Interiors that reflect locale

It goes without saying that a home's design works best if it at least recognizes its geographical location.  We are often charmed by the typical style of a locale - the quaintness of a beach cottage, or the elegance of a pre-war apartment.  Interiors that reflect location bring emotion along as part of the experience.  

Designing and furnishing a home with some reference to the local style and heritage just lends a level of authenticity that is appealing to me as a designer.

When we were preparing to move from our apartment in Rio de Janeiro to a Colonial-inspired home in Northern Virginia, I wasn't sure how some of our style and furnishings would translate.  We had embraced the modern-tropical vibe that is quintessential to Brazilian design, and didn't want our new home to lose that part of our life story.    But I knew we couldn't do straight-up Rio style in the DC suburbs, either.  As dear 'ol Mammie said in Gone With the Wind, "It just wouldn't be fittin'!"

Our dining area in Rio, with a Saarinen-style table, paired with minimalist chairs and local art.

It turns out, though, that classics are called such for a reason - they work well in so many applications.  And that's exactly what we experienced with our tulip table.

 Once in Virginia, I wanted to keep the fresh look of the table, but also acknowledge the new locale, with its more traditional roots.  So, I swapped the minimal chairs with a more substantial, upholstered version, and added in more layers - a rug, millwork, and a softer color palette.  We also kept a smaller version of a Brazilian painting to make sure we didn't lose that element of the design.

The overall look is so different in Virginia than it was in Rio, but the space still tells a special story of where we've been, and what we loved about it.

Let the Sunshine In

My freshman year at Texas (hookem!), I took an Introduction to Architecture course - most likely to fulfill a Fine Arts requirement. Little did I know just how informative and inspirational it would be. It was taught by the Dean - a lowly assignment by most academics' standards - but also the perfect chance for him to communicate his pure passion for his art to a group of first-year sponges.

One lecture I remember in particular discussed the importance of proper placement of a building. How critical it is to relate it to the geography, the climate, and the purpose of the edifice. For example, in Austin, one certainly wouldn't want to face a wall of windows towards the west - because, like everything else that's "Bigger in Texas," so, too is the withering heat for most of the year. A west-facing facade begs for a giant oak to provide shade and natural cooling. However, a south-facing window can take full advantage of the muted radiance that is the Winter Sun.
The point being, a well-designed space takes into account, and manipulates light to its best advantage.

I couldn't help but admire how each and every one of these images brings that idea to fruition. I also couldn't put the thought out of my brain that I NEED to live in Spain - where all these homes reside. *wistful sigh*
Pasillo_large el mueble
Welcome to my humble abode...

Salon-con-chimenea_el mueble
Wonder what's more mesmerizing - the view during day or night?

Zona-despacho_el mueble
My new blogging spot

Distribuidor-desde-cocina_el mueble
Don't even think about sharing that closet!

Acogedor-aire-provenzal.-el mueble
Simple steel railing - I love you.

Batiente-en-dormitorio_large el mueble
Mornin', Sunshine!

Bano_large el mueble
Sorry, this bath is Occupado.
images source

They're taking me to Marrekesh

This past November, the city of Marrakesh unveiled its La Mamounia hotel after a three-year renovation. The historic hotel has long held legendary status as the place to stay inside the Medina - or ancient walled city. However, years of cheesy attempts at facelifts left it a remnant of its former magical self.
That was before French designer Jacques Garcia got a hold of it, and restored it to the sort of opulent splendor one associates with Morocco.
Call me Penny Lane, but I've always had an obsession with all things Moroccan, and the recent images of the virtual oasis have done nothing to diminish my wanderlust...

The foyer and entrance into one of the deluxe suites - resplendent in traditional moorish tiles, dark wood, and ottoman arches.
And inside the suite - what a view! Supposedly, hotels and riads (villas) purposely keep the decor of the rooms dim, to help provide respite against the blazing North African sun. Whatever this formula is, it works.
The courtyard of one the four gourmet restaurants - I can just see myself sipping mint tea out of silver cups while wearing a gorgeous caftan and babouches!
That is, if you could pull me away from the spa or swimming pool.
There is so much lore associated with Morocco, the famous souks being a large part of it. The souks are vendor stalls which make up the ancient labyrinth market where you can find many inexpensive berber items such as baskets, pottery and spices, alongside fine carpets. Outside the flea markets of Paris, I really cannot fathom a more amazing shopping experience.
Unfortunately, the famed city is not in my travel itinerary anytime very soon, so whenever I see designers bringing home the Ottoman vibe, I get a little thrill, and the chance to live vicariously.

There's Windsor Smith's fabric, Riad - a take on Moroccan tile - seen here on a sofa and chair in her home. This fabric has moved beyond "It" to "Classic" status, in my opinion.
This bathroom by Robin Bell, featured in House Beautiful is clearly an homage to classic Moroccan elements: arches and tile.
Designer Cathy Kincaid used Ann Sack's Moroccan Cross and Star tiles to bring in a distinct ethnic style to this bath.
Ann Sacks tile might be out of budget for most of us, but a special feature in a vanity or stove alcove might be feasible.
Design by Erin Gates of Elements of Style
And, if a bath or kitchen overhaul is still beyond budget, I've spied any number of discount spots (HomeGoods, IKEA, Ebay) with items similar to these that can instantly add a touch of "been there" to a space.
What exotic locale is on your "must see in this lifetime" list?

Je t'aime: La chaise café français

A design element that for years has stopped me in my tracks is the classic, French cafe chair. I don't think I've ever met one that didn't win my heart. Perhaps it's the connotation of the chair's origin - Paris. Street side cafés drinking wonderful coffee or wine. People watching.
There's a lot to be said for bringing home an item that conveys such leisurely pursuits...

Which is why, I'm forever tearing-out, and digitally saving just about any picture of a kitchen who's owners obviously share my sense of romanticism.
This Victoria Hagan kitchen would do wonders for my soul each and every morning.
There's such an interesting mix in this London loft's kitchen (ahhh...that commercial cabinet!), you almost miss the chairs.
A beachy abode with a french twist - cafe chairs and cabana-striped rug - works for me!
This eat-in kitchen represents the best for me - casual dinners with family and friends, lingering over that long table.
Drew did it right, too - open shelves full of whiteware, retro fridge, and yes, the chairs. Can you believe this is her production company's kitchen?
Katie Lee Joel's tête à tête version. Oh, and the steel-frame windows don't hurt, either.
The chairs, in red - à la Provence.
If space is limited, there's always the bar stool version
Perhaps there's just some looks meant to produce daydreams...{le sigh}

Photo credits: AT, Things That Inspire, Telegraph-UK, Material Girls, HGTV, Domino, Domino, Visual Vamp, HB, HB

Vicarious Props

I'm always amazed at the truth of the adage: "when one door closes, another opens." Today, I had a bit of a disappointment - a closed door of sorts, but this evening, I've had something of a door opening (well, I at least can see light seeping in under the door!)

Apartment Therapy-LA has a featured post about Urban Grace Interiors. So (you say)? How is that good for MLHP? Well, AT apparently finds the post Erika did about keepin' interiors real to be one of her best, and THAT post was triggered by her participation in MY post on curing Design Blog-Reader's Blues. (Did'ya get all that?) Anyway, AT gives MLHP a nice little plug - so, my day is wrapping up better than it was a few hours ago.

Vicarious Props? You know it. Hey, I'll take it! ;)

The Heat is ON

The calendar marked this past Sunday as the First Day of Summer, but the skyrocketing temps here in South Texas make it feel closer to Labor Day. All I can dream about is what kind of pool I'd prefer to be lounging in...

Wouldn't it be nice to cool my jets in a
lagoon with beach entry?
Or what about this piscina, surrounded by a rainbow of mod pods? I imagine it would be extra fun for the crumb-crunchers
This small and private tropical oasis would be perfect for a nighttime adult swim ;)
...But, if you want privacy, why not go all-out with a secluded, Caribbean villa? (Hey! This is my fantasy, I can exaggerate if I want to!) Seriously, if I landed here, I don't think I'd ever leave...
I don't know, though...something about the Southeast Asian-style lap pool draws me in...the symmetry, serenity - the Balinese know their bidness when it comes to water
All this lust for a swimming pool...{sigh} I think I'll just have to settle for a cold shower... Hope you're keepin' cool!
P.S. - Click on pics for links