The Island of the Gods

Hanging Gardens Bali

The road to our hotel was as black as the night sky. There were no lights, no streets signs, no nothing. Just thick palm leaves, greenery on all sides and a canopy of hanging vines and flowers hitting the windshield from time to time. With just a few feet in front of the car visible by the headlights, and the constant, grinding, engine sound, indicating our bus might not make it up the next hill, this was turning out to be more of an adventure than I had expected or desired after such a long flight.

When our guide said, “They don’t send drivers to your hotel alone at night because of the road,” that made the limited visibility even worse. None of us said anything out loud, but by the look on our faces, it was obvious we all thought the same thing. What? What do you mean? Why not? “It’s too dangerous,” he replied. Instantly my mind flashed to all the stories I’d heard of tourists being carjacked, taken off back roads, robbed, raped and murdered, or their bus falling off a steep cliff on a single lane road, high in the jungle mountains at night. And since I have such a vivid imagination, I took that story a step further by envisioning we would be stuck at the bottom of a ravine in the jungle all night, possibly hurt, no lights, with the sound of jungle animals all around, and either no one would know we were there, or no one could get to us until morning.

I have friends who have visited Bali and raved about it, but that didn’t stop my mind from going to the darkest possible places. Every now and then, the trees broke, and with what little light illuminated the night sky and the thick, lush landscape, you could see the road dropped off on either side of the car. Exactly how far down it dropped off we couldn’t see, but we knew we were going higher and higher up into the jungle with every turn. We nervously laughed and joked to ease the silence. The first time I saw car lights coming at us on the road, I felt relieved we weren’t alone. I thought, “Oh good, there are other people out here.” And then the following conversation ran in my head:

Were they dropping off tourists they had murdered or were going to murder? Surely they were coming from our hotel. It’s fine. You’re being silly. You’ve checked out the hotel, all the reviews, all the pictures, read every blog post written about it. You’re overacting. Maybe so, but do you really know where you’re going?

The answer to that was, no. I had no idea where we were going. So much of travel is trusting reputable companies in foreign countries to help you get around, and that’s what we were doing now.

Then I realized the road at its widest part was at most, only one and a half lane widths wide, and we’d have to make room for the oncoming car. I went into a complete panic. There was no room for them to pass, and the road dropped off on the side we were on. Once I realized they were barely even going to slow down, and instead, planned on passing us at full speed, I ducked my head down in my arms, and almost as if we were in unison, we yelled out some sort of curse word together as they passed. Once again we all nervously (and thankfully) laughed, realizing we were still alive and somehow managed not to get knocked off the road and fall off the cliff, and questioned why the hell they didn’t slow down. It was a long, tense, nerve wracking drive up the mountain in the jungle that night, and each time a car passed there were audible gasps followed by heavy sighs of relief and nervous laughter. I thought we’d never get there.

As we came to a clearing in the trees, we could see lights flickering up and down the mountainside across a deep valley from the mountain we were on. “OMG, what’s that over there?” we said. That’s your hotel, our guide said. Eyes widened, jaws dropped and we knew then, we weren’t going to become dead tourist statistics. Instead, we were headed to the jungle paradise I had seen in the pictures. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the hotel from that vantage point, but there was no way we were stopping on that road. We would find out later, the hotel puts candles around the pool and property every night, and that’s what we saw lit up across the valley.

We saw our first sign for the hotel and turned, drove through a very small, very poor village, and then the lobby appeared. Bathed in a soft glow of light, with no walls, the lobby was visible from all sides and the car drove right under the roof. We all looked around in amazement at the integrated design of the driveway and the lobby. Lightly scented hand towels, refreshing lemongrass drinks, beautiful flowers and candles were everywhere. Bali smells like a combination of sandalwood incense, lemongrass and sweet frangipani flower. If I ever go back, I hope I arrive at night again. It was sensory paradise. The two story, centrally located, nautilus shell chandelier in the restaurant lit up at night was a stunning sight as we descended in the cable car from the lobby.

To get up and down the mountainside, there are a series of cable cars, starting at the top of the mountain where the lobby is, then another one down to the restaurant and bar, followed by a final one to get to the villas.

The main dining room and bar overlook the jungle and pool, and similar to other parts of Asia, flowers are everywhere. These orange ones reminded me of hollowed out pine cones.

The walkways to our villa were lined with moss covered everything: vases, statues, and walls and monkeys roam freely around the property.

Our room was the traditional Balinese style design with wood trim and details, thatch roof, and a private infinity pool overlooking the jungle. I could have stayed in our villa for the duration of our stay, but I knew I’d miss so much if I did that. The air in the jungle was soft, moist and cool. I needed a light scarf or something on my shoulders in the morning at breakfast, but by midday the weather was perfect. August is the best time to visit Bali weather wise, but for that very reason, it is also the busiest. Thankfully, there are sarongs everywhere in Bali, so if you get out and get chilly, there is always a sarong nearby. Each room has it’s own temple outside the front door with a statue of a Hindu god, and the staff make offerings and decorate them with marigolds each day, another flower commonly seen in Bali. Every detail in the architecture and design of the villas and hotel was thoroughly considered.

Treatment rooms, massage rooms and massage tables are all over the property. If you don’t like one room, just keep looking. There are several to choose from. All are open air and many massage tables are situated under open-air pavilions near the river that flows down through the valley. There are small outdoor platforms for yoga, and the entire property is about resting, relaxing and being away from everything. Now I know why it was so hard to get here. All the fears I had on the nighttime drive getting here about falling off the cliff and no one finding me, were all put to rest, because the no one finding me part was a huge plus at this point. The frangipani flower is all over Bali. It grows in parts of the Caribbean, too, but something about being in a new place makes us aware of things we never noticed before. Maybe it was the abundance of these flowers that brought them to the forefront, but I’ve never noticed or smelled them in the Caribbean like I did in Bali. Not only are the trees everywhere, but the Balinese use them to decorate everything. They also spread them out to dry in the sun, grind them into a fine powder and make a massage oil (among many other things) with them.

Across the valley and over the river is the temple. This Hindu temple has a relationship with the hotel and offers guests the opportunity to dine at the temple after a private Hindu blessing with the priest. We all sat on the ground in the temple with the priest and were led through the Hindu ritual. Each person has an individual ceremonial offerings basket, which contains flowers of different significance, rice, and other organic items. Some you put your head, behind your ears or hold in the tip of your fingers while you pray. Incense are used to cleanse you spiritually and burn all around in the ceremony. They are believed to send our prayers up to God and remove harmful spirits. Bali is the most culturally rich place I have ever been, and I learned so much that it’s hard to put to words. After the prayer, we had a candlelight dinner at the temple, under the light of the Moon, surrounded by flowers.

A gecko decided to join us at dinner (somewhere in the thatched roof above), and if you’ve been to Bali or Southeast Asia, you know how loud that critter can be. I swear they are nocturnal, too. The gecko is all over Bali, and I think his favorite pastime is to make as much noise as possible. Even the littlest ones are insanely loud for their size. If you ever wondered why they are called geckos, YouTube a gecko sound and you’ll understand. It sounds like they are saying GEC-KO or UH-OH repeatedly! Our first morning in Bali, I heard a strange noise outside our villa and went to breakfast and asked the staff what that noise was in the wee hours. They said, “It’s probably a gecko.” Thankfully, their second favorite pastime is eating mosquitoes, so aside from that annoyingly loud noise, they are harmless, and since mosquitoes love me, the gecko can stay. They are also seen as good luck in Southeast Asia and are believed to be descended from dragons. Later there was one in our room (again up in the thatch ceiling) in Amed, and that thing called out like clockwork at midnight every single night. I took this picture of the priest before we sat down for the ritual and blessing with him at the temple. Through the smoky incense and temple lighting, it looks like a column of God-light is shining on him. Pretty much how this entire experience seemed-surrounded by God-light. Now we know why Bali is called the Island of the Gods. The last picture I took from our hotel looking across at the temple.

The first picture I saw of Hanging Gardens in my research was the pool. It was the single most memorable image I saw while trying to figure out where to stay. It’s what initially sparked the desire to want to stay here. Bali has the most incredibly designed hotels I have ever seen in one destination. It’s as if each hotel is trying to outdo the other one. Consistently one of the top-rated pools in the world, it looks as if it was inspired by the undulating shape of the rice terraces found all over Bali-giving this design a sense of place. Every morning there was an enchanting layer of mist slowly rising from the treetops like a veil lifting away to reveal the jungle before our eyes, and the pool was like a mirror reflecting the clouds. It was magic.

Having been all over the world, it has always been hard to pick an absolute favorite place, that one specific hotel that has it all for me. Hanging Gardens is it, and surprisingly, it doesn’t have a beach. I love the secluded feel, the private villas with infinite pools, the food, fresh juices in the morning, the service, the quiet, exotic natural location. I love how close you feel to nature and how far away you feel from civilization. I don’t know if it’s called Hanging Gardens because of the flowers on vines that hang from the jungle trees, or if it’s because it’s literally hanging on the edge of the jungle, cantilevered out over the treetops. I found this aerial image on the internet, and unfortunately couldn’t find the photographer to give photo credit to, but you can see how it looks like it’s hanging on the edge of the mountain.

Hope you enjoyed it. I can’t wait to share more about Bali with you in the next blog.

xo,

Cassandra

Bondi Icebergs

Swim|Drink|Dine

Topping the list of my must-do places in Sydney is Bondi Icebergs. Nestled on a cliff above, or maybe I should say almost in the Pacific Ocean (see pics below), this historic location overlooking Sydney’s most iconic beach, Bondi Beach, has the most spectacular, panoramic views and equally spectacular food. And did I mentioned the lap pool? It’s probably one of the most notable and photographed lap pools by the sea.

Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club

The club itself dates back to 1928 when a few local lifeguards were looking to stay in shape during the colder months. They formed an all male, Winter Swimming Club, which to this day, remains the only licensed Winter Swimming Club in the world.  This history states this:

They formed the Bondi Icebergs Winter Swimming Club, drew up a constitution and elected office bearers. Included in the constitution was a rule that to maintain membership it was mandatory that swimmers compete on three Sundays out of four for a period of five years. This rule, known as the “15B rule” still exists and has been the source of much commentary over the years.

It wasn’t until 1995 women were permitted, and I love this old picture of all the men taken from their website. There are more swim club shots here. There’s one image where the swimmers are holding blocks of ice (icebergs) in the pool, which makes me wonder if this is some sort of initiation for new members, or maybe how they open the winter swimming season.

Here are some images I took of the waves crashing in the pool. The restaurant and club are in the white building.

It reminds me of this unforgettable shot by Slim Aarons.

 

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Sydney. When asked why it was so well-known, most locals said they really had no idea why it was so popular, that there were other beaches they felt were even more beautiful not too far from Bondi. Maybe so, but it was gorgeous as you can see. It reminded me of parts of California, especially Laguna Beach area. Along the cliff, there is a path you can easily walk from the restaurant out to the point with rock formations, flowers, and residences. I was thinking Airbnb at this point.

Icebergs Bar and Restaurant

Dinner, drinks, this view, organic, seasonal, modern Italian fare and an incredibly knowledgeable staff made this a top-notch dining experience. The service at Icebergs is outstanding. The interiors are perfectly suited for a location near the sea, where the harsh environment easily damages finishes and people might come in with wet clothes from swimming. It’s contemporary, functional, yet elegant.  If you take a look at their site, they give credit to nearly everyone involved in the meal, including their sea salt maker. If that isn’t proud of your growers, I don’t know what it is. Our server mentioned they had opened a restaurant in Bali, too (as many Australians are doing), but we couldn’t get there. Next time it will be on the list. Conveniently, we were the last to leave the lunch seating, because we took so much time asking so many questions about the food, wine, design and everything else, I was able to get pics without anyone around.

Definitely one of my most memorable meals ever. Put it on your list, you won’t be disappointed.

Xo,

Cassandra

 

Sydney, Australia

G’day Mate!

Yes, they really say that, along with all sorts of other charming little slang phrases. And that accent is so wonderful to listen to, but of course, they thought our accent was, too. 🙂

Shangri-La

We stayed at the Shangri-la in Sydney, which is situated overlooking the harbor, with perfect views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I love the Shangri-La brand and enjoyed staying at the one in Bangkok, too. There’s always a huge assortment for breakfast, the rooms are spacious and beautifully done, the cost considering they are a 5-star hotel is actually not over-the-top, and the spa always incorporates everything I love about Eastern healing methods and philosophies. Since I didn’t plan anything the day we arrived, as I wasn’t sure how we would feel coming off that flight, we had time to relax. We took a little walk outside the hotel and while we waited for our rooms, we booked our spa treatments. All of us desperately needed a massage after that flight. Chi, the spa at the Shangri-la, is dark, cozy, and dimly lit with wood walls and subtle Eastern accents. We did the couples massage, which worked out all the kinks from that long flight.

 

Our room had a great view of the Opera House, and each window has built-in window seats, perfect for room service and watching the boats come in and out of the harbor snuggled in the robe the hotel provides.

We had dinner at the highly awarded restaurant Altitude, located at the top of the hotel. Serving Australian cuisine, with floor to ceiling windows, this has to be the best dinner view in the city. It made this list of 39 Restaurants Where the Food is as Good as the View. My new favorite, one shoulder LBD I got at Treehouse before I left (a new cute boutique in Smyrna, if you’e headed that way), was perfectly flowy, didn’t wrinkle in my suitcase and was zero fuss -throw it on and go.

 

Sydney Opera House

The next day we toured the Opera House. I have studied a lot of architecture and design in college and traveled all over the world and experienced it firsthand. This and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona have to be my two favorites in the world. Both are mind blowingly creative, and show the pure genius of these two architects. Each are like nothing else in the world. Jorn Utzon, a Danish architect, submitted the design for a competition and out of over 200 entries, his design won. Completely different from any of the other designs and shapes of the typical modernist architecture of the time, and obviously influenced by growing up with a father who was a navel architect, the multiple sail shape design was perfect to sit out on Bennelong Point, welcoming the many ships coming into the harbor. Baffling engineers for quite some time as to how to actually build the design, it was Utzon who would end up coming up with the spherical solution to build his project. Problems arose and he was forced to withdraw from the project, and locals began protesting in the the streets to have him reinstated. Utzon never returned to Sydney to see his masterpiece completed, and another architect stepped in to see the project through its final stages. Many years after completion, he was asked to come back on the project and develop a set of design principles that could be used for years to come through many renovations the Opera House would need. Utzon’s son, also an architect, would oversee many of the renovations and changes in his father’s passing.

The combination of wood, glass and concrete is breathtaking. In every picture I had ever seen, I always though it was one building. While they are connected and sitting on top of an ancient ziggurat, except for the sails that are nesting within one another, the cluster of sails don’t touch. As you can see in the first picture, there are three separate nesting sails. There is also a specific point outside, where you can stand and look down the center axis of both halls. Design drawings along with a page illustrating this axis are here. On another the note, the tiles on the shells of the building are not white. Utzon wanted the building to photograph white but wanted it to change with the different lights of the sun. He also wanted it to be bright without causing glare. He used a special ceramic from Japan and laid the tiles in a chevron pattern. The tiles are actually a combination of beige tiles and white tiles, which allows the sails to change colors. In the evening, the sunlight renders the roof a warm beige tone which you can see below. There is so much to say about this building that requires more space and time, so if you want to read more, you can visit the website here, which includes the entire history, process, details on the solution to building it, and more.

 

 

Harbour Walk

There are walking paths all around the harbor and the views are stunning. You can even climb the top of the bridge, like these brave souls pictured below.

The Rocks

This historic district is full of character. Restaurants, bars and shops line the streets with the bridge towering in the background. Tap Rooms, the brewery I blogged about previously, is on the corner in the last picture. If you missed that blog, you can find it here. This is Sydney’s first settlement and was once a place of prostitutes and sailors but has transformed into a modern destination with art galleries, creative shops and a market with over 100 stalls on Saturdays and Sundays.

While in The Rocks, you have to check out Denham, the jeanmaker.

And Hat World

Sunset Harbour Cruise

Watching the sun go down behind the bridge and seeing the Opera House change colors in evening light on a harbor cruise is a must. Before heading out, stop and get a drink at Opera Bar at the base of the Opera House overlooking the harbor. You get great views of the Opera House, Fort Dennison, Darling Harbor and even a pass under the bridge.

Love this city! Since everything is clustered together by the harbor, it’s easy to see a lot in a short amount of time. Can’t wait to go back!

Xo,

Cassandra

Beer on the Rocks

Beer Lovers + Design Lovers

Endeavour Tap Rooms, located in Sydney’s oldest, colonial hotel building in the Rocks District (Sydney’s first settlement), called me from across the street when I saw the aqua colored tiles, casement windows and burgundy trim on the facade of this architectural, historic gem. This quaint, almost pretty without being feminine, brewery feels nothing like your standard brewpub. Don’t let the botanicals and birds on the walls, flowers at each table, and beautiful wallpaper fool you, its more than just a pretty place.

Serving only seasonally harvested, Australian ingredients with no preservatives, along with seasonal libations, and the star of the show, of course, the vintage beer, this little corner spot has a 600-liter brewery, eight tanks, four key lines, four rotating taps and a lot of knowledgeable people behind it, in both the hospitality and brewing industries in Australia. There are 10 different beers to sample by Endeavour Vintage Beer Co with an interior that has just as earthy of a palette as the beer.

With the classic, barrel back, wood pub chairs and colonial style print wallpaper, this space hearkens back to its original iteration as Seaman’s hotel. With a lighthearted, contemporary British pub feel, thanks mostly to all the wood tones, this space feels airy and bright with all the whites and greens, but also grounded with the dark wood floors, railing and brown geometric tiles. I loved the special surprise of finding the original fireplace in the ladies restroom, the logo design on the coasters and the built-in, self-serve water faucet in the dining room. And what is that beautiful pink flower that looks like a pinecone?

 

 

 

The beer was wonderfully refreshing and light after day of exploring the Opera House and Rocks District. Definitely a must visit next time you’re in Sydney.

Xo,

Cass

 

Neocon Design Conference Chicago

Functionality|Artistry|Creativity|Innovation

Between the classes and the products, it takes a bit to digest everything at Neocon. There is so much to take in, see, do and remember. Below are pictures of installations, tile work, trim details, furniture, rooms, and new trends in design I saw and thought were noteworthy or loved, for one reason or another, in both residential and commercial design.

Artistic Tile’s fashion inspired mosaic tile jacket and dress were works of art. I can’t imagine the painstaking process of making that dress and capturing the draping of the fabric around the curves of the body. Mosaics usually come on a mesh material to make it easier to tile in large squares, but these had to take a great deal of both planning and patience.

 

Devon and Devon’s updated version of the hot and cold faucet were my favorite faucets.

 

Luum Textile’s vertical, suspended, fiber installation was a huge hit and had everyone walking through it, touching it and feeling it. They had several stations set up so you could interact with the fibers, weave a small carpet while you were there, and basically play with their materials. Isn’t that what everything in an interior should be about, the ability to touch, feel and use all of our senses to experience it?

 

Mannington Commercial‘s back-lit and up-lit, cut and torn paper scene gives me all sorts of ideas, specifically about something wintry for Christmas.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t recall where this was when I saw it, because after multiple floors, showrooms and booths, you tend to lose track, but I love the idea of creating an art installation as a visual barrier to define and divide space, instead of using walls. This installation was made of rope and what looked to be printed paper with the molecular structure of something. The installation was shaped like a V, and inside the V were tables and chairs which provided an envelope for those wanting to rest and be away from the noisy crowds.

 

The most innovative product I saw was Sedia Systems’ Jumpseat. This seat is pure genius, can support a full size adult, mounts on the wall or floor and flips up like theater seats when not in use. When folded up, the seat is only 4″ thick, making it the perfect solution for tight spaces. The first picture was their display at Neocon and even their imagery was clever showing a man mid-air as if he was jumping.

 

Samuel and Sons’ trim showroom, much like Artistic Tile, went down as my favorite for using their products in non-conventional ways. Although Samuel and Sons is carried here in Atlanta by Ainsworth Noah, there isn’t a showroom dedicated specifically to trim. Samuel and Sons is a passementerie lover’s dream. It was their creative use of fringe trimmings on paint brushes and tape trim to make the fabric for the outdoor sling chairs in their beach display that I loved. Samuel and Sons is a library of every trim imaginable arranged by color and grouped by style, making it easy to find the trim you need.

 

West Elm Workspace won the Best of Neocon Award in three categories, one of which was the furniture systems category. As people are now discovering, the open work environment is actually more prohibitive to working efficiently and productively. Really? I was wondering when that was coming. I’ve never understood the open working environment to begin with because who can concentrate? West Elm has come up with a new way to tackle the privacy issues in the open environment with their Haus concept. Haus is designed for individuals or small groups to work away from the busy, noisy open office without the need for walls, while providing both visual and acoustical privacy in three different configurations. And as you can see, it looks like a tiny house, thus making it seem less like an office and more like a social place for collaboration. I’m so thankful I don’t work in a traditional office setting. If I did, I would need one of these for sure. This is such a great solution for the office without having to put up walls and take them down based on how the team changes, grows and/or diminishes over the years.

 

There are some gorgeous kitchen showrooms at The Mart that will make you drool and rethink your current kitchen at least a couple of times. de Giulio  is one of them. If these kitchens resemble Siematic at all to you, it’s because Mick de Giulio has designed several of their collections including their New York showroom. There aren’t enough accolades for this man. The finishes are luxurious, and the solutions for problems we face in the kitchen are brilliant. I need that built-in, hanging pot storage.  On a side note, have you seen one of these Elektra Italian Espresso Machine? It’s the real deal and definitely deserves it own special task light along with that arched, tiled niche to give it pride of place. I’m pretty sure I recall seeing one in Venice while we were there.

 

But by far, my single favorite thing at Neocon was Atelier Gary Lee’s Lady Stinger Chair. Highly sculptural and displayed in American walnut matte finish, this chair, with its combination classic, 18th century cabriole legs, bee stinger vertical back, and modern sensibility, is to die for in my book. I have the perfect place in my home for it, too. It nets at $9K, though. Eek!

 

Whether it’s commercial or residential design, I take inspiration from all aspects of this industry. So often you see a small detail that leads you to something else, or points you down a different path. Exposure to all forms of art, design and creativity inform my work on all levels.

Looking forward to Neocon 2018!

xo,

Cassandra

 

 

 

 

Chill Chicago

Meditation | Massage Studio

Last week I was in Chicago for a design conference and stumbled upon this place. What a gem, a respite in the city for busy minds and busy people. I needed it, too. I just left Neocon at the Mart, and if you’ve ever been to any of the Marts for a show, you know what kind of sensory overload it can be. Not to mention, I had a full day of classes and learning, while trying to cram all the products, displays and vendors in between. The elevator lines were ridiculous, so I walked all the way up to the 14th floor, via the stairs, for my first class and worked my way down each floor (again, via the stairs), stopping on the floors I had classes and circling the showrooms and products. Ugh. They were setting up for the block party as I was leaving, and I really felt like I should be there to network and meet more people, but the older (and wiser) I get, the more I realize running myself completely into the ground is counterproductive. I needed some downtime.

A Chicago friend suggested Gilt Bar for dinner and drinks, so I left the Mart and started walking that way to meet my husband, who was still about an hour and a half away. As I was walking, I found this beautiful black storefront, peeked in the window and saw someone swinging in these chairs below. Such a neat space. The manager was outside, saw me looking in the window and invited me in. It was as if the universe knew exactly what I needed at that moment. Calm. Chill is a modern meditation and massage studio with a small retail area and juice bar. It is free of the typical iconography one expects in a yoga/mediation studio. No Buddhas, eastern symbols, ancient pictures or signs. Instead, it is a blank space, free of color and/or anything else that might be a visual distraction. If you know me, you know how much I love white for it’s visual silence and this place is just that, visually silent. A little visit to their website shows exactly how simple and easily approachable their concept is. It’s straight forward. And thank goodness they don’t burn incense, because the only thing that makes me feel like I’m choking more thank incense is an actual cigarette. Aside from the smoke itself, I must be the only person on the planet that finds incense stinky. Their concept, taken from their site is: No incense. No chakras. No dogmas. No gurus.

Just good old fashion sitting. And that is what meditation is, which truthfully is hard enough in itself.

 

 

There are two main rooms for yoga and mediation, one larger room, and the one I loved was the smaller private room. After years in the fitness industry teaching aerobics, spin and yoga, sharing a large group room doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Meditation, like prayer can be more powerful when done with others, but my practice is so personal, I prefer to be alone without any distractions.

 

There are sectioned off chair massage stations behind white curtains, which makes it so easy to not have to get undressed. Such a great concept for popping in, get a neck and back massage without the big production of getting undressed, putting a robe on, putting slippers on, getting under the covers, waiting for the therapist to come in, and then getting dressed again. Sitting down in the chair and having her work on my back for 30 mins was perfect. I love the spa style treatment you get at many places, but sometimes you just need the simplicity of someone working out the kinks without all the fuss.

 

There were thoughtful quotes on the walls, and my favorite line is the last one below. Calm is productive. So often we forget if we aren’t feverishly running around tackling our to-do list and conquering the world, we aren’t being productive. In fact, sitting in meditation is probably the most productive thing you can do for yourself, mentally and physically. It takes us humans a long time to get that, and as much I love my daily meditation, there are still times when I’m tempted to skip it, because it seems there is something more pressing, more “productive,” I could be doing.

 

So next time you’re in Chicago, check out Chill. I promise you’ll be thankful you gave your mind and body the rest. Website here.

xo,

Cassandra

P.S. I highly recommend Gilt Bar and Bavette’s which are next door. on either side just a couple storefronts down. Both are very highly rated in the city and are simple romantic and elegant.

Atlanta Contemporary Architecture Tour

Atlanta Design Festival | Contemporary Architecture and Design

Last weekend we did the Contemporary Architecture Tour here in Atlanta. The tour is an annual event in conjunction with the Atlanta Design Festival and gives tour-goers the opportunity to view some of Atlanta’s private contemporary homes. There were also public spaces on tour, as well. We had one day and just a few hours, so we decided to focus on the private homes, as we knew they would probably never be open again. We did four houses (and stumbled upon an art gallery in one) and focused mainly on the ones closest together for driving purposes.

Unfortunately, there were a ton of people touring the homes, so I snapped the best pictures I could. I skipped over spaces that were crowded with people, as you couldn’t see anything anyway.

 

This first house is probably my favorite from the outside (well, except the brick one, but you can’t beat that one for history). The huge windows and combination of glass, wood and cementitious panels is such a great textural combination. This was probably my least favorite regarding the interior finishes, but this staircase is perfection.

880 Kings Court

Architecture: Brian Ahern
Construction: Darby Construction

The idea for the house is to create a masonry “frame” that allows the siding to figuratively become more than just a means to enclose the building envelope. Both the house and landscape emphasize pattern of materials. For example, two types of cementitious panels are used to create a collage on both the East and West elevations of the house.

 

 

The second house was in walking distance from the first. They had a car parked in the driveway, so a great exterior shot wasn’t possible.

908 Kings Court

Architecture: Kirkman Architects
General Contractor: Cablik Enterprises LLC

This home is an example of Cubist modern architecture located in the heart of Morningside. The home is primarily stick framed with engineered lumber trusses and beams. The exterior is a mix of cementitious panels, haricot stucco, and concrete. Some of the notable design features include: 12 foot ceilings in a recessed living room overlooking the wooded ravine below, large Pella Windows and double sliding doors throughout, full length floating private deck off of the master suite, wet room, shower and tub configurations, ensuite bathrooms for each bedroom.

 

 

The third house we toured was the one I could see myself living in. It’s a great example of adaptive reuse.

Mifflin Hood

Renovation Architect: BLDGS

Mifflin Hood, BLDGS’ renovation of a 100 year old brick building that formerly was the headquarters and showroom of the B. Mifflin Hood Brick Company was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The B. Mifflin Hood Brick Company building served as a showroom and offices for the company from 1921 to 1947. The first portion of the building was built in 1909 and consists of four bays that create a square shaped building. In 1921, when the company bought the building, they constructed a seven bay addition to the east of the original building. In the 1930s, a small rear addition was added to the property. A simple brick cornice, several pilasters, and four 25-light metal windows with keystones comprise the decorative features of the façade. The sloped topography of the site means that the 1909 portion of the building is lower than the later addition. The building has recently been rehabilitated into a single-family residence with an office and studio space. B. Mifflin Hood was an important voice in the Progressive Era movement as he did not use convict labor and fought to overturn the convict labor system —making this property a good example of the City’s social and industrial history.

 

 

The owners of this home also own Brickworks Gallery attached to the building with a separate entrance on the side and one internally. The gallery was named best new gallery in 2016 by Atlanta Magazine. The owner, an artist herself, was onsite that day in her studio. I love to see studios where artists work. I enjoy seeing all the media and tools they use to create. Paper is her main media and when I first walked in, I thought these were fabrics. She has brought these papers back from all over the world, and from the looks of the textiles on their beds, I would say those probably came from her trips, as well.

 

 

The last house was also a favorite inside and out.

Ashley

Architecture: TaC Studios
General Contractor: Principle Builders Group
Landscape: TaC Studios, Install by GardenHood

Ashley was designed for jewelry designers. Located 1 block from the Atlanta Beltline, the clients desired to maintain the large tree in the front yard, as it retains a connection to the original neighborhood’s landscape plan of trees that line the block. The bronzed screen at the front of the house relays the plan for the city blocks of the old 4th ward and screens the setting west sun.

The brick is a material that relates to the surrounding homes. The home has; 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, roof terrace, a garage designed for car lifts, a living level that allows for direct connection to the pool terrace, retractable screen….. The clients had a long wish list. A challenging site, 55’ wide x 146’ deep, the front and rear yard setbacks limited the location of the pool and residence. The grade change of 4 feet from the front door to the rear lounging terrace, presented the opportunity to step the procession through the home and transition the experience from the front door to main entertaining space. Large 12’ tall sliding doors open to the terrace, which can be enclosed by the retractable screens. Each area was planned for seating a minimum of six from the pool area to the roof terrace and media room. Custom millwork throughout the home was TaC studios designed and built locally by McMeubel/ Michael Courtz.

 

 

I find so often that people are either in the historic design and preservation camp or they are in the contemporary design camp. Having studied both in design school, I have developed an appreciation for both and believe both are appropriate, valuable, relevant and have their place.

I hope through this post, you can learn to appreciate this style as a viewer, even if it’s not something you would personally choose to live with.

xo,

Cassandra

Pom Poms: Fun and Functional

Military | Fashion | Interiors | Animals

I’m sure you’ve seen pom poms everywhere by now, but if not, I guarantee you will notice them more after reading this. These colorful balls are trimming just about everything in the fashion and interiors worlds, and if you’ve been shopping with me lately, you know I’m obsessed with them. I noticed this trend emerging last year and thought it might be a one season thing, but these yarn balls are holding strong, and I’m so glad, because I love them.

I did a little research to find where these came from and found a great piece Martha Stewart did on the history of the pom pom. I won’t go into great detail on that, as you can read that piece here.  But, who knew these fun pom poms I wore on my roller skates as a child, and now want on everything I own, have a history rooted in military culture, signifying rank and regiment, and are worn by clergymen, as well? These are two examples of pom poms on military and clergymen hats.

 

In her piece, Stewart mentions South American culture and the light went on; That’s where I know these from. I’ve seen countless images in travel magazines depicting people in colorful, traditional dress with pom poms on everything. The more I looked, the more I realized these pom poms can be found on traditional dress in all regions. Below are images of traditional dress from all over the world with examples of pom poms in varying sizes and placement from headdresses to chest poms.

 

 

They’ve even found their way into couture and on the runway.

 

People also take great pride in dressing their animals during ceremonies and weddings, and in South America, pom poms (tulmas) are used to mark one’s llama out in the field. Omg, aren’t these so cute and intricate? My family raises livestock in south Georgia, and I wonder if we can use these to mark the cows instead of ear tags. 😉 And even more cute, a couple of these images below look like these guys are posing for selfies together.

 

Let’s face it. These bouncy colorful yarn balls are like a party on any outfit or accessory and below are a few things I’m currently in love with. The clutch and sandals can be found here along with several other pom pom accessories and dresses. Did I mention my dog tends to like these fuzzy balls on my shoes, too, and likes to try to grab one if I’m walking by him. We’re working on that. 🙂

Unfortunately I couldn’t trace the link to the original seller, but I found these pieces below on Pinterest.  I love the neutral colored poms, and this boho bag with the shells and poms is just everything. While I was in Key West at Grace on Frances, I picked up this Moroccan pom pom scarf below, which is lightweight for warmer months but big enough to be used as a small throw. I almost always need a little something over me when I’m sitting still in an air-conditioned building. The Moroccan pom pom is a very close cousin of the tassle.

 

The tulmas I mentioned above can be found all over the internet (check Etsy) and can be tied on just about any bag to dress it up without investing in a bag that has pom poms on it, in case these are trending out next year.

 

This collar is one of my favorites from Twine and Twig, and if you read my last blog post about global style, you can see how closely it resembles the tribal collars of the Maasai tribe, but take a look at this collar with the red pom poms on it. This shell and pom pom piece is an 18th century ethnographic piece in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection of jewelry. Don’t the poms punch it up even more? I love these huge intricate collar necklaces with a long simple maxi dress and a strapless, boat neck, or crew neck collar, so the they sit flat on the chest as the focal point.

 

And then my Moroccan pom pom bedding craze, links to purchase the ones below can be found here, here, and here. I’m showing all neutrals because that’s what I love, but if you click on that last link, you’ll find several in bright colors.

 

 

If you follow me on social media you know I was selecting a rug for a client project, looked down, and notice my pom pom sandals matched the oushak rug we chose for her vestibule. Serendipitous. 🙂

 

Can’t wait to see if pom poms find their way into your life after reading this.

Xo,

Cassandra

 

 

Empowering Embellishments

Accessorizing and Changing Lives

Now more than ever, the global, tribal style is trending. It’s something I have always been fascinated with because it represents far-flung places I want to go and cultural experiences I want have. I remember studying indigenous peoples while taking anthropology in college and being captivated by the way people live. Thankfully, with air travel and the global marketplace, the tiniest corners of the world are becoming easier to reach, and we can now experience those places and people and have those intricate beaded collars and necklaces, headpieces, textiles, baskets, pottery and more. I remember studying the Maasai tribe in Africa and distinctly remember wanting one of those beaded collars the first time I saw them. The Maasai have been stacking jewelry much longer than we have, as you can see below.

 

 

I recently finished the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. When a friend recommended it, I thought, I don’t need to read this. I don’t have clutter and don’t keep things stashed away in hopes of using them someday. In fact, I don’t care for a lot of stuff. It clutters my mind and ability to be productive, creative, and efficient. I have always said, I would rather have less things, than things I feel kind of so-so about. Half way into the book, I realized I was wrong. I did in fact need this book. I finished reading the book at about midnight and wanted to get up and start purging right then. I couldn’t wait to get rid of things.

The book was about getting real with myself. Did I need this object, shirt, book, etc? Not just a shallow look at it, but a real, in-depth look at each object in my life. Was it supporting me, fulfilling me, making me feel good, etc.? Was I even using it? Why did I have this stuff? What point did it truly serve? She addresses all the excuses in the book (so-and-so gave it to me, I paid X amount for it, it might fit one day, etc). I began taking a real hard look at my things. Why did I have all this stuff, and truthfully, I already have way less than most people. I had realized it was actually causing me agitation below the surface. The constant passing by things in my house, clothes in my closet, books on my shelves that I really didn’t love, and I mean really LOVE. That’s what this book is about. In fact, in the book, she tells you to ask yourself, does this create a spark for me when I hold it and touch it? She even goes so far as to say, pick up each object and ask yourself this question? Does it create a spark for me? It has been life-changing for me. I didn’t realize how saddled I was with stuff. Why do humans have all this stuff? I mention this because you should read the book, but also because now when I’m shopping, I’m so much more mindful about what I’m buying. Do I need this? What point does it serve? I would rather have less things and each of those things I have, I truly, wholeheartedly love. I would also rather have things that support others and consciously change the lives of other humans and the world. Instead of conspicuous consumption for the sake of having more things, conscious consumption has become my mantra.

 

Brands you can feel good about, that connect you to people and places.

Recently on my trip to Key West, I found the brand Fashionable at Isle Style. Born in Ethiopia, this line of raw, distressed leather goods from around the globe are beautiful and come with a story of hope. Made by women who have overcome prostitution, poverty, addiction, and lack of opportunity in places like Ethiopia and Zambia, these products are empowering women and give them the ability to work, learn new skills, earn a living and are changing their lives, their families, and communities. I took these pictures below at Isle Style of one of their clutches and product information pieces. Aren’t these pieces gorgeous?

 

 

Here are some other pieces you’ll find on their website, and they make shoes and jewelry, too.The bucket bag with tassel are next on my list for Fall.

Then there’s Ten Thousand Villages, supporting people in villages all over the world and protecting the ancient methods, skills and handicrafts of local people, tribes, and cultures. Similar to Fashionable, they are helping people get out of poverty and create a fair wage for themselves to live and provide food and medical care for their families. I bought this ring made by women in Cambodia from bombshell casings leftover from previous wars and pulled the two other designs (an arrow and a chevron) from their website.

 

Another great find I recently ran across is this necklace from Earthbound Trading Co. They don’t have my color online, only this color, but I saw this one in the store and loved it, too. Did you see the price? Earthbound also specializes in multicultural merchandise from international artisans and suppliers from places like Indonesia and India. Look at this woven collar below. Doesn’t it look inspired by the giant beaded collars of the women in Africa above?

 

These pieces speak to my heart. I know they were made with love and hope, by the hands of individual people fighting battles I know nothing about. I know they mean food on the table for someone and one more step away from prostitution, poverty, dependency and illness. These pieces are empowering women across the globe, building confidence by helping them build skills, ensuring children in villages can attend school, and as Marie Kondo suggests in her book, when I touch them, these pieces create a spark for me because of it.

 

I hope you read the book and decide you, too, need less things, and let’s continue to work to consume consciously and truly enjoy the things we do have and free ourselves of the things we don’t.

 

Xo,

Cassandra

 

 

Key West

Shop Galleries

When you tire of bongs, thongs and the Duval Crawl…

Yes, I said it: bongs and thongs. Because let’s face it, you don’t have to look far to see them in store windows, on mannequins, or sitting on carts with all the other smoking paraphernalia. There’s no shortage of tacky, shiny objects and cheap, fluorescent t-shirts on racks pushed out by storefronts in hopes of catching the eyes of those doing the well-known Duval Crawl. The first time you go, it’s sensory overload. Lower Duval has a bit of a stale alcohol smell early in the morning, because that’s where the majority of the historic, iconic, party bars are located. Gypsy chickens scurry around in the streets where their loud crowing can be heard all over town, and a little further up Duval in the evening, you will most definitely pass by the stars of the local drag show hanging out on the street in front of their venue inviting you in to see them perform. Key West is not for modest types, but this is part of the eclectic mixture that makes the island. I have written about the island before and most definitely will again and again. There are rare finds and creative, captivating people all over the island, and one day, I hope to write about a trip from Key West to Havana, Cuba. Until then, I’m collecting stories and pictures.

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