2011 Design Masters







Julie Neill

Who are the principals of your firm/business? I’m the owner of the business, and I also design all of the custom pieces. I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have the most amazing group of people who work for me – artisans, technical people and sales staff.
What is the scope of your profession? My chief vocation is that of lighting designer and creator, but I came to this profession by way of a degree in fine arts. So I look at my job as creating useful pieces in a very artful way. I truly relish the process of both designing the pieces as well as having a hand in their production. I also am a shop-owner and do a bit of interior design work, mainly for clients who ask me to get involved in projects where my lighting will be the focus.
What sets you apart? I think what sets me apart goes back to the fact that I started out as an artist. The lighting design grew directly out of seeing a need for special pieces and knowing that I could find a way to create them. Since we create each piece to order, we are unique in being able to offer completely custom designs both to our retail clients and to those in the design trade.
Why is what you do important to New Orleans? Most agree that the lighting we make has a definite New Orleans style. We are living proof that a creative and productive business can be very successful here. We have a good bit of recognition on the national level, and within the last few years, we have gotten representation in several designer showrooms in cities like Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Miami; and Boston. So we are bringing national attention to a line of artisan-created products that come from this amazing and artful city.
How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and challenges? The city of New Orleans is the single greatest source of inspiration for what I do. Just being alive in this beautiful city makes me feel creative.

The main benefit of being in business here is the people: the wonderfully creative artisans who work with me to create our products and also those who come to us to acquire our pieces. I am also able to show the work of local artists in my shop.

Another benefit is being nestled on Magazine Street amongst other shops owned by amazing people who have a fabulous array of gorgeous and interesting wares. The merchants of Magazine Street are quite a diverse and interesting group.

Another asset is the word-of-mouth way that business gets done. If you need to find a product or service or have something made, there is usually someone you know who knows someone who can do it for you. Likewise, our business relies very much on people referring other people to us.
What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? I think I would be painting more paintings. I also have a secret desire to win the lottery and rescue all the beautiful but decaying buildings that this city will lose if they are not saved!

Jon Vaccari
interior design

Who are the principals of your firm/business? Jon Vaccari

What is the scope of your profession? Interior design

What sets you apart? My fresh take on classicism – I respect the traditions inherent in the “old New Orleans” style, but I update them for life in the 21st century.

It’s all about the mix, really. While my rooms are often anchored with a fine antique piece (I’m fond of the French 1940s designers: Arbus, Pascaud, Leleu), I’ll combine it with a more streamlined Italian 1970s cocktail table, say, in Lucite and brass. Quality will always mix with quality, provided that you are working with pieces you love.

Why is what you do important to New Orleans? My shop offers a collection of furnishings and appointments unlike any other in the Deep South. Design enthusiasts can travel the world here! The counterpoint we provide, relative to the more “traditional” antique stores for which New Orleans is already well-known, brings a new perspective to the design community here.

How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and challenges? The variety of cultural life in New Orleans is an unending source of inspiration and benefit. Encouraging others to see old things in a new light can be quite a challenge but well-worth the effort sometimes required.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? Restoring a villa in the Veneto and enjoying life there with my family.


Randall Shaw
kitchen and bath design

Who are the principals of your firm/business? Randall Shaw, president
What is the scope of your profession? Our complete kitchen design service includes design advice, equipment and material suggestions, site inspection, generation of conceptual and subsequent working drawings and guidance through the installation.
What sets you apart? Our meticulous attention to details and our efforts to make every finished project a beautiful, one-of-a-kind work of art. We also offer a range of luxury products exclusively in the New Orleans area and can provide specialty items, such as fabricated stainless components and unique glass elements like bar tops and backsplashes. If there’s something we want but can’t find for a project, we will often design it and have it made.
Why is what you do important to New Orleans? Because there are so few choices for consumers when it comes to true, turnkey, custom kitchen design in New Orleans. So many other companies are simply laying out boxes on the walls.
How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and challenges? Our profession in New Orleans is different from just about all other large markets in the country in that we can handle practically all of the products in the project. Most kitchen designers elsewhere handle cabinetry alone and have to refer their clients somewhere else for appliances and somewhere else for plumbing fixtures and so on. This is both a benefit and a challenge to us, in that it allows us to keep the bulk of the project under one roof for the client but requires us to have a broader working knowledge on so many more products.
What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? Computer consulting

Matthew Voelkel
residential designer

Who are the principals of your firm/business? I am the sole owner of studioMV; however, my team is composed of three designers and a business manager.

What is the scope of your profession? The core of my business is full residential design including new houses, renovations and additions, as well as interior design services, but the scope continues to broaden on a daily basis. I am also working as a design consultant with larger architectural firms for commercial projects such as retail lifestyle centers and educational institutions. Additionally, we have opened an interiors retail shop in Covington that features some of my furniture and lighting designs, as well as other upholstery, furniture and accessories.

What sets you apart? My creativity and edgy style differentiate me from others, as well as the complete, full services my firm offers to our clients.

Why is what you do important to New Orleans? Being born and raised in New Orleans and educated at Tulane University, I have a deep understanding of the history and diversity of the culture of the city and the neighborhoods in which I work. From Lakeview and the French Quarter to the Garden District and Old Metairie, keeping the integrity of the neighborhood while appropriately updating is vitally important to New Orleans.

How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and challenges? New Orleans is full of rich historical architectural references from which I continuously draw. The diversity of classic center-hall cottages to grand-scale Greek Revivals, French Quarter character and New Orleans proportions are all local elements that inspire my designs. The depth of this architectural history is also engrained in my clients who also have an understood appreciation for design, which is a major benefit. Maintaining code and FEMA requirements while keeping a home architecturally appropriate can be challenging at times.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? I would follow my childhood passion and work as a true full-time artist.


Matthew Ponseti
landscape design

Who are the principals of your firm/business? Matthew Ponseti
What is the scope of your profession? We offer a complete landscape service, which includes design, installation, lighting, irrigation, drainage and hardscapes. We also do weekly maintenance so that your gardens look their best all year long.

What sets you apart? I have a one-on-one relationship with the customers. The only phone number is my personal cell phone number, so when someone calls, they reach me and not a third party. If there are any questions or concerns, I am readily available.
Why is what you do important to New Orleans? After Katrina, people felt a need to make a statement that they are here to stay. A person has only one chance to make a good impression, and many New Orleanians did this with a more beautiful landscape. They wanted to tell their neighbors, “I am investing in this city, this neighborhood and my home.”
How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and challenges? The rebuilding process is continuing, and people are continuing to invest in New Orleans, which is encouraging. While New Orleans is not as affluent as other cities, it is the only place I wish to live and raise my family. Where else can you find better food, beautiful architecture and people who will strike up a conversation in the grocery checkout line?
What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? I love being outside and working with my hands. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a project from start to finish in just a few days. If I were to do something different, it would have to be something that would allow me to express myself in some creative manner. I enjoyed my college classes in photography and fine arts. I continue to take classes at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. I would love to make a living as a painter, but my family is in the habit of eating!

Phyllis Jordan
green design

Who are the principals of your firm/business? Phyllis Jordan, executive director, and Daniel Weiner, president of the board

What is the scope of your profession? The Green Project’s mission is to develop a culture of creative reuse by building a marketplace for reclaimed materials and cultivating a respect for their value. We also like to say, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!”

What sets you apart? As the city’s first and oldest rebuilding center dedicated to landfill diversion, we were greening NOLA before “green” was a verb! Our founder, Linda Stone, began The Mid-City Green Project almost 18 years ago with one goal – to keep paint from going down our drains and into our bayous, rivers, lake and estuaries. Her efforts created the Gulf South’s only paint-recycling facility. Our paint program diverts over 40,000 gallons of paint away from our fragile marine ecosystem annually. The Green Project also keeps over 4 million pounds of usable materials from the waste stream each year.

Why is what you do important to New Orleans? Recycling and repurposing have always been important, but they took on a renewed importance post-Katrina when we saw our landfills being filled to the capacity they were not supposed to reach until 2045. We saw huge numbers of people who were shopping with us because it was all they could afford while they were rebuilding their homes and lives. We were so moved by our customers’ creativity, projects and design that we created SALVATIONS, a furniture-design competition utilizing only recycled, reclaimed or repurposed materials.

How does New Orleans affect your profession? What are the benefits and challenges? The benefits far outweigh the challenges. New Orleans has a rich history that lends itself to gorgeous architectural remnants and unique salvaged old growth like cypress and longleaf yellow pine – materials you simply can’t find anywhere else at our prices. The challenges usually lend themselves to issues surrounding the general laid-back approach we encounter when attempting to get things done.

What else would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? Saving the wetlands. Oh, wait, we already do that. Teaching people about sustainability through environmental education. Nope, we do that, too. I guess we’re doing just what we were meant to do!

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