Interior happiness, Stories


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



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,








A question mark

A short story

The light from the window fell over her right shoulder, and while she was firmly stirring the vegetables in the pot, she sensed a shadow passing. She looked up to the window, relieved. But it wasn’t him, just the willow moving from the strong wind blasts. She turned to check the kitchen clock above the table. It was almost five thirty, the time he usually came home. He would probably be here in five minutes. He was punctual.  This was one of the few things that had stayed unaltered. The thought calmed her and at the same time threw shivers down her body. Seeing him change daily became less and less endurable. Each day he seemed to have shrunk a bit more, his shoulders aimless hanging, his head bent. His tall and proud posture changing into a question mark.

Dinner, together at the table, it was even worse.  She was out of inspiration.  There was nothing more to ask about school. More personal questions she avoided since they had freaked him out last week.
– ‘Stop it Mom!’ He yelled. ‘Get over it! That’s what you told me, remember?’
– ‘Not in this way,’ she softly objected. ‘I wanted you to know it will get better. People forget after a while.’
– ‘Right. As if I can erase everything that appears on social media.’
– ‘You shouldn’t check this anymore, I mean, not for the time being.’
– ‘Great advice, really.’ He stood up, and with a fierce push from his right hand, shoved his plate of spaghetti down to the floor and vanished to his room.

The phone interrupted her thoughts for just two seconds. Her husband. She didn’t take it, couldn’t face his questions. What was the right answer? ‘I think he’s ok.’ Or ‘I have no clue.’ If she’d give an honest answer it would be: ‘He is not our son anymore. I do not recognize him. The counseling doesn’t help him a bit.’

Her husband was on a business trip. His absence didn’t make a big difference. Their conversations nowadays were limited to the mornings, together at their twin sinks in the bathroom, just facing one another in the big mirror. The domestic routines kept them going and enabled them to avoid confronting their true feelings. Their mutual goal, the well being of their child, still remained the same though, as it had for seventeen years. This appeared to be one of the only leftovers of a mountain of common interests they shared when they first met.

–  ‘This is so important, my presence at this congress. If you are home, that’s the most essential. He doesn’t talk to me anyway. But of course, my love, if you need me here, I won’t go, you know that.’
She thought this was weak, a far too easy escape. She didn’t have the strength nor energy to tell him this. He scaled down her worries anyway.
– ‘Yes, it is a big deal now. But he’s seventeen. He’ll come out of it stronger. I believe him, you believe him and if we both do, fuck the gossip and accusations. This girl is just trying to get attention.’ He said it with a smile on his face, as to encourage her to believe him. Being optimistic is one thing, minimizing a trauma something else. That is what he did, she thought, and she could not follow him anymore.

She had always felt they were equal as parents. They both decided to have only one child because of their demanding jobs. Until their little boy was five they had a nanny. After that he stayed in the after school care, and she and her husband took turns being home on time to make dinner, do homework and read his bedtime story. It went smoothly most of the time.

The first week after they heard the news, she continued working, and just tried to be home on time. It did not go well. She could not concentrate, felt guilty, thought she should solve this, although solving is not applicable for this problem. So she took an unpaid leave for a month.

She continued stirring.  It had to be perfect, this was his favorite meal. The pasta was almost done. The meat still needed five minutes.  For dessert rice pudding with vanilla sugar, he could eat a huge bowl of this, that is, a month ago.

A month ago seemed like another era now. Before they were a perfectly functioning family, she realized. Father and mother and an intelligent, social and good-looking son. She was thrilled and immediately overwhelmed with love the day he was born. When she was just pregnant, it didn’t matter to her if she’d have a daughter or a son. A healthy baby was her main concern. Once she held her newborn in her arms, she couldn’t imagine loving a daughter as much.  She wondered how the mother of the girl felt.  What if she were the mother of this girl? Would she stand behind her as fierce as she supported her son now? Would she question her, try to get the whole story out? Attempt to determine her daughter’s responsibility in this? As a teenager she had always been the first on the barricades for female rights. This was a totally different case. She hated that people made this matter about protecting their rights.

In the beginning, she had interrogated her son, worse than a cutthroat prosecutor. She needed to know, to be sure, to know all the details. So she could defend him against the great crowd of vultures looking for an easy victim they could rip apart with their holy bible of good intentions.

The food was ready now. She turned off the gas of the stove and sat down at the kitchen table. With the newspaper in front of her,  she tried to read the headlines. But even with this, she found it too hard to concentrate. It was five fifty now. She checked her cell phone, no messages.  Should she call the school? She had already requested, demanded really, that the minute he wasn’t present, they should let her know. They said they understood, in these circumstances. The bus could be delayed, although that did not happen often. She could call Eileen, a few houses down the street, her daughter was in his class. The moment this idea popped up in her mind she rejected it with a bitter feeling. They all took the side of the girl. Of course. It is so much easier to follow the herd, not to think for yourself, just to lynch the so called perpetrator of the imaginary crime. She hated them all, wished something even worse would happen to them.

Six o’clock now. She was walking slowly around the kitchen table, in her mind listening to her son telling her what had happened. He seemed honest. The story sounded real. She believed him, definitely did. Why was he late? She got nervous now and returned to the stove, put the fire on and started stirring again. She added oil and scraped the carrots from the bottom, they cannot get burned.

Time stood still. So it seemed. As a robot she kept on stirring the vegetables. The meat and pasta must have gone cold by now. So far she resisted looking at the clock again. But now she did: six fifteen. She called him, it went straight to his mailbox. She put out the fire, and sank to the kitchen floor, pulled her knees close to her body, tried to make herself as small as possible. As if evil couldn’t get to her when she was a smaller target. Thoughts catapulted in her head, causing her migraine.

The doorbell rang, firmly but short. She did not move. A minute passed. It rang again, this time longer and louder. She kept quiet.





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



Qualche giorno in Puglia

Hi There,

Did you celebrate well? I wish you all the best for 2019!

We went to Casa Vita for a few days, together with a couple of friends. The weather was so-so: two beautiful days, one terrible with hail and heavy rain, and one a bit cloudy.

That was ok!

What can you do in Puglia in winter? Well, more or less the same as in summer. Visiting cities can be easier, because hot summer days just make you lazy and make you want to stay at the poolside 😉

What did we do? Enjoy the delights of Puglia. The house was nice and warm (thanks to our caretakers!) when we arrived in the afternoon. We had a late lunch and relaxed a bit. In the early evening we drove to Borgo Egnazia, just a twenty minute drive from Casa Vita and one of the most magical hotels in the South. It was beautifully lit from the outside, and magically decorated in the inside. We tasted a cocktail with live music. Dinner we enjoyed at Il Punto in Torre Canne: fresh fish – era deliciosa! – while we could hear the waves hitting the rocks just outside the restaurant.

Matera is the cultural capital of Europe in 2019 and our friends hadn’t been there yet. I have written two posts on Matera already: An old city with old friends, and Winter in Puglia.
So I am just going to spoil you with some pictures.

Are you intrigued by Matera? Italy unpacked also paid a visit to Matera. Watch the movie if you have the time!

On New Year’s Eve we tried a new restaurant: Mehta! A great choice, it is located in Martina Franca, a beautiful town, half an hour drive from Casa Vita. The menu was a bit too much (certainly the main dish), but the young cook was so enthusiastic and eager to get everything right, we surely want to return.

And the new year started bright. We still had some time to go to Ceglie Messapica, just a ten minute drive. I really adore the main square. All men (old and young) gather around the Clock Tower, women stroll in between, dressed up as if they are going to a party each time. In summer, children play here till midnight.

This day it was a little calmer. We could enjoy the view, while sipping our cappuccinos outside, and have a chat with the very funny (it would have been impolite to have taken his photo) Fruttivendolo (fruit seller). Here you see his Ape (three wheel car).

Alla prossima!