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Westchester Interior Designer Cites Growing Demand For Multi-Functional Living Spaces

As New York and Connecticut reopen for business and companies prepare for a return to the workplace, many residents are taking a fresh look at their “home” offices and weighing their options for living in a post-pandemic world.

“People are starting to consider their homes as multi-functional spaces,” said Denise Balassi, owner of Spaces of Distinction, an award-winning interior design firm in South Salem. “Can the spare bedroom second as a gym? Can the dining room double as a home office? Can the kitchen be transformed into more of classroom for the kids?”

This “multi-living” style also involves a new perspective on the uses of outdoor space – think Zooming on your veranda – as well as incorporating new safety modes into home designs. “We just received a request for mudrooms that allow people to sanitize themselves,” said Balassi, whose firm is celebrating its 25th year in business. “The pandemic has really prompted people to rethink their homes.”

It also has prompted New York City dwellers to consider heading north and as many people flee Manhattan for more open space in the suburbs, they are going to either buy, build or renovate – and they are going to need local talent. This presents opportunities for designers to be even more creative and fits in perfectly with Spaces of Distinction’s unique approach. “Interior design is about people, lifestyle and the functionality of living space,” Balassi said.

The iconic design firm, formerly Interior Consultants, recently unveiled a new name – Spaces of Distinction by Denise Balassi – to reflect its evolution into a new breed of interior designers. The firm, which specializes in luxury homes, boutique hotels and vacation properties for clients locally and nationwide, is marking its 25th anniversary milestone with its own redesign.

Established in 1995, the firm takes an integrated approach to meet clients’ goals and visions of their ultimate “dream home.” Technological advancements, new tools and techniques, easier access to information and changes in consumer mindsets all have contributed to an evolution of interior design. Sophisticated clients know what they want, and Spaces of Distinction knows how best to fulfill the demand. The tech-savvy team uses the latest CAD and 3D modeling software and is exceptionally skilled at space planning, architectural detailing and interior design, from creating initial floor plans to placing the last decorative detail. Using a team-centric method that includes the homeowner, designer, builder and architect, Spaces of Distinction provides efficient and cost-effective results. This comprehensive design technique offers a precise course of action, guiding clients through a seamless process from design concept to project completion.

“We are thrilled with our reinvention,” said Balassi. “We selected this brand to capture the essence of what we do. We are more than consultants and decorators – we are designers and creators, who offer our clients a timeless home environment.”

About Spaces of Distinction by Denise BalassiSouth Salem-N.Y.-based Spaces of Distinction is a multifaceted design firm specializing in high-end, luxury residential and hospitality design. The firm serves clients throughout the tri-state region and also nationwide.

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Congress Flying Blind: Why Now Is The Time To Revive The Office Of Technology Assessment

Last Sunday, the Trump administration delivered its COVID-19 testing strategy to Congress. The policy, which delegates most responsibility to the states, claims that “existing testing capacity, if properly targeted, is sufficient to contain the outbreak.”

Various experts disagree. Last month, for example, a study released by Harvard University pegged the daily testing need at ten times what the administration recommends — a conclusion that differs by a startling order of magnitude.

So, to whom should Congress listen? Or at the very least, what questions should Congress ask to evaluate such significantly different claims?


In 1995, Congress defunded its Office of Technology Assessment: an internal team of science and technology experts that aided members and their staff in moments precisely like these. Exclusively in service of Congress, OTA helped the institution to navigate technically complex domains, from nuclear power and bioterrorism to, as it happens, influenza pandemics. OTA gave Congress its own source of internal expertise, helping it to sort through the many competing claims made by industry, academia and the executive branch — and to push back when appropriate.

When the Carter administration proposed a novel basing scheme for nuclear missiles, Congress turned to OTA, which found significant risks and uncertainties with the plan. When the Reagan administration declared AIDS its top health priority, OTA found that it was behaving much to the contrary, neglecting to use funds appropriated for public health emergencies. OTA, free of executive influence and captive only to Congress, equipped lawmakers with smart analysis to question executive branch policies. The result was more informed congressional debate and a check on executive power.

Perhaps now more than ever, Congress requires its own experts.

At a high-profile Senate health committee hearing this May, Congress heard exclusively from a panel of executive branch officials on issues urgent to its lawmaking, from economic recovery to vaccine development; both Democratic and Republican senators voiced frustration with potentially misleading witness claims. Tightening access to information, the White House notified Congress that all members of its Coronavirus Task Force would be barred from testifying absent permission from the president’s chief of staff. Now, with historically low staff capacity, Congress will be responsible for wading through the administration’s latest report, making sense of dizzying epidemiological models on its own.

Each administration, regardless of party, has a habit of fitting science to its priorities. Overreliance on any executive, then, weakens Congress’s policymaking capabilities. Congress should be equipped to do its own math. Momentum has long been building for lawmakers to bring in the nerds, as one group put it, and various options exist for designing a modernized OTA. No matter the new form, any body of experts in exclusive service to Congress will mark needed progress in rebalancing our titled branches.


Congress has been at this crossroads before. As the executive branch ballooned in the postwar period, it amassed an army of experts. Congress, meanwhile, did not. This left the legislature–an ostensibly co-equal branch–at the mercy of executive claims. By the 1960s, the executive was negotiating complex arms control treaties with the Soviet Union; promoting controversial supersonic transport investments; and developing novel regulations in response to pollution.

In 1972, Rep. Charles Mosher (R-Ohio) complained that Congress was “flying blind… constantly outmanned and outgunned by the expertise of the executive agencies,” and called for experts “entirely responsible to us.” Soon after, Congress authorized an Office of Technology Assessment.

Congress is once again outmanned and outgunned. But it has rearmed itself before, and it can do it again.

Grant Tudor, a Policy Advocate at Protect Democracy, and Justin Warner, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Federal Reserve Board, are the authors of “The Congressional Futures Office: A Modern Model for Science & Technology Expertise in Congress,” a report from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

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Major Housing, Commercial Uses Get OK At Long-closed 500 Blake Street Cafe Property In New Haven

500 Blake Street Cafe, a popular upscale restaurant and wedding reception venue, closed in 2006 in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood. The property remains vacant.

500 Blake Street Cafe, a popular upscale restaurant and wedding reception venue, closed in 2006 in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood. The property remains vacant.Photo: Hearst Connecticut Media File

Photo: Hearst Connecticut Media File

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500 Blake Street Cafe, a popular upscale restaurant and wedding reception venue, closed in 2006 in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood. The property remains vacant.

500 Blake Street Cafe, a popular upscale restaurant and wedding reception venue, closed in 2006 in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood. The property remains vacant.Photo: Hearst Connecticut Media File

Major housing, commercial uses get OK at long-closed 500 Blake Street Cafe property in New Haven

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NEW HAVEN — It looked like all of Westville had shown up — virtually, of course.

A dense housing and commercial development project with views of West Rock won over traffic concerns when some 75 people came to a Zoom meeting of the City Plan Commission, with approval of the transformation of the long-closed 500 Blake Street Cafe and large parking lot that has been dormant for almost two decades.

The site plan was approved unanimously by the commission that heard testimony for four hours on Ocean Management’s proposal for 129 units of housing and an improved public walkway along the West River, which was negotiated by City Plan staff.

Approval was contingent on submission of detailed traffic and sidewalk approvals by the city’s engineering office and Transportation, Traffic and Parking before building permits are issued, with special attention to the intersections of Blake and Valley streets and the site plan along Tour Avenue.

A special permit that also gave the commission more control over design elements in the village was approved 3 to 1, with commissioner Elias Estabrook voting against the look of the building along Tour Avenue with its metal clad facade he said did not fit in with the surrounding buildings.

Melissa Saint, who represented the owners, said they were trying to bring in a small, modern touch, such as Yale University does with some of its buildings, by using a mix of materials “in a sophisticated way.”

“In the big picture here, while we all may have … Different views of what kind of material should appear on this building, I think it is enough for the developer to consider, but I think if we start getting into whether or not this is going to ride on the materials on one portion of one building … We are going down a road I don’t think we want to go to,” said attorney Jim Segaloff, who represented the developer.

Commissioner Adam Marchand joined the 3 to 1 vote on the special permit even though he felt the proposed apartment buildings were somewhat out of scale with the surrounding village district structures. “I’m not 100 percent convinced that it fits in super neatly as some of the diagrams make it seem it does,” he said.

Marchand asked the developers “in refining the design to explore materials and techniques to reduce the visual impact of a building that is bigger than what is around it.”

He explained his vote to approve, rather than table, given the current situation with the country in partial lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic that has stalled the economy.

“I think that supporting development, and development happening soon, is absolutely essential policy for our city to pursue when we have an economy in a coma and we are trying to figure how to get our economy relaunched. I feel there are some tradeoffs here and for me the most important thing is the safety of pedestrians, but I just want to acknowledge that the design is still rather big,” Marchand said.

Saint said she hopes construction starts this summer with completion by early 2022.

The general opposition to the development came from residents of Tour Avenue who asked that the vote be put off for more discussion and review of the traffic plan and some tweaking of a design element, but even they were happy with the general intent of the project, the density and walkability.

The housing will be a mix of studio, one-bedroom, one-plus apartments that add some space, and two-bedroom apartments. The project also features more than 7,000 square feet of new commercial space.

Along Blake Street, according to the narrative accompanying the development, there will be a 3,900-square-foot restaurant, while closer to the West River, some 3,400 square feet of retail space will feature a small market in a public plaza with outdoor seating next to the existing boardwalk. In addition to the pedestrian walkway, there will be a bike path. Parking is available for around 120 cars.

Saint said they are looking to bring in more foot traffic that would support not only commercial space at the development, but existing businesses in Westville, as well. She said they will seek to add essential retail so residents will not have to drive someplace else for such things.

Patty O’Hanlon, who runs the Westville Community Nursery School on Tour Avenue, asked for a good faith discussion with the developers about residents’ traffic concerns. She said there are preschool-age children on that street and she is worried about their safety and particularly the egress onto Tour Avenue which she fears many will use, rather than Blake Street. She also asked for traffic calming efforts for the street.

Her concerns were echoed by Adam Lopiano, Muffy Prendergast and Thea Buxbaum, who favored tabling approval for more discussion.

On the other side, architect Keith Krolak said previous developments done in this area have left much to be desired. He said this one respects the scale and urban fabric of the neighborhood and provides connectivity with the current retail establishments.

Krolak said he feels the traffic issues can be solved with the right amount of engineering. He said the solution could be outside the site due to the traffic moving through here, rather than being part of the neighborhood, and it shouldn’t penalize a good development. “All indications are that this is going to be an excellent catalyst for the neighborhood,” Krolak said.

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Man Found Setting Fire In NYC Hallway; Body Discovered In Apartment Nearby: Police

Police responding to a call about criminal mischief at a Harlem building found an emotionally disturbed man in his 30s setting fire to a ninth-floor hallway, officials say. Once cops subdued him, they found a body in an open apartment.

The initial call to the building on 120th Street came in around 4:20 a.M. Saturday. The man was said to be combative with responding officers; they eventually managed to contain him. After cops did, they went into the apartment near where the man had been setting the fire, which was open.

Inside, police found another man dead. He had been stabbed. The relationship between the dead man and the emotionally disturbed man wasn’t clear. Neither has been identified.News

Top news stories in the tri-state area, in America and around the world

The emotionally disturbed man was taken to a hospital to be evaluated. He suffered smoke inhalation, as did the officers who subdued him amid the hallway fire. Those cops suffered minor other injuries but are expected to be OK.

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Trailblazing German Soccer Restart Faces Numerous Risks

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — When the German Bundesliga restarts on May 16 in empty stadiums, it will blaze a trail for other leagues shut down by the coronavirus.

The English Premier League, Serie A and La Liga will all be watching closely as the German competition faces risk factors which could lead to more disruption or another shutdown.

The German league says its plans minimize the risk from the virus. However, it’s aware it needs to remain alert to finish the season in June as planned.

“Every game day is a chance to prove that we deserve the next game day,” league CEO Christian Seifert said on Thursday.


The German restart plan is built around regular coronavirus testing for players and staff, with more than 20,000 samples needed just to finish the season in the top two divisions.

Twelve people, among them players and staff, have tested positive since tests began last week of the 36 clubs in those divisions. Some have subsequently tested negative in follow-ups.

League rules aim both to slash the risk of players getting infected, and to limit the possible spread. Players, and anyone living with them, are asked to limit travel outside the home. Players leave the team bus in masks, and there’s no pregame handshake.

But the plan has limits. Germany isn’t following South Korea’s K-League with a ban on spitting or close-quarters conversations on the field. And if players test positive, clubs don’t have to put the rest of the team in isolation.

Cologne player Birger Verstraete said he found it hard to focus on soccer when the club kept on training after two players and a physio tested positive last week. Contrast that with the K-League, which is imposing a two-week quarantine on any team with a positive test — and its recent opponents, too.


Even if the league’s plan works perfectly, the coronavirus could still affect games.

The same German government meeting on Wednesday which allowed the Bundesliga to resume also outlined a so-called “emergency brake” mechanism. That allows regional officials to reimpose tough lockdown restrictions in their area if there’s a major outbreak with more than 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people within a week.

It’s not yet fully clear how those fallback measures might affect training and games without fans.


Even after the league set down rules, not everyone followed them.

Salomon Kalou has barely played this season, but he’s affected the Bundesliga’s public image more than the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland.

The 34-year-old Hertha Berlin forward posted video online showing him flouting social distancing rules by shaking hands with a teammate and a staff member, and bursting in on a teammate’s coronavirus test.

Kalou apologized and was swiftly suspended, but he and the league’s plan came in for widespread criticism in Germany.


Politicians and police are worried about fans turning up to games, even though they’re not allowed in. Games could be shut down in extreme cases.

Several hundred fans of Borussia Mönchengladbach gathered outside the stadium in March for the Bundesliga’s only game in an empty stadium so far. When the league resumes, it will be with security guards inside and outside the arenas.

With the fierce rivalry between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke scheduled for May 16, passions will run high on the opening weekend.

Bremen state interior minister Ulrich Mäurer suggested in March, before the league was suspended, that games in empty stadiums could have to be called off if fans gathered. The police union in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has also raised concerns.


A two-month break means players have had to recover fitness in a similar way to preseason training. Being out of practice could mean more injuries.

Some states allowed teams to return to training earlier than others, potentially giving them an advantage.

Werder Bremen, which was slower to return, wanted the restart delayed until May 23, citing fairness and injury risks. It had to settle for its opening game being played on Monday, May 18, as the last of that weekend’s fixtures.

Some teams were still waiting on Thursday for permission to resume full training, rather than working in small groups. With more midweek games than usual, fixture congestion could also pose fitness problems.

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KAI Promotes Industry Veteran To VP Of Architecture, Engineering Operations

Larry Pijut, who joined KAI Enterprises earlier this year, was promoted to vice president of architecture and engineering operations.

Larry Pijut, who joined KAI Enterprises earlier this year, was promoted to vice president of architecture and engineering operations.

In his new role, Pijut is responsible for the day-to-day organizational activities of the architectural and engineering business, including operation hubs located in Atlanta, the Dallas-Fort Worth area and St. Louis. In addition, he will directly supervise the project management team.

Pijut, who has more than three decades of industry experience, was hired by KAI earlier this year as director of projects. Prior to joining KAI, he served as director of construction services at Jacobs.

Pijut earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in construction management from Washington University. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, International Code Council and Construction Specifications Institute.

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Snap’s two-year evolutionary architectural shift from monolith to cloud-hosted microservices has led to a 65% reduction in compute costs along with reduced redundancy and increased reliability for customers, all of this keeping security and privacy compliance requirements.

Service oriented architecture enabled scalability and ownership for engineers. Open source edge proxy Envoy is the core building block, creating a consistent layer for inter-service communication. An internal web app, Switchboard, constitutes the control plane for Snap’s service mesh, which provides one location for service owners to manage their service dependencies.

The cloud infrastructure evolved in the past two years from running a monolith in Google App Engine to microservices in Kubernetes across Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.

Some of the challenges for starting with a microservice-based system from scratch included consideration towards their existing underlying infrastructure such as network topology, authentication, cloud resource provisioning, deployment, logging and monitoring, traffic routing, rate limiting, and staging and production environments.

As detailed on Snap Engineering blog, in order to find a feasible plan, they considered the current experience of Snapchatters as well. It was also stated that there was no team of dedicated engineers and hence there was no time to implement this plan.

Instead of starting from scratch, Snap decided to go ahead with the service mesh design pattern with open-source edge proxy service Envoy.

Envoy provided features such as support for gRPC and HTTP/2, client-side load balancing, pluggable filters, clear separation of data plane and control plane with a set of dynamic management APIs such called xDS. With availability on AWS and Google Cloud, Envoy became the layer for Snap’s service-to-service communication. At Snap, each Envoy proxy connects a custom control plane, receiving service discovery and detailed traffic management settings over its xDS API.

With service mesh, it was important to address questions around the mobile client communication scheme in Envoy. Along with that, when working across AWS and Google Cloud, engineers had queries around managing their Envoy configurations from a security standpoint.

From that, Snap Service Mesh was formed. Snap Service Mesh has an internal web app, named Switchboard, which is a single control panel for Snap’s services so that service owners can manage their service dependencies.

The Switchboard configuration has services at its core. Each service has a protocol and basic metadata – owner, email list and description. The clusters with these services can be in any cloud provider, region or environment. Switchboard services have their dependencies and consumers, which are other Switchboard services. If Snap were to expose the entire system API interface to their engineering teams, there would have been numerous configurations, resulting in difficulty in managing them.

Configuration changes in Switchboard are saved in DynamoDB. The Envoy-proxy on the service mesh connects to a xDS control plane through a bidirectional gRPC stream. When the Envoy configuration is generated for a service, the control plane sends the updated config to a small subset of Envoy proxies and measures their health before committing the changes across the mesh.

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Build Profitable Neural Networks In Soccer Betting

After understanding the issue, the real deal is to read a lot about it. There is a lot of valuable information online that helps to kick start projects. And to say the least, machine learning isn’t new to the world of soccer. The internet is full of people ready to teach you how they predict match outcomes. Most are mistaking random chance for skill although. The misleading often lies in the size of the test sample : 10 matches isn’t enough to get an accurate accuracy of the model.

Before building our own model, let’s first see how well people are doing on this matter, at least from the people who share about their results online. According to the articles I read on the subject, the best “human expert level” spikes at 48% accuracy. This is better than the “always home win” strategy. Playing home is a significant advantage : 46% of games are won by the home team. These numbers are average and not league specific. Please note that they can vary (+/- 2%) depending on the league you are looking at.

Next is the Elo rating system, a method for calculating relative skill levels of teams. Each team’s rating is represented by a number that changes according to outcomes of past games. The difference in the ratings between two teams can be used to predict outcomes. The Elo system is an effective method that is widely used in sports and games in general. Although in soccer, its accuracy pikes at 48%.

sTruth is, soccer is hard to predict and there is multiple reasons to it. The most obvious one being there is not only win and defeat but also draw, an additional outcome makes it harder. But the biggest one is how low soccer’s scores are. The more points are played during a game and the most likely the better team or player will come out on top. With scores low, random chance can have a big impact since a single goal can change it all between a win, a draw or a defeat. This makes soccer one of, if not the most difficult sport to predict.

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Celebrity Interior Designer Sheila Bridges On Rediscovering Philly And Finding Beauty Inside And Out

The Rittenhouse rowhouses brought a smile to her face. That day, Sheila Bridges had visited a Bala Cynwyd cemetery to see her parents’ newly engraved names where their ashes are stored. That night, she’d go to an event at PAFA. But now, Bridges, a longtime star in interior design, was walking on her own in Center City, surrounded by Victorians made of red brick, her first time back since her mother’s memorial.

“It was better than I thought,” Bridges said of the feeling of being back home. “It’s definitely strange to not have my parents in Philly. I think I’m rediscovering Philadelphia.”

Bridges has lived in New York since 1986. There, for more than 25 years, she’s run her own firm, Sheila Bridges Design, working with celebs like Diddy and music executive Andre Harrell, and designing former President Bill Clinton’s Harlem offices. (Her dad had encouraged her to go for the latter.) She hosted her own show on the Fine Living Network in the 2000s. Her career achievements are exceptional for any designer, but she’s done them as a black woman in an industry that famously struggles with diversity.

Bridges, now 55, had worked for other firms but sensed it was time to strike out on her own in 1994.

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“I guess I sort of figured out that if I’m going to work this hard, I’m sort of helping somebody else achieve their dream rather than working hard to achieve my own,” she explained. “I got one client, and I jumped ship based on that one client, assuming that I could figure out how to pay my rent … My friends all chipped in for my birthday and bought me a fax machine.”

Ironically, in her 2002 book, Furnishing Forward, she writes that for a time, she had a “color-inferiority complex” that made her lean toward white paint over anything else. With time, with travel, and with a color theory class at Parsons School of Design, that complex was shed. Bridges has become known for taking shades you wouldn’t immediately put together, then designing them into harmony.

Lawyer and business executive Derek Johnson hired Bridges as part of his $2 million renovation of his Harlem home about 20 years ago. Bridges selected a pale green, an orange, and a hay color, among others, then pulled her palette together so seamlessly, Johnson said, that he can pick up a pillow, window treatment, or chair and move them in any room on his first floor and expect every shade to still fit.

Color is one aspect of Bridges’ aesthetic that Mitchell Owens, decorative arts editor at Architectural Digest, learns from; the way she arranges a room to encompass styles from different eras, from different traditions, is another.

“She likes everything from an 18th-century Swedish tall case clock, as much as she likes graphic modern art, as much as she likes emerging talents in African American design and craftsmanship,” Owens said. “She processes a world of inspirations through a very American prism of relaxation, of a lack of quote unquote rules. Her rooms are super approachable. I know that she herself is sort of an introvert, but she creates the most friendly rooms possible.”

Bridges is well known for her toile, inspired by 18th-century French fabrics that feature scenes of people enjoying country life. Bridges’ version incorporates all black characters depicting moments that, Bridges explains, play on stereotypes. There’s a picnic where people are eating watermelon. There are girls jumping double dutch. There are boys playing basketball, one of whom is Wilt Chamberlain. Some assume one scene is a freedom-seeking enslaved woman running away. It’s not: It’s Bridges running with her horses behind her. The toile, which comes in wallpapers, apparel, and accessories, not only puts black faces in a context where black people lack representation, it raises questions on how black people have been represented over time.

“At first I thought it was really witty and then I just thought, no, it’s really provocative. It’s really smart,” Owens said. “It’s thoughtful in the way her rooms are thoughtful. I mean, I don’t know the last time I saw a fabric that actually made me think.”

The path to success for Bridges could have easily been a perfect line. Still, even with her stellar multi-hyphenate success that includes becoming an author and expanding to products, she has had to push through a lot.

During the fourth season of her television show, she started to notice that she had bald patches. She was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss.

“People saw me on my television show and then they started to see me start to look different and I started to get emails from people like, ‘Are you OK?’” she explained. “It was hard because it was something really personal that was happening to me in a very public way. It was like, ‘OK, I lost one eyebrow but I still have the other eyebrow, and all my eyelashes are falling out,’ all those kinds of things. I think it’s hard enough to go through them when you don’t have a TV show.”

She continued, “That I had to hide it, because of the continuity of the show, made me feel shame at the time, and it just didn’t enable me to get to the place where I could start to unpack all the feelings that I had, the grief that I think I needed to grieve that loss.”

She doesn’t wear wigs — for Bridges, they’re uncomfortable and not her thing. Losing her hair, she said, changed her trajectory on television. She hasn’t been able to host a show since. People mistake her for a cancer patient; she fields cringe-worthy comments and questions regularly. Navigating as a bald black woman, she isn’t always treated like a lady.

Bridges jokes that she’s Wakandan, but, she said, she’s had to “redefine beauty.”

“The healing had to come from the inside out, not the outside in,” she explained. “While I have no problem with the people wearing wigs, it just wasn’t right for me because I felt like I was masking something, and that at the end of the day I had to take that wig off and really see myself.”TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Sheila Bridges, 55, of Wynnefield, Philadelphia, Interior Designer and Author, poses for a portrait in the living room of her home in Harlem, N.Y., on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bridges moved to New York in 1986 and started interior design in 1989 for an architectural firm in New York. “I just love design period,” Bridges said. Interior design I think is sort of the intersection of business and it’s informed by culture, art, and lifestyle. Those are all things I’m passionate about.

Diane Moss, an attorney and friend of Bridges since their college days at Brown University, believes that Bridges got her strength at home.

“I think it came from her family, and I think that’s just how she was built. It was just, it was organic,” Moss said. “I think we’re still teaching those lessons that you have to believe in yourself, the value of confidence. And I think that those things, resilience and confidence, are things that Sheila has.”

Her parents, Sidney and Joyce Bridges, had been the cool parents who decorated their sun porch in Wynnefield in red, black, and white with a zebra-print floor. When Bridges was young, her mother would nurture her creative spirit, says Constance Clayton, former school district superintendent, art collector, and a longtime friend to Bridges’ mother, who passed away last year.

“She was extremely proud of Sheila, and believed that whatever Sheila made up her mind to do she would do it successfully and knew that Sheila pushed the envelope and didn’t confine herself to what was, but recognized what was and what could be.”

That Bridges wound up a designer, that Bridges collects art herself, are not surprises for Clayton.

Seeing what Bridges does with colors and textures, Clayton said, “I think she recognizes that what the artist has put on canvas or whatever they’ve been painting on, it gives her the same broad latitude to do the same thing.”

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Interior Designers Share Their Favorite Bathroom Design Trends For 2020

Native Trails

While the modern styles of the last decade evolved into a more contemporary look for homes overall, the pendulum is still swinging. Right now, design is at a bit of a crossroads. While clean, modern lines and the color white have been the dominating look for bathrooms in recent years, what’s old is becoming new again, with retro and vintage elements starting to emerge.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that bathroom design is a major commitment. Whether a space needs a gut renovation, soft refresh or could benefit from a weekend project, the question is how to design something that won’t feel dated in five, perhaps even ten years from now. I spoke with several top interior designers to get their take on bathroom design trends for 2020.

Sustainable Bathrooms

Sustainability has become a major priority in the design industry, with manufacturers trying to develop eco-friendly building materials and furniture. The Mendocino Tub by Native Trails is a perfect example of this. “We know that sustainability shouldn’t compromise style,” says Naomi Neilson, Founder and CEO of Native Trails. “Our latest artisan-made product release, a gorgeous freestanding bathtub, is a great example of that.”

A natural solutionNative Trails

The Mendocino tub is handmade from groundbreaking NativeStone, which is an eco-friendly blend of natural jute fiber and cement. It has a real modern-yet-earthy, rustic-yet-sleek look. 

Creating A Spa At Home

And what better place to have a soaking tub than in a large master suite? Master suites with spa-like bathrooms have been a trend for years and are here to stay. This also exemplifies how wellness has become a greater cultural trend, according to Vian Abreu, Senior Interior Designer at Interior Marketing Group. “The most common trend we’ve seen in bathroom design for 2020 is towards creating a spa-like experience with a strong emphasis on wellness and relaxation,” she says.

Some examples of spa features for the home are heated floors, steam showers, aromatherapy with HVAC scenting, and heated or cooled vanity drawers for towels or skincare, as well as built-in speakers. 

Retro Vintage Styles

While many are choosing to incorporate new technology into bathroom design, others are opting for a more vintage aesthetic. Peter Bowles, who is the Founder and Managing Director of Original BTC believes this is because social media has put a great emphasis on creating one of a kind spaces. “In order to achieve this, bathroom design is taking a nostalgic turn, recalling vintage styles that echo the flair and functionality of the 1930s and 1960s,” he says.

A vintage touchOriginal BTC

“This is certainly true for lighting, as well as other areas, such as bath furniture and tile work. Our Art Deco-inspired Pillar Offset Wall Light is an excellent example of this, available in a weathered brass finish with fluted glass for added vintage glamour.”

Outlined segments and mosaics are another way to incorporate vintage accents into a bathroom. “Creating inlaid mosaic mats out of tile or installing wallpaper in panels, for example, will be much more common this year than in the past,” says Gideon Mendelson, who is the founder of the Mendelson Group.

A great vintage style touchEric Piasecki

“Outlines catch your attention and then organize your experience in the room. It is a more obscure approach to graphic design within a space,” he says.

Marble Is Evolving

It’s easy to lose your marbles when renovating a bathroom, but know without a doubt that it will remain one of the most popular types of natural stone for many years to come. However, interior designer Sara Beverin of Interior Marketing Group notes that this trend is starting to pivot. “We’ve seen the typical Carrara and Calcutta marbles used a lot, but going forward I think more risks will be taken with more unique and bold marbles which can stand alone as artwork in the space.”

Wallpaper Is Here To Stay

Wallpaper has had a major resurgence in recent years and it won’t be peeling away any time soon, especially in bathrooms. It’s also an indication of the pendulum swinging towards more traditional styles. “Matching wallpaper with textiles is one of those techniques, and in a bathroom, it is a method we use to incorporate pattern without overwhelming the space with contrast and changes of scale,” says Mendelson.  

This isn’t tileTempaper

Wallpaper also allows people to experiment with an aesthetic they may be unsure about integrating into larger spaces, says Jennifer Matthews, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Tempaper. “Bathrooms are becoming a place for people to experiment with bold colors and patterns, especially on the walls!”

Tempaper, a brand of peel-and-stick wallpaper, has been lauded by renters and DIY enthusiasts alike because it adheres to the wall without any damage and doesn’t require professional installation. Tempaper has collaborations with some of the biggest names in design including The Novogratz, Cynthia Rowley, and Bobby Berk. 

Custom Lighting

Big design can come in small packages especially with the trend of compact lighting fixtures in bathrooms to supplement large overhead or vanity lighting. “Some of the most daring and fresh ideas in architecture and design today seem to be getting smaller and smaller, especially in the lighting market,” says John Yriberri of Modular Lighting Instruments.  

While vanity and overhead lighting aren’t going away any time soon, smaller fixtures have become an ideal way to add additional light to darker bathrooms. “New technology has made it possible to have more discreet designs that are equally powerful and more efficient. A compact luminaire has become more popular, especially in small bathrooms or powder rooms, because it’s less intrusive and enhances the harmony of a design. [They can] create more layered lighting schemes without looking too busy,” he explains.

Decor From Other Rooms Brought Into The Bathroom

While it’s a tissue box holder, vanity tray or storage shelving, for years, decorative accents in bathrooms have looked very specific to the room itself.

A bench in the bathroomEric Piasecki

However, Mendelson says we shouldn’t be limited. “We’re starting to see bathrooms designed to incorporate more decorative items that give the space an aesthetic purpose, outside of the purely functional,” he says. “Benches, lanterns, ornamental mirrors, statement wall coverings, and vases all accomplish this elevated aesthetic and we will see more of this in 2020.” 

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Consultant Says Need For Affordable Housing In Naperville ‘is Just Going To Get Worse’

Naperville’s need for affordable housing will only grow if the city doesn’t take steps to address the problem, a consultant hired by city officials said.

In a report recently presented to the city’s Housing Advisory Commission, the consultants found residents in more than one quarter of Naperville households are paying higher housing costs than the federal government considers affordable. The issue is trending worse in the northern part of the city, according to the report

Naperville has taken initial steps toward addressing its lack of affordable housing, such as recommending that a portion of a possible development on city-owned land include affordable housing options, and conducting studies and training, but city leaders have not implemented sweeping change. Now, as Naperville continues to grow and open space to build new housing becomes scarce, advocates are urging action by city leaders.

“The problem’s just going to get worse,” Fran Lefor Rood, senior vice present of SB Friedman, told the housing advisory commission. “It’s not going to resolve. We’re not seeing a downward shift in incomes or a leveling off of housing values or something that would indicate that five years out, everything’s going to match evenly and we won’t have an affordability problem.”

Affordable housing advocates in May participated in a panel on affordable housing in Naperville. While Naperville has been cited multiple for not having enough affordable units, the issue is beginning to take the forefront as city council members make decisions on large residential development projects. (Erin Hegarty / Naperville Sun / Chicago Tribune)

The Naperville Housing Advisory commission recently heard results of a Housing Needs Assessment from SB Friedman and reviewed a separate housing action plan, listing some potential strategies, created with the help of several municipal organizations out of months of meetings with various groups. SB Friedman is set to return to the commission with its own list of possible strategies in the coming months.

In the Housing Needs Assessment, SB Friedman was charged with determining whether Naperville’s existing housing stock meets current and projected needs and identifying housing-related issues and unmet needs.

Both reports found there are fewer options for young families to buy starter homes in Naperville as developers tear down smaller homes to build larger luxury houses. Home prices are rising, and tear down activity helps perpetuate that trend.

The Friedman analysis shows that according to Census data, 27% of all households in Naperville are burdened by housing cost, meaning residents pay more than 30% of their income toward rent or a mortgage, utilities and other expenses.

“These households are considered cost-burdened and many are low-income,” the Friedman analysis says. “Therefore, there appears to be a considerable need for both owner-and renter-occupied affordable and income-restricted housing throughout the city to meet current residents’ needs.”

Naperville would have to add more than 3,000 lower-cost homes for buyers with incomes below $50,000, and more than 2,200 lower-cost units for renters with incomes below $35,000, in order to reach the recommended mix of affordable housing, the Friedman report shows. Housing imbalances at other income levels also remain.

As Naperville continues to grow, the city will need to add between 11,700 and 13,000 new housing units by 2040, including affordable and market rate options, to achieve a balanced housing mix, the report found. That amounts to more than 500 new units each year.

Councilman Patrick Kelly, the city council representative to the housing advisory commission, said the number was shocking.

“It was like, holy cow!” he said. “That’s a lot of units. Where would we even put them? Forget the price point, where are those going to go?”

The number of new units needed each year is significantly higher than the city’s average of 280 new construction permits per year since 2013. Household income needed to comfortably afford one of the new units built in that time — assuming 30% of income is spent on housing costs — has been around $170,000.

“Without production of new units, other strategies will be needed to mitigate existing housing burdens,” the report found.

James Bernicky, chairman of the Housing Advisory Commission that received the report, called for quick action toward addressing the city’s projected affordable housing shortage. He called the number of new units the city would need “extraordinary.”

“We need to start this year,” he said. “Because we’ve had needs assessments and it feels like this has been kind of something that everyone wants to do, but we need to really start making it a priority to take steps forward on this.”

One of the most surprising figures he saw in the report was that just 15% of people who work in Naperville live here. Growing that number can help create more of a sense of community, as workers also stay in town to go to the city’s restaurants and stores, he said.

Kelly said he wanted more answers on some of the figures in the report, but assuming the report is accurate and the council wants to address the figures in the report, dense, multifamily development looks necessary.

“There’s no other way to do it,” he said.

That task is bound to be a challenge for Naperville. An ongoing update to the city’s master plan will likely address housing, but a recent draft drew fire from residents who complained about changes that include the possibility of multifamily units in certain areas, he said.

Rather than seeking to mandate replacing dozens of houses with buildings comprising hundreds of units, city officials proposed allowing attached townhomes or duplexes to be built when one or two homes come down next to each other, Kelly said. But even that concept is not popular.

“So, if you can’t even do that, yeah, it becomes really difficult,” he said.

Mary Beth Nagai, with the DuPage Housing Alliance, said the city will need to get creative in addressing the housing need with limited land. Her organization has advocated for an ordinance that requires a certain percentage of units in new developments to be built at affordable rates, known as an inclusionary zoning ordinance. The city could also allow accessory units, like basement apartments or in-law suites, and restrict tear downs, she said.

Enforcing a tax on developers that don’t want to include affordable housing in new projects is something the city can do now, Nagai said. “And we have to maintain the affordable housing we have,” she said.

Bernicky and Kelly also said the city should look at an inclusionary zoning ordinance. Kelly acknowledged it could be difficult to get such an ordinance passed, and said he heard from other municipalities that, in order to be successful, Naperville must find a sweet spot, where developers still want to come to Naperville, but also include affordable units in their projects.

“If you’re not going to get any market-rate units, you’re not going to get any affordable units either,” he said.

Still, Kelly said, there is more to the debate. Even if the city encourages affordable housing, in some cases income is also a problem, he said.

“Land and construction costs are going to continue to rise,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do to restrict the price, and people aren’t making enough in wages.”

The Friedman report and addressed a variety of other housing issues, including challenges for seniors who want to downsize but can’t find options. They remain in place meaning the next buyer can’t move into their home.

The number of older homes being torn down is also contributing to affordability challenges

When the commission reviewed the plan, they also heard of several possible solutions presented by a separate group of agencies. Those included ideas such as creating an affordable housing trust fund and focusing on housing for seniors. However, they did not take action, and housing commission members are awaiting additional proposed solutions from SB Friedman.

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