GARDEN STATE LEADERS IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS SHARE PROUDEST CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENTS, INTERIOR DESIGN STYLES, AND FAVORITE RESORT AMENITIES
BY LAUREN SCHAUMBURG AND ZACHARY WEG PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC, ALEX BARRETO, AND VIOLET KARYN PHOTOGRAPHY
Principal, MHS Architecture / mhsarchitecture.com
There are numerous multifamily architects in the metropolitan area, but perhaps none as impas- sioned in approach as Michael Higgins. With over 30 years of experience that stretches back to his family’s own construction firm, Higgins recently transitioned into the managing principal role at MHS Architecture (formally Marchetto Higgins Stieve) in Hoboken. With this new appoint- ment he brings a refreshing energy to the company. MHS has been in business for over 40 years, designing mixed-use buildings across the tri-state area, but Higgins wants to expand further.
Denver is one of the cities he has his eyes on as he continually brings MHS placemaking opportunities. New Yorkers and Garden Staters only have to look out their window to glimpse the company’s many architectural marvels. Higgins noted that he, along with his team of 40 architects and interior designers, design with the community and local context in mind. As he shapes the skylines, he designs structures that inspire awe and integrate seamlessly into the neighborhoods.
Founder and CEO at WL Kitchen & Home / wlkitchenandhome.com
Gabriel Salazar founded WL Kitchen & Home in 1988 with the aim of producing high-end custom cabinetry and integrating hand-carved pieces into different architectural styles. He was joined by his wife, Olga Botero, as chief financial officer (and later architect) along with Julio Botero, chief design officer. They then began to work on a vast array of kitchens and interiors, transforming them into modern pieces with bold finishes, accents, and elegant transitional pieces. One of the best parts of theirwork, Salazar said, “is the variety of clients and projects that come through our doors. We are focused on residential woodwork,but we have also been involved in hotels, catering halls, synagogues, churches, and private clubs. We also specialize in select museum reproductions, when appropriate.” WL Kitchen & Home offers a full range of services, from design and manufacturing to installation. In the end, Salazar said they “are committed to creating beautiful and useful environments for our clients. Throughout the years we have achieved a reputation for quality, innovation, and delivering on the designs of our clients’ dreams.”
In recent years, WL Kitchen & Home has expanded their reach beyond the borders of the United States and are now getting tapped for international projects, allowing them to reach discerning clients from all over the world. Salazar noted that WL Kitchen & Home’s clients motivate them to continue working with a passion for new design and manufacturing challenges, while still maintaining their tradition of quality craftsmanship when providing clients with one-of-a-kind custom woodwork.
Danielle M. Lozito, Esq.
Lozito Law, LLC, Managing Attorney / www.lozitolaw.com
Though Danielle Lozito first began her vocational journey with a position in insurance coverage litigation, she always knew that her heart belonged in real estate. She was able to cultivate this passion through guidance from her father, and after a decade with an insurance defense law firm, Methfessel & Werbel, she “made the leap of faith and opened my own practice with nothing but hopes and dreams.” Though establishing her name in a new area of law would be a challenge, the tenacious Lozito carved out a niche for herself, and over the last ten years, Lozito Law, LLC has closed thousands of real estate transactions across New Jersey. She said that one of the greatest joys of her work is the opportunity to share the insight and experience she has gained from her challenges and accomplishments with the rest of the real estate world, actively participating in speaking engagements and seminars. For her, “Practicing real estate law is almost like being a diplomat. You need to keep everyone happy, be in everyone’s good graces, and not run afoul of your ethical obligations to your client. Once you earn that (after years and years), you’ve got to make sure you work hard to keep it.” Lozito Law, LLC is now a certified LGBT Business Enterprise, and the attorney is a member of numerous organizations, such as the NJ State Bar Association, the NJ Pride Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Centre Association of Realtors, and the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Owner, Infi nite AV Solutions / i-av.com
For two decades, Daniel Tapolow has put the customer first. A Garden State native with an almost preter- natural sense for consumer demand, the astute business owner began his immersion into the tech world as a teenage employee at his neighbor- hood Best Buy. Now, after years building experience with other companies, Tapolow oversees his own: Infinite AV Solutions. This Little Silver technology firm custom- izes clients’ homes and offices to provide a seamless audio-visual experience. The showroom is located in Red Bank. Along with around 20 employees, Tapolow works so that the words “technical difficulties” may be put to rest. Through his expertise, the homeowner no longer has to turn on the television with three different remotes or raise the stereo volume through a technological miracle.
Tapolow designs and installs various types of technology in both residen- tial and commercial spaces with impressive precision. What further distinguishes the tech leader is his work in the medical community as AV Solutions even customizes hospital emergency rooms. Through trial runs of various ER scenarios, testing buttons in order to ensure their effectiveness, Tapolow helps medical professionals feel more at ease when switches must be flipped and the real emergency arrives. With his capacious mind and benevolent approach, Tapolow gets to work.
Lighting Designer and Window Shades Expert, The Lightning Design Center at Warshauer Electric / warshauerlightingdesign.com
Laura Bufaino recalls memories of perching on a chair for hours, watching her grandmother sit at her classic Singer sewing machine and create clothing and window treatments. She learned at a very tender age from her grandmother how to work with fabrics, and she found herself naturally drawn to the creative. She originally pursued an art degree in college but soon realized interior design was her true calling.
While earning her degree in interior design, she began an internship at the Lighting Design Center, where she realized the important role lighting plays when envisioning a space. In 2015 she joined the Lighting Design team perma- nently, taking on the role of launching and developing the new automated window treat- ments division. In her role as a lighting designer and shadesspecialist, Bufaino works with clients from start to finish to address all project challenges, including the selection of lighting, home automation, and window treatments. She said that she loves to “get to know every nook and cranny of a house plan,” adding it thrills her to be able to “physically walk into the completed space and see my work.” She said she’s also moved by tirelesslyworking to satisfy her clients and turn their wants and needs into realities with each and every project. “Everything comes fullcircle,” she said, grateful for the example her grandmother set all those years ago.
Owner, Garage Living
John Pitera never thought he’d enter the customized garage business, but after years of hard work and countless projects, he is now considered the king of the NJ industry. A licensed real estate broker who discovered the company Garage Living at a confer- ence a few years ago, Pitera became fascinated with the work of customiz- ing homeowners’ garages, spaces that are often overlooked but offer boundless potential. As the owner of Garage Living’s New Jersey branch, he estimates he’s remodeled 750 garages to date, still fascinated with the process. For Pitera, whose no-nonsense Staten Island roots inform his approach, there is no such thing as wasted space. Knowing that the garage is many homeowners’entry into their houses, he has created truly functional – yet beautiful – spaces.
Ten years from now, Pitera noted, the “customized garage industry will be as buzzy as the current home theater craze.” If so, his vision would have a hand in it.