Philadelphia and the Countryside - Press Room

Releases: Expanded View

May 4 2007

Behind The Design

uwishunu™ Hip Hotel Room Makeover At The Westin Philadelphia

RJ Thornburg, Designer

A self-proclaimed “fabulist,” RJ Thornburg tells stories through design. One of Philadelphia’s most sought-after residential interior designers, he once made thousands of design dreams come true for Disney and a host of other corporate clients before going gallery-side. Now, as co-owner with Warren Muller of bahdeebahdu in Philadelphia’s Old City, Thornburg displays an eclectic mix of art and art-furniture, both functional and purely ornamental. Here, interior design meets installations, light sculptures and fantastical exhibitions.

For the uwishunu™ room at The Westin, Thornburg latched onto the campaign’s ideas of “a new way to stay” and “stay like a local” and drew design inspiration from contemporary urban scenes to narrate the Philadelphia experience in a hip, artistic way.

Thornburg resides in Philadelphia with Muller.

Eileen Tognini, Designer/Curator

An independent curator, Eileen Tognini has had a hand in the Philadelphia art scene for more than 10 years, organizing and curating art events, gallery shows, artist salons and sculpture gardens. With an emphasis on the work of emerging and established contemporary artists in the Philadelphia area, as well as New York, Tognini was a natural choice to commission artwork for the uwishunu™ room at The Westin Philadelphia.

Tognini studied both Design and Marketing at Drexel University before heading into the corporate world with the IBM Corporation. She also held positions as Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing for a start-up software company and as Director of Marketing for an internationally-acclaimed landscape architecture and urban design practice in Philadelphia before circling back to the arts full-time in 2002.

These days, she is well-known in regional art circles for her annual Gallery in the Garden exhibition, held each September at the foot of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in rural Pennsylvania. Tognini currently serves on the board of Collab, a group of design professionals in support of the Philadelphia Museum of Art‘s Contemporary and Modern Design Collection.

The daughter of an artist, and the mother to one, Tognini resides with her family in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Warren Muller, Lighting Design

The other half of the creative vision behind bahdeebahdu, luminary Warren Muller sees art in the everyday. His revolutionary lighting design is a by-product of found objects and ceramic sculpted pieces: teapot chandeliers, cheese grater sconces and traffic cone pendants, for example.

A graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts), Muller relates a background in improvisational dance to his experimentation with lighting mediums – blending curious, even unusual elements into one cohesive work of art.

Outside of the light sculptures on display in his showroom, most of Muller’s work is commissioned for specific spaces. In the uwishunu™ room, Muller has been called on to illuminate “unconventional Philly” through unique lighting concepts and is contributing three of his pieces to the room and bathroom.

He resides in Philadelphia with Thornburg.

Meg Saligman, Outdoor Artist

To mural artist Meg Saligman, a picture is worth a thousand words – especially when it blankets graffiti-covered walls and buildings to beautifully tell a cultural tale of inner city neighborhoods. With five major commissions from the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program over the past decade, as well as various highly-visible art assignments across the country, Saligman’s work has been immortalized in the City of Brotherly Love and beyond. Her murals depict themes of hope and local heroes, education and the environment.

She is well known for Philadelphia’s landmark “Common Threads,” the tallest mural in the city at 115 feet high, on Broad and Spring Garden as well as “Philadelphia Muses” at 13th and Locust Streets and the new “Passing Through” wall that can be seen looming over the Schuylkill Expressway. She also painted the nation’s largest publicly-funded mural in Shreveport, Louisiana. Among a long list of awards and honors, in 2006 Public Art Review named Saligman one of the ten most influential muralists this country has seen in the past decade.

Saligman will create a custom Philadelphia mural for the uwishunu™ room, which, conceptually, will be the most visually-stimulating element of the design. The centerpiece of the room, the mural becomes a multi-dimensional headboard for The Westin’s signature Heavenly Bed®.

A graduate of Washington University, Saligman resides in Merion, PA with her husband, Peter, and four children, Lindsay, Robby, Nina and Daniel.

Jenny Lynn, Photography/Graphics

The object is art in Jenny Lynn’s image-driven world. Drawing on a background in painting, photography and film, she has cultivated a career as a conceptual artist exploring the interplay between dream and reality, chance and design, word and image, and collective and personal consciousness.

Well known in the city’s art circles for both her photography and signature art objects, Lynn’s artwork is represented in many private and public collections, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography, the Norton Museum of Art and the Polaroid Collection.

Some of Lynn’s most visible “visual poems,” as she calls them, include ABSOLUT LYNN (a photographic work commissioned for the Absolut Artists series), PhotoTotems, Box of Blue and her Eyewatch wristwatch. Her largest work to date is “Dreams in Transit,” a 10-foot by 30-foot porcelain enamel photo-mural, commissioned by New Jersey Transit and on display at the 9th Street Station in Hoboken, New Jersey.

She exhibits regularly and has taught and lectured at colleges, universities and other professional organizations throughout the country. Interestingly, the uwishunu™ bathroom is soon to be her newest exhibition space. She’ll be designing a custom shower curtain, as well as custom labels for the purely-Philadelphia bath and shower amenities created by local savoniers Duross & Langel.

Lynn studied painting and photography at the Tyler School of Art and briefly pursued filmmaking at the New York University Graduate School of Film and Television before launching a career as a freelance photographer and designer in New York City. She later lived in Santa Barbara, California, before moving to Philadelphia, where she currently resides and works.

Dolores Poacelli, Studio Artist

She’ll be the first to tell you: relationships are never easy, especially when they involve color, shape, texture and space. One of the region’s foremost contemporary painters and a master of mixed media, Dolores Poacelli sees collage as the ultimate exploration of relationships, and as a metaphor for our lives: each of us is a mix of genes and experiences.

From her studio in the heart of the Italian market in South Philly, Poacelli welcomes artistic influences in the form of street life: fishmongers and fruit sellers and the like. The shapes, scents and colors of the market appear in unexpected places in her work. It is undeniably abstract, contemporary and ingrained in the region.

While her influences are locale-specific, Poacelli’s art has been selected for private collections worldwide, including the SAP Software Corporation in Germany and the “Global Focus” collection in Beijing, China. Year to year, for more than 30 years now, she has exhibits in professional galleries and selected shows. Topping her list of recent commissioned work is the uwishunu project, to which Poacelli will contribute contemporary wall art in brushed aluminum and steel.

Poacelli has studied at the Museum College of Art (now University of the Arts), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Fleischer Art Memorial. She lives in Collingswood, New Jersey, with her husband Michael, and they have three grown children: Michele, Michael and Joseph.

Jack Larimore, Furniture Maker

A landscape architect by training and a naturalist at heart, Jack Larimore has funneled his passions into creating studio furniture inspired by natural processes. Working under the umbrella of functional aestheticism, his furniture goes beyond “things we sit on,” or “put things on.” Instead, his "Walking Vessel", "Gift from Tree," "Calla Chairs", "M'Lady's Lilly Table" and "Three for Alchemy Tea at the Tetra" reflect careful timing and skillful character study.

Informed by nature, Larimore’s furniture commonly takes on properties of plants, insects and animals – all to an organic and expressive end. For the uwishunu™ room, he is handcrafting a colonial log table. Where wood meets rolled-steel plating, Larimore expects a quiet, meditative relationship between the materials, and a grander sense of purpose in the room than you might expect from a side table.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Larimore is a self-employed artist, educator and mentor. He works and lives both in Philadelphia and South Jersey with his wife, Helen, who shares his love for the natural.

Barbara Schaff, Studio Artist

A studio artist for more than thirty years, Barbara Schaff has always been hands-on about her work. For a good 15 years, her medium of choice was clay, and then in 1990 she transitioned to paint. With a longstanding penchant for Asian calligraphy and a preoccupation with the simplicity of its line, all of Schaff’s artistic creations, in one way or another, speak to direct connections between us and our world.

Under the premise that all that is surprising already exists in nature, Schaff looks no further than a bird’s nest for her artistic contribution to the uwishunu room at The Westin. Like all things in nature, the nest represents a synthesis of opposites – simplicity within complexity, and strength within fragility – and invokes reflection and interpretation.

Outside of uwishunu, Schaff has received commissions from such well known names as Bell Communications Research, New Jersey Natural Gas, and Boca Raton Golf Club, among others. Her work is shown in the permanent collections of the New Jersey State Museum and The Newark Museum, The Fuller Memorial Art Museum and The Linda Lee Alter Collection of Art by Women, as well as Chubb World Corporate Headquarters, Temple University School of Law, The Independence Foundation, Atlantic Richfield Corporation and McGraw Hill Publishers.

A graduate of Syracuse University and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Schaff boasts a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in 1985 and a Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in 2004. Over the course of her career, she has participated in numerous group shows and one-woman shows nationally and internationally. She currently lives in Philadelphia.

Robert Hakalski, Photography/Digital Design

In Robert Hakalski’s line of work, there’s more to art than first meets the eye. Some elements are seen and captured, some created and superimposed. A whiz at photography and photographic illustration, Hakalski can be credited with the vision behind Visual Machinery, a state-of-the art digital imaging and design studio housed in a Philadelphia loft. Here, he pushes the envelope of computer-based photography and digital design with CD art and package design, catalogue production for print and web, people and product photography for advertising and corporate communications, and large-format fine art printing for private and corporate buyers.

Hakalski first stepped behind the lens while studying at the University of Leeds in England, where he received a Master of Arts degree in English Literature. After teaching English for a year, he switched over to camera work full time, enjoying a stint as a photojournalist before establishing his own commercial studio in the city.

Now well known for his fabrications and constructions, Hakalski took home top honors in the Adobe International Digital Imaging Competition two years in a row. His most recent winning entry, “Visual Machinery,” is now on display at the uwishunu room. A digital print on brushed satin aluminum, Hakalski uses springs and wires, metal plates, rivets and spikes to depict the literal merging of man with the industrial artifacts of his environment. He drew inspiration from the late 19th-centuy industrial tones of his own Philadelphia neighborhood, where he lives with his muse, Sonya.

Duross & Langel, Amenities

Looking for a signature line of skin care products that’s so fresh and so clean and so green? Philadelphia savoniers Duross & Langel mix old family recipes and modern science when handcrafting all-natural soaps, salts, lotions and potions.

Mixologists Steve Duross and James Langel call on a core complex of healing extracts and luxurious ingredients – like moisture rich shea butter and aloe for gentle cleansing – when bottling custom amenities for hair, face and body. Their specialty lime lip balm is a kiss of pure bliss, while cucumber moisturizer coolly relaxes and refreshes.

At Duross & Langel’s shop on 12th and Locust streets, customers can see soap in the making or sample a fresh batch of balm just minutes after it’s poured. Further uptown, at the uwishunu™ room, guests are guaranteed an indulgent experience courtesy of this Philadelphia original. For uwishunu™, Duross and Langel have crafted a collection that includes shampoo, conditioner, vegetable protein deodorant, body lotion, shower gel, soap and lip balm, all packaged with labels featuring the photography of Jenny Lynn.

uwishunu™, created by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) and funded by the City of Philadelphia, reveals the unconventional side of Philadelphia by providing an insider’s look at the city’s dining, drinking, nightlife, active pursuits and culture as shared by Philly-wise locals. If you wish you knew how to visit Philly like a local, go to

  • E-mail

Related Releases