Rugs and Carpets

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.

Teenage Wasteland…Bringing Life to Bridget’s Bedroom

Right now I am working on a really fun project, quite different from my usual style. It is a bedroom for a teenager with a strong sense of what she likes without knowing how to make it get that way. Rather than giving me a list of furniture or a design style, her inspiration photos, sourced by her on Tumblr, communicate emotion and personality – a distinct mood. Take a look….

What do these all have in common? A dreamy feel. Obviously little white sparkle lights, perhaps even with tiny lanterns are an absolute given, as is a collage wall of photos, ephemera and other goodies.  She is already at work collecting pictures and images she likes. The de-riguer Apple lap top which is a requirement for high school she already has. What these photos also have in common is what they don’t have, i.e. there is no significant or important furniture or art, which bodes well for the budget. On the other hand, the room needs to be more than just some sparkly white lights. It needs to be functional and practical and perhaps able to mature along with its owner.

The room itself is absolute Tokyo standard – small, with ugly off-white wallpaper and carpet and no interesting architectural features. Tracy the bear has to stay.

Her other dictates are also quite clear:

She loves bright pink.

She doesn’t like “Asian”.

And her mom’s dictates are clear too:

She needs the room to grow with her.

This needs to be done on a budget.

My additional inspiration photos for desk and orderly display include quite a bit of white and pink, containers for order, cute desk lamps and a mid-century modern chair. (From here, here, and here.)

Our resources here in Tokyo are limited, particularly on a budget. I know readers in the US and elsewhere think of Japan as a design mecca, but when it comes to reasonably sized furniture (as in not miniature) at reasonable prices, the selection here is very small. We have IKEA, shrine sales for an occasional find, IKEA, antique stores, IKEA, some sweet boutiques and mail order for accessories, and IKEA. We can’t paint or change anything and arguably can’t even put holes in the wall.

That she doesn’t love “Asian” can’t really go over well as that is one of our only pools of choice. I think it requires a bit of trickery – choosing things Japanese that she doesn’t consciously read as Japanese. For instance, one of the key pieces in the design is this hot pink shibori silk kimono obi for a window valence bought at a shrine sale. Quintessentially Japanese, but to her it reads as funky tie-dye. It has her pink and a soft accent of turquoise, which we will also be using.


While an absolutely amazing resource, we don’t mean for the space to end up looking like one of the little sample rooms at the store. That being said, items from IKEA will be the backbone of the design, in particular this black and white Stockholm Rand dhurrie rug.

We have pulled this living room photo as a working tool. The black and white rug grounds the pink and makes it more sophisticated and eclectic. It also allows for later changes and updates. My theory on these Rand rugs is that we should all buy one and put it away. Some day soon IKEA will stop making them and we will all be reminiscing about them for years.

The brand new issue of Lonny also had a perfect inspiration space for this project. Here the striped rug is actually a zig zag, but it has just the kind of bedding mix we want to put together – white background and pink and turquoise accents. Note the mid-century chair here too. (You need to look left and right here as it is the same room in this screen shot.)

For bedding ideas we can turn to the internet, especially since the sizes of local linens doesn’t match the US standard sizes, and order things to be sent to a friend’s house in the USA and shipped here. We will stop into some cute local design stores here that aren’t a fortune too, like Franc Franc and Afternoon Tea, for throw pillows and other accessories like desk lamps and organizers.

I am still on the hunt for the perfect duvet cover, but this Nile cover from West Elm on big sale for $24.99 might do. I’d really rather find something more like the Roberta Roller Rabbit duvet in the Lonny photo above.

We are all loving this long accent bolster from Pine Cone Hill.

Perhaps a splurge on a special elephant pillow from John Robshaw or Jonathan Adler. The choice depends on which way we swing the mood.

And we definitely plan to add some turquoise with either a quilt like these – the Amanda or Big Cata from Roberta Roller Rabbit

…or a little turquoise trellis, quatrefoil or zig zag in a pillow or two, like this one from Urban Outfitters.

The desk and chair combo needs a little modern sleekness mixed with vintage style. Although the room could use a little brown wood to weight it and keep it from being too child-like, we’d take Carla Fahden‘s exact set-up as-is – vintage white wicker desk with hot pink bentwood chair and turquoise peanut lamp. The lamp is on sale at Pier One right now, so maybe we can order it along with the little white string lights and add it to our box coming from the US.

We are likely to look for a good mid-century desk that could travel with her to her adult life, like this one via Houzz. And I really continue to think the room needs some wood to warm it up…

There are plenty of vintage bentwood chairs at the shrine sales if we want to go that direction, whether in wood or painted pink!

Here’s a mid-century desk + plastic Eames type chair from a great Etsy shop – too bad they can’t ship to Japan.

We could use the IKEA Snille in white (or pink!) and shop Meguro-dori for a desk to get the look above…

We are planning on hunting up the more unique accessories at shrine sales in the coming weeks. I’ll let you know how this develops and hope to have a full reveal quite soon – teenage clients are very impatient!

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