Dream Clients Delight in Duplex…

This is the story of a perfect client… clients who brought enthusiasm, intelligence and input, while knowing how to value their Architect’s advice. The beginning of this process was a challenge because when they called me to look at their space they already had an Architect.

The project was a duplex on Sutton Place South in NYC. They chose an Architect who had done work there 10 years earlier, who was a friend and principal of a highly respected firm. The wife was in charge of communicating with the Architect and sharing their desires and wishes; she was knowledgeable about design and had great taste. She soon realized that she would be working with a young designer assigned to their project instead of working with the principal.

We had an opportunity to meet a year earlier through a mutual acquaintance that highly recommended me to her, and at that time I told her to feel free to call me for a consultation if she was ever in need.

After demolition and at the beginning of construction, she called me because she had some concerns. Without specifying what type of concern or give me any information about the project she asked me to visit the site, and see how I could read and interpret the space based on the demolition that was performed and the few metal studs that were up for construction.

During my space analysis consultation I identified a few elements that would be pivotal for the outcome of the project. I asked the client some questions, like why it appeared that a wall would cover the view from the gallery, and how the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room that contained the dual fireplace would be treated and with what material? How would the fireplace north relate to the rest of the living room as far as material and layout? Why were the master bathrooms so chopped up with tiny walls?  The client became very emotional admitting that those were her questions also and had no answer and after one year of design with their Architect she still did not have a clear view of how these items would look. I suggested that she ask her Architect to produce some extra drawings related to those items to have a better understanding and I would help her read the drawings if she needed help. When she received the drawings, it was clear for her and for me that the aesthetic of the design was quite traditional, contrary to what she asked from the beginning, which was minimal and very high end contemporary. She decided to hire me to design these items.

Soon the client found out that the super modern doors she was planning to buy from Italy were very complex and her Architect was not able to use the system in the way she wanted. At that point she dismissed the other architect and hired me to finish the project. This is when I realized that working with this client was a joy, this was a special client. Her taste, input and vision of what she liked was so clear. For every item or idea I brought she was able to understand very quickly. The project progressed rapidly and she trusted me entirely to the point of even having me make changes in the lighting design for the entire apartment to ensure that the new items that we were designing were lit properly.

One of the reasons the client appreciated working with me is that she could communicate directly with me, not with an assistant or junior designer.

My client had discerning taste and knew high end design and high end Architecture. The couple had an extensive collection of artwork. One of our first tasks at the beginning of our collaboration was going through the photos and discussed how we could display them in a way that showcases them best.

We brought the husband into the conversation many times but when it came to designing his music room, the attention was focused on his needs. He wanted to design a beautiful glass case to display his guitars. In the evolution of the music room design which included panels for acoustic insulation on walls and ceiling, I suggested displaying his guitars on the wall, because he would be able to play his guitar every day as he pleased instead of opening and closing a glass case. Basically the entire room became a guitar case.

I am lucky to have wonderful clients, and this particular couple was very special. It was a pleasure showing them something new and innovative and because of their quick understanding, it made the design process go faster. But as with everything in life when you connect positively at an emotional level there is always a better result.



The Top 8 Home Design Mistakes…

Even the savviest home designer can be tripped up by these styling pitfalls. Sometimes we choose fashion and trend over form and function. Here are some of the top decorating no-no’s

  1. Choosing fashion before function: We are all attracted to things that are visually appealing, including furniture that looks great but maybe not really that comfortable for daily use. It is the combination of beauty and function that makes for long lasting appeal and usability. Trendy pieces that are impulse buys often fall into this category. Focus on classic beauty that has a timeless design.
  2. Not Testing before you paint: Color plays an integral part in home décor and the right paint color can make or break your design dreams. It is smart to always test the color on your wall before promptly painting an entire room in a bold color. Test with the lighting, furniture and artwork for an integrated look. Harmony in your design is the most important. Select different tones and try them out before committing to one color.
  3. “I have always wanted this…”: Sometimes our dream purchase is not really the right choice. Seeing an item in your mind that you love, may not coincide with your lifestyle and the size and layout of your space. Think about how that item would fit in with the way you live daily and envision that in your space.
  4. Snap or Quick Fix Decisions: If you need some design therapy, think clearly about your goals and proceed accordingly. Doing any kind of decorating or renovation requires the requisite time and focus to envision, source, shop and integrate these new elements into the home. Buy quality items that are durable, instead of less expensive ones that will not stand the test of time. Buy once and be satisfied with your purchase.
  5. Over complicated Organization: Being organized is a positive but it can become overwhelming when you adhere to a system that is overly complicated and not something that you can incorporate into your daily life. Find a way to store and organize your personal items that suits you, that is easy and delivers on the look and feel you desire.
  6. Do Your Research When Incorporating Plants in the Home: Adapting a green lifestyle can be very beneficial and having flowers and plants in the home is good not only aesthetically but for our wellbeing. This décor decision requires research, upkeep, and maintenance. Purchasing the right plants or flowers for the home depends on many factors; lighting, climate, and environment.
  7. DIY remorse: The internet shows us so many pretty pictures of home décor ideas that “we can do ourselves” and makes a sometimes-difficult task look very easy. If you are not someone who is crafty, artistic or good with their hands, home décor DIY may not be for you. Ask an expert.
  8. White is so Calming…: the color white can be a great mood enhancer and de-stresser in a home, bringing serenity. White also requires careful consideration, especially if you are envisioning that fluffy white carpet, white leather sofa or white velvet chair in a well frequented room. Think about how you live… are there small children in the home? will you devote the time to keeping those white items pristine? If not, maybe choose a different color in a  lighter tone with a durable material

These are some of the common mistakes that people can make when we they to refresh or completely redecorate their home. The common thread of advice to avoid these errors is to think carefully, know your lifestyle and your space, and understand how decorating will enrich your life…


How to Quickly Decorate Your Kitchen & Bathroom….

ORA studio is pleased to present our guest blogger this month from Graham and Brown, purveyors of beautiful wallpaper, coverings and home accessories.

Irina Scalabrino from Graham and Brown explains a little bit of what they do and their philosophy on decorating and design….


How to Quickly Decorate Your Kitchen and Bathroom

Whether you live in a busy household or your own personal little hideaway, no one likes an untidy mess greeting them in the rooms they use the most. Disrupting your daily routine, home maintenance tasks in high-traffic areas such as the kitchen and bathroom can often take time, but not with our help! You don’t want to be greeted by tins of paint or rolls of soaking paper when all you want is a long hot soak or a good meal after a day at work. When you’re planning a new kitchen and bathroom, you need to be in and out in a flash to resume regular order and that’s why you need Superfresco Easy wallpaper by Graham & Brown. The gorgeous range of non-woven paper boasts sophisticated designs with a practical application method. Instead of cutting your paper and waiting for each sheet to soak, with Superfresco Easy you simply apply the adhesive directly on to your walls, line up your paper and go!

It’s time to abandon the traditional wallpapering method and keep things simple. Revamp both your kitchen and bathroom in a day with our stunning range of easy-to-apply wallpaper.

Afternoon Tea Wallpaper from Graham and Brown

Perhaps you’re looking for something a little more contemporary? The typography wallpaper makes a great choice for kitchens that need a more modern finish. The Afternoon Tea wallpaper in particular looks fantastic in large open-plan kitchens, providing a white backdrop that bounces light around the room. A quirky twist on the traditional kitchen look, this creative motif brings a sense of coziness to your kitchen.

For bathrooms, the stunning Nature Trail Duck Egg wallpaper adds an exotic twist. Pamper yourself with this pastel blue tone that transforms your bathroom into a chic salon. With just a flicker of pink and green from fluttering butterflies and dragonflies that swoop across the design, this gorgeous backdrop gives speedy style to your home in a matter of hours.


Graham & Brown also has a contrasting typographic wallpaper too! The Coffee Shop black/white wallpaper really gives your home that chic barista vibe. Coating your room in coffee lover quotes, this wallpaper brings a charming touch to your room. You’ll be done so fast with this DIY project you’ll be kicking back with a cuppa in no time!



Selecting the Right Contractor: Some Helpful Tips…

When a client is ready to renovate their space, after they have selected the Architect, selecting the right Contractor is the next step. It is so important in the process. Moving forward with your project in the right direction and following these tips for Contractor selection will save the client from any surprises. Many times the Architect can recommend someone who they trust and who they know has a good reputation and professional work ethic. But there are times when the client selects the Contractor themselves. Here are some helpful tips to remember when searching for a Contractor for your renovation or construction project.

  1. Communication: the Contractor must be responsive to your questions and also prepared for any challenge and have the ability to go over and explain scenarios to the client.
  2. Punctuality: being on time for appointments and meetings and also having a clear and concise job site schedule reflects on their professionalism. Time is money.
  3. Transparency: A good Contractor will be upfront about prices and change orders that could occur. I would steer clear of a Contractor who over promises, then under delivers. They should be honest about their abilities and past experience.
  4. A Contractor should educate the client about the extent and challenges that may arise during the renovation, be a listening ear but not a “yes” man. They must be able to tactfully advise and let the client know that maybe something that they want is not cost effective, or appropriate
  5. There should always be a good rapport, if the client is comfortable discussing all elements of their project freely with the professionals they hire, this will only lead to a more successful project, with excellent results.
  6. Architect/ Contractor rapport: while it is important for the Client and Contractor to have a good rapport, it is even more important that the Architect and Contractor do. They will work side by side to design and execute the design, collaborating to provide the best service for the client. The trust level is important and the ability to accept suggestions and compromise on issues for the good of the project is crucial. Their relationship can create a magical result.

These are just a few basic tips for selecting a proper Contractor for a renovation. Having these ideas in mind during the process of Contractor selection can save the Client headaches and issues that can arise when the professionals that are hired are not capable to problem solve and rise to any challenge. An informed, communicative and professional Contractor leads to a successful and beautiful project with long lasting results.


Small Projects Do Not Mean Less Work…


Often in my professional experience, there has been this scenario: a client has uttered these words during a consultation…”oh, it’s just a small project …” I instantly get that innate sense that …it will not be that small in reality. A project’s size does not always determine the amount of design, thought and construction.

Small spaces, like a studio in New York, a small boutique, micro office, or apartment lobby can be potentially more challenging than for example, a large loft or 2000 square foot space. It is about how the space can be transformed to cater to the client’s needs. Clients have ideas for their small space that seem possible in theory but when we really look at the dimensions and layout we may find more challenges than the client though. Everything in a smaller space is like a puzzle; every piece must fit together in order to function.

Whether the space is small or large is not always what determines the roadmap of design and what the client wishes. In the process of design, the Architect/ Designer identify certain design features that work properly in smaller confines. There will inevitably be special restrictions that must be overcome to create a space that is both aesthetically beautiful and fully functional utilizing every little area to its potential.

In the theater, there is a saying…”there are no small parts, just small actors…” This holds true to the Architect/Designer. Every Project is major, no matter what the size, but it is the approach, challenges, and confines of the space that make every project unique. Even what may appear as a small amount of construction and renovation, may not be small amounts of design.





Urban Living….Tiny Space, Grand Purpose

Urban living has many perks… the energy of a large city, culture, diverse communities and culinary options that seem to never run out. But in one area the modern urban dweller sometimes needs to compromise…that is with the size of their living space. The goal of many who live in a large city like New York City is to get a space that is in a good location and by today’s pricing a “value” that meets their budget.

Real estate in New York is expensive and gone are the days of getting a large “fixer upper” at a low price and doing some work on it to make it your own. We learn to adapt to an ever growing, more populous city and that has taught us to do the most with a sometimes tiny space. How do we get the most use out of our living space which may lack the square footage?

City dwellers have learned that organization and consolidation are their best friends. Developing these skills will make living in a smaller space easy and enjoyable. With some optical illusions and design tips you can transform  that tiny space into a  perceived grand living area you would have never thought possible

The first thing to do is to get organized…rid you space of unwanted items and focus on quality pieces of furniture and personal items that have meaning. Once you begin to adapt to this concept, you will be freed of having a lot of “stuff” that you never use. You train yourself and  become an expert at de-cluttering.

Ask a design professional for a consultation, this is a more cost effective way to get some ideas about how you can use your space to the best advantage. If you do not have a budget for a renovation or for a professional to do home improvements, you can with a lower cost ask a designer for a lighting and color consultation, and maybe even furniture layout advice that can assist you in this transformation. ORA studio offers  a Space Analysis Consultation, which is a one-time fee and can help with anything from space assessment to  plan layout suggestion, or lead to the beginning of the project with our firm. Our client gets a report of what the designer thinks is the potential for their space and it is their choice to further the project with a design professional or use this valuable advice and create changes and enhancements on their own.

Paint color, lighting and decorative pieces can make your space feel expansive. It is about the optical illusions that you can create that  make a tiny space look grand. Incorporating storage and built in units can free up floor space taken by large freestanding storage. Shelving and high storage and wall units can expand the living area space while keeping clutter to a minimum. A murphy bed can also free up living space and create a larger looking space concealing the bed during the day.

Tiny spaces, micro apartments and a minimalist attitude toward living, especially in the city have been trending for a few years now. In a city like New York people are outside, they go to parks, cafes, plazas, and playgrounds to enjoy. Coming home is their sanctuary; whether it is a large loft or a micro apartment it is the idea of how you want to live that is important. How we use the space fully and practically can make such a difference. Even a tiny space can be grand in its purpose





The Essence of Design…

The Essence of Design

In the past few years, due to the evolution of technology and communication, the way we interact has changed greatly so I made the decision to learn and incorporate this new aspect in the promotion of my business and my work.

The profession of Architect/Designer is more than just working with clients, honing design skills, and developing new and innovative ways for our clients to live. There is also the business aspect, promoting the business and brand to the public.

Whether it is articles, blogs, social media websites, press releases, or digital publications, there are many avenues that a smart marketer can utilize to their benefit.

Since the explosion of Facebook video, Youtube, Instagram, and Snap Chat, more and more designers have produced videos about their path to becoming a designer, their philosophy, their projects, distinctions and their relationships with clients.

In addition to our video testimonials entitled “Testimonial from a Happy Client”  We are releasing a series of videos that profile my professional life path and philosophy of design and my interaction with clients.

The first video is “The Essence of Design and Architecture with Giusi Mastro”  and I could not be more excited to share that with everyone. Produced and Directed by Tom Spota of Vidualiz Productions http://www.vidualiz.com/ , it is really a more biographical video about who I am and how my love of my home, Italy, Art and History inspired me to become an Architect and Designer. It is a small slice of my life and my passion and the motivation behind my chosen career path. It features images of some of my NYC residential projects and shows a client meeting. I am  sharing it here www…..and I hope that you enjoy it and pass it on to other design lovers and aspiring designers.


Communication is the cornerstone of working with clients, and through this video medium I am grateful for the opportunity to share my ideas and work with a broader audience.