International

Three amazing chocolate shops around the world

This year, instead of loading up on cheap, poor quality chocolate, how about choosing less but better? If you need convincing, how about this: more expensive chocolate is typically better for you as it is made from organic, top quality ingredients. To help you choose some artisan products, we’ve gone inside three leading chocolatiers from around the globe. Take your pick!

1.The Margaret River Chocolate Company, Perth

A former bank is the new home of the Margaret River Chocolate Company in Perth, Western Australia. Not only does the store showcase and sell the company’s expansive range of colourfully packaged chocolates handcrafted from Belgian couverture, but the team also provide bottomless tastings. In fact, the company recently crunched the sums and realised it gives away more than $300,000 worth of chocolate to the one million people who visit its three stores each year!

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Images above from here.

2. 100% Chocolate Shop, Tokyo

With Japanese design firm Wonderwall at its helm, the finished design of 100% Chocolate Cafe wasn’t going to be anything but impressive. Running above the communal table is a dark-wood carved ceiling, shaped just like a block of chocolate! Meantime, visitors can watch chocolate being created in the grand, open kitchen, then take their pick from the 56 different varieties in the cabinet, each with their own colour code. A stand out feature of this chocolatier is the view from the street, with the huge floor to ceiling windows just tempting passers-by to step in.

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Images above from here.
 3. Les Marquis de Ladurée
Renowned for its macarons, Laudree delighted fans when it opened its first chocolate boutique in Paris. Expanding on its traditional offering of macarons,“Les Marquis de Ladurée” is a new Laudree sub-brand devoted entirely to chocolate. Positioned near the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, the interior is intricate and old-worldly, with the walls decorated in Acanthus stucco leaves, and the ceiling embellished with a stucco garland and decorated with Murano chandeliers. White Carrara marble fronts the counter and is adorned with ‘marquis’ medallions.

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Images above from here.

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Celebrity insider: Hilary Swank’s Paris Apartment

She moved to Paris for a relationship, but when that ended, Hilary Swank had fallen so in love with the city, she stayed. Now, the award winning actress has set up her own home in an historic building on the Left Bank.

Adding to her properties in Los Angeles and New York, this apartment features stately, traditional Parisian elements, such as huge windows, grand proportioned rooms and intricate mouldings.

Swank brought in Axel Huynh – founder of event-planning agency CrazyBaby and creative director of furniture company Henryot & Cie – to design a piece of furniture for her new home. However, Huynh’s role morphed into somewhat of the Interior Designer, as he brought Swank’s vision for the space to life.

Swank worked with Huynh to channel a European timelessness blended with a midcentury flair in the apartment using handcrafted pieces by Henryot & Cie, retro daybeds in jewel tones and Ginger and Jagger wall lamps. However, this bolder aesthetic was turned down and the couture elements increased as the design moved to Swank’s bedroom, creating a moodier, more subtle space. Take a look…

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Images from here

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Inside Sarah Jessica Parker’s first ‘SJP Collection’ retail store

In a fitting move, the fashionista of Sex and the City has opened a ‘real life’ fashion store. Sarah Jessica Parker is building on the success of her self named accessories and apparel brand –  SJP Collection – with the launch of her first standalone store.

Made famous through her character Carrie Bradshaw in the hit TV series, Parker says the new store treats colour ‘as a neutral’.

“Colour as a neutral allows a sort of whimsical decadence. It sets us apart in the market. It allows real creativity. We’re not always thinking about practicality.”

The walls are painted a muted pink and the shelves and furniture are made from a transparent lucite, letting the brightly coloured shoes steal the attention. Likewise, the customers of SJP Collection tend to be seeking something unconventional and whimsical, with many even choosing to wear the designs for their wedding day.

The store in Washington D.C.’s National Harbor resort houses SJP Collection dresses, candles, bags, fragrances, and of course, shoes under the one roof. Take a look…

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 Images from SJP Collection and Footwear News and header image from here.
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5 incredible lobbies from around the world

While there’s no denying that holidays and travel are one of life’s greatest joys, the design-minded amongst us also get the same excitement out of the places we get to stay at and explore around the world. On that note, we’ve curated our five ‘stand-out’ lobbies from across the globe – from a former palace to a tropical outdoor lobby, take a look…

1. Four Seasons George V, Paris

Positioned just near the Champs-Elysées, Paris’ five star Four Seasons George V hotel is like stepping back in time to a bygone era, complete with 18th century French antiques, original tapestries and bronze sculptures. What’s almost more impressive however is that the hotel spends approximately £1 million per year on flowers, which is one of the reasons the lobby is such an alluring space. Whether you’re a guest in one of the 244 lavishly appointed hotel guest rooms and suites, or simply one of the many visitors who go to see the floral masterpieces in the lobby, you won’t leave disappointed.

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Images from here.

2. Barceló La Bobadilla

Nestled into a 350-hectare estate, Granada’s five start Barceló La Bobadilla hotel exudes a sense of royal charm, being built within the walls of a former palace. The lobby uniquely opens onto the hotel’s lush tropical gardens and is propped up by arches and marble colonnades. Housing just 70 rooms, this hotel provides a taste the authentic Andalusian countryside and history.

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Image from here.

 3. The Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Opening its doors in 1887, and this year undergoing a three stage renovation project due for completion in mid 2018, Singapore’s Raffles Hotel Singapore has become an icon of Far East luxury and history. Featuring colonial design and sitting in the heart of the business and civic district, the romance starts as soon as one pulls up in the lobby. Sikh doormen welcome you inside the lobby, with its white marble colonnades, an atrium that soars three floors up and polished teak verandas that lead to 103 suites, 14 restaurants and bars, event spaces and a shopping arcade. It’s no surprise that this hotel is listed as a National Monument by the Singapore Government.

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Images from here.

4. W Retreat Koh Samui, Thailand

The least traditional lobby of the lot is Koh Sumui’s W Retreat. It’s a semi-outdoor lobby which circles a lotus pond and overlooks the Gulf of Thailand. Pop art covers the walls inside, while lotus shaped sunken seats surround water features as you step outside. It’s a modern and chic destination to stay with 74 private pool retreats and six restaurants and bars to explore.

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Images from here.

5. Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai

Touted as ‘the world’s most luxurious hotel’, Dubai’s Burj Al Arab Jumeirah’s lobby can best be described as kaleidoscopic. A symbol of modern Dubai, and home to 202 lavish suites and even a helipad, the hotel was built to resemble the sail of a ‘dhow’ (an Arabian vessel). Once inside, guests are witness to a 180m atrium, 24-carat gold leaf pillars in a unique honeycomb design, numerous fountains, Statuario marble and hand-crafted rugs. It’s a combination of traditional Arabian design elements with 21st century applications.

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Images from here and here.

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Celebrity Insider: Meghan Markle’s fashionista Toronto Home

Californian-born Meghan Markle rose to fame thanks to her role in hit America TV series, Suits. She has since returned to the spotlight due to her romantic relationship with none other than Prince Harry of Wales. The 35-year old actress and humanitarian is currently based in Toronto and regularly shares vignettes of her home via her Instagram account.

We could be mistaken for thinking Markle works in the fashion industry: her tables decorated with fashion books and a closet solely for her impressive heel collection. Complementing most of these stacks of books are vases of fresh flowers – some even picked from her own garden.

Markle also appreciates fine art, with a nude, watercolour Inslee Fariss piece hanging above the bed and a Gray Malin print in her living room. Throughout the home, white is the dominant colour used for much of the decor and furniture, but touches of rustic timber furniture provide texture and character… as do her two adopted dogs! Take a look…

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Images: Instagram.com/meghanmarkle and here.

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Celebrity Insider: Naomi Watts’ New York family apartment

From the big screen to magazine spreads, Naomi Watts exudes style, and now we know her home does too. Watts’ New York apartment is intimate, eclectic and a perfect balance between boldness and grace.

Watts shares the apartment with husband and fellow actor Liev Schreiber and their two sons. It’s no surprise therefore that the space has a homely and warm feel to it, with its bleached-walnut banquette in the kitchen, which the family huddle around for meals.

In the playroom, a Living Divani sectional sofa sits atop a custom-made John Robshaw rug, while hanging above are Flos pendants. And of course there’s the kids’ room with upholstered bedheads and photographs taken by Watts’ brother hanging above the twin beds.

Yet, there are distinct grown up spaces too. The Master bedroom features opulent wallpaper by Clarence House, Ralph Lauren Home bedside tables and a vintage Italian bench, while the living room is finished with a 19th-century Gabon mask, velvet covered sofas and a custom, hand-crafted Robert Pluhowski cocktail table.

Tucked further into the home is the most impressive use of space of all: the green-lacquer bar styled with its own artwork. It’s a tiny space that delivers plenty of impact and function.

Step inside Naomi Watts’ stylish, family-friendly New York apartment…
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Images from here.

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Inside Etsy’s pioneering new HQ

Dumbo is fast becoming the trendiest, up-and-coming suburb in New York. It recently welcomed Etsy’s new HQ – a 200,000-square-foot hub that took 2 years to complete and is double the size of the company’s previous complex.

Etsy launched in 2005 as an online marketplace for crafters, makers and ‘DIY-ers’. At its core are the values of community, craft and sustainability, and the development of its new headquarters kept these front and centre.

Global architecture firm Gensler was brought on board to design the new office so that it met the Living Building Challenge (LBC) – a green building certification program, that specifies buildings should:

  • Connect occupants to light, air, food, nature, and community.
  • Be self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site.
  • Create a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them.

Etsy is committed to being 100% powered by renewable energy by 2020, which means that solar panels cover 20% of its roof, there is a rainwater irrigation system and occupancy sensors control how much lighting is needed. Plus, no object in the building can contain toxic materials or chemicals; materials must be responsibly sourced and have minimal carbon footprints and the building and everything inside should be sustainable, from the furniture to the internet cables.

Erected in the iconic Watchtower complex, the space has hundreds of furniture pieces and installations that were either created by local artisans or salvaged and reclaimed.

As Etsy described on its blog:

“Whether we’re typing on desks made by Craig Montoro and Bryan Mesenbourg of First Third, sitting at tables made by Jason Hernandez of HENDO or working underneath the light fixtures crafted by Ashira Israel of In.Sek Design, every day we’re fortunate enough to physically engage with our community through their work.”

There are workstations for the 600 employees, but the communal spaces are the ones that really stand out. The Lab is like a workshop with its screen-printing studio, letterpress machine, craft supplies, digital design studio and a 3-D printer. For employees looking for some R&R, the wellness studio offers yoga and beanbags for naps, while the roof deck and terraces provide space to soak up fresh air.

Step inside…
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Images from here.

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Casa Cook: a new lifestyle boutique hotel in Rhodes, Greece

We’re always on the look out for hotels and retreats that set a new standard, so when we heard of Casa Cook on the island of Rhodes, Greece, we were intrigued. Seeing inside this boutique hotel, we realised it was something very special.

Casa Cook is a new hotel brand owned by travel company Thomas Cook, with the Greece location being its debut. With just 90 rooms, the ‘adults only’ hotel is pitched at those looking for a relaxed and indulgent escape. You can choose between rooms with their own veranda and even a private pool.

Guests can try their hand at open air yoga, ‘shop the look’ in an onsite store, swing in one of the many hammocks or simply wine and dine in the on-site restaurant and bar.

Casa Cook was a collaboration between architect Vana Pernariv, interior designer Annabell Kutucu and the design agency Lambs & Lions.

Some of our favourite stand-out features include the bohemian linen and accessories in the bedrooms, the hanging cocoon chairs overlooking the pool and the unique, jungle-like motif tiles that create a feature wall in the restaurant.

Take a look…

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Patricia Urquiola designs Lake Como Hotel Il Sereno

Spanish designer and architect Patricia Urquiola is the mastermind behind Lake Como’s newest hotel. It’s the first to be built on this Italian shoreline in decades and is now one of the only contemporary properties in the area.  Urquiola played a role in nearly every aspect of this hotel’s creation, overseeing its external architecture, internal furnishings and even staff uniforms.

Il Sereno is perched on top of an existing arched stone boathouse. Featuring 30-suites, this hotel is the third created by luxury group Sereno Hotels. Il Sereno has already won the “Most Anticipated New Luxury Hotel Opening in 2016” by Luxury Travel Advisor magazine. It was recognised for its understated elegance that presents a freshness to an area accustomed to Faux Renaissance and Neo Classical designs.

But it’s no surprise that this hotel is already winning awards: Urquiola is highly experienced in delivering incredible brand experiences, having been previously commissioned by brands such as Louis Vuitton, Baccarat and Missoni.

Il Sereno is built from mostly natural materials, including wood, stone and even wool. Its promise to guests is a modern style, comfort, space and panoramic views. Guests can enjoy a private beach, a private dock to board the hotel’s own boats and a 60-foot-long freshwater infinity pool suspended over Lake Como.

Inside, design features include striking copper-plated aluminium tubes that encase the walnut staircase; custom, hanging headboards; and the restaurant’s terrazzo floor incorporating a pattern based on the region’s traditional women’s hair combs.

Take a look…

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Celebrity Insider: Meg Ryan’s New York Loft

Actress turned director Meg Ryan has a lesser known passion: the world of interiors. Ryan recently completed the renovation of her ninth home – this time with the help of designer Monique Gibson and architect Joel Barkley.

Her sprawling New York loft was once Cindy Sherman‘s photo studio. Now, light floods through the huge windows and the former darkroom is Ryan’s cloakroom.

A neutral colour palette runs throughout the home, with texture and interest added in the way of intricate light hangings, Ryan’s collection of art and an eclectic mix of furniture gathered from many vintage stores.

The kitchen area sees an industrial light from a second hand store in Maine illuminate the area, while fabrics by Rogers & Goffigon wrap the living room’s sofas. These are complemented by a Stéphane Parmentier lava-stone stool, a painting of Ryan by John Mellencamp and a Pablo Avilla wire tree sculpture.

The dining room features a striking custom-made bronze table by Maison Gerard, which is surrounded by Bentwood chairs from Lee Calicchio. Overhead hangs a high impact, salvaged lantern and mantel from United House Wrecking.

Through to the monochrome bathroom and a Water Monopoly stand-alone tub sits above a tiled platform. Matching Urban Archaeology vanities are customised with Grigio Carnico marble tops creating a sophisticated space.

Take a look…

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