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Among the definitions offered by Webster’s Dictionary for the word “master” are these: “an artist, performer or player of consummate skill” and “an original from which copies can be made.” This month, New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles features the 2008 class of Design Masters, an honor in recognition of locals who are indeed experts in their fields –– their work serves as a model or an ideal that inspires and teaches. But experience and proficiency aren’t the only qualities that make our honorees noteworthy. Each has an originality that is hard to quantify and, try as we might, equally hard to imitate. Hats off to this year’s 18 individuals who are helping to make New Orleans’ design community a force to be reckoned with –– and beautifying our city and our homes every step of the way.

Lighting

Adrienne Casbarian
Lum Vintage Lighting and Accessories
Background:
I am a New Orleans transplant. I came to Tulane, and I loved it so much that I decided to put off moving and go to graduate school here, too. While I was in graduate school, I met my husband, who is in a family business here, so I finally had my excuse to stay in New Orleans. I soon realized I wanted to be part of what I found so charming about New Orleans –– all of the small businesses: little shops, restaurants, etc.

Who are the principals of your firm?
It is just me and one employee.
What is the scope of your profession?
I sell lighting and accessories ranging from the late 1800s to the 1970s. No rules. I buy what I like.

What sets you apart?
I just do lighting. My personal taste runs all over the place, so if I expanded to more than just lighting, I would have the ugliest, most chaotic shop in town. Limiting my scope to lighting and accessories allows me to have a hodgepodge and also makes my Web business possible.

How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and the challenges?
One of the truly special aspects of New Orleans is that it fosters and celebrates entrepreneurship. Also, New Orleans is a very style-forward city with an appreciation for items with roots and a story. As far as challenges: I wouldn’t be able to sustain myself on local business only. I depend on my Web site for a large amount of my sales.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

I’d be stuck in an office dreaming of doing what I do now.  

Furniture Design

Reynaldo Gonzalez
Reynaldo Gonzalez Design
Background:
I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where I majored in interior design.

Who are the principals of your firm?
I am the founder/owner of my company, which I started in New York City in 2000. I moved to New Orleans, where I was raised, in early 2006. I rely on my highly skillful team of artisans and assistants to get things done in a professional, timely manner. Good design is a team effort.

What is the scope of your profession?
I have designed everything from small apartments for college students to sprawling penthouses in Manhattan for Wall Street leaders. I realized years ago that sometimes it is easier to design objects than to look for them; that is why I started designing furniture and home furnishings, which has become a very satisfying component of my work.

What sets you apart?
What makes me different from most is that I am extremely curious by nature, which has led me to many unique and unusual corners of the world and has introduced me to many fascinating characters and their lives. These experiences and places help me think outside of the box, which helps my work feel fresh.

Why is what you do important to New Orleans?

My furniture and home furnishings are all made in the New Orleans area by local artisans and have been placed around the country. Starting this fall, they will be available in several cities around the world, bringing money and positive attention to New Orleans.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
If I win the lottery, I will be on the Mediterranean with my friends and family enjoying life.  

Tile and Stone

Peggy Stafford
Stafford Tile & Stone
Background:
I have found my calling in life! Bringing luscious tile and stone products to the New Orleans area has been an exciting and fulfilling process for me, my staff and our customers. Our shop has been recognized nationally as a top-selling designers’ resource.

Who are the principals of your firm?
Me. I’m the sole proprietor.

What is the scope of your profession?
We sell and design tile and stone projects primarily in Louisiana and the southern U.S. Our scope is actually limitless as we are currently working on a residential project in Greece and a hotel in Curaçao.

What sets you apart?
Stafford Tile has both the most unique products and the most exceptional staff to get your tile dreams realized.

Why is what you do important to New Orleans?
Making our immediate surroundings more beautiful encourages a more stable lifestyle in this time of change in New Orleans.

How do you see your profession changing in the next five years?
Tile and stone products will be increasingly more custom.

What is your favorite project and why?
My most favorite experiences occur when a customer whom I have not seen for months or longer calls or comes by to say how fabulous their tile or stone project is –– that it’s one of the best rooms in the house.

Why do you do this?
I sincerely believe that remarkable tile or stone projects can change a customer’s daily outlook.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
Tile and stone are my life’s work, but if I were not doing this, I would be swimming with whale sharks and spotted eagle rays in the Yucatan.

Interiors

Bockman Forbes + Glasgow
Architecture + Design
Who are the principals of the firm?
From left: Jack Forbes; Brian Bockman; David L. Glasgow, AIA

What is the scope of your profession?
We provide full architectural and interior decoration services for projects ranging from residential to commercial. We do new construction and renovations.

How does New Orleans affect your profession?   
New Orleans’ strong regional style and large body of past high-quality construction allows us to focus on design that continues to enrich, beautify and reinterpret the built environment (as opposed to having to create it from scratch).

Why is what you do important to New Orleans?
It is important to keep the design quality of the New Orleans region as high as it has been and to prevent New Orleans from being homogenized into the lackluster cityscapes you find in other cities.

How do you see the profession changing in the next five years?
As the region recovers, it will start looking beyond simple repair and toward reasserting its sense of place. Replicating what was will give way to augmenting and reinterpreting buildings and environments into clean, contemporary looks. Concurrently, rising production costs and the obvious inferiority of historical knockoffs will push designers toward bolder compositions with details taking emphatic importance where they occur.

Why do you do this?
Design enriches the human existence and experience. Too often design and style are sold out to a false idea that expedient design is cheaper and easier. Bad and poorly thought out design costs the same or more and does not deliver the desired functionality and beauty.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
David: Printmaking; Jack: Archaeology;
Brian: Lyric baritone opera singer  

Restoration

Giovanni "John" Bonomo
The Renaissance Shop
Background:
At 9 years of age, I started sweeping the floors at the shop. While watching my father [Salvatore Bonomo] work, I learned. Each summer, I learned more and more. I was very interested. My heart was in it.

Who are the principals of your firm?
John Bonomo, owner

What is the scope of your profession?
We do antique restorations and reproductions.

What sets you apart?
Pride and old technique

How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and the challenges?
Because of the European influence of antique furniture, there’s enough business to keep someone in the restoration business.

Why is what you do important to New Orleans?
After Katrina, I had so many phone calls, I wrote everything down and made a list. As the weeks went on, the list grew so much it became a six-month wait, then a one-year wait. At one point, it became a three-year wait. I couldn’t even estimate the time anymore.

What is your favorite project and why?
Veneering and French polishing –– they are two parts of furniture- making that are difficult and have a very good outcome. French polishing really brings out the wood and comes alive; it’s a preferred finish. And with veneering you can do inlays, marquetry and parquet designs on the top or sides or drawers.

Why do you do this?
I like it, and I’m good at it.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
Home restorations  

Renovation

Brown Maselli Designs Background: 
We are both former attorneys who have always been passionate about home design. We both gravitated toward this area after we retired. We have worked together, but we also work apart. We bought and renovated a house together in 2005 with the express intention of furnishing it all the way down to art, the furniture, the towels and the bed linens. Our idea was to create
a “show house” but with all of the contents for sale. This is a concept that to our knowledge had not been attempted in New Orleans at the time.

Who are the principals of your firm?
Audrey Browne, left, and Donna Maselli

What is the scope of your profession? 
We are not general contractors, although we act as our own general when we buy a house and renovate and decorate it for resale. Audrey only likes to do projects like this; Donna can be hired to do it for a third party –– but once again, not as a contractor but as a facilitator between the contractor and the architect.
Donna handles the design.

Why is what you do important to New Orleans?
We want to help beautify the city, one home at a time.

What is your favorite project and why? 
383 Bellaire. It was great taking a house that had not been touched since the ’50s and bringing it back to life. And these are the people who really helped make it beautiful: Cole Pratt, Terri Goldsmith, Kristin and Karen Bernick, Kathy Rousset, Liz Kite, Petricia Thompson and Curtain Exchange for letting us furnish the house with their beautiful art, antiques, linens and curtains.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? 
Practicing law. And who wants to do that?  

Landscaping

Alvarez - Basik Design Group Who are the principals of your firm?
Kim Alvarez and Allan Basik, seen here with their son
 
What is the scope of your profession?
At the core, we are designers. We design and construct outdoor spaces and objects that we feel are a part of ourselves, our clients, our surroundings and experiences.
 
How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and the challenges?
New Orleans is a wonderful place. The architecture, climate, people and its history all contribute to our inspiration while challenging us to create, invent and introduce ideas of our own within it. Ultimately it is people and what they do that inspire or challenge us. Getting to know our clients and craftsmen intimately can produce wonderful things. I fear that we are losing this intimacy as attitudes change and the city is “reborn.” Spaces and objects can be fabulous, but it is the people and what they do that make neighborhoods and cities. And they are the reasons people decide to come, stay or leave.

How do you see your profession changing in the next five years?
Like all aesthetic endeavors, landscape design changes on a continual basis and will continue to change more as more people are exposed to good design and come to the realization that good design and aesthetics aren’t isolated to a singular discipline but are experienced throughout our daily lives.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
Allan: Sailing; Kim: Creating wonderful things to eat.  

Architecture

Dennis Brady Background:
I have practiced architecture, planning and interior design since 1969. After earning a master’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, my early practice consisted of larger commercial and institutional projects while working with other firms such as The Architects Collaborative in Boston, Foster Associates in London and culminating with the New Orleans World’s Fair here in New Orleans. At that time I decided to open my own office with equal amounts of exuberance and terror. For the past 20 years my private practice has focused on residential design, divided equally between new homes and historic renovations.

Who are the principals of your firm?
Dennis Brady, AIA
 
What is the scope of your practice?
Complete services in the fields of architecture, urban planning, interior design, historic restoration, project management and site coordination during construction

What sets you apart?
I maintain a small office, which allows me to provide undivided attention to each client and their needs.

How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and the challenges?
Growing up in New Orleans gave me the opportunity to live and breathe its unique architectural history. I have been influenced by the unique character of the vastly different neighborhoods and the fact that New Orleans is one of a very few “walkable” cities. The challenge for architects will be to find ways to incorporate new technologies and methodologies into a city that is rich in cultural references and architectural history while maintaining the character and authenticity for which New Orleans is noted.

Why do you do this?
Most architects begin the creative process with thoughts, then sketches on paper and finally go through construction. At one point you turn a corner and see these thoughts and sketches standing before you in a built form. It is an indescribable experience.  

Green Building

ICInola Background:
ICInola is the only green development of its kind in New Orleans. Located in historic Bywater, just downriver from the French Quarter, ICInola offers a choice of 105 residential lofts along with numerous fine retail establishments.
 
Who are the principals of your firm?
From left: Shea Embry and Cam Mangham are the managing members of Downtown Lofts LLC. John Mangham (not pictured) is a member of Downtown Lofts. Wayne Troyer and Tracie Lynn Ashe are the architects with Wayne Troyer Architects.
 
How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and challenges?
The benefit to working in New Orleans is clearly the opportunity to work with people who are resilient! We moved here partly due to the joy here people share with everyone. This joy spreads into everything we do here. It just makes it easier working on a project of this size. The challenges?  Clearly the biggest challenges are the lending restrictions in place today.

Why is what you do important to New Orleans? 
New Orleans has been given an opportunity to come forward into the 21st century through architecture. By developing in a historic neighborhood, ICInola will accentuate the amazing features of the surrounding Bywater 19th-century homes. You see this juxtaposition in all of the great cities of the world, and New Orleans now has that same opportunity.
 
How do you see your profession changing in the next five years? 
The most important change that will take place in New Orleans in the development profession is what we are already doing and in effect are helping lead the way. Green building is by far the most important change that we can make.

Kitchen and Bath Design

Maria Palumbo
M.A. Palumbo Design Studio
Background:
After graduating from architecture school, I chose a nonconventional career path. I began working with local developers in re-creating spaces and use for existing buildings. My direct involvement with the design process really paid off, and I developed a strong interest for carving out creative spaces.

Who are the principals of your firm?
I work on my own. However, I have teamed up with a custom cabinetmaker, and we do all the design-build work together.

What is the scope of your profession?
I renovate houses and design rooms: kitchens, master suites, bathrooms, home offices, playrooms, mudrooms,
laundry, etc.

What sets you apart?

The ability to look at the space in a nontraditional way and give my clients a new, updated and contemporary space with modern conveniences.

How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and the challenges?
New Orleans has an incredible inventory of architecture, and there is a strong appreciation for history. I also think anyone living in an old building has an understanding for the long-term value and is always rethinking the way to live in the space.  

What is your favorite project and why?
I loved working with Kim Martin because she had a strong creative sense and was willing to take chances with her Victorian house that were nonconventional. Every project I work on is a challenge, exciting and different.

Why do you do this?
I love architecture: the history, the design. It is my passion!

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I really can’t think of anything I would rather do professionally. I think I have chosen the ultimate design career. 

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