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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’ve written before regarding how much I adore the collection Italian architect/furniture and interior designer Paola Navone has created exclusively for the American store Crate & Barrel.

Her new collection is out.  My siblings were kind enough to give me a gift certificate to Crate & Barrel and I had to get these glasses.

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Now they are sitting at my sister’s house.   One day they’ll make it to Rome.

I love the color of the rim and the lines of the glass.  Very simple and very stylish.

Today’s edition of Stylish Simplicity highlights the ERES bikini.

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Work it J.Lo 

Photo. Vogue June 2012

This French brand has some of the most beautiful bathing suits on the planet… classic and well made.

I never wore a bikini until I moved to Italy.  NEVER.  I grew up seeing magazine covers constantly saying, “Get A Beach Ready Body!” or tabloid headlines that screamed, “Worst Beach Bodies!”   In Los Angeles many of my colleagues gleefully ripped celebrities to shreds, calling them fat and what not.  Celebrities who were no larger than a size 4.

What’s the point of starving oneself for the season?  What happens once the summer is over, back to bad eating habits? I blame the Puritans for this madness.

The first time I went to the beach here I was stunned by the variety of shapes, sizes, and ages wearing bikinis and Speedos.  Italians were chilling, just doing their thing.  I stood out with my very sensible one-piece for a woman of a “certain age.”

How do my friends in Italy get ready for beach season?  They put on a bathing suit and go to the beach.

I’m not sure what made me decide to take the plunge and finally buy my first bikini.  In the fitting room, I told the saleslady there wasn’t enough coverage on top. She looked at me like I had two heads.   She said that’s the way a bikini was supposed to fit.  I was skeptical.

The day came when my Eres bikini and I went out in public.  The world didn’t stop spinning.   The Italians couldn’t care less.  The only reason I stood out is because I was one of the few people of color on the beach not selling a trinket.

Now my sensible one-pieces (which actually made me look heavier) are sitting at the back of my closet.  To me function is just as important as style.  A two-piece is more practical than a one-piece.

I wish I could go back and talk to my critical younger self. I’d tell her to get a grip, just go to the darn beach, and enjoy herself.

Today is Festa della Repubblica in Italy.  It’s similar to July 14th in France or the 4th of July in the United States of America.   It’s a three day weekend.  While most of my friends went out of town, I stayed behind in the city.

I’ve just returned from checking in on my Anguilla project.  Before I left, the weather in Rome was awful… constant rain and chilly.

Now, summer is here.  The days are getting longer and folks have busted out their white jeans.

I used to avoid white jeans because I thought my thighs were too “thick” for them.  I now know it’s all about the cut and what I’m wearing as a top.

I love this summer look.  It’s so stylish and simple.  Below are five favorites:

The one, the only, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

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The lovely Garance Doré photographed by her man, Scott Schuman (aka The Satorialist).

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Zoe Saldana.  Really like the color of her blazer.

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Photo: trendmill.com

Geraldine Saglio from FRENCH VOGUE.  Those shoes!

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Photo: gastrochic.com

Molto chic.

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Photo: thebestfashionblog.com

For today’s Stylish Simplicity post, I had to write about these pitchers/vases.

I’ve been a fan of potter Frances Palmer for some time. One day my friend Marta, a very talented florist, told me that Frances was on Instagram.   How did I not know this important information? That was great a day.  Palmer’s feed is outstanding.

The hand pitchers below caught my eye.  Not only are they beautiful, they’re also very versatile.  I could see them in a variety of décors from a spare, contemporary NYC loft, to a Queen Anne mansion in New Orleans, or in a country house in Puglia.

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Photo: francespalmerpottery.com

These pitchers are the very definition of Stylish Simplicity.

A few weeks ago I went to Anguilla to check in on one of my projects.  The build is going very well.

When I think of the mood for a beach house, the first thing that comes to mind is relaxation.

I’ve been looking at books in my library and pulling images from the internet for inspiration.  The bathrooms don’t have to be from a Caribbean beach house but must have some elements that would work in that environment.

There are many decisions that have to be made. What kind of finishes? What color? If we use tile, what size?

While this is a house in Anguilla, the style will not be British Colonial.  It’s too formal for a beach house.  There will be touches (like a mahogany four-poster bed) of course but mixed with a contemporary spin on Caribbean design.

Below are few spaces that caught my eye:

This bathroom is from a home on the tiny Island of Mustique.  I love the natural feel of it.  We’re already using poured cement for the kitchen counter tops. To use it again in the bathrooms might be too much.

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Photo: Elle Decor

This large en-suite bathroom in a Sicilian villa has a stone sink.  Love the simplicity of the shower stall and the use of wooden stools.  This is a newish boutique hotel.  I must see Rocca delle Tra Contrade in person.  The photos are stunning.

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Photo: Rocca delle Tre Contrade

I’m not a fan of shower caddies.

Our clients for the Tuscany project were very clear that they wanted built-in spaces for shampoo, soap, etc.   If it’s early enough in the build/renovation, I recommend going in this direction.  Just make sure there’s a slight slope, so water doesn’t pool in the space.

A partial wall works for this project.  It never gets cold.

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Photo: Elements Of Style

Getting away from the neutrals for a minute, this bathroom from the La Banane hotel on St. Barths is very bright and colorful.

A fun design like this might be a great idea for one of the smaller bathrooms.  Or the powder room.  In a large space this color and pattern would be not be relaxing to me.

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Photo: Villa La Banane

Brass fixtures are having a moment.  I like them in this bathroom.  I look at all this tile and worry about cleaning the grout.

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Photo: Habitually Chic

I LOVE outdoor showers.  The ones at Cap Juluca in Anguilla are fantastic.

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Photo: Cap Juluca

A more traditional style at Oscar de la Renta’s former home in the Dominican Republic.

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A shower in Marrakesh.  Fantastic built-in bench.

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Photos: Mark D Sikes

I don’t know where this house is but I like the contrast of the stone-tiled floor with the black contemporary trim on the windows and with the lines of the tub.

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Photo: Pinterest

Last year I wrote about the vacation home in Tuscany I’m working on with architect Domenico Minchili.

Our clients had some photos taken and below are a few of them.

First, a before shot of the living room.

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After.

The room is so much lighter.  The new “old” floors make a huge difference as does the paint color.  I was consumed for days regarding which shade of Farrow & Ball white was the best white for the  walls.  We decided to use Skimming Stone.

The chairs were custom made by Tondini & Radicchi. So were all the draperies in the house.

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One of the bedrooms mid-renovation.

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After.

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A bathroom before.

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After.

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Wider shot of the living room.  The sofas, coffee table, and sconces are custom.

The studio.

This room receives little natural light.  Many people assume that a small dark room must be painted a very light color in order to make it look bigger.  Not true.  It seems counter-intuitive but going darker gives a small room more depth.

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One of my Italian friends called this décor, “Relaxed Chic.”   Another friend said it was “Casual Luxury.”  Both work for me.

Every bedroom, and its bathroom is unique, yet the entire home is cohesive.

The paint is from Farrow & Ball.

Most of the new furniture was custom made.  We also sourced pieces from Flamant, Barthel, and small shops in Rome and Tuscany.

Our fabric sources were, Dedar, Ralph Lauren Home, Kathryn M. Ireland, and Pierre Frey.

If you would like to know the specific colors or more information about the fabric or furniture, please feel free to ask me in the comments section.

This property is available for vacation rental.  It’s in the heart of the Chianti region surrounded by vineyards.  The views are stupendous.

For more information (and some exterior photos), please visit the luxury rental  Abercrombie & Kent website.

Photos by: Mario Flores

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