Rugs and Carpets

Eastern Dreams…Serdar Gülgün’s Istanbul Jewel

I don’t know what is different about this arrival and re-entry to the US, but somehow I can’t wrap my head around being here. Only seven hours of jet lag should be better than the usual thirteen, but it hasn’t been and that’s the least of my troubles. Perhaps its the pressing and unfinished business commitments back in Doha, or perhaps its the breakdown and subsequent immediate ticketing of my car as I entered the five boroughs? Maybe the tearing of my new (and very cute) dress by a careless woman on the subway or the breaking of a molar while eating some pretzels!?! Whatever it may be, my inconveniences, while actually quite small, have kept me from fully entering the mix here. On that note, I picked up the summer issue of Town & Country and was immediately transported back east by the opulent Turkish fantasy created by Serdar Gülgün in his Istanbul home, Macar Feyzullah Pasha – a home with a name like that should in itself prepare you for what is about to come! I’ve been making it a habit lately, being entranced by these extraordinary renovations and recreations, this one being a hunting pavilion built for an exiled Hungarian pasha in the 1850s. Lovingly restored by Gülgün, an interior designer, author and Ottoman art expert, the house features myriads of finds from decades of exploring Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. The massive antique Oushak sets the tone for the carpets to come while the light filtering in from all sides makes the space glow like a jewel box. Be sure to click the photos for large detailed versions.

T & C Istanbul entry

Proving yet again that there is nowhere that doesn’t benefit from a dose of blue and white porcelain, this entry vignette with its antique red Chinese tables, porcelain ginger jars, inlaid mirror and Islamic ceramic medallions from the Grand Bazaar is the kind of mix that references centuries of trade routes.

T & C Istanbul entry detail blue and white porcelain

Like the Lebanese houses I have written about before, the rooms open directly off of the central entry. Here the dining room is laid with a vintage suzani for a tablecloth.

T & C Istanbul dining room

The second floor is laid out in the form of a Byzantine cross, giving 360 degree views all around. The layering continues, but my eye is drawn to the pair of slipper chairs upholstered in a myriad of fabrics and ringed with bullion fringe, much like the ones I always love in Muriel Brandolini’s projects. I also spy a massive inlaid armoire (one of a pair actually!) in a study that contains Gülgün’s collection of antique embroideries and textiles. Can you imagine? While soaking up the rest of the details – carpets, calligraphies and accessories – be sure to note the delicate domed ceiling.

T & C Istanbul upstairs

A detail shot of the back study reveals that color combination I am loving lately, with lavender, yellow, light blue and grey/beige playing off with wood tones and mirrors. This makes my bedroom updates feel tame by comparison. And that Iznik pitcher has me swooning and simultaneously hoping in my earthquake sensitive way that it is sticky tacked to the pedestal.

T & C Istanbul LR detail

The global mix is evident again here in a series of bedroom chambers hung with Chinese ancestor portraits.

T & C Istanbul bedroom

The Belvedere is a private guesthouse house that sits above the main house with incredible views out over the city. An unexpected and bold color combination works in the light suffused space.

T & C Istanbul Belvedere

On my must buy list now is Gülgün’s and Laziz Hamani’s book, The Grand BazaarI haven’t been to Istanbul since my honeymoon, and it is only a four and a half hour flight from Doha, so I am thinking it needs to be revisited this fall.

The Grand Bazaar via Assouline

For more details and photos, see the entire article by Whitney Robinson, photographed so beautifully by James Merrell over at Town & Country. For a video walk through and interview with Gülgün (in French), take a look at Maisons d’architectes. And I’m off to pick up my car from the mechanic and allow myself to get absorbed back into my America life…at least for a while.

Related Posts:
Living Lavender Dreams
Trifore…Magical Triple Windows in Lebanese Houses
Inlay Series
Carnation Fixation…Ottoman Inspired Textiles
Carnation Fixation…Iznik Pottery

Dining Room Decision Made…Oval Saarinen Tulip Table


So I didn’t have a chance to post properly on this before our winter holiday trip but the Saarinen table was delivered just hours before we left for the airport. Yay! You can see that I went off to vacation extremely happy as the table looks even more amazing in the space than I had hoped!

For those of you just tuning in, earlier this fall I posted a three-part series (here, here and here) on trying to decide what to choose for our dining room. Years in small homes in NYC and Tokyo meant that we never really had space for a proper dining room set up. After writing about the Saarinen table as option 2, a dear friend living in Malaysia wrote to say that she had one and didn’t need it anymore as she was moving back to an already furnished home in the US! Since the table is not available here in Doha we looked into shipping and it really wasn’t an unreasonable proposition for a table this fabulous. Six weeks or so later, it arrived.

I always planned to do a mix of chairs as I find a matched set around the oval table to feel very heavy and dull (peek in Google images and you’ll agree). Mid-century chairs are one of my favorite looks but there are none to be had here. On the other hand, a curvy French chair, like this bergère, also sets off the lines of the table perfectly.

lilly bunn oval saarinen tulip weinrib ikat french bergere

French chairs look great mixed with more modern ones too.

tulip table french chairs

Remember those French chairs I got for free? That story still needs to be told but when I got them I knew they would be perfect for the table – it was just a matter of reupholstery. While I am still considering patterned fabrics, the light backgrounds on those seem like they might disappear against all that white and pale gray. I’ve also been weighing up using a solid, in particular a strong clear green to pick up the color from the Japanese screen at the other end of the room.

French chair with green fabric

To balance out the more serious formality of those (and perhaps because I just don’t have many other choices here) we are going with 4 IKEA Tobias Chairs to round out the seating. Using a clear lucite chair with the tulip table is common as it lets the lines of the table shine through with less leg clutter. Typically people use a Louis-style Ghost chair but I have seen only a single one for sale here and I never actually find them that comfortable to sit in. The Tobias is very comfy, simple and so inexpensive that they can serve as placeholders until I find something else.

tobias-chair IKEA

I’ve been assuming the addition of a Madeline Weinrib dhurrie underneath for some time. I’m thinking Mandala in Platinum or Steel, but more likely the former as I love the striations in the weave.

Screenshot 2014-01-11 04.44.49

The fun part is layering in the unusual accessories. The long stored Chinese embroidered bed valence is coming out for the window treatment.

instagram Chinese embroidered bed valence

A pair of Italian gilt sconces that I scooped up antiquing in New Jersey this summer will be the new family coat of arms.

Italian gilt sconce

A gallery wall of favorite art including this etching by Shinji ANDO as well as my many shrine sale finds will grace the wall above the Empire dresser, which funnily enough is the first real piece of antique furniture I ever bought as a young adult. It has followed us from home to home, country to country and is still one of my favorites.


And a massive gorgeous painting by Doha based artist Pip Hoy will be the centerpiece of the opposite wall.

Sway Pip Hoy

So not to get ahead of myself, but here’s a sneak peek of progress as I publish…

dining room progress

Not finished with all the art hanging, but as you can see, I’ve been a busy beaver since we got back.

Related Posts:
Dining Room Option One…Inspiration from Isabel Lopez-Quesada
Dining Room Option Two…Inspiration from Angie Hranowsky
Dining Room Option Three…Inspiration from T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings

Image credits: All photos via my Instagram feed or as linked with the exception of #2. Lilly Bunn, #3. credit unknown, photo via The Green Room Interiors.

A Global Crossroads…the Flea Market at Old Jaffa

flea market old jaffa

No vacation or trip is complete for me without finding time to hunt down an antiques market or neighborhood. Even with the rampant globalization which has started to blur trade borders for even the old junk of the world, somehow each city maintains its own unique vibe when it comes to vintage. Tel Aviv was not highlighted in my post the other day as it is less a treasure trove of ancient history and more a city that feels like New York met Miami met Europe hanging out in the Middle East. And while we wanted to shop and eat at every cafe and boutique that lined the streets, we simply didn’t have the time. Instead, we prioritized Old Jaffa, perched at the southern end of town, in no small reason because of its famous flea market, Shuk HaPishpushim.

Directly next to the unmistakable clock tower and lying below the more picturesque Old City, the flea market has supposedly been in operation in this spot for over 100 years. It it quite easy to believe that to be true. Selling things from every corner of the world, from carpets and textiles (of which they had wonderful ones although I forgot to photograph them) pottery, metals, paintings, old hardware and devices, ephemera, bric-a-brac, junk and all kinds of furniture, you can imagine the ancient port being a center for trade. And in that sense the market at Old Jaffa and its big sister city Tel Aviv had something in common, a real international sensibility.

The open outdoor stalls of the flea market were in many ways an example of flea markets at their worst. There was a great deal of absolute garbage, literally things that looked and sometimes smelled as if they had been pulled from trash bins. But in between lurked some treasure, from old aluminum and enamel cookware to brass ewers and pepper grinders. Some stacks of old encaustic tiles caught my eye and I heard that unusual tiles are a fairly common find here.

encaustic tiles

My favorite find was a bin of old printing rollers, perhaps for wallpaper or fabric, I wasn’t quite sure. They were short ones or I might have bought the whole shebang to turn into lamps.


Much more impressive than the open air market was the ring of surrounding shops and more permanent covered arcades. I was amazed by the quality and variety of furnishings and objects that were available as well as artisanal jewelry, clothing and home accessories. I was very busy thinking about what I wanted and less about what a post might need so I don’t have as many personal photos that give a feel for the hustle and bustle of the place. But in addition to loads of regional items, like the giant Arabic brass and copper trays my friend almost bought until she realized they were too large and heavy to fit in her duffel, there was a treasure trove of international design.

From classic mid-century modern…

mid century modern

…to trendy rough luxe (although this is clearly all new). Does anyone else think this screams Restoration Hardware?

Restoration Hardware

My favorite shop Nekudotchen was a cornucopia of styles and periods and I would have liked to do real damage in there. They had shelves loaded with antique bottles and industrial lighting.


This tiny mint green bench would be ideal in my entryway at the beach house. I am having a fetish for benches these days, although this one has about a quarter of the size of the ones I have ordered here in Qatar.

mint green bench

And speaking of soft Scandinavian painted pieces I was desperate for this long low sideboard tucked away upstairs. It needed a wee bit of TLC but would make such a lovely TV console. The reeded glass and those kinda quatrefoil-like cutouts were darling.

gray scandinavian sideboard

Chandeliers were in no short supply – and you knew I’d be getting around to mentioning them. This antique crystal one had a really unusual shape with horizontal branched arms. There were even a few other shops lined two floors to the rafters with fixtures.

crystal chandelier

The big find of the day for me was this lavender (!) Murano glass chandelier in a small mixed shop. It was one of those have to have it moments even though I have absolutely nowhere to hang it. I played pantomime with the owner, bargaining away, but honestly the price was good from the get go. We talked about breaking down the pieces and wrapping it tightly and carrying it on with us. The big problem was that I knew we had our time banging around in open jeeps in Jordan ahead of us. Caution and common sense won out and I left it behind, although I am still carrying the shop owners card around with me.

lavender murano glass chandelier

After all, he said he could ship it…

The flea market seems to be open every day but Saturday and closes earlier on Friday. We also strolled the wonderfully restored upper city which is full of art galleries and creative boutiques and dotted around the area are numerous cafes and old local food hangouts.

Don’t miss Old Jaffa and be sure to save extra space in your suitcase!

Carpet Conundrum…Adding Warmth to the Tile Floor

Some hard-core procrastinating happening over here as I just can’t bear to look at another box. I’ve managed to clear away some of the detritus and have started to place our furniture. It’s very easy to move everything around because the tile floors are smooth and indestructible. When I looked at houses last spring it bummed me out that everything everywhere was tiled, but I am really loving how light they are and the glow they add to the room by being reflective in the sunlight. And let’s face it, it is also an incredible shopping opportunity for rugs!

I’m showing you the living room as it looks right now, definitely against my better judgement. It’s like showing a photo of myself, unshowered, with no make up or accessories – you know what I mean. But the basic building blocks are these, as well as a lacquer tansu (seen recently here) on the left wall that you can’t see and a second coffee table (ideally brass and glass) as yet unpurchased. I’m doing the double coffee table thing both to fill the space and because I just love the way unmatched ones look together. Lots of art to go up on that blank wall and longtime readers will recognize many shrine sale goodies in this photo already taking on a different feel and a new life.


Originally I was just going to have my sweet husband order big squares of bound jute or sisal for the living room, dining room and TV room to cover almost all of the tile before we even got here. In the TV room I have two antique carpets to lay down over it, a kilim and a Khotan, but nothing for the other two rooms. I’m glad he didn’t get to it because I have been having second thoughts and all kinds of other rug ideas, particularly for the living room.

Over the summer I decided a great idea might just be to buy a big bound square of lavender carpet – certainly a cheap and easy choice – much like the one in Vanessa Bruno’s Paris loft below. Instead of living lavender dreams with wall color, I could have it on the floor, a lovely mix with the warm gray walls. But as I have been pulling things out here all week, there is starting to be too much color on everything else to want that much on the floor. The pink chairs had been hidden under slip covers and it is great to see them out in the light again. Sigh, but I do love this space, so perhaps its an idea for the girls’ bedrooms.

vanessa-bruno- lavender rug via remodelista

Another option that would be very appropriate is a Madeline Weinrib dhurrie, whether it be a Brooke or a Mandala or a less used pattern like the Wes featured below in an Ashli Mizell design. For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to show photos, you all know what I am talking about anyway or click the links to scroll her carpets. Madeline also has a great Pinterest page with tons of unpublished projects featuring her designs – it’s well worth a browse! I’ve never really seen a room look bad with one of hers on the floor, so I am considering it, but I feel like the very flat dhurries just don’t warm up the tiles enough to use in the living space. I don’t think I want that much of a dominant color either, for the same reason I nixed the lavender carpet. I do think one might be ideal under the dining table, but that’s for discussion some other time.

Weinrib Wes Cotton Carpet Ashli Mizell

If I want to go neutral but graphic in the living room we could use black and white stripes, either Madeline Weinrib’s Buche or the easy inexpensive option would be an IKEA Stockholm, especially as IKEA just opened here this spring (a little bit of copy cat chic going on there too). The large size is just big enough for the space. But somehow it feels too bold and graphic and like a dhurrie, not quite warm enough. Especially since this Nate Berkus room was published, I feel like it is everywhere too!

Nate Berkus ED black white stripe weinrib pc Pieter Estersohn

I am utterly obsessed with the rug in Susan Hable Smith‘s living room (and the entire room for good measure) but it seems to be a custom one-off made for her by Elson & Co. based on one of her fabric designs. Maybe she is bored of it by now ands wants to sell it to me?

Susan Hable Smith ED 0513 pc Richard Powers

That rug leads me right back to Ms. Weinrib, who tends to decorate not so much with her own dhurries, but often with vintage Moroccan Beni Ourain rugs. They have the same simple colors and graphic quality as the rug above but with the added comfort and texture of the thick wool pile. Made by the Berber tribes in the Atlas regions of Morocco, they were originally used as warm bedding. Beni Ourains have been hugely trendy and desirable for a while now although their popularity in the design world reaches way back into the early 20th century. While I had always liked them, they had never been on my “must have” list as I tend to like my rugs very patinated and almost threadbare. But that shaggy warmth might be just what the tiles need! Madeline uses them at home in NYC


…and out in the Hamptons.  This room has so many of the same pieces that I have in my space. Chesterfield? Check! Octagonal Syrian style table? Check! (Hidden between the pink slipper chairs)

Weinrib Beni Ourain Chesterfield Moroccan table

Funky brass stool? Check! Silk ikat? Check! No horns though, although I do spy some thread spools in my photo.

Beni Ourain Weinrib Hamptons Cottages and Garedens

She even has a Chinese “antique” cabinet and some porcelain garden stools, East Asian mixes so well with Moroccan. For more of this great house, check out Hamptons Cottages & Gardens.

Weinrib Beni Ourain Chines Antique garden stool

Yet another Asian meets eclectic interior from Ballard & Malson features a Beni Ourain. Dark lacquer cabinet? Check! (The aforementioned hidden tansu).

Ballard & Malson LR Traditional Home

Pretty pastel chair? Check! The Scandinavians just have such a way with pale colors!

beni ourain via seventeen doors

Trunk for a coffee table? Check! Jenny Wolf does it here in this NYC loft. I wonder what Mr. Yamamoto would make of me using his trunk as a coffee table?

jenny wolf via cococozy beni ourain

I’ve spied a few promising rug shops here in Doha in my reading online but they seem to specialize in tribal pieces from Afghanistan and other eastern regions (which won’t stop me from visiting them, don’t worry!) So I’m thinking buying a Beni Ourain might just mean I need to take a trip to Morocco. Anyone interested?

Related Posts:
A Clean Slate and a Lot of Volume
It’s a Crapshoot…Picking Paint Colors Long Distance
Ja Mata Japan…Hello New Beginnings
Timeworn Rugs in Kitchens and Baths
Preferring Patina Over Perfection…Chipped Porcelain, Threadbare Rugs and Old World Glamour at Tissus Tartares

Chicago Project…Inspiration Photos for the Office Guest Room

Those of you who know me a long time know I’ve been pitching for years that you should always save inspiration photos (and have the bulging tear sheet folders to prove it). These days it is so easy – Pinterest being the key tool – that everyone knows what their dream bedroom/bathroom/renovation/house looks like. As a result, it has become so easy to work with people long distance in that ideas for spaces can be communicated visually almost instantly.

Case in point. Claiborne Swanson Frank’s study was one of those most pinned rooms from Elle Decor back in 2011. I think it was the combination of affordable mass market items (like the Ballard Louis Daybed), the absolute “it piece” (Madeline Weinrib’s Indigo Brooke rug) and the fresh mix of accessories combined with the effective and functional use of a small space that made this room popular. Who doesn’t need a space like this, especially when it is so recreateable?

Claiborne-swanson-FRAN ED11-2011-06 pc Simon Watson

In the Chicago project I’ve been working on this past year, we found just such a need. Two apartments had been combined to make one, so there is both a formal living room and a large den, but no guest room or study. The living room was long and awkwardly shaped, with a separate square area set off at one end. It was an easy decision to simply put up a wall with French doors, adding bookshelves for display on the living room side, and enclosing a study. My client adored the room above and had saved it in her inspiration photos, so we turned to it for the design. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Since then the Louis Bed has come from Ballard and the Madeline Weinrib Brooke rug is on order. The room is basically square and the desk will go opposite the daybed in the window.

Chicago study

Weinrib’s Brooke dhurrie, particularly in Indigo, has become almost ubiquitous, but I would argue that it has crossed the trend borderline to absolute classic (I can see them being avidly searched for in vintage stores 50 years from now). Among others, Emily Henderson keeps featuring them in her designs, not because she suggests it, but because everyone keeps asking for it!

Emily Henderson rachnas-house

We are shopping for a desk in glass/lucite to keep the room airy, much like in the inspiration room. One of the issues we are facing is the daybed cover and bedskirt. Swanson Frank’s has a custom cover in a Rogers & Goffigon linen, but we are trying to keep this as one of the low-budget items on our list.  We’ve scanned all the catalog/internet options, but no one seems to have anything we like. Suggestions? If you have any please let me know.

The reason to keep the cover price to a dull roar is the key to accessorizing the bed and bringing the space to life is gorgeous pillows in antique and special textiles. From previous posts you know I am obsessed with the daybed (and striped dhurrie) in Alayne Patrick’s Brooklyn apartment, which is piled with amazing pillows from her shop Layla.

We love the pillows from Turkey (and frankly everything else) in Claudia Benvenuto’s guest room. Because our space is also tight, we are thinking of some small moveable side tables. I love this bench!


Designer Karen Cole has a tight little guest space with pocket doors out onto the stair landing.  Again, I think it is the exotic textile mix that makes the room (and a little base of ticking never hurts either).

Our answer may simply be to find a reasonably priced fabric and have a custom cover made -“couture” details to dress up an off the rack piece. Then the pillow fun can begin!

Image credits: 1. Elle Decor November 2011, photo credit: Simon Watson, 2. client’s snapshot, 3. Emily Henderson, 4. Bringing Nature Home by Ngoc Minh Ngo via Style Court, 5. Elle Decor September 2012, photo credit: Joe Schmelzer, 6. Canadian House & Home March 2011, photo credit: Angus Fergusson.

« Older Entries

Tokyo Jinja

Back to top