My birthday is on Christmas. So *quickly referring to calendar, here* it only took me a solid five months to celebrate it.
Last week, in partnership with Design Hotels, I celebrated not only my50thbirthday, but also the 50thbirthdays of many talented creatives from the New York City art and design community.
Collected here are some of the very special commentaries on these incredible designers, artists, brand and business owners, and all around creative thinkers, written out by the person who nominated them for recognition.
Each of them (alongside others of their awesome peers) has also contributed an art piece for the 50@50 Designer Pigeons silent auction, up at my storefront (27 Howard St. in SoHo) through the end of the month. Having graciously contributed their art-ified NYC mascot — the cast iron pigeons from my shop! — to the exhibit, the proceeds from the auction of these talented designers’ work will benefit a scholarship fund at Parsons School of Design — my alma mater, scholarships to which I’m indebted to for making it possible for me to complete its design program in the first place.
Please swing by throughout NYCxDesign and the month of May to visit a gorgeous, glamorous (and sometimes hilarious) flock of pigeons. And place your bid HIGH in the sky for a great cause!
The quotations here have been edited for clarity and concision.
On Jann Cheifitz, Lucky Fish, artist and designer
Jann was handmade before there was such a thing as handmade. Now she’s also teaching others to open up their creative side to make things. She’s constantly out there finding new things and is so involved in the creative community of NYC, with an innate eye for what’s next—she never follows, and always leads with a generous mind and collaborative spirit. She lives like she’s 39!
On Joe Giamarese, Global Home, designer and creative director
Joe is the best business and life partner this year and every other!*
*this nomination may spoil the secret of its provenance!
On Sophie Harrison, Amathea, interior designer
Sophie is always ahead of the curve! She did the Kagan Sofa, Springer chairs, Adnet table, and Guy de Rougemont coffee table–all mixed together with contemporary art.
On Lisa Hunt, artist and printmaker
After 20-plus years as a creative director in publishing, Lisa is now focused on her own designs. She is PUSHING the possibilities of screen-printing and gold leaf!
On Denise Kuriger, DKDLtd, interior designer
Denise has been working in interior design and architecture in the New York market for over 25 years, and is known as a mentor to her employees and design school interns. While running a successful design practice she also finds time to donate her services to not-for-profit organizations, creating comfortable and functional spaces for the disadvantaged.
On Stephanie Niebler, Celano Design Studio, interior designer
Stephanie Niebler’s artistic abilities and passion are phenomenal. The way she can put together a mood board is astonishing. She was born for interior design! To watch her work, her drive, the way she motivates the studio team, the way she speaks has been breathtaking. How she can take control of a room and excite a client! Her work fits the feel of what clients dream of in their concepts. Through her dedication over the past eight years working at Celano, she really has made a name for herself.
On Faith Rose, O’Neill Rose, architect
She created the Design Review Protocols and the Design Commission while a Senior Design Liaison to the NYC Department of Design and Construction, dedicating her life to the aesthetic appearance of our city for 10 YEARS!!!
On Ed Roth, Stencil1, artist and designer
What I think is a bookmark to Ed’s career and to New York City is that he's been a fixture of the Brooklyn art scene since the beginning, and he's still out there making and creating! In such a transient city, it's his permanence that is a distinguishing trait. In the 1990s on Grand Avenue in Williamsburg, he had a gallery called Who Do We Appreciate, featuring the likes of Dalek and Mike Giant. And with his street art-inspired brand, Stencil 1, he's been described as a mix of Martha Stewart and Banksy. He's a gentle-voiced, handsome, dear friend!
On Julia Roth Oberlander, interior designer
Julia’s loyalty to clients span generations—she now works on her earlier clients’ children’s homes and townhouses! She shops local, and runs her family owned business with that integrity. She’s a NEWH member (and the former Fundraising Chair) and continues to contribute to the community by donating to charities like Bailey House.
On Jessica Shaw, The Turett Collaborative, interior designer
Once completing her role with Estee Lauder as Associate Director of Store Design Worldwide she was ready to fulfill a long-standing fantasy to exercise her creativity in a more theatrical realm. Dedicating her focus and time to new creative challenges, she honed her skills in art direction, set design, production and event design for the likes of the US Open, and performance art. The unconventional diversity of her past experience has fused and informed what her interior design skills embody today.
On Michele Varian, designer and shop owner
Great items, style, and service!! Beautiful design store on Howard Street!
On Ghislaine Viñas, interior designer
Ghislaine creates happy interiors that you simply want to be in and that make you smile. Her positive and lighthearted attitude towards design always results in fresh, never-before-scene spaces that are so intimately related to her clients. Whether it be designing a custom rug with a story embedded in the design about where the clients met, or creating custom dining fabrics with clients' favorite foods printed on them, there’s always a backstory, an element of surprise and quirkiness that you don’t see elsewhere. I don’t know any other designer with Ghislaine’s attention to human interaction and connection to an interior space… she makes design fun! And she’s only getting better with age!
On David Weeks, designer
David is one of the quirkiest out there. He’s grounded in the sleekest, most classic designs, yet continues to surprise with what blossoms out of that ethos and how it’s made unconventional, year after year. Two decades in, and his studio practice is as strong, cool, and fun as ever.
Your well fêted, pigeon-happy Michele Varian
As told to Emily R. Pellerin