Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Chaos

 Christmas 2008. The year we were moving house.
I was too dizzy to have a proper Christmas tree. See that palmera with balls behind?

The last three weeks has been a blur, with all the Christmas preparations going on (hence the lack of posts)  Christmas in Manila takes on a different level--it's a mixture of excitement, mayhem, stress, and warm fuzzy feelings.  Just last night I got together with yet another group of friends. People I don't see throughout the year, but on Christmas, when everybody is home for the holidays, we make a special effort to have a Christmas meal together. Then we always wonder why we don't see each other more often.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Faith and G's Dollhouse

 Faith Bradford started her collection when she was 7 years old, 
and donated it to the Smithsonian in 1951
I've always had a fascination for dollhouses ever since I saw the Faith Bradford dollhouse at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC more than ten years ago.  The history of this dollhouse is so intriguing that there is even a book dedicated to the details of the dollhouse.

Last year, when G mentioned that she wanted a dollhouse for her birthday, I immediately asked the carpenter, who happened to be building shelves in our (real) house, to work on a dollhouse for her instead.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Brown Paper Packages Wrapped up in String...

These are a few of my favorite things!

I'm was very excited with what arrived in the mail yesterday.  Okay, it wasn't really "mail" as in the postman from the Philippine post office. It was the delivery person of my door-to-door balikbayan service from San Francisco who delivered this package. When I order things from Amazon and other websites, I have it delivered straight to Bayanihan Cargo in San Francisco and they just throw it into the next container that's leaving. I get it about three weeks later, delivered directly to my kitchen table, freight collect. Now that's what I call service deluxe!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Grisaille and Chinoiserie

My interior-designer friend suggested I install "grisal" panels on the sliding cabinet doors in my den. Not knowing what "grisal" was, I googled it and came up with the word "grisaille," a French term that refers to a painting technique in grey tones that was popular in the mid-1800s. 

A value sketch that really isn't because it should be done in pencil...

The grisaille technique is very similar to a "value drawing."  In art class, before committing paint to paper, we were encouraged to do a "value sketch" of what we intended to paint as a tool for composition. This way, one can easily identify the light, and dark areas and see how the light moves across the composition. I didn't realize it was a painting technique used long ago for various other reasons.

The American company, de Gournay, which is famous for its exquisite hand-painted Chinoiserie (shin-wah-seh-ree) wallpaper, kept popping up in my google search because it also creates grisaille panoramic murals.  I got sidetracked with all the beautiful chinoiserie that is timeless in interior design.

De Gournay, caters to a very high end market and their products are often seen in design books, magazines, and the internet. Their prices are also very high end.

Speaking of chinoiserie, my friend Pam and I went on a "design field trip" and visited the home of a good friend of hers last week. In this gorgeously designed apartment, the dining room had beautiful hand-painted chinoiserie walls.  Unfortunately I can't feature this home in my blog because the owner is a very private person. I'm just so thankful that she happily opened up her home to me.  Being here felt like I was in an apartment in Paris, instead of in the middle of Manila. It was nothing over-the-top, but Pam was right when she said her friend had refined and cultivated taste.

 Chinoiserie walls of the dining room

Meanwhile, at the home of another friend, Alicia, which we also visited that day, the hand-painted chinoiserie powder room made my heart skip a beat. Alicia is not an interior designer,  but her aesthetic sense is highly developed. What I find intriguing about her is that she always knows the names of designers that are popular for a particular design--and I'm not talking about the iconic ones like Mies, Eero, or Marcel. Let's just say she knows beautiful design, and she always knows the origin.

After oohing and aahing in her powder room, the name "de Gournay" came up, and I was able to talk about design at her level only because of my recent google search. With this chinoiserie all around me,  I felt that the design universe was giving me a sign.

But what is speaking to me right now are these incredible grisaille murals. I would love to have something like this in my home. My stairwell is just white as of now, and the family room...hmm...

In this decorative artist's blog, she shows us the process of one grisaille commission.  I'm sure with the number of talented artists here in Manila, I can find someone to do similar.

Hope you learned something new like I did. Just remember that it's grisaille as in Versailles or kampai, and not grisaille as in La Salle  or pandesal.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Zebra Stripes in Interiors

Here is the look I'm trying to achieve with the big mirror I'm looking for. Not only do I love a huge mirror, I also want some zebra stripes somewhere in living room, just like this. I don't need a full zebra displayed on the floor--just one or two accent ottomans (otttomen?)

Me and My Mac

My Mac and I are going through a rough time right now. A few nights ago, my Mac wouldn't go past the desktop display, and it wouldn't reboot either!  After calming down and forcing myself to put aside all fears of losing my data,  I found out that my internal hard drive was maxed out, mostly because of my iPhoto. I think it's about time I figure out how to manage my photo archives better.

My 320g hard drive was way up to capacity, and the only thing to do was to upgrade to a 500g hard drive. While I was at it. I also decided to upgrade my RAM from 4 to the maximum, 8g,  and upgrade to Lion and to iLife'11. Meanwhile my life is on hold.

Now my old HD,  with all my files,  is safely in a metal hard case and acts as my external drive, I now  have to wade through the clutter of old files and transfer only the most important ones. The most precious thing to me in the computer is my iPhoto so I just moved the whole thing over with 70k photos.

So now there's  a traffic jam of posts in my head. I hope to sort out this Mac stuff soon because I feel lost if my computer is acting up.  BRB.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Antonio's in Tagaytay

I haven't been to Antonio's in a few years so I was surprised to see it expanded and renovated when I finally went there one evening, a few months ago, for a very special wedding anniversary event.

I would've loved to see it during the day because I can imagine how beautiful it would look. The atmosphere at dinnertime is different too, specially when the guests are all dressed formally.

I love the look of monochromatic encaustic tiles.

The weather was pleasant and chilly.

It was quite dark, but I was able to shoot my salad. Everything else did not photograph well, but they were all very delicious.  In all the times I've been there, Antonio's has never disappointed.

I couldn't take pictures in the other parts of the restaurant because it was too dark. This big dining room was very dim, but my low-light camera could still capture some of the atmosphere.

Love this chair with the brass nailheads too.

The styling, flowers and giveaways were done by Tonette Rosal of Sophie's Mom Cakes and Confectionery.

On the way out, you'll come across this gallery wall of old photos.

I even bumped into a group of old friends who were also dining there that evening! What a coincidence.

I should make plans to have lunch there one day, so I can fully appreciate the interiors.

+63917 8992866
Purok 138, Barangay Neogan
Tagaytay City, Cavite

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Need a Mirror Badly

This is the type of mirror you'll find in one of those French or Russian palaces. But one mirror like this will probably just be like a tiny piece of a puzzle in a cavernous mirrored ballroom.

I remember first seeing huge framed mirrors in a restaurant in Makati more than ten years ago.  I don't even remember the name of the restaurant, but the interior space was deeper than it was wide and the very ingenious interior designer installed large horizontally framed mirrors on the wall, leaning down away from it--the way old portraits lean away from the wall. The imposing mirrors reflected the diners on both sides.

The Baroque frames were nicely gilded and they didn't look like tacky reproductions in shiny gold.  I also remember thinking, if ever this place closes, I would love to buy one of these mirrors.

The place eventually shut down, but I never found out who owned the place, much less what happened to those mirrors. I can't bear the thought of these mirrors languishing in someone's bodega.

 This is the size I need

Ever since that time, the image of a huge mirror has been embedded in my mind. And now, I have the perfect place for it at home!

When my husband asked me why I was so obsessed with a chandelier before, my lips just moved to what my soul dictated:  "I just need a chandelier in my life." Well, now it seems it needs a Rococo-inspired Louis Philippe mirror too. I especially like the one below on the right with the beading. At least my soul knows that it doesn't need a real antique. It's smarter (and more practical) than that.

This calls for a trip to Pampanga to see how I can get this carved up. I'm on a new quest!
If anyone has ideas or can recommend good suppliers, leave me a comment.

photocredits: None of these photos are mine. I collected them from the internet and can't remember the sources.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The W in Seminyak, Bali

Like most W hotels, the Seminyak property is modern and unique. It didn't fit my idea of what Bali should look like, which explains my initial discomfort regarding the interiors of the hotel. I've been to Bali twice before with family and we were enchanted by the peacefulness of the place and the rituals of the people. My image of Bali design is mostly of the tropical nature as I mentioned in this post--villas designed organically using natural materials, alfresco bales and outdoor showers.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mummy Cookies

Hey G and C, why don't you make this for your Halloween party later? The mummies look cute. The spiders...hmmm...not really. Show this to Levie so she can buy the ingredients and help you. Have fun and see you soon! Love, your mummy (lol)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bali Inspiration

This was the view from my balcony a little while ago.  It looks like I could be at the Sofitel in Manila or in a hotel on Waikiki Beach. But that isn't the Pacific ocean you see there--that's the Indian Ocean, and I'm actually in the W Hotel in Bali. I have meetings here the next two days, and unfortunately, I had to make this quick trip alone because kids wanted to stay home for Halloween, and B had meetings in Manila.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Matryoshka Dolls

I never thought I'd buy one of these things because I think they are just too typical a souvenir. But after seeing many of them for two straight days, I was convinced I had to buy a couple of small ones for the kids, and maybe even some for their little friends.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Catherine Palace in Pushkin

One of the major attractions of St. Petersburg is Catherine Palace in a suburb called Pushkin, around 20 kilometers from the city. It's truly a grand scale palace in the manner of Versailles in France. What really struck me at first was the combination of colors- blue, gold and white. It looked oddly familiar to me, where have I seen this beautiful color combination before?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When the Journey is the Destination

We recently had the opportunity to go on a cruise with a whole group of friends. Actually, it was my brother-in-law's trip that he and his forum mates (whom we also know) planned many months in advance. But just a month before the sailing date, he took on a new job, and all of a sudden he couldn't go on the trip! Unfortunately, canceling this late would incur a 75% penalty!! Ouch! The next best thing  was to look for someone to take over his reserved slots and not let the penalty go to waste. And here is we enter, stage left.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sad and Grateful

I join the world in mourning the loss of an extraordinary man.

It was a privilege to have experienced the Apple revolution in my lifetime. Switching to a Mac twelve years ago was the best thing I ever did in my electronic life. Sure there was a learning curve and it took me a couple of months to finally be comfortable without the "right click" of the PC. But once I got it, there was no looking back.  With a PC,  I learned Excel and Word and yes it was extremely helpful and functional--but with that functionality came frustration, irritation, exasperation! For the last twelve years though, the only feeling I've experienced with my Mac is pure joy. I love my Macbook Pro with my whole heart and brain.

Dear Steve, please watch Apple from above. Help them make the right decisions, and guide them so they continue to develop products that bring joy to people. The world is much better because of you. We will miss you very much.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dinner at Sadko in St. Petersburg

beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes

We wanted to experience the local dining scene in St. Petersburg so we asked our friends at SPb Tours to recommend something local but not touristic. They recommended a place called Sadko, and mentioned in passing that we'd like the ambiance. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

SPb Tours in St. Petersburg

 The fountains at Peterhof

I was very excited when I looked over the itinerary of our Baltic cruise. Except for Copenhagen, I hadn't been to any of the places on the list: Warnemunde (Germany), Tallin (Estonia), St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm.  I immediately went on "trip-research mode" starting with  From  the discussion groups on that site, I learned that the only port where a tour guide was needed was St. Petersburg.  The rest of the ports are supposedly easy to navigate on our own either on foot or with the hop-on, hop-off transport in the cities.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

E. Murio Furniture Sale

This beautiful chinoiserie chair, which I featured in this post,  is made by E. Murio.  Many of my friends have E. Murio pieces in their homes. I really don't know where E. Murio is located, but I know they hold sales in Urdaneta Village park once or twice a year. 

The first time I went to a sale a few years ago, I was actually disappointed because most of the pieces had a label taped on it--"Reserved BEA". It turned out to be my friend Bea who was furnishing her beach house. She had beat me to the sale by one day. Not that I was going to buy all that she bought--I just wanted one little trolley, and they were all gone by then. I ended up buying serving trays, one of which I use as my letter caddy at home.

E. Murio is having their usual sale this weekend, so if you're looking for nice rattan furniture, desks, chairs, side tables, trays, and many other things, head over to the Urdaneta Friendship Hall starting Friday. I have to warn you though that my friend Patty happens to be furnishing a beach house now, and I overheard Bea telling her about this sale.  Better get there before Patty does.

As for me, I'm being generous with this information only because I don't need anything more for my house. In fact, I did end up buying a trolley from them the next year, but guess what--I realized rattan furniture doesn't fit the look of my segunda-mano, wanna-be-european (flea market) house. I might have to sell it, but I won't compete with the E. Murio sale.

E. Murio Furniture Sale
Friday, September 23, 1.00pm – 6.00pm
Saturday, September 24, 9.00am- 6.00pm
26 Urdaneta Avenue, 
Urdaneta Village, Makati City

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Study Room, Before and After

Let me interrupt all these travel posts with a quick interior design post, which also relates to travel in a way. I'm just so thrilled that the study room is finally, well 95%, finished. I still have to clear some shelves and hang more frames on the wall.  The inspiration for this study room came from a picture similar to the one above. I'm attracted to globes, and the eclectic look of old furniture.

This room gave me so much grief.  Not only was it irregularly shaped because part of it was under the stairs, it also had these annoying angled areas where the ceiling meets the wall because of the c-joists used to lay the second floor. I was always so irritated in this room because of all the uneven shadows cast by those angles, but I also didn't want to install a drop ceiling because it would make the room seem smaller than it already was.


Friends of ours who had grade-school kids advised us to create a study area on the ground floor because school bags were going to get heavier as the kids got older, and bringing heavy bags up and down the stairs everyday was going to be a major hassle. That was good input because our kids were still in preschool then and heavy schoolbags weren't  part of the planning and designing equation.

So how do we make this room interesting enough so that the kids would be enticed to study? 

A year back, I searched the internet and found some inspiration and wrote up this post. Yup, it did take me that long to get my act together. But I have perfect timing--G is now just learning about hemispheres, longitude and latitude in Grade 4, and C is learning about Philippine geography in Grade three.

I made a rough sketch of what I envisioned and hired a carpenter and a painter. I squared off those "cornice angles" into false beams and installed halogen fixtures on a dimmer. Then I closed off the space under the stairs. Oh my, what a major improvement! I was now motivated to add some finishing touches. 

I could finally install the world map that was languishing in my bodega. I had ordered the world mural from here, and had it shipped to my forwarder in San Francisco, Manny Espinosa of Bayanihan Cargo. Manny just throws whatever he receives for me into a container that's leaving, and it eventually gets delivered to my house, door-to-door about 3 weeks later. A fabulous service and the reason I'm confident to order things online.

I hovered over the painter while he put up the map, making sure the panels aligned properly. There are three ways to install the map: Asia centered, US centered, and Europe centered. I thought long and hard on this one, and in the end decided to install it US-centered because that would put Europe (my favorite destination) on the upper right part of the wall, where I can easily see it. This puts the Philippines and the rest of Asia to the left of the black office chair.

Unfortunately the map was a bit wide and we had to trim 3 inches off the sides, losing a bit of middle China and Russia. I also had to trim about a half a meter from the top, removing Greenland and other northernmost islands of Canada.

The room was close to what I envisioned! All the desks, chairs, file wagon and crystal cases on top of the girls' desks are from Officebusters, a surplus store of office furniture from Japan. The pink chair was a last-minute addition because it appeared in Officebusters. I'm a big fan of Reduce, Re-use, Recycle!

I closed up that hole under the stairs with cabinet doors, creating a useful storage area, and painted the wall with blackboard paint I got from Home Depot. I installed black egg-shaped cabinet pulls which blend right into the blackboard.

On the right wall is a blown up Philippine map, custom-ordered from EZ Maps which I had mounted on plyboard. I also put up our diplomas and I'm still looking for our medals to hang. I do know I want to have more globes in this room. It's a nice collection idea, don't you think?

The room is  finally getting a lot of use. The girls like to hang out here with their friends, even on weekends. For me, I'm now very happy and comfortable in the room. How can I ever be irritated if I'm surrounded by maps, making it easy for me to visualize my next trip? 

Look at how a globe is made!


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