Sicily

It is now November and Christmas is creeping up on us at an alarming rate. I cant quite believe how fast the time has gone since our summer trip to Sicily during the last week of August and the first week of September.  Whilst away enjoying the sun, sea and incredible food that the Sicilians produce so effortlessly I wrote a little about our experience and what we found interesting about the places we visited. If you are planning a holiday there or just intrigued to hear what inspiration I found on our  journey please read on.  

Summer in the south of Sicily 2017 

Arriving on the south coast of this beautiful island has been made easy by the now direct route into Comiso airport open to commercial flights since 2013 having previously been just a military airport. We have been invited to stay with my boyfriends parents  who have just purchased a property nestled on the hills overlooking the Mediterranean. The half built property was purchased only a few months ago and the building work inevitably over ran so it was lucky we planned our trip for the end of August allowing a little extra time for works to be finished, however the pool is filled and the main rooms are ready for guests. The house is positioned on a small hill which enables its residents a direct view of the ocean. From the sun lounger I'm sitting on to write this I can see the waves lapping up against the shore. So this is my first proper visit to Scilly, I did come once before on my way to the Aeolian islands but only stayed a night. As expected there is everything to love and not much to disappoint.

View from the pool 

View from the pool 

Local beach 

Local beach 

The food of course must be mentioned first as above all other things it's the main focus of life here. The tradition is to start your day with ice cream!! Well not exactly ice cream but a version of sorbet so pretty close. Granita are usually coffee, almond lemon or Chocolate flavour and are basically frozen slushies but with real ingredients.The granites are consumed first thing with brioche to accompany them. Sometime filled with cream or chocolate  how the whole population of Sicily are not obese is beyond me. It didn't take much persuasion for me to adopt this particular habit and my daily routine became lemon granita and Brioche for breakfast. The  local beach is a step back in time with lines of orange parasols and neatly positioned sun beds. The sand is fine and the water refreshing. This is the perfect family spot with a low current and a shallow swimming  area  that seems to stretch out into the ocean for miles. The kids play happily here for hours while the adults layback and relax! Bliss. 

At night there is not much to do except.. Yes you've guessed it.....eat!! 

Scicli

Scicli

We had a whole two weeks to enjoy so after a few days bouncing between the beach and the pool we decided some exploring was in order. The closest town is Scicli, scenically  positioned in the valley that looks like it's been left unchanged for at least the last two hundred years. With the exception of a architectural blip in the town square where once a monastery stood. some genius in the late seventies decided it would be better off blest with the modernist monstrosity that represents the brutalist ideas of the time. The town is bellissima!! Scattered with stunning churches and paved with the smooth stone quarried from the local landscape. The streets weave up the hillsides while the days laundry bellows in the breeze, draped from the balconies above. Being August it's hot! Highs of 38, after a little wander around the boutiques we find a wonderful antique store that sells amongst other artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries a collection of fascinating erotic art, the piece that caught my eye was a French painting but once the owner saw my interest we got the full tour including Japanese silk paintings and a crystal dildo used to treat fever apparently! Not what I was expecting to find in this unassuming little town. The heat was getting to us so the next stop was for a granita in the picturesque square before we headed back to the villa to cool off in the pool. 

 

The next day we packed a small bag and headed off to  Caltagirone known for its 110 steps and its beautiful painted ceramics. 

110 steps of Caltagirone

110 steps of Caltagirone

Hand painted ceramics 

Hand painted ceramics 

That evening we found a pretty little bed and breakfast  perfectly positioned to capture the best view of the medieval town of Piazza Armerina from across the valley. After a hour recovering from the days heat we ventured out to discover what the place  had to offer. The short answer is not a lot. The view from the other side  of the valley is probably the best aspect of this funny little place. In days gone by the ramshackle architecture indicates beautiful cobbled streets of a once pretty town but sadly the crowning glory of the town's beautiful 17th century church is the only remaining property worth admiring the rest needs a strong imagination. Thankfully we found a good spot in the town centre for an aperitif of Campari spritz where we could watch the locals go about their business, after which we found a rather fine fish restaurant that was recommend by everyone we asked and didn't disappoint. 

view of town .jpg

The next day following a good breakfast of cheeses, local tomatoes and fruit from the garden we headed out to visit Villa Romana del Casale , I was expecting a pile of stones in a field. I was wrong ! We spent 3 hours wandering around the Villa and imagining how it once looked but the remains of the stunning floor mosaic are incredible and really something special. This is well worth a visit and puts any mosaics I had seen before well and truly in the shadows. Even with my short attention span this site was really something to marvel at.  Having had our dose of history for the day if not week! We turned towards Etna and aimed straight towards the vine yards. The Sat nav had other ideas though and took us off piste and along a road that was so pot holded and bumpy that we scraped the bottom of the 4 x4 on the road and nearly took off going over the mounds of broken up tarmac.  Still the views of Etna and the rugged country side where something to behold. As long as we didn't get a flat tire or run out of petrol we would be fine but with the temperature close to 40 degrees I was happy to make it to Randazzo. I am sure there is a much quicker and safer route! 

View of Caltagirone

View of Caltagirone

A ramshackled old home in Piazza Armerina

A ramshackled old home in Piazza Armerina

En-route to Randazzo

En-route to Randazzo

A small part of the mosaic at Villa Romana del Casale

A small part of the mosaic at Villa Romana del Casale

Out on the tiles....

The summer holidays are well under way and this part of London is like ghost town, I can now drive to the office in half the time it takes me during term time. With families making the most of school holidays and me counting the days to our trip to Scilly at the end of the month it got me to thinking about our summer influences. As a child we would be piled into the back of the family volvo and dragged from Brittany down the west coast of France in search of adventure. I remember those times fondly and wonder what influence visiting beautifully ramshackled French villages had on my idea of taste and esthetic. There are certaining worse places to be influenced by!  I am currently working on a renovation project in Queens Park and we are at the stage of  designing the bathrooms. The clients like a minimal look but also want to add a little tradition to add character. So this week I've been looking at tiles. I started with the obvious traditional victorian style and have started to explore other options. 

The first look I  was drawn to was a faded French style fleur-de-lis  ideal to add history and style on a floor without adding too much boldness. I found a beautiful tile shown below that adds enough interest without being overpowering. Perfect for a romantic and subtle look but prehaps not right for this project. 

 

Fleur-de-lis

I felt this was a little too rustic for these clients so the search continued. To another French inspired tile apply named the Jaques from the Boulangerie range at Fired Earth. This tile has just the right amount of colour to pair with a wall tile without claiming all the attention. This tile sites beautifully alongside the Green park metro tile also from Fired Earth. I chose the 20cm x 5cm skinny metro to be worked in a herringbone pattern on the rear shower wall to add interest and the rest of the walls would be a large format grey tile to blend with the wall colour. 

The first one...

Onslow gardens was a great first project, a small two bedroom property situated on a pretty garden square. The internal works where fairly basic, we removed a wall and ceiling to open up the kitchen and create a open plan living area. The brief was to create a home for young professionals that would be working long hours and would be eating out regularly or perhaps as a pied-à-terre for a family down sizing. 

We wanted to reference the character of the building with its beautiful high ceilings and intricate cornicing but also add a modern fresh feel to the home. 

The all black kitchen was designed to look like a piece of furniture like a bar or drinks cabinet and less like a kitchen. Although the kitchen is small and compact we were still able to install a full size fridge freezer, dishwasher, oven, microwave,hob and lots of storage to make this a fully functional and practical kitchen space. 

The best original feature of the property was the large west facing sash window. To highlight this feature I took the decision to paint  the frame in Farrow and Ball 'Black blue '  which frames the beautiful view and has the effect of drawing your eye immediately to the window.

I feel this is a well balanced space with maximum use of the relatively small living area, by keeping the space as open as possible and not cluttered with furniture the we have kept this room feeling grand and opulent but still incorporating kitchen, dining and living areas. 

 

 

 

 

Onslow garden

My first ever project 

Onslow gardens was a great first project, a small two bedroom property situated on a pretty garden square. The internal works where fairly basic, we removed a wall and ceiling to open up the kitchen and create a open plan living area. The brief was to create a home for young professionals that would be working long hours and would be eating out regularly or perhaps as a pied-à-terre for a family down sizing.   We wanted to reference the character of the building with its beautiful high ceilings and intricate cornicing but also add a modern fresh feel to the home.   The all black kitchen was designed to look like a piece of furniture like a bar or drinks cabinet and less like a kitchen. Although the kitchen is small and compact we were still able to install a full size fridge freezer, dishwasher, oven, microwave,hob and lots of storage to make this a fully functional and practical kitchen space.   The best original feature of the property was the large west facing sash window. To highlight this feature I took the decision to paint  the frame in Farrow and Ball 'Black blue '  which frames the beautiful view and has the effect of drawing your eye immediately to the window.  I feel this is a well balanced space with maximum use of the relatively small living area, by keeping the space as open as possible and not cluttered with furniture the we have kept this room feeling grand and opulent but still incorporating kitchen, dining and living areas.             

Onslow gardens was a great first project, a small two bedroom property situated on a pretty garden square. The internal works where fairly basic, we removed a wall and ceiling to open up the kitchen and create a open plan living area. The brief was to create a home for young professionals that would be working long hours and would be eating out regularly or perhaps as a pied-à-terre for a family down sizing. 

We wanted to reference the character of the building with its beautiful high ceilings and intricate cornicing but also add a modern fresh feel to the home. 

The all black kitchen was designed to look like a piece of furniture like a bar or drinks cabinet and less like a kitchen. Although the kitchen is small and compact we were still able to install a full size fridge freezer, dishwasher, oven, microwave,hob and lots of storage to make this a fully functional and practical kitchen space. 

The best original feature of the property was the large west facing sash window. To highlight this feature I took the decision to paint  the frame in Farrow and Ball 'Black blue '  which frames the beautiful view and has the effect of drawing your eye immediately to the window.

I feel this is a well balanced space with maximum use of the relatively small living area, by keeping the space as open as possible and not cluttered with furniture the we have kept this room feeling grand and opulent but still incorporating kitchen, dining and living areas.