Category Archives: New York Observer

At Home With Ariel Ashe- New York Observer

Interior Designer Ariel Ashe Invites Us in to Her Home

The sought-after decorator repurposes antiques and mixes ethnic with modern touches in her West Village home.

Ariel Ashe in her West Village home

“Piñon is the first thing I smell when I get off the plane in New Mexico,” said interior designer Ariel Ashe, of the aroma coming from the scented candle burning in her West Village apartment. Country music played in the light-filled, spacious one-bedroom furnished with ethnic rugs and ornaments.

When Ms. Ashe is not traveling and gathering inspiration for her esteemed design firm with architect Reinaldo Leandro,  Ashe+Leandro,  she meets him each day for coffee before heading to their charming two-room Soho studio. It’s rare to find an interior designer and architect as equal partners, but Ms. Ashe, an uncommon mix of worldliness from a small town in New Mexico, and Mr. Leandro, a young modernist from Venezuela, complement each other. Ms. Ashe invited us into her home to tell us how she designed for her most personal client, herself.

Ariel Ashe's living room. Photo: Celeste Sloman/New York Observer

You’ve been in this apartment for a year, have you always lived downtown in NYC? Always. I love my neighborhood—I’m on the third floor of a building with no elevator and I love it. No hanging around! There’s a lot of natural light in this apartment and three skylights.

How did you pick the art and decoration? I’ve been collecting stuff since I started working as an interior designer in 2002. Some pieces are client rejects—some are gifts from furniture makers and a few pieces are by my favorite woodworker, Rob Pluhowski. The art is from all over—again, gifts, purchases and stolen (from my parents).

Art wall featuring prints by Norman Bergsma. Photo: Celeste Sloman/New York Observer

You have great artwork here. Do you have a favorite piece of artwork? My Kate Moss obituary by Adam McEwen, which hangs above my fireplace in the living room and a tiny painting of Mick Jagger by Nikki Katsikas. Both are whimsical but brilliant. Adam McEwen was an obituary writer for the Daily Telegraph in London before becoming an artist. I also have a Richard Aldrich painting from the Bortolami Gallery, a space we designed a few years ago.

How did you approach designing your own apartment as opposed to a client’s? In exactly the same way. I thought about the best layout for me, chose a color palette, established a budget and got to work. We’ve done over 40 apartments in New York so I’ve had a lot of practice.

A teak root table with an antique lamp. Photo: Celeste Sloman/New York Observer

You travel often. Is that essential as an interior designer? Yes. You can only get so much inspiration from magazines and Pinterest. From a hammock in Nicaragua to a tile floor on the Amalfi coast,  I take thousands of photos with my iPhone.

What are a few cities you draw inspiration from? Rome, Santa Fe, New York. I love places with strong history and culture. With culture comes great design and good food.

An antique bust and new skull. Photo: Celeste Sloman/New York Observer

What makes New York home? Mostly the people. My sister and brother live here. My work is here. Although, I still consider New Mexico home. I’m starting a project in Placitas, N.M., with my dad who is a builder. Martha’s Vineyard is my home in the summer.

What are the most cherished items in your home? Things I’ve taken from my parents’ house. A bow and arrow set, Navajo rugs, an oil painting in my bedroom and a pink Three Musketeers book.

A hallway featuring a Navajo rug. Photo: Celeste Sloman/New York Observer

Do you have a favorite spot in your home? My closet is pretty amazing. My sister organized it for me the day I moved in and comes over to reorganize it. A fashionable friend lived here before me and the closet intimidated me at first. I couldn’t fill half of it but I’ve been working on that…

Do you have any advice for aspiring interior designers? Work hard: There’s nothing stopping you! Intern, assist and always do more than what’s asked of you. See art. Travel. Read books. Use all of this to develop a style. Don’t ask to leave early.

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Into The Gloss- Neesha Arter, Writer

Neesha Arter, Writer

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“I grew up in Albuquerque and went to college in California, where I studied creative writing and ended up writing a book. While I was in LA for school, I started writing for Angeleno Magazine, which is how I began working in journalism, too. Eventually I moved out to New York to get a book deal, which just happened two weeks ago! It’s called Controlled and it’s a memoir about sexual assault. I really couldn’t be happier that it’s getting published. It’s a really exciting time for me. [Ed note: Controlled (Heliotrope Books) will be available fall 2015.]

When I’m not working on the book, I write for New York Magazineand the New York Observer. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of my favorite people in entertainment for stories I’ve worked on—people like David Lynch, Drew Barrymore, Orlando Bloom, Barbara Walters…My conversation with Barbara was definitely one of the most memorable. It was also kind of controversial on a personal level because it was Woody Allen’s opening night of Bullets Over Broadway—not too long after his open letter went out in the New York Times about his relationship with Dylan—and Barbara Walters publicly supports him. I feel very strongly about this kind of thing and I do a lot of activism when it comes to sexual assault awareness. My editor was like, ‘You’re covering this!’ and I just said ‘OK!’ I didn’t think she was going to do interviews, but I just kind of jumped in front of her and said, ‘I’m Neesha Arter from New York Magazine! Can I talk to you for a second?’ and we got to talk, so that was great. I’ve watched The View since I was little and even if we disagree, I still admire her so much.

I also guest write for Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation about various issues dealing with sexual assault. And I did the social media for this documentary called Brave Miss Worldwhich was written and directed by Cecilia Peck, Gregory Peck’s daughter. It’s about Linor Abargil, an Israeli who won Miss World in 1998 and was raped six weeks before she won the crown, and then later in life speaks out about it and travels around the world to help other victims of sexual assault. It’s really gratifying to be involved with such creative people making a difference. Everyone knows someone that has been affected by these issues. Sexual assault happens every day. I wrote an article for Teen Vogue about this and I had people writing to me from Australia and everywhere else saying, ‘I was raped and I haven’t told anybody except for you…’ and it’s just like, wow, that is a heavy thing. Nobody talks about it, which only makes it more important that the media shines a light on the cause. And if I can help somebody and say, ‘You’re not alone,’ then that’s all I want to do.

For my job and my activism, I go to a lot of black tie events to interview subjects and support causes close to me. But because I’m usually there to work, I don’t worry about if my hair or eye makeup is really ‘working.’ It’s not about being a celebrity, it’s about blending in and finding the story. I’ll do a darker eye—just pencil and mascara though, never shadow—and blow dry my hair. And then I’ll use what I use every day. I found MAC Powder Blush in Breezy because the lady at the store was like, ‘Oh, this one is probably good,’ and I’ve used it ever since [laughs]. I like powder formulas over creams because I find them easier to apply. My favorite mascara is Maybelline The Colossal Volum’ Express. My suitemate used it in college, and she always had pretty eyelashes, so I used hers before eventually buying my own. And I love lip gloss. I have so many! Paul & Joe Lip Color in Pink Ballerina is a good one, Stila Lip Glaze in Grapefruit is always a winner, and MAC Tinted Lipglass in Pink Lemonade is just fun to put on. Anything pink! It gives me that extra boost of confidence when I’m doing red carpet interviews or a one-on-one with someone I admire in the industry, so it’s definitely a product I can’t live without.

When it comes to skincare, I stick to the classics. I’ve been using Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash in Pink Grapefruit for as long as I can remember. I follow that up with their Oil-Free Moisturizer for combination skin. I use it during the day and at night. My mom gave me Clinique All About Eyes Serum because I have a huge issue with insomnia. Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair is also good for calming my eyes when I can’t sleep.

I actually use my favorite lotion, Soap and Glory Butter Yourself Body Cream, in the shower. It’s really good for when the air is dry in the winter. Then I shampoo my hair with Alterna Caviar Clinical Daily Detoxifying Shampoo and their Daily Root & Scalp Stimulator. They’re super fancy products that my friend gave me and I love the way they make my hair smell. I haven’t used Alterna Caviar Working Hair Spray since, like, prom, but I always keep it around just in case I need a little bit of extra volume.

And after a painful trip of eyebrow threading and a few failed pedicures, I swear by eyebrow waxing and painting my own nails. I just couldn’t stop laughing during those foot massages. Am I the only one who’s ticklish? So overall, I’m pretty low maintenance. I don’t have a ton of products, but the ones I do use, I’m very loyal to. I’ve gotten the most guidance from my mom, partially because there aren’t a ton of Indian women in the media—though I think Freida Pinto and I would be great friends.”

—as told to ITG

Photographed by Tom Newton.

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At Home With Nicole Miller- New York Observer

At Home With Fashion Designer Nicole Miller in Her Tribeca Apartment

Nicole Miller in her home.  (Photo by Celeste Sloman/New York Observer)

“I like to spread out my Sunday newspapers with my coffee in the morning,” said Nicole Miller, while sprawled on her couch on a rainy afternoon in Tribeca. Ms. Miller shares the 3,200-square-foot loft with her husband, son and Godzilla, her beloved Rhodesian ridgeback. The palatial space consists of three bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, three bathrooms and a large living area. The arched windows and simplistic white walls are enhanced with views of the Freedom Tower. Bright accents, including orange and green rugs, Verner Panton royal blue chairs, and midnight black wood floors add depth to the airy space. Even Ms. Miller’s vase collection, ranging from a Scandinavian blue vase to a forest green vase handmade by her teenage son, proves that the beauty of the home’s décor lies in the details.From home goods and handbags, to jewelry and bridal gowns, Ms. Miller has been one the power players in the fashion industry since the 1980s. Calm and serene in demeanor, she confessed to being a real foodie. “My mother’s French, so I was always obsessed with food, except I hesitate to mention foie gras anymore because people want to kill you.” The designer can be found picking up fried sea urchin from Nobu, dining at Da Silvano, or finding the right ingredients at Chelsea Market for Bouillabaisse or risotto.

You are an avid collector of contemporary art. Have you always been collecting? I went to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and the first paintings I ever bought were at RISD alumni auctions. The first one was a still life from one of the teachers. I’ve bought a lot from my friend Mary Boone who also attended RISD. As for my Ross Bleckner painting, I told Mary I wanted one and she said, “I will keep it in mind.” One day she called and said, “I have the Ross Bleckner for you.” I went over to the gallery and was thinking, “What if I don’t like it? How can I say no?” Then I walked in and said, “Oh my god. Sold!” She couldn’t have picked out a more perfect piece for me. I also love this painting by Julio Galán. He had been painting my dresses in Mexico and I ended up introducing him to my friend Paige Powell, who worked for Andy Warhol; Andy loved his work and bought some pieces.

Ms. Miller's living space. (Photo by Celeste Sloman/New York Observer)

Who designed your home and what are a few of your favorite things? Dan Rowen designed my home; you can see his modernist aesthetic. He had previously done many art galleries in the city. A few things I love are my Serge Mouille light fixture from a 1950s art dealer and a red Jean Prouvé sideboard that has all my kitchen stuff in it. The color makes the room so happy. My painting by Damien Loeb is a favorite, too. He actually lives in the neighborhood. 

How long have you lived here? When I first bought this apartment about 30 years ago, it was just one apartment, but since then I have connected two more spaces to the original loft space. My first apartment was on East 77th street, then I gradually crawled downtown to 52nd, then 38th, and so to here. I couldn’t live above 14th Street now. I always felt going home to Tribeca was like going home to the country at night. It has changed a lot since then, but it is still very much a neighborhood. The restaurants are great.

How does being a fashion designer influence your ideas for designing a home? Since I work in such an eclectic environment, I try to keep my apartment pretty sparse, however, it’s hard to keep things minimal the longer you live in a place. We also have a lot of plants here. My husband is more of the gardener, where as I check my basil every day and love herbs.

(Photo by Celeste Sloman/New York Observer)


You spent time studying fashion in Paris. How important a place is it for you?  Every year I go to Paris for the fabric show Premiére Vision, and sometimes for vacation. Having a French connection has always been meaningful to me. It was really helpful growing up speaking French and I’ve always had a lot of French friends. Paris always reenergizes me, but so do a lot of other places. I travel a lot in the United States and I love going to Los Angeles. New Orleans is one of the most fun cities. I’ve always loved the cities that have a culture and a personality.

I know you love to ski and wakeboard. How long have you been doing those activities and how did you start? I started taking waterski lessons about 12 years ago with Camille Duvall-Hero. She taught me how to get up on one ski. Later, I started skiing with Global Boarding in Sag Harbor. Now I ski, wakeboard and wake skate. My husband, son and I all enjoy it.

You’ve lived here for 30 years, what makes New York home? People always say, “Are you a New Yorker?” and I say, “Well, I didn’t grow up here, but I just can’t imagine living any place else.” I just have a sense of calm when I come back to New York. I’m always happy when I return from a trip. New York just feels like home. 

(Photo by Celeste Sloman/New York Observer)

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New York Observer: August Tastemakers

Tastemakers Ariana Rockefeller and Kerry Butler Tell Us What ‘Luxury’ Means to Them

From a garden terrace to truffles and caviar, these tastemakers offered their definition of luxurious living. Evan Jonigkeit

Evan Jonigkeit, actor

“My kind of luxury comes with a little bit of grittiness. While The Russian & Turkish Baths may be a little ‘janky,’ I feel fantastic after an hour of lounging around with a good friend, talking about the week and sweating out the drink or two I may have had the night before at The Narrows in Bushwick.”Ryan Korban. Photo by Patrick McMullan)

Ryan Korban, interior designer

“Luxury is having an incredible pair of shoes or an expensive bag that you wear to death. Or a formally decorated room that you use daily. The more worn-in something fabulous becomes, the better the story it will tell.” David Stark

David Stark, president and founder of David Stark Design and Production

“My definition of extreme luxury is not having to pack a bag to jump on a plane when I escape to my Miami home. Having a closet full of clothing there and heading to LaGuardia with just my laptop and keys in my pocket is the most liberating feeling ever.”Sara Story.

Sara Story, interior designer

“Luxury is finding free time to visit museums and incredible gallery shows. On my list (during my next few hours of free time!) is the Neue Galerie for its incredible mix of German and Austrian art, along with its Café Sabarsky, which has the best coffee and desserts. The New Museum downtown and David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea are two of my other favorites.”Ronny Kobo. Photo by Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images for ENK Fashion Coterie

Ronny Kobo, fashion designer.

“My definition of luxury living is the blessed freedom to truly experience this city, its art, food, people and global culture, and to have the rare opportunity to translate all that into fabrics and form. And then there’s Uber!”Chris Santos. Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival

Chris Santos, chef

“There is nothing better than enjoying a beautiful day in the city. To me, the greatest luxury is being able to enjoy the sunshine without leaving my home. I am lucky enough to live in a building that has a beautiful and spacious landscaped roof deck. With built-in grills and incredible views of the city, it’s the ultimate luxury to host 50 of my closest friends for dinner parties while watching the sun set in the distance.”   Photo courtesy Vaunte.com)

Debra Larsen, founder of WorkHouse NYC, co-founder of Space 530 and principal at Transwestern Real Estate

“As I’m on my feet all day running between real estate projects, my luxury is massages. From taking the Space 530 and WorkHouse staff for a well-earned spa day at the Peninsula to popping into the ubiquitous Chinese walk-in shop—there’s no such thing as a bad massage in my book!”Anita Lo. Photo by Patrick McMullan)

Anita Lo, chef

“Like most chefs, I count as luxuries the usual trifecta of foie gras, truffles and caviar. But owning a high-end restaurant slightly alters this perception, as I have easy access to many fine ingredients. So luxury is not only the expensive ingredients, but also the ones that are hard to procure or bad for your health in quantities you desire: a just picked heirloom pepper, a Maine sweet shrimp at the height of its short season, or an entire tub of vacherin cheese.”Arianna Rockefeller Photo by Celeste Sloman/For New York Observer)

Ariana Rockefeller, fashion designer

“My definition of luxury is being able to find the most beautiful textiles from all over the world within walking distance of the garment center. Within an hour I can sort through the finest silks from Asia, linens from Italy and lace from France. It feels very luxurious to be at the fashion center of the world.”Kerry Butler. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for T.J. Martell Foundation)

Kerry Butler, Tony-nominated actress currently starring in Under My Skin at the Little Shubert Theatre

“I have two daughters with a lot of toys, so my idea of luxury is space. I also love going to a fancy hotel like the St. Regis for breakfast to start my day off right. That’s my idea of luxury in New York.”  

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New York Observer: July Tastemakers

How to Look Good On A Plane

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  • Sara Sampaio (Victoria's Secret PINK Model): "The answer is I am afraid I don’t! It's all about comfort for me, so I wear sweatshirts and leggings (I always travel in Victoria’s Secret Pink ones.) It's a battle to keep my skin and lips moisturized — the plane really makes my skin dry."

    Model Sara Sampaio and a bevy of tastemakers answered our most recent, pertinent question. “How do you look good on a plane?”
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New York Observer: June Tastemakers

Seth Meyers, Taylor Schilling and Jason Collins on Summer Hangouts

  • From a roof terrace with a bottle of Champagne to an outdoor restaurant or biking along the Hudson River, these are the spots to hunt New York’s elite this summer.

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New York Observer: At Home With Reinaldo Leandro

Architect Reinaldo Leandro Talks Sub-Tropical Style

At home with one half of design duo du jour, Ashe + Leandro, gaining ground for their spare and funky interiors

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It’s about 4 p.m. on a Friday and the natural light in architect Reinaldo Leandro’s corner apartment in West Soho floods the room. “I love the sun exposure in my living room,” he says. Mr. Leandro makes up half the duo Ashe + Leandro with his partner, Ariel Ashe. They recently designed the backstage area forLate Night with Seth Meyers, as well as the Downtown loft of Coldplay’s lead guitarist Jonny Buckland. Originally from Venezuela, Mr. Leandro’s passion for art and design is clear from the moment his door opens. His eclectic and impressive art collection spans from a de Kooning lithograph to a series of African masks and art pieces by Karl Haendel, Dan Colen, Rashid Johnson, Paul Morehouse and Richard Aldrich. As they begin another set of high profile projects, Ashe + Leandro will continue to enrich the New York design world with their contemporary statements.

 How did you approach designing your home versus how you approach a client’s space? I basically treat myself like any other client. What are my needs? How much space am I working with? Storage space was a big concern, as it is for any client here in New York.

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Which elements did you know you had to incorporate into your home? The space is not huge; in fact, it is only 500 square feet. I purchased it as a studio apartment with a separate kitchen. I was able to configure a separate bedroom, which was key. The kitchen is integrated into the living space and the bedroom is behind a big sliding door.   

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Your aesthetic has been referred to as “Tropical Modernism.” How did that play a part in the design of your home? In this particular case it is more about objects than materials, though I do have lots of plants, which I guess is how the term originated. My plants coexist alongside bright-colored art and lamps, set against a monochromatic background (white walls and white floors). I recently bought the apartment next door and hope to continue this look by combining the two and exposing the concrete slab as a floor. Alternatively a terrazzo floor would be interesting, which is really popular in modern Latin American architecture.

Were there are any trends you shied away from when designing your own place? Reclaimed wood, taxidermy and Edison bulbs were very trendy at the time. I’m glad I managed to mostly stay away from them and keep a cleaner palette. I like concrete, stone and polished wood.

 

Where do you draw inspiration? Well, I’m from Venezuela so I draw a lot of inspiration from where I grew up. Hence the fascination with the aforementioned materials—they are the core of modern architecture in Caracas. As far as everyday inspiration, I learn a lot from traveling. I was recently in Mexico City and Los Angeles and I love colonial Spanish architecture, something that’s very much ingrained in me. Vegetation is also incredibly important to me, because it has a lot of texture and I’m very drawn to raw materials.

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Speaking of traveling, you also just completed a four-story house in London. Yes, it’s a Victorian home and we wanted to keep that spirit. We didn’t feel comfortable remaking or adding (fake) Victorian details, but we managed to preserve the style of the house and also weave in some nice contemporary elements. We used a traditional style herringbone floor pattern but chose a very light contemporary (almost Scandinavian) wood, for example. The builders used plaster for the moldings that managed to be both contemporary and Victorian. We kept the winding central stairway mostly as-is but painted the railing black instead of utilizing the original dark mahogany.

 

What makes New York home? I can’t imagine myself anywhere else. I spent a lot of time here as a child and it was always a dream to live in New York. I’ve been here for 12 years and I still can’t believe it. Now that my business is here, it definitely feels like home. Ariel and I both live within walking distance of our Soho office. 

 

How often do you rearrange? I constantly rearrange the art. Besides that, the apartment has been the same since I finished it. I do think it’s time to redo my sofa. And I’m in the planning stages of my next renovation, which is really exciting. Ariel’s been on a rug-buying frenzy in Morocco, and I’ve been saving some for my new place. I have an antique Beni Ourain and leather Touareg rug ready to go.

 

And how often do you buy art? It’s really the only thing I enjoy buying, about one piece a year. I usually turn to Bortolami Gallery in Chelsea and the gallery of Lisa Cooley on the Lower East Side. I designed both spaces. I got two Richard Aldriches and one Thilo Heinzmann from Bortolami. The last purchased piece was by Paul Morehouse whose studio I visited recently.

I also know you just completed the artist Rashid Johnson’s home. Back in 2007, I purchased two of his early wax pieces and was able to meet him. As life tends to come full circle, we just completed the New York home he shares with his family. It was a fascinating collaboration and a fun project.

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 What kind of projects are in the pipeline for Ashe + Leandro? We are about to start a four-story house in Brooklyn and apartments in the West Village and Tribeca which I am really excited to begin working on.

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