Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tibet: A Spiritual Journey

The Potala Palace Monastery, Lhasa
The winter home of the Dalai Lama before he was forced to flee Tibet in 1959

Waking up to a rainy Fall day, I'm brought back to two years ago when I was preparing to leave on my Tibetan trek in search of ... the ultimate hike, discovery of a country I had long hoped to visit, a better understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, and ultimately seeing the mystical Tibet before China completely siphons away its soul.

My good friend Judy and I were fortunate to be able to see Tibet with Peter Hillary (son of climbing legend Sir Edmund), who was able to share with us his unique perspective and extensive experience of both the country and the mountains.

After weeks of intense physical training, I passed the mandatory cardiac stress test required for high altitude hiking, obtained he necessary visas, and flew off to China (where my elder son was studying in Shanghai).

My first days in the Himalayas were brutal. I had somehow naively thought that having passed the cardiac stress-test with relative ease, that somehow I was fully prepared for what I'd face in these mountains. Was I ever wrong. Crushing headaches, inability to eat or keep down food. My first night at 14,000 feet was hellishly painful, but I pulled through, just barely. The next morning I resolved to visit the legendary Potala Palace Monastery. Taking one step up at this altitude requires full application of will-power; catching my breath was my only thought as I climbed the steps of the palace.

The lessons I learned from this intensely physical and ultimately spiritual journey are the personally invaluable lessons of humility, hardship, physical pain, and Love.... The love of God, something I felt intensely in the sheer stunning vastness and overwhelming beauty of the landscape with the genuinely awe inspiring magnificence of Everest at its center.

I accomplished my personal goal of trekking to base camp, and, following tradition, I tied the white symbolic scarf with the names of all my loved ones floating in the winds of Everest.

Tibetans will walk across their country to fulfill their
lifetime pilgrimage to the Potala Monastery

Tibetan women wearing their traditional braids and robes
haggle at the Barkhor Market in Lhasa.

Drepung Monastery at the base of Mount Gephel

Debating Monks at Sera Monastery

Me at the summit of my first hike at 15K feet
Excruciatingly breathless!

Funeral Procession. The Tibetans leave their dead
on sacred rocks to be consumed by vultures.

Yandrock Lake. Note the nearly surreal colors.

Remains of a Monastery. All but a few monasteries were
destroyed during the Chinese cultural revolution of 1968

Occupied remains of the mostly destroyed NGOR Monastery
where once a thousand monks lived and worshiped before the Chinese invasion.
After our long trek up the Chakla Pass, the 5 remaining Monks offered us tea.

Another view of the ruins of Ngor Monastery

A Man and his young son along the North Road of Shuguha

Tashilumpo Monastery, Shigtase

Trekking through the Himalayas offers stunning but physically humbling vistas

"Green" agriculture

Everest viewed from Lapka at 17,000 Feet. VERY THIN AIR

Judy & I with Peter Hillary still able to break a
smile after a grueling trek to 17K Feet

4:00 AM, preparing for our last Trek. It is a mind-bending cold
at this altitude in the early morning hours.

The sign speaks for itself...

We made it

Sunday, September 13, 2009

United States of Tara: My Interpretation for the 2009 Metropolitan Home Showtime House

Last year, I had attended the first joint showhouse event that Metropolitan Home and Showtime Television cosponsored and I was incredibly impressed by the caliber of the the designers' work. So, when Metropolitan Home asked me nearly three months ago to participate in the 2009 showhouse, I'm sure you can imagine how honored I felt.

This year the Showhouse is venued in two TriBeCa penthouses atop a recently completed warehouse-to-condominium conversion known as the "TriBeCa Summit" at 415 Greenwich Street between Hubert and Laight Streets.

Having never participated in a designer showhouse before, the task seemed almost monumentally overwhelming, but how could I possibly resist such an opportunity? Right, I couldn't. Besides, logistically, it ought to be easy, after all, the space is practically around the corner from my
showroom and office on Franklin Street.

The two penthouses and outdoor spaces were divided up between 14 architects and designers each of whom were allocated specific space to convert into living areas inspired by Showtime's edgy award winning serial shows (United States of Tara, Californication, Nurse Jackie, The Tudors, Dexter and Weeds)

Straws were drawn as to which space each designer would be assigned and Oh God... I drew the reed for two narrow duplexed mostly glass hallways, a massive steel staircase and one small maid's bedroom (or office space). Suddenly I was terrified and at a complete loss with what I could do in the space. For a few minutes it seemed to me I had two options. One: Cry, thank Met Home profusely for the opportunity but politely decline and run out of there as fast as my feet could carry me, or, Two: Cry, cry some more and then knuckle down and do it! Since I have always lived my life guided by the idea that when you're handed lemons, you're always far better off making the best lemonade you can, Option Two it was.

My design team (Estera and Greg) and I struggled for days coming up with ideas and strategies to convert what is basically null space into a genuine living environment reflecting Tara and her various personalities. We were having a really tough time conceptualizing the space and end result. Then I suddenly remembered a stunning painting by the Spanish artist Zush that my mother-in-law had purchased in Ibiza back in the 1970s when she had a house in the old town accross an alley from the then leading Ibiza gallery of Ibiza expat legend Ivan Spence. The painting is a five foot diameter round canvas covered with several hundred eyes staring out at the observer. My brother-in-law, who now owns the painting, was gracious enough to lend it to me for the show; once that fell in place as my cornerstone, I was off and running. I embraced the space rather than be limited by its obvious drawbacks, however I also needed some wall space to anchor the painting and other artwork as well so as to create the feel of a living space rather than a transitional space.

My character, Tara, is a wife and mother who suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder ("MPD"). Her alters are Alice, a very proper and stable housewife; T, an out of control pot-smoking teen strumpet. Buck, Tara's only male alter, is a "red-neck" beer-sucking and chain-smoking biker type.
Tara's fourth alter, "Gimme" is an elusive animalistic beast/human defying accurate description.

Our final concept was to create a duplex apartment with a steel silhouette archway of Tara defining the entrance to the space. A lounge room, a dining/entertaining room and a cocoon-like retreat room where Tara can escape from her alternate personalities.

B E F O R E & A F T E R

First Floor

Lounge Room / Before

Space challenge: Long narrow hallway,
no wall space,
Lounge Room / After

Our approach to the space: Design a steel entry archway
to define, personalize and delineate the space.
Build walls to cover entry closet doors and rear
powder room doors to hang art, rich dark paint,
custom bamboo silk rugs to add texture and luxury,
cool fabrics to give the illusion of space.

A daybed, a foot-stool and a sofa upholstered in
silk velvet was designed specifically for the space.

Silvery semi-sheer curtains filter strong sunlight
light and obscure a bland view of the central light well

From my showroom, Interieurs,
Jose Esteves' "Peace Bird"

Lounge Space / Before

A very uninteresting hallway; we built a wall over the
room door at the end of the space to create a
focal point
where the Zush painting would later hang.

This space was designed with Tara and Alice in mind
with a hint of Buck and Gimme.

Obstructive Stairway / Before

An oasis for Alice to read or rest.

Entrance Hall / Before:

A view towards the entrance of my workspace.

Same view leading toward
Richard Mishaan's "Tudor's Pad".

Entrance way leading into Tara's Duplex
from Mishaan's Tudor's space

Second Floor

Dining and Entertaining Area
Challenges: Access hallway to two other rooms. Unattractive windows and view.


Usage of strong punches of color and dominant
industrial pieces. Custom designed rug by
Liora Manne. Oversized "Belle-Ile" glam chandelier from Pouenat
for Interieurs. This space reflects all of Tara's alters;
The rough, the precious and the funky.

Ice cream party for T

Steel Wave bench I designed specifically for the space.

Buck in a box

Alice's wardrobe.

Credit: Metropolitan Home / Photographer: Antoine Bootz

We designed this crystal waterfall chandelier
incorporating Swarovski crystals (Swarovski
had to chase down a very well-known touring
pop star to recover the crystals for us)

Before: A room with (not much of) a view

Transformed to create the illusion of space.

Before: How to hide a stairway.

Blend it into its surroundings

The Cocoon

Before: A drab and uninviting maids' bedroom or small home office space.

The same room transformed into a Cocoon-like
space with custom designed
lounge bed
and canopy all in various shades of black.

Ruching Detail with Jose Esteves Galaxy Light
from Interieurs

Black on black womb-like round cocoon; interactive with
music, scent and flickering stars on the ceiling.


Catching up with Donna Warner

Discussing the space with Linda O'Keeffe

Team Interieurs Design Studio
L to R: Estera, Greg & Me

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