Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

2019: The Year of Communication and Growth…

As we embark on another trip around the sun, the new year brings new ideas and goals. I want to focus on the power of successful communication in 2019. As an Architect/Interior Designer, communication is the catalyst for lasting client relationships and well executed projects. As a business person, communication is the key to growing connections.

2019 will be focused on communication, it is the skill I must continue to master in my professional and private life. I will strive even more to create connections that are mutually beneficial and that will lead to more projects and collaborations.

Without strong communication skills, there is something that is disconnected. We need the human connection to our colleagues, friends and family. Being a good communicator strengthens our relationships and allows us to become confident in our ideas, opinions and philosophies and enables an exchange of knowledge.

In this age of social media, we have become accessible in more ways than ever before, and sometimes maybe too accessible, but it is how you utilize the tools that can create great results. With so many tools in social media, we think we are having real conversation, but we can neglect other forms of communication like letters, cards, and meeting for a coffee or tea solely to talk and catch up on a personal level.

In some ways we lose real connection because now everyone is a marketer. We are marketing our daily life, what we had for lunch, our shopping excursions, our friends list. Authentic connection and communication happen when you hear someone’s voice or look them in the eye. A moment of silence can speak volumes, much more than words. These types of authentic connections can benefit your business even more.

I hope the new year brings joy, health and prosperity to everyone. I will use the power of communication to enrich both my professional and personal life. Instead of creating resolutions, let’s create connections and relationships that are fulfilling and lasting and can change our lives for the better…Every year begins with a fresh start, may we all continue to feel renewed and replenished to continue our journey.

Buon Anno!

Giusi Mastro and ORA studio



A Very Contemporary Christmas: A Modern Take on Christmas Décor

It’s the holiday season, and the time for celebrating, entertaining and decorating your space for a joyous time of year. But, you are not traditional, you are minimal and modern, someone who likes clean lines, a sophisticated palette and minimal clutter. No sequins, glitter or gaudy garlands… no overdone rooms filled with elves, Santa Claus and holly.

How does a modern décor enthusiast make their space look like the holidays without changing their aesthetic? Decorate with what you like and use the palette and materials you have in your space to create the holiday feel. Add items from nature, a monochromatic theme to your Christmas tree with sleek ornaments and green garlands, and add personal items like photos, art, and objects that evoke that time of year.

If you plan to entertain, create your own brand of holiday wonderland with sleek table top place settings and glassware, floral compositions using seasonal flowers and plants and fruit arrangements as centerpieces. Adding color does not mean adding EVERY color. Focus on the tones that look good in your space and decorate with that theme. Maybe there is a film, tv show or song that creates nostalgia and use that in your holiday decorating. Creative and festive lighting and candles always make a home look inviting and warm.

Contemporary décor is not cold and uninviting. In fact, it is harmonious and serene, allowing for space and light to come through a home. At holiday time, let your love of contemporary design and modernity shine, and decorate with your taste in mind. Share this with your family and guests and they will love to be in your space and create wonderful memories year after year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at ORA studio…

Artistry & Business: How Architects/Designers Navigate Two Distinct Worlds…

 In today’s world, how does an Architect become successful professionally and still retain their artistry? To be a successful Architect today, you must be able to merge these two worlds seamlessly, combining business success, profitability, and artistry.  How can you be a success in business by having a strong firm with a plentiful clientele and keep it balanced with the philosophy of your artistic expression?

Architecture is a medium based on functionality and public use. Without Architects we would not have homes, offices, public spaces, hotels, restaurants etc. The Architect’s job is to design usable spaces for the public while striving to create structures that will stand the test of time.

Being an Architect is a one of the most demanding and labor-intensive careers requiring extreme discipline, social skills, business savvy and persistence. The challenge is to integrate the business and the artist.  Architects who work for a firm, are dedicated to specific projects with goals laid out by the project manager or principal of the firm and they execute the work delegated.  The Architect may be given one component of the overall project to focus on, and often with a demanding and rigorous schedule and long hours, focusing on every detail to ensure a happy client.

If the Architect is the principal of their own firm, responsibilities increase exponentially. Not only are they the designer, they are also the supervisor, liaison, communicator, financial planner, marketer, manager  and face of their brand and firm. They also are responsible for the livelihoods of staff and consultants and must maintain their jobs as well. The dedication to be the principal of an Architecture firm is enormous and there are many cogs in that machine that must work harmoniously.

This is when the deductive and organizational skills of a good Architect come in handy. A professional learns how to manage all these factors while still being the creative force behind the business. Their creativity is not stopped because of the business, most times their creativity is spurred by the promise of new projects and opportunities. This is the balancing act that every good Architect/Designer manages. To be a success in this field requires this patience and determination and an unwavering conviction of their creative principles.


Navy as Neutral… A Design Inspiration for Fall 2018…

Navy is a refreshing option for decor this Fall 2018… now is the time for the latest design inspirations to fill the pages of magazines, blogs, and retail stores and our Client’s homes, offices and commercial spaces. Design trends encapsulate what Architects/Interior Designers are gravitating towards in home decor, commercial and retail decor and hospitality spaces. Color can drastically alter an interior space. It can enhance and embellish an otherwise banal room and create a dramatic area that looks new and fresh. I am drawn to a neutral palette of color for my spaces I design. I love the look of a deep navy blue, a new neutral choice that can be paired with many other dramatic tones yet remain an anchor color. Navy is a sometimes-overlooked hue, because we have so long thought of black being the ultimate chic neutral. Navy works well in a large space to create drama or a smaller room to evoke a cozy atmosphere and cocoon like feel.

It may be a piece of furniture that can anchor a space, like in this image of my project UN Plaza Duplex. This navy velvet sofa by B&B Italia brings the drama in an unexpected way and works beautifully with the chrome hardware and art installation fireplace. This large piece feels comfortable and not overwhelming and looks rich and has textural appeal giving the space depth. Navy has a moody appeal not overpowering but works well with a fall/ winter vibe in the home. Its richness and opacity lend a comforting vibe with a touch of mystery and moody ambiance.

Working with a new type of neutral can give the client options, advising them on accent pieces and color complements will help them to understand that not every neutral is beige, grey or white. Thinking outside of this bubble can create a more beautiful space with new ideas for decor that maybe were not thought about before. Designers create inspiration for our clients,  what we see that looks new and modern and we suggest appropriate versions and applications for our clients and their respective spaces.

Preserving 550 Madison Avenue NYC

Architectural Landmarks are our history in brick, marble, steel, and stone. Architects are the masters of transforming these materials into beautiful works of art and function. But what happens when profitability and business become the goal when proposing to change an Architectural treasure in a large city? This happened here in NYC with the contentious battle to preserve Philip Johnson’s ode to post modernism at 550 Madison Ave building (ATT Building)

After an almost certain death of this structure and a go ahead to re-imagine the building’s famous façade, there was a miracle. After a nearly yearlong passionate effort to preserve this building, on July 31, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted to designate the 37-story office tower’s exterior a New York City landmark. In the fall of 2017 the Architectural firm Snøhetta was chosen to re-imagine the skyscraper as a contemporary office space with a transparent base to allow more room for public space. That didn’t set well with many Architecture preservationists, and the push to have it land marked got underway immediately. Examples of Architectural movements are the legacy of those who were the creators and innovators of a new way to build and design.

Madison Avenue has always been a posh and upscale area of NYC with new constructions abounding embracing modernity and emerging styles and integrating them with classic old buildings. But what about the history? The homage and reverence to those who paved the way, who initiated this new way to create? Their contributions to society should be preserved. When the campaign started over social media there was an instant response from Architects, Designers and lovers of design. There was a protest outside the building that drew attention to the need for landmark status that drew not only artists and designers but citizens who love this building and did not want to see this historic Architecture changed by this new renovation.

There is power in numbers, in a united voice championing something that should be preserved. This is what brought the fate of 550 Madison Avenue to the forefront for the LPS.

After months of deliberation the right decision was made and the façade will remain without a new canopy and the renovation can take place in the inner structure but the outside, Philip Johnson’s post modern story will remain.

The Power of a Precise Product Specification

As the Architect/Designer for a project it is our responsibility to select the most appropriate products and materials for our clients. While we are researching manufacturer catalogs and websites for a certain item, we rely on the company’s high standards and expertise of their product and on the specifications they provide. For example, after every project is finished I present my clients with a specification manual, which contains all items and materials used in their project, orders, and manuals for each product. This is a helpful tool for the client in case they have a challenge with any item in their home after the project is complete. They have the information needed to contact manufacturers or showrooms if necessary for replacements, repairs or maintenance.

The product specification or cut sheet is very integral to the project. There may not be enough time to go to every showroom or company that is providing the material so in the design process, so a precise specification gives the Architect/ Designer the information needed to further the project along; dimensions and material, installation instructions, and the specific tools needed to install.

We rely on the correct information because that determines so much of the design’s success. For example, integrated appliances that go into built in cabinetry must have the correct dimensions. We order the product with the exact dimension to go with our design especially when we do a custom fabrication from a manufacturer of cabinetry, closets, and shelving. When the product arrives, we expect that it will fit within our design, allying ourselves to the fact that the specification we studied is correct.

The challenge arises when the product specification is incorrect, or the dimension of the specification differs from the real product when it arrives on site. Then our job is to understand if the product will even work. Manufacturers sometimes do not put specific dimensions on their product sheet, measurements that can indicate allowances and depth or thickness that are necessary for the designer to know.

Having a product delivered and not being able to insert correctly into a design could damage an Architect/Designer’s reputation. The client hires us to design and identify the most appropriate products for their project. If the product ordered is not fitting with the design because the specification has even the smallest discrepancy, we must find the solution quickly. The right specs are integral to installation of appliances, fixtures and lighting. As Architects/Designers we rely on their accuracy to bring our designs to fruition.

How to Choose the Right Material for Every Surface of Your Design Project …

When a client has made the decision to do some renovations and cosmetic tweaks in their space, one of the most important aspects of the design process is material selection.

There are many factors that can determine what materials the client will choose for every surface of their space.

Here are a few tips that can assist in deciding on the right materials for your home or office. These are some good preliminary questions before you begin working with a designer, showroom or sourcing materials yourself. It will save you time and budget if you are clear on your needs for your space.

  1. Who will use this space: Is it a home for a single person? family? Or an office that is highly trafficked and utilized daily? The answers to these questions will determine materials like flooring. Selecting a durable product is important if the space has a lot of use.
  2. What kind of natural light is in the space? This is important because it can help to figure out finishes like matter or glossy, textures and color. Think about shadows, glare and bleaching of fabrics and wall coverings from direct sunlight
  3. Are you someone that cooks and uses the kitchen area a lot? This most definitely matters when choosing a counter top, creating an island, appliance surfaces, cabinetry, kitchen plumbing and flooring. A well used kitchen needs to be composed of durable materials that are also easy to clean and maintain. Also consider
  4. if you want an eat in style kitchen and if this room is where family, friends and guests gravitate toward. This will also provide some clarity on furniture, seating and floor covering.If you have a family with many children, think about durability, high quality and lasting materials; no delicate materials that can be damaged quickly. Think about fixtures and tub and shower surfaces that are safe, functional and aesthetically beautiful. Also think about maintenance; are these materials easy to clean and what kind of cleaners can you use on a regular basis.
  5. If your space is an office, how high is the foot traffic? Is there a waiting area frequented by clients? This will also determine furniture coverings, flooring and carpets to protect the floor.

These are some items to consider when doing your material selection. It is important to match the material to the level of functionality so that your renovation can stand the test of time. It is also important to understand how these materials will interact with each other, how harmony can be created within the home or commercial space. Material selection is primary to the success of a project. I hope these tips can help the client to hone in on what materials are appropriate for their space.