Q+A with Maria Isles | All Things Design in Newport Beach, California

Maria & Max Isles + Izzy, Photo captured at Isles Interiors by the talented @lanedittoe

We love Maria’s style, the way she connects so easily with others, and her sense of adventure. We are thrilled to set our communal table at her gorgeous + well-curated atelier in Newport Beach on Saturday 2/29/20. Although our lark communal dinner has sold out, we invite you to come along with this brief dive “below-the-surface” into her beautiful world of design.

Q. Where are you from–and where do you live currently?

A. I grew up in Pasadena and currently live in Laguna Beach. I have also lived in Santa Barbara and abroad in Singapore.

Q. What was your favorite subject in school?

A. Definitely Art!

Q. What was your most favorite occupation?

A. Obviously Interior Design.

Q. When did you realize you had a knack for Interior Design?

A. When I was about 4 or 5 years old. My dad had a construction company and I used to go in his warehouse and make doll houses for my weeble wobbles out of scrapes of wood, metal and glass. I was also obsessed with my moms Architectural Digest from a very young age. 

Q. What is your favorite and/or most ideal project?

A. My ideal project would be a new build in Montecito, a modern version of a Spanish Colonial. That would be my dream house. Clean and timeless with lots of wood, dark metal and Spanish decorative tile, my absolute love. My favorite project is my own ongoing house. We live in an adorable tiny 1936 cottage in Laguna Beach. It is the quintessential beach cottage. 

Q. You go on “buying trips” what are some of your favorite places? 

A. My favorite place to go on buying trips is of course England where my husband Max is from. I love the old country antiques that we find there. They are timeless and the craftsmanship is amazing. 

Q. What was your first trip like?  Did someone take you–or did you venture out on you own? 

  1. We always find time when we go back to England to venture out and source. Its so inspiring over there, whether we are in London at some cool old shop or in the countryside at a car boot sale. I have always just ventured out on my own. I have had tips from locals but its fun to wander and discover. 

Q. Any regrets on an object you might have passed up?

A. I just passed up an antique Oushak runner a few weeks ago, and now its gone, it was the perfect size, color and price! But my worst regret is an antique Gustavian dresser that I found at an estate sale up by Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. I purchased it but sold it in my shop. I think about it all the time and how I should not have sold it!!!  

Q. We love that you like to host/entertain is this something you’ve always done? 

A. I think I started to entertain about 16 years ago when we bought our little cottage. We have an amazing front yard with 22 fruit and nut trees. Its small but its perfect for having intimate dinner parties or summer lunches in the garden. Its pretty magical. 

Q. What is your most memorable meal?

A. I don’t know if I could say what is my most memorable meal, but I love food and my husband Max and I are vegetarian so when I find amazing vegetarian restaurants or meals I really remember them. 

Recently we went to Double Zero in Venice and I had the most amazing vegan spaghetti bolognaise or as my husband calls it spag bol. It was made with mushrooms and walnuts and so incredibly delicious. I found a similar recipe, its take a long time to make it but soooo worth it! 

Q. We feel food, conversation x design go quite well together, do you have any thoughts on this intersection? 

A. Good food and design are both so creative and appeal to your senses. So of course they both individually and combined make great conservation! It’s the perfect mixture. 

Q.. Do you have a favorite quote?

A. “Gratitude creates abundance’.

Q. Who Inspires you?

Q. Some of my favorite designers are:

Amber InteriorsShe just rocks it

Nickey KehoeThe perfect duo

Lauren LiessLove her timeless sensibility

Kendall ConradHer fashion sense

Q. How do you envision your future of Isles Interiors–what direction do you most want to go? 

A. For Isles Interiors we envision continuing with our full scale interior design studio. Expanding on our new builds and full remodels. We are also in the process of designing a new line of furniture by Max, 5 or 6 signature pieces, that we can’t live without! I would love to open a studio in Santa Barbara and eventually London. 

Create. Collaborate. Elevate. Come on a lark with us!

Thursday, March 26, 2020 at Hello Kestan in Irvine, CA {details TBA soon}!

Lark on the {Video] Line…. | Chasing our Brightest Light in Huntington Beach, California

What would you do if you could do anything?

Thrilled to share our first ever video interview of owner + creative director & (most importantly) mother Lisa Gutierrez Martinez sharing how she arrived to take us on a lark!

https://mompreneurnextdoor.blogspot.com/2019/11/creative-and-stuck-behind-desk-time-to.html?m=1

Image captured by MBmaher.com on a super fun lark at Costa Cabana in East Side Costa Mesa. Black linen jumper hand-made by our talented friend in the wolf pack @lupothelable

Super thankful to Mompreneur Next Door for creating a platform to inspire other people to chase their brightest light!

Here’s a fun Q & A to compliment the video:

Q. What did your life look like when you started your business?

A. I had carried the idea of having my own business for so long, that when it came to fruition, it felt like breathing a dream. 

Q. Why did you choose what you did?

A. I want as much control of my life as possible. I want to live intentionally. I was, and am, seeking an interesting and well-lived life.  

Q. How has being a mompreneur has changed your life?

A. It gave us, myself and my family, a freedom I had once only imaged. 

Q. What is your biggest challenge?

A. Not having a set schedule has been challenging, but I love to work on lark every chance I get. Some days I am fully immersed. Other days I have to be satisfied with the smallest step forward. 

Q. How do you set boundaries when working from home?

A. I, by intention, don’t have boundaries. I love my work and I love my family and I don’t mind them spending time together.

Q. What are the benefits to doing this and what the most surprising one has been?

A. I love being able to pursue the things that interest me; including the opportunity to collaborate and learn from people I respect and admire. 

Q. Any advice you would give to your younger self?

A. Take smart risks, don’t hesitate too long. You have to jump in to learn how to swim.

Q. Two or three actionable items/tips that you can share with the listeners that they can implement immediately.

A. Three things: 1) Action creates opportunity. 2) Persistence pays. 3) Collaborate; we (all) rise by lifting others.  

Q. Anything you are currently reading/listening to that you would recommend?

A. For podcast, I suggest “Second Life” by Hillary Kerr. For books, I have three… get them in paperback…mark off, highlight, write notes, so you can pick them up again and again and be inspired:

1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert 

2. You Are A Bad Ass by Jen Sincero 

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott 

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Lark x Urban Americana x Chef Kyle Powers |The Dream Is Real in Long Beach, California

Friday, September 13, 2019

The moment before the guest arrive. Image captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach!

We started our late summer adventures at our favorite designer playground known as Urban Americana in Long Beach. Having popped-up at this unique location before, we knew we were in for a special evening. You cannot take a step inside this gorgeous vintage warehouse without being inspired by the timeless style of the past, while simultaneously dreaming of the future. This gentle pull + push lands you in a rare space we like to call the present moment.

It is such an honor to have Chris Geer, owner + creator of our favorite designer playground Urban Americana, embrace lark and open the doors to our curious & adventurous guests — and even more so to have him an his wife join us at the communal table.

Chris Geer (Urban Americana) + Lisa Martinez (Lark) on a lark at the super hip Urban Americana in Long Beach!

We spent the evening doing what we do best, creating good vibes, acquainting with friends old and new, delving into interesting conversations and sharing delicious food.

Stylist @maysonhauck always sets the good vibes! Image captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach

Our guests, ranging from designers to deep sea explorers to culinary lovers took to the lark with ease embracing the connections that come so naturally when immersed in such an inspirational setting. 

Guest mingle amongst the cool mid-century + antique vibes of Urban Americana. Image captured by foodie, photographer + conversationalist: @mb.maher

Manuel, of Manuel The Band, kicked off the evening playing acoustic guitar and singing Casual Love while we mingled about sipping on  local / vegan / sustainable 2017 Finke’s Sparkling White Blend hand selected by Billy O’Connell of @winc and poured with love by wine aficionado (+ yoga enthusiast) Tyler Rodriguez.

This is our seriously talented friend Manuel. He is in the band. @manueltheband check them out!

Chef Kyle Powers & Sous Chef Nelson Johnson created the most awesome looking makeshift kitchen from Urban Americana’s beautifully weathered industrial work bench sending the the first smells of crispy garlic + fried mushrooms into the air with innate and palpable enthusiasm.

Chef Kyle Powers + Nelson Johnson rocking the Makeshift Kitchen, California Style, at Urban Americana!
Welcome to the prep! Image captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach
Guest settle in for an evening of food, wine & conversation.Image captured by @mb.maher at Urban Americana in Long Beach!

As this was lark #50, we took a moment to share-and be thankful for-our collaborative approach where we work should-to-shoulder to create these larks and all of the fulfillment that has come from doing what we love, especially the idea of recognizing and appreciating each other, our supporters, and the moment. 

Tyler Rodriguez, Lisa Martinez, Kailee Walters, Daniel Perlof, Nelson Trey and Kyle Powers–on a lark!
Steamed clams in dashi: crispy garlic. seaweed. watermelon radish. fried mushrooms compliments of Chef Kyle Powers.
Tyler Rodriguez captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach
Steamed clams in dashi: crispy garlic. seaweed. watermelon radish. fried mushrooms compliments of Chef Kyle Powers!
Daniel Perlof on prep! Image captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach!
Image captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach
Because we are in this together! Super fun times on a lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach. Image captured by @mb.maher
Fried reed avocado: crab. fried herbs. lemon chili aioli compliments of Chef Kyle Powers. So good!
@kaileeinthekitchen captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach
Super grateful to all the “yes” people in the room! Image captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach!
Image captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach

How fortunate we feel to having our favorite foodie + conversationalist Mitch Maher capture the evening and to be accompanied by the endless talents of: Jack-of-all-Trades Daniel Perlof, Stylist Mayson Hauck, Ceramicist Andrea Luna Reece and Food Blogger Kailee in the Kitchen

A little “bluffer” –2018 The Bluffer Valdiguié–from our friends @winc thoroughly enjoyed on a lark at Urban Americana.
Beef tenderloin + beets: golden berry. golden beet. shish leaves / strawberry. red beet. Image captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach

A surprise (thanks Kyle!) awaits on the tail end of our lark, when Rita Pham of mcakesweets showcased her amazing talents in creating the most beautiful & best tasting desserts including a gorgeous Earl Grey Cake making this occasion extra sweet. 

Rita Pham of @mcakesweeks rocks the celebratory vibes on a lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach!
@mcakesweeks rocks the celebratory vibes on a super fun (50th!) lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach!
@mcakesweets, Chef Kyle Powers + Nelson Johnson roll into our”50th” lark pop-up communal dinner party!
Rita Pham of @mcakesweeks rocks the celebratory vibes on a lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach!
Rita Pham of @mcakesweeks rocks the celebratory vibes on a lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach!
Image captured by @mb.maher on a super fun lark at Urban Americana in Long Beach!

Modern. Organic. Inspirational. Social Dining. Come on a lark with us! 

……More?

As we are always on a lark…here’s a few {personal} moments to share:

Clam-less in Long Beach

Unfortunately the adventure was too much for one little clam (he didn’t make the lark). Soon I discovered that all the elements of this dish, clam excluded, were over-the-top satisfying. 

Lark Therapy 

I was well into a conversation, dabbling into bits of my history (military brat, late bloomer, endlessly curious), when I learned I was speaking with a professional therapist. I feel better already! 

Why Do I Feel Happy

A gentleman on a lark leaned over and said, I feel happier than I have in a long time and I don’t know why. We all chimed in on the endless benefits of social dining.

Hot Yoga

As a universal rule, we only lark in extreme weather and this smoking hot evening was no exception. We laughed at how the high humidity made our “purposeful work” (set up + breakdown) feel more like hot yoga!

Lark w/Chef Kyle Powers @ AREO in Laguna Beach, California

Super fun times were had on Thursday, May 24, 2018, thanks to all the beautiful people who gathered at the locally loved AREO​ in Laguna Beach on Thursday May 24, 2018.

This well curated boutique filled with both swank and humor, encased with high ceilings and floating candle chandeliers, made a most inspirational space for our guest to gather.

It was an evening filled with engaging conversations over delicious food & drinks crafted by the talented Chef Kyle Powers.

Photos captured by the Neighborhood Creative​.

Special thanks to: AREO, Fork in the Road Catering,nThe Urban Spring​, Andrea Luna Reece​ Ceramics, @mymiddlenameisstarr & The Hood Kitchen Space.

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Simple. Refreshing. Inspirational.

Come on a lark with us!

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On a lark with Chef Kyle Powers at Isles Interiors | Inspiring Design in Newport Beach, California

This winter we were fortunate to dine with friends – old and new – soaking up the hip vibes at the beautifully understated and modern aesthetic of Isles Interiors in Newport Beach while enjoying conversation between spoonfuls of piping hot Mortadella Lobster Chowder crafted by the talented Chef Kyle Powers.

The timely cold weather transported us home to simpler times. Thanks to all who gathered at the communal table to make this an evening to remember including @lunareececeramics + @theurbanspring.  Special thanks to Maria & Max Isles.

Photo credit to MB.Maher.com
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Four Course Menu crafted by the talented Chef Kyle Powers of Fork In the Road Catering and Wine Pairing by  wine aficionado Tyler Rodriguez

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Meet Mixologist Brad Fry of Michael’s in Naples, California

We love getting to know Brad Fry whose sense of style harkens back to his days in Chicago. An energetic and fun bar manager for Michaels Restaurant Group, he is an active member in the United States Bartenders Guild and has participated in numerous cocktail competitions —one in which he represented the West Coast at World Class in 2016. Come, pull up a chair, stay awhile…

Q, How you got started behind the bar – and what captivated you?

A. Like most bartenders, I started as a server, and once of age, was offered to move up to a bartender.  I’d say luck, and being in the right place/ right time have been the story of my success. I was very fortunate to be hired to co-run Bernard’s Bar, in what was the Elysian Hotel (now the Waldorf Astoria in downtown Chicago). Above our bar was Ria, a 2 Star Michelin rated restaurant, which we did the cocktails for. It was elevating my passion for food, and play in cocktails, that addicted me to the industry of service.

Q. Traditions…?

A. Keeping my tools and bar clean.

Q. Your philosophy…?

A. Prep, and set myself for success. Play like a child!

Q. Anything that comes to mind?

A. I’m honored to pair my cocktails and wine with these three amazingly talented chefs!

On a lark with Mixologist Brad Fry
On a lark with Mixologist Brad Fry

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Meet Chef Karlo Evaristo | Laguna Beach, California

You would never know by his subtle demeanor, but three sentences into your conversation you discover that Chef Karlo Evaristo is fully immersed in a culinary adventure where the precise combination of ingredients culminates into a delightful and gratifying tasting experience.

Below is a bit of Q & A, but of course you meet him Monday 1/8/18  in Seal Beach ~ Come on a lark with us!

Q. What is your idea of the perfect meal?
A. I love tasting menus. Little bites of different flavors is more appealing to me than a big portion plate of one dish. The more courses the better.

Q. Which living food-related person do you most admire?
A. I think in the U.S., for a lot of cooks/chefs/foodies/homecooks, Thomas Keller would probably be on top of their list for a “food-related person” that they admire.

Not only has he brought American Cuisine on the world map, but he played a big role in training and inspiring the next generation of Chefs. Think about it, if it wasn’t for him, there would be no Alinea, no Benu –and even Noma’s Rene Redzepi trained with him.

Q. What is your greatest extravagance?
A. I have “slight” addiction on kitchen knives. I spend way too much than I should on them. BUT, I love it. I don’t regret buying any of them. I currently have 20+ something knives and all of them are handmade by super talented blade smiths.

Q. What is your view on the current state of the culinary world?
A. I think it super approachable. A lot of chefs are offering menus that are pretty affordable and would be similar to the type of food that you would get in super high end/super expensive spots.

Also there is a lot of attention on food and the Chefs behind them. Which I guess is good for all of us in the industry.

Q. What is the quality you most like in a chef?
A. Passion. Doing everything with passion, success and everything else will follow.

Q. Which words or phrases do you most overuse in the kitchen?
A. “Heard” & “Behind”.

Q. When are you happiest?
A. When I create a dish and it tastes delicious :).

Q. Which talent would you most like to have?
A. Laser beam organization.

Q. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
A. My son.

Q. Where would you most like to live?
A.  San Francisco/Napa, or Philippines.

Q. What is your most treasured ingredient?
A. Salt.

Q. What is your most marked characteristic?
A. Fair.

Q. Who are your favorite culinary inspirations?

A. Rene Redzepi, Christian Puglisi, Thomas Keller, Andre Chiang

Q. What is your motto?
A. Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.

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Meet Chef Jared Ventura | Naples, California

Through a connection of friends, food and larks –– we meet Chef Jared Ventura. Our first understanding is how much he loves food, but it was not long before we realized he is bursting with ideas and enthusiasm for creating and connecting. We are super stoked to have this opportunity to collaborate with him on lark #34 and we whole heartedly credit Chef Jared’s passion for making it happen. Here’s a bit of Q&A to get to know him better, but of course, he will be front and center on Monday 1/8/18 . Come on a lark with us!

Q. Which living food-related person do you most admire?
A. Thomas Keller will always be a hero of mine.

Q. What is the quality you most like in a chef?
A. Restraint, balance, and creativity.

Q. Where would you most like to live?
A. Anywhere on a farm with great weather.

Q. What early experience(s) lead to you becoming a chef?
A. My grandparents cooking. They were from Sicily and I grew up making and eating fresh pastas, sausages, fresh breads, braised chicken and much more. My dad is also very into food and I grew up with him cooking every night making a lot of French dishes (though he is Sicilian). It was extremely rare for us to go out to eat; going out to eat was going to another family members house.

Q. What is your most treasured ingredient?
A. I love me some good French butter.

Q. Who are your favorite culinary inspirations?
A. Matthew Kirkley formerly of Coi Restaurant where I had one of the best meals of my life.

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Lark #33 w/Chef Kyle Powers @ Maia’s Cottage in Laguna Beach, California

We had an amazing lark at Maia’s Cottage in Laguna Beach. Unsure of late October weather, we boldly stepped into a misty and windy day and began our prep, which thankfully included a gorgeous and highly functional fire pit designed by our friends at Haskell.  Maia’s Cottage calm French Provincial vibe could not have been more perfect – as we flowed through the house with drinks, appetizers, introductions and greetings. As the weather stilled, we gathered under the stars to enjoy a heartfelt menu crafted by Chef Kyle Powers and Sous Chef Nelson who fortunately had the luxury of a gorgeous and functional kitchen.

Much gratitude to all who came together (Our adventurous, gregarious, gracious guests, Haskell ,The Urban SpringLuna ReeceTypebird Creative , Dot & Armythe Weathered Captain  & Jaxsea) to make this a lark to remember. Many thanks to Bruce, Maia & Tess for welcoming us into their dreamy and beautiful home!

SoCal Communal Dining, California style.

Simple. Refreshing. Inspirational.

Photos by the talented James Huddleston https://happyhuddphoto.com/surf/

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Meet Chef Andrew Miley of Newport Beach, California

of Fork, Knife + Spoon Catering  who will be crafting the menu for our upcoming lark at Molly Wood Garden Design on 8/18/17.  Super thrilled to collaborate and create with this passionate and talented chef!

Chef Andrew Miley on a lark at Molly Wood Garden Design Summer 2017
Chef Andrew Miley on a lark at Molly Wood Garden Design Summer 2017

Where did you grow up?
My father was a Marine and we moved around a lot when I was younger, mainly between California, North Carolina + Connecticut. Once he retired we settle in South Eastern Connecticut where I finished middle school, high school and college.

Where do you live now?
On the balboa peninsula in Newport Beach, California

Was food a big part of your childhood?
Absolutely!  Everything revolved around cooking + eating. Holiday’s, birthdays, you name it. There was always a reason to get the family together and celebrate.

How did you discover your love for cooking-any defining moments?
I don’t think I have any defining moments. Food was always a big part of everyday life. I remember aa kid every Christmas decorating cut out sugar cookies + candy canes with my grandmother, that might have been one of my earliest memories. I started washing dishes + being a prep cook at 15 and have always had my foot in the door of a restaurant in some capacity since.

What do love about the culinary world?
I think my favorite part is feeding people. I feel it to be so nurturing and rewarding and a great way to connect to people.

Did you go to culinary school? 
I did not. School of the hard knocks baby!

Any advice for aspiring chefs? 
A’int nothing to it but to do it.  You need to put the work and time in.  Find out what works, what doesn’t work and build from there.

What ingredient do you use most?
Good olive oil, salt, pepper + fresh herbs.

What is your favorite food/drink pairing?
Grilled hanger steak, chimichurri + an ice cold peroni.

Who do you idolize in the food world?
I don’t think I idolize anybody but am very fond of the mentors + teachers I have learned from along the way. They knew who they are. Oh, and David Chang.

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(Relatively) Simple. (Definitely) Refreshing. (Very) Inspirational.

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