Category Archive for Art + Design

PMQ Hong Kong: art studios, food & fashion. The Refinery, Aberdeen St Social.

hong kong design panda

Poor panda. Looks like he’s crying because I’m hugging him too hard!

Hong Kong’s contemporary design scene used to be scattered around the city. But now, there’s a massive glass building – PMQ in Central – that puts over 100 artists, fashion designers and chefs under one roof.

d*face pmq mural

PMQ’s industrial architecture and pop art mural (by artist D*face) are easy to find. The address: No.35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong Island

PMQ 元創方

PMQ’s aim is to nurture young designers. Rent is high in Hong Kong, but this building gives them an affordable space to showcase their works. In return, the artists have an “open-door” policy to the public, meaning anyone is welcome to come in and even take photos.

duck print socks

PMQ opened in spring 2014, and already, most of the studios are occupied. My team and I love this creative hub so much that we visited three times.

elizabeth lau the refinery

Set aside at least a few hours to explore all the little shops and studios. If you’re short on time, I recommend heading straight to one of my favorites: The Refinery HK, a colorful and poppy fashion boutique. 

pancake fish shaped purse

Here, you’ll find unique quality accessories like pancake and taiyaki (fish waffle) bags. The Refinery HK carries various select brands, from both Hong Kong and worldwide designers.

pmq refinery fashion boutique

The boutique is curated by London designer Elizabeth Lau, who also has her own witty and playful fashion line.

hipster earrings

She had just gotten back from a buying trip to Paris Fashion Week. Every season, she hunts for creative pieces like the earrings above.

the refinery hong kong fashion

Elizabeth styled me in this outfit. Can’t get enough of the “Where’s Waldo” hat with a veil.

yellow ribbons hong kong protesters

In a city dominated by big brands, it’s a relief to see this spotlight on indie design. We saw yellow ribbons tied to the front of this jewelry shop, in support of the Occupy Hong Kong movement.

occupy hk yellow ribbon

John Skeleton wears one of these ribbons to support the student protesters. (Photos by me, Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle).

pmq building, architecture

You might have noticed that I wear this Shakuhachi dress a lot. The comfort and unique design make it an easy favorite. It’s from West LA Boutique; you can purchase this dress here

pmq green public space

PMQ stands for Police Married Quarters, since this was the previous incarnation of this site. Remnants of the historic building remain, such as an underground tunnel that show the old foundations.

shakuhachi future minimal dress

In urban Central, this courtyard is a welcome green space. The design is modern, while the Chinese bamboo adds a relaxing atmosphere.

chocolate rain pmq

I squished another panda at the Chocolate Rain studio and store in PMQ.

kawaii stores hong kong

As you’ve seen in my other travel guides to Hong Kong, “kawaii” cute design is big here. Chocolate Rain’s original mascots are on every imaginable piece of merchandise: toys, stationery, clothing, home goods.

cute toy store

The gallery space is all about interaction. Customers can take lessons on sewing, painting, doll-making, and more. The restaurant Eat & Play encourages fun with food, through cooking classes.

pmq artist design studios

How cool to see founder and designer, Prudence, painting designs right at the table.

sleepy bear statue

Chocolate Rain and I are currently taking part in a hotel decoration project in Hong Kong. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements, and maybe you can join us for the opening next year.

lotus necklace

PMQ’s artists work in different mediums, from bamboo to glass. Melissa got this unique lotus necklace in a Japanese ceramic studio.

rubber cat purses

If only I could show you photos from inside each store! I hope these visuals give you a sense of the fun, high-quality designs that you can find at PMQ.

aberdeen street social restaurant

The art hub is also home to several creative new restaurants. My friends and I were invited to brunch at Aberdeen Street Social. In the words of John Skeleton, “It’s the perfect place to have a relaxed meal, and take a break from the fast pace of Hong Kong city life.”

Jason Atherton restaurant hong kong

This is the latest venture of Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton, a protege of Gordon Ramsay. The restaurant concept encourages socialization, hence the name.

pmq restaurants, aberdeen st social

Two huge floors with outdoor terraces, set in a green garden — unheard of, in Hong Kong!

fresh pressed juices hong kong

We started with a trifecta of fresh fruit and vegetable juices.

lobster egg benedict

Atherton’s modern British cuisine takes the stuffiness out of fine dining. His brunch menu is a home-run of favorites, including the lobster benedict above.

avocado toast trend

John praises the “simple fare like the avocado on toast with poached eggs, to the amazing flatbreads featuring ingredients such as London cured smoked salmon, Iberico ham, and king oyster mushrooms.”

papadum unique cocktails

Save room for the house-made pastries, like the Sweet Social Cheesecake and Matcha Mascarpone (my personal favorite). And you can’t leave without trying at least one creative cocktail. I enjoyed the Indian-flavored cocktail with a papadum (above), and “What The Doctor Ordered,” served with a pill jar and prescription. 

hong kong brunch restaurants

I also ate at PMQ’s Chinese restaurant, Sohofama – here’s my review.

It’s obvious why PMQ is one of my favorite places to visit in Hong Kong. I’ll be back in HK soon for a new project and video… stay tuned for more!


Taichung Rainbow Village: crazy, colorful painted houses in Taiwan!

taichung rainbow village art

As a travel writer, I do my best to seek out obscure and offbeat places. For this reason, I went out of my way to visit Taichung’s Rainbow Village with my friend Boris Tsai. The photos say it all: this attraction is a total LSD trip!

taiwan painted house

The “Rainbow Family Village” consists of several old buildings and paths, with every surface coated in vivid, primitive strokes.

What’s the story behind these colorful paintings? Who made them, and what drugs was this person on? Let’s find out.

rainbow village, taichung taiwan

I was staying in Taipei, at the Humble House hotel (remember my photoshoot here?). Taichung is another major city, located about two hours south.

rainbow painting wall mural

To get here, I recommend either driving (as we did), or taking a train and then a taxi. Taichung is rather spread out, and public transportation isn’t conveniently located near the Rainbow Village.

boris tsai, 蔡伯璽

The directions are a little tricky. If you’re in a taxi, show your driver the address in Chinese (written below), and have him plug it into the GPS.

Rainbow Family Village: Lane 56, Chun’an Road, Taichung, Taiwan
台中彩虹眷村: 台中市南屯區春安里

taichung tourist attraction

This tourist attraction is small, and it won’t take you more than 15-30 minutes to explore it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to come here, but if you’re already in Taichung, it’s an opportunity to see weird and wonderful local art.

rainbow village murals

Boris and I were perplexed by these figures — human, animal and supernatural — surrounded by swirls of color. What a distinct style: modern meets primitive, with a touch of Taiwanese tradition.

weird travel attractions

This scary strawberry-person holds pamphlets by the door. On the floor, the Chinese characters say “peace and good luck.”

蔡伯璽, boris tsai

The walls are a superb backdrop for modeling. We were here to shoot images for Hong Kong Express Airways magazine, where I have a regular column.

Boris wears Rick Owens wool pants with drawstring, a Rick Owens tank top, and Rick Owens high top shoes.


I’m wearing Camper sandals, and a sheer white flowing top from Show Me Your MuMu. They also make a blue-white tunic and watercolor flowers cover-up.

colorful chinese cat painting

The characters ranged from old people to panda bears. Doesn’t this little guy look like my Scottish Fold cat?

scottish fold cat small ears

They have the same short legs, tiny ears and round body.

rainbow colorful painted houses

You’ll never guess who is responsible for this bizarre art… a 91 year old grandfather! Grandpa Huang was born in Hong Kong, and lived in these dilapidated buildings that were initially built for WWII veterans. He had time to kill, so he bought paint with his pension, and started to transform the old walls into rainbow murals.

taiwanese art, taichung

Grandpa Huang is a self-taught artist who painted out of passion — he wanted to inject color into this worn-down neighborhood. Before long, students at a nearby university discovered the ever-expanding Rainbow Village. They took pictures of his works, posted them online, and they went viral.

experimental chinese art

Today, this little settlement is one of Taichung’s most popular tourist attractions. People come here to read the positive messages on the walls, and pose with the spirited paintings.

crazy art murals

The Taiwanese government had originally planned to demolish the Rainbow Village. However, locals started a petition, and the area is now preserved (hopefully for the long run).

taiwan tourism, taichung

We saw a small souvenir stand where you can buy drinks and Popsicles, and small souvenirs. It’s an easy way to support the Rainbow Village and its aged caretaker.

bizarre creepy art

Sweet and slightly demented: that’s my kind of place!


The “acid trip” feeling of the Rainbow Village inspired us to get a little crazy with our poses.

taiwan good luck souvenirs

Visitors write wishes on these notes, and hang them along with seashells on the windows.

taiwanese male model

My wish to visit Taiwan and reunite with my friend certainly came true!

rainbow family village taichung

Pretending to be the Chiefs of the Rainbow Village.

weird crazy strange asia attractions landmarks

All photography by Jacqueline Kwok of noircorner, and Ken Yuen.

crazy tourist attractions

We didn’t see Grandpa Huang that day, but he still touches up the paintings daily. Children love to see his works in progress.

asia weird art travel

Come make a wish at the Taichung Rainbow Family Village. The nearby Dawncake (a gifts and snacks building, featuring Miyahara tea-flavored ice cream) and Taichung Night Market are also fun to include in a day-trip.

taichung attractions

And you can’t leave without taking a funny photo with the cut-outs!

Are you intrigued by the Rainbow Village? Do you seek out local oddities when you travel, like I do?

hong kong magazine model, modeling

I wrote about this funny Asian attraction, and many more, in my travel column “Go Go Goth.” It’s published in Chinese, in every issue of UO (the in-flight magazine of Hong Kong Express Airways). Above are scans…

fashion blogger photography locations

… and you can always see on-the-go snaps from my travels on my @lacarmina InstagramI’ll be back in Asia soon, and you’ll be able to see what mischief I’m making!


Modern, hidden cat litterbox: Poopoopeedo by SinDesign! Japan cat cafes interior design, pet furniture.

designer cat litter box

We’re going back to my usual travel videos & stories after this post — but first, I wanted to share with you Part II of the Maohaus Project!

My Scottish Fold cat wonders… “What is this green eggy-thing?” Could it be an avantgarde sculpture? An alien pod?

cat play pod litter

Surprise: it’s a Poopoopeedo by SinDesign! Believe it or not, this beautiful design object doubles as a cat litterbox. 

Poopoopeedo by sindesign

Perhaps you recall my first post about the Maohaus, where I described our goal of decorating an apartment beautifully, while accommodating the needs of my cat. One of the biggest challenges: what do do about Basil’s litter box? Regular ones are an eyesore, and hard to hide.

modern cat litterbox

French company SinDesign solved this problem with the Poo Poo Pee Do. I’m impressed by how they combined beauty and functionality — such as a decorative paw-print hole, which doubles as a grip / handle. As you can see, the hole is big enough for “plus sized” kitties!

maison de toilette pour chats

Basil Farrow feels right at home in this well-constructed pod. No sharp edges, and there are seven grip points that hold the top and bottom together securely.

cat interior design furniture

If it weren’t for the tiger-tail, a visitor would think that this is a mod sculpture! The enclosed pod lets Basil Farrow do his business in private, and also keeps the cat litter from coming out.

hidden cat litter box

Surprise, a cat is hatched! The Poopoopeedoo comes in seven different colors, so you can match it to your interior design. (We have the green one; SinDesign also makes red, black, white, orange, pink, blue.)

airport tag travel pillows

Isn’t this a perfect match for our lime-green color scheme? (See more photos of our Maohaus bedroom).

Poo poo pee do sin design

These two pieces come apart. The litterbox size is perfectly tailored to cats, and the round shape is a nice change from the usual square.

hiding cat litterbox

Functional, practical and durable — yet it integrates right into our apartment. The material is 3mm thick ABS, which is far more solid than a regular plastic litterbox.

cat in litterbox

The cover also helps to keep smells at bay. I have to say, this is the coolest litterbox I’ve ever seen.

scottish fold cat jumping in air

Hop! We love that the luxury litter-box is eco-friendly too. The interior is smooth, easy to wash, and resistant to cat urine.

designer cat litter scoop

Each Poopoopeedo comes with a matching scoop, which attaches under the lid for easy storage. It also comes with two anti-smell tablets that you can clip in.

luxury cat playground box

What more is there to say? This designer litterbox is “Maohaus” cat-interior design at its finest.

I know you want one too… SinDesign’s PooPooPeeDo is available for order online.

big cat yawning gate japan

As I mentioned in the first post about my apartment, my Maohaus concept is inspired by the creative interior decorations of Japanese cat cafes. To show you what I mean, let me share some never-seen photos from my Tokyo archives.

This giant, yawning gate welcomed me to the big cat “petting zoo” in Odaiba. 

キャッツリビン cat cafe

Located in Odaiba, “Cats Livin” later became “Nyanda Cat Cafe,” and then closed. (But don’t worry about missing out — there are still tons of cat cafes all over Japan, and now in USA).

japan cat cafe rule

Cat’s Livin designed the space with both the cat and visitor’s enjoyment in mind. At the entrance, an American Curl sits by the rule sheet. (“Please spray it on the hand several times before it feels after cat.”)

Keep reading for more photos from this Tokyo cat cafe, including a life-size cat-person… 
More here!

Our Cat-Friendly Bedroom Design! Essentia organic memory foam mattress, Allem Studio bedding, Airportag pillows.

la carmina room decor, bedroom design

Introducing… the Maohaus! Basil and I moved to a new apartment, which presented the perfect opportunity for a bedroom makeover.

I wanted our shared space to be as feline-friendly as possible, without looking like a crazy cat lady’s home. In other words, the Maohaus had to balance form and function.

light green bedsheets, bed covers

How did we do this? With cat-friendly colors, natural materials, and multifunctional objects that harmonize into a cheerful design. I balanced my preferences with my cat’s, taking into account factors like his ability to see certain colors.

I’m pleased to finally unveil my new sleeping-space! Featuring a natural memory foam mattress from Essentia, colorful bed sheets from Allem Studio

airport tag travel pillows

… and these awesome Airportag travel pillows. Inspired? Intrigued? Then read on, and I’ll show you how it all came together.

designer pattern duvet covers

I wanted to create a “Maohaus” after seeing how Japanese cat cafes design a living environment that is aesthetically pleasing to humans, yet safe and enjoyable for felines.

In other words, you can make a wonderful space for your cats without Garfield bedsheets, hot pink pet beds and ugly carpeted climbing trees.

designer cat bed

The team at Essentia mattresses loved our idea from the start, and just two weeks after we spoke, our bed arrived. Essentia provided us with “white gloves” service, meaning the deliverymen carried everything to our apartment, unrolled the mattress and set it all up. (Although Basil tried to help.)

essentia memory foam mattress

Basil Farrow knows this is a very special bed… I did my research, and found that Essentia makes the highest-performance and healthiest mattress out there. The family-run company is the only one in the world to make mattresses with natural, organic memory foam. (We put it on a boxspring to give it some height.)

cat walking on bed

Basil walked all around the bed. Looks like his paws are happy with the two inches of natural memory foam!

Our mattress is the Classic 8 Queen size, but Essentia has a variety of mattresses with different sizes, firmness, performance levels and prices.

organic essentia mattress

Look at how the surface gently cradles his big feet! In the world of mattresses, memory foam is considered the best you can get. The technology relieves pressure points and contours the body as you sleep.

cat sitting on bed corner

I knew Essentia was the perfect choice for the Maohaus. I want Basil to live in a space with non-toxic, natural materials. This mattress is made with materials like rubber tree sap, plant extracts, and certified organic cotton.

maohaus, cat designer home

The surface is wrapped in a removable 100% organic cotton fabric, with Essentia’s signature stripe. The color even matches my cat’s fur!

myessentia natural organic foam mattress

I confess I love to sleep, and at times, I’ve stayed in dream-land for 12 hours. And cats are notorious for spending more than half the day asleep.

best memory foam mattress

That’s why it was important for me to get a high-end performance bed, like Essentia’s Classic 8. Memory foam beds are an investment, but they’ll last well over a decade. Getting a good rest is important for so many reasons, and sleeping on this bed will benefit my health (and Basil’s!).

essentia classic 8 queen mattress

Now that we’ve got our bed, it’s time to decorate. I want my room to feel modern, artistic and minimal. What I wear is different from how I want my bedroom to look — so no cat-face prints, dark colors, chains or ruffles.

allem studio pillow case covers

Allem Studio to the rescue! Basil’s clone looks over the chic bedding they sent us, tied with organic cotton and placed in a custom, matching case.

Basil tip-toes over Allem Studio’s Tara duvet cover and Tara lime pillow cases.

Eco-friendly, long-lasting materials are of importance to me. These 100% cotton sheets create a calm, fresh environment, which I think delights both humans and cats.

green and white duvet cover

As I mentioned before, I don’t want to live in Dracula’s Lair. I love Gothic style and culture, but I feel best living and working in a light, Zen-like environment.

I can’t ask Basil what his favorite color is, but I can take a good guess. Cats can only see limited colors of the rainbow: violets, blues, greens. That’s why I stuck to this lime scheme.

allem studio artisan bed sheets

If you prefer a different color, Allem Studio has other modern patterned bedding (and are releasing new collections soon). On their website, you can also pick up shams, throws, outdoor pillows and more home decor.

cool luxury hand printed bedding

The duvet cover comes in King and Queen, and is reversible (there are big, grey flowers on the other side). You can’t find a softer fabric: 100% high quality cotton, and hand screen-printed.

fashion blogger bedroom tour

I looked around at a lot of bedding, and had a hard time finding something that felt “me.” Allem Studio’s designs connected with me — they’re modern, global, vivid, joyful. As you can see, our bedroom is pretty small and minimal, so this splash of leafy-lime makes a big impact.

departures travel themed pillows

Finally, I wanted to add some decorative accents that reflect my passions and personality — particularly my love of travel. Enter AirporTag, purveyors of flight-inspired interior decor. 

airportag home decor pillows

How cool are my puffy pillows? They say “Departures,” and pay tribute to the old revolving flight boards, which flip around to indicate if a plane is “Boarding” or “On Time.”

flight code pillows airportag

Airportag sells the niftiest gifts for travelers: pillows, posters, mugs, t-shirts and more… decorated with airport city codes! You can show your love for JFK (New York City), CDG (Paris), NRT (Tokyo), and every other major flight hub. I spent over an hour browsing through Airport Tag’s website - it was hard to choose!

essentia ergonomic pillows

Essentia sent us two more memory foam accessories: an Ergonomic Pillow (which gives S-shaped neck support) and a Comfort Pillow. If I go without a proper pillow, I wind up with a headache.

memory foam organic pillow

A lion is on the prowl! I covered the mattress with Essentia’s unbelievably soft sateen cotton organic bed sheets. Basil curled up and fell asleep immediately.

scottish fold cat looking out window

The little lion surveys his territory. Essentia spoiled him with one last gift…

essentia kingston pet bed

… a memory foam pet bed! Both cats and dogs can relax on the Kingston, which comes in different sizes.

luxury memory foam dog pet bed

This pet bed is designed for breathability and to relieve pressure. In addition, it looks great in our apartment. What a difference from the usual gaudy, badly-made beds that you find in pet stores.

designer pet beds, cat bed

At first glance, visitors might not even realize this is a cat product, since it integrates seamlessly into the interior design. That’s the goal of the Maohaus. 

most luxurious support mattress

We feel good about supporting Essentia since their business is family-run, and their mattresses are made in Canada (just outside Montreal).

memory foam essentia store

Essentia has store locations all over the US and Canada, so you can visit and try their mattresses for yourself.

la carmina apartment interior design

It’s easy to order the pet cushion and more from their site. (Isn’t Basil lucky, having two memory foam beds?)

travel gifts home goods

I hope you enjoyed my new bedroom tour! Thanks to all our partners, for helping us make the Maohaus concept a reality.

PS – the word “Maohaus” is a combination of “mao” (which means “cat” in Chinese) and “haus” (the German word for “house”). It’s also a tribute to the Bauhaus movement.

maohaus cat bed decoration

I have a feeling Basil and I are going to spend a lot of time in here…

cat walking on window ledge

We still have a lot of decorating to do, and I can’t wait to show you the rest of the apartment. Basil Farrow is a fan of the view out the window.

scottish fold cat walking

Now that’s a catwalk. Coming up next, I’ll show you more ways that you can design a beautiful space for yourself and your kitty. 

japanese cat cafe cats bed

If you’re feeling inspired to do a bedroom makeover, you can get started with Allem Studio bedding, Airportag accessories and Essentia Mattresses.

What do you think of our Maohaus so far? How did you decorate your own room?