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Alexandra KnightAlexandra Knight

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What is your favorite AK item and why?   

My favorite is a white canvas tote with alligator trim, one of Alex's first bags when she launched her company.  Because it's deep and can carry a load, it has been with me everywhere.  I adore my most recent purchase - the brown alligator wallet - it's big enough for my phone and receives so many compliments.  I covet anything-everything in dreamy truffle matte alligator. 

What are your top 10 obsessions and what can you not live without and why?

I am in love with the gardens designed by the Italian landscaper, Luciano Giubbilei, and with his book, The Gardens of Luciano Giubbilei by Andrew and Wooster.  He arranges his plant materials in a modern and contemporary way, his gardens are simple but dramatic, precise and kind of radical. They seem like the hautest gardens on the planet.

White shirts

Favorites include tuxedo and linen shirts from Claridge and King, Zegna men's shirts, anything Japanese, especially Yamamoto, and a starched Costco white men's shirt, (only $17.99) made of  extra long staple cotton. The Costco shirt always get raves. 

I can never have enough black pants, stylish pants. 

The current favorite is the new Zac Posen high-waisted, wide-leg trouser for evening, very Katherine Hepburn.  Once, while visiting Tokyo, I noticed that nearly everyone in the room was wearing either charcoal grey, black, or navy blue pants.  I was amazed at the many sophisticated cuts, nothing seemed ordinary.    

Uchi and Kata Robata for sushi.

The Eastside Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings for the duck eggs, fresh produce, the creamiest goat cheese, and summer wild flowers.

The Wall Street Journal Weekend edition

A growing collection of architecture and design books. (I like books in my hands, not on the Kindle).  

My textile collection assembled from many countries, many cultures.  

Exotic hard woods

I look for unusual woods and use them as much as my construction budget permits. 

What are your top five prized possessions?

My family

Brothers, nieces and nephews, aunties and uncles, and scads of cousins.  I come from a big and very close family that still assembles for reunions.  It's so much fun!  

My black lab, Monk, abused but rescued as a puppy.  

He's a wild child who bounds out of bed every morning, ready for fun.   

My father's Bible and his gold wedding band that is always on my finger.     

My faith 

It keeps me grounded, peaceful and calm, makes me happy, too.

All my girlfriends everywhere

 ..... in NY, Seattle, Houston.  How could I live without the wisdom of wise women?     

Best advice you have ever received? 

My father always told me, "You are an Isaak and an Isaak can do it!"  

He instilled so much confidence in me, I grew up kind of fearless and prepared to take risks.  My parents opened doors for world travel and a great education, they took us to church, and were wonderful role models.  Because they had lived through the great depression, and had their lives interrupted by WWII, I learned not to take anything for granted and to always be grateful.  They taught us the pleasure of hard work and of contributing in large and small ways to others. They also taught me to expect miracles and I have had more than a few.  I have met many famous people during my lifetime, but my parents outshine them all.       

Personal antra or quote you tote around with you?

 

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." John Quincy Adams

Tell us a little bit about Carol Isaak Barden & Co.?

 

I spent 20 years in Manhattan as a contributing editor at magazines like Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and Southern Accents.  It was fun and exciting, but 9/11 pretty much destroyed the magazine business, making it clear that I needed to find a new job.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and I was pretty shaken by the terrorist attack, so I started to pray that God would show the way.  One morning, I woke up and knew that I was supposed to build houses!  I had never built a house, I had never owned a business, I was actually sort of clueless. That was in 2002, and I am building my 18th house. The entire launch was one big miracle.  

What is your background?

 

I grew up in Washington State, my mother was a gifted musician, so I spent my childhood on a piano bench.  After graduating from college, I worked in marketing and public relations, in my ex-husband's oil business and our NYC restaurant, the Cadillac Bar (1986-88.)   I never really planned any of it!  It all just happened.  I have lived in Seattle, New York, Paris and Houston, and have traveled all over the world while working for magazines.  I am happiest back in Texas.

You have had some fabulous collaborations - can you tell us about them and your favorites?

 Architect Francois deMenil designed two spectacular homes, arranging the spaces with  downtown city views and  big rooftop terraces.  Rick Sundberg from Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen in Seattle, designed Wabi Sabi and The Handmade House, two homes that were beautifully crafted with exotic woods and Asian details. The Japanese architect, George Suyama, created the most serene home for a young bachelor, every room facing a 40-foot pool.  The entrance was private and artfully hidden from the street.    

Who inspires you?   

I am inspired by ex-Seattleite and friend, Ed Tuttle, architect of many Aman resorts, the Park Hyatt Milan and Place Vendome in Paris.  To have stayed in over a dozen of his hotels has been a great influence on me and my work.  I am inspired by people I've never met, especially Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, the radical-thinking engineer who believed he could build a sexy electric car and did it! 

My contractors inspire me every day as they create beautiful forms and details.  John Saladino inspires me, his rooms provide such beauty and comfort. I covet the NYC apartmentChristian Liaigre created for Rupert Murdoch, and if cost were not an issue, I would want Liagre to design my home.   

Brian Conner reclaims beautiful trees and mills wood that we use, and architect George Sacaris, is currently building a fireplace, dining table, and light fixtures for my University house. These most clever artists always frustrate me because they are unpredictable, (and may not finish on time), but when the work arrives on site, it's worth all the aggravation and angst.

What inspires you? 

NATURE
Trees, gardens, Seattle and the Pacific Northwest,  animals, hiking or skiing in the mountains and the humility of Pope Francis.  I am inspired by classical music, especially opera, and people who are  kind, unselfish, and care for the less fortunate.   

What is your favorite part about doing what you do?

 

I love brainstorming with architects, my builder and contractors who are so gifted!  I work with the most amazing wood and metal fabricators, tile setters, framers, etc.  The man who makes my windows is a genius, as is my millworker, Sandy.  I so admire their experience and skill and their refusal to settle for anything less than perfection.  

Any new and exciting projects coming up for your company that we can know about?

   

Yes!  
I have a house under construction at 3320 University Boulevard, The House of Many Gardens.  Designed by Scott Strasser, it's scheduled for completion in June.  I am also helping Barbara and Michael Gamson build their new home, The Art House. 

What are two things that most people would not know about you?

I have a Grande Diplome from La Varenne, a prestigious French cooking school. 

I worked my way through college as a lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor .   

 What are the best qualities a person can have?   

Chronic optimism, integrity, compassion and an abundance mindset.

Where are your favorite hotels?

Place Vendome in Paris 

Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand

Amanjena in Marrakech

Amanyara in Turks & Caicos

I love spending time with my family at Mason Lake (in Washington State) in the summer.  

Who is Carol Isaak Barden and why do we love her?

Carol Barden is truly a renaissance woman.  She is so inspiring to me in so many ways and on so many levels. She has incredible and effortless style and creativity pours out of her in everything she does.  She is a savvy business woman, kind and generous and a true inspirational mentor to me in so many ways.  

She has worn so many hats in her life which makes me love her even more because she follows her passion and dreams.  She is a wise one - often saying just the right thing to me at the right time that brings clarity and peace to my life.  Every time I am with Carol I am excited and refreshed and I leave our meetings more motivated, courageous and at peace. I am eager to share her amazing projects, her fascinating finds and adventures of her life with you.  

Carol Isaak Barden is owner of Carol Isaak Barden & Company.  She added "developer" to her resume in 2002.  She has been a contributing editor at both Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure, she has reviewed the worlds finest hotels, resorts and spas, and has written frequently about architecture, design, and innovative interiors.  Her byline has appeared in such magazines as Elle Decor, Harper's Bazaar and Town & Country to name a few, and is currently a contributing editor at Southern Accents, Entree, the Neiman Marcus magazine and PaperCity

She resides in Houston with her precious lab, Monk. 

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