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Decor

How To Style Your Nightstand the Aaron Stewart Home Way

Decor, LifestyleMaría ElenaComment

My mom is the queen of keeping her bedroom tidy, clean and soothing. She always encourages that my sister and I keep our rooms organized because this is the place where you rest and therefore, should be a place you feel at ease. So when Fernando Rodríguez called me to do a blog post about styling nightstands, I was in! Fernando along with Aaron Stewart Home's lovely Personal Stylist, Lizzette "Lichy" Schettinni, created the 5 nightstand settings perfect for almost any personality. 

1. The Romantic Setting

The first nightstand Fernando and Lichy styled was a very romantic one. The lavender tones combined with the fresh flowers make the bedroom look fresh and sophisticated. Plus, the bucket for the bubbly wine makes the perfect setting for a romantic night in any day of the week. 

2. Sophisticated yet playful

This is the perfect nightstand for someone who is professional yet likes some color in their life. "A good book is inspirational even if you don't open it... it has beautiful images that are next to you for your sleeping time, which is a good thing", said Fernando while styling this look. 

Books are also a great way to make your nightstand more functional. "The idea is to rise your small lamp with inspiring books so you can have the perfect nightstand light", said Fernando.

3. Earthy meets modern

This is a great look for a more classic bedroom. "It's always good to cover your nightstand with a little tray like this one by Natalia Subirá so it lasts longer. It keeps things from getting stained so it doesn't get scratched with your candles, etc."

Plus, no matter if you're planning a romantic night with your partner or planning a Netflix date with yourself, you should try to keep flowers in your bedroom. "Flowers always make everything look fresh, no matter what" - Fernando Rodríguez. 

4. For the modern gal

I can say this is my favorite one just for the Jonathan Adler jewelry box. I mean, look at that! I swear it's made of dreams and pixy dust. 

"If you want to do something classier you can use gold.. and if you have a two toned nightstand like this one, then you can play with gold for three months and then use the blue and interchange colors and ideas based on the colors of your nightstand". 

Lichy also suggested adding little trays for when you forget to take all your jewelry off at night. "Add a pop of color with little trays to hold your jewelry before going to sleep.... It happens to me all the time!"

5. The playful one:

Fernando recommends to not be afraid of mixing colors. "It's all about looking around the house and finding one or two pieces that you really like and moving it around. Maybe it's something in the living room... who knows? Don't be afraid of bringing it to the bedroom and viceversa... that way you refresh the whole room.", said Fernando. 

"Don't try to be matchy matchy! Have a sense of color", said Lichy while adding "Para el gusto los colores, y los colores, las flores" which basically means that if you want some color, add flowers!

So there you go, nightstand inspiration for any personality. But, last but not least, I wanted to add some random pieces of advice Fernando and Lichy offered while at the store:

- Always keep things that are very close to you and things that are beautiful that have nature, or beautiful books with beautiful pictures. 

- Keep a soothing candle and a good lavender scented moisturizing cream on your nightstand. 

- Always keep a glass of water for before and after you go to sleep. 

- Switch things around every once in a while.

What do you think? What are your tips and tricks for a soothing bedroom?

XO, 

Elena

Career Profile | Fernando Rodríguez from Aaron Stewart Home

CareerMaría ElenaComment
If you are running and you keep looking at people around you, you slow down. But if you keep running and look forward, you forget about the world and just do what you need to do.
— Fernando Rodríguez

That's one of the many memorable quotes I got from Fernando Rodríguez, co-owner and Lifestyle Curator at Aaron Stewart Home and Aaron Stewart Lifestyle who agreed on doing Ambinity's first career profile.

If you have ever been around Puerta de Tierra in San Juan, Puerto Rico, there is no way Aaron Stewart Home's bright colors and impeccable taste hasn't catch your eye. So you can only imagine my excitement when Fernando, who has an amazing résumé, agreed on doing this interview. 

It was a Saturday morning and I had just posted a selfie on Snapchat announcing what was about to happen. All of the sudden Fernando's bright smile appears from the other side of my car's window. Umm.. Embarrassing! "Nice to meet you María Elena! Please come inside", he said in the friendliest way, shooking all the awkwardness away. My sister (who assisted me with photography) and I went inside to start the interview and suddenly Backstreet Boys music started playing from his iPhone. I immediately new this was going to be a great interview.

He offered us water and invited me to sit in one of his lovely tables to start chatting while my sister started taking pictures. For the next hour I sat there listening about his incredible career journey and the risks he took that led him to New York and back to his home town, Puerto Rico where he has experienced great success. 

"My favorite word is trust", he said at some point in a way that you can tell he's a very loving and spiritual person. To say that his calm voice and contagious smile will make your day brighter is an understatement.

"Some things are very superficial, but memories stay with you", said Fernando while recalling how his dream of opening Aaron Stewart Home came from childhood memories.  He used to visit Old San Juan with his family just to see the beautiful display windows of luxury stores like González Padín in Christmas Time. "When we opened the store I told myself that I wanted to bring back that vision to the Island. So last year we brought a snow machine so that it will snow every day in our display windows", he said with sparkle in his eyes. "It's my mission to create great things and I want to bring kids to San Juan so that people bring back those traditions that are part of who we are", he added.

So without further ado, here's how the interview went:

ME: Tell me a little bit about how you started working in the fashion industry? 

FR: I worked in corporate America companies like Colgate-Palmolive, GlaxoSmithKline and several pharmaceutical companies since I graduated grade school until I turned forty. I felt like a circle trying to fit into a square. I think that when you are growing and trying to figure out what your ambitions are in life, sometimes you don't look at the bigger picture and you may think that the things that are very inspiring to you are not a reality.

I always wanted to be in the fashion industry and I wanted to go to Parsons or Pratts, but they (his parents) sent me to business school. By the time I was growing up there weren't as many opportunities to kind of have an open mind to say 'this is your call'. In my time it was more like 'look, your dad has a business and your mom wants you to study finance so you have to go to business school'. Long story short, at 40 years old I was in New York and I will never forget the day I was at doctor's office with one of my medical detailers and I told myself 'what am I doing here? I don't belong here... this is not who I am'. Then I literally resigned (from his current position) and gave away company cars, stock options and my corporate credit card and started knocking on doors to get into fashion.

ME: You worked your way up at Hickey Freeman? How was that experience and how do you think it helped you in your career? 

FR: It was a rude awakening when I started knocking on doors at 40 years old, trying to find an entry level job that someone who just graduated from Parsons could do for far less money than I would've. I already had a big career behind me in the corporate world which is why nobody wanted to employ me. They told me that I was too old and that I didn't have the skills, but I just kept networking and reaching out to people through LinkedIn and to friends that I had in New York and someone finally gave me a chance.

This is when I started working at Hickey Freeman. They had a new brand that they were bringing out to the market and they gave me the opportunity of opening their new store in SOHO. I basically said 'I'll take it! I'll do whatever I have to do'. So as I opened the store they realized I had style and a huge business background. I did really well and they quickly promoted me to Brand Director. So in a matter of two years I went from Ugly Betty and The Devil Wears Prada into running a brand and going to Florence and working with designers.

It was kind of my dream come true... I was super happy and finally doing what I wanted and then the recession came into New York and the brand closed. Then I started working at Joseph Abboud as their Brand Director, where I worked on everything that had to do with branding and showing the brand to the market, except design. 

ME: Tell me about your experience as Regional Manager and then General Manager at women's fashion giant, Tory Burch?

FR: After Joseph Abboud I went to Tory Burch and stayed with them for about two and a half years. That was a great opportunity going from men's to women's and getting to do both and learn that market with a completely different pace and different demographic. It was super fun and super challenging running 13 stores all over the Northeast. Now Tory is opening a store here at The Mall of San Juan and the Regional Director came to the store the other day where we sat down for an hour just talking about the market.

It's funny how things come full circle. I always say you have to be good and make an impact with people in a positive way because you never know when they will come back to your life. That says a lot about yourself and your personality. It's really easy to reject something and leave it behind, but when you take the bull by the horns, that's when you develop character as an individual. You need to finish everything in good terms. 

ME: Tell me about your experience at MANHATTAN Magazine?

FR: After Tory Burch, a fashion lifestyle magazine asked me to be their Fashion Director and run every ad that went into those magazines. I was in charge of making all the relations on all marketing events and getting brands to advertise with us. Brands like Prada, Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Chloe, Stella McCartney and Chanel.

I'm very blessed because I was able to do things that people dream of and I don't take it for granted because it's part of what has brought me here. Part of the success of my brand is due to the fact that I've been exposed to all the big brands.

ME: Do you think these experiences in the fashion world helped you open your store? 

FR: The skill that I mostly developed from being in the fashion world was creativeness. I've always had it (being creative), but I think it allowed me to become more in tune with those things. Living in New York and working in fashion is a schooling by itself... walking by the street everyday and seeing the diversity of people, the way that people dress, the way that people shop, the way that people enjoy life. Everything is schooling.

I think the store is a mixture of Aaron and myself being able to travel the world for work and for pleasure and being exposed to many things that are now part of our DNA. That's what really helped us do something special here. Most of these products are things that we used in New York or our friends' own the brands. And we love helping our friends come to a new market!

ME: How did you meet Aaron and how long have you been together as life and business partners?

FR: Aaron used to work for a bedding company called SFERRA as the Creative Director and I was the Brand Director at Hickey at the time. We shared the same vendor (a girl also from Puerto Rico) at a sample sale in New York. She was always telling Aaron about this guy from Hickey and telling me about this guy in SFERRA because she thought it would be really nice if we met. I was like 'yeah, yeah yeah. No, no, no'.

So like six months went by and we were in the Hamptons and I saw him at a party. The next day I stopped him because I saw him walking down the street and I told him 'Hey I saw you yesterday at the party!' and he told me 'Yeah I saw you too!'. I thought he was lying until he told me 'you were wearing a Yankees t-shirt and aviator sunglasses' and then I asked him to buy me a drink and we started going out since that day.

We actually met on our own... It was serendipity, it was meant to be. If we had not met that summer on our own, we were still going to be introduced by our friend in common. We've been together for eight years now. 

ME: How's been the experience working together? 

FR: We went from partners to business partners when we moved here (Puerto Rico). We went from having different jobs, responsibilities, categories and fields to all of the sudden doing everything together. It's been a really cool ride.

I think that when you're meant to be with someone, life molds you in a way that it becomes really organic and we quickly realized what were my strengths and what were his strengths. We don't step on each others toes... when I'm down his up, when I'm up, he's down. We are never down at the same time.

It's very Ying and Yang, and I think that the attraction of human and spirit when to people are meant to be together created this really great formula for us. When you have this type of bonding, it sheds all the bad stuff away and you can focus on many other things.

ME: How did Aaron and yourself decided to open the store?

FR:  Aaron and I decided to 'close shop' and come to Puerto Rico to open this brand (Aaron Stewart Home). We made the decision on January 2013 and opened our store doors in November 2013. We came to Puerto Rico without really knowing the market, but we just knew we had a great idea. It's tough, but when you have a point of view and a clear vision of who you are, it makes it much easier to maximize efforts since it's part of your DNA. We knew we had something very special.

ME: Why open Aaron Stewart Home in Puerto Rico?

FR: I left and amazing job to move back here in a time of financial crisis in the Island, not knowing the market, but we took a big risk. I think life pays off when you take risks, because they allow you to generate new experiences in your life. Fear can be very decrementing to your life and it will hold you from experiencing many things.

I grew up around famous stores in the Island like González Padín and Velasco and there was so much elegance in these stores. I remember that the way they packed their stuff was very beautiful. From the way they packed with paper to the little presentation cards. It wasn't that it was expensive, it's just that it was special and that was my inspiration when opening this type of store in Puerto Rico.

After those stores closed, there was nothing like that here. So we started working on our packaging and making sure that everything looks really pristine and beautiful all the time. The packaging has a ribbon that wherever you go with that silver and blue ribbon present, they know it's from Aaron Stewart Home. We used Puertorrican luxury in those days (1970's-1980's) as the inspiration to open this store.

It's nothing new, we just want to bring back that customer service; if you can't come to our store, we'll deliver it to your home. It's very personal. This is not a place where you come in a rush. You can even drink champagne or juice!

ME: What is the hardest part of owning a business? 

FR: The most challenging part is that you know what needs to happen, but you don't have enough time in the day to get it done. Having people around you that don't completely understand what you are trying to do is kind of difficult too. Sometimes there's a lot of growing pains, but its part of the journey of having your own business and I don't see it as a mistake. I see it as an opportunity to learn something new so I don't do it again and I find a solution to the problem.

There's not a lot of things I don't like about owning my own business. The freedom of doing things at my own pace is the thing that I most like about it.

ME: In this economy, why do you think you have a successful business?

FR: By finding opportunities everywhere. I think our success has to do with that we came from the States and we had a very different way of looking at things. When you come from a different place you don't see things the same way. It doesn't matter if it was Puerto Rico or Miami, you always find that your way of doing things is different than what all the people are doing.

That's how we saw an opportunity of something that was not here and we marketed this store true to what we are. We haven't changed, we are who we are and I think that having the right products, something different and having amazing customer service are all part of the success.

There's no room for failing. Like, there's no crying in baseball! I root for myself. Some people used to tell me to not rent this space because there is a sewer in the front and it may cause the store to flood if it rains. And I was like, why am I going to stop getting an amazing space because somebody is telling me this? Let's fix the sewer!

The thing is to follow your instinct and ignore the rest.

ME: What advice would you give someone trying to get into the fashion and luxury industry?

FR: You have to stay up with it because it changes all the time. You can't rely in just what you know. You have to keep learning and reading and look at things with a different eye. You don't have to love it, but you have to appreciate it because it's part of your world. I think fashion and luxury evolve all the time and you have to be on top of that and you need to appreciate it so you can keep evolving with your brand in tough times.

You have to put your time and effort to learn the industry in order to be successful. Be humble and do whatever you need to do to develop the skills you need to become a master at what you are working on. Just because you planted that seed in the soil and the plant is not yet on the surface, doesn't mean that it is not starting to create roots.

When you have a vision or a virtue, you can't let it go. I think that when you have a desire of doing something you just have to really do it.. there's no room for fear. Fear is your worst enemy... you just have to keep trying until it works. As long as you know that you have that skill in you and you just need somebody to give you an opportunity. But once you get that opportunity you have to work really hard. It's not just going to come to you and that's it.

ME: Talk to me about wonderful Clooney

FR:He's human! I wanted a dog forever and since we used to live on a tiny apartment in New York, Aaron never agreed. But I kept asking him and sending him dog pics until one day I found a dog breeder online. That is how I found Clooney who is half cocker spaniel/ half poodle and I sent the picture to Aaron and he was like "when do we pick him up?!".

Clooney has become a beautiful part of our lives. He can do no wrong.

And last, but not least... Fun Facts about Fernando!

  • Favorite scent: Gardenia
  • Favorite music: 80's music
  • Favorite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 
  • Favorite way to unwind: Playing tennis
  • Favorite restaurant: Santaella and Yamburger (both in San Juan)
  • Favorite social media: Pinterest 
  • Favorite coffee shop: At home from my Nespresso
  • Favorite beverage: White Tequila
  • Must have home decoration piece: Good sheets/ good bedding
  • Most proud of: Having no fear and doing what we did. I am really proud of being where I am right now. 
  • Necessary luxury: A good watch. You can be in jeans and t-shirt but the watch says a lot about you.
  • What's at the top of your bucket list: Taking a vacation for 14 days. Excluding the flying and coming back and forth! Two full weeks of vacation.
  • Best place you've ever visited: Florence, the Amalfi Coast and Capri. I love Italy!

So if you live in Puerto Rico or are just visiting and you still haven't come around this store, make sure you give it a try. I assure you'll be in for a treat. ;)

How to Find the Motivation to Reach your Goals

Lifestyle, CareerMaría Elena2 Comments

If you have known me for a long time, you probably know that before I became serious about this blog, I was very scared to talk about it with people. Even though writing has always been a passion of mine, for some reason I was scared of what people would think of me for putting myself out there. Like it was lame to have a blog... Shame on me!

One of the things that inspired me to finally give Ambinity a try was reading one of my favorite websites, The Everygirl. Every week they interview a creative young woman that has become successful in a field she loves. But besides the fact that most of these stories are highly inspirational, I found myself being most inspired by these women's work spaces. 

Trying to make my own little world, with "The Secret" vision in mind, I started planning how I could make my work station *cough* my bedroom *cough* as pretty and inspiring as possible.

I started by having live plants and predominating colors like green, blue and gold because they remind me of the beach, which ignite my creativity. Plus, turning on a candle in this setting is like being in your own little tropical zen space. Try it!

And we can't talk about pretty things in your desk/ vanity without talking about this Jonathan Adler elephant lamp! Seriously, can you stop looking at it? I sure can't. Props to my mom for getting me this for Christmas two years ago. :) 

And last but not least, here's a tip I learned from Lauren Conrad, aka "Mama Lauren". Write your New Years Resolutions and put them on a beautiful frame so you can always see them. 

These are some tips that have helped me not only do what I love, but distract me from very hectic days during my full time job. If you have a hobby or a creative outlet and you have been putting it aside because of the lack of time, I sincerely encourage you to find the time to create your own little environment where you can have your me time. I promise you it will be very rewarding. :)

Do you have a hobby? I want to know how you keep yourself motivated to practice it!

Love,

Elena

Fall Decorations for your Table Setting

Lifestyle, Decor, EntertainingMaría ElenaComment

Something that has always made me happy are elaborate table settings. I love how they can make any meal feel fancy. So this year, for my boyfriend's birthday, I decided to finally take a look at The Everygirl's Handbook and take some inspiration from their How to Set and Style Place Settings. I had a hard time trying to make the table look more fall-ish, so I took out my mason jars and used them as vases to display the flowers my boyfriend gave me a while back. Thanks to their beautiful yellow, red and orange colors, I made the table look more October-ish. 

This is how it turned out. Enjoy!