So, That’s Where Marble Comes From: My Trip to the Carrera Quarries
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It says a lot about marble that one cannot name a single fact about where it comes from, how hard it is to mine and move, its historical significance, and yet when in its presence, you know it’s something very special. In a recent piece in the New York Times, The Majestic Marble Quarries of Northern Italy, they observe, “Like gold, marble is a special form of embedded wealth, visually striking and deeply impractical.”

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I just got back from a trip to the Apuan Alps in Carrera, Italy and couldn’t believe the staggering beauty of these remote and other-worldly white mountains where primordial creatures compressed and petrified into interlocking white crystals to make marmo, or marble as we Americans like to call it. After about one terrifying hour’s drive from Florence (boy are Italians bad drivers!) we toured the steep hillsides where our marble (ours until it is yours) gets cut with a diamond-edged saw, loaded onto huge trucks and slowly begins its 5,000 mile journey to a hillside here in Aspen. The colors of these quarries are hard to describe–the subtle, swirling blues and grays and blinding white … I’ll never see my bathroom in quite the same way.

Perhaps it’s crazy to import marble from so far away when one of America’s most famous marble quarries is not even 30 miles away as the crow flies in Marble, Colorado, but there is nothing like the intricate coloring and beauty of Italian marble. Not to mention bathing amongst stones from the same quarry that clad the colosseum in Rome, that still clads the Taj Mahal, and that Michelangelo used to carve his David … Worth it.

David MeyerComment
Marble and Wood Rule

In November we completed the interior design of a four-story, five-bedroom house on Aspen's Red Mountain. While its spectacular views rule in terms of what catches the eye, inside the marble and barnwood layering throughout almost every room of the house turned out to be beautiful too. (CVLux magazine out of California thought so too, and featured us this month.)

Where white walls were once the decor de rigueur, now textured accents have stepped in. We used barnwood in bedrooms, community spaces and an entertainment room with a bar area, pictured below. It softens the feel of the space and is also a gesture to the surrounding forested landscape. 

In the bedrooms and living spaces, we used the linear texture of the barnwood to complement a series of insets. Used for books, photos and even lighting, these nooks and crannies help to create natural dimension and give the walls their own personality. 

Another natural material that's a must is marble. For the kitchens and bathrooms we used the classic white stone. When paired with wood, as seen below, the contrast works as a complement. Elegant with alpine style. (And who can resist that tub with a view?) Overall the natural elements and tones work together and we are proud to be the start of turning this house into a home. 

Mountains Are Open for Business

After a nail-biting start to winter, with barren mountains just days before the lifts were scheduled to open, Aspen Skiing Co.'s four resorts are all humming. Snowmass opened, barely, on Thanksgiving and a couple of storm shots allowed Aspen Mountain to open a few days later. This past weekend, both Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk started spinning their lifts, as scheduled. 

Photo courtesy: Jesse Hoffman, Aspen Skiing Co.

Photo courtesy: Jesse Hoffman, Aspen Skiing Co.

Smiles across the four resorts were ubiquitous this weekend, after mountains received more than a foot of snow in the past week. Skiers can already hike to parts of Highland Bowl, and new terrain is being accessed each day as patrol works hard to ensure it's safe. 

That all means winter is officially here. As the holiday break quickly approaches, skiers and snowboarders should get their gear necessities -- new gloves and an equipment tune -- before the crowds descend on the Roaring Fork Valley. We're happy to see all the snow, and all the visitors will be too!

Christine BenedettiComment
Haute Looks at High Point

The High Point Market is one of our favorite times of the year. For interior designers, it's like Christmas morning, as we and 75,000 other furniture-philes, get to check out all the newest trends in the design world. We traveled to North Carolina in October to scope out the scene, and walked away with a few new favorites: 

Stefanie and Kristin at High Point.

Four Hands is a furniture company that curates contemporary styles from around the world, and also produces its own line. Their signature materials include warm woods and cool concrete along with rugged iron and sumptuous upholstery. Can we you tell why we love it? 

From table lamps to incredible modern wall sconces, Arteriors specializes in using materials like leather, iron, brass, bronze, nickel, wood, glass, ceramic and porcelain in collaboration with artisan crafts-people from around the world. The result is living in luxury and we like it. 

We've mentioned Interlude Home before, but seeing the company action was a delight. They focus on fashion-inspired design, so everything has a sophisticated flair. That was evident in the Weiman upholstery they debuted at High Point -- and served along with bellinis and champagne. 

Global Views is just enough sleek design with a cosmopolitan touch. Their showroom style is that of a savvy veteran traveler, and we're fans of the way they incorporate worldly ideas into small rooms. Be on the lookout for more from this company in our work. 

Christine BenedettiComment
Fashion-Inspired Interiors

When you've held senior positions at Women's Wear Daily and W Magazine, and then discover you also have a love of interior design, it only seems logical to marry the two. And that's just what Wendy King Philips did. She and her partner, Carl Philips, launched Interlude Home, a fashion-meets-furniture-and-decor company, curating fashion-inspired pieces and design ideas into one place. 

"Fashion is our language," says Philips on her site. Her careful eye in the fashion world parlays into special finds. For example, she recently traveled to Europe and reignited her passion for leather in the nooks of Parisian shops. And while it's a pleasure to wear, she notes that it's also seen in everything from foot stools to baskets this season. 

Another company noticing the fashion-with-function trend is Salt & Water. After New York Fashion Week, the design studio noted that modular clothes -- wrap-arounds, layered shirts and jumpers -- can be repurposed each season and furniture mimics that with its own version of stacking and reorganizing, allowing interiors to be upgraded without always replacing everything. 

Salt & Water Design

Salt & Water Design

Both Interlude and Salt & Water are doing something we admire, by mirroring design with fashion. If copying is the highest form of flattery, then don't be surprised if we take a note from them. 

Christine BenedettiComment
Beautifying the Bedroom

As the seasons change, we spend more time indoors. Warm afternoons give way to cool nights, and we're finding ourselves lingering in bed just a little bit longer. That got us thinking about how important the bedroom is when it comes to personal happiness in the house. It's a refuge, and should be stress-free, inducing calm instead of a storm. 

There are a lot of ways to achieve this state. The first and least expensive — although sometimes the hardest — is to get rid of the clutter. Chests of drawers covered in books, photos and jewelry might seem like a personal touch, but they're also the first thing you see when you go to bed and wake up — reminding you of all the things in your life. Clear off the countertops and nightstands to simplify. 

Adding a place to sit rounds out the room. The bed is for sleeping (and other things) so make space to be in the room, but not horizontal. Adding chairs in a corner gives you a spot to curl up and read or chat on the phone, and still offers that sense of calm without putting you to sleep.

Breathe some life into the bedroom with green. Fresh-cut flowers or plants add a freshness to the space which offers a sense of rejuvenation. Small touches like this may seem mundane, but you'll be amazed at how quickly they can transform your bedroom into a sanctuary. There's no need to sleep on that. 

Christine BenedettiComment
Making Sitting Fun

Gone are the days of Lazy Boy recliners and staid seating. Instead, the act of sitting is now playful and fun, thanks to new lines introduced by several designers this fall. And don't expect anything plain; what makes these chairs enjoyable is the color, design and texture. 

Take, for example, the modernized ottoman. Called the "fig seat," Yellow Goat Designs put a high-pressure laminate top on each of them -- in bright colors like pink, yellow and spring green -- making it a fun addition to any kid's room, or a bright splash in a neutral room for adults too. 

Los Angeles-based Bend goods released this rainbow-inspired line of stacking chairs. They obviously pop against an outdoor, yellow wall (pictured here), but imagine them around a marble or wood  table. We love the idea of mixing modern with classic, and these chairs coupled with a timeless piece can make that happen. Plus, with summers so short in Aspen, why limit yourself to using these chairs for just a couple of months? Bring them indoors and put a smile on your face all year long.

Christine BenedettiComment
Get Your Peep On

While we like to stick to neutral palettes with pops of color when it comes to interiors, we don't mind when there's a bright explosion outside. And while the vivid tones of summer are on their way out, every day more leaves are turning shades of gold, canary yellow and butterscotch with the welcome of fall. 

Prime time for leaf-peeping is expected to peak in the coming week, and the comfortable fall weather makes it one of the best weeks of the whole year. That's when the hillsides turn to glorious shades of warm colors, like red, orange and yellow. Here are two striking places to see it yourself: 

The historic Ashcroft Ghost Town has nearly a dozen restored buildings on site and signage which helps to tell the history of this once-bustling mining city. Today, there's a different sort of gold in the hills, and that's the kind found on the enormous stands of aspens enshrouding the town. Stop by for a guided tour from the Aspen Historical Society on Friday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or check it out any time on your own. 

The historic Ashcroft Ghost Town has nearly a dozen restored buildings on site and signage which helps to tell the history of this once-bustling mining city. Today, there's a different sort of gold in the hills, and that's the kind found on the enormous stands of aspens enshrouding the town. Stop by for a guided tour from the Aspen Historical Society on Friday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or check it out any time on your own. 

The "most photographed mountains in North America" shine their brightest in the fall. That's when a stand of aspens at their base turns bright yellow blanketing their feet. Get up there now. But beware, it's also the most popular time to visit the Maroon Bells. Either ride your bike or take the shuttle, which runs from Aspen Highlands from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, for $8. After hours, guests can drive their own vehicles up as well. 

The "most photographed mountains in North America" shine their brightest in the fall. That's when a stand of aspens at their base turns bright yellow blanketing their feet. Get up there now. But beware, it's also the most popular time to visit the Maroon Bells. Either ride your bike or take the shuttle, which runs from Aspen Highlands from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, for $8. After hours, guests can drive their own vehicles up as well. 

 

 

Christine BenedettiComment
Times Square Goes X-Rated

New York City's Times Square public art installation will make you lie down. Literally, and that's the point for the "XXX Time Square With Love." Three X-shaped loungers are situated in the middle of what's arguably the busiest public square in the country, and they're there to invite people to take a seat. 

Designed by Jurgen Mayer H., the bright pink Xs are supposed to encourage people to see Times Square from a different perspective: either by looking up to the frenetic media that encloses it, or by simply slowing down and staying static to experience the area in an altered pace. 

And, staying true to today's trends, everyone is of course encouraged to take a selfie on the installation, using the hashtag #tsqxxx. People can also capture their surroundings and post those too. 

The project was unveiled on Wednesday. Besides being interactive, Mayer's work is also a nod to the Times Square's storied past. Before it was revitalized -- or "Disney-fied" to some people -- the area was more sinister and included an criminal activity and an adult entertainment industry. Gotta love that. XXX.

Wedding Bells Are Ringing

It's been an exciting few months around the Kristin Dittmar Design offices, mostly because Kristin and longtime boyfriend Ryan Doremus got engaged! While on vacation in one of Kristin's favorite places, St. Barth's, he popped the question. They've been celebrating ever since, and threw a party at Smuggler Mine in Aspen to toast with all their local friends at the end of July.

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Hosting the party at the historic mine fell completely in line with Kristin's Aspen roots. She grew up in town, so celebrating at the old mine that overlooks the city was a perfect way to spend a summer evening. Guests were invited to dress in cowboy-theme style, and both the bride-to-be and groom wore leather boots -- it would be tough to get away with anything else on the mine's rocky and rustic grounds.

Party-goers took heed of the dress code, donning Stetson hats and Frye boots. The weather was perfect and the rose was flowing. The two, surrounded by family and friends, are well-prepared to tie the knot in style. And if the Smuggler Mine engagement party was any indication, their wedding will be one helluva of an event!

Anderson Ranch Arts Center Turns 50

When ceramist Paul Soldner gathered a group of artists for summer workshops on a small ranch in Snowmass in 1966, he likely didn't imagine it would become one of the valley's preeminent institutions, drawing artists of international renown to the picturesque campus 50 years later. But that's exactly how Anderson Ranch Arts Center evolved. 

Today the nonprofit, still perched on five acres in Snowmass Village outside of Aspen, runs a year-round program featuring everything from week-long camps and workshops for children and adults, intensive residency programs, visiting artist lectures and ongoing exhibitions. ARAC offers instruction in eight disciplines by on-site faculty, including photography, woodworking, ceramics and painting. It's a place for continued exploration of the creative spirit.

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The Ranch celebrated its 50th anniversary in mid-July with a week-long celebration that culminated in a free concert on Snowmass' Fanny Hill featuring Jamestown Revival. The organization recognized Carrie Mae Weems with its National Artist Award and Eleanore and Domenico De Sole with its Service to the Arts Award. In between, events included a lecture by Fred Tomaselli and open studio hours with Tom Sachs. 

But the fun isn't over. On Saturday, Aug. 6, ARAC hosts its annual Art Auction and Community Picnic. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., guests can tour the grounds, enjoy a lunch buffet ($15/adults, kids 12 and under eat free), and bid on more than 200 works in silent and live auctions.  

As interior designers, we are always looking to the art world for inspiration. We plan to be at the celebration to honor this great organization and toast to another 50 years!

Christo's Yellow Brick Road

More than 1.5 million people got their chance to walk on water last month. That's because the artist Christo constructed golden floating piers on Italy's Lake Iseo, between Milan and Venice. The collaboration with his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, was a massive artistic endeavor involving more than 100,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric, hoisted by a modular floating dock system of 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes. The piers undulated with the water. 

The public installation was open to the public for free for 16 days, June 18 through July 3. It allowed visitors the opportunity to walk from Sulzano to Monte Isola and the island of San Paolo -- a trip of about 3 kilometers. Christo and Jeanne-Claude had envisioned the project more than 25 years ago. It was paid for entirely by the sale of Christo's artwork, offering attendees an authentic experience rather than one infiltrated by sponsorship or grants. 

Photo: Wolfgang Volz

Photo: Wolfgang Volz

Closer to home,  Christo has a proposed project in Colorado. "Over the River" is a temporary work of art in which he plans to suspend 5.9 miles of silvery, luminous fabric panels high above the Arkansas River along a 42-mile stretch of the river between Salida and Cañon City in south-central Colorado. It's slated for 2017, but currently pending because of litigation. Either way, we love the way he brings art into the natural elements and makes it accessible for everyone. That's a design aesthetic we can stand on. 

 

 

 

 

Simplicity Found in Scandinavian Design

Modernity meets functionality in Scandinavian design. The movement developed in the 1950s around the Nordic countries of Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark and focuses on form-pressed wood, plastics, anodized or enameled aluminum and pressed steel. If you think of Ikea, that's an overused example of what we're talking about. 

But, we do like the look, especially when it comes to the bedroom. We have recently been working on an interior design project for a renovated home in Aspen's West End on Francis Street. And we channeled those Scandinavian countries for this retreat in the mountains. Stark white walls and a matching bed are complemented by muted shades of grey and beige. Simple canopy chairs offer a place to sit, and the sliding door between master bedroom and en suite is minimalist in every way. Hanging glass lights add depth to the spacious room, and natural light floods in from the windows and ceiling. 

Bedrooms should be a place of respite and relaxation. Bright colors and patterns are fun to look at, but not necessarily conducive to a good night's sleep. By instituting sparseness in sacred spaces, we can leave the fun stuff for other parts of the house. That's simplicity we can sleep on. 

Bottoms Up: Food & Wine

Lanyards with plastic credentials aren't the newest international fashion statement just arriving late to Aspen, but it might seem that way this weekend. The Food & Wine Classic returns for its 34th year, bringing three official days of industry seminars, celebrity chefs, private parties and a solid wine buzz to our Rocky Mountain town. To gain access to the weekend's most coveted event, the Grand Tastings, it will require tracking down one of said lanyards from someone who had the foresight to purchase passes to the sold-out Classic months ago. Or, play like a local and snag one from a guest who's willing to part ways with with theirs for an afternoon. 

But sometimes the weekend's best events take place outside of the tent. Restaurateurs, craft distilleries and specialty food brands will often host public drop-in events throughout the weekend. The easiest way to figure what these are is to literally walk down the street. Pop-up events take place in galleries, stores and restaurants throughout town. We've even seen an impromptu party in a park, hosted by The Little Nell, to cure everyone's hangover on Monday. 

We're going to be ditching our interior design duties to partake in the fun (though we're always looking for inspiration from well-heeled visitors). If you plan to head out too, make sure to walk or ride a bike, because wine buzz; wear wedges or flats as heels aren't great for grass; and hide that lanyard unless you're actually using it! 

A White Flat on Warren Street

Like Mother Nature, we went totally white this winter. Of course we love Aspen during ski season, but we're delighted to announce that we also spent a lot of time New York City on a complete interior redesign for a flat on Warren Street. And to offset the gritty side of Manhattan, we made sure it was serene respite enveloped in the simplicity of white. 

By allowing natural light to bounce off the the white walls, counters and furniture, it makes the room seem even brighter than it is. That airy feeling is sometimes reserved for seaside bungalows, but we love using it here right in the heart of the Big Apple. (Yes, Kristin Dittmar Design has expanded business nationwide.) Subtle touches like large photographic prints and items from the couple's travels personalize the rooms. Natural tones are seen in throw pillows, and soft rugs warm common areas. 

Our vision for this property was chic with style. By focusing on a very neutral palette, but combining things like textures, the emphasis is placed on the feeling of the space rather than the space itself. This was designed for a young couple starting their lives together in a new city, and what better way to represent blank slate than by a true representation of that in their living quarters? 

Celebrate Memorial Day on Skis

Did you really think ski season was over? Psych. Aspen Mountain opens 120 aces for skiing and snowboarding for three days over Memorial Day weekend, May 28-30. Riders can take the Silver Queen Gondola up to the top of the mountain for skiing on the Ajax Express.

Skiing will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Sundeck will be open until 4 p.m. Season passes are valid, and tickets are just $39 for visiting friends and family. Take a few glory turns and then settle into the mountain-top Adirondack chairs (a design feature we heart) to work on that summer tan. (Or with the way the weather is looking for the weekend, buckle in those boots and enjoy a few fresh powder turns first thing in the morning.)

More adventurous, and knowledgeable, skiers can head up to 12,095-foot Independence Pass. Highway 82 crosses the Continental Divide here, and the road just reopened for summer on Thursday after its annual winter closure. Go prepared, and early. Just because it's spring doesn't mean it's 100 percent safe. Bring a beacon and a partner. There is ample exploring off both the Aspen and Leadville sides of the pass, with many opting for Mountain Boy or Fourth of July bowl as descents. And with the large snowpack, the latter might just be living up to its name this year. 

Have a Seat

While most Aspenites spent the month of May working on their tans in far-flung beach locales (which we did too, of course), it was hard for us interior designers to pry our eyes from New York, where the International Contemporary Furniture Fair was taking place at Javits Center in Manhattan. More than 530 exhibitors from around the world came for the event, with industry leaders in everything from seating, carpet, floor, lighting, outdoor furniture, wall coverings, textiles, kitchen and bath. It's a playground for those in the design world. 

Because life in the mountains is full of activity, we wanted to focus on something we don't always do a lot of, but enjoy: sitting. Chairs made a splash at the event, and in all different ways. Japanese designer Shin Azumi debuted Loku stools (pictured above) that use a plywood veneer technology to maximize style and comfort.  

Other designers opted for comfort above all else. The VIA57 chair, designed by Bjarke Ingels for furniture brand Fritz Hansen along with KiBiSi, pays homage the tetrahedron-shaped building also designed by Ingels. We aren't in New York to experience the Danish architect's headline-grabbing building on 57th, but the piece of furniture allows us to bring his touch to Aspen. That exposure to new ideas and design concepts is what travel is all about. Hopefully you enjoyed your offseason ... 

Hot for Herringbone

Because we live in the mountains we talk a lot about finding inspiration in nature. In Aspen, this alpine environment inspires everything from wall textures to earthy tones in our interior design. But sometimes nature does more than inspire; it actually creates and we just mimic it. 

That's the case with the herringbone pattern. The repetition of staggered rectangles comes from the pattern found in the bones of a fish, like the herring. When stacked a 45-degree angle, the herringbone creates an incredible design touch. It can be used in everything from tiled walls to fabric patterns. It gives enough texture to add some complexity to otherwise simple spaces. With the right material, it gives a modern edge even though the pattern is actually timeless and classic. 

We're giving the herringbone a two-tone kick in a current project (not pictured below, but used for inspiration). Layering the rectangles in two different colors adds a dynamic element. Here it's done in with a sense of randomness, but when stacked in symmetrical style it can also create a pretty stunning visual effect.  That Mother Nature, she was really onto something when she came up with this one. 

Layer Up

Living in the mountains, we all know about the art of layering. It's integral to any outdoor activity, during which the weather can change from sunny and 70 to snowing and sleeting in just minutes. By wearing coats and long sleeves over T-shirts and tanks, we can avoid overheating or being too cold. But did you know you can apply layering to interior design too? 

That's right. One of the easiest ways to cozy up a room and give it some messy vitality is to layer colorful rugs. It can either be done by using different prints on prints to create a kaleidoscopic effect. Or simply put a bright, shaped rug over something neutral like a sisal rug to add some depth to the floor coverings. 

Layering isn't limited to rugs though. On couches, use a set of throw pillows in different colors and textures. On the wall, even try layering curtains -- something airy over a sturdier drape. And even on the coffee table, stack and layer books and decorative materials like boxes for a three-dimensional splash. The key to this is to no overdo it. While it may be appropriate to layer a few areas in a room, don't do it everything. Just like dressing for the mountains, you don't want to end up with too much stuff. 

The Marriage of Fashion and Furniture in Milan

Last month when most Aspenites were plotting their offseason trips to warmer climes, a different sort of reference point took place halfway across the globe: Milan Design Week (aka Salone de Mobile Milano). Headquartered in arguably the fashion capital of the world, the mid-April week is a gathering of what's to come in furniture and design for the next year, and it's a feast for both industry nerds and amateur interior designers.  (We're the first.)

All the major players were there, and they brought the forza. At the top of that list was Fendi. The brand has taken its fashion house sensibilities and imparted them on decorative style. Who says fur is just for wearing? Fendi took it to a new level, layering real fur on wall coverings and even sconces, creating an oddly cozy feel to luxe room settings. 

Fendi steps off the runway and into the room. 

Fendi steps off the runway and into the room. 

Italian designer Giorgetti blurs the line between fashion and furniture, creating rich leather pieces which actually seem like they should be worn. For the 2016 Milan Design Week, the label reissued the iconic Mobius chair (seen below), which was originally released in 1987 by Umberto Asnago. The '80s are totally making a comeback. 

And not to be outdone by the Italians, the French made an impressive showing with Baccarat, its lighting and decorative materials powerhouse. The company has combined the exquisitely classic crystal with modern designs which balance on perfection; the 2016 collection demonstrates just the right amount of poise with playfulness. We're hoping that's a cue for the coming year's international design scene and Milan set a worthy stage.