Tiff & Dave

Nobody ever really believes me when I talk about my years training to be a park ranger.  They say it sounds made up, that a specialized school in the High Rockies of Colorado doesn’t exist.  And when I try to describe it, the most common response I get is, “I don’t know Lloyd, the French are assholes.”  (Dumb and Dumber)

For those who don’t know, I went to a little school called Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs.  I packed my life into a Jeep Wrangler and drove from Partridgeberry Lane in southwestern New Hampshire to the campus parking lot, some 2,000 miles over three days.  Having grown up in the woods and then relocating to more woods, it didn’t take long for me to acclimate to becoming a true Coloradan.  I traded in my Wrangler for a Subaru, Into the Wild graduated from novel to doctrine, I had very outspoken feelings about cotton, I took pride in not wearing deodorant (or showering, really), and bluegrass was my only preferred genre of music.  I was 22 years old.

I declared Outdoor Education as my major and began accumulating credits in Environmental Science, Sustainability, and Natural Resource Management.  My course load looked something out of a Jon Krakauer novel: Anthropology, Geology, Canyoneering, Avalanche Safety, Wilderness and the American Ethic, Southwest Archaeology, Alpine Ecology, Survival Skills.  And Photography as an elective.

I first met Tiff in an anthropology class and we learned we had both applied to the same rafting program to become guides in the summer of 2010.  We would travel to Globe, AZ and spend 10 days on the Salt River learning the ins and outs of becoming river guides. (Needless to say, it didn’t quite work out.)  The trip coincided with our spring break and in desperate need of a time out from the winter conditions of Steamboat, we were excited for some desert sun.

We drove south to Mesa Verde and after wire transferring an absurd amount of money to a camp host for a top secret access code (1-2-3-4), we spent our first night of this adventure in a yurt.  The next morning, we posted up in a McDonald’s parking lot for breakfast where we were mistaken for Olympians before continuing on to Four Corners Monument just to find out it was closed for construction. We were off to a great start.

Already overly restless from our time in the car, we finally arrived in Globe to meet the rest of our fellow wannabe rafters and were an instant hit with all our stories from the road.  We were very quickly coined the “married” couple.

We spent the next 10 miserable days in the pouring rain trying our best to be “good sports” and not let the awful conditions dampen our spirits.  But it’s really fucking difficult to be a “good sport” when you spend six hours in a raft in the freezing rain with no dexterity in your fingers, attempt to set your camp up while simultaneously trying to keep your sleeping bag and clothes dry, all while unable to start a fire or stay warm in a tent pooling with water overnight, and then wake in the morning to, yet again, the sound of rain to put a wet wetsuit on only to do it all over again. 

We were placed on teams to alternate 24-hour lead shifts, responsible for dinner and a before-bed group activity followed by breakfast the next morning.  We all had the opportunity to play games and have some heart-to-hearts as becoming river guides was more than just your technical expertise on the water, it was also your ability to engage with strangers in a, mostly, unfamiliar and boundary-pushing experience.  To no surprise, Tiff and I were not on the same team.

The days began to blend together and while we were all dependent on each other to complete this trip, we were essentially all in competition for a summer seat.  I heard stories of people backpacking in Patagonia, being guides at other companies, having near-death experiences atop mountains I couldn’t pronounce…  I can’t speak for Tiff but after shitting in the same bucket with a group of people for 10 days and yelling “paddle high-five” every other rapid, I had had enough.

I’ll never forget the overwhelming feeling of inner peace on that last day when I awoke in the one-person tent I shared with Tiff all week long, my head to her feet, sand in my mouth, nose, toes, ears, and “outhouse”, to see and feel the sun.  I was never so excited to get on the water only to learn we were just three hours from the take out.  We deflated the rafts, cleaned our mess kits, hung our tents, sleeping bags, and clothes to dry, and boarded the bus back to the put in. It was finally over.

Throwing our still damp gear in the back of my car, we bolted out of Globe, racing back toward the Salt River Canyon, heading straight for Steamboat.  We couldn’t get away fast enough.  Entering the canyon not acknowledging the blinking low fuel light, we ran out of gas at the very top and foolishly coasted as far as the wheels would take us.  Finally rolling to a stop, we got out and pushed my little Subaru to the next gas station, luckily only a mile or so up the road.

After driving most of Arizona through the night, I was able to get us to Moab, UT before sunrise and rolled into a parking lot to sleep. We were the first in line at Arches National Park with nothing but blue skies.  We only had the strength to do one hike so we agreed to see Delicate Arch.  Still in our only dry, remaining clothes, we hiked in.

I can say now, after visiting this same landmark just last month in the height of tourist season, being the only two people sitting beneath that arch was a truly freeing experience.  One thing I enjoy most about Utah’s national parks is just how much land is accessible to hikers.  We lay on that red rock for what felt like hours soaking in the landscape and warming our drying souls.

The six hours back to Steamboat on I-70 were quiet except for the hum of my exhausted Subaru.  Tiff and I didn’t know each other at all before embarking on this little expedition.  You really get to know someone when you share 18-square-feet for 10 days and an experience like that. I don’t remember much conversation ― maybe a few exchanged giggles or ‘remember whens’ ― but I do remember making the conscious decision to change careers. 

Fast forward seven years, after having packed up my tent, capilene, and compass and traded in for 250 square feet, skinny jeans, and an iPhone, I returned to Colorado to photograph Tiff and her now husband, Dave, and met their two beautiful pups, Bear and Izzy. Their wedding was hosted at the Syntax Physic Opera, a creative’s hangout with a storied cocktail menu and a stage fit for the couple’s desired bluegrass band.  We climbed to the roof for some portraits away from the party and danced the night away.  Tiff wore her mom’s wedding dress from 30 years ago and was an absolutely stunning bride.

To Tiff and Dave, thank you for all that you did for me those few days I got to spend with you and your friends and family in Denver.  I hope these photos are a reflection of how beautiful your wedding was ― I truly enjoyed documenting it. 

Paddle high-five.

And a very special shoutout to Jeff & Kate and Mariss & Brian on their wedding days today and Cait & Jeff next weekend!

All travel photographs courtesy of Tiff.

Curious to know what was playing through my speakers in 2010? Click here.

Tiff and I were not offered jobs as river guides that summer.

New Digs

Morning in August. Around 8:30. Grey day. Windy. But warm. Dark water. Empty beach. Beige chinos. Blue tee. Brown cardigan. Barefoot. Cup of coffee. Black. A little hungover. But on good stuff. Something dark. Or gin. Scruffy. Messy hair. Deck is still warm. Salt on my lips. Crashing waves. No horizon. No plans. Free.

This was the inspiration I pulled together when asked to describe a favorite memory in attempt to find a matching fragrance. (It’s Costarela by Carner Barcelona, FYI.)  It’s also the inspiration to my wardrobe, my choice of alcohol, and most recently, my photography. My apartment was going to be no different.

March 2017.

March 2017.

March 2017.

March 2017.

March 2017.

March 2017.

Working in interiors for the last few years has given me a world of insight (and quite the opinion) into how to see space. I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing designers and stylists from all different backgrounds and having stepped inside hundreds of homes and counting, I’ve certainly developed my own style.

This is a reflection of my tastes and travels and I wanted it to feel approachable, masculine, and collected. I call it Modern Day Hemingway though I can’t take credit for the name. (Still waiting for him to respond to my email about handing over rights…) Curated there are lots of moody, sea-themed imagery from fashion to interior design to travel. It’s become a huge source of inspiration.

August 2017.

August 2017.

August 2017.

August 2017.

August 2017.

August 2017.

But mostly, this is a tangible appreciation for my love of the sea. Everything from the palette, mood, textures, smells. I wanted to be able to envision all these items in a future beach house on the coast of Rhode Island someday. I at least tried to imagine there was an ocean in view out the windows instead of a brick wall when shooting. I sourced earth tones and utilized plenty of natural elements. I have some chotchkis from my trip to Havana and a wooden cat figurine from my tour of Hemingway’s house in Key West. And yes, there’s a copy of The Old Man and the Sea somewhere in my book collection.

I wanted the tone of the space to match my clothing style: lazy day basics. Nothing too bold or attention grabbing — less the orange sofa — and something functional and comfortable. I wanted it to look good dressed up and even better dressed down. It’s monochromatic and minimalist with an infatuation for craft and detail. There’s a wonderful Hardy Amies quote that reads, “A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them.” I wanted the same feeling in my home.

I always have music playing but similarly to the feel of the space, I wanted the look to inspire a certain sound. When not listening to the distant Latin pulse of Washington Heights echoing throughout my building, you can hear anything from FKJ to Nicola Cruz, Azat to Isaac HayesChet Faker on a rainy day, and almost always the soundtrack to Chef. Or just refer to this playlist.

My favorite aspect is the transition from day to night. In the morning, it’s bright and inspires coffee while thumbing through the latest Dwell or a favored photo book with The Martini’s ”Hungover” playing in the background. At night, the lighting is low and sexy and demands a refill on a glass of wine, with something like ”Con Tu Nombre” by Raquel Sofia on.  A cool and grey beach day to a hot and humid Havana night. 

Without sounding like a hoarder, most pieces have a story and if asked to downsize, I’d reluctantly let things go without first giving you their history. Like the trunk in the bedroom, for example. I can’t rid of the musty smell for the life of me but a friend and I stumbled upon it near Washington Square Park and I had to have it. The driftwood with miscellaneous beach finds is a little craft Mrs. “B” made for me one summer when visiting Prudence Island. The secretary’s task lamp on the media console was a contribution by my mom from the Chesterfield Inn in NH. And the sofa, a rare find on AptDeco, was the exact burnt sienna I was looking for. And at 85”, it was a perfect fit for my weirdly long and outstretched body. Except that it wasn’t — it didn’t make it through the front door. I was then advised to call the Couch Doctor (yes, that’s a thing). They answer your call like a 9-1-1 dispatcher: “Couch Doctor, is this a couch emergency?” So happens if it’s stuck in an elevator, that constitutes a couch emergency. Regardless, the sofa slept in the hallway that night and the next morning, two guys pulled it apart and reassembled it in my sitting room in about 45 minutes. It’s here to stay.

But most importantly, when I shut the front door to the buzz of New York, drop my bag on the chair and fall onto the sofa, I want to be transported. I’ve never lived alone: I shared a room with my brother growing up; a two-by-two-foot bus seat with Ellen for summers touring the country in drum corps; what felt like a constantly open dorm room in college; and a revolving door of roommates in all my apartments in New York. Designing this space was entirely for me. 

While I wish my ficus was a bit taller for the photo shoot and I had more than Cocoa Puffs to style the kitchen with, if there’s anything I’ve learned about photographing interiors, it’s that they’re never going to be perfect — and it’s no different when designing them. 

I’ll close with some beautiful words from Oliver Gustav in an interview in The New York Times Style Magazine, Design Edition back in March:

“‘I have a love affair with things,’ says Gustav, who regularly visits auction houses in Germany and flea markets in France and Denmark, filling his stores with his finds. The trouble is parting with them: ‘I only buy those things that I want for myself.’ Often, he is so attached to a piece that he can’t bring himself to part with it, to the point where people started joking that nothing in his Copenhagen store was for sale. He laughs at this, but also notes that he doesn’t have a need for money. ‘I just want a beautiful life.’”

That’s a Wrap

Dear onefinestay,

After three years of asking homeowner’s if they have a “no shoes” policy and selfie-ing with their dogs, today is my final day.

Together, we’ve styled and photographed over 500 homes. We’ve traversed every street and avenue of New York and Brooklyn, road tripped to the Hamptons and Hudson Valley, weekend-ed in Napa, switched places in London, and started brand new in Miami, Boston, and San Francisco.

My first home shoot. Styling by Mei Lin Ng and Denise Payne-Worley. July 2014.

Andy and I on the roof of one of our Williamsburg homes on my second day. July 2014.

We’ve done some truly crazy things in stranger’s homes. We laughed at how normal it was to hide toasters away in refrigerators or peel stickers off bananas just to return them later. We laughed at how we’ve all eaten a meal in a bathroom to stay out of the photographer’s way and tested a good amount of the beds. And baths. We’ve climbed illegal fire escapes for city views and said we knew Tom and Marianna to gain beach access. One time, we even found ourselves on a ski lift heading to the top of a mountain because someone’s friend went to school with someone’s cousin — or something. We did whatever it took to portray each home and neighborhood as if we lived there ourselves.

Probably Tom and Marianna. Hamptons, Summer 2014.

Mariss tubing at Wyndham Mountain. Hudson Valley, Winter 2015.

Miami, Fall 2016.

Miami, Winter 2016.

New York, Summer 2015.

Brooklyn, July 2017.

New York, Summer 2014.

When you hold a camera for the first time and imagine your career as a photographer, something like this doesn’t quite come to mind. Inadvertently, I had a pseudo photo agent pushing work to me on the daily, an exceptionally talented pool of stylists that could turn the most neglected spaces into something worth publishing, and an unbelievably diverse market of homes at my fingertips. And all I ever had to say was, ‘I have keys.’

Brooklyn, Winter 2015. Styling by Emily Schiff-Slater and Marissa Eleccion.

Napa Valley, Spring 2015. Styling by Sara Moseley.

Hudson Valley, Fall 2014. Styling by Renee Hikari, Kiki Dolan, and Gabby Ambrosio.

New York, Spring 2017. Styling by Tracy Brickman and Carrie McCue.

Hudson Valley. Spring 2016. Styled by Renee Hikari and Johnny Nickson.

To those who did all the work and never got the credit, thank you for believing more in your art and making each set day so memorable. And singing along to Taylor Swift even when you didn’t want to. I’ll never forget that.

Miami, Fall 2016. Styling by Gabriel Marchissio and Camila Zas.

New York, Spring 2016. Styling by Andy Aidekman and Georgina Arroyo.

Brooklyn, Summer 2015. Styling by Renee Hikari and Marissa Eleccion.

London, Spring 2015. Styling by Elena Ferrera and Kat Pang Murray.

New York, Summer 2015. Styling by Marissa Eleccion and Emily Schiff-Slater.

These last three years have been absolutely incredible and I cannot thank you all enough for the support, trust, and encouragement you have given me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the laughs, the love, and the hard drive of memories. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Brooklyn, Summer 2017.

New York, Winter 2015.

New York, Winter 2015.

Hamptons, Spring 2017.

Illustration by Abbie Blizzard.

That’s a wrap,

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