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Good Stuff! My 15 Questions with Chef Spike Mendelsohn.

4 Jan

On L: The Good Stuff Cookbook (image via Wiley). On R: Yum - a Good Stuff burger! (image via Metrocurean)

If you know anything about me, it’s that I find food to be a huge source of design inspiration.  So it should come as no surprise that I am interested in learning more about the design aesthetic of various foodies…and the more DC-related those foodies are the better!  Way back in the summer I interviewed Spike Mendelsohn (of Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza, and former Top Chef contestant) via his sister and business partner, Micheline.  This was right before We, The Pizza opened.  My husband and I love to take our toddler to his restaurants (as well as go alone!), and we enjoy the food there a lot: specifically the Free-range Turkey Burger at Good Stuff and the Buffalo Chicken Pie at We The Pizza.  Yum!  I also adore Top Chef much to the dismay of my husband’s regularly scheduled Tivo programs, so it seemed to make sense that I interview Spike for my blog so that we can all see what he thinks about decor in DC.  I’ve waited too many months to post this, and getting the awesome Good Stuff cookbook (pictured above) for Christmas reminded me that I absolutely needed to share this with you all.  Enjoy the interview, and I hope to be posting many more “15 Questions” in the near future!

Which neighborhood in DC inspires your personal style the most?

Capitol Hill.   I’m a Capitol Hill addict, I love it here.  Everyone is so great and the block parties and neighborhood joints are fantastic.  The architecture between old row houses, grand scale homes, new lofts etc… is so cool and neat.  I like the idea of old meets new to embrace the history but give it a modern twist.

In your opinion, what’s the best designed restaurant in town?

Rough one.  I like Zaytania: the colors, the simple feel.  I like Brasserie Beck for the style, and love Taylor Gourmet sandwich shop. Will Artley’s place in Del Ray, “Evening Star Cafe,” is right on for me: cool, fun, relaxing cozy and hip.

Does design matter more to you in a professional kitchen or a home kitchen?

Oh I spend more time in a professional kitchen so that one much more!  My kitchen at home is tiny and nothing is where it’s suppose to be!  Last thing I want to do is cook so I look for the cereal bowl and milk in the fridge…that’s it!

So tell us: have you seen the interior of Tom or Padma’s kitchen, and if so, are they amazing?

I haven’t although I wouldn’t pass up dinner so if they are reading this…send some love my way!

We know you like sriracha.  A lot.  So if sriracha were a person, where would he/she shop for furniture?

Ummmmm interesting question!  It would probably shop in the boutiques on U Street.

What’s your favorite color?

Burnt orange.

Last thing you ate?

Pizza pizza pizza and a porchetta sandwich!  Testing out new recipes for my new place “We, The Pizza” so I’m taste-testing pizza all night all day!

Last thing you bought for your home?

A pasta spoon. I love gadgets in the kitchen and I found this one when I was walking around and stumbled on a little kitchen store.

Coffee or Tea?

Espresso, 3-4 times a day. A must!

Book, Blog, or Tivo?

Tivo are you kidding?  I have Whale Wars taped and Dexter and Entourage. When I get home at night it’s the best way to unwind.

Fluorescent or Incandescent lightbulbs?


Polished Concrete or Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed wood.  I love that feeling of old school style.

Chalkboard Paint – yes or no?

No, why mess with a good thing.

Is it ever ok to hang a television over the fireplace?

I hope so!  Mine at my house is over our fireplace!

Predict the trendiest color for 2011:

Blue – I’ve seen it on all the runway…just kidding.  I have no idea…ask me about food and I’d have an answer!

And there you have it…my long lost interview with Spike Mendelsohn.  What fun!

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.


15 Questions with Alex Sanchez of HGTV’s Design Star!

16 Jun

A few days ago I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Alex Sanchez, who is a contestant on this season of Design Star (Sundays at 10pm on HGTV).   A current Washingtonian and a native of the Virgin Islands, Alex is a talented photographer AND has his own design firm here in DC. I’ll be the first to admit that DC isn’t really known for its cutting edge architecture and design, but we’re making our way onto the map slowly and Alex Sanchez is helping to accomplish that.  If you’re not already watching Design Star, catch up on the first episode and check it out this coming Sunday to see what Alex and his competitors bring to the drafting board (and if you’re a fellow Washingtonian, you better be rooting for Alex!).

Alex may be young, but he is wise. He tells emerging designers: "A really good designer is a really good listener. You have to really get into your client's head and give them what they need, teach them what they really want, and surpass what they can imagine."

Here he is, in his own words, answering 5 Serious Questions and 10 Not-So-Serious Questions, exclusively for Paint It What I Tell You.

What DC neighborhood do you think has the the most inspired design?

I think the U Street area wins this title.  We have seen such a major development of the area that has combined historic buildings with a fresh contemporary renaissance.  Even though there are a few areas in DC going through this change, U Street has taken on an eclectic identity that sets it apart.  There is no shortage of cultural influence, modern innovation or historic DC charm.  The younger generations have moved in and created a very aspirational environment.

You seem to have found a niche right now in designing a lot of bachelor pads and one bedrooms. Coming from another young designer, I find that to be refreshing and realistic, especially in DC.  Do you plan to stick with edgy, youthful spaces or is your dream really to break into high-end restaurants some day?

I love designing for young professionals and doing small dramatic spaces so I will definitely keep that as a specialty.  But restaurants (not just high-end ones) allow me to be just as creative and blur the lines between abstract art and interior design so I would love to get into that avenue as well.

You’re a big advocate for getting kids involved in the arts. Are there any local organizations that you admire or support?

I am a member of the Omicron Lambda Alpha chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.  We have multiple programs like “Distinguished Gentleman’s Club” that I am a part of, which mentor at risk youth in the community and help them aspire to greater heights.  I am an advocate for the young adults of all professions to get into the schools and mentor kids and show them the options for their future, in the arts and other avenues.

I know you can’t reveal much, but can you share a proud moment from the show?

Competing on the show in general has left me very proud of myself.  As a young, untested designer I felt like I proved to myself that I am not only in a profession that was made for me, but also on a path to greater things.

Do you have any advice for emerging interior designers or current design students?

My advice is to develop your style.  Don’t get stuck in following the trends of design and invent your own. Learning the “rules” of design are important, but so is being able to be organic with every project.  A really good designer is a really good listener.  You have to really get into your client’s head and give them what they need, teach them what they really want, and surpass what they can imagine.

What’s your favorite color?

Deep Reds.  They ignite passion and energy.

Last thing you ate?

A “kitchen sink” sandwich-lol. It’s pretty much everything that is in my fridge between two slices of bread. This time it was chicken strips, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, a blend of random cheeses, bbq sauce and avocado…it tastes better than it sounds and I am sure some part of it has to be good for me.

Last thing you bought for your home?

Primer.  I’m renovating.  Changing the entire style, taking it back to a blank canvas.

Coffee or Tea?

Tea. I don’t drink caffeine (which I really could have used on the show!).

Book, Blog, or Tivo?


Fluorescent or Incandescent?

Incandescent.  Fluorescent can be very unflattering, especially for darker skin.

Polished Concrete or Reclaimed Wood?

Ugh! I need both!  One comes with the other for me.  I need that balance.

Chalkboard Paint – yes or no?

Yes!  It adds an element of fun.

Is it ever ok to hang a television over the fireplace?


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.