Meet: Bob Coscarelli and Karen Valentine

Chicago, Illinois
02.07.2011 | by: Meghan

Bob Coscarelli is one of the most talented interior photographers in Chicago. He’s been shooting for CS Interiors since the first issue came out almost four years ago. In that time, I’ve been lucky enough to get to know his lovely wife Karen, who grew up Australia and keeps the blog Roam and Home about their Chicago-based food/design adventures as well as their more far-flung journeys. And there are plenty. Every time I talk to them, they’re preparing to embark on some exotic travel odyssey. Like the Orient-Express through Europe last summer, or their current trip-in-the-works: Africa’s wine country and a safari.

Most meaningful travel experience? All travel experiences are meaningful for us. Each is an investment in a memory, and they become more dear and time goes on. If we had to narrow it down a bit, we agree it is our first trip together: Spain.  We had only known each other a few months. We travelled with her friend MaryEllen and brother Steven. There was something so magical about walking the streets of Barcelona at night. We would alternate who would choose the next Spanish tavern to walk into, and it was always the right place to be. A very close second was definitely a heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island of New Zealand; From the very distant approach to the glacier it all looks like a big bowl of ice cream, then as you get closer you realize how massive and deep each chasm is. You land and start hiking over this massive landscape and into the caves. I shot one of my favorite photos of Karen in one cave.

How does travel influence your photography? For me, simply being away from home, where the daily routine is completely interrupted and the surroundings are new, bring about a fresh perspective. I also tend the see many faces I want to photograph, often faces that look familiar.

What do you look for in a trip? We search for a good mix of town and country. We like an exploration new cultures, new realities and the ease in which we can immerse ourselves in them. We typically pursue our own agenda, and avoid areas overrun with  tours and motor-coaches. We were in Marakech and inquire with the owner of our Ryad about a new French restaurant we’d recently read about. He replied that he could arrange a dinner for us there, but indicated “it wouldn’t be an ‘authentic local experience.'” From that point on, we’ve always searched for authentic.

Most interesting place you’ve ever stayed? We can’t singularly answer that, but can narrow it down; The Ryad Ifoulki in Marrakech, The Hapuku Lodge Treehouses in Kaikouri, NZ, Locanda’ Palazzone in Umbria, Las Brisas in Acapulco and The Seth Peterson Cottage in Wisconsin for our wedding night.

Work or home-related project inspired by a travel experience? Travel provides endless inspiration, and we photograph almost every dish we dine on when traveling and upon our return we usually catch-up with friends cooking dishes that are inspired from the flavors of the country we just visited. Sometimes we even include experiences like presenting guests with pre-dinner rosewater steamed towel [Morocco]. There are many little vignettes in our house that remind us of our travels with collections of framed photos, vases, bedding, and even a gold gilded garden gnome flipping us off [cracks us up – Berlin].

Favorite (design-related) travel purchase? Karen brought back bright orange vintage Kartel nesting tables from Dalesford, Australia while working there. We have framed several street-art pieces that we photographed by a picasso-esque artist named Diego in Naples. We purchased our favorite blanket after snuggling in one at a hotel in New Zealand. It’s part possum fur, part sheep wool–sounds bizarre, but unbelievably lush and warm, and it wears better than cashmere. We found ourselves fighting over it, so we called the hotel to buy another one. We have become good at resisting ‘trinkets’ that are charming in the context of their country but at home, often appear out of context and end up at the Salvation Army. We photograph these kind of items in their natural habitat and find that the photo captures the moment and memory better. Thank goodness for Apple TV and Blurb books.

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