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Hold up, how is it October already?  One of my friends in the States was complaining about seeing Thanksgiving decorations already.  I guess we should be grateful they weren’t for Valentine’s Day 2016.

I have started my apartment search.  It’s, well, a trip.  I don’t know what some of these landlords are thinking. The bathroom situation is not good.

I’m having a hard time finding smaller apartments that are unfurnished.  Most of the apartments in the neighborhoods I’m focusing on were built for families.  I don’t need a huge apartment and as a small business owner,  it wouldn’t be financially smart to take on that kind of monthly expense.

I hope to find something this month. We’ll see.

I took a quick business trip to Milan last month.  I got completely lost searching for a to-the-trade vintage furniture store.  Once i realized I was very close to the new Prada Fondazione, I had to check out Bar Luce.

Bar Luce was designed by film director Wes Anderson.  Anderson has directed several short films for the fashion house.

It’s 1950/1960’s Milanese style with a touch of Anderson’s quirkiness.  Opened everyday from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Bar Luce is the prefect spot to have coffee or aperitivi.

There are so many wonderful design details in this space.  I really need to return and spend a afternoon there, reading and writing.

ADORE these lights.  If I find an apartment with an ingresso/foyer that has overhead lighting, I’d love a fixture like this.

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The dark wood helps anchor all the pastels.  Without it, perhaps the décor would be too twee.  Pink and green are fabulous together. Back in college I used to have a rugby shirt with those colors. One day while walking across the quad, an upperclassman asked me if I were an AKA.  She said, “you do wear a lot of pink and green.”

I did.  Not because I belonged to that sorority but because I wore a lot of preppy clothes in the 80s.

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I didn’t have a chance to see what tunes were on the jukebox.

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One of my favorite Wes Anderson films. I must buy the soundtrack.

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I wonder what flavor the pink cake is.  So pretty.

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Hello, my name is Arlene Antoinette Gibbs and I have a Sicily problem.

It’s bad.  Every time I go, i wish I could stay longer.  There’s so much of the island I haven’t seen yet, for example the entire West Coast, the interior, and other islands like Stromboli, Lampedusa, etc. etc.

This time I was on the island for a week, Mt. Etna then Ortigia, for vacation (and to celebrate my birthday).

“It’s good to back,” I said to Rosa, the newish manager, when I walked into the reception room at Monaci delle Terre Nere.   Last year I wrote about Monaci and my first trip to the Sicilian mainland for FATHOM.

This time I stayed in the Floreale room.

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The bathroom!

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Photos: Monaci

The view from my balcony.

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Lunch was served by the pool.

The first time I went to Monaci, it was raining and winter so I had no idea how spectacular the views were. The grounds are gorgeous.

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The main villa at sunset.  I would like to decorate a Sicilian villa one day.

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One morning I jogged around the forty acre property.  Most of the food served at Monaci comes from their organic gardens. There is a huge chicken coop.  I hesitate to call it a coop.  It’s more like a palace as it’s bigger than my apartment. Lucky chickens.

The breakfast spread was serious.  On the other side were eggs, cheeses, salumi, cakes, breads, cereals, and many other things I didn’t have a chance to try.

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I had to buy a jar of their honey.  Fifteen percent of the honey made in Italy comes from this small town.

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I had some great Sicilian wines.   I love their aperitivi.  Although there were more guests during this trip (the hotel was at full occupancy) fewer people went to the aperitivi. Perhaps they thought it wasn’t child appropriate?

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Several rooms, located a few meters from the main house, have been renovated now. The atmosphere during high season was completely different from off-season. There were lots of families and half the tourists were American.

I had a moment with a fellow American guest who was so rude, it took my breath away.  I believe I had a strong reaction to her snub because it was completely out of context.  The vibe at Monaci is very friendly and chill.  The owners, Guido and Ada, are lovely and as are the other people who work there.  For this basic lady to not understand that said a lot about her.

As soon as I sat down with my book by the pool, I got over it.  I was in a beautiful place and no one was going to put a damper on that.

A slight scent of Sicilian jasmine, and lavender filled the air.  There were roosters in the background and sometimes the volcano “groaned”, loudly.  It was very relaxing despite the sounds coming from Mt. Etna.

A grazie mille to Rosa, Sara, Federico, Nujuan, Salvatore, and of course Guido and Ada for helping make this the best birthday ever.

Note:  My room was in the main villa and on the same floor as the kitchen. I’m an early riser, so I never heard a peep from the kitchen or from the downstairs reception area.

From Monaci, I went to Oritigia.  This time I rented an apartment on the other side of the village.  I couldn’t understand why it was cheaper than my place from last year.  It had a terrace with a partial sea view.

It’s because that side of the town wasn’t completely regentrified, yet.

As you can see in the photos below, some of the buildings are derelict and the empty former prison is on the left.  I liked being only two blocks away from the farmers market but can see how that might not be appealing.

I had to work a bit during my vacation but at least I had a view.

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Love the old faded tiles on the right.

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Before unpacking, I ran out to get pick up some yogurt, wine, and other important things.  All of a sudden I heard my name and it was X, Erica’s daughter.  Once again, without planning it, our apartments were only blocks away from each other.

The tiny piazza in front of my building at night.

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The architecture here is incredible.  Remember to look up.

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My friends at Casa Mia wrote about Tabaré (Sicilian dialect for tray) and I had to check it out.  It’s a must.

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On my birthday we went to Arenella beach.  We got there early and scored great beach chairs, second row.  It was my first trip to a Sicilian beach and I had a great time.  I love how people of all shapes and sizes rock bikinis and Speedos.

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Later that night we went to dinner.  In Italy when it’s your birthday and you invite people to celebrate with you, you pay.  It makes sense to me. You’re the host. I have some American friends who really have an issue with this custom but it’s not just an Italian thing. In the Caribbean if you invite people out for your birthday, you pay.  I get it if you’re in your early 20s and you meet at a bar or something. However, by your 40s/50s and up, the whole invite people to celebrate you and then expect them to pay is a little odd to me.

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After dinner Erica insisted on treating me to a post dinner drink in the main piazza.  This is probably one of my favorite churches and piazzas in Italy.  It is ridiculously beautiful.

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I was worked up about this birthday but in the end, it turned out to be a perfect day.  Thank you, Ms. Firpo and Ms. Arya.

I’ve been back for less than two weeks and I’m already trying to figure out when I can return. I’m tempted to join one of my friends in Rome who has to go to there for work in October.  Seriously.

Photos (except for the first two): me and my iPhone

Finally, my jet lag is over.  It was much worse in Los Angeles and ended shortly before my return flight to Rome.  How wonderful!

The LCDQ Legends interior designer conference is one of the most popular events in the industry. I’ve heard designers call it the Coachaella or the Oscars of interior design.  There were more than ten thousand RSVPs for the three-day event, with designers from over twenty-four states, and one hundred and fifty designers traveling to Los Angele from overseas.

This was my first year attending. It was fantastic. There were Interesting and informative panel discussions, fun parties, and over sixty-seven inspiring window displays.

Not only did I enjoy visiting some of my favorite (and new) showrooms, I appreciated the style of my fellow decorators. Folks were not playing. It does make sense that many interior designers/decorators have a great sense of style.  I forgot how super casual Los Angeles is until I saw someone walk into Urth Cafe in Beverly Hills wearing pajamas bottoms.  I’m talking about the sloppy, comfortable ones you sleep in, not the dressy ones you would wear to a party.

I also had Hollywood film/TV meetings but since this is not a screenwriting blog, all I will say is that everyone is talking about EMPIRE.  We’ll see how this hit show changes the landscape.

There were many highlights and I left feeling very energized (and determined to move to a new neighborhood).

Opening night gala.  My friend Corrina (an interior design junkie) came with me.  It was packed.  The food was delicious.  I felt drunk despite not drinking at all.  The jet lag struggle was real that night.

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The official kick off.  The Bloggers Breakfast.  I met Erinn Valencich from American Dream Builders. So nice. Perhaps my experience is not the norm, but I’m constantly surprised by how friendly and helpful people are in this industry.  At the conference I met some serious A-listers and they couldn’t be more down to earth. It’s shocking!

There were many famous design bloggers attending the breakfast but the room was so crowed it was impossible to move around. I found out who was at the event after seeing their Instagram feeds.

Yes, I took a photo of this Italian shower head. I love that other people were also taking photos of faucets and shower heads. I could spend hours discussing such things.

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I’ve written about Peter Dunham before. His showroom, Hollywood at Home, has moved to a new location. Beautiful. I ordered some fabric samples for my Anguilla beach house project.

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You know how I feel about Peonies.

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Peter’s famous Fig Leaf print.

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How gorgeous is this dark blue club chair at Mecox?

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This table? Perfect for a bedroom, entryway, or a small office.

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Everyone was so cheerful.  It really unnerved me. Ha!

This photo was taken at the ELLE DECOR Power Luncheon.  Very pretty and again, great food.

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Lulu Powers making Aperol Spritz before the “Entertaining – The Home As A Social Stage” panel, with Susan McFadden, Kathryn M. Ireland, Russ Diamond, and Lulu.

The take away?  Dining rooms are not obsolete, despite what developers of McMansions say. They’re being used differently, less formal.  I agree and wish I had one.

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I read Windsor Smith’s new book once I returned to Rome.  I highly recommend adding it to your library.  It was great to meet Windsor and to spend time in the Arteriors‘ showroom.

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I love that Arteriors was serving cocktails at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, I was driving non-stop in Los Angeles.  Still, I enjoyed the festive atmosphere.

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One of the most popular events is the Moore and Giles cocktail party, co-chaired by Harbinger LA and the Hearst shelter magazines (Veranda, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful) in the Harbinger backyard.

More Aperol Spritz.  The Italian inspired menu was catered by Lulu Powers and was delicious.

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My incredible experience ended with an intimate party at Kathryn M. Ireland’s beautiful home.  I forgot my phone (the HORROR!).

Paloma Contreras of La Dolce Vita blog wrote a post about it.

Ireland has moved her West Hollywood showroom next door to her textile printing shop on Washington street. Outside, it looks like any other nondescript industrial space. Inside, is a completely different story.

I cannot believe it’s been almost three years since I attended her Interior Design Boot Camp.  It was one of the best investments I’ve made in my career.  It was also a lot of fun.

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Work in progress.  Hand printed textiles.

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Photos: My and my iPhone.

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy.

I’m working on a new project that will include a bathroom renovation.  It has unique design challenges in that It’s a vacation rental and the room is TINY.

We want the space to function better and to be stylish.  Below are three small spaces that caught my eye.

Compact yet not claustrophobic.  The shelving above the toilet is genius.  Great use of space.

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Photo: Banherio Pequeno

In a small space you can use higher-end materials and finishes without blowing out your budget.  Look at these floors.  Stunning.

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Photo: Elements of Style

Love the drama of Jenna Lyon’s bathroom.  These floors are spectacular as well.

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Photo: Domino

I’ve read about La Bandita, a country house near Pienza and have seen photos of it in various shelter magazines/design articles.

A little over a year ago, John Voigtmann and his wife Ondine Cohane opened La Bandita Townhouse converting a former convent in center of Pienza into a 12-room boutique hotel.

My friend Gillian and husband stayed there recently.  She told me I had to see it in person.  Gillian knows my taste and said I would love it.

She was correct.  I know people are sick and tired of decorators using words like swoon! obsessed! and dying! when describing interiors.  However, let me say, I swooned when I saw my room. I was obsessed with the design of the kitchen and was dying over the views.

I’ve written before about the mix.  It’s something you see frequently in French and Italian interiors.  It’s not easy to pull off.  Sometimes the space is too modern for the architecture and it feels cold.  Or the design is so faithful to the past, it’s dated.

Working with Florence based architects, Arianna Pieri and Ernesto Bartolini of DA.Studio, John and Ondine have created a lovely space. In a hotel, all the beauty in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the service is awful. It was fantastic and I will write about a post about that and Pienza soon.

I absolutely adore this type of décor.  The same architects worked on Monteverdi with interiors by Ilaria Miani.

i found out that one of the main resources for La Bandita Townhouse was the store Barthel.  No wonder it spoke to me as we sourced most of the items for the bathrooms in our Tuscany project from Barthel.

This was my room, number 12.  I arrived late afternoon.  The amount of light during the day is unreal.  I love that they retained the stone wall.  The view from the tub was sick.  The Ortigia products were a nice touch, as were the free water and soda in the mini-bar.

In my next apartment I would like a canopy bed. The colors, the lighting, the bed linens, I really didn’t want to leave this room after two days.

I have to ask if they have a room with a desk, because La Bandita is a perfect spot for writers.

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Tears of happiness when i saw this huge shower stall.  I really need to move.

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Gorgeous.  The main hallway is the first thing you see when you walk thru the door. The convent dates from the 1400s.

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Again, stone walls.  A lot of natural materials with pops of orange throughout.

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This kitchen is everything.  In the States open-plan kitchens are preferred but not in Italy (or the Caribbean).  Notice the overhead window over the bar?  It drops down.  Once you close the door on the left of the bar, you have a closed kitchen that lets in light.   A friend of mine, who lives in a loft in Rome, did something very similar.  It’s a brilliant idea.

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An old map of Italy in the library/lounge.

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I was very excited to see so many classic LPs in different genres. I could’ve stayed up all night listening to music.  I still have some vinyl and for my next apartment (I know, I know) I will buy a turntable.

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You know how I feel about books and magazines.  It was freezing outside.  It was nice to curl up on the sofa and just chill.

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John is former music industry executive.  Some of his gold records sit on top of the bookcase.

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Aperitivi time!

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John has said he and Ondine wanted to create a beautiful, comfortable hotel where people could come to relax and enjoy Tuscany. They have. La Bandita is a special place. I cannot wait to return during warmer weather so I can eat outside on their fantastic terrace.

Photos: (except for the one of the kitchen and of the bookcase) me and my iPhone.

Click HERE to see more from La Bandita’s great photo gallery.

La Bandita Townhouse

Corso Il Rossellino, 111
Pienza (SI) 53026
Toscana, Italia
Tel +39 0578 749 005
info@la-bandita.com

 

And what a view it is.

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One of my friends just returned to Rome from visiting the States and she kindly picked up a copy of VERANDA magazine for me.  It’s not an easy magazine to find in Rome (in Milan, yes).

Brooke Giannetti’s Velvet & Linen blog is fantastic.  She has a very large following and has posted a few photos in the past of the home she is building in Ojai, California with her architect husband Steve.

It’s so interesting to me that this a new build, yet their home has the warmth and vibe of a house that has been in a family for generations.  You can read more about Brooke and Steve’s Patina Farm journey, here.

One day I would love to have a tub/shower like this.   Love it.  Of course it’s only possible if there are no neighbors close by.  A friend here has an outdoor shower on his terrace.  He lives in Trastevere and the upper floors of a church and another palazzo are right across the narrow street.  The man has no screens.  Yeah, no.

To see more photos, go to VERANDA’s website.

 

Recently AWAR (The American Women’s Association of Rome) had the privilege of taking a small (only twenty members) private tour of Bulgari’s Heritage Collection.

I RSVPed the minute I read the invitation.

I haven’t been inside the store since the Peter Marino renovation.  One morning, when I was jogging up Via Condotti on my way to Villa Borghese Park, I’m positive I saw the architect walking out of the store.  Who else would be wearing that outfit at 8:30 in the morning, in Rome?

Bulgari was founded by Sotirios Bulgaris in Rome one hundred and thirty years ago. The Heritage Collection is a celebration of this history.  There are over six hundred unique pieces.  The jewelery, watches, accessories, and drawings were curated during years of research and archival work.  Bulgari has been buying back importance pieces from auctions and private collections.

While Bulgari is part of the French high-end global powerhouse LVMH, the DNA of the company is Roman.

DOMUS means home in Latin and that space (located on the second floor) is where you will find pieces from the Heritage Collection.

The store is gorgeous.  Marino, inspired by the Pantheon and other Roman masterpieces, modernized the flagship store without stripping it of its history and charm.

The foyer on the first floor. Nods to the Pantheon in this circular space.

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The back stairs that lead to Domus.  That pattern.

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This floor and that table.  No words.

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Here’s a picture I took of the floor so you can see the intricate tiling.  Stunning.  I gasped when I saw it.

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Caterina Riccardi, Bulgari Brand Heritage Special Projects, explains the connection between the Heritage Collection and the Eternal City. Ms. Riccardi was the Via Condotti store manager for over thirty years.  Her tour was excellent, informative and entertaining.

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This sapphire necklace was bought from a private collector in the States.  Be still, my beating heart.

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Richard Burton once said, “The only Italian word Elizabeth knows is Bulgari.”   Burton gave Taylor this sapphire and diamond necklace  and ring for her fortieth birthday.  Actress Jessica Chastin wore the iconic necklace at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.  She was the first person to wear it since Taylor.

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From 1960, a gold watch bracelet with diamonds and rubies.  I do not like snakes but I’d make an exception for this one.

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This is just a little taste of the incredible pieces in this collection.   I was inspired by the colors, the designs, and the craftsmanship.

By appointment only. To reserve a visit, contact: DOMVScondotti.visits@bulgari.com or +39 06 688101

First three photos: Bulgari.

Other photos:  Me and my iPhone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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