Island couple combines talents
Jamestown is a long way from New York City, both in distance and lifestyle, but Jamestown architect Shahin Barzin and his wife Victoria Andreozzi, an interior designer, have found a way to bridge the gap between big city and small town.
Barzin is from Iran and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. Andreozzi earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island.
Barzin worked as an architect in Berkeley, Calif., Boston and New York City before landing in Jamestown.
Andreozzi worked at Conde Nast in Manhattan, which publishes the New Yorker, Vogue and several other magazines, for about five years. She slowly made a shift from fashion magazines to fashion public relations and finally fashion design.
"I had built so many relationships with [magazine] editors, manufacturers, fabric sources, stylists and it all came together," Andreozzi said.
Andreozzi built relations with magazines, and when they were doing a story, she would contact clients whom she knew had merchandise that dealt with the story. She would use all the merchandise in the story. Through client exposure, she built an informal public relations practice, and eventually designed her own collections.
The two met in Boston, and got married. They came to Jamestown for family reasons.
"It is very, very difficult to bring up children in Manhattan," Andreozzi said. "New York is very challenging." Common practices in New York, like walking up a subway staircase with a baby and childcare necessities, are very diffi cult.
Barzin said they came to Jamestown for a quiet place to live and Andreozzi had family in the area. The two do most of their work in Rhode Island, but continue to maintain clients in New York. Andreozzi said she recently decorated the residence of a Saturday Night Live writer, and she goes to New York a few times a month.
Barzin said the New York market is very different from the Jamestown market, but similar business and design principles apply. In New York, he said he was often renovating photography rooms, commercial show rooms, and residential lofts.
In Jamestown, the market is dominated by houses. "I would say 90 percent or so have been residential homes," Barzin said, adding that the big-city market was chiefly renovations, but a lot of the Jamestown market is building new, from-scratch homes.
His client design requests range from very open to very specific. "Some have a very clear idea of what they want, and some are not so certain," he said.
The architectural process involves a design procedure, where he gets the client's ideas about a room; a schematic process, in which Barzin makes two or three designs of a room; a design and development phase, when he and the client go back and forth, exchanging ideas and making the room more definite; and finally the construction phase.
"There are challenges all along," Barzin said. "You are always faced with problems; you're always faced with challenges."
He said some of the challenges are engineering feats, like when a house has to be built on a hill, but sometimes client preferences can be difficult to accomplish. Other challenges involve laws and government organizations. Particularly in Jamestown, clients often want to build a house too close to the ocean, and a buffer zone is required by law.
"Everybody wants to be as close to the water as they can," he said, adding that some of the organizations he runs into are the Department of Environmental Management, the Coastal Resources Management Council, and even town regulations.
Barzin said he has never had to cancel a project for an engineering challenge, and the only reason he has had to tell a client a project could not be done was because of laws.
Both Barzin and Andreozzi said there is a large psychological component to their respective practices.
Dark rooms have a completely different feel than light rooms do, and everything from room size to ceiling height, windows and even placement of furniture can completely alter the feel of a room.
Landscaping is also important, and architects have to take all of these factors into account to create the right feel that a client wants from a room. And, knowing what the client wants and knowing how to generate it is a psychology in itself, Barzin said. Knowing the client's lifestyle is important. "A lot of it happens through conversation… and the most important thing is to make them trust you," he said.
Barzin said he does not ask his clients how they want the room to feel, but he tries to deduce it from their lifestyle.
It is also the feel of a room, and consequently a client's lifestyle, where architecture and interior design become integrated. Barzin said he works closely and very well with Andreozzi, and sometimes his clients will ask her advice when designing a room.
Barzin explained that colors in a room will make certain features stand out, and furniture designs can also stand out. If one piece of furniture has more curves than the other pieces or a brighter color, that piece will stand out from the rest. That practice can manipulate the attention of a room.
The two said they have learned lessons from the other. Barzin learned about color use in architecture from his wife. Andreozzi said natural lighting features help extend the feel of a room, which she learned from her husband.
"If you have a room facing south, it will have a lot of daylight," she said. "If you have a room facing west, it will have a lot of evening light." The daylight makes good rooms for reading, while evening-lit rooms are better for relaxing.
Even flooring can influence the mood of a room. Barzin said using old wood for floors, which is often done in New York, where real estate is recycled for decades, can create the feel of antiquity.
Andreozzi calls herself a "design therapist," because she and her client learn to know and trust each other, and she is still friends with many of her clients, and she sees her business as giving homes a makeover.
Important factors in interior design, she said, are furniture confi
guration, lighting, color, and art; and aesthetics, function, and comfort. A sitting room for watching a sunset will be very different from a room for family interaction, she said.
"They want to have a big room with a television, they want to play Wii," she said.
Colors can manipulate a room, and Andreozzi finds herself constantly searching for new inspirations and color combinations. She often collects glass, fabric, and finds items at flea markets, yard sales, and antique shops.
"Even when I'm not at work, I'm still working," she said. "I'm inspired by the most unexpected things." Unexpected knick-knacks can alter a room, like rugs, lights, boxes, glass and artwork. She looks for "eclectic" mixes to fit the client's design and direction.
Sometimes, she sells her collections to clients, or clients use her collections for their own inspirations. While her clients can be people, Bergdorf and Goodman, Donna Karan, and other companies have also bought her collections, Andreozzi said.
She misses the size and market of New York, but enjoys the visualbased market Jamestown presents. "You have an ocean view here, so you have more of an optical view," Andreozzi said. "[In New York] interior is more important than exterior, whereas in Jamestown, exterior is very important."
Barzin and Andreozzi both admitted they are more modern in their artistic tastes, and New York clients are usually more open to modern art than Jamestown clients. Younger clients are also more likely to be open to modern art, Barzin said.