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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps I’m naive but I believe good design incorporates a space that functions well.

This is why I completely disagree with the finale (SPOILERS ahead) of the NBC show “American Dream Builders”.  Looking at their Facebook page, I’m not the only one.

Earlier, I wrote about why I enjoyed the show.

They should change the name of the show because there was nothing about Lukas’s beach house that worked for the clients.

The job of a decorator/interior designer is to address the needs of the client.  He did not do that.   All Lukas talked about was his vision. He is talented but Jay should have won.

On what planet is it a good idea to paint a beach house in SOUTHERN California black?  It’s not edgy.  A black shingled house in Maine, or Martha’s Vineyard, that could be cool.  Does Lukas know that that the light is different in New England compared to the Southern Californian  Coast? One of the judges said the house looked like it had been in a fire.

Also, Lukas did not deal with any of the design flaws of his house.  That kitchen was awkward.

This a beach house for a multigenerational family.  Their reaction at the reveal was priceless.  I adore mid-century design and would use it in a beach house but would mix it up.

Nate kept saying Lukas was forward-thinking.  Has Nate ever been to IKEA? I know he has traveled to Europe.  This beach house would work for a single person with no kids who never entertains.

Nate raved about Lukas’s $30 chandelier.   Again, this is in a beach house.  I go to a beach house to relax.   Who’s going to clean it and replace the light bulbs?  It’s not functional.

This room.  Where are the young children going to hang out?

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Nice to look at.  Wouldn’t want to sit there for a long meal.   What is that statue about in the corner?

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Not relaxing.  These chairs would be fab in a loft apartment, not at the beach.

View More: http://americandreambuilders.pass.us/adbif the Neighborhood Council voted for the finale winner, Jay would’ve won hands down.    Elaine was eliminated for her red family room because it didn’t fit the décor of the rest of the house, but Lukas can win the whole competition for this house?  Please.

If they didn’t want a home builder to win, don’t put them in the competition.

I don’t know if the series has been renewed for a second season.  It’s a shame that the finale was such a disappointment but I enjoyed the earlier episodes.

 

 

 

The American series AMERICAN DREAM BUILDERS started airing this week in Italy on the channel LEI.

Hosted by Nate Berkus, it’s a mash up between EXTREME MAKEOVERS and TOP DESIGN.  I have always wondered about the reality of the former.  They do a lot of structural changes.  How well was the construction, plumbing, and electrical work executed when they have only a week to demolish and rebuild?  Could the owners afford the increase in property taxes?  So many questions.

One thing I really like about this show is that two teams work on two houses from a similar era and/or style.  It’s compelling to see how the teams agree (or not) on an overall aesthetic for their house and then how the individual designers design their rooms.

There is a mix of designers, contractors, and landscape architects.  Of course, there are some strong personalities.  Reality TV would be boring without them.

We are three episodes in and so far it’s fantastic.  The show is entertaining and educational.  Décor is very subjective but it’s interesting to hear the judges explain why they believe a room doesn’t work.  Sometimes it’s a design issue.  For example, the team did not address the layout issues.  Other times, it’s about the décor.  Those debates get heated.

I cannot wait to see who wins.  There are some very talented designers on this show.

Why do I miss Sicily?   There are Sicilian restaurants in Rome.

Perhaps this is only an infatuation.  My first trip to Sicily was just last year, which I wrote about in FATHOM.  Maybe the island will lose its hold on me after a few more trips, or years.  We’ll see.

Like the cuisine, the art and architecture of Sicily has been influenced by the diverse cultures of its various rulers.

Every day I stopped by to see the Burial of Santa Lucia, painted by Caravaggio in 1608, located in the Santa Lucia alla Badia church. There is something very special about seeing art in the context that it was created for.

In the early 2000’s many architects and interior designers started to buy and renovate houses in the area.  I kept getting lost in little courtyards and side streets.  There was inspiration all around me and design elements that gave me some ideas for my Caribbean beach house project.

Below are a few of my favorite things:

How pretty is this packaging? I received a gift from this store on my birthday.  Erica’s daughter picked it out.  That five year-old has excellent taste.

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Photo: ortigiasicily.com

As someone who was raised Methodist, I’m still thrown by some of the more intense art in Catholic churches.  My childhood church had stained glass with images of things like Jesus chilling with some shepherds.

Here is the patron saint of Siracusa, Santa Lucia.

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Clever use of a satellite dish.

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Spiderman on the side of the Municipal Building representing the heroic spirit of the people. I’m trying to find out who the artist is and when the work was installed.

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Cool planter outside a house that faces the sea.

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Rome-based artist UNO and his latest installation.

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Also from Rome, Alice Pasquini.  Erica and I went to see her and UNO work on their murals. This is a school in Siracusa.

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The new and the old.

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I saw these fishing baskets all over my neighborhood.

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Love the door.

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And this gate.

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This alley showing a sliver of the sea was up the street.

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I’m thinking about my next trip. Maybe I should go to Palermo or Cefalù, or both.

Photos, unless noted otherwise, are by me and my iPhone.

I took a little day trip to Noto on my birthday.  After a quick thirty minute ride on the shortest train I’ve even seen, I arrived in a small town considered to be the height of Baroque urban planning.

The Duomo is a show stopper.  The old town was completely destroyed in the 1693 earthquake.   The way it’s laid out is very organized thanks to Giovanni Battista Landolina.  Working with three architects, Rosario Gagliardi, Vincenzo Sinatra, and Paolo Labisi, Landolina designed three main streets, running parallel.  At the top were the aristocracy (with the best views), the clergy in the middle, and everyone else at the bottom.

I had a great time in gorgeous Noto. Caffe Sicilia on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 125, is fantastic.  I had one of the best lemon granitas of my LIFE there.

My return to Ortigia had a classic Italian moment.  I bought a round-trip ticket.  After a long walk, downhill, to the train station I noticed everything was closed.  Ten minutes later, an announcement is made over the loud speaker in rapid-fire Italian saying my train had been canceled.  Thank God I understand Italian because at a pocket-sized station why would there have been an explanation also in English?  I went to a gym across the street to ask where the heck the bus stop was as there were no signs with that information.

There were four men at the front desk chatting and they looked like Dolce & Gabbana models but with athletic builds.  The men were very dark and handsome with those striking green/grey eyes you see all over Sicily.  My brain froze.  I literally could not speak Italian (or English really).  One dude said, “are you okay?”   I blamed the heat and they were kind enough to give me specific directions.

The street was silent, expect for my cursing, as I climbed back up the ridiculously long and steep hill, in the blazing hot Sicilian sun (there were NO cabs around). At the bus stop I was told that the bus service between these small towns is a lot more reliable than the train.  Thanks Trenitalia!

The Duomo.

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A view of the Duomo from one of the terraces of the Santa Chiara church.

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Love the detailing above the chandelier.

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I ate a delicious Pasta alla Norma and the service was great.  The reviews of this restaurant are all over the map.  Two foodie friends thought the food was overrated and others go to Noto just to eat here.

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While am I more of a Biggie person, I can appreciate this graffiti.

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Interior of the Montevergine church.

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Three bells. Shot from another terrace of the Santa Chiara church.

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Sea view.  In the distance.

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During my trip to Ortigia, I saw many beautiful things and ate many dishes that were so delicious I wanted to Tweet/IG/FB about them immediately.

However, one of my goals during my vacation was to slow down.  I wanted to focus on what I was seeing, doing, eating at that moment.  I did occasionally post a picture on social media but cut way back.

My friend, Erica, is also a Sicily fan and we decided to highlight a few things we love about this incredible island for seven days.  You can following Erica on Instagram HERE.

First up is the Duomo.

I arrived in Ortigia during the early afternoon. After unpacking, and picking up some essential groceries, I walked over to the Duomo.

I was not ready.

Many friends have described the Duomo and its piazza as one of their favorites in all of Italy. Yet, I was still floored by her beauty, color, and presence.   It is truly one of the most magnificent buildings I have ever seen.

As with other regions of Italy, the layers of history in Sicily run deep.   Siracusa was one of greatest and important cities in the Greek empire. This dramatic cathedral was built in and around a 5th Century BC Doric Temple to Athena.   Doric columns are visible inside and outside the church.

In the 800s it was converted into a mosque by the Arabs who conquered Sicily.  Then the Byzantines returned to power, only to be defeated by the Arabs again.  They ruled until the Normans defeated them in 1085.

The Baroque facade was added after the devastating earthquake of 1693.  Somehow this very ornate style sits in perfect harmony with the Greek lines and aesthetics of the earlier structure.

I made it a point to see this building every single day.

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Photos: Me with my iPhone

This piazza is a perfect place to relax as the sun goes down and the locals start their passeggiata.

 

While my family and friends in the States are enjoying the last sunrays of Summer 2014 this Labor Day, it’s Il Rientro here in Italy.

This time I am ready!

As I wrote earlier this summer, even after all the years I’ve lived here, I was still resistant to the European way of vacationing. I felt guilty and unproductive.

Well, I am happy to report that major progress has been made regarding my efforts to partake in the great Italian tradition of Dolce Far Niente.  I’m not completely out of the workaholic woods yet but these things take time.

I went to Siracusa, Sicily for my birthday, staying in the historic center called Ortigia.  The first two days the Internet in my apartment was down, which was a blessing in disguise.  I couldn’t obsessively check my emails or read news headlines.

When I arrived in Oritiga, I was a one big ball of stress.  By the end of the week, I was so calm not even the chaos at the Catania airport and my delayed flight could wind me up.

This calmness was short-lived as it ended by my first evening back in Rome but that’s a different story.

It was my first trip to this area of Sicily and just what the doctor ordered.  I didn’t realize how badly I needed a vacation until I had one. Yes, it was a short one but I still appreciated it.

The architecture, design, history, and culture were inspiring.  The food was on another level.  My friend and her family just happened to be staying at an apartment around the corner.

I will write more about my Sicilian adventures once I sort through all my photos.

It took a few days into my trip for my major breakthrough.  One morning I ditched my itinerary.  I kept my plan to jog along the seawall at sunrise, and then hit the farmers’ market after.  That was it.   I’ll be honest. At first it was an odd sensation to not know exactly what I was going to do the rest of the day.

When Erica called and invited me to lunch with her family at their place I said, “yes” instead of my usual freak out about impromptu plans.

It was a glorious day of having a delicious lunch with my friends on their terrace (which had this view),

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going to the “beach” (which was two block away),

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reading my books and magazines while drinking a lot of homemade Tè Freddo con Limone Granita,

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and enjoying the sweetness of doing nothing.

I went on to enjoy this sweetness several times during the rest of my trip.  I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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