Michigan Design
Designer Spotlight
GLASS ACT: Designer showcases her talents on multiple
award-winning projects

Amanda SinistajTom Verwest Interiors (TVI) has been collecting local and national accolades since 1989, including the “Best Overall Home” prize in Detroit Home’s 2009 Design Awards. Amanda Sinistaj, who joined the firm in 2002 under the mentorship of Tom Verwest, helped the firm garner additional acclaim at the 2011 event by taking home four new Detroit Home Design Awards.

MDC recently spoke with Amanda Sinistaj to learn more about her inspiration for a few of the unique, award-winning submissions.

These custom glass sculptures feature over 60 hand-blown sunflowers of varying sizes, textures and colors. The bronzed back plate provides a perfect backdrop inside these oversized niches and helps accent the lighting.

You took First Place honors in the recent Detroit Home Design Awards competition for “decorative glass and mirror installation”. Where did you find the beautiful glass sunflowers featured in this project?
Amanda: The home was originally designed by Architect Dominick Trignali, who incorporated two large niches into the fireplace wall. The size of each niche is huge and we didn’t want to just place an urn or painting in them. We needed something magnificent, no doubt; something spectacular and unique, but that kept scale and composition in mind. The "vision" for this glass installation came from listening to the clients as they imagined the room of their dreams. They each had an interest in glass collecting and had started a collection of smaller items, so I thought why not incorporate something beautiful that could help warm up the space, add some texture and that would mean something to them.

I had been enamored with some small blown glass flowers I had seen before, and decided to marry the two concepts for that space. We worked for a year and a half to design and fabricate the 60+ sunflowers using Habitat Gallery, a world- renowned glass gallery which commissions different artists. They were instrumental in connecting us with Martin Blank who was a protege of Dale Chihuly, whose work is also represented in the home. I sketched out my design concept, and Martin, the clients, the gallery and I all collaborated back and forth between here and his studio in Seattle until they were perfect! We have documented the entire journey with notes, videos, and countless memories. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to work on this project.

This unique lighting fixture provides on demand ‘sunshine’ no matter the weather on the outside and welcomes the homeowners as they enjoy coffee or the morning paper. The flooring installation in this turret also received first place honors at the 2011 design awards.

This custom glass staircase provides the perfect complimentary backdrop to the homeowner’s collection of glass and provides the perfect first impression for visitors. One judge exclaimed that the “highly sculptural stair is very inviting.”

You won another award this year under the “interior / exterior lighting”category with a fixture that appears to bring the sunshine in on demand. What went into your thought process as you designed this space and chose that particular piece.
Amanda: This "room" is actually in a circular turret in the owners’ master suite. We purchased the hand-blown Soleil light fixture from Italy. This fixture was perfect in scale and composition for the master bedroom turret, where the homeowners enjoy the newspaper and coffee every morning. This fixture welcomes them with a beautiful sunrise each day, no matter the weather outside. This installation is so interesting for many reasons. First, the fixture is mounted to a retractable chain that lowers at the flip of a switch for ease of changing light bulbs. Next, Simone and Giovanni Cenedese who are master glass makers, had hand-blown these flares, handled them with care and made them with love. The most interesting part, though, was the phone call from the electrician saying "we have a problem ...". This beautiful fixture came in one gigantic box, in 50 small pieces, with one set of complicated instructions ... all in Italian. When it arrived, it was like putting a puzzle together. Every ray of the sun was a separate piece, so Tom (Verwest) and I were able to be creative and arrange them the way we thought they looked best. Everything in this room is the way it is on purpose. It is a controlled environment. The blinds are remote controlled, the light fixture is on a dimmer so it was nice to have an element that was a brilliant, vivacious symbol of nature that delights the spirit!

It is often said that good things come in threes and you proved it with your third winning design this year that utilized glass and light – congratulations on your First Place award for Foyer Design. How many types of glass can be found in this foyer?
Amanda: Inadvertently, this project took on a mind of its own. Delicate touches of glass details can be found throughout the home and they meld together in the most important part – the foyer. Entrances set the first impression of a home. Since the owners are glass collectors, we wanted to reflect their passion in elements that were fixed, not just in their movable art objects. The interior architect specified the large, beautiful tempered glass stairwell with a frosted strip detail as our starting point. There are many types of glass represented throughout the home, including faceted glass, various crystals like the Baccarat Chandeliers, frosted glass, clear glass, beaded glass, colored glass, polished glass, and many textured glasses. It was important to make sure that all of the glass types were appropriate for the space where we used them so that the design wasn’t overdone or too obtrusive. Our goal was to create simplistic elegance in a refined and well edited space. I think we accomplished it with this design.




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