Going clockwise from the top left, one of 52 homes that were featured in artist Dalia Rihani’s series: Home of the Heights – this home can be found off of Morrison Street; a before and after Rihani drawing of Jason and Robin Hammonds’ Cortlandt Street Heights home; Homes of the Heights project designer Dalia Rihani, Heights residents Jason and Robin Hammonds, and their daughter Marin, 11, who attends Harvard Elementary school; the finished product from artist Dalia Rihani of the Hammonds’ pre-renovation and renovated home (art suppliled; photos by Christina Martinez).
While previously working as a graphic designer and illustrator at a tech company, Heights resident Dalia Rihani found her creative side not being challenged. Taking matters into her own hands, she set out on a personal design project that captured the neighborhood she so dearly loves – Homes of the Heights.
The project was originally planned to be a 52 week series, drawing a home once per week for a year, but like with most things the plan was changed and Rihani ended up drawing three houses a week – roughly 100 Heights homes in total.
“When it comes to why I did it, there’s a few reasons why,” Rihani said. “There’s this thing that designers do – it’s a repetitive project that you do for one hundred days; for one hundred days you pick something to do, maybe a skill that you want to be better at design wise, and you do that skill for one hundred days at different variations. Two of my other designer friends did it – one drew celebrity faces and the other did hand lettering. I decided I wanted to do something like that and I wanted to draw Heights homes.”
Rihani and her fiancée live in the neighborhood. Her creative process usually starts with she and her fiancée pedaling the neighborhood, searching for unique homes that met her criteria: “If that house could be placed in another neighborhood and blend in, we wouldn’t draw that one,” Rihani said. “You can put another home from another neighborhood into the Heights and it looks fine, but you can’t put a home in the Heights in another neighborhood and it not stand out.”
Next, she’d snap a few photos of the home and cross reference the home with Google maps images. The photos would then get plugged into a program called Sketch. Then, she started drawing over the photo, next to it and started manipulating things around.
“I usually start with the windows and the doors, and then start building the frame around it,” she said.
After the creative process was completed, Rihani printed post cards of the final product and mailed them to the home owners with a special note that let them know she admired their home, and also dropping a couple of lines of how to get in touch with her if interested in prints.
When it comes to a favorite house, Rihani said she has several, but one that sticks out is off of Morrison Street.
“It’s that bright turquoise-blue house. I don’t know what it is about this house, but it is so different. When I dropped off the print, I was telling her how much I loved the house and the color and she told me, ‘yeah, my husband painted that. He just wants everything turquoise and I just don’t understand.’ I told her it works.”
Even after the series was completed, Rihani found many taking interest.
After reading an article about Rihani’s project online, Heights resident Jason Hammonds sent an email to Rihani to start the process for a commission on his family’s newly renovated Heights home – a December birthday or Christmas present he planned for his wife Robin.
“As usual, Robin enhanced my idea,” Jason Hammonds playfully attested.
“I was completing the questionnaire for the upcoming Heights Home Tour, and going through old pictures, and I ran across one right at the same time that we were finalizing the [renovated home] sketch, and thought it would be neat to have one of each,” Robin Hammonds said.
The Hammonds note that Rihani’s drawing captures the “charm” of their pre-renovation 1920 Heights home with a little more polish than it had, but it did capture original elements like the window unit and even a wheel chair ramp leading up onto the porch.
Adding the two drawings onto the walls of their home is one of many touches the Hammonds are proud to share on the upcoming Heights home tour – something they said they didn’t ever see themselves doing, but said it’s a nice excuse to finish all the small projects around the home they always envisioned.
Dalia Rihani said she never expected for anyone to care about her Homes of the Heights project. Today, she’s working for herself and excited to see where her creative ventures can take her. Find Rihani on Instagram @drihani12 or daliarihani.com.