From the Editor: Bringing Passion to Design That Defines Us

Thoughts on our surroundings from the ever-creative Gary Shanabarger

BY April 1, 2014
Thoughts on our surroundings from the ever-creative Gary Shanabarger


Passion for design? You could say Gary Shanabarger was born to care (see p. 124 for “The Art of Surprise,” which was shot in his studio and includes pieces of his). His parents were both in the business and this Naples native was off to New York City at 21, where, among other things, he ended up teaching at the Parsons School of Design and doing interior visual displays at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.

But Gary, 44, has been home for a while now (one serious New York snowstorm reminded him why he loves Southwest Florida). He’s got his own business, Edward Gary Design, after owning an antique shop, working with his mother and his sister on various projects and starting floral display shop 50Fifty Creative Services with Matthew Huddleston. Recently, at our invitation, he shared what he loves about the design he sees all around him—and what he hopes for the future.

Challenging Times

“There were a lot of Mediterranean-style homes built in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Gary says. “Homeowners were choosing heavy, large-scale furnishings, often in dark wood and deep colors. But it didn’t take these transplanted Northerners long to realize that Naples is a more laid-back, tropical spot with a lifestyle all its own.

“It saddened me, though, to witness the demolition of so many historical homes that were original to our way of living. They were so much of who we are and what we want to be. Even some of the simpler, ranch-style houses built in the ’50s and ’60s captured a cleaner, more basic aesthetic that fits with our lush environment. Down on Fifth Avenue South, the charm and appeal gave way to franchise stores, banks and real estate offices. The creative mom-and-pop shops are simply gone.”

Moving Smartly Ahead

“Now I’m seeing positive movement reflecting the true soul of Naples. There’s currently a nod to historical beach-style cottages with some modern styling. Some row houses going up in Old Naples are showing sophisticated, contemporary influences with touches like cable railings combined with weathered teak accents, white foundations and simple pops of defining color for the front doors.”

The Joy of Creating

Gary worked with proprietor Rocky Patel to get a special look for Burn, the cigar lounge in Mercato. They are both passionate men who wanted to create something fresh—and going for a feel of Cuban elegance became the mission. “We used Jerusalem stone, mahogany from Honduras, glass manufactured in Mexico for the humidor,” Gary says. “We did the exterior in a cool Cuban green. Rocky had a board of cigar smokers and waitresses with their own design ideas—there was so much input it almost made my head explode. But I’m extremely happy with how it all turned out.”

For Hob Nob restaurant in Naples, Gary’s signature moves include a local artist’s custom-blown glass light fixtures, 38 different fabrics, a computer-generated pattern on the banquette near the entrance and an 11-foot-long community table made of white quartz with a waterfall edge against an antique-framed mirror wall that makes it seem twice as large. He transformed a 10,000-square-foot Port Royal home from Keewaydin-lodge style into modern white. He mixed white glass flooring with dark woods, created an open living floor plan and put in LED technology that enables the owners to change the colors of the rooms with the click of a switch.

Still on his wish list? “I’d love to design a sophisticated nightclub. It would be pure fantasy and I’d like it to appeal to young and old. The atmosphere would be ever-changing, dreams flashing by, just surreal.” Not a bad idea, Gary. We’re always good for dreams. And so, obviously, are you, fulfilling career dreams with ever-edgy designs for the region you love so much.


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