Leaving Casa Wynwood Forever, 10 Unplanned Summer Travels
Our Story Moving From Las Vegas to Miami’s Notable Wynwood Arts District To Start Up Two New Business Called “Casa Wynwood” & “Wynwood Lab”
There’s been too much travel and “life” that has happened this summer that I’m not sure where to begin with resuming my regular blog post. I’ll start by telling you why and updating you all on our move out of Casa Wynwood, the venue in Miami, where Boyd and I mentored designers and creatives of all types.
Then, later I’ll share why one of us made two trips to Europe this summer, and amid everything, my daughter Macy graduated and got married in North Georgia. Oh! And then, there’s a new art deco Miami condo that we’ve purchased and still can’t move in. Trust me when I say, there’s a lot that’s happened and most of it entertaining enough to read.
Of course, with the new condo, I see the need to design every piece of furniture, cabinetry, fabric, and tile, so that part should make for some exciting and fun posts! Before I start with a new design, let’s talk about the now old plan, the one that is no longer with us – Casa Wynwood.
Leaving Our Las Vegas Strip Designer Condo
Quickly, to catch everyone up to the point of Casa Wynwood and how we got there, let me explain the “how” and “why.” In May of 2015, Boyd and I packed up our things and vacated our twenty-second floor Vegas condo located on The Vegas Strip overlooking the SLS and the Stratosphere.
Leaving behind our luxurious bedroom, complete with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Stratosphere, we were looking for a new adventure. The adventure we got! You know that saying, “Be careful what you ask for!” It’s true. “Be careful what you ask for.” Forgive the less than perfect iPhone 3 photos, but I want you all to see this view that we had when laying in our Vegas condo bed…
Hello, Wynwood Arts District, Miami! Hello, Wynwood Lab & Casa Wynwood!
Las Vegas had been our first home together as husband and wife. We were excited to embark on a new journey in Miami, Florida, with lots of support behind us. From ELLE DECOR magazine to over 30 well renowned global brands and some startup brands that had never entered the Americas, we had an idea.
The business was an unintentional instant success before we even knew we had a company. When I first mentioned “Wynwood Lab,” which was the first name that came to mind when I thought of the concept to a handful of the exhibitors at the 2015 Architectural Design Show in New York City, the loved it.
The very next day, people started asking me about “Wynwood Lab.” When the first couple of people said, “we want to know more about your Wynwood Lab concept,” I thought, “who named it Wynwood Lab?” When the second and third person mentioned “Wynwood Lab,” I knew we would be fulfilling a need.
Our concept came easy for us; it was something we had already unintentionally began in our Vegas abode. We would have a beautiful place where people wanted to be.
In Vegas, this worked until we realized that our tiny condo would hold at most 60 people packed in like sardines. Boyd and I both thrive on helping other brands, people, and businesses. He was staying on the phone way past his time in the office, trying to help people. I was doing the same.
Casa Wynwood, Mentorship Program
Together we decided we would create a mentorship program for designers, architects, builders, and the brands that serve them. Instead of meeting in a typical coffee shop or even our condo, we wanted to open a commutative space. The venue would be a concoction of the best of the best products and manufacturers. Plus, designers could use the space for them to meet with their clients for coffee and presentations or work before five or hang out after that.
The Wynwood Miami venue could also be rented by the supporting brand sponsors or mentor members to host public and private events. Each sponsor would have the opportunity to entertain and connect with our American Institute of Architects (AIA) and American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and other members through events where designers and architects could also obtain their Continuing Education Units (CEU) or credits. Even Decorating Den Interiors designers popped down during their national leadership meeting.
About Designer & Architect CEU Credits
Each designer and architect needs a specific number of unit credits per year to maintain their status with ASID and AIA. Think of this as your hairdresser or massage therapist is required to go to classes where they learn new techniques so that you have the best-looking hair or get the best message, but with architects and designers, what they learn affects every space we enter.
It’s so important that by law, each building must be planned by at minimum by an architect or engineer, and most of those firms hire interior designers and landscape architects to take care of the parts that won’t affect a building’s structure. Boyd and I also saw a way for designers, architects, other artists, and creatives that service them to connect to create better projects with original art and handmade furnishings too.
Designing Casa Wynwood
In April 2015, we rented an empty warehouse in the middle of the Wynwood Arts District, a former Miami ghetto going through gentrification. Thanks to Tony Goldman’s vision and his company Goldman Properties, Wynwood, was on the rise to becoming an artistic haven.
Mr. Goldman was most notable for his imaginative, real estate developments. He was instrumental in the development of Miami Beach, Florida, New York City’s SoHo district, and 13th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But the Wynwood Arts District was different. Everywhere you turn, there were beautiful wall paintings on the sides of warehouses. Entrances to buildings were purposely hard to find.
Before The Casa Wynwood Renovation
Boyd and I knew the neighborhood would be a great one. When we leased what would become our new business and Casa, it looked like this…
Yep! Plain and boring. People thought we were off our rockers. And in some regard, we were. There were no windows, no doors, and no natural light in the space. Only concrete cinder block walls, concrete floor, and fluorescent lights on the ceiling.
Agreed, this looks like the same photo as the last, but it’s not. Notice the scale on the floor; this is where shipment palettes were weighed for the clothing and textiles that were once manufactured in the building.
The back of the newly leased space was filled with debris and home to the neighborhood wild cats and overgrown mango trees.
Opening Day of Casa Wynwood During Art Basel December 2015
By December 3, 2015, just after the 6 pm invitation time, after the last KOHLER faucet was installed, with the help of the Beverly Hills design group, Erinn V. Design Group, we opened the doors of Casa Wynwood. More than 600 waiting Art Basel VIP (Very Important People) guests to the first party sponsored by ELLE DECOR.
Thankfully, they all waited in the December Miami 70 degree heat 🙂 Upon their entry, they were amazed that the once fashion manufacturing warehouse had been converted to a 7500-square foot home, garden, and art gallery.
When the visitors first arrived, this is the Red Gate, designed by Nick Alain that they entered through before approaching the Secret Garden, designed by landscape architect and artist David Font….
Photo Credit: Miami Herald
The Debuting Artists & Talent Casa Wynwood
Photo Credit: Maicol Diaz – The initial artists for Wynwood Lab included (Left to Right) Mateus Bailon, Miguel Paredes, B. Pila, Dr. Steven Swancoat, Mateus Goulart, By Flower Child aka. Gabrielle Noelle, and landscape architect David Font, Winner of Season 1 – Brother vs. Brother Property Brothers. Not pictured: Erinn Valencich, aka. Erinn V., the original space planner & decorator.
The Outdoor Landscape by David Font, Winner of Property Brothers Show “Brother vs. Brother” Season 1
Photo Credit: Blueprint 22 | @Blueprint22
Inside Casa Wynwood Designed by Erinn V. Design Group X Christi Tasker
Not only was it a fully functioning home, but one with an Italian Superiore Tecnogas gas range and all integrated appliances and the coolest bathroom you’ve ever seen.
Photo Credit: Blueprint 22 | @Blueprint22
Photo Credit: Blueprint 22 | @Blueprint22
Using Wynwood Wall Art in Interior Design Projects | Artist: Mateus Bailon
In Casa Wynwood, we wanted to show how wall art could transition for interiors so that artists could diversify. Our PuTTin’ OuT digital media marketing team found the amazing Brazilian wall artist Mateus Bailon, and we invited him to work with us on a design for the bedroom; this was his first proposal, and it quickly became everyone’s favorite space.
Photo Credit: Tom Clark Photography
The Original Casa Wynwood Venue Closes Due to Skyrocketing Miami Real Estate Prices
In late February 2018, Boyd and I got a notice that our Casa Wynwood lease was not being renewed and that the landlord wanted us to move the business out as soon as possible. Our lease expired at the end of May, and we had both private and corporate events booked until the end of April.
As you can imagine, calling a bride to tell her that her wedding venue was closing a month or two before her BIG day? What about calling off an entire film production? While we were disappointed to learn that real estate prices in Miami’s Wynwood Art District had exceeded the reasonable costs of operating a service business, it was not fair to cause harm to those that we were servicing.
The lease amount increased by more than 700%, so absorbing the additional rent was not an option. At the time we invested in Casa Wynwood, we trusted the landholder and thought we were safe for at least another 5-7 years thanks to our enormous bill for tenant improvements. Nonetheless, we were not given the option to renew.
Wynwood Arts District Pre-2015
It was hard to believe how quickly real estate prices had risen, but the evidence of change was all around. When we first moved into Wynwood, there were evident signs of the old Miami ghetto. No one in their right mind wanted to be there after dark. There are stop signs that cars still didn’t even slow down for because they were once in fear of being shot and robbed.
Cars parked street side was guaranteed to be broken into. What am I saying? Even cars behind gates and fences too. Our good friend, once a neighbor, and one of the first Wynwood Lab artists, Nick Alain saw me carrying my purse and told me not to bring anything of value in Wynwood. He was right! Come to find out…there were purse robberies ALL THE TIME! I took his advice and began carrying money or credit cards in my pocket.
Casa Wynwood Mentorship Program Reaches Global Audience
Considering Casa Wynwood was also a mentorship program where Boyd and I mentored people from Miami and abroad, learning that we had lost our lease was a harsh reality. Members would no longer be able to utilize Casa Wynwood as a home.
Out of town designers, photographers, and artists would often schedule shoots or events in Miami, and instead of having to time checking into a hotel, they could quickly drop their bags and go to their events or meetings. This convenience would change, and while members were disappointed, they were grateful that the mentorship program would continue.
Bombay Artisan Series in Casa Wynwood
We hosted Bombay Artisan Series for Bombay Sapphire and over 30 artists in the Miami region alone!
Photos compliments of Bombay Sapphire
Starting with Italian manufacturers in February, we began taking the mentorship and consulting advice on the road.
Our first stop was in the heel of the boot of Italy. We began advising manufacturers of all sizes principles and best business on entering the United States, which keeps them from repeating the same mistakes that other companies have in the past.
European companies are familiar with marketing to tiny countries in comparison to the USA. Often, they don’t understand how BIG and demographically diverse America and Americans are. In short, European manufacturers can quickly burn through large amounts of cash, trying to make you aware of their products.
Boyd and I want to ensure their remarkable craftsmanship and attention to detail stay alive for the next generation. At the moment, you’re probably hearing a lot about the trades and artisans in Venice.
Wynwood Concrete Is Cut And Dust Flies
After we returned from Italy, we and several mentees were working in Casa Wynwood, and suddenly we all begin experiencing headaches. It took a few minutes until we realized that all of us started to have the same symptoms at the same time.
Minutes later, we realized we were surrounded by a cloud of airborne crystalline silica dust (aka. airborne concrete dust). The landlord had decided it was a good idea to start renovating the vacant spaces next door to Casa Wynwood.
We could hear the noisy saws cutting something, little did we know it was concrete. When I could barely see the person who was working in front of me, I walked over to the kitchen for a glass of water. That’s when I saw the Cosentino countertops layered in a sheet of greyish white dust.
Our cleaning helper began to notice the areas that he had cleaned an hour earlier, buried in concrete dust. At that point, we started immediately vacating The Casa and canceling all appointments, events, and showings out of health concerns for our guests and ourselves.
Concrete Dust Damaged Casa Wynwood Inventory
Every millimeter of Casa Wynwood sponsored furnishings was covered in white dust – from the 50+ yards of white linen draperies to costly upholstered furniture. Every nook and cranny of appliances, computers, on valuable art, fashion wardrobes set up for shoots, on the interiors of the cabinets, even the suctioned drawers were covered in dust.
There was nowhere the lightweight; the toxic white powdery dust didn’t reach. The moral of this paragraph: Stay away from crystalline silica dust (aka. cut concrete dust), and if you or anyone you know is a construction worker, they need to wear a mask! I can tell you first hand that this stuff causes significant health problems. We’re praying that we do not develop lung cancer from the exposure.
Casa Wynwood Closed
For a little over two weeks, for the safety of Casa Wynwood mentees and patrons, we took OSHA’s website advice and stayed at what is now our favorite Brickell hotel – SLS Hotel Residences.
Each day that passed, we woke thinking that tomorrow would be the day that we could safely reopen for business and move back into Casa Wynwood. Even after six or seven cleanings, COIT recovery services, we were still finding dust when we packed up to move out in late May. And to date, when I go to grab things out of storage, I have to clean dust out of the crevices.
How To See Photos of My Final Design Installation Casa Wynwood
We are glad to be out of the hazard’s way. As of May 31, we have permanently moved out and found a new condo for ourselves, but we have yet to locate a perfect property for Casa Wynwood.
We’ll keep you posted when we do. More photos and videos of Casa Wynwood will be coming out in an excellent national magazine at the end of this year if all goes well in the editing department.
I will keep you all posted as to which magazine here on P.S. This Rocks. If you want to know more about Miami real estate, and Wynwood – click here to read the Miami Herald article. If you’re wondering why Miami Herald refers to Casa Wynwood as Wynwood Lab, watch this video to hear the story of being sued for the Wynwood Lab trademark.
Travel Journey While Our Art Deco Brickell Condo Under Renovation – Follow #MyMiamiCondo & #Miami4D on Social Media
In June, flew back and forth between Miami and Atlanta, until we closed on our art deco Miami Brickell condo located just next to the Rickenbacker Causeway, aka. The bridge to Key Biscayne.
We took up home base in my dad and bonus mom’s bunker so that we could help Macy with the last minute wedding details and be close to Miami while we waited to close.
In July, we hopped the pond to Paris, France for business and spent the 4th of July there. After Paris, we spent about three weeks visiting both Boyd’s mum and my mom in Largs, Scotland, just north of Glasgow.
Life Happened: College Graduation, Wedding, Funeral
About two weeks after returning from Scotland and two days before Macy’s wedding, Boyd got word that his father, John Greig Tasker, had passed away.
The Monday after Macy’s Saturday wedding, Boyd flew to Guatemala City, Guatemala, to speak at the Visual Merchandising Conference. I was on standby, not knowing if I would take my flight to Dallas to visit clients or departing back to Glasgow airport for my father-in-law’s funeral.
Needless to say, after 9 hours of just trying to leave Atlanta and the back and forth of trying to book, rebook, and make a flight in time for Thursday’s arrangements that were 5 hours ahead of our time zone, I realize it wasn’t possible. Still, I did learn even more than I knew from American Airlines. Fortunately, Boyd made it into Glasgow just hours before his father’s funeral.
Now, onto brighter occasions! Are you ready?
First, Macy is a far better speaker than her mother – listen to her monumental President of her class speech and see Macy’s graduation and RN pinning ceremony.
How To Get Our Blog Post First
P.S. Pardon the long couldn’t begin writing without first updating our loyal friends and readers of all of life’s happenings and explain that you are still on our minds. We have just had a lot to absorb and share.
Fortunately, Boyd and I are both back in Miami, working on our condo renovation. We don’t know if Macy and Alex will finish their house in Georgia or if we’ll finish our 800 square foot condo first. So far, they are winning, and my dad frequently reminds me of it.
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Thank you all for your continued support, good wishes, and prayers.
Christi & Boyd
I’m Christi Tasker, serial globetrotter, product & interior designer, Glamma Gaga, NBC social media correspondent, podcaster, freedom fighter, brand & business consultant, entrepreneur's best friend, artist & multi-business owner.