Fernweh

John Hardy ~ Bali

Luxury and Sustainability

Usually these two words aren’t used in the same sentence, especially when describing high-end goods. So often, it seems things are either sustainable and lack the quality, beauty and durability we expect, or they are luxurious and seem wasteful, expensive and extravagant.  I was blown away by the mindful presence of both at John Hardy’s workshop in Bali. Follow me down the bamboo lined path to the creative world of John Hardy.

Like Jim Thompson in Thailand, John Hardy has made a profound, legendary impact in Bali, while creating a luxury brand known worldwide. Canadian born John Hardy established his workshop in Bali in 1975 after visiting the island and being inspired by the Balinese culture and tradition of jewelry-making. He spent time learning the methods and techniques and applied a new approach to those age-old traditions.

The John Hardy complex, including the workshop, showroom and outdoor dining room, was built in 1996 and is a beautiful testament to his mission and philosophy and stands as a model for conscious living and working. If the company were to ever fold, the buildings could easily be removed, recycled and consciously disposed of, and the land could continue to provide food for the people without damage to the environment. Set amidst farms and rice paddies, thought has gone into everything from the jewelry, to the buildings, to the environment, to the people. It is hard to wrap your head around how much intention and inspiration has gone into creating this superior brand, building this low-impact business, caring about the people who create and buy the jewelry and conserving the land. I have never seen a more earth conscious, quality conscious, people conscious brand.

Everything is made by hand from design through final production. The eight-step process begins in the design studio where artists and designers create design sketches for new pieces. Not a single computer is used. The final designs are even painted by hand with gouache or watercolor.  Wax molds are made and then carved by hand, absolutely no machinery is involved at John Hardy. It’s an example and display of the cultivation, protection and beauty of pure human talent and skill at work, and it’s surprising they have held to this model with the amount of volume that comes from the workshop. And yes, it is so hard to believe, every single piece comes from this humble looking workshop in the rice paddies. In fact, when we pulled up, aside from the security guards protecting the property, I thought, is this it? They haven’t compromised or cut corners to shave time off the process to speed up production, and it was refreshing to see humans creating with their hands, instead of computers or machines. For this reason, each piece is essentially a one of a kind, with tiny differences created by the human hands that have made them, while maintaining the brand consistency.

There are no goals for the artisans to meet at John Hardy, except pure quality, and there aren’t a set number of pieces they must turn out each month, no deadlines, etc. John Hardy doesn’t want the process rushed. Each piece takes however long it takes for the artisans to make, to insure the quality isn’t rushed. Each piece is painstakingly critiqued by individuals in quality control who look for imperfections before the piece is ready to be sold. The entire workshop is a testament to John Hardy’s belief in the quality and craftsmanship of each piece by the artisans. The company believes in the transfer of creative energy from the artisans during design and creation passed down to the wearer. All the silver used is reclaimed and comes mostly from the inside of discarded electronics. All the gemstones are ethically sourced and are set by expert gemologists in Thailand. The creative process and production are simply mesmerizing. Photo credit: John Hardy

 

Steeped in history and ancient cultural beliefs, each piece reflects life in Bali from the spiritual to the everyday. The classic chain, which you have most likely seen, is 100% woven, recycled metal, inspired by the art of weaving seen all over Bali as decoration for celebrations, baskets, etc. It takes one hour to make one inch of chain by hand. You can see below, the bamboo column is decorated with woven strips of leaves like the bracelets they make, spiraling up like a serpent (there is also a serpent collection at John Hardy). One of the artists wove the palm leaf greenery around that column pictured with our host we spent the morning touring the property with. The Balinese dress is so beautiful. Below is one the design sketches of the classic chain weave.

 

The Legends of the Naga collection is inspired by the Naga, the mythical water dragon, that lives in the mountains of Bali and descends the mountain to find his love the pearl. The Naga represents love, protection and prosperity in Bali. Watch this video with adorable illustrations depicting the story of the Naga. If you’ve been anywhere in Asia, you know the Naga, or some story of the dragon, is a positive, powerful creature in many Asian cultures. Below is a design sketch for a Naga piece with sapphire eyes and a special bracelet with a golden pearl from Lombok, an island off Bali. A love story expressed in jewelry, the Naga pieces that include pearls are very special, as this completes the entire story of the Naga and his love the pearl. It is said if you wear the Naga facing you, it will attract love. If you wear the Naga facing away from you, it serves to protect you. I even love the Naga Dome Ring which looks like the texture of the scales of the dragon’s skin. The black piece below is highly-prized, black mother of pearl.

One of my other favorite collections is the bamboo collection. Not only is it the main building material used around the property, for each piece sold, the company plants a certain number of bamboo seedlings. If you look very closely inside each bamboo piece, the company has etched how many seedlings were planted from the purchase of that piece. You can clearly see the bamboo seedling stamp inside the silver piece. I almost bought the yellow gold bangle below but decided on the classic chain in the picture above in a silver and yellow gold combination. Because I love the design sketches so much, I’ve included a couple from the bamboo collection.

One of the other details that makes a John Hardy piece so special is the Ukian etching or carving on the inside of many of his pieces. These depict secret mythical stories that only the wearer sees and knows. Ukian is a traditional carving method in Bali, and you can see a similar method was used on the wall in the entrance hall picture below.

Upon arriving at John Hardy, one is greeted by the beautiful Balinese people and a refreshing lemongrass cooler in a bamboo cup with a lemongrass straw. Whenever possible, everything is natural at John Hardy.

Design Studio

This building was also reclaimed and brought to the property. The designers work here in this light-filled space surrounded by rice and lemongrass. Pictures were not allowed inside the design studio to protect the designs they were currently working on. Each designer sits at a communal type work space, drawing and sketching new concepts.

Lunch Pavillion

Each day the company provides lunch for all the employees in this outdoor bamboo dining room and has a kitchen onsite where they prepare rice and food from the land surrounding the workshop. They eat in two shifts, and guests are invited to dine on traditional Balinese fare with the designers and artisans.

Workshop

You are not allowed to take pictures in the workshop to protect the production process, but having heard so many horrible stories about the treatment of people in workshops in Southeast Asia, we asked every question regarding their welfare. They work a standard 8-hour day, are paid a fair wage, get an hour for lunch, which the company provides, and so many people enjoy working there. We met two generations, a mother and daughter, currently working there together. Most are skilled in one step of the process and are masters at it, so that’s all they do, all day long. Seemed really tough to me. In the workshop, you have the opportunity to stand by the artisans, looking over their shoulders, while they work. The attention to detail is astonishing really. Later in the trip, we were told this is considered an excellent job for Balinese people, and they are treated very well here. I found this picture on DestinAsian of the inside of the workshop.

Showroom

The showroom, called the Kapal Bambu, is located in the building below. It’s highly sculptural and inspired by bamboo ships. The floor is open on each side and rice grows under the building inside the showroom. You can hear the trickle sound of water softly flowing all around the property, irrigating the rice and other plants.  All the cases are built of bamboo and glass, and the bamboo roof shingles in the shape of a turtle shell were really interesting. With the light pouring in from the glass, the entire building had a spiritual quality to it. Love that bamboo bubble chair. too.

Temple

There is also a Hindu temple on the property for daily prayers and offerings, which is usually done three times a day. Marigolds are one of the most used flowers around Bali. You can see them on the table at lunch and arranged in a cone shape flanking the temple steps.

Because of the philosophy of this brand, the quality and craftsmanship of the product, and the amount of love, detail and beautiful, conscious, human energy that goes into each piece, John Hardy has won me over.

If you’re in Bali, you have to put this on your list. It was on of the best experiences we had.

xo,

Cassandra

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

 

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.

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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2017 is Knocking

New Year | New Doors

A new year often makes us think of new beginnings, new opportunities and new doors opening for us. The portals of change are wide open, as we prepare to begin again and step through to the vast opportunities on the other side.

I always start the new year thinking about the places I’m traveling and what a source of inspiration that is for me. I still maintain a vision board and paste all the places I want to go, things I want to accomplish, and so forth, on a board to remind myself to live intentionally. Traveling is not just a vacation for me. It’s a learning laboratory that informs my work on all levels and in all my businesses and endeavors.

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Cargotecture | Arkitainer

Cargo Container + Architecture

In a world of portmanteaus (Bennifer, Brangelina, Kimye, etc), Cargotecture or Arkitainer (architecture + container) is the combination of two very different words to create a specific type of upcycled, cutting edge architecture, and it’s trending all over the world.

These intermodal containers, aka shipping containers, conex boxes, and freight containers, are standardized containers meant to be shipped across all modes of transportation (truck, rail and sea) in the globalized shipping system. They are designed to be loaded, stacked and shipped based on a system created after WWII in an effort to minimize transportation cost. They are tracked via computer, each having its own number, and moved by cranes and lifts. There are an estimated 20 million containers in use around the globe today.

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Believeland

Cleveland: Reinvention, Redevelopment and Adaptive Reuse.

I’m sure when you hear Cleveland not much comes to mind other than cold weather and a gray, dreary, industrial city that lacks arts and culture, but Cleveland has done so much in the last three years. The downtown in particular has come a long way. So much so that it is even becoming difficult to find an apartment in downtown. This city is full of architectural beauties, old industrial buildings, trendy restaurants, and with all the sports venues and a casino within walking distance of the central downtown area, this makes getting around on foot so easy. Cleveland is a model for adaptive reuse, and you can see examples of it all over the city.

Clevelanders are more proud of their town than any group of people I’ve ever encountered. They are loyal fans, strong supporters of their city’s progress and future, and have a great deal of civic pride, hence the nickname, Believeland. Forget your preconceived notions about Cleveland, and check out how this comeback city is drawing people back with the downtown’s current revival. By conserving and converting historic buildings and warehouses into mixed use developments, the city is reinventing itself and urban life by integrating its industrial past into present day cultural experiences.

Giants like I.M. Pei (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame building), Frank Gehry (Peter B Lewis building) and others have left their architectural mark on the city, and looking up holds many rewards for those who are aware (as you’ll see below). There are some highly detailed ceilings in many of the old buildings, and the first place we stumbled upon was the 5th Street Arcades. While stopping for coffee at Pour Cleveland, which just so happens to be conveniently located next to the 5th Street Arcade, I found this masterpiece below. The ceilings, tile work in the entrance, and full arcade with shops and restaurants is a little like stepping back in time. These historic arcades (there are two in Cleveland) have played an important roll in social life in Cleveland, both past and present.  Places like this inform my work and make me a better designer. It’s a reminder to me to always consider every possible aspect and detail of a space.

 

Next door to The Cleveland Public Library is the Howard Metzenbaum Courthouse building. This classic Beaux-Arts style building was inspired by the Place de la Corde in Paris and is situated on Cleveland’s Civic Mall and Public Square. Although we didn’t go in, I couldn’t help but take pictures of the statues, railings and sconces on the exterior.

The Cleveland Public Library, also Beaux-Arts style, has incredibly elaborate interiors, including the ceilings. One of my favorite things was how the rug design mimicked the ceiling design. The globe pendant light hangs in the main entrance, and the allegory of art (the painting on the ceiling in a cross pattern) depicts the four major arts: musical arts, graphical arts, industrial arts and theatrical arts. The blue birds on the front pedestals are part of an art installation by Cracking Art Italian art collective. Even the smallest details are beautiful, like the marble floor indicator dial with brass arrow and star, again, another little reward for those who pay attention. These are things that make a place truly special. Unfortunately, technology has replaced so many of these original treasures. A library worker told me the ceiling work was painted on a canvas in the basement and applied on the ceiling.

 

The Cleveland Museum of Art holds its own with many of the finer museums I’ve visited. Again, I was completely blown away to find an art museum of this caliber in Cleveland. With a $650 million dollar endowment, it’s one of the wealthiest museums in the country, and it’s also free. The Neoclassical building, again in the Beaux-Arts style, with Georgian Marble (yes, Pickens County, Georgia for the local readers) is worth a visit on its own. The museum has undergone many additions and renovations and most notably, the North Wing was designed by famous Modernist architect and furniture designer, Marcel Breuer. Several important works and pieces I fell in love with are below, including two pieces by Tiffany & Co.

 

Withing walking distance of the 5th Street Arcades is East 4th Street. This pedestrian only, little side street with restaurants and patios opening out European style, is simply a must. You really need a week in Cleveland to try  all the good restaurants on this street. String lights and flowers line the walk and patio fences, and it’s such a great place to meander and people watch. Micheal Symon is Cleveland’s culinary claim to fame. Every city has their chef that invests in their town and opens one or more really hot dining spots and he is their guy. Two of his restaurants, Mable’s and Lola’s, are on East 4th. We did our own hopping around to try a few places and went to Mabel’s (pics below), Butcher and the Brewer and Erie Island Coffee. I have to say, even though it wasn’t Southern BBQ, it was still pretty good. Red is also a great restaurant right in downtown, and for non-steak eaters like myself, the sides alone were worth the trip.

 

There were so many other beautiful details all around the city. The ceilings below were from inside Jack Casino, also located right in downtown. Hessler Street was another gem I stumbled upon leaving the Frank Gehry building headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art. This historic and charming street on the National Register is located in University Circle and has an annual art fundraiser to help maintain the houses, which unfortunately, looked like they could use a lot of TLC. One of the rarest finds was Hessler Court which runs perpendicular to Hessler St and still maintains the old Nicolson Pavement, or wood block pavement. This is one of the few streets in the U.S. to still have this type of paving material. The Hessler community has kept the wood block for its historical value, and you can see the detail in the pictures below. From a distance, the street looks like a regular cobblestone street. Many streets were paved with wood, because at the time, it was easier to find than stone. Horse hooves were much quieter on wood streets, too. I even loved the trash cans in this district. Cleveland is using every opportunity as a canvas for art. Also surprising, Cleveland claims the second largest theater district in the U.S., outside of New York City. Playhouse Square shines like a beacon down the street with several brightly lit marquees and the largest outdoor chandelier in the world.

 

Cleveland is full of art, history, culture and food. It’s experiencing its own little renaissance and there are many other cultural and dining areas around the city like The Flats and Westside Market, but I’ll save those for the next blog. Hope this inspires you to cast off those old images and ideas of Cleveland and give it a chance. Before I left I had a friend say, Cleveland is the new city of brotherly love, and I couldn’t agree more.  The people are equally wonderful.

Thanks for reading!! XO

Cassandra