Category Archive for Art + Design
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 has both an online shop and physical store in the Philadelphia area. They have 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 are the only retailers of Marimekko between NYC and Chicago, as well as 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?
Ljubljana Alternative Travel: street art & culture! Metelkova murals, Dragon Bridge, Slovenia castle.
Call me Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons!
I’m excited to share my alternative guide to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. With Medieval red rooftops and dramatic canals, it could pass for one of the great cities in Game of Thrones.
And I hope you enjoy our latest Slovenia travel video! Follow me through this European city, as I discover a surprising world-class food, art, nature and culture scene. There’s footage of the magical Lake Bled, coastal beaches, and lots of delicious cuisine. (Video produced by Borderless Media.)
Click to watch our Slovenia travel TV episode now!
Pronounced “lube-lee-anna”, the Slovenian capital is the definition of charming. The city center is small but filled with beautiful sights, and doesn’t have a touristy-commercial feeling. It’s the perfect European destination for a laid-back, all-day stroll.
But don’t write off Ljubljana as quaint and quiet. There’s a punk-political alternative scene here, which encompasses LGBT-inclusive squats and art factories.
I’ll show you all the fascinating sides of Ljubljana’s culture, in my artistic city guide.
(If you’re digging the cute top I’m wearing, you might want to check out these cat shirts by Animal Hearted! They’re an indie apparel company for animal lovers, with a great selection of witty, adorable styles featuring cats, dogs and other animal companions).
My film team and I wanted to start by getting an overall sense of Ljubljana. A boat tour was the perfect way to get the lay of the land.
We went on the 45-minute River Ljubljanica boat ride, which took us down the canals and under the famous bridges. We loved observing locals enjoying summertime activities, from this unique point of view.
With a glass of champagne in our hands, we passed under Ljubljana’s unique arches, including the three-way Triple Bridge, glass bridge, and Cobblers’ Bridge (because it once housed the booths of shoemakers).
The colorful, historic European architecture is a feast for the eyes. Love these classic buildings overlooking the water.
My favorite bridge is “Zmajski most”, with roaring green dragons perched at both ends. This bridge was erected in the early 20th century, and looks like a scene from Game of Thrones.
According to local legend, Jason (of Argonauts fame) was the founder of Ljubljana, and killed several dragons during his conquest. Some say that when a virgin crosses the bridge, these dragons will wag their tails.
I found lots of heavy metal attitude at Metelkova, an autonomous social and cultural center in the centre of Ljubljana, Slovenia. These former military barracks became occupied by squatters in the early 90s. Over time, they covered every available space with colorful street art.
Metelkova Mesto feels like a giant acid trip. There are multiple buildings, decorated in everything from graffiti tags to moving installations.
This web of Gollum alien clones will haunt your nightmares. Metelkova encapsulates the eccentric, alternative side of Slovenia — perfect for alternative travellers like ourselves.
Metel Kova is a hive of creativity. There are artist studios here, as well as dive bars, design workshops, concert spaces. The young community works hard to organise social and cultural activities for anyone to join.
Can we talk about how talented these artists are? The murals are masterfully executed. And these images are only a fraction of what we saw here.
Slovenian artists used found objects to build playful sculptures throughout Metelkova. One had a motion detector: when you stepped up close, the parts moved and pounded on a drum.
In Metelkova, inclusiveness is everything. The residents host community organisations that support women, the disabled, and LGBT. These clubs run campaigns against racism and exclusive policies — above, this rainbow structure was the first gay club in Slovenia.
Metelkova is within walking distance of the city center, but not in the main streets — therefore many travellers miss out on it. As you can tell from the photos, this commune is something you must see with your own eyes. I hope you’ll get the chance to discover this alternative, eclectic side of Ljubljana.
We walked past the entrance of Rog, another autonomous factory or squat. These abandoned buildings were occupied in 2006, and have morphed into gallery collectives and two skate parks.
Time to escape heat, and enjoy lunch with a view. Thankfully, everything is within easy walking distance. We took the short glass funicular (cable car) up to Ljubljana Castle, the icon of the city.
I felt like Cersei Lannister, looking out at the rooftops from my tower window. “Ljubljanski grad” was originally a Medieval fortress, and remains one of the best look-out points in Europe.
We sat near the Medieval curved stone windows, and thoroughly enjoyed the lunch tasting at Gostilna Na Gradu restaurant. By now, I’m sure I’ve convinced you that Slovenian food is magnificent.
We sampled organic spreads with fresh baked bread (the Istrian cod was my favorite), with cold glasses of homemade pear juice. The bottom left image shows the best sea bass I’ve had in my life: it’s paired with broccoli cream, and the fish comes from Fonda fish farm (remember I visited them?)
After the meal, we explored the art and antiquities displays around Ljubljana castle. We walked up the winding staircase to the viewing tower, and were rewarded with this panorama. (You can see my Snapchats from the castle here.)
I looked out at the canals, bridges, steeples and squares, framed by blue mountains in the back. “Neverjeten,” or “amazing” in Slovenian.
After a quick rest at our hotel, I was ready to do some shopping. As I mentioned before, there thankfully isn’t a commercial, big-box vibe in Ljubljana. Instead, you’ll find lots of local, handmade fashion and accessories — sold in little boutiques that line the cobblestone streets.
I also enjoyed roaming around the produce markets, and watched Slovenians relax at outdoor cafes near the waters.
While you won’t find a Goth scene here, I did run into the Skelet bar that my friend Zoetica Ebb recommended. There are, however, plenty of stores with hipster and twee designs.
We saved the best for last, and had a memorable farewell dinner at the family-owned Restaurant JB. Chef Janez Bratovž was named one of the best 100 chefs in the world, and if Slovenia had Michelin stars, he would without doubt have several.
We stepped into a 1920s building that was decorated in his handpicked art. The space was luxurious, yet comfortable and without pretension.
JB is the friendliest and most attentive chef you’ll meet. He came by our table with each new plate, chatting us up with a smile, and then presenting his dishes with passion.
His menu is inspired by the balance between the four elements, which represent the tastes of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Each is artfully presented, and a delight to the palate.
JB makes handmade pastas that melt in your mouth, and infuses international flavors (such as Asian sauces) into his preparations. Filmmaker Melissa’s reaction to the tuna dish: “If I were in prison and had to choose my last meal, I would pick this!”
JB Restavracija changes its menu with the seasons, and I’m eager to come back for more of his culinary magic.
Cute, charming but with a gritty alt scene: this picture sums up why I adore Ljubljana. (Fun fact: Slovenia is the only country with “love” in its name!)
Hvala (thank you) to Slovenian Tourist Board (IFeelSlovenia) for the perfect travel itinerary, and to Ljubljana Tourism for organizing a tour of the alternative side of the city. (All photos by Borderless Media.)
I leave you with one of the many unique city bridges — this one is decorated with locks. It’s a promise that I will come back to Ljubljana soon.
(If you missed my previous blogs about Lake Bled and Portoroz, you can find all my Slovenia travel guides here.)
Please take a moment to watch our Slovenia travel video! Thanks for watching and subscribing.
PS: Head’s up, there’s a big 3-day sale at Shopbop until Monday! All you need to do is enter promo code EVENT17 to receive 20% off orders under $500, or 25% off when you get $500 or more. I’m tempted to stock up on harness and cut-out fitness fashion, like my favorites above… Enjoy the weekend everyone!
My Alternative Street Art tour of Athens, Greece! Urban Adventures: Bohemian Tales walking tours, murals.
When you think of Athens, Greece… does “ancient” come to mind?
Then let me blow away your expectations, and reveal the unexpectedly creative, modern side of the Greek capital!
I got an insider view of the city, thanks to Athens Urban Adventures. They took me on their Bohemian Tales of the City walking tour, which avoids tourists sites and focuses on hidden, indie neighborhoods.
Athens Urban Adventures customizes excursions according to your interests. I wanted to see local street art, alternative shops and cafes — and take photos with intriguing backgrounds — and that’s exactly what they delivered.
● Outfit Details ● I’m wearing an Iron Fist Bone faux fur coat, and Wishbone Halo Skirt (click the links to get these exact designs). My Ouija top is from Long Clothing, and the fishnet stockings are similar to these.
There’s a new, young generation of Greek creatives that are launching startups, and expressing themselves through progressive art.
I got to see this for myself as we strolled through Athens’ hippest districts: Exarchia, Plaka, Anafiotika, Monastiraki and Syntagma. As you’ll see, the city has a colorful, playful, punk spirit that you’ll glimpse in the most unexpected corners.
Our fabulous Urban Adventures guide, Nikoleta, met us at our Pi Athens hotel (I’ll write about our stay soon). We immediately clicked: she’s a photographer, and shares my passion for youth / underground culture.
It was a joy to see Nikoleta’s favorite spots in the city — she answered all our questions with a smile, and took us to hidden places that we would have never found on our own.
Urban Adventures works with guides who are true local insiders, which makes the tour feel more like a hangout session with friends. Nikoleta was excited to show us her favorite streets filled with graffiti. (Photography by Joey Wong).
Look up: art is everywhere. Residents of the neighborhood contributed lamps, birdcages and other interesting objects, which were strung up above this narrow pathway. All throughout Athens, districts that were once run-down and gritty have been rejuvenated.
We saw tons of old, “ugly” facades transformed through street art — which formed the perfect photo backgrounds.
I’m wearing this Iron Fist skeleton bones jacket and Wishbone silver iridescent skirt, which pop in front of these painted shutters. My Ouija board shirt is by Long Clothing, and I have fishnets similar to these. (Click below for more items:)
The indie posters tell a story of a city that’s brimming with artistic events. Concerts for Blonde Redhead, Greek experimental theater productions, subculture club nights, you get the picture.
In a city as ancient as Athens (dating back about 5000 years), the layers of history are visible wherever you go. But the modern incarnation stands out: you can feel the energy in the street murals.
There’s a cheeky, ironic playfulness to many of the works. I love how the drab grey side of a building gets turned into a fantastical scene. On the left, the rainbow walls are accompanied by text: “This is a great hipster Instagram opportunity.”
Nikoleta from Urban Adventures took us to a variety of artistic venues. I’m in front of the secret Embros Theater, which is housed in what used to be a newspaper factory. Local groups manage the space, and put on free productions.
Unlike some cities in Europe, Athens fully embraces urban expression. Citizens encourage street art, and some small businesses commission pieces for their walls, or donate space for events.
We popped into the alternative multi-purpose art space, metamatic : taf. The inner courtyard looks like a stable — but these were actually interrogation holding cells! Today, TAF is an active social space that is accessible to anyone, encouraging dialogue and collaboration.
We were fans of the slightly bizarre installation art inside Metamatic Taf. The lips on the right have a Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Rolling Stones vibe.
One of the most prominent Greek street artists is Sonke. His distinctive swirls and melancholic girls are found all over Athens. I think my style goes rather well with his aesthetic, don’t you?
Even the fonts on cafe boards caught our eye. The Greek written language is itself a work of art.
Nikoleta brought us to Gazi, the gay district and home of Technopolis (a large cultural venue and industrial museum). Look close, and you’ll see binary code inside this eye-popping mural.
From Madonna to Nintendo figures, Greece’s urban art draws upon every possible type of inspiration.
There’s so much talent to be glimpsed through a walk — and this is a side of Athens that not many travellers know about.
The Bohemian Tales of the City tour includes a few tastings (and Athens Urban Adventures also offers food tours, and other themed activities).
We stopped at Lukumades for a sweet treat. As you can see in this Instagram video, loukoumades are Greek donuts that we got in the traditional style (dripping with honey and cinnamon). There are other toppings available, such as nuts or ice cream.
After a long winter, I was thrilled to relax outside under the sun. Athens is all about taking it easy, and having a leisurely coffee or snack outdoors with friends.
Quite a few of these stylish cafes also have DJ dance nights and live music…
… such as Six Dogs, a local favorite. I couldn’t resist the swing in the outer courtyard!
My friends and I took part in the Athenian coffee ritual: savoring a cappuccino frappe or freddo, made with thick Greek coffee.
The Monastiraki and Psirri neighborhoods are filled with cool restaurants and music venues. There’s an air of passion and optimism in these parts of the city.
A snap of the Little Kook cake and tea shop, which has a fantasy Alice in Wonderland theme. I’ll have to return and visit it soon.
We were having so much fun that we extended the tour (it usually is 3.5 hours). So much to see in Athens, from flea markets to vintage shops.
Ziggy Stardust and cats — these twee designs were up my alley. My sunglasses are Moat House.
Since I love Gothic / horror, Nikoleta brought me to this illustrated pillar of Edgar Allan Poe. She also told us the tale of this haunted balcony… one day, this dangling telephone cord appeared without any reason. It remains hanging mysteriously today!
Athens, a city that blends the ancient and hip, is truly a joy to explore on foot.
No need to adjust your glasses: that’s indeed a mummified figure, looking out from the balcony!
The new face of Athens is an exhilarating one. I hope this story gives you a different view of the city.
I leave you in front of an “All dogs go to heaven” tribute to Loukanikos, the stray dog that barked at police officers during the anti-austerity riots, and became a symbol of the people.
What’s next? We’ll visit the Acropolis, dine like Greek gods, and bask in the Mediterranean sunset… Stay tuned.
Are you surprised to see this contemporary, creative scene in Athens?
For more about Greece, check out the Discover Greece portal, which has tons of insider travel tips. And please support my stories with a Share / Tweet / Like (you can click the buttons below) – I am very grateful.
A guide to Yangon’s modern art galleries! Burma Pansodan & River gallery, Aung San Suu Kyi paintings.
Let’s continue our Myanmar escapades… with a tour of the progressive art and photography galleries of Yangon!
Burmese artists are spreading their wings, now that they are free from military rule and censorship. With the support of these independent galleries, local creators are able to express themselves in ways that were previously forbidden (such as by painting nudes and political topics).
Yukiro and I are certainly “women who explore” — so let’s give you a tour of Yangon’s top galleries.
We stayed at ParkRoyal hotel, and they bestowed us with a car and driver that made getting from place to place much easier. I looked up a few Burmese art exhibits, and gave our driver the list. He figured out the most efficient route, which made it possible for us to see five venues that day: Pansodan, River, Nawaday Tharlar, New Zero, and Deitta.
We started our art tour at Pansodan Gallery, which we heard was one of the best in the city.
Love the greenery and vivid street signs near the entrance of Pansodan Gallery. Walk up the stairs, and you’re there.
Address: 1st Floor, 286, Pansodan Street, (Upper Block), Kyauktada Township, Yangon, Myanmar.
Pansodan Gallery was established in August 2008 by Aung Soe Min and Nance Cunningham, a Canadian who has lived in Burma since the 1990s.
We chatted with Nance and her French friend Christophe Munier, who recently published a book called Burmese Buddhist Murals. He told us that a lot of spiritual art from past centuries has been destroyed. His book attempts to document these works before they are gone, as preservation is unfortunately a challenge in a country with limited budget for the arts.
On the bright side, a gallery like Pansodan is a welcoming space, which gives Burmese artists a chance to present their works to worldwide audiences. The selection ranges from budding artists to older masters, working in a variety of mediums.
Pansodan Gallery also aims to make the local art accessible. Some of the paintings are in higher price ranges, but there’s a great selection of watercolors, cards, books and other small items for $10-30 US.
We loved seeing these fun, modern expressions of Burmese culture on the walls. Works like these were brimming with color and energy.
After years under the military government, Myanmar has opened up. In the past, only non-controversial, sanctioned subjects like landscapes were permitted. Now, artists are free to express any topics and themes without censure.
Before the current democratic government, it was difficult (to say the least!) to be an artist in Myanmar. Art supplies were often scarce, and if the military deemed your works to be offensive, they’d be confiscated. It was even forbidden to display photos and paintings of “The Lady,” Aung San Suu Kyi.
Now that she’s the leader of the democracy, the arts have flowered. This liberalisation has enabled artists to depict nudes, and political or edgy subjects for the first time. Many choose to paint Aung San Suu Kyi, as you can see in the examples above.
Pansodan Gallery encourages this creative renaissance in many ways, including running a laid-back social event every Tuesday night. Anyone can come to enjoy beer and snacks, talk art, and meet others.
The owners have also opened up a new space called Pansodan Scene recently. In addition to displaying paintings, the Scene has poetry readings, talks, concerts, and a small cafe.
(Address: 144, 2nd Floor, Pansodan Street, Corner of Mahabandoola Street, Kyauktada Township, Yangon)
Yukiro and I consider the streets of Yangon to be works of art in themselves! So many colors and textures in a single block.
We watched this man hang up spiritual flags, as he prepared a stage for a Buddhist event.
We said hello to a few cats, on the way to our next stop: Myanmar Deitta gallery. (Address: No.49, 44th St, Yangon, Burma).
This is a not-for-profit organisation that supports photographers, filmmakers and other multimedia producers in Myanmar. The upper level space hosts workshops and exhibitions, with the goal of presenting and discussing social issues that were formerly repressed by the military.
We caught the bilingual exhibit by The Kite Tales Project, titled “Unsung Heroes: Telling Myanmar’s Lost Stories.” Run by two journalists, Ma Thin Lei Win and Kelly Macnamara, this digital initiative captures the daily lives of people all throughout the country.
The journalists traveled all throughout Myanmar, including to remote and conflict regions. Through photo, video and audio, they recorded stories that had been silenced for decades, from a variety of perspectives.
Naturally, I was drawn to these photographs of tribal tattoos and body modifications in Burma. On the left, a 90-year old woman from the ethnic Chin village sports a full-face blue tattoo. One of the reasons these women modify their appearance is to prevent other tribes from preying on them.
Another woman, a daughter of a Lahe chief, spoke about how her community once got tattoos to celebrate heroes and victories. She lamented that today the practice has become lost.
In the attic, we watched documentary footage from throughout the country. I was intrigued by these videos from the Saffron Revolution, a series of peaceful political demonstrations in 2007. Many Buddhist monks took part in this nonviolent resistance, wearing saffron-colored robes.
Onward to River Gallery, which was once housed in The Strand hotel. (Address: Chindwin Chambers 33/35, 37th and 38th Street, Yangon)
Yukiro opened his Pokemon Go app, and realized there were almost no Pokemon to catch in Myanmar. Nonetheless, this gallery had what looked like a wooden Poke-Stop sculpture, which you could even spin!
River Gallery is a high-ceilinged space that beautifully showcases the works of Myanmar’s leading contemporary artists. It’s a great place to pick up artistic souvenirs, as there are cups, jewelry and other fine items for sale.
Before the democratic leadership, Myanmar was isolated from the global art scene, and struggled under the draconian censorship. River Gallery was keen to create a space for local artists to get better representation and exposure.
Here, you can see playful and abstract works by over 40 contemporary artists, who are now free from these restraints. River Gallery organises an annual show abroad for its talents as well.
In contrast, New Zero Art Space is a more obscure and underground gallery. We went into an apartment building, and searched for the door to this non-profit. (Address: No,202, 2nd Floor, United Condo, Ah Lan Pya Pagoda Road, Dagon Township Yangon 1181)
We stepped into “Identity of Fear: A Solo Exhibition by Mayco Naing.” The stark, white tiles of the space were the perfect backdrop to her black and white photographs.
The concept: young Burmese, immersed in baths, with their hands clasped over their faces. Naing’s photographs reflect the generation born around the 1988 Revolution. She and her fellow 20-30 year olds faced a volatile dictatorship, low educational standards and conservative values while growing up.
The underwater bathtub images represent the stifling educational opportunities she feels her peers have suffered. The nudity also confronts feelings of shame about the human body.
Before heading back to our ParkHotel, we stopped by the nearby Nawaday Tharlar gallery. The smiling kawaii logo is impossible to resist!
Address: Yaw Min Gyi road Building No. 20B Room No. 304, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)
When we stepped into the entrance, we were mesmerised by the tangle of electrical wiring — that’s an art piece on its own!
Nawaday Tharlar opened in 2012, and is dedicated to creating a place for people to come together and share art, music, poetry and stories.
The gallery holds a bi-monthly open mic, where anyone can come to perform. It also hosts different creative activities, such as a tea and drawing workshop.
In the main room, we enjoyed the “Yangonoftheday One Year Exhibition.” This photography project posts images once a day, depicting some aspect of Yangon city life.
The concept shows all the facets of Yangon (Rangoon) and its people, and lets residents share their stories through Instagram-like square photos.
I spotted monks and punks. Birds and buildings.
In the back rooms, there are stacks upon stacks of canvases, from dozens of Burmese artists. Anyone can come to flip through them.
Buddhist themes abound, in this spiritual country. Isn’t the Burmese writing lovely?
Props to our ParkRoyal hotel driver, for navigating these confusing and busy streets! Interestingly, motorcycles are banned in the city, so you won’t see street scenes similar to Vietnam. Still, people will cross the roads willy-nilly.
We saw children in school uniforms, and adults in matching longyi (the long Burmese tied skirts worn by men and women).
Our car passed by the Ganesh Hindu Temple. Buddhism is practised by about 88% of the population, but there are other religions here too.
As we drove through the narrow streets, our car windows were perfect for people-watching.
We noticed these covered drinking gourds, or pots of water that anyone can drink from.
Myanmar has a lot of investment from Korea and Japan, hence this street filled with technology stores. Smartphones are common here…
… as Samsung, Sony, LG and others have a large presence.
Modern and traditional are a true balance in Yangon. We’re very glad we came to Myanmar, and hope to see Bagan and more of the country next time.
For more about Burmese Buddhism and monks, come see our story about the golden Shwedagon Pagoda.
Isn’t Myanmar a fascinating country? I’m glad to see the liberalisation of arts here, and look forward to these continued positive changes.