Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

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!



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.

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.