GRACE FARMS, NEW CANAAN, CT

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30 Oct 2016 in Architecture

Author : Felicia Gimza

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October 30, 2016

I’m sitting on a plane on my way home from New York where I attended my nephew’s picture-perfect wedding in Central Park. While I was on the north eastern seaboard I decided to pay a visit to one of my dearest and long-term friends, Rose. Rose is as lovely as her namesake and is truly a beautiful soul – inside and out. Although we no longer live in the same town as she has been in Connecticut for the past 16+ years, we have always remained friends and have tried to visit with one and other as much as our busy lives will allow. 

I’m feeling inspired to tell my story now, especially after our lovely visit to a place called Grace Farms which is literally a hop, skip and a jump from Rose’s home in New Canaan. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Grace Farms, and I would imagine that is most of you unless you live in the area, it is an architectural delight unlike like anything I’ve seen before. Pictures don’t do it justice even. It was designed by 2 Japanese architects named Sanaa – Kazuyo Najima and Ryue Nishizawa. 

From an aerial view, the building’s organic shape looks like a stream winding through a vast forested area. It belongs to the Grace Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 2009, that asked the prize winning architects to create a building that embodies its mission to bring people together to experience nature, foster community, pursue justice and explore their foundation all aimed at preserving the unspoiled beauty of the land and share it with the public. 

It took 2 years to construct at a cost of 83,000,000 USD.  

It houses a well equipped library, an underground basketball court, a tea house, a semi circular theatre for foundation gatherings, a cafeteria and a welcome centre. 

Rose and I sat in the library and took in the beautiful fall scenery while we did a little more research on the place and looked through art books. 

We walked the grounds a little and fell in love with these great chairs that remind me of very large jelly beans! We of course had to try them out for comfort and we weren’t disappointed! 

We left feeling amazed at how such an extraordinary hilly landscape could be even more incredible by the presence of this floating structure of glass, steel and wood. We also left feeling peaceful and happy to be alive! 

It has inspired me to be even more creative than I “think” I already am and going forward, it will be my mission to bring more of the outdoors in and the indoors out in my design and decorating projects. It also reminds me of the importance of minimalism. Too often things get overdone and it’s not necessary. Especially when you have such a breathtaking view out your window. 

About the author:

Felicia Gimza is an award-winning certified interior decorator who founded the Expert Touch Interiors in 2002 after a long and successful career in the insurance industry. She knew she wanted to be in the design industry since the early age of 13 but followed instead in her mom’s footsteps and joined the corporate world right after she graduated from business school. She fell into insurance because of the building the job was located in. She thought it would be a cool thing to be able to work in this awesome glass building with an atrium and be able to watch people shopping below while she worked above. This should have been a clue back then as to what she should be doing going forward (a career in shopping for others!) but it took her another 15 years to figure this out. 

She continued to climb the corporate ladder in her field but quickly got bored and was always looking to further her education and knowledge. She did this a lot and worked long hours and studied while commuting all while raising her two children with the help of her very supportive husband. While Felicia sat in endless upon endless meetings, her creative juices never stopped running in her head and she found herself daydreaming about her next decorating or renovation project at home. Felicia has always been a “doer” and the fact that she was sitting in with high level visionaries day in and day out in meetings discussing matters about very “dry” insurance products coupled with the fact that she had had enough of the red taped banking environment led her to the conclusion that if she was ever going to be happy and have that work life balance she sought for so long, she was going to have to leave her trusty and well paying job (with benefits!) and go out on her own. But what could give her the satisfaction of being with her school aged children while she still helped support her family, allowed her to be a “doer” and a “thinker” but most importantly allow her to use her creativity in a way that she so longed for??? The answer came to Felicia about 2 weeks after leaving her corporate life. She would finally become the interior decorator she had dreamed about becoming back in her first year of high school. Now this was not an easy task since her studies had taken her elsewhere and she had not an ounce of technical knowledge at this point. However what she did have was a great knowledge of managing people, finances, marketing and sales. All of this was a result of her many years in the corporate world. 

More importantly she was in her fourth home that she had decorated and renovated with care and pride. So it was only a natural progression that this journey – much like the river flowing through Grace Farms with a beginning and an end and many learning portals in between – would take her to her final destination of owning her own company. 

It is now 6 months shy of The Expert Touch Interiors’ 15 year anniversary. It has been a journey of learning (she still learns something new about her craft almost every day), meeting some wonderful clients who have become great friends and assisting others to live in their dream homes. Because having a dream and actually seeing it come true is something she is lucky enough to live every day and she’s truly humbled and thankful but also really darned proud that she’s come this far on her own. So while she looks back on her life in the corporate world with (mostly) fond memories, she would never go back to a desk job. Felicia loves what she does and says there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the smiles on her clients’ faces when she has taken a room from drab to fab. Simply satisfying! 

Felicia doesn’t know what the next leg of her journey will be when she decides to get out of the decorating and design business. Will it be teaching courses to decorating students? Taking art lessons? Getting back into tennis? Or taking her love of food to a higher limit?? Who knows at this point. But that’s the great thing about being on a journey. There are always problems to solve, lessons to learn and experiences to enjoy along the way. As long as we don’t become too focused on the finish line, we will continue to find the joy in our journeys every day. 

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