Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kudos! to the New Setai, Fifth Ave!

Another Kudos! post, to the design team of Gwathmey-Seigal and das concepts, inc.  on the new Setai Hotel, Fifth Avenue!

Recently I did a quick spin through New York, and the good news is that despite the malaise of the US hospitality industry, there actually are several great new hotels out there. As always, some managed to disappoint, but the shining star on this trip for me was the newest addition to my list of Great Hotels in New York, The Setai on Fifth Avenue.

Hats off to the incredible architecture of Gwathmey Siegal,, as the ground-up building is quite stunning, with gently rounded corners, the angled windows and a sexy streamlined porte-cochere that extends to the curb. 

 Inside the main lobby of the hotel, they’ve created a stunning spiral staircase up to the second floor, which houses Ai Fiori, their fine-dining restaurant. The art program is exceptional as well. Note the gorgeous piece behind the reception desk, and their "homage" to the garment district, the two mannequins at the far end of the lobby.

Another gorgeous space is the lobby bar and lounge, where you while away the evening to the early morning hours enjoying a nice tapas menu, as live jazz that's actually worth listening to...

But huge Kudos! goes to the interior design team at das concepts, inc.; they have done an amazing job with both the public spaces and the guest rooms. Beautifully outfitted with floor-to-ceiling wood paneling and doors (with exquisite fine cabinetry hardware) they are contemporary but inviting and luxurious, which can be a tough combination to achieve. This was our room on the corner, with a great view of the Empire state building from the 14th floor....

 As a designer myself, I can appreciate the impact of the white carpet, but I do wonder how long that will last.... Gorgeous and comfortable Duxiana platform beds, excellent lighting, and automated drapery systems made the room quite livable, tho. The only problem with this beautiful fenestration detail is that the top half, due to its angle, needs cleaning virtually all the time! 

Bathrooms are wonderful, with unusual stone selections, a fantastic shower and tub, (great Grohe fixtures) and what is becoming the prerequisite mirror with TV screen. But best of all, with all the stone and cool surfaces, the bathroom has it's own little power heater; so staying warm after a shower is as simple as turning a dial! 


Note the wonderful attention to detail with the millwork hardware....

Even the Spa was great, very simple, warm and inviting, unusual in a NYC Hotel...

 The most impactful part of my stay was actually the staff and their Capella management. Mr. Guenter Richter, the GM, has trained a fantastic group of front-of-house and concierge (referred to as "personal assistants") and virtually recreates the experience of the Grand Hotels, when delighting guests with anticipating their every need was a normal event. Upon mentioning that I was catching the show The Book of Mormons, I arrived back at my room to find the CD of the shows’ score, with a lovely note from the lead concierge, KImberly. A completely unnecessary gesture, but a very memorable one, and one that virtually guarantees that guests will return. 

If you find yourself needing to hit the Big Apple, be sure to give the Setai a try, and let me know if you aren’t delighted!

Buon Viaggio.....

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top Ski Destination, the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch

Ski Season...

There's literally hundreds of resorts, how do you begin to choose? Do you stay in the US, or do you head to Europe? Do you want  great conditions, maybe a fabulous scene, or someplace a whole family will be happy? 

 The Little Nell in Aspen is the Euro favorite, combining a heady mix of Hollywood types and the well-to-do Euros. It's quite the scene, but if you don't already have resies, forget about it for this year....
and yes, the Little Nell is still the best place to stay in Aspen, period

Vail is easily accessible from Denver, so it's loaded with lots of young college types, so the bar scene is busy, if not a bit common. Park City is the second home for a lot of Westport financial types, so the crowd there is definitely specific. Plus there not really any great resorts, which makes this more of a "ski condo" destination, so if you're going, bring friends and someone who likes to cook!

Whistler, B.C. is beautiful, but colder than you can believe, and the resorts are definitely mid-market...even the Four Seasons is completely unacceptable for a five-star resort. Also, sadly, the fires they had a couple of years ago have changed a lot of the views, so I would give Whistler a few years before I went again, if at all....

When staying in the states, I really like the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch for the best all-around winner for a ski resort. 

It's just a half hour trip up the road from Vail, but it feels a world away. This was one of the first Ritz Carlton forays inte the ski resort genre, and they have done it the best in this location. (Can't be said about their new Lake Tahoe project, but more on that later!)

The design is well done (not quite Kudo-worthy) but totally appropriate, and there's lots of well-programmed amenities, such as a Ski Concierge, boot warming stations, an outdoor bonfire bar for apres activities, and one of the BEST spas for a ski resort I've ever been in...

The resort has several restaurants, even a little Spago outpost, which is great for quick dining, and of course, has a fun, casual atmosphere.

The rooms are passable for a ski resort, with fireplaces, and some with balconies overlooking the base of the run.

 Naturally, they get better if you are on the Club level, or decide to grab one of the Penthouses or private residences....

But the real star of the show here is the mountain itself. Unique in that most of the runs can be considered "green diamond", so beginner skiers can enjoy being up at the top of a mountain, not just stuck down on the bunny slope with the "ski-pandas" whizzing through your legs...but don't worry, there are also plenty of black diamond runs for expert skiers as well, so everyone gets the chance to enjoy the experience. And then, afterwards, theres that spells "winter-get-away bliss"!

Here's to a chic and fabulous Holiday escape...we'll chat again in the new year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Love this great Design-Inspired Wrapping Paper

I'm currently designing a wonderful series of offices that will include walls filled with photo super-graphics featuring amazing images from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Naturally, now,  my "antenna" are up on innovative uses of photography. I just ran across these fantastic customizable photo wrapping papers from Gift Couture on the Design Milk blog. See more of them at...

It appears that Gift Couture is an innovative start-up, with their first complete wrapping set to be the "Cheeseburger", but they have many more themes and concepts that will soon be released to online retailers.   

Tell me what you think about these cool ideas! Share some of your innovative holiday wrapping inspirations.....


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Five great hotels for winter getaways!

The Thanksgiving holiday is over, and now we all start thinking about  our winter travel plans. In my next few posts, I plan to cover a few good holiday getaways, ones that you may not know about...the whole range from great spots for those sun-seekers (like me!) to ski resorts that you'll love to share with family or friends. 

The first one is a little-known gem in the BVI called Peter Island Resort...and like many destinations in the Caribbean, this one is ALL about the water and the beach! Peter Island is found just southwest of Tortola, in Sir Francis Drake Channel, so it's the typical arrival pattern of long flight, short flight, boat ferry, car or van, and the final flourish of a rum punch of some sort as you are being checked into your room. Ok, now the skinny about the rooms is this; the Resort has two DISTINCTLY different levels of rooms. DO NOT, Under any circumstances, book anything but the beachfront rooms! The harborside rooms were built back in the 60's for a convenient "overnight" for boaters and sailing boats, and are categorically unacceptable for any length of stay. (In my opinion, they need to be scraped, or only held for overnight stays.) Cramped, with dark decor and unacceptable bathrooms, they aren't consistent with any resort experience. So, the beachfront rooms are the only reasonable option, and be sure you ask for the recently renovated ones, as they others are quite shabby. The beachfront rooms, like the ones at Caneel Bay, on St. Johns, feel a little like an old Rock Resort, with one stone wall, and peaked wood ceilings. The renovation is reasonable, but really, this resort is ALL about the beach, so make sure your room has a good view, and if you must move to get the great setting, do so, as it's completely worth it!

So, did I mention that Peter island as ALL about the beach?! Take a look at one of the most beautiful natural curves of soft white sand you'll find in the Caribbean....perfect levels of shade and sun, and located in a cove to keep the waves gentle enough for a little fun, but not too strong to deter you from swimming. Warm, clear and filled with turtles and a moderate amount of tropical fish, you can spend entire days in a straight line from your room to the water(with an occasional diversion to the beach bar....)

If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can check out a Hobie cat or a kayak, and explore around the island, happy in the knowledge that this perfect beach is never far away....

Like most of the islands in the BVI grouping, Peter Island is a central spine of small hills cascading down to the beaches, and has a good bit of lush foliage, so it's the perfect dosage of "tropical", especially as we face these short, dark, cold winter days.

Here's a shot of the renovated beachfront rooms, of which this one's a second story (I prefer ground level, so I can walk straight out to the beach, but the view from the second story balconies is fantastic)


Another shot of the bathrooms in the renovated beachfront rooms, replete with the "tub with a view"...this is a favorite design feature of mine, and it's executed here in a cheery combination of colored tiles and plenty of glass.

This image is the dreaded Harbour side rooms, and at a quick glance, they look reasonable, but the moment you step inside them, youll insist upon being moved...

So, I think I've mentioned that this resort is all about the beach and the water, right? That's because the other amenities and services are average, at best! The main ding room is the typical stone-clad "sugar plantation" style building, the food is completely forgettable, the spa is not worth spending any time in, and the pool needs to be redone. What does truly exceed expectations is the staff. Many of them have been there since the resort opened, and are absolutely charming and delightful, going out of their way to care about the guests, and make your stay memorable. They are truly exceptional, and actually make the difference between this being an average resort with a great beach, and a truly delightful winter getaway...

The resort's staff can accommodate almost any request, and will happily arrange for deep sea fishing and diving trips if you are feeling the need to stir from your beach chair.

When you go, be sure to catch a sunset on the top of the mountain. The staff will arrange for some champagne and a lite bite, and will take you up to the best spot. If you're lucky, you'll even get to see the infamous "green flash" as you watch the sun sink below the water...

Peter Island Resort is an "almost" perfect antidote to winter... stay posted, more to come! 



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Holiday Decor Q & A Highlights

Today, I had another opportunity to host a Facebook Q&A, this time with a focus on Holiday Decor. You can check out the event log here, or just scroll down a bit for a rundown. A special thanks goes out to fellow Bay Area interior designer/blogger and colour consultant Chelsi Liddell over at the Designer File for joining in on the fun!

Hi Lisa - would love to know what colour trends you think will be big for holiday 2011? 
Silver will be big this year. And silver and gold combos, basing off of fashion which is doing a lot of gilded stuff! 

What are some less traditional holidays colors that I can use for my holiday decor? Besides red & green.
Silver and gold, blue and silver, and red and white are great combos that are holiday related without going red and green. Great question!

I have a small house and a ton of family. About 25 people in a three bedroom house. We have a nice sized basement (has carpet and a two long tables with bench seating) and we usually have dinner down there. What can I do to make it look NOT like a basement? Last year I hung strings of lights up, but it just ended up looking like a dorm room.
Rent table linens in a single color. Create a nice table top design and make sure to include candles, random lighting points around the room, and you can hang lights but how you hang them up makes a difference. Create a table that will look great. You want them to ignore the basement element and bring in tremendous looking tables and linens and lots of glowing candles that sparkle.

I'm doing Thanksgiving dinner at my house for the first time. My parents hosted it for the past 35 years and I'm taking over this year.We have a big dining area with huge arch doorways. Our design aesthetic is rustic/wine country. What can I do with these arches? I want to decorate it for Autumn and Winter parties and especially make a big impression on this Thanksgiving dinner. I don't want it to look gaudy though and I'm afraid it will.
I would get some fresh magnolia leaves and I would create a bough, which is a long string connecting the leaves/branches and frame the arch in a single row. The mag leafs are beautiful and two toned dark green/soft brown looks perfect for the entire season. To source the magnolia leaves, check in with a florist or if you have a flower mart near you, have them order some in. What's great about these is that they will last for many weeks without wilting or getting papery, and they look great the whole time!

Hey guys, another stumper is getting holiday hostess gifts that don't feel gimmicky, here's some Italian candles that I love, and are perfect grab and go gifts for friends...

Italian Prayer Candles

Photo Credit: Napa Style

Another thing I love are these goblets. They will only work as a gift for someone whose tastes runs this way, but they are great looking, and I'm sure sturdy to last through all the toasting that goes on...

Olivo Etched Glass Goblets

Photo Credit: Napa Style

Lisa - any suggestions for creative gift wrapping ideas?
I love getting the recycled brown "butcher paper" and doing your wrapping with this. Add some great colored bows with natural twine for a tasteful simple look. Keeping all the packages similar colors is always best as well.

Alright, I gotta ask: The Christmas Tree. I recently moved all my furniture around my living room to make it a bit more inviting, which left an ideal space for the tree in a now-out-of-the-way corner of the room. What can I do to bring the attention back to the tree? Should I re-re-arrange?
No! Don't bother to re-arrange, just keep the tree in the corner, but add TONS of little white lights! Also, keep the rest of the tree decor simple, and themed, and you'll have a corner tree that GLOWS for the holidays. It's a great look!

I need some closet solutions, immediately. We have two bikes in there and I'm not sure if boxing clothes up would be the best solution -- can you help? 
Space bags are your friend. It feels goofy because you buy them at CostCo but they work. Big vacuum pack bags and suck all the air out of the bag and give you so much space! You'll have plenty of room for holiday entertaining if you can move more items into the closet. 

Any ideas or unique ways to seat both an adult table and a kids table in the same space for the holidays? I always have a group of children who love sitting at a table together for the holiday dinners, and the adults enjoy watching them sit together.
If you can't fit the tables together, create a smaller version of the same table top decor so they feel part of the festivities! Remember you don't want them to feel like they are at a different party than the adults. Avoid hallway tables! 

What do you think about floor lamps vs. overhead, attractive decorative lighting?
Overhead lighting is great for task areas, such as kitchens, but you always need to make sure they are dimmable for when you're not working in the area. Floor lighting is great for creating ambiance or near reading chairs, etc. If you have high ceilings, torchieres are great to bounce light and create some ambiance there as well. Get a great fixture that has multiple light points, and this will create a nice ambiance, then add two other floor or table lamps so that you have three points of light in the room you can work with. This helps the space feel less task based, and more like a room you can "live" in!

What would be a good stocking stuffer this year? I am always seeking new ideas for the holidays stockings we hang up.
I just stumbled across these clay rosaries, which are fabulous rustic decor items...

Clay Bead Rosaries 

Photo Credit: Napa Style

One more question, what would you suggest for office party decor and gifts?
Office parties are multi-denominational, so be aware of that when choosing themes or decor. Plain white lights always looks festive, and crosses all cultural boundaries. For the classic "Secret Santa" event, take a look at these ideas for appropriate corporate gift giving...

Oh, and one last comment from a participant regarding holiday traditions. This is a scream:

"Holiday traditions...a fun one....every year we fill an entire envelope full of holiday confetti disguised as a card, and send it to Grandma on the East Coast. We make sure to pack it just right because when she opens it, the confetti immediately falls all over her. Grandma never seems to remember that tradition :) but she still gets a kick out of it."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Huffington Post's Stylelist, Napa Style, and Design Advice

I'm delighted to announce my new gig at Huffington Post’s inspirational new resource, Stylelist Home

This blog, along with my NapaStyle blog, will cover a wide range of design topics. My first post is all about utilizing these early November days to get organized and inspired for the design and decor solutions needed for the holiday season ahead.
Through these posts, I’m hoping to create an inspirational dialogue about all sorts of design and decor solutions needed at this time of year. And if you're feeling a little overwhelmed with what needs to get done, join me as I host an upcoming online event about that very topic next week! 

Please be sure to join me at my NapaStyle Q&A Facebook chat on November 9. I’ll be discussing wine country holiday style from my perspective, and I’d love to hear about your holiday decorating traditions as well! These events are a lot of fun, and a great source of ideas and inspiration. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sustainable and Seasonal - Halloween

Recently, I was a part of a huge Charity Buzz auction to benefit Plastic Pollution Coalition. Plastic Pollution Coalition is an organization aimed at eliminating single-use and disposable plastic's toxic impact on our world and ourselves. I was honored to be listed on the auction with other PPC supporters like Jackson Browne, Ben Harper, Linda Ronstadt, and Ed Begley, Jr. We all helped to raise thousands of dollars for this important cause.

With Halloween coming up at the end of the month, I've been thinking about how we can all start reducing our plastic footprint. All of my key staff are LEED certified designers, and we strive to implement sustainability and energy efficiency into our design projects. The holidays are a great time to be eco-friendly, and especially Halloween - the worst for throwaway plastic candy wrappers and costumes!

Here's a quick list I got from my friends at Plastic Pollution Coalition. Be sure to pass this list around and repost so that everyone can have a plastic-free Halloween, and we can all do our good deed for the environment this month.

UPDATE! Plastic Pollution Coalition just announced a "Plastic Creep Costume Contest" that you should definitely check out.  Daphne Zuniga (One Tree Hill, Melrose Place) is going to be judging! They are going all-out for Halloween this year!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Honolulu's Bright New Thing, The Waikiki Edition


Such a great getaway, but not my favorite destination for great hotels. Two things have happened, though, in the last year on the lodging front that have put the Aloha state back on my list of musts again. And honestly, you can't argue with this view coming into Oahu....

First is the absolutely gorgeous partial renovation of SOM's masterpiece on the Big Island, the Mauna Kea. I say partial, as they have only renovated the guest rooms in the main tower, (although these were the ones that hadn't been touched since the structure was built for Rockefeller, in the late "60's!) More on this on my next post, as this deserves it's own space, it is a masterful re-interpretation of that classic architecture. 

This week I'm all about the newest little thing to hit the tired hotel and nightclub scene in Waikiki, the hot little Waikiki Edition. Super little design gem, it's located right across from the Yacht Club in Waikiki, so it's easy to get to, and not buried inside the mess that is lower Waikiki....

As a side note, as of this posting, the hotel may be changing names to the Modern Honolulu, but that doesn't affect just how cleverly they have re-positioned the property to be a hip little place in Honolulu to grab a night or two before heading over to other islands....

Designed by a combination of Ian Shrager and Yabu-Pushelbergh (who did the seriously HOT Morimoto's Restaurant on the ground floor) this is my new favorite stop-over in Oahu. 

Check the desk...

Great reception area, with sharp staff, who were quite ready to please (I was a drop-in reservation, and of course, in my usual fashion I asked that they show me EVERY room type before I decided which one) 

Actually, loved the "broken surfboard" sculpture behind the minimalist white check-in desk...

To be expected, the rooms were "Shrager-esque" in their minimalism, but I found they were quite soothing done in all white, as Hawaii really does tend to drench the eye in color....

But note the pop of color and ornamental detail:

This also is a great technique to remind you that you're not in some anonymous white hotel room on the planet, in a clever way.

And of course, as Shrager always does, the public spaces were excellent. This is a shot from the reception desk of the "swinging wall" detail, that opens at night to reveal, what else, but a Bar!

This is the outdoor lounge space between the pool and the restaurant, and very inviting to grab a Mai-Tai while waiting for your dinner reservation at Morimoto's, where you simply cannot miss his stellar Tuna Tartare....

So, while not a place to spend your full Hawaiian getaway, this newest little spot in Oahu is a great stop-over. It's almost worth a day just for a little shopping and to indulge in some crazy amazing seafood... 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Napa Style Facebook Event starring Lisa Holt - Q&A

Join me!

September 14, 2011, 10:10 am (pacific) live event page facebook Q&A!  Join Napa Style's facebook page to join the event.  RSVP here:

"NapaStyle Introduces Celebrating the Flavor of NapaStyle, A New Blog Offering Free Design Advice for Bringing Wine Country Living into Your Home.  Design expert and Wine Country resident, Lisa Holt, provides inspiration and practical advice for creating indoor and outdoor living spaces that express the casual elegance of the Napa Valley." Go to
-Napa Style