New York, New York

Friday, 27 November 2015

The last time I visited New York I was a teenager. My boyfriend at the time and I had just 2 days in the city, after backpacking around South America for two months, making it a very swift stop and not enough time to get a real taste for the city. So I can't describe how excited I was to finally have the chance to visit again. I have been waiting years to see the towering skyscrapers and feel small again. New York definitely has that certain je ne sais crois. It's exciting, full of life and there's so much happening it's like the streets are literally buzzing with energy. Here's a little guide I put together - we were only there for 6 days so there's plenty more that we didn't have time for, but I picked up a few of my favourites! We were also so lucky to have such great weather - it was positively warm the first two days, and I can't get over the autumnal colours of Central Park! 

Arc de Triomphe

Friday, 20 November 2015

I have a lot of posts to publish and I'm meant to be publishing three other posts before this one, but in light of the atrocities that happened on Friday night, I feel it's important to post this first. I took these photos the previous Sunday. I woke up early and joined my friend Rachelle up the Arc de Triomphe. I haven't been in years and she is sadly leaving Paris in a couple of weeks, so we both wanted to enjoy the views before the trees lost all of their beautiful autumnal rust-coloured and golden leaves. 

I'm still in shock about what happened in the city I now call home. The scary thing is it could have been me or any of my friends, as the places they targeted were bars and restaurants which I and they often go to... I've heard so many stories of near misses, of friends who were meant to be in le Petit Cambodge or Le Carillon that night for example, but by some weird twist of fate they decided not to go or were prevented from going. The one positive thing that has come out of these atrocities is the sense of community - Parisians and people around the world have rallied together in defiance. Just this week there have been various events, such as #tousaubistrot - encouraging Parisians to support and eat in their favourite restaurants and bistros as an act of defiance. I will not stop enjoying my life here, having coffee with friends in cafes, dining in restaurants, strolling the Parisian streets - I will try to be more vigilant if that is possible, but I will not let the fear seep too far into me. 

I've spent the last five days not only trying to process what's happened in my mind, but trying to educate myself as much as possible, reading about who these people are who want to spread fear and terror, and destroy our way of living. This article written for The Atlantic earlier this year does a great job at explaining who they are, where they came from and why they're doing what they're doing.. Anyway I want this blog to be a space for positivity and inspiration so I will let the rest of the photos I took on top of the Arc de Triomphe do the talking and act as a little tribute to the city I love. 

Intelligent Style

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

A couple of weeks ago it seemed like Paris had suddenly skipped a season. We went from 25c one day to 15c the next. For me, anything below 20 is I immediately started searching around for warmer clothes. I may have grown up in the UK, but I do not fare well in the cold (being half Californian might have something to do with it!) When looking for clothes I always make a list and I'm one of those people who will spend hours searching online to see what's out there. I know it takes the spontaneity out of spur of the moment purchases, but I like to know that what I’m buying will fit in with what I already own. Wardrobe essentials therefore (to me) are rather ingenious - not just a ploy to keep you buying, they actually make you look good easily and effortlessly. I usually add pieces every season - clothes that I know will stand the test of time and wear; spending my money on items that are timeless, elegant and have longevity. I like to think of myself as an intelligent shopper. 

Despite now living in France, I still love British brands and ME+EM set up by Brit, Clare Hornby to offer contemporary clothing with a focus on cut, material and quality, caters to my taste perfectly. Luckily she gave me the opportunity to select my top five items from her collection that I not only consider essentials, but also the perfect foundations to a autumn/winter capsule wardrobe. I shot them around my neighbourhood (the 10th) in a few of my favourite locations. 

Scroll down for more and I hope you enjoy the post! 

I have a tendency to wear a lot of black during winter (clearly I’m subconsciously colour-coordinating with the weather), but it leaves me feeling a bit drab. While I don’t like wearing a lot of colour and pattern, I do like wearing lighter shades. This cream ribbed funnel neck jumper is the perfect compromise between cosy and stylish. Not only is it warm, but it can easily be thrown over anything from jeans to being dressed up with a skirt and heels. 

(Photographed in Liberté Patisserie.) 

When I’m not lugging my laptop and camera around with me, I like to carry a clutch i.e. the lightest bag possible – this gorgeous cream leather clutch is a perfect everyday one (and it's not black!), with different compartments (plus one central zipped) for all your small essentials for day or night. It also comes with a detachable strap so you can chose how to wear it. I personally like to carry it in my hand, but it's great to have the option. 

(Photographed on rue Legouvé.)

I’ve had my eyes on a pair of leather trousers for a while. They’re a great alternative to jeans and these black leather and garbadine stretch leggings are seriously comfy. If I didn’t think I was going to ruin them or the fact that they're just too nice to sit in for hours on end, I would happily fly in them! They also sit high enough on the waist that you can tuck tops into them. 

The 'whiskey' merino wool roll neck jumper is a great transitional item that will take you from autumn (if there is one) to winter. And if you're like me and don't wear a lot of colour, this is a great shade to ease you into brighter hues. (Take note of the colour-coordinating wall!)

And finally the Breton stripe... A Breton top might seem a little clichéd for someone living in Paris, but it’s a piece that doesn’t go out of fashion, made timeless by the original chic Parisian – Coco Chanel. This navy an white lyocell/ cotton style has even been worn by the Duchess of Cambridge no less - if it's good enough for Kate...! It's got a good stretch to it, but is tight in the right places, with a nice ruching detail towards the bottom on the sides which look great when worn over jeans. Again this is a piece that can be dressed up or down, or used to layer under a knit when the temperature starts creeping to zero. 

What are your wardrobe essentials?

This post was created in collaboration with ME+EM.

Photos by Ylenia Cuéllar, edited by me.

London Time

Monday, 19 October 2015

I've had a crazy couple of weeks, hence no time to blog. I do have a few upcoming blog projects in the works though so you'll be seeing more here soon. In the meantime I thought I'd share a few photos I took in London when I was last there and muse on a few things I've experienced and learnt over the last few weeks. It's probably been the most exhausting, yet the most exciting and fruitful weeks of my career. I've pushed myself, both creatively and business-wise. And I've learnt a lot about myself, my boundaries and capabilities. As a woman (and if you're woman reading this, you will probably agree) I often find it hard to promote myself and can struggle with self-doubt. It comes down to not always having confidence and belief in myself and what I'm capable of. Luckily I've managed to bury that doubt over the last few weeks in favour of just going for it! I definitely think moving country and hence out of my comfort zone has helped me there too.

I've also learnt to be stronger in the last few weeks, but that is what it takes if you want to build a successful freelance career in anything creative. You have to grow some cojones. So not worrying about where the next job is coming from, but being confident that it will. I've been reading books by strong, independent business women, to help get me through. If you ever have any doubts about the path you're forging I urge you to read Girlboss by Sophia Amoroso - not only is it inspiring, but it's a bit like having a good friend or mentor cheer you on from the sidelines. Read anything by Richard Branson. Ok, he's not a woman, but he's incredibly inspiring with his 'screw it, just do it' work ethic, especially coming from a man that didn't go to university or come from an overly-privileged family. (Perhaps elements that made him strive harder). He just thought why not? And maintained the confidence to get on with pursuing his dreams. I'm currently reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, which has been on my list for a while. She addresses many of the insecurities that I've felt and how to deal with them. 

Freelance life is tough, it's not for everyone, but I cannot imagine going back to a full time job (which I have had experience of in the past). So when I'm doubting myself I've started turning to other strong women who I admire to get me through the tough times. A great publication for anyone who isn't a big reader, but wants short inspiring stories about strong women following, or who have followed their dreams, is Porter magazine. I'd be pushed to say it's the best woman's magazine on the market at the moment - it's intelligent, well-written, inspiring and stylish! I'm also a big believer of surrounding yourself with friends who will champion you, call you out when you haven't done something you said you will and be there for you when the going gets rough. 

When I was thinking about writing today, I didn't think this post would turn into such a personal post, but I thought I'd share my two cents! I'd love to know your thoughts - what you struggle with, what you've learnt if you do freelance or are following a more creative, less trodden path and what you turn to when you need to maintain that inner strength to keep going and challenging yourself push your limits, to do better and live better!

Finally a few favourite things:
- I've been enjoying my friend Ylenia's street style photos from the fashion weeks
- I've have quite a few Jewish friends, so this popped up on my Facebook feed and moved me to tears
- This COS coat - I can't decide if I'll look stylish or like a giant marshmallow? But I'm preparing for a trip to Iceland and this just might keep me warm!
- Nicole Franzen's gorgeous photos of new Miami restaurant, Marion Miami
- I'm totally lusting after this look
- I made it to Cafe Oberkampf on Saturday to get a slice of Frank's, aka @cakeboyparis almond and fig honey cake! Yum.

J.Crew heels - every woman needs a great pair of heels, even if like me you're not really a heel-wearer... I've worn these to the last two weddings I've been to and danced the night away at both. 

At Home With Betsy Kasha, Co-founder of A+B Kasha

Monday, 28 September 2015

American export Betsy is one half of A+B Kasha, an interior design and real estate agency based in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which she founded ten years ago this month with her husband Alon. The agency specialises in pied-a-terre properties in the Saint-Germain area on some of Paris' most charming streets. After moving to London from New York for Alon's work, they visited Paris for a weekend and fell in love with the city. They decided they wanted a pied-a-terre apartment of their own, so they bought an apartment with beautiful bones, but one which needed gutting and renovating. With the skills and experience they learnt from managing such a huge project, they decided to establish A+B Kasha and move to the City of Lights permanently. Today they create beautiful pied-a-terre apartments - apartments that have all been hand-picked by Betsy and Alon and then thoughtfully and beautifully restored to their natural glory. There is nothing too ambitious for this design duo, which you can see from their apartment below - it too was gutted, renovated and restored, to create a beautiful two bedroom apartment in one of Paris' most sought-after neighbourhoods. 

Scroll down to read the interview.

Why did you move to Paris?
I moved to Paris in 2004 from London with my family to start our company A+B Kasha now celebrating its tenth anniversary!

What inspired you to establish your own real estate and interior design agency and how did you get there?
It was more of an evolution than an inspiration.  And that’s usually how life is…we had just moved to London from New York when we were invited to use our friend’s apartment in Paris for the weekend.  After a great weekend, I knew I wanted a Paris pied-a-terre of my own, and we ended up buying one in Saint Germain-des-Pres that had great style but needed a ton of work.  The process of buying and renovating an apartment in Paris turned into a bigger project than we expected, and showed us all the inefficacies of the Paris market.  This gave us an idea that turned into A+B Kasha, The Art of the Pied-a-terre.  In essence, we were our first clients.

What words of advice do you have for someone following their own career path and setting up a business?
Trust your instincts, surround yourself with smart and honest people, and be prepared to work all the time.

How long have you lived in your apartment?
We bought this apartment after living (around the corner) for five years.  The renovation took a year, and we moved in four years ago.

What were the biggest decorating/renovation challenges?
Our apartment had two glaring problems: (1) the floor plan was impractical and uncomfortable, and (2) the beautiful old herringbone floor was sagging, creating 10cm bow in each room.   First, we completely flipped the floor plan of the apartment; the main bathroom located off the living room became the kitchen; two bedrooms in the back became a large master bedroom and bathroom; and the kitchen and dining room located above the living room became the bedroom and bathroom for our daughter.  Today, the living, dining and kitchen are together and the bedrooms are on opposite sides of the apartment…the flow of the apartment works perfectly for our lifestyle.

How would you describe your interior style?
For me, balance and context are big keys to good design.   In my work, I always choose elements which will be harmonious together, and that make sense for the space.  In my apartment, I like order but I shy away from formality.  I like to be surrounded by beautiful art, but I am very sensitive to visual clutter.  The key is balance.  In terms of context, it is important to stay true to the proportion and natural charm of the space.  As stunning as Versailles is - for example - its style and proportion does not work in a Directoire-period apartment like mine.   It is a question of respecting the natural beauty of the space and “dressing” it to enhance rather than distract. 

Favourite piece(s) of furniture/treasures?
I make it a habit to only keep objects, furniture and art that give me pleasure.   But I will single out the metal bookcase in our living room for its sculptural silhouette.  It also has interesting provenance…it was designed in the 1920’s to store heavy machinery in a French factory.   The painting over my bed is also special to me.  It was painted by artist Cecile Defforey.  I think it has a magical quality.

Favourite places/shops to buy for your home?
In addition to the furniture dealers I work with regularly, two of my favourite home stores are Caravane (rue Jacob) for its soft sofas, bedding and accessories and Original BTC Lighting (rue Bonaparte) for its great ceiling, wall and bathroom lights. 

Interiors/style that have inspired you?
I love the work of designers Axel Vervoordt, John Saladino, and Alexandra & Michael Misczynski.

What do you like most about the area you live in, in Paris?
I love the energy of Saint Germain des Pres…it has a quirky, village feel.  I also appreciate its cultural and architectural history.

Favourite sources for inspiration? (ie Pinterest, instagram)
I often get design inspiration from the most unlikely places.  Yesterday it was the floor of an old boulangerie, and the day before, it was a beautiful ceramic pool in a private garden.  I always have my phone with me so I just snap a photo and keep it in my inspiration file. 

Favourite three social media mavens (could be instagrammer, blogger, Pinterest user)?
My social media of choice is Instagram.  I love following the Instagram of the Beach-chic concept store, Pistol and Lucy (pistolandlucy), in Malibu, CA.  I also follow blogger/instagrammer Alexandra Stafford (alaxandracooks); her food photos and recipes are mouth-watering!   And I have become a devoted fan of artist Kevin Scorgie’s instagram (kevin_scorgie) as well as his work.

Last good book you read?
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

What’s in your magazine pile?
AD France, Elle Decoration (France), Vanity Fair, and The Week (US Edition)

Go-to alcoholic beverage?
Red Wine, although I rarely say no to Champagne.

Tea or coffee?
Coffee, but only in the morning

Handbag essentials?
Sunglasses, lipstick,  liquorice Ricola, Farrow&Ball color chart, and a tape measure

What do you do to relax?
I am learning how to meditate…

Paris favourites:
Outside at La Palette on rue de Seine… perfect for an outdoor cocktail or lunch with friends. 
It is too difficult to single out one restaurant because there are so many amazing ones.  But my new favourite dining spot is Come a Casa on rue Pache in the 11eme.  It was introduced to me by my Italian foodie friend, Max, and it has some of the best Italian food I have ever had.   My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Honestly, my go-to store is Le Bon Marche…for everything!   I am rarely disappointed.

Santorini Part 2: Folegrandos

Monday, 21 September 2015

As much as I loved Santorini and its incredible views, Folegandros was a welcome break from the crowds that chocked the streets in Oia and Fira. A tiny island just north of Santorini, only accessible by ferry, Folegandros has a lot going for it. There's only a tiny port, so no huge cruise liners can dock here, which was one of the downsides of Santorini - there must have been five or six cruise ships sat in the caldera while were there, at times tarnishing its beautiful view. 

We stayed just inland near the port, in a contemporary hotel that's part of the Design Hotels Group. There's not much to do on the island, so this is a great place to come for some proper r&r. There are only three towns, with the main one, Chora, a 10 minute drive up into the hills from the port. When we went to visit on the second day, it was practically deserted, with only a few tourists wandering around and some of the old local men sitting outsides cafes playing backgammon or putting the world to rights. 

It's by far one of the prettiest towns I've visited, with traditional white Grecian buildings all beautifully preserved - so pretty, it almost didn't feel real. I particularly loved the crazy paving cobbled streets. And in the evening, it was like a different town, full of locals dining out in the open air cafes under a canopy of trees and fairy lights. It was truly magical. 

Top Tips: 
Stay: Anemi Hotel (lovely design and decor, but the service and food needs some work - they got our breakfast order wrong a few times and didn't know how to cook a soft boiled egg, which in my book is the first thing you learn when cooking!) 
Eat: Pounda Restaurant, which you can see in the photos above and below. You can't see it in the images, but there's a beautiful walled garden behind where the tables are - it's like a secret garden. The food is delicious and run by a husband and wife team (she also makes beautiful ceramics).
Beach: Katergo - there's a boat that takes passengers to and from the beach during the day. (Make sure you bring a parasol as there's no shade, as well as food and drink. It's secluded and there's no cafe..)

The port seen from the boat to Katergo beach 
Katergo Beach

Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground