Travel

Souvenirs of ShahJahan…Delhi and Agra in Instagrams

Taj Majal Agra India

I guess it’s not really fair to call this post ‘India in Instagrams’ as we only had a few days in New Delhi, ostensibly to “watch” our teenage daughters in a soccer tournament. While we did make it to the late afternoon games, the truth is it was an opportunity to dip our toes into the wonder that is India. Resplendent with color, in particular white, pink and green, it provided me with a jolt of energy after months here in the very beige desert. We managed to tack on a quick day trip to Agra for the Taj Mahal, because in the end, we needed to see that pearly resplendent monument itself, but I think we would all agree that it was not necessarily the highlight of our trip.

White marble was unquestionably one of the storylines throughout our days, from the incredible carved Mughal flowers in the walls of the Taj Mahal…

Mughal Flowers marble Taj mahal

…to the ongoing and surprising details at the nearby Red Fort in Agra – which is not at all just red! It seems apropos just after Valentines Day to mention one of the world’s greatest love stories – that of Shah Jahan building the Taj Mahal, over 22 years no less, as a tomb for his beloved wife. He was eventually deposed by his own son, but lived out his days confined to the Fort, with a perfect view of his masterpiece. Because Agra is not at all built up, some of the best views are from a distance, like those from the Red Fort and from the terrace of the Oberoi Hotel (more on that later).

Marble square Red Fort Agra

There were modern-day inspirations to be found everywhere, including this simplified arabesque floor pattern which I am planning to use as a model for a bathroom renovation back in Brooklyn.

Marble mosaic floor Red Fort Agra India

And speaking of marble and bathrooms, I must stop and mention one of my favorite places on the whole tour – the ladies washroom at The Imperial Hotel in New Delhi. This colonial era Art Deco masterpiece is on that list of historic hotels I have been carrying around with me and I was privileged to stay there this trip. The art collection and thousands of engravings that line the halls are worthy of a post of their own. But the ground floor loo with its bank of freestanding back-to-back sinks and mirrors takes the cake!

Imperial Hotel New Delhi Ladies Washroom Bathroom marble

We have all been told that pink is the navy blue of India and it is true. We could not stop snapping photos of the glorious pink saris everywhere, from the Sikh Temple in Delhi…

pink is the navy blue of india lady in sari

…to more subtly in Agra at the Red Fort.

Red Fort Agra Sari

Back in Delhi, we visited Humayun’s tomb which served as a model for the main building of the Taj Mahal. It was peaceful and relatively deserted, in great contrast to the aforementioned monument and therefore magical.

Humayan's Tomb New Delhi

In fact, other than the breathtaking moment when you first enter and the de rigueur perfect photo of the Taj, we often preferred the other sites for their mystery and mood.

Ladies at Humayan's Tomb New Delhi India

No trip to India is complete without shopping – and lots of it – so it is no surprise that green – the color of currency – was one of the other main hues of our visit. We hit many of the major markets including Khan market, Sundar Nagar and Santushi, along with a bicycle rickshaw ride through the streets of Old Delhi. I bought everything from Indian cottons – lots of scarves and kurtis at Anokhi and Fabindia – to carved wooden legs (custom ottomans anyone?) in the back alleys. I desperately wanted the stack of bracelets below, but you can imagine the price tag, so I contented myself with armloads of silver and a particularly delicate gold and raw sapphire necklace.  But all of that shopping was merely a distraction as I had come to India searching for one thing – Indian miniature paintings. At Sundar Nagar market, which sells bits and bobs of ‘antiques’ as well as all the lovely modern inlay furniture so popular today, I picked up a few fairly fine reproduction miniatures. In general these tend to be copies of famous original paintings done on old paper so as to give them a nice patina.

bracelets and indian miniature

In fact I had thought I might be content with my repros until we stopped in at the highlight of the visit, the home of Rohit Kaicker, also known as Gallery 29 Sunder Nagar. In all the rooms filled with spectacular artwork, this turn of the century painting of Shah Jahan himself on a background of malachite, surrounded by a border of Mughal flowers (remember the ones carved in marble at the Taj in the photo above?) screamed to come home with me from the very moment I walked in. I cannot recommend Rohit’s home gallery highly enough as prices are reasonable, his knowledge encyclopedic and seeing his home itself is worth the visit, although I guarantee you won’t leave empty-handed. I’m actually thinking Indian miniature paintings might deserve a post of their very own so let me know if that would interest you.

Indian Miniature Painting Shahjahan Taj Majal Rohit New Delhi Mughal Flowers

And for one more glimpse of amazing Mughal flowers I must share the living room off the terrace at the Oberoi Hotel in Agra. Anyone else would be sharing the view of the Taj from the window, but then I am not anybody else. I wanted to move right in here and stay, or at least try this in a project. Any takers out there?

Oberoi Hotel Agra Taj Majal Mughal Flowers

I must give a final shout out to Fiona Caulfield‘s Love India, billed as a ‘Handbook for the Luxury Vagabond’. This book was our bible, albeit a carefully annotated one by our dear friend Lisa who used to live in Delhi. Other cities in India appear in the series and I am tempted to buy them and dream. Be sure to notice the accent color 😉

Love India Guide Fiona Caulfield

Related Posts:
Provenance: Inlay
Inlay All Over the Map…A Peek at my Collection
Toran on Provenance at Cloth & Kind
A Little More Toran Goodness
(Fabric) Bordering on Obsession
Renovation Report and a DIY…Using Indian Wood Blocks to Create “Wallpaper” in the Master Bath
A Possible DIY…Painted Inlay Vanity?

La Vie Est Belle…Paris in Instagrams

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It’s been 15 years almost to the day since I was last in Paris, undoubtably my favorite city in the world. I can’t say if it is the beauty of the Haussmann designed neighborhoods, the variety of world-class and intimate museums, the incredible shopping, in particular the antiques, or simply the butter and the croissants. It just doesn’t matter. Even when gray and rainy, life is beautiful in Paris. While my husband had long been in agreement with me, my girls had only fantasized about Paris and I was looking forward to sharing it with them. I wanted to be sure to do Paris right, because it can be done wrong – endless lines, endless tramping through museums coupled with bad cafe food. The key to doing Paris well with kids (and by default other cities too) is to break things down into small pieces, small tastes and acknowledge that only what is directly interesting in that moment needs to be experienced. Find the sublime, because it is out there.

Obviously museums are the baguette and butter of a trip to Paris. Some of the greatest hits should not be missed including Monet’s masterpiece Les Nymphéas at Musee de l’Orangerie, Winged Victory at the Louvre, and for my girls, Degas’ Blue Dancers at the Musée d’Orsay. But we arrived at l’Orangerie at opening to view the space empty and only went to the Louvre during the relatively uncrowded evening hours – it is open until 9:45 Wednesday and Friday – which made all the difference. Beyond the biggies are some magical places – the Musée Rodin Museum, Le Petit Palais, The Musée Jacquemart-André to name a few – but those are the ones that appeal to me. There are endless choices, but but be sure to pick only a few.

orangerie louvre dorsay museums

Ironically enough, at the moment I was uploading what I though was a very funny selfie of us crammed in at the Mona Lisa (with the actually much more interesting The Wedding Feast at Cana directly behind us), The New York Times was publishing its own version of the photo as a companion to their article “The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum” which makes a strong case for doing just what we did.

view at the louvre nytimes

My small but very exciting moment was seeing Jaques-Louis David’s unfinished portrait of Madame Récamier (although I was probably supposed to be looking at the gargantuan The Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame across the room). You all know I am a sucker for a daybed of any type, but I’ve never been lucky enough to have one named for me. And in one of those moments of synchronicity that could only happen at the Louvre (or perhaps the Met), we stumbled across her actual chaise made by Jacob Frères.

Madame_Récamier_by_Jacques-Louis_David and her recamier by Jacob Freres in the Louvre

As the ballet obsession continues unabated in our house, a trip to the Palais Garnier was called for. Alas, there were no performances to be had during our visit, but the tour of the opulent and over the top Beaux-Arts theater did not disappoint. To make the space more digestible we focussed on the ornate ceilings.

opera palais garnier ceilings

Autumn had not quite yet come to Paris, but after a couple of months in the desert we were bewitched by the green and eager to be outside. We did a bike tour, a boat ride and played HintHunt, which has nothing at all to do with Paris, but trust me, if you are traveling with bigger kids its is one of the most enjoyable hours they will have.

tuilleries green

We had numerous memorable meals and one particularly magical night at Chez Julien just over the Ile St. Louis bridge on the right bank. My husband and I had eaten there 20 years ago and never forgot the prettiest Belle Époque interior. There happened to be a small wedding party – just 4 people – there that night and the candlelight and mirrors combined with her dress and headpiece made us feel as if we were in a Degas painting.

chez julien and degas

Where’s the shopping, you may be asking yourself? I did, of course, mention antiques. But that needs a Paris puces post of it own, later this week.

On another note, I forgot to announce the winner of Frederick Harris’s book Ukiyo-e: The Art of the Japanese Print, although I did notify the winners in Singapore and Israel. One of the most enjoyable things about the giveaway was seeing the truly global span of my readership. 

Shrine Sale Stories…Treasures From My Trip To Tokyo

My long weekend in Tokyo was simply sublime. Days of friends and food and lots of shopping were just the restorative I needed. The weather didn’t cooperate, but it didn’t really matter. Kawagoe was a bit thin on the ground because of the threat of rain and unfortunately the next two days delivered the promised precipitation, although it didn’t keep us from the markets. It did however keep me from taking lots of photos, so most of the finds recorded are from the first day out. I also broke my own rule of “buy it when you see it” a few times, mulling over the weight and difficulty of transport, which meant I lost out on a few things, although as usual, there is a funny story attached to one of them.

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There were some things that didn’t get away – like these swirling blue and white dishes – and others that did – like these kutani lidded teacups – so beautifully painted they looked like brocade.

kutani lidded teacups

This very fine takamakura, complete with original buckwheat filled pillow went home with a friend.

takamakura

A search for a tansu was successful, yielding this lacquer beauty for a fraction of its retail price. Tansu at shrine sales are often in poor condition which is why they are a bargain, but this dealer had lovingly restored this piece.

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Brought home and placed in the entry it will be a workhorse, holding gloves and scarves and general entry clutter.

lacquer tansu

Speaking of tansu in poor condition, I also popped in to the The National Art Center to view the Joint Graduation Exhibition of Art Universities. Not sure what the meaning of this installation of destroyed tansu by Shunsuke Nouchi is meant to represent, but I couldn’t resist including it. Student exhibits in Japan, as elsewhere, can be really fun, ranging from discoveries of major talent to down right awful. I can’t help but feel bad for these chests!

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Another friend and client scored really big, bringing home all kinds of treasures. The giant wooden gears – very Vincente Wolf – will be hung as a focal point on a bare wall. We got very lucky, finding three with just the right amount of variety in size, shape, color and detail. A vintage onbuhimo, better known as a baby carrier, has lovely indigo cloth woven into its straps. And a large lacquer carrying chest, billed as Edo period by its dealer, but not, is extremely decorative with its etched brass hardware.

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As for my haul, I had to keep reminding myself that I had to carry anything and everything I bought home. So I left behind an entire basket of small fishing floats and even some charming porcelain. I had to have the gray and white bowls – which were likely the more expected blue originally but now faded – because I knew they would look great with the dining table and they are that perfect not too big, not too small size. I picked up a few wooden pieces, a tray and some itomaki, including this unusual long one. A small hibachi with the great geometric asa-no-ha or hemp pattern was also a keeper. But as always, my eye and my wallet are equally lured by non-Japanese discoveries and I fell in love with these bright Turkish glasses and a cut glass jam pot. I’ve been having a bit of a glass fetish lately – wait, aren’t I always having some kind of glass fetish?

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The promised funny story is about the glasses, made for serving arabic tea, but I can imagine them holding dessert or even wine. I saw five of them, 3 pink and 2 purple, on a table at one of my favorite dealers at Kawagoe and passed them only because I decided there weren’t really enough to be useful and their fragility made them hard to transport. My mind kept returning to them over and over (those silver mounts!) as I wandered so I went back only to discover they were gone – massive bummer!

arabic turkish tea glasses

Imagine my surprise when later that evening I walked into the kitchen of the dear friend I was staying with for the week. Long my partner in crime and shrine sales, SHE had bought the glasses and they were now sitting on her kitchen counter. It was one of those moments of fierce purchase jealousy, but the truth was if I couldn’t have them, better she did than some stranger. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself while contemplating going to the mat for them.

Turkish glasses

The surprise continued when we saw the same dealer the next day and once again he had 5 of the glasses out on his table. It was a confusing moment of déjà vu, but we at least had the good sense to ask if he had more and it ended up he had an entire box! So all’s well that ends well and one day we have to have a massive party together and use them all!

Related Posts:
Shrine Sale Stories…Recent Treasures
Shrine Sale Scorcher…Vintage Mirrors on an Extremely Hot Day
Shrine Sale Stories…Vintage Matchboxes, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel and The 1948 London Olympics
Shrine Sale Stories…Yamamoto’s Steamer Trunk
Shrine Sale Stories…My French Moderne Bar Cart

A Bit of Cosmic Luck…Shrine Sale Synchronicity

My advice to new expats includes the caveat for a small escape clause, often timed to that six month-or-so point (dip?) in the experience. After mulling over the mysteries of the cosmos in my last post, I am taking my own counsel, spurred on by a little February calendar magic. I’m headed out tonight for the lovely land of Nippon and will be in Tokyo over the weekend. As luck would have it, the 28th this month – better known in some Tokyo circles as Kawagoe shrine sale day – falls on a Friday, nicely followed by an entire weekend of other shrine sales around the Tokyo area. Three days of uninterrupted antiquing, plus lots of eating and best of all, seeing friends.

I’m not the only one thinking about things Japanese these days. The March issues of the major shelter magazines brought a rush of antiques, mostly in the form of tansu, which while always unusual to spy, was made more so because there were so many of them! House Beautiful featured a new construction Sonoma property that had a zen-like feel even before I learned the owners had formerly lived in Japan. Designed by Rela Gleason, who brings a multicultural viewpoint and proficiency in mixing in Asian antiques, it has a few standout pieces like this iron strapped tansu…

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…and the real yowsa piece, this massive mizuya tansu in the bedroom. I’m always preaching these large pieces in lieu of built-in cabinetry, whether it be in the kitchen (where they were designed for) or better yet, in the bedroom, where they can hold massive amounts of clothing and extra bedding. The contemporary bed in indigo plays off the other vintage pieces from the trunk to the herbiers. All things close to my heart as you well know.

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Elle Decor featured a Joe D’Urso designed double NYC brownstone, the kind that has had its facades restored but the interior completely blown out. A skylit living room laden with well stocked book shelves has a lovely tansu tucked in the corner…

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…but the yowsa piece here has to be the 17th century byobu of pines on a golden background in the master bedroom. Again, the Japanese antiques look so fresh when paired with the modern spaces and furniture.

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So I’ll leave you salivating over these lovely pieces as I go off to pack my suitcase – very lightly so as to leave plenty of space! I have a few client requests that I am searching for, so let me know if there is anything you need or want (aren’t they the same thing?) I’ll be posting live from Instagram as I find things too. Details on the shrine sale schedule this weekend can be found here, as always. And as for my Japan based readers, I am hoping to see you all out at Kawagoe on the 28th. Please be sure to say hello!

Related Posts:
Where Do You Tansu?
Where Do You Tansu? Part II
What’s Cooking? Tansu in the Kitchen
Provenance…Byobu and the Race to Acquisition
Beautiful Byobu…Japanese Screens at The Nezu Museum and at Home
Michael Smith Has One Too!

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.

rollers

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.

bottles

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!

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