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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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It’s been a pretty full on month in our home on all accounts, winter illnesses all round, lack of sleep, both of us feeling like we haven’t been able to come up for air with work or domestic life to enjoy much of either.

You know when you can’t tell anyone what you have been up to when they ask… or what you have achieved because you are just too burnt out to remember? Well that.

Now I’m not saying watching a video undid all that apathy but when they say its the small things that count. It really is. This evocative video from one of my favourite Indian home-ware brands Good Earth, just transported me away for a wonderful four minutes.

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The video highlights their philosophy of ‘Sustainable Luxury’ and shows the making of a block-printed, hand-stitched quilt or ‘razai’ and the delicate nuances that go into the creation of a hand-made item such as this. The measured techniques of the block printers, the steady hands of the sewers, the cathartic washing of the fabric in the shade of the afternoon sun and the visual poetry of an Indian textile studio left me calm and reflective.

Perhaps watching a video of someone making with their hands every day is the modern form of meditation? A virtual way of counting to ten and breathing… I know my creative friends would agree.

You can see other just as inspiring videos from Good Earth here.

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Last week I worked on styling a house shoot for the first time since I had Aarya. It was a beautiful family home in Shepherds Bush – a townhouse with stunning original Victorian features and striking modern updates by architects McLaren Excell. The style was bright, cosy and artistic and enhanced by the colourful toys, artwork and furnishings of the owner’s young children.

It was the first time I had really paid attention to how children’s spaces and belongings worked within an interior and made me look at a family home from a completely new perspective to before. The children’s areas coupled elegant wall colours with vintage furniture and eclectic vignettes of the toys, books and trinkets which tied all the many many things that kids accumulate together.

Because the homeowners gravitated towards vintage objects and wooden toys for the children, it created a cohesive aesthetic that worked beautifully even when kids items trickled over into adult spaces. It gave me a lot to think about and showed me that you could be playful but also grown up.

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Tying in with this new found longing for creating warm family spaces with longevity [shockingly I never really thought further than the nursery when I was pregnant] was the super exciting Smallable Spring Summer 2015 press release pinging dangerously into my inbox.

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Smallable is a French founded online kids ‘department store’ offering a selection of over 350 covetable designer fashion and homeware brands sourced from across the world like kitschy-cool Japanese American clothing label Atsuyo Akiko, lovely Nepalese home decor brand Mushkane and super pretty Danish tableware company Rice… and with an achingly styled online monthly magazine to accompany them all… I think I may have just crossed over to the dark side.

Consider this my very first foray into kids design blogging… watch this space, whilst I watch my bank balance!

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ByLoom

Kicking off the first in a series of posts from my trip to India, is a shop profile of a unique store nestled in a rambling mansion in the leafy alleyways of Kolkata [or Calcutta].

By Loom – run out of their family home by husband-and-wife team Rumi and Bappaditya Biswas is a treasure trove of intricately hand-woven textiles, handcrafted homeware and original fashion accessories. The couple work with weavers and crafters to marry Bengal’s rich craft heritage with contemporary design.

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With original patterned tiles and spacious marble staircases tying the space together, the ground floor is filled with hand-loomed scarves, embroidered soft furnishings, beautifully crafted children’s accessories and home-ware.

The upper floors are laid out like vast walk-in wardrobes, displaying rows and rows of lavish handmade saris, featuring intricate workmanship in a staggering array of colours and patterns.

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Since I visited the store four years ago, the store has become a hot spot for India’s design conscious and it has expanded with a bohemian cafe and courtyard serving delicate homemade Indian food.

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The spirit of By Loom is undeniably rooted in the building it inhabits and the locality – which retains the essence of an old Bengali neighbourhood. In the West, concept stores taking up premises of town houses and residential spaces to create intimate environments is a big retail trend – but rarely is it a natural evolution of the business.

Walking through the house is like visiting the artistic home of a Bengali relative. Old armoires are filled with handcrafted pottery and ceramics from makers all over the state and coffee tables groan with colourful heirloom-like textiles that look like they have just been taken out of closets for sorting.

The new courtyard, an overspill of the cafe is prepped for whiling away cool afternoons and balmy nights.

By Loom
58-B, Hindustan Park
Kalighat, Kolkata

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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