How did you get started in creative restoration?
My freshman year in college, I didn’t get into the dorms, and the only alternative was to acquire an inexpensive ‘fixer upper.’ I purchased a 1906 Craftsman cottage from the original owner, and I slowly restored it throughout college and rented it out to roommates.
What is the most unusual piece you’ve acquired for your projects?
The meteorite at Clifton’s is such a unique piece. It is part of the largest iron meteorite to ever fall to earth in recorded history. And also, part of an ancient, 1700-year-old Indian temple that was installed as a ceiling and doorway in my house.
Have you ever acquired a piece for a project that you ended up keeping for yourself?
Actually it’s the reverse — I find wonderful pieces for myself that I love and then I find projects to suit them.
What advice would you give to someone else who was trying to restore/recreate the former glory of buildings or spaces?
Be very, very patient. There is no hurry. [The place has] been waiting long enough to be restored, so take the time to do it right. If you can’t find the right elements initially, do your best and come back to them.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I am working alongside Disney to create some exciting, immersive environments that have a remarkable historic context and will be blending history, technology, and interactive performance in truly unexpected ways.
How would you describe yourself and your work in 80 characters?
Adventurous entrepreneur with a passion for history.
What is your dream project?
Designing an entire cruise ship environment that is reminiscent of the golden era of travel that takes you to exotic environments, both real and imagined.
If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
What is the most memorable moment of your career?
There are two. First, Tony Curtis telling me that he hadn’t seen real nightlife since the Coconut Grove in its heyday, until he came to the Edison. And Dianne Disney Miller’s response after I told her about one of my projects — she said, ‘Daddy would have loved that,’ referring to her father Walt Disney.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a conscious caretaker of the past.
If you opened up a fortune cookie what would it say?
Opportunity exists for those with open eyes.
If you could only bring three things to a desert island, what would they be?
The Internet, a fishing pole, and a good aged rum.
Charles Bukowski or Ray Bradbury?
Salvador Dalí or Vincent van Gogh?
Great Wall of China or Pyramids of Giza?
Blade Runner or Reservoir Dogs?
Goonies or Stand by Me?
Stand By Me
Tiramisu or New York Cheesecake?
iPhone or Android?
Amy Poehler or Tina Fey?
An Old Fashioned or a Moscow Mule?
Ginger or MaryAnn?
Interview by Brenda Davidge