Heaven on Earth is a vibrant urban area.

The Blog and the Facebook Page
September 1, 2010
It is always ALL about the details…
September 10, 2010

Heaven on Earth is a vibrant urban area.

We live and work in an architect designed mid-century modern home just outside of Manhattan, where we often weekend. While there is something to be said for our established suburban neighborhood, exciting is not one of those somethings.

We thrive on an overload of sensory input. We are always on the lookout for new things and new experiences. New different food. Museum exhibits. Art exhibitions. Cool independent shops. Theatre. Film. Dance. We look to meet interesting people. We look to see fresh design. We engage people and ideas, looking through our design lens for freshness and inspiration.

Riding the EuroStarItalia from Rome to Florence with our friends Bob Tulipan and Maureen Baker, Bobby suggested excitedly that we should rent a villa in the countryside.  We both shivered, gave each other that “no way in hell” look, and thought,  What on Earth would we do there? It was lovely, we could see the ‘light,’ but we could also see that famous Italian light in downtown Rome through a glass of exquisite wine. We saw enough of the countryside from the EuroStar. Thankyouverymuch.

For the record, the light was as described by Irving Stone in The Agony and The Ecstasy. We just have to believe that Michelangelo had a better time in Rome, as we did.

Of course,  we went to the Vatican. We saw the Coliseum and the Fora. Then we went about understanding the place and the people. We’re the travelers that prefer Trastevere to the Spanish Steps (although that is certainly a nice neighborhood), we seek out the residents and the resident ex-pats. We avoid tourists, and comparisons to them.  For some reason, in Rome, German travelers continually asked us for directions. Language aside, we quickly had the lay of the land and we were able to help.

In Rome we found a fascinating Irish bar near our hotel, filled with Italians and ex-pats from all over Europe, perfectly right in downtown Rome.  A fascinating place to end many evenings. Great conversations, great ideas, beautiful people. Chalmun’s Cantina on Earth.

We arrived on St. Stephen’s Day, jet lagged and tired. We soon found ourselves at what can only be described as the Italian equivalent of Applebee’s. Thankfully, once we were rested and adjusted, we found great little pasta places and Vecchio Roma.

We make a clear distinction between a traveller and a tourist.  A tourist fits many cliches, they often like o stay in and around areas that seem familiar – see Applebee’s, above – They go to areas we consider to be like theme parks. As set designers and experience designers, we design themed spaces and events, but we don’t think a trip to Busch Gardens in Virginia is a way to ‘see’ Europe.

We were introduced to Hudson, NY by friends Ellis and Sherry who have a country place in nearby Livingston. During the week, they live in their Brooklyn Brownstone, also the world Headquarters of Ellis’ Company; KEI Productions. Weekends, they are off to Livingston where they have a few acres surrounded by farm preserve. Nothing for miles. Quiet. Ellis and Sherrie do venture out occasionally, and when they do, take advantage of the many art and cultural outposts in the surrounding area.

This is how we discovered Hudson when visiting Livingston.

Ellis and Sherry took us to a gallery opening in Hudson, a former whaling town and once the prostitution capital of the world. Very recently a depressed city, but  now on the rise due to an influx of artists and antique dealers. We almost instantly fell in love with the city of Hudson and the Red Dot bar/restaurant. Where else could you meet Faulkner’s grand-nephew (who lives in an inappropriately named former Rectory) or Caleb, the erotic puppeteer?

A weekend in the country, to us, is a weekend in a small city. Nestled in a valleys and/or possibly near some water.

We like cities that have been ‘discovered’ by other artists, designers and entrepreneurs. We scout areas that haven’t turned around quite yet, looking for signs of life and renewal. The exploration is fun and the slow evolutionary process is exciting. We don’t pick up our lives and settle in new or newly rejuvenated areas, but we do like to visit.  We like a little dirt, we like a place that is still somewhat rough around the edges.

Places, cities and neighborhoods have a life span. We find that we visit a small city frequently for a few years, and then less so as it becomes more widely discovered.  In large cities, our preferred neighborhoods change over time, as they evolve and grow.

For us, the one constant is the search for the new. Like trying this Let’s Blog Off thing today.


  1. […] Kitchen and Residential Design  Bob Borson’s Life of an Architect Kevin Lee Allen’s KLAD Nick Lovelady’s Cupboards Veronika Miller’s Modenus Becky Shankle’s Eco Modernism Tamara […]

  2. Rufus Dogg says:

    I like the comment about areas in some cities being like theme parks. From a set designer POV, I suppose you can recreate anything about any particular place on Earth except for the soul. Perhaps that is why Vegas feels so empty while being stuff with so much as the same time.

  3. […] KLAD Design […]

  4. Kevin, you design sets and prefer gritty places. how do you resolve that? imagine fantasy grit doesnt feel the same as authentic varieties. So true, visitors make better traveling experiences than tourists. except maybe thats all the tourist wants – that more shallow, less demanding experience? Glad you tried our blog off in your search for new ideas and places. this community is a small slice, my favorite neighborhood. cindy @urbanverse

  5. kla says:

    @Cindy–We create what we are asked to create, but given our druthers, we would go to a bar in Key West rather than a Key West theme bar. The latter is usually a bit tamed and cleaned up. In some ways, we experience the former to create the latter. Other sets are just fantasy.