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In Conversation with Creative Studio Craft & Bloom

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In May 2019, Maapilim, the company that supports our beautiful publication, worked with Tel-Aviv-based creative studio Craft & Bloom to open a pop-up in New York. This Canadian and Israeli design duo is the “it” couple you want to spend time with. Renowned for their impeccable taste, meticulously curated life, and steadfast commitment to slow-living, two people could not be better suited to be featured in our magazine. Designers and makers Emma and Ofer Shahar sit down with Sand to talk inspiration and living in the present.

Emma & ofer Shahar

Tell us a bit about yourselves and creative the process behind designing a new space.
Our process begins with human connection – the serendipitous meeting of the right people at the right time, people with a shared vision. That’s what gets us excited. Then we delve deep into the client’s mind – understanding their desires, needs, aspirations, and lifestyle. From there, we scan the space – what elements are salvageable and/or essential to the story and history of the space and what needs to go to allow the new vision to take form. Natural lighting also plays a large role in our designs. By focusing on how the sun moves around a space, we can create a dynamic ambience that changes throughout the day. To our benefit, we have different skill sets. My favorite part is visualizing the concept – the color scheme, the materials, the shape of things, while Ofer better understands how to implement those elements into the physical space.

How do you define your aesthetic language?
We’re self-proclaimed minimalists. We say that because minimalism can be elusive. Every time we feel as if we’ve stripped away one layer of unnecessary details, we discover another layer waiting to be dismissed. We place a big emphasis on sourcing – where the materials come from, who made them, if their practices are sustainable. We consider these things in respect to every aspect of our lives, or try to. We believe each project warrants its own aesthetic language yet we’ll always remain true to ourselves and reach for natural hues, clean lines, and thoughtfully-sourced, preferably local, materials that age with grace.

muskoka cabin, cananda

Which materials are you partial to at the moment?
Plaster. It’s a perfect way to add depth and texture to a space while keeping it light and the cost down. It’s also fun to learn about – there are so many application techniques and variations in the material, we’re forever discovering.

It was incredible to work with you guys on our Maapilim pop-up in New York. Tell us a bit about you managed to bring the Mediterranean vibes to Manhattan?
Thanks! We loved working with you guys – it was so nice to feel like a team right from the first meeting. With New York being the epicenter of all things on-trend, we decided against the temptation to jump on any design-bandwagons. Rather than design something to take peoples’ breaths away, we wanted to create a space that led customers to take a deep breath instead. We took inspiration from the Grecian rooftop gardens and iconic Mediterranean shapes and local herbs. We wanted to create a space for people to enter into and so they could feel transported from one of the world’s busiest retail neighborhoods, into a place of calm. To achieve this, we intentionally limited materials. The primary material is a soft white mineral-based plaster, classic to Greek architecture. The soft lines and imperfect shapes of the store’s display create an approachable space for people, inviting them into vacation mode.

maapilim pop-up, New York
maapilim pop-up, New York

At Sand, we’re influenced by Mediterranean culture, values, and aesthetics. How would you describe your connection to this region and its cultural history?
This is something Ofer and I discuss often. As I’m native to Canada, we had to decide where to settle. Though we settled on Tel Aviv, it wasn’t an easy choice. The debate led us to ask why we wanted to call the Mediterranean our home, what connects us and grounds us here. Ultimately, it’s the warmth of the people and richness of culture that keeps us here. Israeli culture, like other Mediterranean cultures, places an emphasis on community, on gathering, on being present, and fully showing up for life. There’s a kind of participation here that must be a result of the sunshine and inherent, culturally-acceptable desire to be hedonistic, to be social, to relax.

Can you tell us a bit about your adventures in culinary-based projects? You designed a restaurant in Tel Aviv but also one in Australia?
While designing Opa, with our dear friend and architect Vered Kadouri, it was easy to find a common language with Chef and co-owner, Shirel Berger. We share similar approaches to our arts, they just manifest differently. Now, we’re consulting for a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant in Australia called Lomah. After falling in love with the food and culture of Tel Aviv, the owners wanted to bring the Telavivian vibe back to Australia and tasked us with creating an authentic Telavivian establishment half-way around the world.

muskoka cabin, canada

What's the story behind the Muskoka Cabin (and can we move there permanently)?
We’d love to have you! The Muskoka Cabin was our first international project, located in Muskoka, Ontario, two hours north of Toronto. The cabin is an extremely personal project for us as it was built on my mother’s property. The accessory structure is tucked away on a densely forested hill, invisible from the main cottage with no running water or electricity. The one-hundred square-foot (nine square-meter) building was built to be dynamic – the minimal interior can morph into the inhabitant’s dream retreat for yoga, meditation, writing, or quiet sleep in the forest.
The construction of the cabin took place over two consecutive summers. We invited friends and family from Germany, Israel, France, and the Americas to join the mission. Some took more of an active role in the build, others cooked, and some serenaded the team with music and beautiful words. All roles were equally valuable. The project gave us the confidence to take on international projects. This was the perfect opportunity to challenge ourselves to work in a new place with new suppliers.

Muskoka cabin, canada

Sand is obsessed with the psychology of smell. Is there any specific scent that transports you to another time or place?
The jasmine in Tel Aviv is a particularly nostalgic scent. Even in design, the jasmine flower is prominent. In Italy, jasmine is used to cover entire facades and entice patrons into establishments with its delicate smell and classic beauty. In Tel Aviv, it’s used similarly and is one of our favorite flowers to include in our designs.

As successful designers, often jetting off to complete projects around the world, you must need time to slow down. What are some of your favorite ways to practice slow-living?
Slowing down is a mindset for us as opposed to a pace. We enjoy being productive and busy but we prioritize doing so in a mindful way where we aren’t rushing automatically from one to-do to the next. We constantly check in with ourselves and each other about how we’re feeling – are we being true to ourselves, are we still enjoying what were doing and how were doing it? The constant dialogue allows us to strengthen our core values and allows us to enter each project fully present. Our design philosophy is the same.