interior

Living la Vie en Rose in a Parisian Home

The time spent in Iza and Paul’s beautiful apartment in the 7th arrondissement of Paris was truly magic. We were there for a total of five days during this Easter holiday.

La vie en rose is definitely not a myth, I can tell you that much. It starts in the morning, when pushing the curtains sideways to open the window. The classic white shutters need unlocking and I swear there is no better promise of a new day than making this gesture! The crisp air comes in and the flavoured coffee steam is raising from the cups, into the sunlight. On the dining table, fresh buttery croissants and pain au chocolat from the boulangerie downstairs. And the gentle, warm flickering of candles. Whoever said candles were an evening delight only was definitely not Parisian.

With the traces of sleep still visible on our faces, we would have breakfast together, enjoying the comfort of food and friendship. La vie en rose. The sweet life. We would have a similar ritual late in the evening, with a cup of tea, to share stories about how we spent our day. Needless to say, as visitors, we were out most of the time, wandering the city streets and taking photos, so there was plenty of catching up to do.

As always, leaving Paris was hard. Leaving this sweet home away from home was even harder. Although our friends have only recently moved in and they believe there is still plenty to do in terms of decorating etc., I say they’ve done a great job. They made the place theirs, that’s for sure. Being such a sucker for beautiful details, I had to keep on taking photos of it. I also had to take home a bottle of that same rose scented shower gel Iza was using – my attempt of bringing a bit of la vie en rose to Amsterdam. Will it work? I surely hope so!

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in April 2017 >>

Home in Rotterdam

This past Sunday we paid our first visit to Jennifer and York’s new home in Rotterdam. Like I have already confessed to them, I felt like a kid in a candy shop, trying to absorb all the beautiful details of the space – the light, the mood, their choice of furniture and decoration – and, at the same time, to take photos of everything.

“It’s work in progress,” Jennifer said apologetically, to which I replied I was already impressed, yet was nevertheless looking forward to seeing it in its final form, too.  It really is one of the most charming and full of character homes I have ever been to.

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in January 2018 >>

Sunday in a Bubble

Among other things, Alina loves to be a host. She would effortlessly throw something in the oven, get some drinks on the table, put on a nice dress and some lipstick, and wait for the guests to arrive. Food, conversation, and pretty clothes – three of her favourite things into one activity. For years I have been witnessing her home parties on her blog Life in a Bubble and, together with Knausgård, Alina is the person who put Norway on my map. She has been living in Oslo for so long, sometimes I forget she is Romanian.

This weekend, Alina and her boyfriend have come to Amsterdam for a short visit. We had dinner together at our place on Friday evening, then met for brunch at New Werktheater on Sunday. When they invited us for a post-brunch glass of wine at their rental apartment in the East, we could not refuse.

I was caught totally off guard by the overdose of cosiness and the plethora of beautiful details in the house. Alina and I could have spent the entire afternoon just lying on that sofa, the sun on our face, talking in the carefree Romanian style, slightly amused by the reactions of our non-Romanian boyfriends. I could tell how much she loves to be a host – even when travelling!

We did not stay for too long though. The weather was good and they had plans to go to the museum. Before leaving, Alina took me upstairs to show me the cradle hanging from the ceiling in the bedroom. I took some photos, then said goodbye, hoping to meet again in Amsterdam, Oslo, Bucharest, or elsewhere.

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in March 2018 >>

Romanian Home in Bucharest

It’s always a great pleasure to visit Diana of ZSTR into her beautiful home in Bucharest! Back to my hometown to spend time with family, I stopped over at Diana’s for coffee and a little chat – and this time I brought the camera with me.

The central, historic neighbourhood, with buildings reminding of la belle epoque – a time when the city flourished like never before – makes you feel like a character from the books of Mircea Eliade or George Calinescu. You can easily understand why, back then, they called Bucharest “the little Paris”.

Diana’s home is full of light and, with few exceptions, totally see through from one room to the other. The wooden blinds, old lamps, high ceilings, and glass doors are good indicators of the building’s age and its privileged location in the city. With respect to this, Diana and her boyfriend gathered elements of Romanian folk culture – furniture, carpets, ceramics etc. – to populate their home with. The effect is refreshing and traditional at the same time. They’ve created a space to relax and feel connected with the history of Bucharest and with the Romanian culture and traditions. Above all, they’ve created one of the most beautiful homes I’ve seen.

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in May 2017 >>

A Day in the Life of… Elizabeth, Walking Around the City

Elizabeth and I spent the last hot day of this summer in Amsterdam together. We met at her place for lunch and coffee, then walked along the city streets for hours on end, chatting, taking photos, losing our way a few times. “This was supposed to be a day in my life, something I do regularly, and here I am, going the wrong way.” We laughed about it and repositioned ourselves. There was no wrong way, we just kept on forgetting we were on a mission.

Now, as I write this, I realize it was pure luck that I managed to get Elizabeth to do this series. She is never in one place for too long. Just like writing – the thing she is doing for a living – travel seems to be in her DNA. It started when she left the United States, essential belongings in a backpack, to travel around Europe. It is by chance that she arrived in Amsterdam and, since 2013, has been calling this place home.

A: Why Amsterdam?

E: Amsterdam is a safe place for me. Safe in the literal sense, where I feel like I can walk almost anywhere alone at night as a woman and be OK, but also in the sense that it is a very cosy city. As people say, it feels like a village, but with all the amenities and interesting activities of a bigger city. There is always something new to discover. And I also love how international it is, like a little bubble where you can meet people from all over the world – and speak only English, even though we are in the heart of The Netherlands, which is really nice but not good for my Dutch. Besides, it’s a sticky city. Once comfortable here, it becomes difficult to leave.

A: What about the emotional bond? Is there any?

E: While I don’t have a soul connection to this city like I do with Portugal or other places, I feel that Amsterdam and I will always have a connection and that the city will act as a home base of some sorts.

A traveller’s only home is the road, and yet, I am happy Amsterdam is home enough for Elizabeth to keep her coming back.

The doorbell is not working. She comes downstairs to pick me up, and I follow her all the way to the top floor. The building looks elegant and reminds me of Paris. Amsterdam vibes return once we enter her loft, the two cats following us closely: exposed wooden beams, angular ceiling, windows with amazing views over the city, and everything that can be classified as bohemian when it comes to furnishing and home accessories.

“Wow, you did a very good job hiding this place from the world,” I say while Elizabeth is busy making coffee in the kitchen. No photos of it on Instagram or elsewhere.

I can instantly picture myself living there, and taking photo after photo. The collection of earrings, the necklaces, the books, the musical instruments – so many details to capture. And then, the corners, one more photogenic than the other: the writing corner, the lounging corner, the sleeping corner – all nested into the rooftop, all super cosy and inviting.

I ask if the centre is where she always lived. It turns out she, too, is a westerner, meaning Amsterdam West was her first home in the city. Does she miss the West? “I like where I live now and how central it is, but I do miss the ease of the West. I feel like you have everything you need there, a nice mix of ethnic markets with hip cafes and things like that. And I always enjoyed wandering around Kinkerstraat and the Bilderdijk area.”

No matter how inviting the weather, it still is a hard task to leave Elizabeth’s place. “I’m going to show you what an ideal Saturday looks like for me,” she says, putting on the golden ballerina shoes I have admired earlier in her shoe collection.

The West is not where we are heading to, and this is a good thing. I’ve always liked people who make new homes of new neighbourhoods. We walk along the Entrepotdok, which can be classified as Elizabeth’s area, en route to her leisure time destinations. We gaze at the gorgeous balconies along the Sarphatistraat and wonder how come no people are to be seen in any of them. “There should be a law to take these balconies away from such people, for lack of use, and instead, give them to devoted fans like us.”

Our first stop is Bakhuys, at Weesperplein. “I come here for my favourite sourdough in town,” she says. “I’ve been craving good bread ever since I returned from Paris.” After getting the bread, we order a cold drink and sit at one of the tables outside. It’s Wednesday afternoon, the terrace quite empty, and yet, it feels cramped, tables pushed into one another. “So much like Amsterdam, right?” we say, squeezing ourselves on two chairs, finally allowing our feet to rest. Eating bread and drinking raspberry kombucha, we talk about obsessions and the like, and Elizabeth keeps on telling me how I remind her of a character in a book. “I will lend you the book, you have to read it,” she says. “Great,” I say, “Not even my obsessions are original!”

We amuse each other like this for a while, until it is time to go again. “Where are you taking me now?” I ask as we resume our walk. “Well, on Saturdays, after buying bread, I also like to get my weekly supply of coffee beans, fruits and vegetables. A real hipster, right?” We laugh and head even more into the East, where both the coffee place and the market are located. The Turkish market is closed, but Rum Baba is still open. After buying some coffee beans, we order two flat whites and sit outside, where the sun rays turn to orange as the evening gets closer. Checking my phone for the time, I realize Elizabeth hasn’t checked hers for what must have been hours. She has been giving me her entire attention, and that feels so old style and reassuring.

“One more place to show to you,” she says as we leave Rum Baba. Soon enough, we stop in front of Equal, the yoga studio on Insulindeweg. Dark windows, natural wood, and plant arrangements draw my attention. “This is where I do yoga,” she says, posing in front of the entrance. “And you walk all the way here every time you have lessons?” I say, at the same time thinking that the walk there is yoga enough. “Oh, but it’s not such a long walk. When the weather is bad, I come by bike or tram.”

I feel content about our photoshoot and the lightness of our afternoon together, and I am ready to say goodbye to Elizabeth and jump in the first tram back home. “How do you get home?” I ask. “Just walking.” I feel guilty for my laziness and decide to walk with her, then take the bus next to her house. Indeed, it is not a long walk. It occurs to me that Elizabeth is lucky enough to not have to rush to the station every day to go to work. Her writing allows her to work from home or cafes, and it certainly allows for such pleasant, unrushed walks around the city. Or is it the traveller in her that keeps her on the move? I cannot tell.

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in August 2018 >>

A Day in the Life of… Alehandra, in Oud-West

This Saturday, I let Alehandra, the happy inhabitant of my former loft in Amsterdam West, show me around her side of town. Alehandra and I first met on a cold day in November 2012, when I handed the keys over to her, and continued to see each other ever since. Some friendships start like that.

I am not at all surprised when she suggests we meet at The Breakfast Club, behind the Food Hallen. She is a big fan of pancakes – and of food, in general – and they surely have good pancakes at The Breakfast Club! It’s a warm Saturday afternoon and Alehandra is “recovering” after a week with her relatives from Romania, who visited and stayed at her place in Amsterdam. “I wish I looked like that when I’m 50,” she says as we are brunching on the terrace, pointing at a neatly dressed blonde lady at a table nearby. If only pancakes could help!

After a long, unrushed meal, I follow Alehandra on what she calls her Saturday afternoon ritual. First stop is Ten Katemarkt. As colourful and ethnically diverse as I can remember it from the times when I used to go there to supply on fruits and vegetables, this market is an accurate mirror of the city area where it is located – the West. From a stand with mouth-watering Middle Eastern delicacies Alehandra gets some hummus with fried onions, and some dates. The air smells, at turns, like caramelised nuts, fresh baked bread, fried dough, cheese, melon, fish, and flowers.

“Now I’m going to show you one of my favourite streets in Amsterdam,” Alehandra says as we turn left of Ten Katestraat and on to Bellamystraat. I realise never before have I walked along Bellamystraat – not all the way to its end, at least. Trees and flowers have grown wild, apparently with no human intervention, and they are now a green lining between the slightly worn-out house façades – a rare sight in polished Amsterdam – and the street itself, where buildings spread on both sides. The abundant vegetation creates mystery and decadence, and I can see why Alehandra likes this street so much. “It reminds me of that place in Great Expectations, where the old woman lives,” she says. “Paradiso Perduto!” I say and instantly agree. The lost paradise on Bellamystraat. I cannot believe I have been living in Amsterdam for seven years without ever seeing it. The atmosphere is idyllic: children playing with the ball in front of the houses, a young mother with her baby sitting on a bench in the sun, sidewalks painted in chalk – blue, yellow, and pink. Living in Amsterdam does feel like paradise sometimes.

We leave the labyrinth of peaceful streets behind as we find our way to Tweede Kostverlorenkade. Across the water, a mosque is shining in the sun. We continue to Postjesweg and stop at the flower shop at the intersection with Witte de Withstraat, right by the bridge. It’s where I used to buy flowers when living in the area. “Today I’m for sunflowers,” Alehandra says, disappearing inside. She returns with a large bouquet, which I offer to carry for her. One more stop – at the Albert Heijn, to get some drinks – and we’re almost home.

“Hummus, dates, beer, and sunflowers,” she says smiling, making an inventory of the bike’s crane. At that point we are already walking down Antillenstraat, only a few blocks away from her place. I tell Alehandra how much I like this street I once lived on, she tells me how she hopes to own an apartment here one day. She parks her bike next to the playground and goes upstairs. I realise I forgot to buy cigarettes – I am an occasional smoker, and being in Alehandra’s loft is definitely an occasion -, so I go get some from the small supermarket on the corner. “How are you?” the man behind the counter – the owner – greets me, visibly surprised and, at the same time, happy to see me. “Do you remember me?” I say just as surprised and happy. I used to shop there sometimes, true, but that was more than five years ago. It suddenly feels as if time stood still on Antillenstraat. When I climb the stairs to Alehandra’s place I see the calendar on the second floor agrees – it is stuck at June 2012.

In the loft I am welcome by a warm, familiar light. The blissful sun rays pouring through the windows make the two kittens lounge and be lazy, and have absolutely no remorse about that. The first thing getting my attention are the prints hanging – or waiting to be hanged – on the walls. I get an explanatory tour of them, ending with Alehandra’s favourite – a portrait of herself shot on film by a friend in London.

In the loft I am welcome by a warm, familiar light. The blissful sun rays pouring through the windows make the two kittens lounge and be lazy, and have absolutely no remorse about that. The first thing getting my attention are the prints hanging – or waiting to be hanged – on the walls. I get an explanatory tour of them, ending with Alehandra’s favourite – a portrait of herself shot on film by a friend in London.

Time flies when in good company. I realise it’s been hours since our brunch. Yet, I am not ready to leave until we have one last beer – this time on the roof terrace. The terrace goes around the building and there used to be no real obstacles to walk from one apartment to the other – not that anyone was ever into that. The lack of borders and the view of the sky could make you feel on top of the world – if you wanted to. In the recent years, however, fences were raised to delimitate property. Alehandra’s landlord made no exception. With or without limitations, the loft’s terrace remains a special place to be. The chimney pipes, painted like mushrooms by a former resident, create a surreal feeling interrupted only by the domestic sounds coming, every now and then, from the other apartments.

I let Alehandra with her two cats in the loft, and I find my way back down the stairs, to Antillenstraat, and finally to Surinameplein, where a tram is waiting to get me back home. As she pointed out, her staying in the loft is the longest of all previous residents. Yet, it only takes a moment to fall in love, and even less than that is necessary when it comes to the loft on Antillenstraat.

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in August 2017 >>