CityBreak

I have just returned from a short but sweet first trip to a city that has experienced a renaissance in recent years.

Lisbon – Portugal’s capital city boasts a year round Mediterranean climate [it was a cat in the sun stretching 20 degrees this past weekend] old world European charm with cobbled streets and traditional shops plucked from the pages of Dickens, wooden trams and iron funiculars that still lurch and rumble their way amongst the city’s seven steep hills and a burgeoning hipster culture of bohemian bars and trendy eateries.

AirBnB

The reason for the getaway was to celebrate the upcoming wedding of my oldest friend. The celebration comprised of a tiny but perfectly formed party of three girlfriends together since the age of eleven, and though having been on group holidays every year for the past few decades – this was the first time we found ourselves as a trio.

With under three days to pack as much as we could in, Lisbon was good to us – providing ample and inspiring cobbled streets and architecture to gaze upon,  quaint squares with dreamy trickling fountains to meander through and the hot lazy sun on our backs as we did what we do best which is laugh and bicker and talk nonsense to our hearts content.

We flew from London Stanstead to the heart of Lisbon in under three hours. Staying in Bairro Alto the city’s main party district, we set up camp in a cute and quiet Airbnb studio 15 minutes from the airport with our very own terrace and stunning views of the city.

Rooftop

Day 1 The first day we took in the the lay of the land from our beautiful rooftop terrace, and indulged in our favourite thing to do on the first day of holiday, a lunch of fresh delicacies and wine from the local market. I feel this tradition always gives us the opportunity to quickly asses the neighbourhood whilst giving you time to wind down at home from an early morning flight.

We had a quick nap and then woke for an evening of bar crawling. We kicked off the night in a place I had read abut in my Wallpaper Guide ‘Park’ a converted car park rooftop with 180 degree view over the city.

The bar has an exciting clandestine feel accessed through the lift of a still working car park and that ‘is this it? no it can’t be.’ feeling that all the best finds have. The bar itself has a bohemian luxe aesthetic filled with wooden crate-like furniture and small potted trees to create the feeling of a garden. We sat in the enclosed but still panoramic indoor area – had giant glasses of wine and gin and tonics [they are generous with drinks in Lisbon] and ate their delicious gourmet burgers out of camping style tin bowls.

Park

Burger-1

The rest of the night was spent popping into bars we liked the look of and frankly all of them were good, with friendly bar staff, good large drinks, DJ’s playing eclectic jazz and to our pleasant surprise a fun-loving older crowd in their 50-60’s dancing and having a great time – a rarity in London bars.

Lisbon

Day 2 This mainly consisted of a morning of long walks in the sun to walk off our hangover. We had scheduled in a brunch at one of Lisbon’s beautiful and oldest patisseries Pastelaria Padaria Sao Roque which provided much needed sustenance with it’s strong coffee and Pastel de Natas – or egg custard tarts. These custard tarts proceeded to be constant fuel for the rest of the trip!

Patisserie

Next we walked and walked – took in the view at the ‘miradouros’ [view points], explored some great home-ware stores, sat and soaked up the sun in historic squares like the locals. We ate the most delicious lunch at Terra a vegetarian restaurant housed in an 18h century building and drank Sangria in the hush of their terrace garden.

We listened to bands playing in squares and bought a book from a travelling book store. Lisbon seems to have lots of these great surprise experiences dotted about that are vintage in aesthetic yet contemporary and fun and never seem to be trying too hard.

Lisbon

One of the most distinctive things about the city was its stunning tile work on the buildings known as azulejos which provided us with hours of inspiration and conversation.

The tiles decorate everything from walls of churches and monasteries, to palaces, ordinary houses, park seats, fountains, shops, and railway stations, often portraying scenes from the history of the country, showing its landmarks, or simply serve as street signs, nameplates, or house numbers.

Tiles

A Vida Portuguesa was a store that was on my list from my Wallpaper Guide too – well worth a visit, it sells the most fabulous artisanal Portuguese products, from kitchenware to soaps, candles, books and wooden kids toys.

VidaP

That night we spent the evening in Lisbon’s trendy dockside area which houses venues fashioned out of the shells of former 19th-century warehouses.

Kais was a much talked about restaurant during my research and serves modern Portuguese cuisine. A cavernous restaurant originally a warehouse for Lisbon’s beautiful trams – the interior combines gothic grandeur and industrial elements – the size and design is jaw-dropping.

Short but ever so sweet – Lisbon left us with a taste for more. We will be back with more to explore and most importantly with a good pair of walking shoes!

Kais

 

 

Spending this past month in India kicked off my new year with a wealth of design inspiration.

We spent three weeks hunkering down with family in Calcutta – a bustling Indian city nestled in West Bengal – known for its rich history of craft and talented artisans – from embroidery to sculpture and sketching to metal crafts.

Then a week in Mumbai one of India’s most exciting cities. Known as the gateway to India its aesthetic straddles the best of the east and west, resulting in an exquisite design landscape.

Here is a snapshot of inspiration from my travels from shops to eateries to family homes – all of which I will elaborate on in the weeks to come. Happy New Year!

Design Details1

Above: Block print fabric from Anokhi. Mirror at my grandmothers sisters home. A clay plate being decorated at Aarya’s First Rice ceremony by her grandmother using ground rice paste.

Design2

Above: The ‘British’ marble lions that guard Victoria Memorial. R&D Laboratory at The Horticultural Gardens in Calcutta. Iconic buildings on Marine Drive, Mumbai. Pavements in Calcutta. Door handle display and knocker at The Corner Courtyard. Antique Mirror at The Taj Bengal.

Design3

Above: Mumbai’s first luxury boutique hotel Abode. Mirror at Bungalow 8.  Pali Village Cafe, in Bandra. Last two images both Tote on The Turf restaurant, Mumbai.

Design3

Above: Wall treatment and cool plant detail at a family home. Embroidered bangles at By Loom Calcutta. Ceramics and textiles at Sasha in Calcutta. Colonial interiors at the Bombay Gymkhana.

Design4

Above: Etched brass floor treatment on the stairwell at Good Earth. Luxurious textiles at 85 Lansdowne. The balcony at our family home. A ghostly Victoria Memorial at night. My favourite detail at our family home – the marble floor with brass inlay.

 

RembrandtPressView

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to the press preview of ‘Rembrandt: The Late Works’ at The National Gallery which opens to the public today.

Each time I visit one of our city’s beautiful museums I never fail to be astounded by the sheer grandeur and rich detail of our galleries. The National Gallery looks out onto the cinematic vista of Trafalgar Square, which as Londoners we are quick to dismiss as a busy tourist trap, but it is a tourist trap with astonishingly good reason as witnessed from the gallery steps.

View

Inside, intricate floor mosaics and striking palatial architecture is mixed seamlessly with modern details as the galleries expand.

NatGallDoors

Natonal Gallery Steps

NatGallFloor2

WomanSitting

But back to the exhibition. Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history.

Interested in capturing the world around him without prejudice, his works recorded the ordinary people, places and things he would have seen every day in Amsterdam.

Gallery

WomanBathingintheRiver

Having already suffered the early loss of his wife and three of their children, Rembrandt’s later years were burdened with bankruptcy, acrimonious legal proceedings with a former lover, and the loss of his common-law wife and only remaining son.

However, far from diminishing as he aged, Rembrandt’s creativity gathered new energy. The once-in-a-lifetime exhibition explores Rembrandt’s final years of painting when he achieved ultimate greatness.

Rem

Rembrandt2

Quietly breathtaking, the exhibition comprises of approximately 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 prints, revelling in Rembrandt’s iconic use of combined light and shadow.

From the moment you step into the hush of the first room filled with luminous self-portraits chronicling the last decade of Rembrandt’s life –  and his exceptional honesty in recording his own features as he aged – you are ensnared [it is worth visiting for just this room].

SelfPortraitWithTwoCircles

Drawn further and further into his expressions of intimacy, contemplation, conflict and reconciliation, I felt as though I was gazing upon familiar friends as I sat mesmerised by the tender depictions of the ‘Old Woman Reading a Book’ and ‘A Woman Bathing in a Stream’ and even ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Joan Deyman’ and I am itching to go back and sit with them again.

My photographs do none of the great artist’s luminous, multilayered and expressive masterpieces any justice so please go visit and gaze upon their spine-tingling beauty for yourselves.

Rembrandt, The Late Works
The National Gallery
Sainsbury Wing
15 October 2014 – 18 January 2015

 AnOldWomanReading

Exhibition  TheAnatomyLesson

Gallery2

TheSamplingOfficials

Titus

Navigating London Design Festival with a four month old baby on the blistering September city streets was no mean feat, but hell bent on getting my design fix during the design worlds version of fashion week, I was determined to make it work! Here are my highlights from the week’s festivities.

Newbie Taiwanese Studio IF ‘s striking chandeliers immediately caught my eye at Tent London with its simple and intuitive beauty. Delicate copper and glass combined to create ethereal clouds of bubbles which when used with a pulley system lit up in a whimsical sequence.

British designer Sue Pryke launched a covetable collection of hand-carved Oak chopping boards with leather details in collaboration with outdoorsy brand Wild and Wood, I love their stylish simplicity.  Prices start from £30.

SuePyke

Cute contemporary hand mirrors by Czech brand Oaza.

Oaza

I wrote about being taken by illustrator Louise Wilkinson’s work last year when she had just launched her first collection, so it was lovely to rediscover her again at Tent. She exhibited a beautiful range of patterned textiles with a fun folksy feel which on closer inspection contained witty narratives hidden within!

Louise-Wilkinson
Continue Reading…

As much as I have delighted in a once in a lifetime maternity break, I have been itching to get back to design and my blog especially. It felt only appropriate that I kickstart it during the London Design Festival.

Having spent the past four months [has it been that long already?] in a haze of sleepless nights, playful days, much needed coffee mornings with new friends [lifelines] and a mind-altering education, it has felt like my brain hasn’t had the space for much else. The honest truth is that there were times that I found myself frustrated by the sudden lack of industry and inspiration. Spending over a decade working every hour under the sun at a job I really loved and then abruptly stopping was a very strange feeling.

But as with everything in life – hindsight is a beautiful thing and its only in looking back on my summer of love I’ve realised how amazing these last few months have been and not as devoid of inspiration as I initially believed.

A quick introduction to our bright star – Aarya [pronounced Ah-Ree-Ah] was born on the 24th of May and we grow more in love with her every day – we have been introducing her to our world and she to us. She has inspired me in a profound as well as a superficial way – her clothes, her nursery and making sure she is comfortable has opened up a whole new realm of sweet and playful design.

I kickstarted Aarya’s design education by inadvertently celebrating her 1 month birthday at the Ace Hotel [I went there for a launch]. She loved the hubbub of it all!

AceHotel

Being a little more housebound than normal, I discovered the many charms of my East London neighbourhood [Wanstead] – a spate of new eateries and shops began populating our high street providing much needed respite.

Duke

Duke2 Wanstead Fish Fish

Manor2 Sunny Coffee

With everyone suddenly obsessed with sleep in our household, it became all about the bedding. We all had matching Metallic Polka Dot bedsheets from PB Teen, our bed was topped with West Elm’s Nomad Bedspread and Pillows with Aarya’s cosied up with a beautiful ruffle crib bumper from PB Kids. Stylish bedding promotes sleep in my opinion!

winter bedding PBBaby Bedding A Crib

I became obsessed with accessories for accessories – transforming my plain nursing pillow using Etsy store Modfox’s great selection of covers. Mine was the Grey Arrow Nursing Pillow Cover

Pillow Cover

…weaning my baby off an ugly doll she loves using more stylish items like … Donna Wilson’s Foxleaf Toy at Mamas and Papas and a hilarious handmade Panda Puppet from the V&A Shop

Fox

Panda

…with Baby Gap turning into my achilles heel… look at that whale print!

Gap

… oh and not to mention very talented friends turning up with beautiful mobiles to treasure [a DIY on how to make these is upcoming this month].

A Mobile

I hate leaving London in the summer when its at its best – every summer feels like a holiday in the city. This one especially – we spent so much time with friends, balmy evenings at launch parties and lunches at favourite eateries.

USP Launch

Dishoom

USPLaunch2

…visiting exhibitions and capturing an alternative family portrait at the Digital Revolution at The Barbican…

DigiR

… a quick escape to the country with friends to celebrate Swedish crayfish season

Cray Cray2

And of course my main inspiration…

A

A2

A

I’ll be reporting from London Design Festival this week so follow my Instagram and Twitter for updates with a post to follow on my new finds from the week. Till then – its good to be back!

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