Category Archive for Alternative Canada
Twin Peaks themed bar & restaurant, The Black Lodge Vancouver! Strathberry East/West crossbody handbag.
Twin Peaks fans, this one’s for you. Did you know there’s a restaurant and bar in Vancouver… inspired by David Lynch’s cult TV series?
It’s called The Black Lodge, and as you’ll see, it deserves a whole lot of thumbs up.
Read on for photos of inside the Twin Peaks theme restaurant including a Red Room, cocktails named after show characters, and of course — damn fine coffee with cherry pie.
Since many of you loved my Instagram preview, I’ll also unveil my new East/West crossbody beauty from Strathberry. They’re my favorite handbag designer for obvious reasons: clean, minimal, handcrafted perfection! More about these purses below:
The Black Lodge has been a hidden gem in my hometown (Vancouver) for some time. After the success of their first location, the owners set up a second, larger restaurant on Broadway near Main Street, which I visited on David Lynch’s birthday.
My friends and I are fans of Twin Peaks, the 1990-1991 mystery TV series that returned for a season last year. It’s a favorite among Goth / horror fans, and one of director Lynch’s most celebrated works. The plot opens with the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, and spirals into an addictive web of camp, surrealism, drama and the supernatural.
Broadway Black Lodge address: 317 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC, Canada. The old location is also open, at 630 Kingsway.
In the story, special agent Dale Cooper learns that the Ghostwood Forest holds the entrance to two extra-dimensional realms: The Black Lodge (a place of evil) and White Lodge (a place of goodness). Rob and I love how the restaurant is named after the dark, Gothic dimension.
The TV show’s lodges are connected by a room with zigzag black and white floors, red curtains, and bright spotlights. As you can see, the restaurant’s bathroom and hallway look just like the Twin Peaks Red Room!
The Black Lodge’s owners, Brad MacKinnon and Claire Wyrostok, are independent business owners who truly put their passion into their restaurants. Brad and Claire adore Twin Peaks, and when they got city approval for the restaurant’s name, the theme took on a life of its own.
Today, Peakers (hardcore fans) even make Lynchian pilgrimages up from California, to see the show’s Pacific Northwest shooting locations and visit this bar.
Outside the new location, you can see The Black Lodge sign beckoning mysteriously.
The atmosphere recalls the words of Deputy Hawk: “There is a legend of a place called the Black Lodge… every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self… But it is said, if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”
Rob was amply prepared to cross the dark threshold, with his custom ring and tattoos featuring the Twin Peaks sigil! He’s also wearing a t-shirt based on the series, which you can see in the image below.
The Black Lodge has an extensive food and drinks menu. We eyed the list of over a dozen special cocktails, all named after Twin Peaks references.
Above, Rob is holding a “Blue Rose” mixed with Beefeater gin, curacao and Aquafava. On the left is Ben’s “Double R” — coffee infused genever and sherry. Indeed, it was a “damn good coffee,” “black as midnight on a moonless night!”
I prefer drinks on the smokier, not-sweet, “old man” side. My personal favorites were the “Fire in the Mill” (rosemary gin, scotch, ginger, lemon, bitters), “Wally Brando” (brandy, chartreuse and grenadine), and “Ghostwood Forest” (infused gin and tonic with muddled rosemary).
For something on the sweeter side, try the outstanding Lynch-burg Lemonade on the left (triple sec, Jack Daniel’s and mint).
The Black Lodge serves hearty comfort food, all of it vegan or vegetarian. I tried the B.A.L.T sandwich, and it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The “bacon” is house-made with coconut, and I couldn’t tell it from the real deal. Paired with avocado, sprouts, tomato, cheddar, dijon and garlic aioli… it was creamy crunchy heaven.
There are many indulgent dishes that you can share, including curry poutine, nachos, vegan drumsticks.
In Twin Peaks, inhabitants of the Lodge feasted on garmonbozia — which looks like creamed corn, but is made up of pain and sorrow. While this isn’t on the menu, a similar-looking “Tot-Chos” is available (above): spuds smothered in corn, beans, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream and cheddar. We ate it up like it was the nectar of the undead!
If you’re in Vancouver, Canada, there’s no better place to spend a spooky night with friends than The Black Lodge. (All photos by Ben and La Carmina.)
My black cut-away top is by Michi; more from this avantgarde activewear label below:
That night, we made a toast in memory of our friend Rose (June 26 1988- January 11 2017). Can’t believe it has almost been a year since we went to her memorial in Sechelt.
Rob introduced Rose to the original Twin Peaks, and she devoured each episode. She always had a blast dressing up and going to underground, off-the-beaten path places with us. Rose would have adored The Black Lodge (I even had old photos of her in what look like a Red Room), and it certainly felt like she was there with us.
We’ll try to keep the tradition going and meet up every year around this time, to celebrate her life.
The Black Lodge fills up fast on weekends, so I encourage you to come early and nab one of the peaked booths. Weekdays are no problem.
Even if you know nothing about Twin Peaks, the restaurant / bar has a warm, easygoing, Canadian cabin feeling that anyone can enjoy.
As detective Dale Cooper would say, “If you ever get up this way, that cherry pie is worth a stop.” The Black Lodge’s “Damn Fine Cherry Pie” is a fresh-baked slice filled with tart fruit, served warm and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Two thumbs up!
The bar has a large selection of spirits, and various beers on tap. Go for the Black Lodge Lager, an amber-style Baltic brew. (Note that the restaurant’s font and logo are reminiscent of the one on the Twin Peaks map.)
The owners Claire and Brad are lovely, and put genuine care into the service and decor. I smiled when I saw a VHS Twin Peaks collection, guarded by owls. Below, there’s as tribute to Canadiana kitsch; those “Cheezies” are our national version of Cheetos.
The Black Lodge restaurant gets an earnest thumbs up from all of us! If you’re in Vancouver, Canada, do check out their newly established Broadway location.
“The Owls are not what they seem…” But “Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song, and there’s always music in the air.” (Twin Peaks quotes)
For more info, check out the The Black Lodge website that includes opening hours, menus, addresses etc.
I dressed a bit like Audrey Horne for our Twin Peaks dinner. Played by Sherilyn Fenn, she’s the daughter of a wealthy businessman and enamored with FBI Special Agent Cooper. I wore red lipstick, a plaid skirt and deadly heels in her honor.
I completed the outfit with my new Strathberry purse. They just released this East/West – Black with Edge bag… isn’t it a beauty? It arrived in a beautiful black box with gold font, and matching dust bag.
The 2018 East/West has the brand’s signature structured silhouette, branded hardware, and bar closure.
Strathberry’s East / West dual-length strap is an ingenious design. You can extend one end and wear it cross-body… or double it up, and sling it over your shoulder! The gold chain is beautiful quality and easy to adjust, yet the bag is lightweight.
All of their handbags are made in Spain with the finest calf leather, and lined with a suede-like microfiber. The flap has an easy yet secure closure: you slip it under the horizontal bar, and it secures magnetically.
I also have the Strathberry midi tote, from their original collection. You can find this style below:
I’m quite choosy about handbags, and the popular luxury labels don’t appeal to me (no monograms please!).
On the other hand, Strathberry is an independent, artisan company based in Edinburgh. Their purses have clean lines and exquisite luxury detailing, which appeal to my love of minimalism, and increasing focus on “slow fashion” over mass production.
Here’s a peek inside my East/West White Edge purse. There are two compartments with one interior pocket, and the accordion-style sides can expand. It’s the perfect size for me: compact, yet spacious enough to hold all my necessities.
Strathberry just released multiple new designs for 2018, and I couldn’t be happier with their East/West crossbody meets shoulder bag! The purse comes in various colors and combinations, and there’s a mini size as well.
Are you loving Strathberry as much as I am? I hope you enjoyed these photos, and the tour of the Twin Peaks themed diner.
(PS: see below for more about this sweet bag.)
Dance with the Dead: synthwave band tour review! Auxiliary Magazine cover model, Switzerland Chillon castle.
Now that I’m back from Europe, it’s time for one of those “catch up” posts… featuring a magazine cover, winter outfit ideas, and a synthwave show!
First, I’m honored to be on the cover of Auxiliary Magazine. Thank you to the brilliant team that made this “pink hair and panning for gold” look come to life. It’s fun to play around with dramatic styles for magazine modeling. (Photography by Patrick Parenteau, makeup by Jennifer Little, hair by Stephanie Hoy.)
Auxiliary Magazine’s Fall 2017 issue is available here now, in both print and digital publications. There’s a full editorial and interview with me inside, as well as plenty of alternative music, fashion and lifestyle stories that I think you’ll find inspiring.
Now, let’s chat about what to wear in winter. I have a few new cold-weather clothes that I’m excited about.
Sorel’s After Hours No-Tongue tall boots are made from supple yet waterproof leather. There’s a cute wedge heel that is comfortable for walking, and the sole has a strong tread.
(My silver geometric barrettes are Hair DesignAccess by Sylvain Le Hen, designer of luxury and avantgarde hair accessories.)
I’m wearing these dark red boots from Sorel Footwear’s latest collection. They have “no tongue” down the middle for a peek-a-boo effect; I like to emphasize the cut-outs with fishnets or patterned / colored stockings.
Sorel’s shoes are stylish and modern, yet made to withstand winter conditions. I’m a fan of the romantic lacing all the way up the front, for a ballerina or corset effect. (There’s also a zipper on the side, so you can easily slip the boots on or off without unlacing them.)
I paired them with a Joy Division skirt, black fishnets, and a sweatshirt by Akade Wear (many more photos further down).
I wore this outfit to see Dance with the Dead, one of my favorite retrowave / synthwave artists. They’re currently on tour in North American with GosT (another fav, who sadly didn’t make it to the Vancouver concert).
The show at The Venue began with two impressive opening acts. My friends and I found ourselves moving to the synthy melodies of Oceanside85, and DJ Black Ultra / Amduscia.
Headliners Dance with the Dead (DWTD) are known for incorporating spooky visuals in their shows. The background lit up with a slightly creepy clip of four women singing Mr Sandman (The Chordettes, from 1958).
Then, Justin Pointer and Tony Kim strutted on-stage and launched into deadly guitar riffs — accompanied by projections of ghouls with flickering eyes!
Dance with the Dead is synth-wave with a retro-horror bent. Think head-banging metal meets dance melodies, wrapped in the electronics of the 1980s… If you’re a fan of Stranger Things, then you’ll instantly recognize the sound of “outrun.”
The band performs with high energy, switching between guitars and synthesizers. The audience jumped around with DWTD, and even formed a moshpit in the front-center.
Dance with the Dead thrilled us with upbeat tracks from their albums, “Near Dark” and “The Shape.” The set list included remixed versions of “Andromeda” and “Invader,” and a cover of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”
I put together a few video clips from the show, so you can see and hear the group for yourself.
Between songs, DWTD broadcast clips from old movies that influenced their sound and vision. I spotted Bride of Frankenstein, Psycho, Legend, and 1980s sci-fi and horror films.
As I mentioned in my Perturbator show review, synthwave has gotten me excited about concerts again. The “future-80s” sound is fresh, and the acts are spectacular live. Can’t wait to see more of these bands soon.
Here’s a second version of this “winter outfit of the day,” which I wore in Switzerland. This time, I paired my rocket-ship sweatshirt with leggings (both are by Akade Wear, a label inspired by synthwave — hence the pink-blue 80s vibe.) My black Goth beanie / skullcap is by Long Clothing.
I’m all about metallics right now, and love the look of a silver puffer jacket. I got mine in Romania (it’s by Cato, and not available outside the country) — but you can shop similar puffers below.
After my press trip with Experience Bucharest, photographer Joey Wong and I took a weekend jaunt to Switzerland. We flew to Geneva, then traveled by train on a First Class Swiss Travel Pass from Switzerland Tourism.
These passes let you take unlimited trains, buses and boats throughout the country, so we were keen to see as much as we could. We traveled about 1.5 hours to the fairy-tale Château de Chillon, located on an island in Lake Geneva between Montreux and Villeneuve.
I need to wear sunglasses (by Balenciaga) to look at my bag… because it lights up with LED rainbow patterns!
This rave-tastic backpack is by Cyberdog, the futuristic clubwear brand that I recently visited in London.
Cyberdog’s mini backpack features several light-up modes (you can display various colors and patterns at the click of a button inside). This little satchel is perfect for clubbing and festivals, and charges up with a USB cable. The backpack comes in three semi-sheer colors; I have the iridescent holographic one.
I posted an Instagram video of my Cyberdog backpack, and it went viral with over 550,000 views… talk about the future of fashion!
The backpack was ideal for a day-trip to Chillon Castle. We took the train from Geneva to Montreux, and then hopped on a bus for a quick ride to the chateau.
From the pier, you can take in the beauty of the Alps, the mountain range that crosses through Switzerland.
Europe is famous for its fairytale castles, and Chateau de Chillon is one of the most lovely. With our Swiss Travel Passes, we had access to hundreds of museums and historical sites — meaning we could walk straight in and explore.
So shiny, so chrome. I love the space-age look of a metallic puffer jacket! I’ve rounded up my favorite silver coats below; click the thumbnails to learn more.
Chateau de Chillon is an ancient fortress, with the first written record dating back to the year 1005. In the 16th century, the Savoy rulers used the castle to house prisoners. The dungeon inspired Lord Byron to write his famous poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon.”
Chillon Castle consists of 25 buildings and three courtyards, protected by two circular walls. If you’re a history buff, it’s well worth coming here for a day (and also enjoying Montreux, the nearby resort town.)
Mary Shelley was inspired to write “Frankenstein” during her stay at Chillon castle — so there’s a Goth horror side to it too!
Can’t get enough of the Swiss mountain landscapes, and Lake Geneva’s clear waters.
What do you think of my synthwave / retrowave inspired winter clothing? I hope these outfits give you some ideas for ways to stay warm while rocking a retro-future aesthetic.
Back to Geneva, and time to chill out at Hotel N’vY. Part of the Manotel group, N’vY is in a convenient central location (a quick walk from Geneva Station, which is only a seven min ride from the airport).
I always gravitate towards art / design boutique hotels, as they are local-run and have a quirky personality. You won’t find an inspiring room like this one in a standard chain brand.
Hotel N’vY hosted us in a special suite on the top floor, which required a private elevator with a key-card to access. We had a huge balcony with a view of the rooftops, and could even see the top triangle of the Jet D’Eau (Geneva’s high-spouting fountain).
The hotel staff spoiled us with gifts of Swiss chocolates and Sephora spa products. I made myself at home, cozying up with my laptop and fiddling with the Philips Hue color wheel (which changes the mood lighting).
The rooftop terrace gave us a chance to play around with long-exposure photography. I created a heart shape using my light-up Cyberdog backpack!
Hotel N’vY’s name is a play on “envy,” since your friends will be jealous once they see photos of this hip hotel. The lobby’s decor is a tribute to music with portraits of Jimi Hendrix and The Doors, and a wall of electric guitars.
Walking around, you feel as if you’re in a pop-art exhibition. The sculptures add to the trendy, bold design of the bar and lounge area.
Ouch, that cactus-chair looks like it hurts! Hotel N’vY is a great fit for millennial and design-loving travelers.
My futuristic outfit matched David Cintract’s “Pop Libre” mannequins: women in helmets and heavy makeup, holding glowing synth-sticks.
Time for dinner at the hotel’s Restaurant Trilby, named after the fedora hat worn by many artists. I began with the limited-edition fall cocktail, a bowl of warm spices like cinnamon and cloves.
To start, we ate up every bite of the salmon tartar with mango, and scallops and leeks ravioli. The European fine-dining menu included steaks and sole meuniere, paired with outstanding French wines. We finished up with chocolate fondant and pear chocolate tart, two superbly made desserts.
We walked off the meal with a stroll around Lake Geneva. It’s impossible to miss the Jet d’Eau. First installed in 1886, the fountain launches 500 liters of water per second, to the height of 140 meters (460 feet).
Geneva is filled with stately fountains and classic architecture. We enjoyed strolling through this park on the way to St Pierre Cathedral.
Celebrating 10 years of blogging! Perturbator concert review: synthwave outrun retro wave music, Akade 80s fashion.
Back to the future, baby!
I’m currently obsessed with synthwave / outrun / retrowave — the music genre that pays tribute to the synthesizers, video games and night driving soundtracks of the 1980s. If you’re in the same boat (or Testarossa), then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this story about Perturbator’s concert and Akade fashion.
This is a flashback post for another major reason… Believe it or not, I’ve reached my 10 year anniversary of blogging! That’s correct: I began this La Carmina blog a decade ago, on Sept 14, 2007.
We’ll celebrate this ten year milestone with a ride down memory lane, through Neo Tokyo and the Future 80s.
Let’s start with the present: I’m currently in love with all things shiny and chrome. Since I was on my way to a futuresynth concert, I wanted to wear something along the lines of this aesthetic (imagine electric neon cityscapes and Miami’s midnight highways, circa 1983).
Unfamiliar with synthwave music? Here’s a dark gaming mix to get you in the mood. Think John Carpenter soundtracks x eighties nostalgia against pulsing, dark, spacey dance beats.
Some of my favorite synth artists are Carpenter Brut, Gost, Lazerhawk, Kavinsky, Dance with the Dead… and Perturbator, who I was about to see live.
I was “dressed to kill” in Akade Wear, an indie clothing line inspired by the retrowave revival. I’m wearing Akade’s New Retro Wave tshirt, which is unisex (I got size XS and tied the end in a bundle, as I did in the early 90s.)
I paired it with this Iron Fist silver skeleton skirt (available here), and a Spiral UK bum bag (which comes in holographic and glitter versions too). Fanny packs rule — why on earth did they go out of style?
I finished the look with a silver hair ribbon in my high sideways ponytail, silver heels, and a bomber jacket by Disturbia. It has a spider on the back, similar to the scorpion jacket in the movie Drive.
The Akade Wear fashion line is a branch of New Retro Wave, the online hub for all things outrun. They’re passionate about the musical genre and associated culture, and bring fans together with articles, streams, events, and now clothing. As they put it, “the sound, drive and sheer passion of the 80’s-90’s is one of the most refreshing sounds to hit the music scene, and has been long overdue.”
I’m having fun “living the 80s dream” in streetwear from Akade! They have a large selection of nostalgic, high-saturation designs for both men and women, and ship worldwide.
Synthwave has gained ground in recent years, and the leading artists are now touring worldwide. Interestingly, a lot of my Goth friends have independently discovered and fallen in love with the genre. Many metalheads and geek-types are also drawn to the retrofuturistic sound, bringing together a fanbase from various subcultures.
Those with a Gothic disposition tend to be fond of France’s Perturbator, who creates futuresynth with a dark edge. The pentagram posters are spot on: “Satan is a computer.” “If machines could feel the way we do, would they believe in a god?”
I was excited to see Perturbator live, at the Rickshaw Theater in Vancouver (he’s currently touring North America, with tour dates in major US and Canadian cities). The concert was close to sold out; I spotted lots of guys in long hair, girls in platform boots, and pentagrams on everyone.
“The Legend Says He’s Half Human, Half Synthesizer” — yes! James Kent (Perturbator) helmed a spaceship pod surrounded by vertical lights, which strobed and flashed blinding colors.
From the moment Perturbator took the stage, the audience never stopped moving. He delivered relentless darkwave, heavy and sinister yet uplifting: one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time.
You can see video clips from the Vancouver show above and here on my Instagram. He played many of his faster, more aggro tracks like “Satanic Rites,” “Neo Tokyo,” “Humans are Such Easy Prey.”
I was riveted by the strobe and color effects behind him, simple yet powerful. Perturbator kept his hood on and never spoke to the crowd, but bobbed his head to the driving basslines and gestured with his hands during the climaxes.
I haven’t been out to as many concerts recently, but synth-wave is changing this up. Perturbator’s live was enormously engaging, and he’s an act that you need to see in person.
During the concert, my friend turned to me and asked, “How long have you been blogging for?” My expression was like above… for I realized we had reached Year Ten!
My “La Carmina blog” launched on September 14th, 2007 — a time when blogging and social media were in their infancy. To put it mildly, a lot has happened since then.
As we reach my blog’s 10th birthday, it makes sense to do a trip down memory lane. I considered recapping the top events, but you can already find my Year in Review summaries here, and all my travel destination stories in one place.
Instead, I’ve recently been in nostalgic mode — and thought you might have fun revisiting these memories as well.
The early days of this blog (2007-2012 approximately) were very different from the current incarnation. Long-time readers will recall that I focused almost exclusively on Japanese subcultures, particularly Gothic Lolita fashion and Tokyo nightlife.
This was a particularly exciting era in Tokyo, especially for the Goth clubbing scene, weird pop culture, and experimental style. You’ll find a lot of exciting subcultures in Japan still, but they aren’t the same as they were in the mid to late 2000s.
Looking back, I’m glad I captured this transformative time. In 2008, I spent part of the year in Tokyo, and met many of the “creatures of the night” that remain my closest friends to this day.
The Gothic nightlife was wonderfully inclusive, bringing together an electrifying group of locals and expats. In particular, Mistress Maya’s club night Midnight Mess and DJ Sisen’s parties formed the heart of the dark subculture (above is the infamous night when Covenant played).
There was the feeling of anything-goes: the freedom to experiment with fashion (even if it resulted in some fails), dive into the dark arts, and dance til morning to cybergoth electro.
I always felt inspired by the clubgoers at Midnight Mess, as well as the stage shows. You might see Akira Death perform robotic metal, the Dark Marchen prance around in Rococo gowns, and Mistress Maya tie up and dominate a Sweet Lolita dolly.
Many Japanese creatives were regulars at these events, always showing up in death-disco ghoul fashion. Above is Goth designer Kenzo A, and nAo12xu of the band †13th Moon†.
The queens of darkness were of course DJ Sisen and Selia, who mesmerized us with her dark operetta vocals. Absinthe, corsets, feathered eyelashes, cyberlox and chains — yes please.
Our personal style has all changed quite a bit since these days… but oh, we had fun!
I went down the rabbit hole, and realized I’d forgotten about many of the events I’d written about in the early days.
For example, do you remember D’s Valentine? He was the master behind Alamode Market and Gothic Bar Heaven, and club nights at venues like Tamachi Cube — I haven’t thought of these places in years.
At the time, Japan’s extreme body modifications were not widely known about. Snake tongue and bagelheads, oh my!
I laughed at the caption I had written under this photo. “Unzipped pants and nipple tape… what more do you need in a boy?”
Department H, the hentai / drag / fetish party, has always been a funhouse and remains this way today.
Some of the people I partied with have disappeared, while others remain in my life… albeit with different hair, makeup and clothing choices.
The old school Tokyo Goth crew, on the way to Midnight Mess after dinner at Hibari sushi in Shinjuku. Ah… I’d love to teleport back for a night.
Two things that always guarantee a good time: the twins Atsushi and Takashi, and a can of Strong Zero convenience store alcohol!
In the beginning of the blog, I was very Japan-focused. Yukiro and I did a memorable trip to Osaka, where we raged with hard rocker Fu-Ki at occult club night Black Veil. Somehow, I was inspired to do KISS makeup that night…
Harajuku fashion remains exciting now, but it was certainly weirder and rave-ier in those days. I remember that people were infatuated with Takuya Angel’s designs, and yearned to take part in his fashion walk.
Gothic Lolita fashion was thriving. My friends and I loved to gawk at the frilled fashion in Laforet, and hunt for secondhand bargains at Closet Child.
Many of the brands have now closed or downsized, and Lolita style no longer feels fresh to me — but at the time, it was a joy to wear.
I took this snap on Harajuku bridge. Youths still dressed up and hung out here; this is a rarity today.
I was also a huge fan of Visual Kei / J-Rock music at the time (now, I never listen to it — I gravitate to Italo Disco and retrowave). I saw many of my favorite Japanese bands perform, including Versailles and Moi dix Mois (above are Mana cosplays and tributes at the concert).
I forgot that I saw Deluhi live. VK hair and styling though… still so good.
How can anyone resist a host boy with bleach-blonde sky-high hair, and velvet joggers with a leopard print top?
I remember that readers were fascinated by the Japanese pop culture oddities I reported on, such as maid cafes. Today, these are common knowledge, and you can find theme cafes (such as cat ones) worldwide. Times have changed…
While you can’t go back to the past, you can certainly revisit it… 10 years is a long time! I know some of you have been reading this blog since MySpace days, and I am enormously grateful. Thanks for growing with me through some bad point-and-shoot photography, dubious style choices, and epic adventures with friends.
I hope you had fun reading this “old school La Carmina blog” retrospective. Do you have any favorite “member-berries” from Tokyo, or thoughts on how things have changed?
PS: you can find old blog posts in the right-hand sidebar of this blog, under Archives (there’s a drop-down menu that filters by month and year). You can also see all my Tokyo, Japan stories here, from 2007 to today.
PPS: What’s coming up in the future? Only time will tell… fasten your seatbelts, and stay tuned for more wild rides!
My Fashion Blogger Apartment Tour! Mid-Century modern minimalist home decor, furniture, interior design.
Welcome to my apartment! For the first time, I’m revealing this intimate tour of my living quarters. I’m overjoyed with how the interior decor came together, creating an environment that feels 100% “me.”
Ready to see how a fashion / travel blogger decorates her home? Come on in, and I’ll take you through each room.
(Each item of furniture or decor is highlighted in this house tour. At the end, there’s a summary of the items — along with design tips for maximizing a small living space.)
I’m a design-nerd, so let’s begin with the aesthetic concept. I’d sum up the apartment with four “M-words”:
Mid-Century Modern – Minimalism – Marie Kondo – Miffy!
1. Mid-Century Modern. I’ve long admired the mid-20th century design movement, which emphasizes organic / geometric forms and modernist clean lines. My high-rise one bedroom apartment in Vancouver has giant windows and a balcony, which bring in lots of natural light — a must for “MCM” homes.
I chose a mid century color scheme for the entire space: tangerine orange, aqua (light turquoise or teal), and avocado green. I also looked for furnishings reminiscent of this era, made with space-age white, steel wire, and natural wood.
2. Minimalism. I’m naturally drawn to minimalist aesthetics, especially Japanese Zen and Scandinavian modern. However, minimalism also has a key function in small spaces: it keeps the environment from feeling cluttered and claustrophobic.
I significantly pared down my belongings, and carefully chose beautiful pieces that served multiple functions — such as a coffee table that is also a cat scratcher, multi-purpose chairs, and lamps that double as sculptures.
However, in another way, the Japanese “Konmari” method has made an impact on my choices. “Sparking Joy” sounds a bit silly, but I realized I wanted every part of my home to reflect what makes me happy. And so, I’m surrounded by items that have meaning: favorite cute characters, souvenirs from travels, mementos and art from friends. That leads us to…
4. Miffy! I’m mad about the Dutch bunny, created by Dick Bruna as a children’s book character. Miffy (or Nijntje) also happens to be a minimalist design from the mid twentieth century (she debuted in 1955), which ties together all of the above points.
Now, it’s time for the apartment tour! I’ll take you around, and end with decorating tips for small condos and apartments.
The happiness begins when you walk through the door, and onto this starry rug from Scandaffaren, purveyors of Scandinavian modern design.
The bold, geometric stars make you feel as if you’re on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This slim runner (long rug) is also strong and waterproof: making it the perfect entry mat.
Scandaffaren‘s online shop has an eye-catching selection of home goods made in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland: modern, cutting edge designs that are impossible to find in regular furniture stores.
For instance, Scandaffären has a large selection of Swedish rugs in various sizes, colors and patterns. They sent me this Papellina Viggo Metallic Stone / Vanilla Star rug, which immediately conveys the minimal, pop culture mood of my apartment.
The unique design is reversible, so I can choose between metallic grey or white as the base color. (I plan to switch it up, since both look lovely.)
Pappelina’s rugs are made in Sweden from environmentally-aware materials: 90% plastic foil ribbon, and 10% warp thread. These durable materials are woven together by hand in the traditional Swedish method: on looms that date back to the 1950s.
These rugs are made be trodden on by Vikings. They require minimal care, and the color and quality don’t fade.
With this rug, I feel like I’m making a grand entrance every time I come in. My hardwood floors have a grey undertone, which complements the Viggo Star Stone Metallic shade. The geometric forms also harmonize with the other pieces in the apartment, including the towels, chairs and lamps (which will be described later on in this post).
Scandaffaren’s Pappelina rug may have three stars… but it gets a 5-star rating from me!
You might notice that I chose a longer runner, as opposed to the standard “welcome mat” size. People often forget that they need room to close the door and take their shoes off. At 28 x 60 inches, this one gives enough space for several people to comfortably step in, and undo their laces.
Big up to Scandaffaren for elevating my entry-way. They’re an independent company, which I love to support, and have a wonderfully curated selection of Scandinavian / Finnish designs.
Based in Devon, Pennsylvania, they’re the only US retailer for several Swedish brands. If you’re in North America, this is the place to get your hands on Scandinavian home decor — here is their website.
Now, let’s move into the kitchen. (“Thanks for the flowers! Can I make you a cup of tea?”)
The cooking area is small, but there’s plenty of counter space, with large cupboards that hide equipment and utensils. All the external objects are stainless steel for a unified look.
You’ll notice my little decor elements that “spark joy”: illustrations and cards from friends, tiny succulents in white triangle pots, a geometric hand towel by Sunday Minx (more about them below, in the bathroom section.)
As Halloween-loving Goth, I always smile when I see my pumpkin-shaped coaster / placemat. In fact, this is a cutting board from Crate and Barrel.
Don’t be afraid to get creative, and use objects for purposes other than their original intent.
“These are a few of my favorite things.” The fridge holds magnets featuring George Costanza from Seinfeld, and Miffy the rabbit. And look who is working the cat-walk… Basil!
I spend a lot of time in this cozy white Miffy bathrobe. The robe has bunny ears and embroidered pockets, and was a gift from my cousins in the UK.
My minimalist centerpiece is this exact Miffy Cotton On lamp. It’s visually appealing, and also a useful portable light.
Little apartments can only have limited amounts of furniture — so I encourage you to choose carefully, and invest in a few quality pieces.
Anyone who loves modern design knows the name Herman Miller. This American furniture manufacturer rose to fame during the 1940s-60s, producing iconic pieces such as the Aeron chair, Noguchi table, Marshmallow sofa, and Nelson bench. Today, they remain the leaders in modernist, experimental home furnishings. (See examples below, and click for more info.)
When you order an Eames chair, you can customize the material, upholstery, color, base and finishing. I went for the Aqua Sky and Orange hues, with chrome-finished steel wire legs and a standard glide base.
Charles and Ray Eames are the American design gurus behind this chair. When the first Eames chair came out in the late 1940s, it was a sensation (for the first time, molded fiberglass could create a curving, one-piece seat).
Many stores sell knockoff “Eiffel chairs,” but I encourage you to honor the designers and save up for the real deal. If you compare these with replicas, you can see an enormous difference in the finishing and quality. (Shop for authentic Eames dining chairs below.)
I paired my seats with this Tavolo XZ3 table, also from Herman Miller. Once again, you can customize the shape and legs — I went for the round white tabletop and chrome legs.
The Tavolo XZ3 is an in-house design by Magis, the Italian furniture brand that makes designs by Jasper Morrison and Philippe Starck. The table material is a study white MDF with polymer cover, and the angled legs are made of steel rods.
My round Magis Tavolo doubles as a work desk (for writing, cooking, etc) and dining table. As you can see, the legs go perfectly with wire-based Eames chairs. Plus, the floating effect keeps the small apartment from feeling crowded.
The photos speak for themselves: Herman Miller is the mid-century and contemporary furniture master. Pro tip: if you are a qualified interior designer or architect, you can get a significant “designer’s discount” on their products.
Below are more designs to inspire you (click to view).
Shall we mosey over to the living room? There are cute, fuzzy white animals waiting to sit with you…
… including my stuffed polar bear from Korea. (I’m trying to be a bunny to fit in.)
There’s no cozier place to catch up on shows, read a book, or gaze out the window at the spectacular view (I’m on a high-level floor).
I’m in love with this retro sofa: the Cavett Loveseat by Crate and Barrel. The sleek lines capture the feeling of mid-century modernism — particularly the American walnut frame and tapered legs.
The cantilevered seat, angular arms and striped wood slat back are attractive from every angle. My Cavett love seat is so comfortable to curl up on, with built-in upholstered cushions. (You can chose from a variety of fabric finishes; mine is the Lemongrass green).
This elegant sofa is the perfect choice for smaller spaces. A longer, overstuffed, bulky couch would overpower the room.
Head over to the Crate and Barrel website, and search for “Cavett Loveseat” to find this timeless piece. Hint: C&B also has an architect / designer trade discount program, which takes 10% off the total.
The lemongrass green sofa pairs well with my Departures pillows from Airportag. Their travel-inspired home goods are made for globetrotters like me — Airportag has accessories, posters, cups, tote bags featuring airport codes from around the world.
The retro flip-board look also fits in with my mid-century modern vibe. These pillows are soft and fluffy to lean on… like a certain Scottish Fold cat!
Here’s another look at how the living and dining spaces flow together.
When you have limited square footage, a harmonized color scheme / aesthetic can help make the rooms look bigger (as opposed to creating separate areas with different looks). Notice how the orange and blue chairs match the planter and table, and everything has a unified mid-century modern look.
In tiny homes, multi-function modular furniture is key. (That is, pieces that can be moved around and used according to changing needs).
Case in point: this lightweight white leather chair (similar to this one) can be an extra living room seat, a dining chair, or a window perch for Basil!
The “coffee table” is another modular piece: it doubles as a cat scratcher, made by Kitticraft!
I didn’t want a TV stand or console, as these tend to be chunky-looking. I simply painted my family’s Ikea “Lack” table from the 90s, to match the exact shade of blue in my color scheme. (Ikea’s furniture quality was much better in the 1990s, and used real wood. I don’t recommend getting their current fiberboard and particleboard products).
Above the television, there are three paintings that “spark joy” like nothing else. They’re by my artist friend Naomi Rubin, and based around memories of our adventures together.
My white and blue zig-zag carpet is as as soft as it looks… it’s a hand-tufted Moroccan shag from Rugs USA!
Choosing a primarily white carpet with a simple pattern helps to make a room look more spacious. The blue zigzag is a minimalist take on the geometric carpets from the mid-century modern era. (The close-up shows the detail that goes into each tuft, and the multiple hues of blue in the design.)
My carpet is the “Marrakech Hand Tufted Spotted Moroccan Zigzag Shag Rug” that comes in blue or red, and various sizes (mine is 5 x 8′). It’s currently on sale at Rugs USA, if you’re looking for a great deal.
(It matches this sardine dish that my friends got for me in Portugal. I use it to hold the TV remote).
Rugs USA.com has thousands of chic carpets in all sizes and styles, from contemporary to old-school to funky. They carry most of their rugs in-house, which means they ship fast within the US and Canada (mine arrived in a week).
They’re a celebrated retailer, and I was pleased with their selection, prices, and customer service.
It’s a joy to sit on this lush carpet! You can see how the zigzag vertical lines draw one’s eye towards the view, and the light color makes the room look larger.
My windows provide plenty of sunlight for my snake plant, Sansevieria trifasciata. This is “the” modernist plant, and it’s easy to keep (snake plants require little light and watering).
My Sansevieria sits in this magnificent orange Retro Bullet Planter, from Hip Haven!
Hip Haven is an Austin-based designer, creating home accessories and lights inspired by mid-century modernism. Everything is made in-house, with the highest quality materials and craftsmanship.
First manufactured in the 1950s, “bullet” style planters reflected the American fascination with the space age. Advancements in plastics also let designers create light, durable furniture with curves for the first time (such as my Eames chairs.)
Hip Haven pays homage to this timeless yet futuristic design, with a colorful curved planter nestled in a steel tripod stand. Doesn’t it look ready for take-off?
(My watering can is by Eero Aarnio, designer of the 1960s “ball chair” – another MCM masterpiece.)
I adore Hip Haven’s playful, contemporary twist on designs from the Atomic Age.
When you order a Retro Bullet Planter, you can customize the bowl color, stand height (16, 23, or 30 inches) and finish. (Mine is the medium size, in hot orange, with silver powder coat). They have a mini version of this planter as well (great for table plants), and other original home goods on their site.
I’m all for supporting independent designers with a heart, and Hip Haven is all of the above. The owner, Kelley Sandidge, founded her company out of her passion for mid-century modern decor.
She debuted the bullet planters to great acclaim, and now has expanded to decorative screen doors, fiberglass side chairs, lighting collections, and more. If you’re looking to spruce up your home with vintage-influenced accessories, give Hip Haven a look.
Hello, Brown bear from Line Friends! My Dutch designer friends MrMaria are responsible for this sweet lamp.
I have the Mr Maria Brown small lamp for reading and mood lighting. It uses fire-safe LEDs and has a dimmer, which lets me adjust the light depending on the situation.
And how can I resist their most iconic design, the Miffy XL lamp?
The MrMaria family includes an elephant, polar bear, smiley face, Japanese doll, and glowing white heart. When you order one from their site, you can select any type of voltage plug, and even pick up replacement modules.
Modern, minimal, “kawaii” cute… serving both form and function. No wonder Mr Maria is one of my favorite designers on the planet.
(In an upcoming post, I’ll show you my visit to their studio in Amsterdam.)
Many people overlook the bathroom as an area for interior decoration — but it has lots of creative potential. By choosing beautiful towels and bath accessories, you can elevate this utilitarian space.
I transformed a small bathroom with these luxurious towels by Australia’s Sunday Minx. As you can see, the colors are consistent with the rest of the apartment.
Believe me, these are not “regular” hand and bath towels. They feel like silky, fluffy clouds!
Sunday Minx exclusively uses 100% Turkish cotton with extra long natural fibers, which results in an incredibly soft, thick fabric. The long cotton loops are quick-drying and super absorbent, and the colors will last through time.
I was excited when I came across Sunday Minx’s towels. Their geometric patterns and colors add playful sophistication to a typically drab area of the home.
Sydney-based Brooke Rudzis founded Sunday Minx in 2015. This young label is gaining buzz worldwide for its bold prints and vibrant approach; everything is designed in Australia, and made in Europe.
My four towels are from their recent collection, inspired by the post-modernist designs of the Italian-based Memphis Movement. Sunday Minx encapsulates this non-conformist vibe with bright hues and geometric patterns.
Sunday Minx has just released the new Deco District collection: it’s Gatsby glamour meets tropical chic!
Think Art Deco motifs and beachside architecture. These soft towels convey the warm, retro glamour of Miami’s famous hotels.
Sunday Minx is a designer full of energy, and I can’t wait to see what they release next. You can pick up various sized towels, bundles, bathmats and more from their site.
(Also in my bathroom: cute mementos from my trips. The panda box from Hong Kong holds small toiletries. I got the cute sponge and soap dispenser from Japan, and my toothbrush holder is a Pompompurin cup from the Harajuku theme cafe.)
To the bedroom. I stuck to my color scheme and mid-century modern geometry, with luxury bed sheets from Allem Studio.
I always get a solid night’s sleep with plenty of lucid dreams, thanks to my natural memory foam mattress from Essentia.
Remember the Airportag travel pillows from the living room? I have them on the bed too. The “Boarding” and “On Time” flipboards have a 1950s-60s feel.
The shelf above the bed is basically a shrine to Miffy the bunny. There are also statues from the cat temples I visited in Tokyo, Japan.
You’ve probably noticed I have a thing for white-colored cute characters, depicted in minimal strokes. The San-X pig, Monokuro boo, and Scandinavia’s Moomin are two more examples. They look especially cuddly on my organic, top-end memory foam mattress from Essentia.
This fuzzy stuffed toy kitty is rather cute as well, no?