Story By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub
Vanilla Ice, the rapper best known for his mega hit Ice Ice Baby has changed his tune to Lights Lights Baby.
Ice (aka Rob Van Winkle) appeared at the Yachts International’s Pavilion at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, promoting a product remote from his rapper image. He sang, played the piano and posed for fan pictures while promoting his new sophisticated lighting collection for Capitol Lighting.
Van Winkle, now 45 and still recognizable in blue jeans and baseball cap, has shorter and darker hair than when he was hitting the top of the Billboard charts. These days he does his rapper gig only about 50 times a year—one third of his heyday schedule. His time is consumed with his second passion—home remodeling and interior design. He is filming the third season of The Vanilla Ice Project, a DIY Network hit with 52 million viewers that follows his step-by-step renovation of homes such as a 7,000-square-foot Palm Beach mansion with state-of-the-art technology. He also recently made it to the big screen in That’s My Boy with Adam Sandler.
It’s the renovation connection that links Van Winkle to Capitol Lighting, but their partnership goes back to the “Making Lives Brighter” campaign. It featured Van Winkle in a public service announcement to promote Habitat, urging viewers to donate old lamps to Capitol Lighting stores so they could be sold in one of the Habitat Re-Stores or be repurposed for use in Habitat homes.
“I have always had a passion for home design, renovations and real estate,” he said. “I have always envisioned creating my own line of home décor products, and after working with the Capitol Lighting team for several years it was a perfect fit to begin with light fixtures.”
Often when celebrities put their names on home furnishings they have little to do with the actual design. But Van Winkle insists he was actively involved in the design.
“I design with a sketch and I am hands on,” he said. “It is not like a network that took a celebrity and build a show around it. This is who I am.”
The resulting collection, manufactured by Batalion Imports, includes two sconce designs and a 24-inch and a 28-inch chandelier with a silk drum shade or transparent shade. They are available in two finishes – polished nickel and bronzed ice. Prices range from $250 to $1,400.
A single chandelier, which was on display at the boat show, features a crystal-embedded drum shade and hanging crystals. It is the kind of fixture that will fit almost anywhere – from a yacht to a transitional or traditional home.
Eric Lebersfeld, president of Capitol Lighting, said the idea for the shade came out of a design meeting. Van Winkle was looking for inspiration when he spotted Lebersfeld’s father, who was wearing a tie with dots.
Van Winkle has remodeled more than 100 homes in 16 years. His passion was ignited when he sold his Star Island home for $6 million and made a substantial profit. He lived there 11 years before completely remodeling it and transforming the decor from glitzy to transitional.
“It was cool,” he said. “It had an acrylic staircase with fish swimming in it. The rooms were all different colors, but I wasn’t comfortable. It didn’t feel like a home.” These days he lives in homes in Wellington and on Palm Beach Island with his wife and two children.