Thessaloniki – warm and vintage

Ah Greece… what better way to prepare for enduring the long cold winter that spending a weekend in a Greek city with outside temperatures of above 27°, a view of the sea and a local fest?

The city is not a resort itself and don’t expect walking out of your hotel on a sandy beach. It’s a city where people live in apartment buildings, go to work, take the bus, stay in traffic. But aside from this Thessaloniki has that laid back Mediterranean charm you get to discover by walking down the narrow streets and mingling with the local folks in bars and restaurants.

And few other people know how to savour the little things in life as the Greeks do… I loved watching them having morning coffee at a terrace downtown, enjoying their incredible food, walking by the sea or going for drinks in Valaoritou bars.

There are lots of places to go out to and in terms of design the words to describe are eclectic and vintage. Most bars are decorated with those lofty worn out pieces: exposed brick walls, metal bar chairs, industrial lighting objects and retro wall plaques.

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I went to such a place on Friday night where aside from amazing food and drinks they had a local DJ entertaining people with electro music. The place itself is a crazy mixture of bistro chic and kitchy elements that bring together a modern hip ambiance: romantic wall clocks and pictures of all sizes and styles, a bicycle hanged somewhere by the roof and a tree growing in the middle of the bar. I imagine an owner that hasn’t yet made up his mind on the style to approach and is reluctant to give up anything so instead he uses every bit of space to fill it up with his eclectic collection.

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I was impressed by the lighting they use in interiors. Vintage, of course but quirky and creating a cozy setting especially in cocktail bars.

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As for the rest of the city I’ll only show a few photos from my perspective of Thessaloniki, images that warmed up to me while walking around the center.

So enough for the urban-chic-hipster kind of atmosphere, next time I’m in for some proper Greek folk music and breaking some plates!!

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#throwback Wednesday – Oriental fabric design

Having written about my trip to India in a previous post reminded me of some stunning pieces of design I got to see at Heimtextil trade show in Frankfurt at the beginning of 2014.

This trade show is the largest in Europe for home textile products and gathers designs and producers from all over the world from the high end brands to the local manufacturers of Europe and Asia. The ones that impressed me were obviously the crafts of India and Bangladesh. This guys take the production of textiles close to art so no wonder they have the Taj and all those cool places I showed you in my previous post.

Forget all you know about common fabrics like cotton and polyester and silk! Welcome linen, jute, hide skins, wool blended in shapes and patterns that are a feast for the senses!

As it seems this year’s patterns were a modern reinterpretation of typical Oriental motifs. A minimal geometrical symmetry takes the place of the common paisley and flowerish prints. The colour pallet is mainly composed of earthy shades from neutrals to more vibrant tones of turquoise or autumnal orange.

My pictures are obviously far from great. Actually I wasn’t even allowed to take any pictures, they are very serious about the copying designs issues! But I’m sure you’ll get the idea and wonder why don’t we have more stuff like this in our shops?!

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Cushions! Cushions everywhere! I’d fill my bed and sofa with cushions looking like that, wouldn’t you?

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I’m in love with these jute carpets! The woven process is difficult and makes the retail price of such a rug go up to over 1000 EUR. However you can find the Anatolian carpets (kilims) produced by Turkish manufacturers looking similar to these but at somehow lower prices.

An Indian experience

Though this is a blog dedicated to interior design aside not just travelling, I don’t think there’s a better way to start than telling the story of the time I went to India. New Delhi and Agra to be more precise.

I could write a novel about it, it was an adventure from day 1 to the moment I left but it’s better  to be told in person so take me out to coffee and I’ll tell you the ‘2 rupees’ story or the time I nearly got beaten up by a monkey.

I didn’t have a great camera at that time so most of the photos I took with a compact camera and some are a bit air brushed in Photoshop for a sharper view. But I think they’re good enough to get the idea.

As a typical developing country India is the place of extremes. You can feel like cringing in front of nearly wrecked houses with no windows and stare in amazement before some great Hindu temple. You feel terrified in that traffic with no rules and yet wonder about the perfect symmetry of any park of the city. How can they throw their garbage in front of the house and yet have perfectly clean gardens of temples where you can walk barefoot?

My first experience was the one facing the poverty, the filth, the crowded streets and terrible traffic.

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After I had enough of the ‘Indian experience’ and was dying to get home I got the taste of the other extreme – the beauty of its culture, architecture wonders, amazing history.

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Humayum tomb, dating around the 16th century – a typical Mughal architecture element  with its arches, balconies and kiosks. The chambers are built to keep to the Islamic burial rituals and use the ‘pietra dura’ technique of encrusting marble and stone ornamentation that we’ll see later in the wonderful Taj Mahal.

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Qutb Minar, the second highest minaret in India and one of the oldest, dating around 13th century. It’s made of sandstone carved with verses from the Quran.

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Akshardham temple is dating from… 2005. Seriously. They built this less than 10 years ago from volunteers or so they say. I’m not going to discuss the absurdity and costs of having this complex of religious buildings when most of the country’s population is starving so let’s focus on the culture.

Because indeed, Akshardam is a place that tells the story of a millennia of Hindu and Indian culture, spirituality and architecture.

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The main monument is the center is a blend of styles from all over India. Outside it’s red sandstone carved as lace with images of deities, flowers, animals and the inside is made of white marble from Rajasthan.

The monument is surrounded by a fountains, exhibitions of status depicting the old Vedic texts and temples for praying.

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Leave the best to the last! The amazing Taj Mahal. Actually I liked Akshardam better but hey, this is a 17th century wonder and a symbol of true love! Or a symbol of an obsessed , maniac king that had to be locked away because he was taking the country to ruins. As we all know Taj Mahal was built by a Mughal shah as a token of love for his wife that had deceased after giving birth to their 14th child.

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Leaving this aside, this is indeed a work of art that includes influences from Persian, Turkish and Mughal architecture. This is where you get to see the ‘pietra dura’ technique at its peak, the amazing stones encrusted in white marble – Islamic verses on the gates and the flowers and oriental motifs on the main building.

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