Category: Trends

A World Of Pure Imagination

Color-Saturated Fabrics From the Brilliant Mind of Glass Artist Allison Eden

Written By:Gwen Donovan

Brooklyn-based glass artist Allison Eden recently collaborated with LebaTex on a curated line of fabrics emblazoned with her signature bold, bright graphic patterns. “Allison Eden Pop Art M.O.D.” (Manufactured On Demand) is just one of the many ways this creative artist expresses herself. She was chosen to design holiday windows for Bloomingdale’s in New York City in 2016 and 2017, and her work has been highlighted in numerous publications including Architectural Digest and Elle Décor.

Eden’s colorful handcrafted tile creations appear in the homes of fashion designers, singers, and even reality television stars: the kitchen backsplash she created for Kris Kardashian is one of her most-requested orders. Her award-winning designs have also been featured in Canyon Ranch locations, The Wynn Hotel, Bergdorf Goodman, The Plaza and The Ritz Carlton Hotels.

The idea of a fabric line made a lot of sense, Eden said. “I do a lot of interior design shows, fashion shows and tile shows, and I kept seeing Stacy (Garcia) from LebaTex. She kept asking me if I would do a fabric line, so we sat down and talked about it. Ultimately we came up with a line of drapery and upholstery fabric for commercial and residential spaces.”

That decision was based on Eden’s pop art aesthetic and fearless approach to color, she added. “I feel like the world needs more color and collaborating with LebaTex is a nice segue from tile. The collection has 20 different fabrics, all in different weights so they can be used for drapery, upholstery and pillows. I have even made three dresses from the fabrics using the lips, floral and stripes patterns, so the fabrics really can be used for anything.”

Stacy Garcia, Founder and Owner of LebaTex, said Eden’s inspired artwork was a perfect fit for her textile company. “Allison has a vision that’s beyond amazing and she absolutely personifies it. LebaTex has been lucky enough to collaborate with such an amazing artist and person that understands, ultimately, we as human beings want to have a little fun. And that’s exactly what is portrayed in Allison’s designs. They are characterized by eye-catching bright colors and bold shapes that draw you in.”

Decorating with this fabric collection instantly elevates the design quotient of any space, Garcia noted. “Allison’s fabrics offer a way to put art, not framed on a wall, but living in your space. Whether it’s a pop of color on a pillow or a statement chair with a funky colorful pattern…even if it is a drape, it’s an art piece. Allison’s fabrics are an affordable way to liven up a neutral room.”

This new fabric line is also made in America, an aspect that is important to Eden, she said.  “We just launched the fabric line and it’s all made in the USA. Everything I do has to be made in the USA.” Choosing a personal favorite among patterns like red lips, exotic palm leaves and spring flowers is a challenge for Eden, but she narrowed it down when she said “I like all the prints, but the one I like to wear the most is the blooming flowers because of its repeat.”

Whether constructing a mosaic glass tile wall or choosing one of her patterns in fabric, Eden explained the reason buyers are drawn to her visual style. “Everything is becoming more colorful, people are wanting–and have wanted for a while–something different from what they see at the Home Depot or their neighbor’s house. My work gives a room a show-stopping piece that’s custom-made, beautifully unique and over the top.”

Eden’s future plans include creating windows for Bloomingdale’s during Fashion Week as well as a seven-foot shoe for the store’s new shoe department. She enjoys staying busy as evidenced in her upcoming calendar. “I’ve been asked to do a show house in Palm Springs during Modernism Week, and I am creating a line of modernist tile. We do so well in Palm Springs, it’s one of my favorite places in the world, very fun and colorful.”

She also just launched a carpet line integrating detailed patterns like Starry Night, a geometric interplay of deep indigos and pure white; Thunderbolt, using dashes of gold, black and purple; or Waves and Flames, fluid lines on a background of soft gray.

Another area she would like to make an impact in embraces warm weather fun. “I really want to get into outdoor furniture, I’d like to see my prints used in umbrellas,” she said. “I don’t like seeing just black and brown furniture by the pool, it would be great to create colorful chaise lounges and cushions to be used outside.”

Alison Eden will be visiting our West Palm Beach Showroom on March 22nd to Launch her new line of textiles. RSVP Here .Her textiles and decorative pillows will be available at our West Palm Beach Showroom and Southampton Showroom.

Posted in Trends

Blackman At Home Magazine Launches New Issue, Grid Collection At West Palm Beach Showroom

Written By: Gwen Donovan

The latest issue of Blackman at Home magazine was officially launched in Blackman Plumbing Supply’s West Palm Beach showroom during an evening reception on Thursday, March 8. This high-profile event also launched Kallista’s newest line of fixtures, the ultra-modern Grid Collection.

David Lyon, Vice President of Retail for Blackman, spoke about the growing success of Blackman at Home magazine, remarking on the extended length of the current issue. “This magazine started out as a small publication of about 60 pages, and this new issue is now 166 pages and growing. It has become so popular that we are going to be producing it on a quarterly basis.” Lyon also introduced Kallista’s Lead Designer Bill McKeone, who explained the innovative process used to create the Grid collection as well as the shift toward modern and transitional looks in fixtures. McKeone has over 600 patents in design and his contributions toward Grid represent the first 3D-printed faucet in the industry.

Party-goers enjoyed champagne and themed cocktails such as custom martinis with black olives, a tribute to the matte black finish of Grid. A sushi station, charcuterie boards and passed hors d’oeuvres kept guests well-fed, while the model wearing a custom dress created from the pages of Blackman at Home magazine added a unique touch to the festive atmosphere.

“The collaboration between Blackman and Kallista is flourishing,” said Erica O’Brien, Kallista Channel Manager-Showrooms. “The Grid faucet, recent recipient of Architectural Digest’s Great Design 2018 award, was featured in a working water display where guests could really experience the functionality and feel the smooth matte black surface.  As usual, it was a pleasure working with the Blackman team and we look forward to the next event.”

The current  issue of Blackman at Home magazine is arranged in four different ‘chapters’ focused on Blackman’s upscale market areas in the Palm Beaches, New York City, Brooklyn and New Jersey’s Gold Coast.  “We wanted to produce something completely unique using an editorial approach that covered the diverse cultural offerings, artistic opportunities, design trends, real estate communities and eclectic dining options available in each region,” said Lyon. “This issue went above and beyond our expectations, and we were thrilled with the positive response we got from all the guests who attended the launch party, many of whom were also featured in its pages.”

Among the attendees at the magazine’s launch party were New York and Palm Beach artist Ron Burkhardt who was profiled in the magazine. Also attending were Vicki Kirsner from the Florida Chapter of the International Furnishings and Design Association, representatives from regional magazine publishers including Jupiter and Palm Beacher magazines, interior designers, public relations specialists and manufacturer representatives. Party-goers browsed through expansive showroom displays of stylish bath vignettes unique tile work and sparkling lighting options.

“We were thrilled with the support we received for our Luxury High Rise Living issue at the West Palm Beach showroom launch,” said Lyon. “It was a memorable night for everyone in attendance, and we continue to take great pride in this fabulous publication.”

Posted in Trends

Meet The Designer At Blackman Southampton

By: Daniel Randazzo

On Saturday, March 10th the Blackman Southampton Showroom hosted their first ever Meet the Designer event; an afternoon of gourmet refreshments and designer meet-and-greet. While in attendance, showroom guests had the opportunity to speak with interior designer Elizabeth Dow, owner and lead designer of Elizabeth Dow Home, to discuss upcoming interior design trends and tips for remodeling.

While meeting with clients, Elizabeth and her assistant Chris shared the best practices for planning upcoming design projects and the factors to keep in mind while executing. Additionally, they shared several images of previous design projects, providing inspiration for both concept and product.

Elizabeth Dow Home’s full line of services include: staging, interior design projects, as well as design build and exteriors. Elizabeth Dow Home also carries textiles, art, and wall-coverings for their clients to purchase.

Elizabeth’s presence is not just limited to the Hamptons. Across the country, she has offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dania Beach (Florida), Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. Elizabeth has also introduced her brand in London and Paris, fostering a strong connection within the international design community.

To learn more about Elizabeth and her work, be sure to check out her website follow her on Instagram at @elizabethdowhome, and like her on Facebook at Elizabeth Dow Home.

On Saturday, March 17th, we will be hosting another great Meet the Designer event at our Blackman Hicksville showroom from 12PM-3PM. On Saturday, March 24th, we will be hosting this event at both our Blackman Mahwah showroom from 10AM-2PM, and our Blackman Lakewood showroom from 12PM-3PM.

Looking to attend the next Blackman Showroom event?! Learn more about our exciting lineup of events by visiting our events page at

Posted in Trends

Loud & Clear: Voice Technology Available In KOHLER Konnect Bath Mirror

Written By: Gwen Donovan

Ashley Pantel is Associate Channel Manager for Cross Channel Strategies at Kohler, a position that focuses on Styling Space categories. One of the newest products her company is offering combines Smart Home technology with pure performance in the bath.

“KOHLER Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror with Amazon Alexa is the first mirror in the industry to feature voice control technology,” Ashley said. “With Amazon Alexa built into the mirror, it saves valuable counter space and is able to serve the same functions as an Amazon Echo, meaning it can activate over 20,000 Alexa skills.”

As a result, this mirror is a major multi-tasker, Ashley added. “It improves the comfort and functionality of time spent in the bathroom to be hands-free, seamless and more convenient, and it will also be able to interact with other connected products in your Wi-Fi network using KOHLER Konnect.”

Customers report that the mirror has been a game changer when it comes starting your day on a positive note. “Imagine a morning routine where it’s entirely hands-free. Well, this mirror enables that. A user can improve their morning experience by listening to weather or traffic info while putting on their makeup with the right lighting. They can also easily add lipstick or shaving cream to the shopping list with a simple voice command. And instead of fumbling for the light switch, the motion activated nightlight makes it easy to navigate the bathroom in the dark.”

Day or night, the KOHLER Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror is an innovative product that is quickly gaining popularity among consumers based on its ability to streamline daily tasks, Ashley said. “Some voice commands include adjusting the lighting, playing your favorite music, checking the news, adding items to your shopping cart… and many more!”

Additional KOHLER Konnect bath products present the same voice-enabled technology for the shower, bathtub and faucet. The cutting-edge line includes the Sensate Faucet, DTV+ Shower, Touchless Response Toilet, Numi Toilet and Perfect Fill option for the bathtub which assures the perfect depth and temperature for an indulgent—and personalized—soak in the tub.

Posted in Bathroom Design, Trends

Which Toilet Should I Choose?

Written By: Gwen Donovan

Today’s commode toilet offer a wide variety of styles, sizes and features. We spoke with Monica A. Flynn in Showroom Sales at Blackman’s Mahwah location, and she shared her insights about which are most popular and how to narrow down your choices. “We offer many types of toilets. The first two things that I like to ask my clients are who will be using the toilet and where will it be located in the house,” Monica said.

“The reason I like to know where it will be going is that a powder room is usually where we do a little more of a special look,” she explained. “Wall-hung toilets are fabulous and provide a clean look because the tank is hidden in the wall. For this specific type of toilet we sell a lot of Geberit systems. This type of toilet bowl is offered by many companies. The 6600 u1 model from Villeroy & Boch is a great well-priced wall-hung toilet.”

For those seeking a modern, streamlined look, Monica said a one-piece skirted toilet is beautiful and easy to clean. “Nooks and crannies in toilets are not a positive when children are using it,” she said. When budgets are a consideration, Monica suggests a two-piece style. “A two-piece toilet is sometimes easier to install because it is easier to carry two pieces compared to one. They are also less expensive if you are looking at the same style between a one-piece and a two-piece.”

When customers are shopping for bidets, Monica said there are several options. “We have Toto Neorest, which is a toilet with a bidet combined into one. Kohler offers a washlet toilet seat, which has a wand under the seat that rinses you with warm water that goes onto an existing Kohler toilet. This makes it easier because you do not have to replace a perfectly fine working toilet. Washlets are becoming more popular due to their versatile cleaning ability, but I would not put them into a powder room.”

Another factor to think about is the height of a commode, Monica noted. “Comfort height toilets have become the new norm due to the fact that they are higher than older styles.” Even the shape of the bowl varies, she added. “The only reason you would want a rounded front toilet is because of a space issue, an elongated front is preferred.”

While the decision-making process can be involved, Monica said a trip to Blackman often saves the day, “The best advice I can give is to visit a showroom and speak to a professional. They pick out toilets all day long, and are knowledgeable about the different needs and wants concerning their customers.”

Join Blackman for the American Standard Remodeling Experience! Visit the Mahwah Showroom on March 10th from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM for refreshments and fun while you explore new American Standard displays. At 1:00 PM we will host a discussion on the latest trends for the bathroom space. Enter to win free American Standard product

Posted in Bathroom Design, Trends

An Interview with Interior Designer Greg McKenzie: Inspirational & Innovative

Written by: Gwen Donovan

Greg McKenzie of Greg McKenzie Designs is celebrated for his cutting-edge and inspirational interior design work. His reach extends from the Hamptons and Manhattan to Boston, Chicago, Palm Beach, Europe and Cabo San Lucas, resulting in some of the world’s most stunning residences.

How would you describe your design style?

Transitional, meaning modern/mid-century modern, which is paired with old elements in the mix for a sense of history and time. When you’re mixing styles and periods it makes for good design. I try not to embrace trends too much. I look for longevity in classic things that stand the test of time.

What are some of the common threads you rely on for your signature style?

The biggest thing for me is to try and re-purpose things. My philosophy is that it hast to look great and it has to be comfortable. Comfort, function and beauty are so important. I’m not a designer that you can say “That’s a Greg McKenzie room.” It’s a very intimate thing to be invited into someone’s house and make it into their home.

What was your favorite design project?

I just completed a year-long, 5,500-square-foot apartment in Palm Beach where all the bath fixtures came from Blackman.

What is your background in the design field?

I have a degree in English with a minor in political communications. Early in my career I was in advertising with a sales and marketing background. Then I switched to retail, working for companies like Devonshire (I managed a Devonshire shop in the East End), and later I was a stylist.  Once I realized design was my forte, I went to design school and started my business in 2001.

Where do get inspiration from? 

I get inspiration from all sorts of places: clothing, color samples, color palette swatches, a piece of furniture or a rug. Anyone worth their salt in the design field is always learning.

Do you have any design secrets to share?

I like to work with the architectural style of a home when I design. A traditional home looks strange with all modern furnishings; you need to find a happy medium where the architecture matches the interior. I strongly associate my design approach and a home’s location. If it’s at the beach, there’s an element of relaxation. In New York City, you want some glamour. In Miami Beach, you can go a little wild and extraordinary. Palm Beach is all about color and casual elegance.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your design firm?

Most of my clients are longtime and we have worked on multiple projects together. My big thing is I really, really enjoy and love what I do and I think that shows in the final product. It’s got to feel good, and it’s got to feel like home.

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An Interview with Interior Designer Sarah Mendel: Well-Edited Spaces

Sarah Mendel is a Principal Designer at Cochineal Design, a New York-based interior design firm specializing in fine residential and commercial interiors. She offers expertise in space planning and the decorative arts, often from the start of a new construction project or renovation. Sarah’s designs reflect a sense of playful elegance, focusing on fine materials and exacting proportions.

How would you describe your design style?

I’m not sure I have a particular style, rather I have a particular taste. I like a room to feel refined, balanced and well-edited. At the same time, I’m very drawn to textures and materials, so a lot of the richness in our designs comes from layering textiles, hard materials, color and nature. Ultimately we want the end result to feel like home to the client, so we aim to let our tastes lead the design rather than our personal styles.

What are some of the “common threads” you rely on for your signature style?

A home is extremely personal and we are very aware of this. Therefore I think the link in all our residential designs is the focus on listening to and understanding the client’s lifestyle needs. Before we ever pick a piece of furniture or choose a color palette, we design a floor plan to meet those needs. It’s a very thoughtful process.

What was your favorite design project?

My favorite project is a new construction townhouse in downtown Manhattan–the entire house is only 12-feet wide (only in Manhattan!). We saw the narrow width as an opportunity to design differently. We understood the layout had to be efficient, but we also really focused on treating the materials and finishes like furniture. What I mean by that is the architecture and the furnishings were really one in the same, so the architectural design components drove the overall design: doors, molding, cabinetry and built-ins.

Do you have a personal story you’d like to share about a design project?

Friends of mine hired us to redesign and renovate their condo to better suit their growing family. Most often when we finish a project, we hand the keys back to the client and our interaction with the space is completed. However in this instance, I get to participate in the space—I play with their kids in the bedroom we designed, and I help cook in the kitchen we renovated. It’s a reminder of how fun and rewarding interior design is for me and I feel privileged that I get to do this for a living.

What is your background in the design field?

My formal design education is from Parsons School of Design. However before going to grad school I worked in real estate development, building high-rise condos and hotels. Therefore a lot of my construction and renovation background comes from practice.

How many years have you been an interior designer?

I established Cochineal Design 2015 but I’ve been in the field for almost a decade.

How do you continue to be inspired when it comes to re-imagining interior spaces?

I think we are living in an interesting time for creative fields. Social media has changed the game. When I started, we read trade magazines, went to as many new high-design hotels and restaurants as we could, and travelled in order to discover foreign tastes and methods. Now with Instagram and Pinterest, access to all these things is free and instantaneous. I personally don’t believe digital images can replace experiencing a space in person, because as designers we need to grasp ambiance, circulation and interaction, which a photo can’t express, but I think social media offers a great accompaniment to the more established methods.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your design firm?

We work closely with a number of outside trades and vendors, such as millworkers, upholsterers and furniture showrooms, in order to ultimately realize our designs. We appreciate that forming sound and gracious relationships with these parties is paramount to the success of our designs.

Visit her website to learn more!

Posted in Trends

Blackman Plumbing Supply and Dellon Sales Co. Support Puerto Rico Relief Effort

By Brent Brake, Dellon Sales Co.

Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, home to almost 3.5 million Americans.

Those of us with personal ties to the island were shocked by the catastrophe Hurricane Maria left behind. It has been sobering and emotional.

Right after the hurricane, Blackman Plumbing Supply Wantagh and Dellon Sales Co. stepped up to the plate and set up a Puerto Rico donation site at the Wantagh location. We placed collection boxes at the counter and collected clothing, toys, shoes, books, and countless other supplies for the Americans in need. We also purchased pallets of bottled water to send to the island.

Mayor De Blasio stopped by our drop-off site to thank us for our involvement.

He handed me a beautiful note and wrote a message of love and support for Puerto Rico. “New York City will always be with Puerto Rico! We stand with you and for you! I am here to support you.” Signed Mayor De Blasio.

I know that the people of Puerto Rico appreciate everything that Blackman Plumbing Supply has done to support the recovery. I am thankful Blackman Plumbing Supply Wantagh rose to this challenge. I would like to thank Diana Desiderio and her Wantagh team for taking action and making a difference.

Posted in Trends

Happy One Year Anniversary Blackman West Palm Beach!

Time flies when you’re having fun! We can’t believe it’s been one year since the Grand Opening of our West Palm Beach Showroom. We opened a luxurious new showroom in West Palm Beach, brining exceptional customer service and a wide range of lux product lines to the market. To celebrate our first location in Florida, an elaborate reception was attended by a who’s who list of over 200 architects, interior designers, realtors and guests from the surrounding areas.

Our spectacular 7,000-square-foot plumbing, tile, and lighting showroom located at 820 South Dixie Highway is serving many of our customers who own a second home in South Florida as well as new customers in sunny Florida. “Our new location is perfectly situated for our clients who live in this part of Florida, and we are thrilled to be here,” our Vice President, David Lyon says. “Our selection of bath and plumbing fixtures is unmatched, and we also offer all the services of a design center, with expert assistance from our showroom consultants.”

Design selections include flooring, faucets, fixtures, countertops, sinks and tiles from some of the industry’s most illustrious names such as Franke, Hudson Valley, Samuel Heath, Swarovski, Kallista, Watermark, Ann Sacks and THG.

Blackman West Palm Beach Showroom: 820 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401 (561) 650-7425.

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Posted in Trends

Daily Harvest: The Perfect Blend of Taste and Nutrition

Rachel Drori’s Innovative New Subscription Service Delivers Healthy, Ready-to-Blend Frozen Smoothies, Soups and Breakfast Bowls

By Gwen Donovan

The philosophy of Daily Harvest can be summed up as “Nutrition on Demand.” This popular new subscription service is joining the home-delivered, pre-packaged food movement and is a stand out for several reasons: frozen soups and ready-to-blend smoothies are created from healthy, organic ingredients; each product features superfoods with no added sugar or preservatives; and each is perfectly portioned and ready to blend or heat in a freezer-ready Daily Harvest cup. New to the company’s line-up are Activated Breakfast Bowls. These protein-rich overnight oats and chia parfaits use the same all-natural and organic methods as the soups and smoothies.

Recipes have been co-created by Daily Harvest’s team of chefs and nutritionists using produce picked at peak nutrition and flash frozen on the farm, so each item is as fresh and nutritious as items from your local farmer’s market. Rachel Drori, founder and CEO of this booming New York-based company, explains how her products make good nutrition easy and delicious.

“Daily Harvest came from a personal need. I am an athlete who is well-versed in health and fitness. We all aspire to each a certain way, but life gets in the way,” Drori said. She used to spend a lot of time prepping smoothie ingredients for the week in her kitchen and stashing them in the freezer. When she noticed her husband (who she says “can’t butter toast”) preparing a smoothie for himself using her pre-packaged bags of frozen ingredients every morning, she figured the idea had real business potential.

Business potential is something Drori knows a lot about. Before officially launching Daily Harvest in 2016, she had a strong background in marketing and branding. This graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University business school started her career at the Four Seasons Hotel and also worked for American Express and Gilt Groupe. Her parents are both entrepreneurs who told her “If you have a good idea, do it,” so she used that same spirit to start her own company.

From humble beginnings, Drori saw the untapped potential of a health-oriented food delivery service. “I started in a commercial kitchen in Long Island City. I bagged up all the ingredients and started delivering them all over New York City in my car. I realized then that this was a real opportunity.” Today, Daily Harvest is headquartered in New York’s Flatiron district and deliveries are shipped around the country.

“Every city has its own favorite smoothie flavor,” she said. “In New York, the mint chipper (mint + cacao) is our top seller, and other parts of the country really like our acai cherry or chocolate avocado smoothies.” At home, her two-year old son loves the carrot and chia smoothie, which Drori says tastes like carrot cake. It includes ingredients like organic sweet potatoes, dates, bananas, carrots, chia seeds, ginger and vanilla bean. Her personal favorite is blueberry hemp which has the same flavor profiles as a slice of blueberry pie. Organic Blueberries, spinach, kale, raw walnuts, hemp protein and golden figs combine in this tasty purple-toned smoothie.

Daily Harvest takes great pride in delivering the most nutritionally-dense products. “A lot of people don’t realize this, but the produce we buy at the grocery store can be pretty old,” Drori says. “An apple can be picked up to a year and a half before it appears on the shelf, and blueberries can be weeks and weeks old. Many fruits are picked when they are green and allowed to ripen off the vine. Unfortunately, the nutrient profile degrades over time. We pick our fruits and vegetables at their nutritional peak in order to develop their full flavor and nutrient content.” The produce is frozen immediately on the farm, ensuring its freshness and reinforcing the company’s promise of “SuperFoods. Super Fast.”

Smoothie flavors include conventional combinations like strawberry and peach, cold brew coffee and almond, or watermelon and cucumber, while others blend mango and camu or pineapple and matcha for a more adventurous flavor profile. Drori says plain or coconut water go into the mix, noting that substituting water for almond or coconut milk results in a creamier taste. “What’s great about our products is that they are right in line with our modern, busy lifestyles,” Drori explains. “It takes 30 seconds to make a smoothie and there’s no compromise in flavor or nutrition.”

New products unveiled this spring include a selection of Activated Breakfast Bowls, overnight oats and chia parfaits. “They are filled with whole foods and fruits. You just add liquid and it activates overnight in the refrigerator. It’s natural nutrition.” Chia Parfaits are available in blackberry + majik, chocolate protein + triphata or mango + golden milk. Overnight oat flavors include cinnamon protein + banana, mulberry + dragon fruit, and pumpkin + chai. There are currently three soups available from Daily Harvest: coconut and carrot, a curry-flavored recipe; the ramen-inspired mushroom and miso; or zucchini and black garlic, which is similar to classic Italian minestrone.

Curious about Daily Harvest? Blackman at Home readers who visit and use the code BLACKMAN at checkout will receive three free smoothies with select orders.

Posted in Trends

An Interview with Rossella Rago of Cooking with Nonna, The Belle of Brooklyn

Rossella Rago is the high-energy host of her Cooking With Nonna web series on YouTube, which prompted a new cookbook of the same name.

By Gwen Donovan

If you haven’t heard of Rossella Rago, you will. This busy chef, author, YouTube star and television personality hosts an online cooking show with her grandmother, the popular food webisode series called Cooking with Nonna, which is also the name of her newly-released cookbook. Born into a family of culinary aficionados and food lovers, she happily shares her grandmother’s authentic Italian recipes with live and online audiences.

The decision to start a cooking show wasn’t immediately evident to Rago. “I was living with my grandmother and shared a bedroom with her while I was attending St. John’s University. I cooked with her every day, and I just took it for granted that’s what every family does. Everybody on our block in Bensonhurst did that.” Although she was in college, she was also becoming a star student in Nonna’s Brooklyn basement culinary school.

After graduating with a B.A. degree in Italian literature from St. John’s, she pursued a career in education. “Like most Italian girls from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, I was studying to become an Italian teacher,” Rago said. When teaching didn’t seem like the right fit, her father sat her down and asked her what she wanted to do with her life. She said she wanted to host a cooking show. Her father went out and bought the domain name for Cooking with Nonna and they began filming webisodes to post on YouTube.

“Ten years later, I am in a new niche career,” Rago laughs. “It takes ten years to be an overnight success.” She has built a powerful social media presence and, with the help of her manager father, she has a brand new cookbook. In fact, one of her 650,000 Facebook followers was a book editor who approached Rago about creating a cookbook. That led to Cooking With Nonna being published in early 2017.

“The Cooking With Nonna cookbook is like the love child of our YouTube series,” she explains. “It shows you how to make fresh pasta by hand, which is very accessible when you use a stand-up mixer. I love all the recipes in the book, which also has desserts. I just love cooking and entertaining.”

Collecting regional Italian recipes was a happy challenge for Rago. “Cooking with Nonna has 110 recipes submitted by 25 grandmothers who also share their life stories,” she said. “I wanted to include recipes from different regions of Italy, so it was like a treasure hunt to find them.” Some of the grandmothers are relatives or family friends, and all of them feel like movie stars when they go to book signings with Rago. “They are in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and this is so exciting for them and for me. I have truly learned from them that women have no expiration date.”

Presenting live cooking demonstrations was completely different than filming them for her webisodes, Rago said. “It was a thrill for everyone once we started promoting the cookbook in front of an audience. When we do our show on the internet, you see the number of people who have viewed it, but not the actual people. When you see them in person and see how moved they are by the cooking, it’s a powerful moment.”

A second cookbook is already in the works, and this one will be all about holiday recipes. “It’s going to be a massive cookbook, there are so many traditional recipes, holidays are a big deal, and every Sunday is a holiday for Italian people.”

Summertime entertaining offers a chance to create lighter fare, Rago says, such as Sicilian style swordfish on the grill, grilled octopus, pan-roasted artichokes, pizza made in an outdoor oven, and a collection of specialty recipes from Botticelli. “Botticelli was an important part of my recipe-tasting process when I was putting the cookbook together. I had to test 100 recipes in 40 days, and they sent over all the olive oil, tomatoes and other ingredients to help me out.”

In addition to writing, promoting her book and making special appearances on shows like Good Morning America with assorted Nonnas, Rago also leads culinary tours in Italy. “It is a ton of fun. We come together as strangers and we leave as family. It is such a great experience to see all these people bond over food.” Rago usually organizes the tours in September and focuses on the region of Puglia in southern Italy, where her family is from originally. Describing what she calls “a true Italian experience,” the tour includes non-touristy events like a five-hour lunch complete with lots of red wine, viewing a religious procession at the Virgin Mary Festival, or a chat with a local fisherman, restaurant owner or villager.

While cooking is an integral part of Rago’s life and livelihood, she also gets genuine joy from sharing it with others. “When I give cooking demonstrations, I see people in the audience smiling and nodding their heads. They will come up to me later with tears in their eyes and say ‘My grandma made that dish the exact same way,’ so it’s a lot of nostalgia for them. And for me, it’s very meaningful work.”

You can purchase her fantastic cookbook here.

Video: Cooking with Nonna at Blackman Southampton
Posted in Trends

An Interview with Designer Betsy Shiverick

Betsy Shiverick: Palm Beach Style

Betsy Shiverick is an interior designer at Betsy Shiverick Interiors, Ltd., located in Palm Beach, Florida. A self-proclaimed furniture junkie, she is just as likely to visit an auction site as a designer showroom for big, interesting pieces that lend character to a room.

How would you describe your design style?
I am definitely classic and traditional with a high degree of comfortable living, nothing stiff or formal. Green is my favorite color, it brings the outdoors in. I also like red and use a lot of brown, black and dark blues.

What are some of the design elements that define your signature style?
There are several things you can do to make a room really special. Wood paneling, wallpaper and special colors—I’m not into white—are big things for me. I really love oriental rugs, white slipcovered couches with lots of throw pillows, and textiles and throws from around the world. I don’t like heavy shades or drapes, I hope for architectural windows that stand alone. I am also a fan of “books for looks.” Coffee table books have such great covers. In bedrooms, I am a fan of canopy beds. They make a room look cozy and it’s a nice place to lay your head at night.

What was your favorite design project?
I just worked with my architect and we partnered to restore a landmark 1927 Spanish Villa in Palm Beach. Over the years, the original look was no longer honored. Now it has a restored façade with a parapet wall trimmed in terra cotta, steel mullions on the windows, and pecky cypress wood from Florida. It was designed with the Florida vernacular in mind using an organic approach and natural materials. The home has new air conditioning, new baths, and integrates finishes like limestone, cypress, terra cotta and a clay tile roof. We kept everything we could and added balustrades and paneling.

That sounds like a fabulous home!
Yes, it won two awards. The Addison Mizner medal from The Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, and the Elizabeth L. and John H. Schuler Award for new construction of a whole house from the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.

What is your background in the design field?
I have a B.A. in history from Mount Holyoke College and spent 21 years on Wall Street until 2003 when I went to the New York School of Interior Design. I am one course short of a design degree! My favorite class was called The Science of Color.

How do you continue to be inspired when it comes to designing interior spaces?
Every night I read through a pile of coffee table books. I can constantly find ideas from design books and design magazines, and put my own spin on it. Then I go to bed thinking about new ideas.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your design firm?
There is no decorating police; you should do what makes you happy and what you like. Take inspiration from anything you see, and don’t re-invent the wheel.

*Photography by Owen McGoldrick

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