Looking Forward, Reflecting Back

Ahmad AbouZanat

Reflecting on 2021, I was surprised by how much I adventured close to home despite the lifting travel restrictions. Nevertheless, I am delighted looking back at the time I spent traveling regionally around New York City. After months of lockdowns and constraints, these quick trips and uncomplicated itineraries reignited my appreciation for well-designed, well-thought-out spaces and experiences. Dive in below where I share memorable experiences from the last year! 

New York City: Sistina

Sistina is a well-known, well-loved Italian restaurant set in a townhouse on the Upper East Side. The ambiance is very cozy and unassuming. It’s achieved with gorgeous sconces and strategically placed lighting fixtures that add warmth to the space: greenery and an extensive artwork collection balance out the location. There’s a “sunroom” space that allows the natural light to flood into the building. It’s impressive! The food, alongside the overall experience, made what would have been a great dining experience excellent. 


Washington DC: Albi

The restaurant Albi is on the opposite design spectrum from Sistina. Alibi embraces a more modern interior. A mix of steel, wood, and patterned/textured fabric is used throughout. In fact, the bench seats had a blue color version of the same red patterned fabric I used three years ago in my Chelsea project – bonus points for coordinating design styles. The saying, the eyes eat first is deeply rooted in the Middle Eastern culture, and Albi takes that very seriously. The presentation was phenomenal and unconventional, And the food, of course, was incredible. 

Washington DC: Glenstone

Glenstone Museum. I’ve been there several times. It’s one of the places I make sure I go to every time I visit DC. The museum is in Maryland, and it’s an architectural wonder. The museum building is set brilliantly within the landscape. It has a walking trail that goes around the property, allowing discovering large-scale installations, including one of my favorites,  FOREST (for a thousand years…). The interior architecture of the museum is equally unusual. The spaces are thoughtfully designed down to the tiniest detail to be both minimalist and highly functional, thus allowing the artworks to shine. It’s worth noting that everything about the newly added building extension is composed in a very cohesive way. From the interior spaces down to the branding fonts used in the staff uniform and signage, it’s all a deliberate expression of the philosophy of architecture. 

Upstate New York: Manitoga

Manitoga, the house of Russel Wright, was another wonderful experience. Russel Wright was a mid-century industrial designer who wanted to create a home that was an escape from New York City. Established within nature, it features a short hiking trail that leads visitors into the home. The intention is so they discover the land, water features and experience the house’s integration within the landscape. It is a one-of-a-kind experience. Every detail in the place was designed with functionality in mind and tailored to Russel Wright and his family. It was all built to be very specific for them. One of the concepts I truly loved is how the family changed the house’s color scheme twice a year to announce spring/summer and fall/winter. Details like flipping the kitchen cabinet fronts to have a different color facing out, changing the drapes, among a few others, were all implemented. 

Upstate New York: Dia Foundation

Dia:Beacon, this was my first visit, and although I’ve seen artwork before on different occasions by the same artists in other spaces. Upon arrival, I was floored by the scale of the pieces and how incredible each gallery was configured. The Dia Foundation is housed in a transformed historic printing facility that then grew. Another notable feature of Dia is that it contains artwork rarely seen outside of their collection. 

Upstate New York: Huttons Brickyard

Huttons Brickyard Hotel, I love this place and highly recommend it. The lot where the hotel sits was a brickyard where many of the buildings in downtown Manhattan got their bricks from. It is now designed with modern and minimalist cabins and gorgeous landscaping. It sits at the west bank of the Hudson River, making for a fantastic sunrise with its uninterrupted waterfront vistas. There are remaining architectural features from the days it was a brickyard. It’s very industrial but well preserved to keep the character of the space alive. 

TV: Dickinson

Escape at Home. When travel was not possible, I explored different perspectives and places through well-produced television. I became obsessed with Dickinson and of all the rich period visuals that come with that. I had a fundamental and general knowledge of Emily Dickinson, but this show made me learn more about her and her passion for writing. I believe the show did a great job with the costumes, interiors, set design and paid close attention to details when recreating scenes from the 1800s. The cast couldn’t be any better. Highly recommend it. 

Ready to transform your space in 2022? PROJECT AZ is a residential design studio that has completed a variety of interior design and renovation projects in NYC. Lead Designer Ahmad AbouZanat’s focuses on finding unique design solutions that work well with his client’s modern lifestyles. 

Contact us today to get started on your next design project.

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