House Beautiful

Archive for the 'Designer Spotlight' Category

Well hello, California.

Hey kids!!  It’s been a minute, huh?  #whoops.  Wait, before we start, go ahead and hit play on this sucker so we can getcher mind right:

K.  I kinda don’t know where to start!  I think the last time I blogged was back in 1847 when I was shoving out of the deep dark hole that became my life in Columbus – behind the wheel of a 27 ft. U-Haul.  Since then, I spent some QT with my parents in the homeland, hammered a lifetime supply of Pizza King, then threw Gus in the car and drove across the country…  which was surprisingly not awful.  If I hadn’t had books on tape, I might’ve thrown myself through a plate-glass window, but other than that, the trek that took 4 days and 38 hours was peppered with old friends, tumbleweeds and cacti, a peaceful sort of solitude and a million things I’d never seen before.  It went something like this:

All packed up, thanks to my Dad, who packed 900 pounds of my $#*t into a 2 pound bag – or UHaul trailer – with scientific precision.  Stevie B is a wizard.

My navigator is ready to roll!

Illinois and Missouri were dismal, so I couldn’t show you any pictures that wouldn’t make you want to punch yourself in the face.  Then came Kansas…  THIS is everything you ever needed to know about Kansas.  The end.

Gus thought it was a snore too.

Never have I ever been more excited to get the flip out of Kansas and cross the border into Colorado.  I remember driving on the flat, yawn-tastic road that I thought would NE-VER end, and then the hills started getting rolly, and I literally went over one and (GASP!) – there were massive, majestic Rocky mountains in my face.  I stayed in Denver that night, where an old family friend put me up and fed me homemade lasagna and sang me Happy Birthday.  It was divine.

I had glorious plans of driving west from Denver through the mountains to Salt Lake to see another old friend – and that drive allegedly boasts some of the most beautiful scenery on this side of the Mississippi, but I wasn’t sure that hauling a U-Haul trailer through steep, winding mountains packed with ice was wise.  So, we audibled south through New Mexico…

…which *literally* made me feel like I was on the set of No Country for Old Men, and Havier Bardem was about to come out from behind a prickly bush and waste me with an oozie.  It was real creepy there for awhile.  And by awhile I mean like, 600 miles.

And then it got REALLY pretty after Albequerque.

Arizona was stunning…  especially at sunrise while I was sipping hot coffee and listening to John Denver.  It was like a little slice of desert road tripping heaven.

There were about 9 million Hopi Indian roadside markets that I would’ve given my left nut to have stopped at, if not for the fact that I was pulling what felt like the Titanic behind my car and on my 9 millionth hour of driving.

Plus, by Day 4, my favorite co-pilot was losing steam.

Day 4 was also my birthday…  heeeeeey.  I’m still not totally on board with selfies, but we took one that day to commemorate – somewhere along Route 66.

Rolling into Cali was REAL fun, and it was around then that I started to get a little tickle in my shorts.

FINALLY, we made it to San Diego.

When I turned the key and walked into our new (dark, empty) place, I could not possibly have anticipated the overwhelming wave of sadness and “oh $#*%, what just happened to my life?” feeling that hit.  Like a ton of bricks.  I don’t know if I’ve ever felt quite that alone before. But then, one of my new roommates came home, helped me unload the entire U-Haul at 8:00 at night, and took me to In & Out Burger.  That 900 calorie burger + the kindness of a relative stranger was soothing to my crippled little soul…

Also soothing were the next several days, which were filled with trips to the Del Mar dog beach to let my little nugget play in the ocean…

…A trip to LA for my birthday weekend to see Karrie…  who greeted me at the door with a glass of champagne, had Velveeta on the stove, and also had this birthday basket on my bed.  I mean…  she’s a total slampig, but she’s also the most gracious, generous friend, and never expects anything in return.  I mean, look at that.  An Hervé Leger dress from RTR, a hydrangea plant for my new yard, the new Domino, an extra box of Velveeta, and a new book??  I can’t take it.

We did my birthday dinner at Gjelina with a fab group of girls.  And if you haven’t had the Butterscotch Pot de Crack Crème there, then you haven’t lived.

Karrie and I made our Uber driver on the way home super sorry he ever picked us up.  #whoops

We also did a long canyon hike one day, and I almost had 17 heart attacks every time GusGus got too close to the edge.

What else…  after a few days in Santa Monica, my right hand man & I came back to SD to get settled before I started my new job.  Did I tell you I moved in with two boys?  Yeah.  We’ll just call my new digs “The Frat House.”  And at the frat house, I did a little tjuz-ing:

…And planted a mini-potted garden outside with the essentials:  basil, a lemon tree, a jalapeño plant, and Karrie’s hydrangea bush.  It’s not the luscious jungle that we planted last year in our Ferngully of a backyard, but hey.  Shit happens and this works just fine.

On that note, there were a lot of heavy sighs while I unpacked the contents of the beautiful house (and life) that I loved so much…  followed by yanking up my big girl pants and pressing on.  The past few months have been surreal, to say the least… and what happened has been the biggest and most unwelcome lesson I never wanted to learn and the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  But moving here was 100% the right thing, and I know that now…  I knew it before, but it’s finally starting to feel like the right thing, too.  We’re finally settling in and it’s starting to feel like home.  Sorta.

PS:  Check out that stunning, embroidered John Robshaw Jammu bolster pillow that Karrie and Melissa bought me for my birthday.  I cried.  Partly because it was so overwhelmingly kind, and partly because it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen… in all its pink grapefruit and pea green glory.  Gus also thinks it doesn’t suck.

San Diego is a gorgeous place.  People told me before I moved here that the weather is perfect, and it is indeed PERFECTION.  Cool mornings and nights which means you always sleep with the windows open, and warm, sunny days, EVERY SINGLE DAY… and nice people!  I’m talking in rush hour traffic, they let you in and smile and wave. Never have I ever.

You know what else is REAL fun??  My new JOB.  Ehhhh mah GAH why did I wait so long to bust into the design field?  I went to work as Kristin’s assistant at Anne Rae Design.  Here’s my new boss lady:

You can call her Kristin…  or Anne Rae…  or Nado (tornado), which is what I call her. She keeps introducing me as her “Co-Pilot,” which is insanely gracious and also insanely inaccurate, seeing as how she’s a bonafide, super bad ass designer, and I’m a babbling design enthusiast with a blog just trying to learn the ropes.  But that should tell you something about the kind of person she is.  I met Kristin through Karrie years ago – she’s a fellow Midwesterner and an MSU Design School grad who had an overflowing plate fulla business and needed a hand (or five).  She could’ve hired 1000 people more qualified than I am, but she took a chance on me, and I will be forever grateful to her for that.  In other news, look how cute our office is (!)  Or, a sliver of it.

We just moved into it last week, but we’re getting ready to hang this chandy and window treatments in that fabric.  I die.

And here are snippets of a few projects we’re working on…  one is for a lovely lady who loves all things Tuscan, so we’re giving her Tuscany with a modern, sophisticated twist:

Another is a handsome man cave that we’re calling the “Out of Africa” room.  This shot of fabrics scarcely does it justice…  picture grasscloth on the walls, tufted leather chairs, and a sliding barn door to the bar (all Kristin’s genius work).  And among other things, an oversized ottoman in that Grey Poupon Mustard-colored mohair velvet from Schumacher, which makes me let out a little pee every time I touch it.  It’s luscious.

And on that note, this is the longest post EVER and I’m sure everyone needs a bathroom break.  Hope you guys are having a great weekend (!) and now that I’m settled in and Karrie’s wet her whistle and blogged for the 1st time this year, we should be posting a lot more fun stuff a lot more often.  Holler.


In the Spotlight: Rab Labs

Late last summer I put together a glittery, holy-hell-I-want-everything-on-there bridal registry for Rent the Runway and – in the process of researching stuff for the list (it’s a tough job) – stumbled on a precious gem of a company called Rab Labs.   That’s their “Kiva Platter” down below at #12:

I’d never seen anything like it, and I could not WAIT to serve up artisanal cheeses and fig spread on that glistening piece of quartz that’s been polished to perfection and tipped in 14K gold.  WHAT.

It also peaked my interest about who in the name of Sam Hill had crafted those beauties…  Did Mother Earth have a glam cousin I didn’t know about??  Uh, close. Enter Anna Rabinowicz - the designer behind Rab Labs.  She creates *the* most exquisite pieces for the home from natural, luxurious materials like agate and crystal…  but they always have a little edge.  And even a little bling (!) which we love. Let’s play Q&A, shall we?

CL: You have a long history of looking to nature for inspiration. How did you make the connection of loving nature, and then coming up with the idea of putting nature into these gorgeous products?

Anna: I’ve always been fascinated by the materiality of nature – the textures and structures, and forms – and also by the behaviors of organisms. This fascination dovetailed with an observation: as our daily experience becomes more dependent on using devices and technology, I believe that we are yearning, consciously or subconsciously, for nature in our lives. By creating objects for the home that are imbued with natural qualities, I am responding to this desire, while incorporating my own inspiration from nature.


CL: You used to design objects like prosthetic knees and devices for cardiac surgery. How did you take the leap from designing these types of devices to what you design now?

Anna: As a product designer, the process of creation is what is essential to me. After that, the object itself is, in essence, immaterial. I have a strong desire to try to do good in the world, and the legacy of a physician father who loved what he did. For me, working on medical devices marries those two together – it’s an homage to my dad, and simultaneously a way to create pieces that are essential to people’s health and wellbeing. I’m still involved in working on orthopedic medical devices.


CL: What was missing in interiors that made you think nature had a place in them?

Anna: I love contemporary design and clean lines in interiors, but I’ve long felt a certain sterility in those kinds of spaces. I believe that natural pieces can be an antidote to this “relentless modernity” – and can provide warmth to interiors. The idea is that the natural pieces bring modern lines into sharp relief, humanizing and highlighting the existing interior space. Natural designs work in a bit of a different way in more traditional interiors; they are less of an antidote, and more of a complement to existing pieces. It is very interesting that the way that RabLabs’ designs are perceived depends completely upon their context: in more traditional settings, the natural pieces provide the missing modernity; in more modern settings, the natural pieces provide a more traditional touch.


CL: Having worked in a very different area before, what advice would you give to someone who is interested in branching out from their current career and pursuing a passion?

Anna: I feel that I spend so many of my hours working – when that work is fueled by passion, it takes on meaning and brings enjoyment. Every time that I’ve tried something new, or put energy into a new effort, or put myself out there by giving a talk or launching a new design, it has invariably resulted in opening up new pathways and possibilities. The transitional period was scary, but I was very glad at the end that I migrated from studying literature (my first degree) to studying design.


CL: Anna, you have two little ones – Izzy and Talia… how do they inspire your work?

Anna: My children are very involved in my designs – they open boxes of prototypes from all over the world, check and measure samples with my calipers, examine my drawings and make comments. Their excitement about certain designs is contagious – and their questions are very telling as well. Often they sit near me and draw their own “designs” while I am working on mine. This blurring of home and work life is an essential part of being a working mother; I want them to see that their mom loves what she does, and for them to feel the excitement that I do in my work.


CL: Where do you hope to see RabLabs in the next 5 years?

Anna: I hope that RabLabs will continue its steady growth, continuing to expand product offerings, and to move into new markets. I’d like our next step to be working with European and Asian markets in a deeper fashion; as the company becomes larger, we are more and more equipped with the knowledge of how to properly do that. Investigating the needs and desires of other cultures in order to design products for them has always been an area of interest of mine.


CL: You’re an entrepreneur, a professor, AND a mom. How do you balance it all??

Anna: I was very fortunate to find a profession that I adore – I am super passionate about being a product designer, and a professor of design. The deeper I get into my career, and the longer that I’ve been a mom (my kids are now 4 and 6), the more that I’m certain that when I am happy and fulfilled in my work, I’m a better mother to my children. I’ve always tried to set up my studio close to home, so that my kids can drop in and examine new prototypes, and spend time with me. I often try out new teaching techniques on them; it’s amazing how much crossover there is between the techniques of teaching young children, and teaching college students!


CL: 5 Things You Cannot Live Without. Go.

1. Delicious cappuccino in the morning – the Lavazza concession at Eataly near Madison Square Park in New York is my favorite
2. The Pilot Razor Point II and the Pentel Sign Pen, both in black – these are the only pens I draw with
3. The softness of my kids’ cheeks when I kiss them (note: this photo isn’t one of Anna’s children, but it *was* the cutest set of cheeks Google had to offer!  Could you die???)
4. Knee socks
5. My Mitutoyo digital calipers – a present from my father; indispensable tool for product designers


CL: The Holidays are right around the corner. What’s your favorite family/holiday tradition?

Anna: We celebrate Chanukkah, and always throw a huge party – it’s our 15th year doing it!   We cook all of the traditional foods of our grandparents – potato latkes, kugel, sufganiyot (tiny jelly doughnuts) and invite our friends from all backgrounds to celebrate with us. We sing songs, light the candles, spin the dreidel – it brings a lot of happiness to our home.

CL: Thanks, Anna! And listen, Campers.  We’ve done our share of gift guides, but if you’re still on the hunt for a truly unique and gorgeous gift, look no further.  We rounded up a few of our favorites from Rab Labs, and they are nothing short of stunning.

1. Lia Bottle Stoppers: For the Hostess // 2. Espera Photo Frames in Gold: For Mom // 3. Cielo Amethyst Lamp: For the New Homeowner // 4. Ita Large Plate: For me, pretty please Santa? // 5. Quadrado Serving Set: For the Newlyweds // 6. Adorado Boxes: For the Bestie

Happy Shopping!  And a huge thanks again to Anna & the Rab Labs Team for chatting with us!