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Interior happiness

Interior happiness, Stories

Thorn

Dear readers,

Last Monday was a beautiful day. It sounds contradictory because I had to have a little surgery done on my foot by a doctor an hour away from my home. Luckily a friend volunteered to drive me. She suggested we make it a whole day and visit the beautiful town of Thorn first, which was located only ten minutes from the medical office. A great idea!

A newborn in Thorn

Have you ever been in Thorn?

The little town of Thorn is located in the south of Holland in the province of Limburg. It used to be a tiny principality; today it is one of the ten must-visits in Holland. Thorn is known for its old white houses and monumental buildings.
The history of Thorn dates back to the 10th century. Over the course of time it developed into a miniature convent ruled by an abbess and twenty ladies of noble birth. It had its own jurisdiction and its own currency, but this came to an end in 1794 with the arrival of the French.

The white town

It’s called the white town–a funny coincidence, because Ostuni, in Puglia is called the white town too: la città bianca. This is the town where Casa Vita is located.

But back to Holland 😉
Why were the houses white?
After the aristocratic ladies had fled, the French imposed a tax based on the size of the windows. The locals were often poor people living in large properties that previously belonged to the rich. To reduce the amount of tax they had to pay, many of them bricked up the windows and then whitewashed their houses to conceal the signs of their renovation work (‘scars of poverty’).

The town is so well preserved, the cobble stone roads, the roofs, the lanterns… We were there on a Monday, and it was very quiet. I suppose that during the summer it is filled with tourists. This was a good day, just one terrace was open for lunch, but that is enough. The only disadvantage was that the museums were closed too. They open as of April 1st. If you would like to go deeper into Thorn’s history, you better visit later in spring.

The Abbey Church was mainly built in the 14th century. 

Walking here felt like being in another era. It made me feel calm and at peace. Of course, I’d better not think of the horrific things happening in medieval times. Well, I would have preferred having been one of the twenty noble ladies who had the whole town to themselves. I could perfectly picture myself and my friends here!  “Noble” could be replaced by funny, creative, intelligent and a bit bold :-). Would you have joined me?

Cheers, Sophie

 

 

 

Interior happiness, Stories

Paris

Bonjour,

Can you imagine? A day in Paris, too short of course, but just wonderful. I had the opportunity to hop in the car with a friend who was visiting her daughter. The daughter studies in Paris. Another friend came along. So it was the three of us. We left in the morning and were just in time for lunch in Paris.

My friend booked a cozy little hotel, somewhere in between the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. A perfect location for a short stay.

In the afternoon we walked across the Seine and between les Tuileries and on to the Louvre.

We had a cup of delicious tea in the lobby of the Brighton Hotel. Oh, these great color combinations in the velvet upholstery of the little chairs and stools.

When we walked back, it was late afternoon already. But what great views, Paris by sunset.

By the time we arrived in the area of the hotel, we decided not to enter, but to have a cocktail first. My friend knew the perfect place! We stepped into the Fitzgerald, and took a place at the bar of the restaurant. Then the owner asked us whether we might prefer to go into “Le Bar Secret.” Well, sure we wanted to see the secret bar. Doors were opened and this was the perfect place: velvet chairs in all colors, many cocktails to choose and top of it all, wallpaper with Flamingos.

After a quick freshening up at the hotel, we only had to do a short walk into the direction of the Eiffel Tower. Dinner was served at Les Fables de la Fontaine. It is a small and fancy restaurant in the 7ième Arrondissement of Paris. The dishes (we all took two first courses) were a treat to the eye and taste! We even managed to chose a perfect Argentinian white wine that wasn’t outrageous in price, but I forgot to take a picture of it.

The next morning we took breakfast at the hotel. For Valentine’s Day they served a beautiful cake with a heart in the middle, so cute. We were thrilled with this gorgeous weather still and decided to walk to Le Petit Palais. The outside and inside of this museum are remarkably beautiful. And you must not forget to look at the ceiling and the floor. Currently there is an exhibition of Fernand Khnopff.

The little courtyard is amazing too. A tropical garden, and look, my Fermob furniture, the same color we have at Casa Vita.

It was a perfect day, and many fashion shooters thought the same. A lot of them could be found on the bridge. Can you blame them with this gorgeous background?

It inspired us to do some shopping too, in the area near the hotel. Well, we managed to still buy some items on sale 😉
We hopped back in the car with a lot of special memories.

Au-revoir! A la prochaine,

Sophie

 

 

 

 

 

Interior happiness, Puglia

Interior happiness at Casa Vita

Dear readers,

One of the things I love to do is decorating, redecorating, making a place cozy and pretty.

At Casa Vita we started with a fully furnished house, mostly by Ikea. The former owners were great in reshaping and rebuilding the two old trullis and in making a beautiful yard. But I guess for the interior of the house, they preferred the simplicity of Ikea. Could be a practical side to it too, renting out a house brings along a big risk of damage.

We rent the house out as well. But if we stay at Casa Vita, we don’t want to live in an Ikea showroom 🙂 And so far, our guests have appreciated a more personal approach too.

 

We didn’t want to throw anything away, nor did we want to buy expensive things, so this is what we mainly did:

  • we had two big grayish Ikea armchairs which were comfortable, so we had them upholstered with dark green velvet
  • a few dark wood racks and side tables I painted white
  • we added some old antique furniture from my parents’ home (a coincidence, when we bought Casa Vita, we had to empty my parental home at around the same period), that otherwise would have had to be given away
  • we bought a few things: a new carpet (Sanderson) and Fermob furniture that we use indoors as well as outdoors
  • I regularly check Zara Home for sales, and buy sheets and covers to bring in colors
  • I made a lot of outdoor and indoor cushions myself
  • I adapted some pictures (of Sofia Loren and Claudia Cardinale) in photoshop and had them printed.
  • recently we added the two pink tabourets and golden side table
  • we chose dark green and pink as main colors for the living room and kitchen
  • all the outdoor cushions were also redone in dark green
  • with some help, I used leftover wallpaper (remember my wallpaper addiction?) and designed a new screen

We did do a big renovation. The kitchen is totally redone, in Puglian style. I searched through a lot of books with old Puglian kitchens, and we had the kitchen made by a local carpenter. We are very pleased with the result! For the custom made tiles we also stuck to green and raspberry pink. The countertop is from pietra di Trani, a local stone. The floor was also made from the same stone. By the way, Trani is a beautiful town a little further north in Puglia.

 

But let me show you in several pictures:
the armchair with old fabric:

Upholstered with good quality velvet fabric. The screen you see here is from Maison du Monde, I found it attracted a bit too much attention

So I designed a new screen, with leftover wallpaper from home

And we put the other screen in one of the trulli


Here you see the pictures I redesigned.  And the old dark side tables I repainted white.

Cushions I made and the new carpet – tropical style 😉

The old Ikea kitchen and the new one in Puglian style

The dark green comes back in the cushions in the outdoor areas

 

Can you give me advice?

In each room I have a Fermob chair to put some clothing on. I want to use these chairs for the outdoor table now. What do you think of these rattan ones instead? Other suggestions? Let me know!

On the left, you also see an old closet and a little mirror from my parents home. And you can see that this trullo room is made on the rocks of Puglian ground.

Some white rotan chairs
Image result for rattan chair maison du monde

Thanks for your help!

Ciao, ciao, Sophia

Most of the photos are by Marie Bouly Photography and Mable Photography

 

Interior happiness

Christmas Flowers

Hi there,

I hope you are all well, and looking forward to Christmas. I am not a huge Christmas fan, too much glitter, food and parties. Last week I went to a workshop, making a Christmas floral arrangement. It was here in my hometown, so I continue in Dutch. But if you look at the photos, you might find some inspiration. Have fun!

Eerlijkheidshalve kan ik meteen zeggen dat ik geen grote fan ben van bloemstukken. Boeketten wel! Ik heb bijna altijd bloemen in huis, op dit moment tulpen. Vorige week had ik een amusante film gezien: Tulip Fever, een historisch romantisch drama. Het speelt zich af in Amsterdam in de 17de eeuw. Het drama was overdreven en slecht geacteerd. Toch was het heerlijk, die kostuums, al de soorten tulpen en het vergezochte maar grappige complot. Meer vertel ik niet. In elk geval, de nacht erop droomde ik dus over tulpen en heb ik ineens een groot boeket gekocht. In Nederland, natuurlijk.

Wie is er handig in bloemstukken maken? Ik niet echt. Ik ben creatief in het bedenken van combinaties maar het ineen frutselen van al die takjes lukte minder goed. Maar geen nood, er was voldoende hulp van Thérèse. Zij organiseert workshops om boeketten of bloemstukken te maken in een bepaald thema. Très Fleur is haar website.

Thérèse maakte eerst zelf een bloemstuk als voorbeeld en nadien mochten wij aan de slag. Gezellig bijbabbelen en intussen concentreren op wat je wil gedaan krijgen. De bolletjes met mos bekleden vond ik het minst makkelijk. Grappig was dat iedereen – we waren met een tiental – een heel ander bloemstuk tevoorschijn toverde. Iets letterlijk namaken is ook niet leuk, vind ik zelf, het fijne is er je eigen inbreng aan geven. Bij mij was dat niet altijd bewust 😉 maar ik ben toch heel blij met het resultaat.

Een stappenplan ga ik je niet geven. De foto’s zullen je zeker een creatieve boost geven, en dan kan je zelf aan de slag of een workshop volgen bij Très Fleur. Thérèse had enorm veel materiaal bij: dennenappels, schors, gekleurde draad, kerstballen op stokjes en keuze te over aan groen, mossen en bloemen.

Ik geef je graag de verschillende planten- en mossoorten mee:

  • Groensoorten: Nobilis, Thuja, Pinus en Vaccinium
  • Mossen: groen mos, Ijslands mos en Zilvermos
  • Bloemen: Rozen, Ilex, Asparagus, en Koraalvaren

Heel veel plezier! Sophia

 

 

 

Interior happiness

Glasgow

How are you today?

No colds? I am still enjoying mine 😉

But let me take you to Glasgow. We took the train from Edinburgh, which was quite easy, a train every 15 minutes. The trip only took forty five minutes and guided us through the undulating countryside of Scotland.

Susan, our dear Scottish friend we met in Puglia, was waiting for us at the station. We drove through the city to get a first impression – all positive! – and then had lunch, tea and carrot cake and mainly caught up with each others’ life stories. In the evening Susan took us to a great Asian restaurant Opium.  We didn’t need to choose–Chef Trevor just made us an elaborate choice of dishes, all delicious! Not only was the food lovely, but Susan had brought her friends and we laughed a lot. They asked how we enjoyed Edinburgh, and we told them the people were so kind up there. We immediately got the response that people from Glasgow are far nicer. We agreed! There is definitely some competition between those two cities.

The next morning, we were very lucky again: a clear blue sky. Susan drove us to a whiskey distillery, Glengoyne, just 14 miles north of Glasgow, on the scenic A81. Entering the buildings I had the impression that the mere fumes were already making me drunk. (This might, however, have been the long term effects from the night before). The guide was very talkative and knew the whiskey making process by heart. I only frowned at her explanation that we couldn’t take photos because our phones might explode. I couldn’t take my camera out either. What I have remembered most from the process: patience is essential.

Our progress is measured not in years or decades – but in centuries.

The part I loved most was the problem of the evaporation, once the whiskey got in the barrels. Depending on the quality and taste you want to obtain at the end, the whiskey stays in the casks for many years. But a big part disappears, because of “The Angels Share”: they blame the angels, who drink it at night. So in Scottish heaven you find the happiest angels ever!

In the photo here you also see the different colors the whiskey gets, and how the level diminishes over the years (that’s to show how much you lose):

There are two ways to give whiskey a rich, appealing color. One is absurdly time-consuming and expensive. The other is easy: add a few drops of caramel at bottling. We choose the harder path.We start by selecting our own oak from the forests of northern Spain. We then insist it is dried naturally by sun and air for three years. When it’s ready, each hand-built cask is filled with sherry in Jerez, and left to absorb its rich color and flavors for up to three years. Only then are the casks ready to be emptied and delivered to our Highland distillery – some six years after they started their journey. These casks are then filled and over the next 10, 15, 18 years, the clear spirit takes on the rich gold, amber and copper tones naturally from the wood.

After a little tasting, we were on the road again. The wrong side of the road ;-), I could not get used to this. If I ever need to drive on UK or South-African roads, beware! We stopped at a loch to have a coffee.
A few stops along the road.
And when it was nearing dark, we were very lucky we could still enter the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar. which closed at four pm. So we had a marvelous late lunch or early dinner: mussels from the Loch and a spicy scallop pasta.

Our last day, Monday, we started with an elaborate breakfast – fresh scones, my favorite – at patisserie Françoise. It was a typical grayish day. We walked through the walls of the University, had a quick chat at the reception desk. Maybe Youngest will finish his studies here. But he first needs to learn a wee Scottish though.
There is a students habit of putting traffic cones on the heads of all statues.
Then Susan guided us through the Art Gallery, a magical red brick building. There were different exhibitions, about the history of Glasgow, as well as medieval Dutch paintings and much more.

In the 1800’s Glasgow became a world center for industrial manufacturing and export. With the development of the iron and steel industries the city grew famous for heavy engineering goods as locomotives and ships. Household and luxury goods were also made and exported.

I loved the explanation with this painting. First try to make a guess yourself!
The painting is called “The Doctor’s Visit” by Frans van Mieris the Elder in 1657: “The pale woman in this painting is suffering from lovesickness – a medical condition thought to be cured by reading the Old Testament, which is lying open on her lap. An elaborate-dressed doctor takes her pulse. He points to his head, indicating that her affliction is ill in her mind. Doctors were sources of humor at the time – ‘quack’ doctors (for the Dutch speaking, we know the word ‘kwakzalver’) were thought to fool their patients with false and theatrical  diagnoses.”
We ended our trip with a great lunch at an Indian restaurant. Susan drove us to the airport and it was time to say goodbye. She promised us to visit Belgium soon!

Have a great weekend! Sophia