Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Luxury turnkey properties are the new vogue in the Hamptons. Luxury homes are being sold completely furnished with not only high end furniture, rugs, finishes but also Frette linens and towels. Clients who desire convenience and a home with cachet and opulent detailing is the right client.  High end Developer/Designer James Michael Howard is at the forefront of the trend with his latest  $25 million Water Mill, NY home. One could say that Mr. Howard's style is classical but there is a modern slant with his use of color, exotic objects and antiques. The architectural features in this home is insane. I'm loving the the amazing inlaid stone patterned floors, the richly lacqured walls, the beautiful patterned ceilings, unique limestone fireplaces and beautiful carpets from Nepal. India and Turkey. 

I am so happy to share an interview with James Michael Howard today....


I studied interior design at Parsons in NYC.  Along with my wife, I own several design stores in Florida, Atlanta and Charlotte, NC. Our firm consists of approximately 51 people and we focus on very high-end residential design. Some of our current projects are in NYC, upstate NY, CT, the Hamptons, Puerto Rico, multiple projects in the Bahamas, California and many other cities across the US.


I pride myself on not having a signature as I love the prospect of the next project whether it be Darth Vader or Betsy Ross.


It wasn’t so much an aha moment as a new idea. Our stores are designed to look like very old and grand homes. Our customers always feel that we bought an old residence and moved in, but we didn’t—we designed them. So after building five stores over several years, and a few of the homes we lived in, I decided to try a house on spec. It sold for more than the asking price and rather quickly. So, I tried it again and again and I’m having the time of my life.


You must be kidding! I liken my life in some respects to that of a heart surgeon. He cuts you open, looks inside, sees the problem and fixes it. No time for research, just look something up. I have been there and seen just about everything there is to see. It is just a matter of aligning all of the moving parts.


Find the best subcontractors, pay them well and say thank you. Our houses incorporate more than 100 sheets of drawings and a very large book of selections. It is daunting and usually involves a sizeable team to get it all coordinated. Communication is essential, but the most important aspect is passion, passion, passion 

Thank you James Michael Howard for the enjoyable interview!

For more information on 41 Halsey Lane, Water Mill by James Michael Howard
visit Brown Harris Stevens

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

EcoQube: a Modern Ecosystem for your Home

Help two young UC San Diego students Eric Suen and Kevin Liang bring their innovative idea to life. They have developed the EcoQube, a modern aquarium that is more than just an aquarium.  Its a sleek desktop ecosystem that will soothe your soul.  Its a  product where everything works together and nature is doing all the work for you.  

You can watch plants grow and fish grow all at the same time. Basically, the EcoQube is a simplified version of aquaponics where you never have to change your water filter. You may ask, how? The fish creates waster. The filter takes the waste and turns it to fertilizer for the plant. The plant like mint, basil and even flowers grows and cleans the water for the fish. The process starts all over again. All you have to do is decorate your tank, fill it with water, plug it in and enjoy.

To me, the EcoQube is mindful design; where it can offer positive health benefits like alleviating stress, especially in today's demanding lifestyles. The underwater panorama will calm the human mind and put you at ease in your space, whether its in your office or at home. 

To take it a step further, the founders are thinking out of the box and believe that their EcoQube is just the start of thinking about other ways to grow food. Eric says, " one day we dream to scale the EcoQube to large farm sizes so that we can help with the water and food shortages around the world." Pretty amazing!

On April 7th, they are kicking off their campaign to raise money. The normal price for one of these EcoQubes is $79 but if you sign up for their notification list, you can get the EcoQube for only $39. Sign up HERE


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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Chef Michael Symon and BlueStar: Unleash your Inner Chef

Chef Michael Symon at ICE sponsored by BlueStar
(more pics of event below)

If you love to cook, BlueStar appliances is the right match for you. Made in the USA in their Reading, Pennsylvania factory since 1880, the brand showcases some cutting-edge appliances.  Their mantra "unleash your inner chef," tells it all.  The cooking products ( gas ranges, cooktops, wall ovens and hoods) are designed for the keen home chef who demands restaurant quality results in their own kitchens.  

36" Built-in refrigerator and 30" wall oven

Besides top notch performance, appliances are customizable. I'm loving this blue color which I saw at the Architectural Digest 2015  Home show but there are over 750 colors, finishes to choose from and infinite configuration possibilities. A clients dream who wants to customize their kitchen. 

36" Built-in refrigerator

I am obsessing over their new 36" Built-in refrigerator. It accommodates full size baking sheets into the refrigerator and freezer. I have not seen that before. Innovative thinking for someone who entertains a lot!

Chef Ryan Scott cooking  in BlueStar 30" wall oven featuring 12 cooking modes and a built in baking stone and Designer Eric Cohler

Renown NYC Interior Designer Eric Cohler popped into BlueStar's booth at the show while tasting some of Chef Ryan Scott's delicious Spring Pea Hummus with Rosemary and Sea Salt Crusted Bread. Eric announced BlueStar's first annual Kitchen Design competition to honor design professionals who incorporate BlueStar products into innovative, beautiful kitchens. Eric will be one of the judges. Very exciting!

Chef Michael Symon and Michele Alfano (me)

The best moment of the day was attending a special media event with Chef Michael Symon hosted by BlueStar at ICE (Institute of Culinary Eductaion) in NYC. It was fun, interactive and I was so happy to actually meet the Chef. He is as approachable and funny as he is on TV.  

Roasted 1/2 Chicken with Shaved asparagus Salad

At the event, Michael shared new spring entertaining recipes where he said he loves family style and breaking bread with people. I sat at a round table of people who I got to know and shared some amazing food like Spring Pea Crostini, Cavatellii with Lemon Butter and Sage  and Roasted 1/2 Chicken with Shaved asparagus Salad. 

Chef Michael Symon and Chef Ryan Scott

Chef Michael explained that when you make pasta your water should taste like the sea! A pinch of salt is not enough! I was shocked by how much salt he put in that boiling pot of water, no joke! He said his grandmother taught him that you should be flavoring the water and not the sauce. That's the difference between an OK cook and a great cook.

Cavatelli with Lemon Butter and Sage

(all images credit: BlueStar)

I loved the Cavatelli with Lemon Butter and Sage and its so easy to make.  

Here is the recipe - serves (2): 


  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups blanched cavatelli
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped or chiffonade sage
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup parmesan

  • Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add butter.
  • When the butter has melted add the cavatelli and shake out in to an even layer. Cook, stirring occasionally until starting to get golden brown and crispy
  • Add the sage and season with salt and pepper.  Continue to cook until the sage and the pasta are crisp then then add the lemon juice. Stir to combine then remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan.
  • Serve immediately.
Lucky me, I was sent home from the event with a copy of his new cook book 5 in 5. Yep, 5 ingredients to make some awesome meals at home to share with your family. He signed in the inside cover saying "Live to cook." Loving food as I do, not a problem!

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