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6 Ways to Create A Classically Current Design by Laura U Interiors

When it comes to interior design, it is always important to consider what’s trendy or “current”, as well as keeping in mind the quintessential building blocks that stem from “classic” design. This delicate balance of popular and proper are not better exemplified than through Houston-based visionary, Laura U. We interviewed designer extraordinaire Laura and got all the details behind her “Classically Current” technique. So scroll on down to learn 6 Ways to Create A Classically Current Design by Laura U Interiors!


Contrast 

Black and white, cream and gray…I prefer all of my designs to carry some tension. Opposites are timeless and this powder room exemplifies that. The white floating sink rests atop the Pietra Grey Leathered Marble counter, courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

 

Aria Stone Gallery’s Pietra Grey Leathered Marble Vanity. Image Courtesy of Laura U Interiors.

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Doses of color

The lush green hues that saturate these chairs makes a true statement in this formal living room. I like to think of color as a foil to a neutral backdrop. It activates a space. To accentuate the green, we incorporate natural elements like marble and wood to ground the room.

Image Courtesy of Laura U Interiors

Texture layering 

A Classically Current interior is one that authentically reflects the personal styles of the homeowners. In this high-rise living room, the collected feel of global travelers is felt throughout. Natural elements of wood, marble and stone layer against leather, silk, and warm terra cotta hues to create a luxe space.

Image Courtesy of Laura U Interiors.

 

Incorporating the environment/natural surroundings

The blue and pink hues throughout this coastal home reflect the bright sunlight coming in from the beach. Taking a cue from the environment, we paired the interior of this home elegantly with the outside environment. For me, a Classically Current home belongs naturally to its surroundings, emphasizing the outdoors and bringing them inside.

Image Courtesy of Laura U Interiors.

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Symmetry

Image Courtesy of Laura U Interiors.

People are naturally drawn to symmetrical elements and these beautiful sconces accomplish that perfectly. Wallpaper by Lindsey Cowles is a great partner to the marble counter. All around, a very Classically Current space.

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Exceptional lighting

From the pendants over the granite countertop to the marble floors and large windows, this kitchen is full of light. Good lighting is very important to my Classically Current philosophy. It never goes out of style!

Image Courtesy of Laura U Interiors.

Meet Laura U

Top Houston interior designer, Laura Umansky, has always had an appreciation for luxury interiors that are bold, unique, and remarkably curated. She founded the Laura U Interior Design firm to build beautiful legacies for her clients, treasured memories told through the art of high-end design and woven throughout every room of a home.

Image Courtesy of Laura U Interiors.

Without prescribing to any singular style, her Classically Current spaces are perfect reflections of her client’s personalities and joys. Client-centric and site-specific, a Laura U interior will always involve a bit of drama with a luxe romantic touch, bringing the environment inward and surrounding clients with what they love most.

Known for designing stunning homes all over the country, Laura has spent her life blending the beauty of art with the science of design. With over 15 years of industry experience and a background in architecture, Laura understands what it takes to execute an incomparable interior design project. She developed The Process of Design in order to keep her team organized, maintain projects on schedule, and deliver impeccable white glove service. Laura’s tailored process allows her team of interior designers to truly understand each client’s lifestyle, artfully shaping spaces that showcase every client’s unique story.


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Behind the Stone: Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Marble

Much like any grand discovery, the unearthing of the rare and elegant Calacatta Macchia Vecchia did not occur overnight. Perfecting this beautiful Italian marble meant overcoming many trials, struggles and technological setbacks of the time period. Nonetheless, this unique stone comes with a backstory full of culture, perseverance and in the end, incredible success.

The Macchia Vecchia Marble Quarry. Image courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

When Was Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Discovered?

The Calacatta Macchia Vecchia quarry is located among the “Marble Mountains” of Italy, within very close proximity of the town Torano. Although the exact time period is unknown, we do know that the discovery of what we now call Calacatta Macchia Vecchia was made between the end of the 17th Century and the beginning of the 18th Century.

The Macchia Vecchia Marble Quarry. Image courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

Excavating Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Marble

At the time of discovery, the excavation of marble blocks was very limited, as quarry crews did not have access to suitable machinery or tools. They utilized wedges and ice-axes, and were therefore only able to extract very small, misshapen blocks that required squaring by hand. Afterwards, the marble blocks were loaded in wagons or carts dragged by oxen. This process was extremely complicated and physically demanding, and the quarry ceased production after years of struggling.

In the 1950’s, the Macchia Vecchia quarry reopened when the helicoidal cable, a primitive version of the wire saw, was discovered. The first official owner of the quarry, Mr. Serri, worked tirelessly for many years to excavate pristine blocks of Macchia Vecchia without successful results. The low quality of marble produced combined with lack of technology eventually forced Mr. Serri to shut down the quarry and retire.

After 40+ years of extensive research and technology development, new owners Mr. Ribolini and Mr. Santi re-purchased the quarry and spent the first 5 years not excavating, but cleaning. They understood that in order to start fresh and produce the best possible quality of marble, they had to keep the levels clean and safe for their crews. They were finally provided with essentially a clean slate, and conditions in which they could extract large, blocks of white marble with luxurious flowing veins of gold and grey.

Aria Stone Gallery’s 3cm Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Marble A77. Image courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

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Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Production and Use Today

As production increased and technology continued to develop, the brand-new, “Calacatta Macchia Vecchia” marble took off and people from all over the world longed to use it and experience its grandeur. Today, Mr. Santi and Mr. Ribolini remain active owners of the Calacatta Macchia Vecchia marble quarry and extract between 2,500 and 2,800 tons per year. To prevent extensive damage to the surrounding landscape and ecosystem, they limit production in this specific area of the Marble Mountains, making Calacatta Macchia Vecchia a luxury and privilege to witness.

Calacatta Macchia Vecchia marble has dramatically increased in popularity within the design world, as it resembles an elegant impressionist paining and flows well with all aesthetics. Its clean white canvas and golden undertones make a very attractive option for kitchens, bathrooms and bookmatched feature walls. Since Calacatta Macchia Vecchia is a marble, we do recommend sealing this stone if you plan to use it in an area of the home that gets a lot of traffic. This will protect it from scratching and etching, and keep it looking beautiful for years to come.

Aria Stone Gallery Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Marble Pantry
Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Marble Pantry. Image courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

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April Hannah’s Lotus Collection: Designing Custom Furniture Using Natural Stone

April Hannah is a sculptural-based designer, whose inherent interest is transforming material through form. April examines the creative process across media and through multiple generations. The structure of The Lotus Collection was discovered by April while playing with her son, as she noticed how a particular modeling toy of his interlocked and transformed. After borrowing an appropriately shaped form from one of her large Totem sculptures, April produced a prototype of The Lotus Dining Table with six, interlocking plywood pieces.

April Hannah Lotus Dining Table
April Hannah’s Lotus Table design process. Image courtesy of April Hannah.

“I like to think the functional pieces I create exhibit a simple sophistication and playful nature. I strive to transcend the banal and create an unpredictable universe of meditative energy and childlike wonder.”

– April Hannah

The process April uses to create paintings and sculptures is an attempt to mimic the systems of growth and evolution found in nature. Using basic materials (charcoal, wood, paper, canvas) and elementary mark making techniques (scribbling, tracing, repetition), forms organically emerge from within the chaos of creation. April sees these resulting forms as “DNA blueprints” for further exploration – each form evolving into another within each painting or sculpture. The technique is simple and the process is meditative, and like nature, an underlying intelligence exists within.

The Lotus Collection

Each consisting of six interlocking pieces, the Lotus Dining Table and Lotus Cocktail Table classically evoke the mandala form of the lotus in unexpected stone.

April Hannah Lotus Cocktail Table
The Lotus Cocktail Table, designed by April Hannah. Image courtesy of April Hannah.

“The form of the Lotus Table, like the lotus flower rising above the surface of the muddy water from which it grows, takes shape within a muddled web of chaos. The lotus flower symbolizes spiritual awakening and enlightenment. In Taoism, as in nature, paradox is a driving force. It is the emptiness of the vase that holds the water. Being is non-being. Serenity is found when we let go and just be. This is how I approach enlightenment.”

– April Hannah

April’s Biography

After working for several years as a graphic designer in the city where she was raised (Erie, Pennsylvania) April Hannah moved to NYC in 1999, to pursue an MFA at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Upon graduation, Hannah established a studio in DUMBO, Brooklyn, where she produces abstract paintings and sculptures inspired by patterns and networks found in nature and urban environments.

April Hannah Lotus Dining Table
Aria Stone Gallery’s Agata granite Lotus Dining Table, designed by April Hannah. Image courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

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For more information on the Agata Granite Lotus Dining Table, or if you are interested in customizing the Lotus Dining Table using one of Aria Stone Gallery’s natural stones, contact the Aria Stone Gallery showroom in either Houston or Dallas for pricing and customizing options.

April Hannah Lotus Dining Table
Aria Stone Gallery’s Agata granite Lotus Dining Table, designed by April Hannah. Image courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

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“Stone is Art” Industry Panel Discussion, Sponsored by D Home Magazine

Aria Stone Gallery recently hosted a “Stone is Art” Industry Panel Discussion Event, sponsored by D Magazine. This one-of-a-kind panel discussion focused on stone and its natural artistic characteristics. The discussion featured  a variety of extremely talented industry professionals including Sherry Hayslip from Sherry Hayslip Interiors, Laura Baggett from Domiteaux + Baggett Architects, Botond Laszlo from Marvelous Home Makeovers, and Chris Wynn from Statement Furniture Fabrication. The questions were specifically targeted to each professional’s forte including topics such as stone trends, types, use, applications, and experience.

Q.What is your best piece of advice for someone who is looking to incorporate natural stone into their project?

SHERRY:In a practical sense, be patient and endure and think of it as solving a puzzle. Once you have your preliminary selections made, it is really an adventure to see the beauty of each stone and try to incorporate that in conjunction with everything else that you are doing – not too busy not less – but it is important that you keep in mind that there is nothing more unique except perhaps a snowflake – than beautiful marble because it is natural and it doesn’t repeat its pattern.

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Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Retro Marble, Designed by Marvelous Home Makeovers

Q. What tips or guidelines can you give to help them in their selection process?

BOTOND: Our motto at Marvelous Home Makeovers is exceptional, personal craftsmanship. The process starts with who our clients are and finding out what their needs are. One of the first steps in many of the larger projects is to select the natural stone (i.e. countertop, art piece, or accent piece) and then create the designs around the stone. What I have found with my clients is that natural stone speaks to you. You see over and over again my clients come in they walk the isles and they go back to the first stone that they saw. The process is psychological. Also, for me, observing that thought process during selection and receiving that feedback really helps me to understand who the client is. It gives an insight into what their desires are and who they are  deep inside, which enables me to truly cater to that and create a better experience and better crafted project.

Q. At Aria, we utilize a 1-10 scale grading stone based on clarity, consistency and quality. What are some of the aspects that you look for when you educate clients and customers about natural stone? Are there any types of natural stone you prefer working with over others? Why?

 

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Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Cielo, Designed by Chris Wynn

CHRIS: First, I listen to my customer to see what it is they are looking for. Once they select a material we view the material to see how beautiful it is, look for any fissures and cracks, look into the structure of the slab to see if it was completed [before extraction] or not. Overall we check to make sure that the client has chosen a quality material. I haven’t ran into any issues here at Aria. Everything that Vinny goes out and chooses is always grade A material.

Q. No stone is 100% perfect, and their can oftentimes be beauty in the imperfections. However, there are a lot of fabrication challenges that are intrinsic to the stone business. In particular, onyx is a very difficult stone to procure due to the nature of the material and that it is often not widely available in large format, along with inconsistencies that lead to needing fill. How do you as a fabricator overcome these obstacles?

CHRIS: There are many different ways to handle this. As far as fissures are concerned, there are different type of epoxies available to assist. If there is a slab of onyx that has an issue I can bring it back to my shop and do “surgery” that needs to be done for the customer. Of course, the fabricator should always explain the process to the customer beforehand, as different epoxies can have different outcomes. There are certain epoxies that you can penetrate and fill cracks with. Sure, natural stone is going to have some hiccups here and there. But they are all soluble if the fabricator has the knowledge to do so.

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Q. In your designs, you incorporate natural stone frequently in your projects. What is it about natural stone that captivates you?

SHERRY: The reason is emotional in that stone captivates me . I just love the idea of this beautiful, gemlike quality being harvested. When I was studying, designers and architects are encouraged to use real materials -natural materials – so that there is an integrity to the things that you create and design. I don’t think there is any way, frankly, to discount the romance of natural stone and the story and history behind it. Once, a client sent us to a quarry in France that had been continuously quarried since Roman times. We climbed up, marked the stone, threw water on it, and the story, the connection, the history – there is nothing more exciting.

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Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Gold Extra Marble, Designed by Sherry Hayslip Interiors

Q. Inspiration is everywhere. Can you tell us more about your process and where your inspiration comes from?

LAURA: Most of our projects, our inspiration, comes from the client. Our approach is to find out exactly what the client wants, even though most of the time the client doesn’t yet know what they want. For us it is a puzzle to try and figure out where our clients want to go and where they will want to take the design,  because every one of our projects come from that person.

Q. It is apparent that we believe stone is art, and with that comes some unique applications. Can you talk about what a designer or client should keep in mind when it comes to a variety of applications (floor, wall, pool, outdoors, etc.)?

CHRIS: First, I would think about the application and the durability of the product. For floors, of course marble has been used as floors for thousands of years. And it will wear over the years, but I think the most important part is educating the client on the upkeep of marble. They need to know that the marble is going to get wear and tear – and this is normal. Many companies exist that can resurface marble. Although sometimes manmade materials may sometimes be stronger, you will never get the beauty and look of marble.

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Q. When it comes to designing for commercial versus residential projects, the stone selection can vary as a result. Talk to us about things you consider when designing for each of these types of projects?

LAURA: Everything is client driven, and in the residential world, people mainly react to designs and what inspires them. Most of our commercial projects are very specialized and our clients are attached to them. No matter what, budget always comes into play.

Q. Is there a certain kind of material that you lean towards?

LAURA: When it comes to natural stone, we do not lean toward one type of natural stone for particular applications. It is just a matter of what the project wants to be. To me, it is more of a reaction to the stone itself; and we are going to use that stone where it makes the most sense.

Q. At Aria, we believe every stone is suitable for the application, it just becomes a question of how do we work with the space and with our fabrication partner to achieve the result that we are looking for. As a fabricator, can you speak more to this?

CHRIS: There are quite a few different sealers on the market to help out. One of my favorites is a stone color enhancing sealer that will bring out all of the beautiful colors of the stone, while also protecting the stone. So, in the case that you are using a marble or onyx, you will get more vibrant color, and if you scratch the stone you can put the color enhancing sealer on the scratch – sometimes the scratch goes away completely, sometimes mostly, it all depends on the material.

If you do not want to change the color of the stone there are natural sealers that are impregnating sealers and nothing changes it just blocks the moisture from penetrating the stone.

All stones have pores in them and you are going to want to seal your stone. There are now sealers specifically for limestone – which needs to breathe more than other stones –  and these limestone sealers help to protect the stone, while also allowing for the breathability needed.

Q. Is there anything that you can recommend for etching? Or how do you handle resolving etching?

CHRIS: Oftentimes, people like to use onyx on a countertop or vanity, which can be prone to scratches and etches. A fabricator can come to your home and bring a machine to buff the etch out of the stone. Alternatively, if you are looking for something you can do at home to prevent etching, I would suggest using a high grade car wax – or even a high grade furniture wax – and leave it on overnight and buff it off in the morning. This helps to keep the stone from etching through a lemon, lime, or other household items with high acidity. You, the homeowner, can buff the wax back into a shine. But if you do not use a wax, the acidic chemicals can sometimes penetrate the stone. Both options are a very similar process, it is just a matter of trying to do it yourself or having a fabricator come do it for you.

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Q. What do you look for the ideal kitchen stone? What are you looking for?

BOTOND: Educating the client is always important because each material is very different. For example, very early on in my business about 10 years ago, we did a big white kitchen with all Carrara marble. They had two babies, loved to drink red wine, and I thought the white marble might not go over well, because, at the time there were not as many good sealers as there are now. Luckily, they were the type of people that were really disciplined with taking care of the marble. A few years ago I had the opportunity to go back to the house and their countertops still looked impeccable.

I do not believe there is a set rule about what materials should go where. In general when people hear marble they think “oh no that can’t go in the kitchen” and I always say, “why not?” Marble, in my opinion, looks better 10 years from now than it does today. Marbles creates a patina. Think about copper and how it oxidizes, or think about if you have a leather jacket or briefcase that looks awesome now, but when it is brand new it looks almost rough or too crisp.

Similarly, we have done a project many years ago and it had a lot of gold and copper flakes in the stone and depending on how the light hits and the angle – the stone always appeared differently. Later on, I spoke with the client and they told me that they have lived there for over 5 years and have seen this stone every day and were always finding elements in the slab that we never saw before. That to me is very powerful and unique and you will never find that with a manmade material.

So really educating the clients, and explaining to the clients that you can use any stone and let them know how to take care of it. In my opinion, it all comes down to if you can connect with the stone and when you see it every day in your bathroom or kitchen and think it is beautiful – that is priceless to me.

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Inspecting Your Stone: All You Need to Know About Cracks and Fissures
What Makes an Aria Quality Slab?

Exploring Geometry, Body, & Space with Hong Kong Fashion Week Designer Winnie Witt

Aria Stone Gallery's #STONEISART Exhibit
Photo Courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

Interior Designers often look to fashion and the different fashion week events around the world to get a sense for how styles are constantly evolving and pushing the envelope. Oftentimes, fashion styles are translated into the design world. Recently, Hong Kong fashion week veteran, Winnie Witt, created a collection in where fashion design was created in a way that highlights many of the same design principles that interior designers frequently use.

Aria Stone Gallery's #STONEISART Exhibit
Photo Courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

Winnie Witt’s Trinity Collection, as seen in Aria Stone Gallery’s #STONEISART exhibit, closely examines three pillars of Winnie Witt’s foundation of style: geometry, body, and space. The Trinity collection is composed of unexpected shapes and silhouettes from a unique and innovative style of pattern cutting.

Aria Stone Gallery's #STONEISART Exhibit
Photo Courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

Witt is a master in tailoring, which can be seen in her focus bold, architectural designs that offer a full, rounded, asymmetrical silhouette. Every angle of her outfit offers a new outlook to her conceptual designs.

Aria Stone Gallery's #STONEISART Exhibit
Photo Courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

Using thing, gossamer-like material to showcase bold, heavy objects, Witt tests the limits of space and physics. Witt incorporated tights and jagged remnants of marble and quartzite from Aria Stone Gallery into her installation to experiment with different types of shape and weight. When the two contrasting elements of sheer tights and natural stone combine together to create a third sense of space.

Aria Stone Gallery's #STONEISART Exhibit
Photo Courtesy of Winnie Witt.

In applying the concept to the design, the garment will appear flat on the surface but its design is to revolve around the body, when you look at it from the side it is a cylinder. The pattern has to revolve around so the body is circular in shape and it gives the garment space around the object.

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Designer Spotlight, Chicago Edition: Aimee Wertepny of PROjECT Interiors

Designer Spotlight, Chicago Edition: Aimee Wertepny of PROjECT Interiors

Authentic, high-drama, and unexpected, Chicago’s PROjECT Interiors founder, Aimee Wertepny, is leading the charge for her high-end take on grit and glam design. In this special Chicago edition of our Designer Spotlight series, we sat down and had a one-on-one conversation with Aimee to learn what inspires her and how to achieve her signature look.

Photo Credit: Green Cherry Photography

Q. Architecture is very prevalent in Chicago, how does the architecture influence your interior design choices for commercial projects? 

I’m incredibly lucky to have a company that is headquartered in a world class city like Chicago, known for its incredible skyline and architecture- steel and glass is a no-brainer here! I’m inspired every day just leaving my apartment, which is in the historic neighborhood of Wicker Park. There are art deco period buildings, greystone walk-ups, turn of the century churches, as well as public art works, graffiti installations and classic A-frames, punctuated with recently developed modern style dwellings. I pull that influence into my interior schemes- grit with glam, modern, edgy and rustic all melded into one scheme. I appreciate classic details for sure, but the mid century modern architecture that Chicago is known for is my personal favorite- those Mies Van Der Rohe buildings are timeless, and I’d like to think my work is as well. Modern architecture is all about clean lines, beauty in simplicity and an unfussy lifestyle, which is a part of my design ethos. “Interior revival” is what I call it- as it states on the back of my business card in a scribble I can barely read 🙂

Photo Credit: Tony Soluri

Q. Natural stone has long been a part of art and design in Chicago. What is it about natural stone that captivates you? What type of stones do you and your clients in Chicago gravitate towards? 

Nothing compares to the impact a quality natural stone has on a space. It immediately exudes a sense of calm, because, as a natural product, it reflects the beauty of nature. I think Calacatta marble is timeless, and I use it all the time for hard surface specifications- especially in the leather finish. I’ve been especially drawn to the bold and textured slabs recently, such as Panda and Pietra Grey– I can’t get enough of that elephant skin looking slab!

Photo Credit: Cynthia Lynn Kim

Q. All of your designs are incredibly personal with a refined and modern aesthetic that is true to the client’s personality and desires. What are some of the unique design directions that we will be seeing in your future 2017 Chicago projects as they are completed?

I’m really digging street art, dream catchers and macramé these days. Bold color and patterns- but only the “weird” stuff. Tribal and deconstructed influences will still run steady through our work- and architecturally there will be blackened steel, brass reveals, black lacquer, stone and porcelain slabs, matte black and rose gold hardware, angular facets and tunnels, portal entries- we love a portal.  There’s a drastic mix of transitional suburban to glass box and steel structures that make us want to take more risks in materials and details in all of the above. We’re always searching for the unexpected which certainly pairs nicely with the client who is willing to go there- which we are seeing more and more. *heel clicks*

I love to travel, and this year is all about Latin- Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, which is destined to influence my work and train of thought- I’ve even enrolled in Spanish lessons! So maybe some bright colors (um, did I say that?) with splashes of mezcal + rum for sure. Vamonos!

   __________________________________________________

AIMEE WERTEPNY

Matchmaker to gutsy and glamorous,
a chic co-consipirator with smoldering
curiosity and an earth driven heartbeat,
she’s a Chicago girl that prefers not to
waste time on the dress rehearsal.

PROjECT founder Aimee Wertepny
established the studio nearly 10 years ago— all indie rock, now-or-never sweat and stamina—after realizing the solo gig wasn’t for her.

On her watch, PROjECT is an organic-glam-mashup a curated, layered, collected trip. Luxury cut with a little grit, surfaces that purr— her seductive rip-shred aesthetic atones for the laconic sins of beige and invites an intriguing totem.

Travel and charity fill her spirit, but as the all for one ethos of the studio, she’s the irrepressible 90s girl who takes the side entrance instead of waiting in line.

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What Makes an Aria Quality Slab?

Here at Aria Stone Gallery, we talk about how we have the most unique and beautiful slabs; but what does that mean? How are Aria’s slabs different from the rest? Aria’s owner, Vinny Tavares, travels around the world, from the Carrara Region in Italy, to the quarries of Brazil, to hand select every slab that is brought to Aria. What is it exactly that Vinny is looking for when he purchases Aria’s slabs?

Quality over Quantity

In the natural stone industry, many stone suppliers will carry stock colors and commercial-grade materials that they always have on hand. Aria Stone Gallery focuses on quality over quantity and does not carry stock materials. If we sell out of a material and find that the quarry isn’t currently producing a slab that meets our standards for that same type of material, we won’t bring it in. Instead, we will wait until the quarry finds another incredible and rare bundle.

Aria Stone Gallery’s Standards and Criteria for Purchasing Stone from the Quarry

When our owner Vinny goes to a quarry, he uses a set of standards, where he grades every slab of stone from 1 to 10. The quality and uniqueness of slabs are graded based upon the 5 factors: richness of color, structure (i.e., whether the slab is sturdy or has core holes), size, vein composition, and natural quality. Vinny only purchases slabs that are considered a nine or ten.

  • Grade 1-2: Should not be mined from the quarry.
  • Grade 3-6: Lacking in 2 or more of our quality standard test.
  • Grade 7-8: Okay material, but lacking in one of the standards.
  • Grade 9: Nearly perfect in color, composition, structure, size, veining, quality.
  • Grade 10: Perfect in color, structure, size, veining, quality.

How does Aria mitigate between beauty and natural fissures?

Sometimes when a stone is more exotic, it is more delicate. The reason many stone suppliers don’t carry exotic material is that it is a risk to transport internationally. The stone supplier really has to know how to move the material safely. Sometimes things are so beautiful, they are worth the risk.

Has Aria ever sent material back because it arrived in a lesser condition than you bought it?

Yes. Once Aria’s material arrives in the states, our staff inspects each slab, and if the slab is not up to our standards, it will never make it to either Aria’s showroom or online. For example, not too long ago we received a bundle of Lemurian. When the quarry polished the surface, they did not allow enough time for the drying process before the slab was loaded into the crate. So, when the slab was unloaded in the States, the slab had cracked and had huge divots everywhere. In this case, we would send the material back to the quarry rather than selling the stone at a discounted price.

How are Aria Stone Gallery’s standards different from other stone suppliers?

We are providing to a niche. Aria stone Gallery’s product is just a fraction of what is out there. As mentioned before, we do not carry stock products, staple colors, or low-to-mid grade exotics. In the off chance that we do have a middle grade exotic, it will be the most beautiful middle grade exotic that the quarry has every produced. Typical stone suppliers tend to carry five to ten percent of the quality that is stocked at Aria.

Unlike buying a man-made product, which can be done on demand, purchasing stone is a much more subjective exercise. Quarries go through bad phases, yielding undesirable blocks, and they often face regulatory issues, all of which restricts the fine buying or what Aria calls the “pursuit of the perfect stone.”

Many stone distributors are primarily focused on filling purchase orders – and that may be okay settling for an ordinary slab. At Aria Stone Gallery, we don’t sell ordinary slabs – we don’t have a standard list of “stone we carry”. The good thing about natural stone is that new quarries are always being discovered, new blocks are constantly being processed and you never know when the most dramatic slab is about to be cut. It’s a bit like baseball – the trick is not to fall for the temptation of swinging at every pitch. At Aria Stone Gallery we would rather be out of a popular stone color than have a mediocre slab in stock.

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Brand New World-Class Quarry Experience, Only at Aria Stone Gallery

Manifesto for Natural Stone 

We had a chance to sit down with Vinny Tavares, owner and founder of Aria Stone Gallery, who shared with us his manifesto for natural stone and what he believes makes natural stone an irreplaceable art form.

What happened to waiting for the great things in life to present themselves when the time is ripe? And further, what does this mean in the context of natural stone?

You cannot rush natural stone. No one can dictate how the next block – or using today’s direct-to-consumerism phrase – the next “batch” will look. Only nature can dictate which direction the veining will run or how white the background will be. No one can set parameters or define the “next production” for natural stone. The “next production” may not come until next spring because the winter was too wet in the Apuan mountains. Winemakers cannot simply reengineer their grapes into the next special Bordeaux vintage. Not only do you need the right conditions, the proper soil, weather, and temperature but also the right attitude: you cannot speed through the process and expect greatness. Some describe this art form as the ability to work or respond to the environment in an appropriate matter. This couldn’t be truer for marble.

Unfortunately, all of that means you can’t really pre-design a marble slab. There is not a machine where you press “start” and voila, out comes the perfect marble slab on the assembly line. Maybe this quest for the perfect surface is what led to the creation of quartz slabs. But if quartz is indeed better, why model quartz after natural stone? Why can’t it stand on its own, by its own design? Where is its authenticity?

Does producing 300 identical slabs per day seem special? Maybe it seems special if you are the only factory creating it. But what happens when there are 300 factories creating it? Are all those slabs as special as their manufacturers aspire to convince us to believe? Or is it just another mass-produced reinterpretation with the intention of tricking us into believing it is a better version of the original? Fake pearls, anyone?

Whether it’s synthetic fabric, artificial turf, or engineered stone, you can’t out-design the real thing. However, that doesn’t mean the attempt to standardize Mother Nature shouldn’t have its place in society. But we can’t kid ourselves that quartz slabs items are in the realm of luxury. Two key aspects associated with luxury are scarcity and genuineness, and both aspects are lacking in these Calacatta-esque slabs. Processed cheese, anyone?

Some of the most succulent apples might come with spots. But it’s much better than the chemical, bountiful, perfectly shaped alternative. As the song goes: “Hey farmer, farmer, put away your DDT. I don’t care about spots on my apples, leave me the birds and the bees.” The same thing can be said for natural stone. Fissures and natural pits are part of the natural process. That’s where craftsmanship and human ingenuity play an important role. We don’t need to kill the bees to enjoy the apple. We only need to incorporate these aspects in the art (process) of harvesting the fruit. What do we call again the ability to work with what the environment has to offer?

I personally would rather work with truly special things. Things that are subject to the spontaneity of nature and are outside of our control. Things that maybe at first frustrate us more than we are willing to understand. But eventually the “thing” always reveals itself. The same way that a shiny piece of plastic is not diamond, that faux leather is not parchment, that nylon is not cashmere, and that forcefully compressed quartz minerals blended with artificial pigments and chemicals IS NOT genuine stone.

At Aria we promise the real thing, the best nature has to offer. It might not be “human expectation” perfect but it’s the best that has always been and probably ever will be. We are proud to work with the natural elements in their most genuine and authentic form, which in our case is the naturally perfect marble slab.

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Backlighting Onyx Q&A

As described by The Natural Stone Institute, onyx is a frequently translucent and generally layered, cryptocrystalline calcite. Onyx is a sedimentary rock that is usually deposited in cold water solutions, often in the form of stalagmites and stalactites in caves. Through this formation, cryptocrystalline is created and the size and uniformity of these crystals is what contributes to the classic translucent property of onyx stone.

Dating back to the Egyptians, onyx was used to create bowls and other decorative elements and nowadays onyx is commonly used to create jewelry, decorative surfaces, and wall materials. The unique patterns and striations, in addition to a wide range of colors, make onyx the perfect material to add a dramatic focal point to a space. One of the many appeals of nature’s beautiful onyx is that it has the ability to be backlit due to its unique translucent properties. When a slab of onyx is able to be backlit, it is able to take on a completely new life, showcasing the unique veining while adding additional ambiance to a space with a subtle glow.

The key to backlighting is using the correct LED panels to ensure an even coverage of light and eliminating any “hot spots.” To further analyze key tips when it comes to backlighting, we connected with the backlighting expert himself, Patrick Dwyer from Knema LLC (dba LuminousFilm), and picked his brain so you can backlight with confidence. Read on.

Backlit bar features Aria Stone Gallery’s Onyx Caramello at The Grove Restaurant
When Quartzite is mostly pure Quartz (the mineral), it may also be able to be backlit. Image of Quartzite in Aria Stone Gallery.

Q. What do you need to consider before lighting a countertop? Power source? Size? Material? Is there anything that is different about lighting a wall vs a countertop?

A. Actually, not really. As long as you are mounting the panels to a surface and securing them with something like mirror clips, or c-channel you should be fine.

Q. What should you know before choosing an LED bulb for backlighting onyx?

A. When picking a light color, you should be aware of the overall affect it will have on the room. Do you want to contrast or match existing light fixtures? And you should be aware of how the light will affect the color of the stone. If you have a honey onyx using a very warm color temp (2700K for example) would help bring out more of the yellows in the stone.

Image of Aria Stone Gallery’s Backlit Onyx Black Cloud.

Q. What are the LED backlighting color options? 

A. Our panels have two main color options. White light LEDs (ranging from ~2700K-6000K) and we have RGB LEDs, which allows for millions of different color options.

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Q. How much does it cost to backlight a stone?

A. Cost per square foot varies greatly depending on the project and the products used. Variables such as the thickness of the stone, distance of panel from the stone, and how translucent the stone is can affect the square foot price greatly. Generally, we find the cost to run roughly ~$45-100/square foot.

Backlit bar featuring Aria Stone Gallery’s Onyx Nuvolato. Designed by M2 Designs.

Q. What is the maintenance on the LED lighting panels?

A. Typically there is very little – to no maintenance on the products.

Backlit bar featuring Aria Stone Gallery’s Onyx Fantastico. Designed by DeLeo & Fletcher.

Q. How often do LED panels need to be replaced? 

A. If properly installed, the panels should last a very long time. We usually end up replacing power supplies before we replace panels. Our LED edge-lit panels have an L-70 rating of ~50,000 of continual use and our large LED modules have and L-70 rating of ~120,000 hours of continual use.

Note: L-70 is a rating that means that at 50,000 / 120,000 hours our lights should still produce 70% of their original brightness.

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Designer Spotlight: Lucinda Loya Interiors

Passionate and personal, Lucinda Loya, of Lucinda Loya Interiors has built a name for herself as one of the nation’s premiere interior designers. Lucinda’s enthusiastic and sensible approach to design, along with her keen eye for detail, has led to much success in the world of interiors. Lucinda is a master at incorporating her client’s passions with her invigorating artistic spirit. Read below to see what Lucinda and her team have been up to and what she sees in the coming seasons for 2017.

“My philosophy is make it your own, and it will be timeless.”

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Image courtesy of Lucinda Loya. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Extra marble.

Q. What are some of the top trends that you are most excited about for kitchen and bathroom design in 2017 and what is on the way out?

A. Heavy kitchen design is not just on the way out, it’s gone. These days, we are more interested in simplifying our lifestyle with interiors as a way of balancing our hectic lives. To achieve this, keep things light, bright, timeless, and classic by using clean lines. In a traditional home, you could take this approach by using a wild marble installation, preferably bookmatched or a large, bold patterned tile to make a statement. Stay away from browns. I always choose a large scaled tile selection over the typical 12×12, and slabs of natural stone is always preferred. Take a chance by going extra large on floor tile, and it will appear to be cut from slabs!

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Image courtesy of Lucinda Loya Interiors. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Gold Borghini Extra marble.

Q. How do you think new technology will have an effect on new designs in 2017?

A. Technology in general is broadening horizons and informing the general public and experts, alike. Now that the vast majority of people have access to social media, information has the ability to travel quickly and spread further than ever through design related social platforms. We are happy to know that the average consumer is being educated on interior design, whether they are interested or not.

“When two colors are combined in a clever way, the overall design is more interesting and original.”

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Image courtesy of Lucinda Loya Interiors. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Taj Mahal Quartzite.

Q. What type of color palette do you see for the future?

A. I believe that right now and for a long time – whether in fashion or interiors – anything goes! That said, I don’t like to think there is a color trend we are headed toward and I would like to see it stay that way. With fewer limitations we gain creative ability. My philosophy is make it your own, and it will be timeless.

In all of our projects, CONTRAST is key, and not all have color. For high contrast, black and white is the obvious choice, always being my go-to. When a project does call for color we use it in many different ways. I especially like to pair the un-expected. Mixing citrus and cranberry would be a great example. When two colors are combined in a clever way, the overall design is more interesting and original. The space becomes personalized, therefore, no trend to recognize.

 “In all of our projects, CONTRAST is key, and not all have color.”

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Image courtesy of Lucinda Loya Interiors. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Port Black marble.

Q. What are some of the unique design directions we will be seeing in your future 2017 projects as they are completed?

A. One might guess that we lean toward a modern aesthetic, but we work in the entire spectrum of interior design. We have just been given the opportunity to work on three beautiful ranch style homes, and all three will look separate from one another. Whether our clients are looking for a Traditional, Mediterranean, Eclectic, even say a Western flare, our design principles of clean lines and authentic character are evident.  We take comfort in knowing our projects remain TIMELESS!

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Image courtesy of Lucinda Loya.

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Designer Spotlight: Marie Flanigan Interiors

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Textures, neutrals, and layers, oh my! Marie Flanigan’s design aesthetic is the epitome of classic elegance with a cozy twist.  With a fresh take on color and scale, Flanigan beautifully mixes old with new, modern with traditional, and cozy charm with sophisticated elegance; letting the space speak for itself.  There truly is an art to incorporating colors, textures, prints, and patterns into a space and Flanigan strikes the perfect balance. Lucky for us, we were able to sit down with Marie herself for this one-on-one interview. Read on to discover how Aria Stone Gallery teamed up with the talented Marie Flanigan to discuss Natural Stone 101, her newest featured blog.

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Image courtesy of Maric Flanigan. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Gold Borghini Extra marble.

Q. As we gear up for fall, what trends do you foresee picking up speed?

A. In a world where fresh trends are constantly on the rise, I’ve been really excited to see a return to a more thoughtful and sophisticated celebration of personal style. That means doing less of what the latest trend reports tell you to do and more of what speaks to your heart. The design industry has responded to this change by increasing and enhancing customization services, allowing designers to source pieces that truly speak their client’s language, and by furthering their dedication to furniture rejuvenation, which means that existing pieces our clients hold dear can be reimagined and reused instead of being replaced with something new.

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Image courtesy of Marie Flanigan. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Gold Borghini Extra marble.

Q. We absolutely love your light and airy aesthetic.  What advice do you have for our readers that are looking to incorporate this feel into their space? Any advice on how to successfully mix prints and patterns?

A. Our daily lives are busy and filled with distractions, and my goal has always been to create spaces that offer a respite from that constant stimulation. I love using pieces that boast strong, clean lines accented with fabrics that play with weight and texture in soft, dreamy hues. It’s so important to become a master editor when it comes to achieving a light and airy feel. Pull everything out and start replacing items slowly, only incorporating pieces that lend an overall sense of balance while also pulling at your heart strings.

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Image courtesy of Marie Flanigan. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Gold Borghini Extra marble.

Q. Inspiration is everywhere.  Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

A. My first source of inspiration is always my client. I love hearing stories about where they’ve lived and how they found themselves in the home they’re in today. I spend time learning about the styles, cultures, and environments that are meaningful to them and why, so that I can bring their unique story to life. Once ingrained in the design process, I often look to the relationships between form and function, and strength and delicacy, that exist in nature for a steady flow of inspiration.

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Image courtesy of Marie Flanigan. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Pietra Grey Leathered marble.

Q. It seems like you incorporate natural stone frequently in your projects.  What is it about natural stone that captivates you?  Which types of stones do you typically gravitate towards in your designs?

A. Natural stone has a remarkable way of lending authenticity to a space. I’ve been using a great deal of marble, soapstone, onyx, and petrified wood in my latest designs, and I love that every slab is singular in color and grain, which guarantees that no two designs will ever look alike. I’m inspired by the intricate processes in which natural stone is crafted, and love that these durable beauties have been used since the earliest days of design and construction, infusing a natural sense of history into any home.

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Image courtesy of Marie Flanigan. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Supremo marble.

Q. What’s your best piece of advice for someone who is looking to incorporate stone into their space?  What tips or tricks can you give to help them in this selection process?

A. Throw away the blinders and try to keep the bigger picture in mind. So often, when picking flooring, countertops, or backsplash, we get bogged down in that one detail and forget to step back and look at the space as a whole. Not every element needs to make a bold statement; a subtle piece can serve as a serene backdrop to surrounding bursts of color and texture. And if you decide you want your island to tell the grandest story, then perhaps you should consider choosing something subtle for the perimeter. Lastly, I like to remind clients to examine the veining and grain of the stone carefully so that they can clearly envision what the stone will look like once those elements are running across the expanse of their counter or floor.

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Image courtesy of Marie Flanigan. Get the look with Aria Stone Gallery’s Calacatta Extra marble.

About Marie Flanigan Interiors:

Marie Flanigan Interiors is a full service interior design firm that manages projects throughout Texas and around the country. Our experienced team has a comprehensive understanding of custom furnishings, antiques, textiles, and fine art.  We specialize in high-end residential and commercial build-outs, sharing solid relationships with some of the industry’s most talented architects, contractors, and vendors.  At MFI, we believe that homes should reflect the people who live, work, and play within.  We weave the unique stories of our clients into every inch of space we design, and our passion for innovative interior design, unparalleled attention to detail, and extraordinary professionalism set us apart from other design teams in our field.  From space planning to furniture and accessory procurement, our skilled team looks forward to working with you from conception to completion.

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Contemporary Design with Joanie Wyll from Joanie Wyll & Associates, Inc.

Aria Stone Gallery White Beauty Marble Bathroom

Contemporary design is not only apparent in today’s interiors, but also plays a large part in our daily lives- from fashion to technology, contemporary design is ever present in today’s everyday life. Dating back to the mid-20th Century, Contemporary means with the time or modern, characteristic of the present. It can also be defined by the Museum of Modern Art as “well-made, beautiful, efficient, innovative and reflective of its time. This time is preoccupied with environmental concerns, global awareness, economy, durability, experimentation, technology, and simplicity. It is “of the moment” making its designs ever- changing, eclectic, low-key, and open.” Breaking away from traditional design, Contemporary design transforms into an open, minimalist approach.

Not to be confused with modern design, contemporary is stylistically different, referring to the current period of design expression. One that is ever changing, whereas modern style describes a static (era-specific) design that breaks with those pre-industrial Revolution traditional styles.

Although traditional design still remains as a popular design aesthetic, contemporary design has always captured the imagination allowing for a fluid, artistic, and innovative approach to design, and is uninhibited by the composition of conventional, traditional styling; providing an exhilarating contrast from traditional living. Contemporary is more fluid and tolerates a bit of rule breaking, often including an element of whimsy and surprise. mixing old with new, it has a strong emphasis on line and form, giving contemporary style it’s energy.

Key features of Contemporary Design:

  • Clean Lines and smooth surfaces
  • Emphasis of rectangular forms
  • Use of horizontal and vertical lines
  •  Light up the space- lighting is important because it is the key to illuminating the room’s design. Lighting is used as an artistic statement with clean lines and metallic finishes. is used as works of art in contemporary spacing, again keeping with the simple yet distinctive theme.
  • Use of Repetition- rhythm and cohesiveness provided by the repetition of various design elements
  • Use of Contrast- contrast elevates interest in a space by mixing different colors, qualities, and materials.
  • Use of texture and patterns- patterns and textures offset contemporary’s smooth, clean lines providing a sense of warmth to the space.
  • Bold or Soft Color Palette- either can be incorporated in a contemporary space
  • Focus of natural materials such as stone, wood, leather, teak, and even linen
  • Strong, geometric shapes
  • Extensive use of natural light
  • Overscale art
  • Open floor plans that embrace the outdoor space

Keeping with the contemporary aesthetic, we recently caught up with Joanie from Joanie Wyll Associates & Inc. to get her perspective on this design style. Wyll’s designs tend to embody contemporary elements, offering a perfect mix of unexpected and glamorous. Incorporating minimal adornments, clean lines, high-shine surfaces, and over-scaled natural stone used as a feature wall, as seen in her winning project at ASID’s Design Ovation Event, Joanie beautifully creates a contemporary space.

“This master bathroom is full of modern high contrast, luxe glossy finishes and crystal accents. She used the White Beauty marble to create a custom trough sink, that couldn’t be replicated even by an artist. She continued the use of the material behind the egg shaped floating bathtub creating a unique, statement piece.”

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Q. Congratulations on winning the Industry Partnered Collaboration Award at ASID’s Design Ovation Awards. We could not be more thrilled to be apart of such a beautiful project! Can you elaborate more on your inspiration behind the design?

A. Thank you so much! The design was really inspired by the White Beauty stone. We wanted to showcase it in a way that would bring out the drama of the stone.

Q. What attracted you to using our White Beauty stone in the project?

A. The client saw the White Beauty and fell in love with it. We did too. It’s unique and fit perfectly with our vision.

Q. What was your favorite part about the overall design outcome?

A. My heart still pounds each time I walk into this master bath. I love how each material plays off the others and combines to give a sense of grandeur.

Q. White Beauty is a very dramatic stone. What advice do you have for others that are interested in incorporating it into their overall design?

A. White Beauty begs to be the focal point in a space – it really becomes an art piece. It has a lot of movement, so it pairs well with simple, classic designs.

Q. We loved how you kept a consistent look in the space by incorporating the stone on the opposing wall. What advice do you have for others who are interested in incorporating stone as a piece of wall art?

A. We had an interesting time figuring out how to mount those two huge slabs to the wall. In the end we built a base to support the weight of the slabs and covered it in the same tile used on the walls and floor, so it gives the illusion that the stone is floating.

Q. What constitutes Contemporary Design? In your own words, how would you describe it?

A. Contemporary design can be very broad and is different from modern design. Contemporary emphasizes basic and simplified lines and shapes, but can be softer than modern. Spaces generally incorporate neutral elements with bold accent colors.

Q. Your design aesthetic tends to blend modern with other funky, fun elements. What attracts you to contemporary design?

A. I have always loved contemporary design. People did not understand my vision in design school, but now everything is going contemporary. I love the simplicity and versatility.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who is wanting to achieve a contemporary aesthetic?

A. Contemporary design requires every aspect of a space to be carefully considered. Achieving true simplicity is harder than it looks.

Q. How would you describe your design philosophy?

A. I like to take ownership of my projects. I tell my clients that their house is now my house too. I’m invested in the result; I won’t put anything in their house that I wouldn’t put in my own. I strive for a classic aesthetic in both traditional and contemporary designs; I want the project to look just as good 15 years from now as it does today.

Q. Are there any influential resources that inspire you? What are some of the things that influence your design?

A. I’m inspired by fashion, travel, architecture; there is design in everything so everything can be an inspiration.

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Q & A with Brant McFarlain from R. Brant Design

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R. Brant Design- Brant McFarlain

Recently we had the pleasure to ask one of Dallas’ talented designers and creative masterminds, Brant McFarlain, from R. Brant Design, a few questions regarding the inspiration behind his award-winning design at Dwell with Dignity’s Thrift Studio event. He partnered with Jean de Merry to create the largest and highest selling vignette in Thrift Studio history, earning him this prestigious recognition. Dwell with Dignity describes their annual Thrift Studio Pop-up shop as “an opportunity to celebrate beauty and creativity while helping others come home— in the truest sense of the word.”

McFarlain attended the University of North Texas where he acquired a Fine Arts degree, and went on to work as a designer for Leo A. Daly and Morrison Seifert Murphy before venturing off and starting his own company.  He is best known for creating designs for high-end residential homes, national hospitality chains, and corporate clientele.  See what McFarlain had to say about his vignette design and what inspires him in this one-on-one interview.
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Q. What inspired your vignette design at Dwell with Dignity’s Thrift Studio?

A. Jean de Merry was our major sponsor for the event, so our ‘vision’ was stemmed from their immaculate collection.  One of my favorite pieces we chose to put in our vignette was a JDM sofa.  It was a gorgeous, masculine piece with rich leather and black lacquer.  That masculinity became the foundation of our design as we developed our gentlemen’s bedroom suite.

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Q. What inspired you to work with Dwell with Dignity?

A. This is one of those opportunities where I couldn’t say no – it was a complete yes from the beginning.  I hold this organization in such high regard, and am inspired by everything they do for those in need.  I’m not even sure I’d say I was ‘inspired’ to work with Dwell with Dignity, more like I was honored and humbled by doing so.

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Q. What is your favorite aspect/key component of this design?

A. I immediately fell in love with the room layout and the way our defined spaces still allowed a connected feel. Our space was unique in that it was quite large, yet still felt intimate and cozy.

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Q. What are some key points to keep in mind when designing a masculine yet warm and inviting space, such as this one?

A. It is about selecting key pieces that exude masculinity, while also developing a consistent backdrop that creates an inviting room.  I created warmth by adding lighter colors, contrasting textures, rich rugs, and luscious throws and bedding.

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Q. Where do you draw your overall inspiration from?

A. Italian modernism.

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Q. With a neutral color palette such as this one, what design elements do you find are most important to keep in mind?

A. When the color palette stays neutral, it is critical to add variety through textures and patterns. A bit of the unexpected makes it playful and infuses your own personality into the space.

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Q. What are your favorite ways to add texture and dimension to a space?

A. Unique art and accessories you wouldn’t find anywhere else!  It’s all about developing the subtle layers that help give a space depth and texture.

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Q. How would you describe your style? What do you want readers to know about you as a designer?

A. I’m a minimalist – less is more.  A timeless aesthetic is what I strive for – modern, traditional, and everything in between.  My ultimate design style is sleek and sexy, but also practical.

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Q. What are three pieces of advice you would give to an aspiring designer?

A. First, I would say find a designer that you admire and respect.  Seek out opportunities to learn and grow as a professional from them.  Second, develop confidence in your design preferences and your skills as a designer.  Have a solid foundation of who you are as a designer and what it means to you. Then, of course I’d say take what you know about the rules of interior design and learn when to bend those rules to create something unique and extra special.

Brant-McFarlain-Quote-01Q. Currently, what are your favorite types of stone to incorporate into your designs?

A. I love using white marbles with limestones. The light, neutral tones creates a sophisticated, soothing timeless aesthetic.

Q. What is your favorite way to incorporate stone into your designs?

A. For a very luxurious look,  using slab material for floors and walls is great when budgets allow.  This also creates a unique design with no grout joints.

Q. What factors do you take into consideration when selecting stone for a particular design?

A. The mood of an interior is set through multiple factors. I look at color, patterning and finish when designing with stone.  The color of the stone for obvious reasons, the patterning in the stone is determined by the application of the slabs and tiles.  If using a tile, I don’t like strong, heavy veining in marbles because it becomes very busy when the different tiles are applied.  Finish is fun to play with as well in a space.  You can mix polished and honed surfaces to create contrast or subtle interest.  Honed spaces feel soft and understated where as polished can sometimes feel cold and formal.

Q. Any additional designer tips you can give our readers when it comes to selecting stone?

A. As a rule, minimize the number of different materials in one space. For example, I typically specify the same stone for both the counter tops and full height backsplash.


About Dwell with Dignity Charity Organization

Dwell with Dignity is a nonprofit agency dedicated to creating soothing, inspiring homes for families struggling with homelessness and poverty. Their mission is to help families escape poverty and homelessness through design; one household at a time. They empower families to lead their best lives and to thrive in a safe, functional and beautiful environment. By providing and installing home interiors that include furnishings, art, linens, kitchen supplies and food in the pantry, they enable families to become stable and create home lives they are proud of. Toxic stress levels are reduced significantly. Academics improve. Play dates are made. Plans are made for birthday parties, holiday gatherings, and family dinners. These homes have a powerful generational impact.

VIEW MORE:
The “Four C’s” of Natural Stone
Designing with Textured Surfaces
How to Repair Cracks, Fissures, and Scratches

Q & A with Stephen Viscusi, Author and Design Extraordinaire

Stephen Viscusi, best-selling author, TV personality, and industry headhunter, shares his expertise within the design industry at Decorative Center Houston’s Spring Market. Viscusi has been featured on a variety of TV networks and shows including: NPR, CNN, CBS, CNBCABC NewsFOX NewsAmerican MorningGood Morning AmericaThe Tyra Banks ShowSteve Harvey, and many more.

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As Viscusi gears up for his expose he talks to us about how to stay competitive, the tools you need to succeed, and his secret advice on what it takes to become the next TV celebrity design star.


Aria Stone Gallery (ASG): Stephen Viscusi, welcome to Houston.

Stephen Viscusi (SV): Thank you, I’ve never been.  I’ve been to Texas many times, The Viscusi Group has lots of clients here, but this is my first time in Houston.

ASG: So, let me get this right, you’re an author, TV Personality, and headhunter?

SV: Yes, that’s right. Viscusi Group is a search practice that specializes in the interior furnishings industry, residential and contract. We recruit from CEOs to Showroom Managers. I am also the author of two books, the latest one, Bulletproof Your Job (Harper Collins), and yes, I’m a frequent workplace guest expert on NBCUniversal’s “Steve Harvey.”  I’m known as “America’s Workplace Guru” from my days as the Workplace Expert on ABC’s Good Morning America.  Like many Americans, I’m obsessed with reality television.

ASG: What are you coming to Houston for, and what is your program about?

SV: Today, it seems that every interior designer wants to be the next HGTV star.  There was a time when it was enough to get your own spread in “Architectural Digest,” and that’s still great, but the truth is, everyone wants to be the designer recognized from television today. I’m coming to Houston to teach Houstonians my secrets on getting yourself on television.

ASG: So you’re going to teach the A&D community how to be the next Chip and Joanna Gaines?

SV: Well at least Houston’s version of that. Truth is, to get on television today, it’s all about personality, personality, personality. I’m going to explain to our audience how to create a Sizzle Reel, and how they can use their big Texas charm to cozy up to segment producers on the local news to get them on the air.

ASG: Wow! Sounds exciting!

SV: Well, it is.  It’s little baby steps to get yourself and your designs in front of the local TV audience first. Let’s face it, we have news starting at 5AM, 6AM, then all night long.  There’s local network, and cable. Too much airtime, not enough topics or talent. It’s not just about your design, it’s about saying interesting things that are telegenic, as well as looking different. Hey, if I could launch my own TV career, anybody can.  It’s sounding provocative, or it’s as simple as just having an unusual hair color, a certain flair about your style, something that makes you stand out and is interesting for people to watch.  I’m happy to be in Houston and I know that everyone who comes to the program will leave with some information that will get them on TV, and maybe even, eventually, their own show. I’m also going to give a lot of tips on increasing your social media and viral marketing presence. It’s many of the same tools you need to get on TV.



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Decorative Center Houston’s Spring Market unveils this Thursday, April 28th at the DCH from 9am to 6pm. Interior Designers, enthusiasts, and industry professionals will enjoy a variety of open house programs and keynote presentations, including Viscusis. To learn more about the Secrets to Becoming the Next TV Celebrity Designer, visit Decorative Center Houston’s Spring Market Itinerary.

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Stephen Viscusi Bio

Stephen Viscusi is the Bestselling author of Harper Collins’ Bulletproof Your Job, as well as the Random House book, On the Job. Viscusi currently appears on the CNBC series, “Make Me a Millionaire Inventor.” He is also the regular resident Workplace Expert on NBCUniversal’s “Steve Harvey.” Viscusi is the CEO of www.viscusigroup.com. The Viscusi Group is based in New York City, and is a global Executive Search firm that specializes in the Interior Furnishings industry. You can follow Stephen Viscusi on twitter @StephenViscusi, on Linkedin at Stephen Viscusi, and you can follow The Viscusi Group on Facebook.

Viscusi is globally recognized as a Workplace Expert, known here in the United States as “America’s Workplace Guru.” To reach Stephen by telephone call 212-979-5700, or email stephen@viscusigroup.com.

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Katie Lydon on Incorporating a Pop of Pink

Pink may be a controversial color for some, whether in fashion or interiors. In some countries, the color of pink is associated with being girly or innately feminine; however, this is not the case throughout the world. In the 1700s, it was fashionable for men to wear jackets of purple and pink satin and this still holds true in British fashion. In Japan, the color pink has a masculine association similar to the wide acceptance in European markets.

For London born designer, Katie Lydon, pink is a color she uses regularly. Lydon tells Elle Decor, “Pink is one of those colors that people shy away from sometimes, because they don’t want a room to appear too girly, but I think there are ways of using pink that really bring warmth and subtlety to a bedroom for a couple—it doesn’t have to be just for a girl’s bedroom. Pink looks beautiful with chocolate browns, grays, and woods.”

By adding a pink stone to your design you can achieve a soft, modern element that creates a dynamic palette for your space. The Palissandro Extra Marble from Aria Stone Gallery is a beautiful Italian with subtle shades of soft pink and chocolate waves with a glittering light throughout. The Onyx Kilimanjaro is unique in that during the day, the onyx has visible natural pink and red hues. And when Kilimanjaro is backlit, it emits a beautiful, rich amber glow.

For more inspiration and journal entries, click here.

To view Aria Stone Gallery’s latest collection, click here.