeing red in its variations of crimson to pink everywhere. We associate red with love. But red can also be a power color, one that evokes leadership and heroic figures. This is a concise example of how color can design our world. Red is the color of roses, a popular Valentine’s day token of love, people wear a dash of red on this day to feel love and create that energy. Red’s symbolism is universal and resonates throughout society. Love is a powerful emotion and color is a powerful determiner of our psychological well-being and feelings. Today we celebrate both with vibrant colors and love in the air.

Happy Valentine’s Day to ALL!

 

The Impact of Color on Our Everyday Lives: Tale of the Black Bachelor Pad

How do our surroundings, especially the colors we live with affect us? Color has a direct impact on our moods, it can create #harmony and #tranquility or chaos and sadness. Here is a tale of how the color in our home affects us.

While living in #Florence to study Architecture in the late 1970s, I worked to pay for my education and through my work colleague, I met an eccentric Florentine character, Rolando, who owned a textile production company. He had a good sense of #fashion and was charming and well known and seemed like he had it all. Florence was a cosmopolitan center with intriguing people from diverse backgrounds, and I witnessed how being #passionate about your creativity and craft, you become a magnet for people who will support you, and you support them, in a mutual quest for quality in life and relationships.

Rolando was thrilled to have a new apartment in the center of Florence, newly decorated with a #luxurious modern aesthetic, where he could entertain. Living in that fantastic location in Florence, he wondered why people stopped coming to his social events, and why potential girlfriends did not feel at ease and did not want to return, even for a casual visit.  He felt frustrated that he couldn’t maintain a long-term relationship with the right woman. “How did you design this place?” I finally asked.

When he described his bachelor apartment to some friends and I one evening at dinner, he began to describe a space with shiny black walls, black furniture, dark wood floor, and a dark wood kitchen with some metal accents and several dark shaded light fixtures.

I thought about his #relationship challenges from a #design perspective. Instinctively, I knew his issue, it was obvious: Black absorbs #energy. So, after a while, even someone so charming and popular could sit home alone, feeling depressed. The main splash of color was done with red lighting near the bar cabinet, and blue lighting in the bathroom, giving the effect of late-night lounge.

He thought he had created a #trendy and #chic #ambiance, but this style was better suited for a nightclub, not a home. All this black felt sinister and made the apartment feel confined. He invested a lot of money in a space that was not welcoming.

Sometimes men think that using dark colors is more masculine and instead to attract, they can repel the exact people they seek. I advised him to lighten up some areas, by painting the walls and ceiling in a light color, changing the bedding with a light solid color, and introducing a light-colored carpet under the bed. I also advised him to include a small bouquet of fresh flowers, and a light-colored lampshade. The only room remained dark was the media room, which we made more vibrant with bright colored pillows and eliminated the red and blue lights in the bathroom and bar area.

This new color #palette and lighting #transformed his “naughty” seeming apartment into a more inviting, open, #luminous and joyful home. Everything changed from that point, he was happier, more creative and ready for the love he always wanted.

www.orastudionyc.com

“Color is a power which directly influences the soul” -Vasily Kandinsky

 

 

Why Renovating in NYC is More Expensive and How You Can Cut Costs…

Living in NYC is an exciting thing  …. But it comes with a cost.

Doing a NYC renovation is a long labor process. When it comes to moving walls, opening doors, updating electrical and plumbing or anything having to do with a gut renovation, the time employed for the project is not only the time for creating design and technical drawings for construction but also the considerable amount of time employed to coordinate with the building’s board Architect and more. There are some key points when deciding to renovate in NYC and I have created a list of some of the top reasons why NYC renovations are costlier than in other cities.

NYC buildings whether it be a co-op or a condominium have a complex set of rules and regulations that control the extent of renovations. These rules are called an Alteration Agreement. The Client needing a renovation in the city should hire an Architect that produces a set of drawings with detailed specifications and prepare the application for the Alteration Agreement on behalf of Tenant/Client. This Alteration Agreement is then submitted to the building’s Architect for approval, this can take approximately 2-4 weeks. If the plans are approved, they will then be submitted to the DOB (Dept. of Buildings) for yet another approval with a waiting period of an additional 2-4 weeks. These steps are not only time consuming but have their own separate fees.

The Architect will then find the appropriate Contractor that has the proper insurance to work in the Client’s building and also will make sure that any sub-contractors are also insured. This step is invaluable and will determine the success and smooth sailing of your renovation.

Time is money, and for renovating in NYC even more so. The renovation and construction process is longer in NYC because in most buildings, it is only possible to work from 9am to either 3:30 or 4:30 pm with no work on weekends or holidays. That short time frame will include the set up and clean up. In addition, some building allows construction only during summer months to minimize noise and work traffic when most owners are traveling. This reduces the timeline to complete a renovation to only 3 months. As a consequence, this can result in a higher fee.

If your renovation will include demolition that creates loud noise, the other tenants need to be notified ahead of time, including tenants on all four sides who need to be notified in writing. If you are receiving deliveries they can only be done under the supervision of the Contractor’s foreman or the Architect. The removal of debris can be done on only specified days and by professionals. These items can prolong the renovation due to the specific regulations of each building.

There is a gold standard to which NYC clientele is accustomed to:  high quality service, skilled workers and the guarantee of a high quality job. That is why hiring a trusted design professional and a skilled and reputable Contractor are key aspects in the Client’s selection.

The Client must take the following specific actions in great consideration to have a successful project and to keep costs down:

  1. Hire an Architect/Interior Designer to prevent higher costs due to mistakes or lack of time management and prevent you from purchasing materials and fixtures without understanding the potential to incur higher installation costs
  2. Get Estimates from at least three Contractors, be sure to get comparable bids including from the Contractor that the superintendent may suggest
  3. Consult with your Architect and selected Contractor for advice (example: before purchasing a 300 lb. chandelier, make sure that the ceiling slab is strong enough to support the weight, otherwise you will have to reinforce the ceiling incurring extra cost and time)
  4. Stick to the Scope of Work. Be very clear about the scope, and avoid creating changes in the middle of the renovation. Change orders are your enemy, they can dramatically increase costs. The best way to stick with the scope is to work very closely with your professional in the design phase even before ordering material and starting construction. That will help to stay within your budget.

I hope that these tips clarify questions you may have before embarking on your renovation process; knowledge is power and knowing the whys? and how’s? in the process of work for your project can assist you in making the right decisions for your space.

 

The Power of Video Marketing…

In a world where our attention spans have become shorter, using video as a social media tool is essential, especially for Designers. It is a visual connection to our audience, and tells them who we are, about our business and services, and lets us share useful tips and design stories.

Video marketing is three dimensional and personal. It can be a slickly produced video with an interview and images or a spontaneous video like chatting with a colleague or sharing a story from the street or office, like a live action selfie. These on the spot videos are created easily with a phone or computer camera and can have a great effect on the viewer. Content is important, what we say can motivate a client to call us or pass on our information to colleagues and friends, but the promotion of that content even more. Quality content with diligent promotion can bring success and new clients.

As an Architect and Designer, I understand the power of this format and have created 4 videos, 2 image and content driven videos telling my design story through my words, work and images, a testimonial from one of my very happy clients and the third, a casual and fun conversation with a colleague recorded on a video app that tells a design story and answers the question “how is that possible?”.

Video marketing is direct marketing to people who are drawn to the design field and realize the importance of sharing a story.  We ask for comments when we share our videos so we can understand what people like and how we can improve.

Everything has its process. Potential clients can see our work and if they are looking for an Architect/Designer can listen directly to one of our clients share a success story and why hiring my firm gave them a dream home. I like when we can shoot a short video ourselves and create a narrative live and in the moment, it is personal and organic.

I am including the links to our videos and would love if you could make some comments. With your feedback I will understand what works and what to focus on in the future… Understanding this concept makes the video aspect of our marketing strategy powerful and successful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8mlvhshlpM&t=71s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbTcrtdkDsw&t=61s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vOJjWtV850&t=10s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beE34nVqhXo&t=57s

Wellness and Luxury: An Emerging Trend in Hospitality Design

In the 80’s and 90’s health and wellness was more a question of look, fashion, and outdoor experiences but now after almost 40 years many countries, (especially the U.S. who is experiencing the plague of obesity, depression and anxiety) consider health and wellness a necessity. People are more aware and there is proof of success in the practice of yoga, meditation, biking, holistic medicine, and organic nutrition.

Our health and wellness are reflected not only in our daily life but also in how we spend our vacations. The hospitality industry is factoring in what the client is looking for in a hotel or resort.

It is no longer just about a pool, hotel bar/restaurant, and silly group activities, but about the wellness amenities, spa services, health-based classes, and fitness options that the hotel or spa/resort has to offer based on the clients’ need for rejuvenation and serenity. The hotel has become an “experience”, a luxury oasis to play, relax and revive in an environment that is idyllic and Eco-conscious.

One of the first objectives when designing a successful destination hotel or resort is to understand and embrace the environment, and to use the natural resources and elements to create a complete immersion into their surroundings by using local materials and craftsmen and paying homage to the culture. Understanding the social history and the contemporary culture of the area allows the creation of a destination that honors the land.

In the phase of choosing a location and beginning to think about a concept for the design, more often developers, investors and Architects/Designers also pay attention to the challenge of Climate Change and the occurrence of natural disasters. More attention is given to structural standards that are more technologically advanced to better respond to earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding or tornadoes.

Hospitality design has pivoted to the needs of the ever-growing wellness lifestyle. A spa vacation is one of the most popular, where fun, fitness and nutrition marry to create a refreshing respite from our vigorous work lives and our daily stresses, this idea in itself is a luxury.

 

3 Renovation Options and Understanding the Differences…

When a Client thinks about a “renovation” they often have a misconception of what that may entail. They may think they need a stripping down of their space to the bare bones or a coat of paint will be enough. Not all renovations are created equal. It all starts with a first step and what is important is that the step is in the right direction.

Consulting a design professional will clarify the best plan of action to take. There are three types of renovations, Cosmetic, Partial and Gut renovation. It is important to understand what each of these entails, and a design professional can not only enlighten you, but also most importantly, select what the best process is for your project based on your budget. Sometimes like the song say, “You can’t always get what you want… but you get what you need”.

The Cosmetic Renovation is appealing to a client with a smaller budget who wants a simple refresher to their space. The layout usually remains the same and there is no work on electrical wiring or plumbing involved, but maybe some enhanced lighting with a table or floor fixture. This process typically can consist of paint refresher, decorating, adding or removing shelving or accessories to create a new ambiance, and de-clutter of the space. Another appealing aspect of a Cosmetic Renovation is that no permits from the Dept of Buildings are required, there are no regulatory issues or expense to file permits for any construction process.

The Partial Renovation is related to concentrated areas, such as the upgrade of a kitchen or bathroom, or build out for a closet. A design professional is most beneficial to determine the areas of intervention and to assist in finding the professional that will file a Limited Alteration Application with the Department of Buildings. This can be the installation of new cabinetry, appliances and fixtures, and most likely a re-paint of the entire space. This will require the hiring of trusted contractor who has professional electricians and plumbers that can execute the work properly and to building code standards. The designer can also assist with material and fixture selection and tweaking of the existing layout. A partial renovation can consist of re-doing a floor, sometimes new closets, transform a room into a home office space and improve lighting. This serves to upgrade features of your space (to appreciate value) and make it feel like a new home.

The Gut Renovation entails a major change to the layout of the space, such as adding a room or knocking out walls and installing new doors. If the space is a loft, that originated as a work space, it is required to have updates made to be legally compliant as a living space. The Gut Renovation includes re-doing electrical, plumbing, flooring, lighting, new fixtures, kitchen and closets, new walls where necessary and sometimes creating interior stairs if ceilings are high to allow for a duplex, and new windows if necessary. The Department of Building permits are much more in depth, so the Client will need to file with an Architect of Record best if suggested by their designer so they can work in tandem to save time for the client. The designer will secure approval with the building from a co-op or condo board and coordinate with that professional for the filing to the Department of Buildings. If the space is in a land marked building, there will need to be additional approvals needed by the Landmark Commission as well.

Hiring a skilled designer is crucial for the journey of a Gut Renovation. It is important to find the right fit with a designer who understands the Client’s needs and desires and creates a plan of action within their budget and time constraints and coordinate with other professionals involved. Sometimes the designer is also an Architect, and they can execute the filing of all permits.

If you are a client thinking of a space refresher or upgrade, this brief summary of these three types of renovations can assist in your determination of what you want regarding your space. It is important to understand the degrees of intervention and which could be suitable for your budget, schedule and lifestyle and take that first step by consulting a professional for your peace of mind and your bottom line. Enjoy your renovation journey!

http://www.orastudionyc.com

 

 

Bedroom Zen…

Our bedroom is our sanctuary, our private space to dream, relax and unwind. There are a lot of design options out there but to create a more “Zen” like feel here are a few tips that may inspire you:

Color Palette/Art Selection: Selecting the right color is an integral component in the making of a serene space. Colors in the bedroom should be soft and neutral, and if you want to add a complementary color or one bold statement, a wall graphic is a wonderful way to personalize the space and enjoy Art at home. The juxtaposition of the soft neutral tone with one pattern or color is inviting without being obtrusive and jarring.

Clean Sleek Design: If you desire a minimal feel, opt for a clean look in both furniture and layout that promote an uncluttered atmosphere. Consider blackout shades and window treatments that filter the light for optimal sleeping, and research furniture that is functional but has a more modern feel (nothing overpowering). If you really want that Zen environment leave the TV and technology out, install a sound system for soothing sounds or music for relaxation. Fragrance is another way to fill the space with a sense of calm; lavender, vanilla and clean linen scents will soothe your mind. Create texture with a warm fuzzy carpet, enhancing the softness of the room. An uncluttered space promotes an uncluttered mind. Have personal items stored and evoke harmony in your bedroom.

Invest in a Comfortable Bed: Research the most comfortable beds on the market and try them all. The bed in our image is called the “Tufty” by Italian company B&B Italia. It is the essence of luxury sleeping with its soft material and quality craftsmanship. While it is an investment, you will marvel at how comfortable it is and how your sleep can improve.

Bring a Little Nature In: flowers in the bedroom promote growth and good energy. Consider a small arrangement of flowers on the nightstand with beautiful fragrance. If you’re fortunate to have a view, looking at the world outside can be inspiring and comforting, it is in the quiet times that we can have great revelations or ideas. Maximize your view by putting a bench or a chaise lounge near the window to read or work or simply reflect.

Create the space of your dreams, your bedroom is the most intimate room in your home, the reflection of how you live, refresh, and relax. Use these tips to curate your own oasis of serenity and calm. Enjoy!

http://www.orastudionyc.com

 

 

Florence Knoll: A Design Force… May 2, 1917- January 25, 2019

If you are an Architect/Designer, the greatest wish you can be granted is a very long life. We honor the life of Florence Knoll, design pioneer who died on Friday January 25, 2019 in Coral Gables, Florida as the age of 101.

The story of Florence Knoll has a triumphant theme, a tragic beginning that turned into a legendary career in the world of Architecture and Design. She created and championed the modern feel of America’s corporate office based on the ideals of streamlined furniture, artistic textiles and a clean and free flowing work ambiance.

Born in May of 1917 in Saginaw Michigan, Florence’s life took a tragic turn when she was orphaned at age 12. Upon the direction of her guardian she was enrolled at the Kingswood School for Girls in Bloomfield Hills MI. The school was designed by Finnish Architect Eliel Saarinen, who was also the headmaster of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Florence immediately became fascinated with the school’s Architecture and this began her love affair with design. Saarinen recommended she attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art and there was where her pursuit of design and her serious training began. Her relationship with the Saarinen family became one of the most important in her young life, to spend time with them and absorb their design influence further cemented Florence’s dream to be a designer herself.

After completion of her studies, in 1941, she moved to New York City to further her career in Architecture and met Hans Knoll, a third generation of a furniture making family from Stuttgart, Germany. He sought to introduce America to the ideals of Modernism in design. It seemed destined that these two forces with kindred ideals married and began a personal and professional partnership and a business, Knoll Associates. Their company expanded rapidly and became the leading innovator of modern interiors for corporate spaces in the 50’s and 60’s, creating the new look for large companies like CBS, Seagrams and Look Magazine and many other properties worldwide, including American Embassies abroad.

Her philosophy can be defined as the merger of Architecture, Art and function of furnishing and interiors, all melded together to create this new approach to office interiors.

Florence also was a product designer of individual pieces of furniture that would become counterparts to the more sculptural artistic designs commissioned by Knoll from her lifelong friends and colleagues, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, Isamu Noguchi and George Nakashima.

Her astute understanding of business and art catapulted Knoll into a design phenomenon. Her mission statement “Good Design is good business” anchored her ideas about how we can work in a comfortable and uncluttered environment and how that could increase productivity. As a follower and friend of Mies van der Rohe, he greatly influenced and reinforced her design aesthetic and Knoll furnishings became a perfect complement to van der Rohe’s modernist designs.

Her legacy includes some of the most iconic pieces of furniture, including Eero Saarinen’s celebrated table with its Tulip chairs, the womb chair and many more. Her cultural innovation remains today and will be studied and celebrated as an integral part of design history.

It was her fearless attitude that when she needed some furniture for a project she said, “I needed for a project some products that didn’t exist and that nobody wanted to design, so I designed them myself”, is what makes her inspiring, her ability and courage to think beyond what existed from outside sources and create something new using her talent and imagination.

In 2002 Florence Knoll was awarded with the National Medal of Arts, as evidence of her very important contribution to the development and success of Modernism in the United States. A pioneer, an innovator, a designer, a founder of a movement, we salute you Florence, you will remain a pillar of modern design and a shining example that tragic beginnings can catapult you to the highest level of inspiration, creativity, and success. We honor her long and productive life and are forever inspired by her ingenuity. My message to young and creative Architects: take a lesson from Florence Knoll and never be deterred from your passion.